Not the Monthly Post

The Care of the Mind

Before we begin, a preliminary note is in order.  Yes, I heard about what’s happening with the US election. I write my posts in advance, and this one was finished days before the votes started being counted. We’ll discuss the election over on my Dreamwidth journal once the rubble stops bouncing and the dust settles. With that in mind, let’s proceed with a conversation on another subject, shall we?


Earlier this year I revived the custom of asking my readers what they wanted to hear about on the fifth Wednesday of those months that had one, and taking a straw poll to choose the topic by majority vote. So many good ideas got proposed in those discussions that it seemed a pity to limit myself to only one.  Since July, as a result, the first Wednesday of each month has gone to one of the also-rans, and there are still enough in September’s stack that I don’t expect to run out before we gather up a new heap of ideas in March of 2021.

Of September’s crop of suggestions, the one that intrigued me most was the request that I talk about what occultists call the mental plane, and in particular, on the hygiene appropriate to the mental plane.  It didn’t get the largest number of votes—that went to Max Weber’s notion that “the disenchantment of the world” is a central fact of modernity, and my suggestion that he was wrong and we labor under a malign enchantment that makes most people think the world is less magical than it is. Once that was out of the way, however, the hygiene of the mental plane was an obvious next step. (Well, the next after I finished up June’s list with last month’s essay on the novels of Hermann Hesse.) So here we are, and here we go.

We’ll start with some basics.  Scientific materialists, as I think most of my readers are aware, are burdened with the superstitious belief that only matter and energy actually exist, and all the other things that human beings experience are “epiphenomena” of matter and energy. To occultists—and of course to the vast majority of human beings in the vast majority of societies throughout human history—the universe is far richer and more interesting than that.

In occult philosophy we identify the realm of matter and energy that scientists study as the material plane, the lowest (metaphorically speaking) and densest of seven planes which make up the part of the universe that human beings deal with. The three planes immediately above the material plane are, in order, the etheric, astral, and mental planes.  The etheric plane is the plane of life force; the astral plane is the plane of concrete consciousness; and the mental plane is the plane of abstract consciousness.  There are three planes beyond the mental plane—the spiritual, causal, and divine planes—but those are above the reach of human consciousness at our present state of evolution and we don’t have to concern ourselves with them right now.

Each of us has a distinct part of ourselves on each of the four planes. We have material bodies—that’s the body of flesh and bone and sticky stuff that anatomists study.  We have etheric bodies—that’s the body of life force, which has its own structures, organs, and channels, and also extends into an egg-shaped area extending about three feet from the body, which is called the aura.  We have astral bodies—that’s the body of thoughts and feelings, which you perceive every time you notice your own emotional state and which governs what you see in your dreams; it has its own vortices and currents, though it’s not as precisely structured as the physical and etheric bodies.

We don’t yet have mental bodies.  We have what’s called a mental sheath, a rudimentary structure made of the substance of the mental plane, and which in the course of further evolution will eventually turn into the first and simplest form of mental body.  Once that happens, the real work begins.  Think of the long evolutionary journey that was necessary to go from simple single-celled organisms to blue whales and giant sequoias; that’s the scale of the evolutionary journey we have waiting for us once we finish evolving a mental body. (We’ve already passed through similar evolutionary journeys in the course of evolving our material, etheric, and astral bodies, so that’s less overwhelming a challenge than it might seem.)

As a conscious being, you perceive each of the three planes where you’ve evolved a body.  You perceive the material plane through your ordinary senses; that’s what those are for.  You perceive the etheric plane through another set of senses, which most cultures have no trouble dealing with but which make a lot of people in our culture freak out.  Call them the psychic senses if you like, or the etheric senses if you’d rather.  In most people they’re about as well developed as your senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell would be if you’d been systematically taught to ignore them while you were growing up.  Like any other human ability, they can be developed through exercises; W.E. Butler’s useful book How to See the Aura, Practice Psychometry, Telepathy, and Clairvoyance is a good starting place if you’re interested in that.

You perceive the astral plane through another set of senses. These haven’t been repressed as far as the etheric senses, they’ve just been misunderstood. We’re talking about your imagination—more precisely, part of your imagination is part of what we’re talking about. Pay attention to the contents of your mind and you’ll find that most of them take what we can call parasensory forms:  you “see” things “in your mind’s eye,” “hear” things in the privacy of your own skull, or what have you.  There’s an old exercise where you’re asked to remember your phone number and notice whether you “see” it, “hear” it, “feel” yourself punching the buttons, or what have you.

All these are parasensory—that is, they’re like what you perceive with your sense organs, but they don’t involve your sense organs.  They’re what your specific astral senses perceive. You also have a general astral sense, which is your awareness of emotion.  (You also have specific material senses such as sight, and a general material sense, your sense of touch; equally, you have specific etheric senses such as clairvoyance, and a general etheric sense, which was called psychometry by old-fashioned psychical researchers and “feeling the vibe” by many members of my generation back in the day.)  What you call thoughts are the perceptions of your specific astral senses, and what you call feelings are the perceptions of the general astral sense.

By now many of you will have thought of two questions. The first is how imagination can be a sense organ, since most people can make themselves imagine something.  That’s why I said “part of your imagination is part of what we’re talking about” earlier.  Lumped together under that very general label “imagination” are your astral organs of action as well as your astral organs of perception.  You have organs of action on the material plane—your hands, for example.  You can make something with them that you can see with your eyes.  In the same way, you can make something on the astral plane with one part of your imagination and perceive it with another part. Unless you’ve had the relevant training or stumbled across the necessary tricks by trial and error, the things you make on the astral plane with your imagination won’t last much longer than the mud pies you made when you were three or so, but the principle is the same.

The second question is, if thoughts and feelings belong to the astral plane, what belongs to the mental plane?  That’s where things get interesting. Remember that we don’t yet have mental bodies, and that means that we don’t yet have the specific senses of the mental plane.  All we have is the general sense, which is intuition.  This is the sense by which we experience meaning.

Think of any word you like.  That word is a verbal sound and also a squiggle of ink on paper—that is to say, a form.  It also has a meaning.  The form is an astral phenomenon. The meaning is a phenomenon of the mental plane.  Are the meanings of words slippery, confused, difficult to pin down?  You bet—because our ability to sense meanings is just as rudimentary as our mental sheaths.  That’s why we have to use astral forms—words and symbols—to represent meanings.  Words and symbols are like the training wheels on a seven-year-old’s first bike; they keep him from toppling over as he wobbles his way back and forth in the street in front of his parents’ house. We’re at about that level when it comes to dealing with the realms of meaning.

Our individual relationship with the mental plane varies from person to person.  The evolution of species may be Darwinian but the evolution of individual souls is Lamarckian—that is to say, the more you do something, the more surely you evolve the capacity to do it better.  By grappling with the world of meaning, which is as much as we can perceive of the mental plane with the limited capacities we have, we develop our mental sheaths and help evolve them into mental bodies.  That’s an important part of the work we have to do as human beings.

Since we don’t yet have specific mental plane senses, and our perception of the mental plane is thus more or less on a par with an oyster’s perception of the entire ocean, there’s not much we can do about the mental plane as such. Where the mental plane impinges on the astral plane, by contrast, we can grasp ideas by their astral handles and proceed from the form to the meaning. That’s where the hygiene appropriate to the mental plane comes into play.

Perhaps the most essential aspect of that hygiene is developing the habit of reflective thinking. If you pay attention to what passes through your mind, you’ll likely find that most of it consists of strings of words or images that follow stereotyped patterns. Those patterns are derived from what you’ve read, or picked up from the media, or learned at your mother’s knee, and unless you’ve put a lot of work already into developing your mental sheath, you’ve probably never thought through most of them. It’s not necessary to take all your opinions apart all at once to see what makes them tick, but you’ll gain a lot by learning to ask yourself questions about what you think and why.  The bumper sticker that says “don’t believe everything you think” offers good advice here.

Yet there are obstacles to the habit of reflective thought, and one set of these obstacles is very common these days.  It consists of gimmicks that link astral forms down to the etheric plane, the plane of biological drives, so that their link to the world of meaning is obscured. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since before you could eat solid food, you know those obstacles inside and out. Call them advertising, call them marketing, call them propaganda:  they’re all gimmicks meant to make you ignore the meanings of certain words and images and relate them instead, in an unthinking manner, to the basic biological drives we all inherit as human beings.

Consider a display ad trying to sell fizzy brown sugar water.  Does the ad extol the merits, whatever those might be, of fizzy brown sugar water?  Of course not; that kind of advertising went out of fashion with zoot suits.  Instead, the ad shows you some scene meant to goose your biological drives:  say, a group of men and women—young, attractive, fashionable men and women—who are obviously having a great time together, and who are waving around cans of fizzy brown sugar water.  The point of the advertisement is to get you to automatically associate fizzy brown sugar water with the fulfillment of the social instinct and the sexual instinct, and the feelings released by that fulfillment.  Now of course if you stop and think for a moment, you’ll realize that drinking fizzy brown sugar water won’t make you look like that and won’t let you hang out with the group of models who are pretending to have a good time, but the point of this sort of thing is to discourage you from thinking at all. That is to say, the point of advertising is to make you stupid.

You see the same gimmick applied in a different mode in political propaganda.  We’ve all seen some fine examples of that from all sides in the recent electoral circus here in the United States. The usual tactic is to associate the name and face of your guy with the social instinct, evoking warm feelings of belonging and success, and the name and face of the other guy with the aggressive instinct, evoking hostility, fear, and loathing. The goal is to reach a point where your audience is literally unable to think about the candidates; all they can do is react viscerally with mindless positive or negative reactions — that is to say, a state of induced stupidity.

How do you deal with this sort of thing?  Decreasing your exposure to it is a good idea, but not enough by itself.  Another useful thing is to establish the habit of thinking in response to them. When you see an ad, ask yourself:  what is that trying to make me feel?  What human instincts is it trying to manipulate?  How is it doing so?  Get in the habit of doing this whenever you get exposed to advertising. You’ll find that it loses most of its effect once you’re conscious of the games it’s playing, and you’ll also end up with a first-rate understanding of the seedier end of human psychology and the kneejerk reactions of the culture you grew up with.

A related set of difficulties comes from the fact that a lot of the entertainment available these days is designed to set off those same reactions for less blatantly corrupt reasons.  In this case, the goal isn’t to get you to buy a product or a politician, it’s to use those instincts to keep you entertained.  That’s the thing that defines schlock in literature, cinema, and the rest of it:  the forms being deployed by the creator of the product reach down into the world of automatic instinctive reactions rather than up into the realm of meaning.

No, this doesn’t mean that you should only read fine literature and watch art films—though if you enjoy fine literature and art films, taking them in is one way to work on your mental sheath.  People differ in how well developed their mental sheaths are, and one of the things that’s determined by that difference is how much subtlety and richness your intuitive sense of meaning can handle. If you’ve barely begun to develop your mental sheath, a book or a movie that would be simplistic to the point of crassness to someone with a more developed mental sheath may be not just enjoyable, but actively good for you.

The moral of this story?  Find entertainments that stretch your mind a little—not so much that they leave you bored and puzzled, but enough that they leave you thinking.  While you’re at it, if you read or watch (etc.) schlock—we all do—take up the same habit you did with the ads. While away some time thinking about what reactions the schlock worked on and how it did so. It’s entertaining, and it might just teach you what you need to know to become the next Dr. Chuck Tingle.

The principle here is applicable throughout life. Every time you work upwards from your thoughts and feelings toward intuitions of meaning, you develop your mental sheath and you detach your astral experiences from unhelpful connections with etheric passions and drives. You can do this on various levels depending on where you are in the cycle of human incarnations.  If the focus of your life is on the material world—and that’s a stage of experience every human soul goes through—seek meaning there:  in your work, your family, your duties as a citizen, and the other details of ordinary life, you can find meaning in doing these things well, and accomplish the task of your incarnation.

If the focus of your life is on your inner world—and that’s another stage of experience every human soul goes through—seek meaning there, through learning, through creativity, through human relationships.  If the focus of your life has begun to shift from your inner world to something beyond and above it, why, then the disciplines of religious or occult practice are waiting for you.  The Sâr Péladan phrased it crisply:  “If you are animal, be beautiful.  If you are emotional, be good.  If you are intellectual, seek the Grail.  To become beautiful, charge your instincts with emotion; to become gentle, leaven your emotions with thought; to seek the Absolute, develop in yourself the capacity for abstraction.”

The recognition that people at different stages of evolution have different goals is crucial, because the traps that drag your thinking down into the instinctive level are balanced by another set of traps that try to stop you from thinking altogether.  That’s less common than advertising or shlock, to be sure, but there’s a lot of it in what passes for popular spirituality these days.

Popular mind-emptying meditation methods are a good example of this. In their traditional setting in Asian religions, those are balanced by other disciplines that train and develop the thinking mind:  the Theravadin Buddhist monk who spends a couple of hours a day in meditation, for example, spends other hours studying the suttas and wrestling with the intricate logic of the Abhidhamma, so the meditation balances and is balanced by the intensive training of the mind.  Even then the kinds of meditation that discourage thought, such as mindfulness meditation, are understood by Buddhist teachers as very risky. “Meditation sickness,” a pathological state well known in Asian cultures in which the mind freezes up completely and ordinary life becomes impossible, is far more common with those methods than with others.

The balancing practices and the awareness of risks that make these meditations functional in their traditional context are absent from the mass-marketed versions of mindfulness meditation being sold across the modern world.  A similar lack of balance and safety bedevils a great many other products of pop spirituality from Ouija boards—invite spirits to take over the movements of your body, what could possibly go wrong?—to all those teachings and practices that treat the mind as the enemy of the spirit, or that teach you to stop thinking using some other rhetorical gimmick. These are easier to avoid than advertising, to be sure, but there’s no shortage of them being marketed these days, and it can take a keen eye to see past the glossy surface to the hungry void underneath.

A balanced spiritual life, by contrast, uses the thinking mind as one of its tools.  Some traditions do this by alternating meditation exercises that still the mind with other practices that develop it—something as simple as studying the scriptures of your faith and thinking about what they mean is quite adequate for many people.  Other traditions, including the one I follow and teach, use methods of meditation that train the mind rather than stifling it.  The mind is not the enemy of a healthy spirituality, and the attitude toward the mind can be used as a touchstone for which spiritual traditions are healthy and which tend toward the pathological.

The basic rule here is simple enough.  Any time you run into someone or something who’s trying to convince you to become more stupid, you’re better off walking away.  Equally, whenever you encounter the claim that the way to become a better person is to amputate some part of normal human potential, you’re looking at something genuinelyly harmful; that’s as true of those ideologies that insist you should turn off your mind as it is of those that insist you should turn off your libido, say, or your imagination, or your capacities for spiritual perception.  Wholeness, after all, is a better goal than mutilation.


  1. Another brief but relevant comment: as suggested in the preliminary note, by the way, discussion of the US presidential election just past is off topic for this post and comments relating to it will not be put through. Thank you!

  2. Chuck TIngle …. I was first introduced to this author in the FB Group: Dinosaurs Against Christians Who Are Against Dinosaurs. The focus of the group is to deal with how people explain away inconvenient dinosaurs since they don’t fit with the belief system. We get into dino porn once in awhile. But DACWAAD (the group) does fit the care of the mind since it tries to uncover how people excuse things.

    One another tangent – there are other groups like that which take popular notions and refute them. I belong to one that discusses world ending events like asteroids. Apparently the mass media loves to tell how the earth is narrowly missed by this or that asteroid, or that another one is coming. And people come to the group asking for help. I belong since I have a phobia of asteroids (result of PTSD of having a building fall on me).

  3. Dear JMG,

    In regards to this sentence in the last paragraph of your original post:

    “Equally, whenever you encounter the claim that the way to become a better person is to amputate some part of normal human potential, you’re looking at something genuinely harmful; that’s as true of those ideologies that insist you should turn off your mind as it is of those that insist you should turn off your libido, say, or your imagination, or your capacities for spiritual perception.”

    I was immediately put in mind of a famous scene in the New Testament, in which the resurrected Jesus excoriates the apostle Thomas for doubting the rumors of Jesus’ rise from death until he had felt the wounds of Jesus for himself, i.e., until he had seen physical proof of that resurrection. Wasn’t Jesus, in this case, asking Thomas (and by inference all of his followers) to literally ‘turn off their mind” by demanding that they believe in his resurrection based solely on faith rather than proof?

    That Biblical excerpt actually played a pivotal role (along with several others) in my questioning and ultimate alienation from Christianity, as it has always seemed to me that once it is demanded that one take a belief strictly on faith, then the floodgates are opened, so to speak, to believe in anything at all, as without proof or reason anything and everything can be accepted “on faith”.

  4. This is one of the most helpful things I’ve read about the three planes. I especially appreciated the info about developing each, and how they relate to stages of incarnation. Thank you!

  5. Dear John Michael Greer,

    I am moved to exclaim that this is one of the most several most valuable pieces you have written in your whole career.


  6. The Washington Examiner magazine has a writer who discusses the word of the week.
    “Word of the Week: ‘Brand'” by Nicholas Clairmont
    He writes in part the following: The whole point of branding as something advertisers get paid to do is to create a memorable, positive, symbolic identity and sear it onto whatever the otherwise-indistinguishable company is that hired them, so consumers note the symbol and not the meat of the thing.

    The Baffler, one of my favorite magazines featuring mostly socialists, makes a regular point of deriding people who are taken in by the falsities that ads purvey by tweeting reminders that companies are not really taking out ads because they are moved to express their inner moral convictions. “The razor brand is not your friend,” it said when Gillette claimed in a ridiculous ad spot that it was selling products for gender equality rather than profit. I think profit is an ennobling motive, and the Baffler might disagree, but we can all at least be adult enough to know that Procter & Gamble is not where we should look for clues on how we should think about how to be a good man.

    When it covered Starbucks’s simpering attempt to show how deeply it cares about racial justice by holding HR seminars for employees, the Baffler reminded us that “the coffee brand is not your friend.” And so on.

    So The Baffler is a place to reflect on the media’s efforts to portray things.

    NB: The Washington Examiner is conservative. The Baffler is socialist.

  7. Dear JMG,

    Strange things happen indeed.
    Intuition in your text just rang a bell with me:
    One week ago I woke up with a very strong feeling that I needed to check for St. Michael.
    Growing up catholic I remember some Saints, but that one was barely known by me in his function.
    Intuition told me to look into it and presto: That guy fits perfectly in our current times.

    St. Michael is an Archangel who is tasked to protect the faith and the church and purge Satan to Hell.
    How fitting to the current time where a virus is occupying the minds 24/7 like a mind-bug.
    Maybe it is time for a serious exorcism? There should be professionals at least in the past available in the church.

    Anyway I found a prayer to ask for the help of St. Michael as a quick-fix for non-professionals.
    It was prayed at the end of every mass from 1886 to 1964, where it was removed.
    What a perfect timing.
    Here it is:
    I am trying it out.


  8. O man, thank you for this one. The journey up the spiral staircase has been filled with all kinds of conflicting, contradictory experiences and information. Making sense of it all has been the job of a lifetime. Coming to some kind of understanding of spirit when I’m in an obviously material body. And learning a little humility along the way. Which I suppose is the point. Cheers, Bill

  9. Very interesting, thank you!

    Sorry to ask a very ‘meta’ question, but what is meant by ‘meaning’? I’m not trying to pin you down to a specific definition, because I understand for the reasons you’ve outlined in this post, meanings are always going to be hopelessly imprecise. What I guess I mean, is what is happening when something ‘means’? Is there something deeper happening, or is a ‘meaning’ simply a pointer to something else? Are we incapable of knowing this because we only have mental sheaths?

    The only thing I can think of is how, in Druid Revival terminology, nwyfre is said to have a component where everything in the universe has a innate consciousness. So perhaps ‘meaning’ is the identity of some thing or force, which is the same thing as its consciousness, so that when you point to the meaning of something, you are pointing at its identity/consciousness as distinct from everything else, And we can’t really fully perceive its consciousness with our limited mental sheaths, we’re limited to using other things as a reference.

  10. Thanks for this essay — as usual, it is a breath of fresh air.

    Our culture has a habit of telling us to believe in one size fits all “solutions”. The approach is bull in a china shop, here, take this panacea and it will fix everything. Mind-emptying meditation is one of them. It’s applied like a bandaid or recommended like the health tonics of yesteryear. In my affluent area of northern Illinois, yoga studios (used to) pop up like whack-a-moles, almost one per strip mall in Affluenza land. Yoga here in the US seems to be the physical branch of mindlessness meditation. They are almost always owned/run by a well-meaning, white, female member of the Professional Managerial Class. I have never encountered a suburban yoga studio that was run by an East Asian Indian person, at least not in these parts. Oddly, now that I think of it, I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered an East Asian Indian in a yoga class! To be fair, I have only taken maybe a dozen yoga classes in my entire life, and some of those were more straight up calisthenic exercise than yoga. I’m not dissing yoga — to each their own. Of course it has its merits depending on who you are. I’m just pointing out the correlation between the vacuous, virtue signaling, parasitic wealthy suburbanite class and bastardized, homogenized quasi-Eastern brainwashing techniques.

    In other news, I released the studio recording of my arrangement of the Orphic Hymn to Athena for anyone interested:

  11. For some time I have been reading old posts from TheArchDruidReport, looking for clues as to why people involved in the environmental movement in my country (Poland) are so ineffective, and many of my friends end up failing in their lives after many years. Loneliness, a series of addictions, depression, neurosis, financial and health problems, this is a set you can get by joining one of the big NGOs. Despite this, they consider themselves “saviours of the world”, “the best activists” and “changemakers”.
    I think one of the fundamental problems, and this is what has to do with mental hygiene, is that they stopped working to make the world better and more beautiful, that is, “being for something”, and started working “against something.” As a result, they found themselves at war. And at war – as it is said in my country – “all tricks are allowed”. As a result, the ethics of their operation fell, they began to use such methods as propaganda, concealing the truth, slandering the opponent.
    Though their intentions are good, their “anti-something” attitude has made their spirit corrupt. Hypocrisy, pride so great that it can be called hybris, lost lives, and being seen as complete jerks, is what a long-term lack of mental hygiene has done.

    Shouldn’t ethics then be at the root of mental hygiene?

  12. Hey hey JMG,

    I have a gem for you and the readers, a board game called Propaganda. The original board game here and the online version, which I haven’t played, but is by the game’s creators here.

    In a nutshell, it is about identifying propaganda and fallacies of logic in various statements. A great game to play with your kids to teach them to recognize sloppy thinking and how to make sound arguments. Best of all, you can add material from current affairs, movies, advertisements, or politics. It immunizes a persona against propaganda in much the same way The Great Crash 1929 immunizes a person against bubbles.

    I highly recommend it, especially if you have kids in the 10-20 year range.


  13. John,


    One of my great confusions is balancing the material, the inner, and the (embryonic) spiritual life that I find myself drawn to.

    Heavily taurus male with Mars in Aries and Saturn Aquarius 10th house influence my deep desire to succeed in entrepreneurship and building large companies, and I find myself gifted at this vocation, but I struggle to reconcile a softness of character/kindness, and an intense inner life which is drawn to spiritual meaning and belief in the life of the spirit, besides wanting to build a big healthy family.

    I’m trying to reconcile these, because I see most people who succeed at the material part of my particular vocation don’t have much else they’re trying in life (law of limitation), but I feel pulled in more directions than others, and I also don’t think I have the sociopathic edge (though I can perceive the casual pattern just as well) to behave in certain ways that this vocation requires.

    Is it better to focus on one, or do you know of examples where people have managed harmony between these different meanings?

  14. This post is clarifying for things I have been contemplating lately, so thank you! I feel conflict in my life about what I should be focusing on in this incarnation. I have always had a strong desire to engage with abstract thought and the mystery of what is beyond and above me, which has led me to occult study and practice in recent years. Yet I also have a strong desire to engage fully in domestic life and my family. My life circumstances have led me to periods of engagement with each of these things. What do you suspect is going on in this situation? Do you have any advice on how balance these often conflicting desires?

  15. I assume the succession “material – intellectual – spiritual” for the needs of humans in different stages of their evolution is something of an idealization? I myself have needs in all three realms, depending on the details. So someone who has spiritual needs doesn’t necessarily cease to have material needs beyond eating and sleeping; the idea that it is otherwise os rather a trait of the Piscean religious sensibility.

    About mindless meditation, I practiced it a while ago for a short time and then sttopped, because I didn’t see the point.

  16. The idea there will always be standing waves of people focused on the material, inner, and spiritual worlds drives a bulldozer through the base of so much elitism and snobbery.

  17. During the first part of the “Rona” I found myself short of books due to the temporary closure of my local bookstore and library. As a result, I watched a bit more streaming TV than I like to admit too. I must have a fairly well developed mental sheath as I found myself picking apart the links to human drives that discussed here in relation to selling fizzy soda. I mostly watched old movies, but my forays in to recent TV series showed me a prevalent use of “warm fuzzy drives”. This has advanced a lot over the years and i experimented with watching a tv show that came out in 1985 and was recreated by the same producer in 2016. The original version of this show “Macgyver” had a titular lone ranger character who helped people and relied on science tricks instead of guns to get this done. Not many “fuzzy” tricks in the first one except keeping the main character handsome and single to spark the imagination of some female viewers. The reboot is loaded with so many “fuzzies” in addition to nationalist propaganda that I could only watch 2 episodes before I felt like I had to take a shower to get of the sticky residue. So the lesson is that the need for mental hygiene is growing over time and once you have it ,much of popular culture becomes offensive except as a detached observer of cultural decline.

  18. Neptunesdolphins, Chuck Tingle has become a bit of a living legend among writers of imaginative fiction, and I’m glad to hear that your group of dinosaurs has also strayed into the Tingleverse! As for Christians and dinosaurs, I’ve long thought that those images of Jesus riding a dinosaur offered a somewhat madcap way ahead…

    Alan, but that’s not what the Bible says. Au contraire, according to John 20:27-29, Jesus encouraged Thomas to apply an experiential test, and he didn’t excoriate him at all for doing do; he simply said “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Some preachers have twisted that bit entirely out of shape in order to support a call for mindless belief in their ideology, granted, but the Book of Revelation has some very sharp words about what kind of treatment they can expect from the god they worship. If you take the time to read some Christian theology, you’ll find that faith very often is defined as “an act of will guided by the intellect” — which is far from an embrace of mindlessness. (Mind you, there are entire versions of Christianity that fall into the trap you’ve described, so you’re by no means wholly wrong — your mistake is in taking those for the faith as a whole.)

    Jsabrina and KKA, you’re most welcome!

    Neptunesdolphins, thanks for this! It’s very encouraging to see that sort of common sense on both sides of the spectrum.

    B3rnhard, thanks for this also. For anyone who’s into a sacramental version of Christianity, this is a very good approach. You and Lady Cutekitten should discuss this, btw — she’s also got a special devotion to St. Michael the Archangel.

    Bill, you’re most welcome!

    Jbucks, it’s impossible to define meaning in words because words are astral forms and don’t adequately express phenomena of the mental plane — and we have such vague and general intuitions of the mental plane anyway that all we can do is point and grunt. Thus “what is meaning?” is an excellent theme for discursive meditation, but don’t expect a firm definition to come out of the process!

    Kimberly, American yoga is a very diverse movement and it covers a vast amount of cultural and social as well as geographical territory. By and large, the higher up the class ladder you go, the more vacuous the content of the yoga systems marketed to them; the further down you go, the more likely you are to get something useful — but that’s a function of the current dynamics of social class in the US, and can be found in fields far removed from yoga. (The quality of education to be gotten in American universities shows the same pattern — plenty of community colleges still teach things worth knowing, while the prestige universities shovel up drivel.) I’m interested, though, in your comment that yoga studios (used to) pop up. Is it just since the virus panic took off that they stopped, or was it slowing down before then?

    Michał, I didn’t discuss ethics because that’s a flustered cluck all its own, and probably needs not merely a post but a whole series of posts one of these days. Ethics have a place in the care of the mind, though they run through all the planes. I’d point out that people who fall into the trap of being against something rather than for something are letting their thoughts be linked down to the aggressive instinct — it’s a subset of the first class of obstacles I discussed. They no longer think about what their goals mean, just that they have to fight the other guy — and yes, this means they become miserable and sick.

    Tim, many thanks for this! I trust all the homeschoolers among my readership are taking notes…

    Futureleg, one of the basic challenges of human existence is that we live on many planes at once and have to adjust to the competing calls of our material, etheric, astral, and (embryonic) mental selves. Yes, there are people who succeed in more than one of these at once — though it takes hard work and careful balancing. If you feel called to try to work on several planes at once, do it — that may be the challenge you’re supposed to take on and succeed at in this incarnation.

    Kwo, my response to Futureleg immediately above applies to you as well. You don’t necessarily have only one task in a given incarnation — in general, in fact, most people seem to be working on several different things at once in any given life.

    Booklover, of course it’s an idealization. More to the point, you don’t stop existing on the material and etheric planes because you awaken to the astral plane, and you don’t stop existing on the material, etheric, and astral planes because you’re starting to pay attention to the mental plane. The further you go, the more complicated the balancing act becomes — but equally, the more capacities you have to work with that process.

    Yorkshire, exactly. Exactly. The trick is to avoid falling into the trap on the opposite extreme, which usually involves thinking that nobody ever passes, in the course of one life, from one of these standing waves to another…

    Clay, fascinating. That tells me that the people who are producing and marketing TV are struggling to stay afloat on a failing market — you don’t have to pile on all those gimmicks if people actually want what you have to offer.

  19. Dear JMG,

    I appreciate your response to my first post, and must admit that for the sake of brevity, I was somewhat simplifying the story of ‘Doubting Thomas’.

    Forgive me for possibly being obtuse here, but does not Jesus’ admonition of “blessed are they who have not seen, and have yet believed” actually further my point? Jesus is stating that those who believe without evidence are blessed, while presumably those who do not believe without evidence are not blessed. So isn’t Jesus at least implicitly still asking his followers to ‘turn off their minds’ and accept his resurrection without proof, and implying that blind faith will lead to being blessed?

  20. A nice post. The part about marketing, advertising and propaganda is especially timely. You did not, however, speak about the sort of mental clutter I’ve heard referred to as “thoughting.” That is, having imaginary conversations, rehashing past conversations, “ear worms” and that sort of thing that clutters the mind, can be exhausting, but takes you nowhere.

  21. Fascinating post. To connect it a bit to the Cosmic doctrine, how would one work on the astral w/imagination to help the mental; or if one has a relatively developed mental sheath how would one work on the mental to help the astral? (Assuming the question makes sense.)

    Probably not appropriate to today, but I’d love to hear more at another date about the spiritual and especially the causal, even if we don’t have access.

  22. Thanks JMG, that is a helpful way of thinking about it. And the tension also gives me the opportunity to learn balance, patience, perseverance, prioritization, and conscious will! There is no shortage of meaning to contemplate in that journey as well.

  23. Hi JMG,

    Thanks for this post. I’ll be revisiting it often. So are we working our mental sheath anytime we form a coherent whole out of a collection of data points on various planes? And we could call the formation of that coherent whole “meaning” which is exercised by the general sense on the mental plane called “intuition”? Making a coherent whole out of a collection of data points is the folk definition of intuition I picked up in life, and I’m trying to work it into the definitions you have provided.

    On another note, if someone says something like “your not smart enough to understand this until you blindly do what I say for a long period of time and I will not explain why your questions are stupid” would that fall into the trying to make you more stupid or not? This is something I’ve been hung up on for awhile.

  24. Clay Dennis, I have the same reaction to popular culture – by and large, it does nothing for me, on the contrary, many such things are boring and even disgusting to me!

  25. I’ve seen one strange form of trying to convince people to become stupid. Due to stress or increasing responsibilities, I’ve heard people and my own friends remark about how it’d be nice to just be animals since they have simpler lives; usually referring to their pets. And then proceed to rant about the many abstractions humans have to deal with..

  26. John–

    If we are at the midpoint of this arc of development (halfway through the fourth round, etc.), why is the “fourth round” body still so undeveloped at this point in our evolution? Is it that the development is nonlinear, or am I misunderstanding the relationship between the bodies and their development over the course of the rounds?

  27. As a visual artist, I find the question that comes to my mind is the extent to which, if any, visual imagery can suggest or obliquely reference the meanings that exist on the mental plane. The metaphors and allegorical imagery of the tarot present themselves for consideration. Are these related to the archetypes of the collective subconscious, or are those something else altogether? I suppose I’m straying into Jungian territory without a map.


    Eight or ten years ago in a San Francisco subway station I saw a billboard advertising pop spirituality to the digerati. It showed a young man cross-legged on an office break in stereotypical “meditation” posture. His eyes were closed and on his face was a smile of such ineffable spiritual smugness that one felt a desire to slap him. I bet his mind was empty as a sieve, and that that is the state of consciousness desired in their employees by large corporate employers in that locale and industry.

  28. One more thought. In Chan Buddhism, the third emanation body is considered the hardest to perfect/create. But the numbering doesn’t include the physical body, so it would be the 4th and is the mental body. Interesting to see the points of agreement.

  29. “You see the same gimmick applied in a different mode in political propaganda. We’ve all seen some fine examples of that from all sides in the recent electoral circus here in the United States. The usual tactic is to associate the name and face of your guy with the social instinct, evoking warm feelings of belonging and success, and the name and face of the other guy with the aggressive instinct, evoking hostility, fear, and loathing. The goal is to reach a point where your audience is literally unable to think about the candidates; all they can do is react viscerally with mindless positive or negative reactions — that is to say, a state of induced stupidity.”

    This seems like a terrible idea to me: if you genuinely convince people that the other side of a political debate is evil, the results are terrible for trying to share a country with them once the election is over; not to mention the fact that feeling cornered, people will tend to take extreme acts, which is a very dangerous thing….

    Is this the reason that American politics have slowly gotten more and more polarized and extreme over the past seventy odd years?

  30. When the student is ready the teacher will appear.

    Whenever possible, do not lure yourself into pretending readiness; instead, try your best to submit (to the Absolute you are able to perceive) as gracefully as your failings allow you to.

  31. Dear JMG,

    Thanks for this! This is extremely helpful. In regards to the problem of propaganda, I feel like this is why the study of history is so important. If a person can have a sense of historical meaning than the sort of kneejerk instinctive response becomes very much harder. If I were to look at current events through the lens of Latin American history, things look different, very different, than any prevailing propaganda. With advertising, I feel that having a grasp of farce really helps; if a person can immediately reframe advertisement into a great big gag at a high pitch of absurdity than it loses its sway.

    Perhaps this relates to magical warfare in the Dion Fortune sense of getting the higher ground just like an old-time airplane fight. If one can use one’s astral organs to turn marketing into a big joke — for instance imagining the models in a soft drink advertisement becoming crazed with excitement, dancing to a sleazy bassline and wah-wah guitar, doing triple backflips on a trampoline, soda flying through the air as it sloshes on the trampoline, , dripping from the mouths and spraying from the noses of the beautiful people, while all braying the word “Superflex!” over and over in rhythm to seedy, seedy music — then one has gotten the high ground on the marketing and it ceases to have effect. It has, in a word, become a joke, and then one can intuit it as a farcical celebration of base instinct.

  32. Alan, sure, if you pull that one story out of context and read into it “implicitly” what you want to find there, you can certainly make it imply that. Why do you choose to do that?

    Phutatorius, that’s astral, not mental — notice how much meaning it has.

    Ian, yes, the question makes sense. In both cases you work on the connection between the astral and mental planes. In the first case, you meditate on an astral image — say, a Tarot card — and seek the meaning in it; in the second, you find a meaning and create an astral image that expresses it.

    Kwo, exactly. That kind of balance is one of the essential lessons.

    Youngelephant, that’s one kind of meaning. As for “you can’t understand this until you do it, and your questions won’t make sense until you do it,” that sort of thing is a two-edged sword. It can be entirely accurate, and it can also be used abusively. This is true of a lot of kinds of discourse!

    Nomad, that’s frightening to hear. They may just get their wish, and they may not have to wait until their next incarnation.

    David BTL, the first three rounds of the fourth period are spent recapitulating the work of the first three periods. Now we’re finally buckling down to the work of the fourth period.

    Kevin, of course visual images can be used to link up to meanings on the mental plane. Tarot cards are a great example — so are the sacred images of every religion. As for the billboard, remember that the look of smugness was meant to appeal to the audience — the assumption of the makers of the billboard, which was probably quite accurate, is that the people to whom they were marketing the pop spirituality wanted to feel a sense of smug superiority. No doubt they got it, too.

    Ian, interesting. That doesn’t surprise me at all.

    Allen, of course it’s a terrible idea, and yes, that’s one of the main reasons things have gotten so toxic in American political life of late.

    A Kullervo, perhaps you’d like to relate this to the theme of the post.

    Violet, that’s certainly one way to do it! I tend to use a different approach — I think of the moment after the camera clicks, when the models let the smiles drop from their faces and look bored and tired, wishing they could make a living doing something other than pretending to enjoy fizzy brown sugar water…

  33. Wow – this is fascinating stuff. Thank you so much for introducing this to me. I do have some Qs:

    Q1 – Are we, people, the only earthly entities that have access to these additional planes or will we find other forms of animal life, or even plant and/or microbial life on these planes (The former Kansan spelled it right this time!) as well? For example, many of us have pets, especially pets in childhood, which which/whom we have profound and rich relationships. Do these relationships point to goings on in the higher planes? Do these animals experience it as well?

    Q2 – I find you warnings about modern-style mindfulness to be new and more than a little shocking. In the past 7 years or so, I’ve been diving deeply into Stoic philosophy and trying to meditate, though with less success on the mindfulness front. Could I have stumbled into the balance you described with attempted meditation and Epictetus or is that not yet at the level of appropriate spirituality? Even if not, the Stoic practice has dramatically improved my inner peace and outer behavior, with this week itself serving as an excellent example of me being a happier, healthier, less stressed-out, more generous guy than I could have ever imagined.

  34. This is all very enlightening, especially the stuff about Buddhist/eastern mind-clearing meditation. I’ve always been very uneasy with it, especially as someone who takes an enormous amount of joy from creative and intellectual pursuits. The context of these traditions once again proves itself vital; a Buddhist monk is certainly no mental featherweight!

    The part about a mental idea reaching “up” towards meaning or “down” towards animal instincts is a real AHA for me. When reading a book, I can tell very quickly (sometimes one page or less) whether it is dull, or if the author really was exploring meaning. I read the dully crafted book anyway sometimes for the sake of learning, or to see if the author suddenly figured out meaningfulness in the middle of writing, but it never lights a fire in me. On a related theme, I now realize that a great deal of my years-long writers block involved me being influenced by “down”-oriented schlock, and being disgusted with myself for reproducing it without that “glow” of wide and bountiful meaning that really good fantasy has. Now that I am incorporating more spiritual themes in my writing, the whole thing has really started to click, almost as if the skeins of meaning serve to bind the disparate mass of character, plot and setting together.

    One question; is the mental sheath a “higher” method of perception than the others, or is each sense sort of siloed in it’s own realm? What I mean by this is, should we be prioritizing our mental senses over etheric, astral, and physical ones in a tough situation? I assume the answer is to listen to all of them and synthesize as much as possible, but what about when they contradict strongly?

  35. Thanks for this enlightening post JMG. I was wondering are dolphins, whales, elephants etc, creatures of potentially similar intelligence to us just without the hands to manipulate the material plane, could they be at a similar rate of development on the other planes as us? Could certain plants and fungi be too? Just in a completely different context.

    Also, I need help. I’ve been haunted by sleep paralysis for a long time. I’ve tried all the materialist explanations and none of them work. Any tips on how to get these pesky devils to leave me alone for a while?


  36. Alan,
    Why are you so set on conflating evidence and seeing? Hebrews 11 comes immediately to mind.

    A great many Christians find quite a lot of evidence when we don’t limit ourselves to mere physical senses. In light of today’s topic, you might should consider what astral, etheric, and mental evidence might be.

    In general, this essay explains why I don’t succeed at anything that requires following blindly, and also why over my life I have less and less patience for video. At least I can still enjoy live theater, but I suspect that, assuming another two decades of life, that too will come to bore me, since two decades ago I could still watch video. How irritating. It’s quite a social detriment these days to have seen nothing, and over and over explain “I don’t youtube/netflix/hulu/whatever,” as that seems to be the base of many conversations.

    It would be much more comfortable to not always be looking for the curtain to peek behind.

  37. Alan, if I may,

    Perhaps “evidence” and “what we can see/have seen” are not synonymous. It’s a peculiar assumption of our modern, materialist/reductionist society that the only acceptable evidence is what we can see.

  38. So presumably, as our material bodies begin to develop and complexify we get the beginnings of an etheric sheath. And as we start to develop that we get the beginnings of an astral sheath. And so on.

    Can you speculate – say, along the lines of a garden-variety human evolutionary track – about where in that process the etheric sheath shows up? The astral sheath? Is the human level where the mental sheath first appears?

    Great stuff. Looking forward to reading it to my wife in the morning.

  39. Can you tell from a natal chart roughly how many previous lives someone has had, or what stage of development they’re at?

  40. JMG,

    When I was at high school here in Australia, we were actually taught as part of English class how to dissect media articles. That is, how to spot the use of emotive language and various other tricks that writers would use to sway the opinion of the reader instead of making a logical argument. I don’t know if they still teach that, but it really was one of the most useful things I learned in school.

    There’s a fascinating book called “Scientific Advertising” by a guy called Charles C Hopkins which dates from before the zoot suit era. For Hopkins, the point of advertising was to inform the consumer and it was the ad executives job to verify the truth of any claims they made about a product. How old fashioned!

    Hopkins was also doing A/B testing of advertising and, even though he was using it for benign purposes, that same A/B testing now gets used by Facebook, google and the like to serve up whatever content is most likely to keep you on their site. We really are now in a time where the only way to protect yourself is to disconnect from The Matrix.

  41. I really enjoyed the information in this post. Although the notion of the Higher Self, an inner guru, or a mental body-being is contested, I often wonder about this aspect of consciousness. Is the Higher Self ( if you accept that there is one), aware of itself on the mental plane? Is it possible for us to merge with the thoughts and consciousness of the Higher self? It seems to me that this might be a big part of the Life Game. Perhaps an important reason to be here.

  42. After your Hesse post, I started reading “Peter Camenzid.” Hesse starts the novel with, “In the beginning was the myth. God, in his search for self-expression, invested the souls of Hindus, Greeks, and Germans with poetic shapes and continues to invest each child’s soul with poetry every day.”

    I wonder, are myths and poetry part of our striving to leap from the astral to the mental? Perhaps they are among the astral forms that can take us closest to meaning; and the dismissal, or downgrading, of myth and poetry in our current society is indicative of the large number of souls who are not ready to focus on this evolutionary jump at the moment. Studying myths (as something not literal, not allegorical, but something deeper) might be another way of developing ones mental sheath.

  43. Dear Archdruid,

    As an infrequent and very imperfect practitioner of Theravada meditation, I think that mindless meditation is similar to reasonable fasting.

    Meditation declutters the mind like fasting purifies the body. Eating an apple after fasting all day (which I admit I haven’t done for decades) is a wonderful experience, the apple tastes incredibly sweet and nutritious.

    Similarly, a short meditation makes me feel more energetic and composed, as if my mind had been defragmented, like a computer.

    Long meditations are for experienced practitioners, such as monks, which I am not. They are powerful, and very beneficial, but if done without supervision by a master they can be harmful, like all potent medicines.

    Just my two cents.

  44. Hello Mr. Greer,

    You wrote, “Call them the psychic senses if you like, or the etheric senses if you’d rather. In most people they’re about as well developed as your senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell would be if you’d been systematically taught to ignore them while you were growing up. Like any other human ability, they can be developed through exercises”.

    The group of people I most often hear mention being able to sense another’s energy are usually martial artists. In particular, I knew one very talented street fighter who prided himself on the fact that no one could sneak up behind him. At least that was the case until he left the ghetto. Then, six months later for the first time in years his friend approached him from behind and greeted the out of practice street fighter. It scared the living daylights out of the guy.

    So my question is, do these senses deteriorate just as our physical abilities do when we let them get out of practice? Or is it more like you reach a spiritual plateau after a certain level? Do you notice a difference if you get busy and don’t have time to do your spiritual practices?

  45. Two questions.

    What is a mystical experience of God or the Divine? Is it a temporary experience of planes higher than the mental?

    Is there some way, according to occult tradition, to reach planes higher than the mental already today, by some higher form of initiation?

    And no, I have no plans actually trying it!

  46. I am now finding periods of “mindless” meditation useful for what I think was its original purpose – awareness of meaning, and most importantly, entrapment by imposed meanings (aka negative conditioning).

    I’m finding that this kind of conditioning interferes with focus, scatters the mind and makes me most susceptible to different kinds of attentional hijacking, such as by memes of powerful manipulated meanings.

    To this end, I find the image of the tree of life useful, (according to my limited understanding of it). The middle-path of allows a reasonable amount of neutrality and openness to different kinds of understandings and therefore the nascent, (stumbling) ability to reach from the centre to the most appropriate responses and understandings according to the internal and external circumstances. Actually for me the whole enterprise is stumbling.

    It has long worried me that Eastern “mindless” practises have been ripped from their original cultural and spiritual contexts in the west, and used as tools for manipulation. What I found when I practised them in earnest many years ago was that rather than ‘killing’ the ego, it refined it into something able to flee into a subtler form, less able to be examined. This was dangerous to me. I feel I’m still hamstrung in my own practise by this having become habitual many years ago.

    I don’t know if I’ve explained this very well. Words get in the way.

  47. If humans would disappear as a species before we evolve all the necessary sheaths and bodies, what would happen? Would the next intelligent species have to start all over again? A propos the next 10 million years etc.

  48. Hello HMG,
    Thank you for your article. You’ve mentioned stages of human evolution. Do Jungian cognitive functions have anything to do with them? Is someone leading with intuition at a different stage than someone leading with sensing?

  49. KevPilot, (1) My read of the evidence is that dolphins, whales, elephants, and a few species of parrots have mental sheaths of varying degrees of complexity, and some individual dogs and cats develop the first spark of a mental plane presence — I’m pretty sure the latter will be reborn as humans in their next lives. Most animals have material, etheric, and astral bodies — the latter meaning among other things that they have the full range of emotional experiences that we do, which is why very deep emotional connections with animals are so common. (2) Systematic study of philosophy, and the equally systematic practice of any philosophically rooted system of ethics, are exactly what Eastern traditions use to balance out the potentially risky effects of mind-stillling meditation, so you’re probably doing it right. You might consider, though, exploring other methods of meditation that bring the mind into play — there are plenty of those, and the fact that you haven’t had much success with meditation suggests to me that a different meditative method might be of benefit to you.

    Derpherder, excellent! As for how to prioritize perceptions in tough situations, there’s no one-size-fits-all rule, not least because none of our perceptions on any plane are infallible. One sense is not “higher” than others, any more than (say) taste is higher than hearing — each one applies to different things.

    PumpkinScone, based on the evidence available to me, it seems very likely that some animals — whales and dolphins among them — are at a comparable level of spiritual evolution to ours, and have mental sheaths. As for plants and fungi, the traditional lore has it that they’re at a much earlier point in the evolutionary process, but they have spiritual beings — devas is the Theosophical term for these — who watch over and guide them, and it’s not at all uncommon for human beings to come into contact with the devas of the plant kingdom. (Think of ancient Greek lore about dryads, for example.) That might be one explanation for the perception of high, even superhuman intelligence in the plant kingdom.

    As for sleep paralysis and hostile critters, have you considered taking up a daily banishing ritual and seeing how that affects the situation?

    Grover, the etheric sheath is found in crystals, which are the most evolutionarily advanced forms of the mineral kingdom. The astral sheath is found in trees, which are the most evolutionarily advanced forms of the plant kingdom. The mental sheath is found in humans and a few other animals, which are the most evolutionarily advanced forms of the animal kingdom. The spiritual sheath — well, we can’t see that far up yet, but the same principle doubtless applies.

    Yorkshire, a good natal astrologer who has studied the astrology of reincarnation may be able to do so. I’m not that far along in my studies.

    Simon, I’m delighted to hear that they taught that! If you can find a copy of the textbook, save it — it’ll be worth a great deal in due time.

    Y. Chireau, the occult traditions I’ve studied distinguish between the higher self and the guardian spirit or guardian angel. The guardian spirit is certainly conscious of itself, but it’s not a part of us — it’s an emanation from the Solar Logos. The higher self is not yet awake in most of us. It’s dreaming, and your life and personality is its dream. When it wakes up the dream dissolves and the new day begins.

    Ip, yes, very much so! Poetry, when it’s any good, is an attempt to push language to its limits as a vehicle for meaning; a really good poem is electric with mental plane energies. Myths do the same thing with narrative patterns rather than individual words and phrases.

    Horzabky, I’m not arguing. Mind-stilling meditation in its traditional context, either in a layperson’s life or in a monastic life, with proper instruction and guidance, can be very valuable indeed. That’s why I specified pop spirituality in my post.

    Stephen, any good martial artist or street fighter has to have well-developed etheric senses; I’ve seen people who could dodge things thrown from behind them without ever seeing them. You can’t let your practice slide, though, or they deteriorate the same way your muscles do if you don’t use them.

    Someone, will and perception are attributes of the soul, and so they’re present on every plane. They don’t correspond to any one plane.

    Tidlösa, mystical experiences of a god aren’t something you do, they’re something the god does. The god can manifest on the lower mental or upper astral planes in order to communicate to you — if it’s the lower mental it’s the kind of mystical experience that’s described in terms of formless light and knowing, if it’s the upper astral it’s got parasensory forms the mystic can see and hear and feel. As for reaching planes higher than the mental, nope — what you can do is interact with beings who exist on those planes, and can reach down to yours. The generic term for those interactions is “religion.”

    Sarah, that makes a great deal of sense. In my experience, for what it’s worth, “stumbling” is the best sign that you’re actually making progress: “Nothing new was ever done, except awkwardly.” Thank you also for your comment about the subtilization of the ego — that’s fascinating, and makes a great deal of sense of the famous “no-ego ego trip” so common among American practitioners of certain Asian systems.

    Tidlösa, the traditional lore has it that the human species came into existence because there were souls who needed this particular (and peculiar) kind of body and nervous system in order to pass through this evolutionary stage, and will continue to exist until the souls who need that form have all passed through it. We don’t remain human all through the process of spiritual evolution — our human lives are the ones in which we develop our mental sheaths and bring them to the brink of becoming mental bodies. Then each of us, individually, goes on.

    Kirsten, that’s an excellent question to which I don’t have a ready answer. My guess, though it’s only a guess, is that each human soul needs to experience all four cognitive functions repeatedly in order to integrate all of them.

  50. JMG, yes, “used to” is a reference to COVID. All of the yoga studios are closed in my area because the restaurants got re-closed by Illinois’s governor a couple of weeks ago. Yoga, karate, and dance studios were lumped in with restaurants for reasons unknown. For most of them, it could be a fatal blow. As much as I’m not a fan of the Westernized Hinduism Lite they peddle, these women are hard working business owners who don’t deserve such a fate as they are being handed.

    Thanks Goldenhawk, glad you enjoyed my rendition!

    JMG, it’s thanks to you that I understand what little I do about the mental plane. When I try to explain the mental plane and the planes in general, I like using the example of one of those stick figure car window decals favored by suburban moms that have the family members represented, usually along with a stick dog or cat. On the physical plane, we have the decal itself, which is made of thin plastic and ink. On the etheric plane, there is an unseen radiation from the plastic material, more subtle than a smell but absolutely there. On the astral plane, there are the emotions that the pictures evoke, and for some that is warmth and for others, hatred of the chintzy bourgeois sentiments behind it, which is why there are parody versions such as a stick couple with a pile of money instead of kids. The mental plane is the concept of the decal itself, or that which inspired it into existence. I’m badly paraphrasing an old discursive meditation unfortunately from an old notebook that is at home while I am on break at work, but do you think this is helpful?

    When I teach piano students, I make them go through one scale a week. Each week they do a new scale a perfect fifth above the old one until they’ve gone around the entire circle of fifths. I find this is the best way of getting them to grasp the scales on the mental plane of music theory. Whenever you go up a perfect fifth in a series of major scales, there is one accidental added for every “sharp” key until you reach F#/Gflat, then it decreases by one flat.

  51. Hmm. If I may try to fit last weeks decoherence analogy into this: I’m not sure if get it right what you’re saying about advertisement trying to make you stupid – but wouldn’t it be correct to say, that those, who create the ad try to redirect your consciousness away from the underlying meanings of the forms you experience towards the emotions and eventually instinctive reactions that are caused by those forms. So you take two concepts, say sexuality and nourishment and from this you construct a form that combines the two. This is what you present to your potential consumers. The consumer then perceives the form and (at least theoretically) has two choices: Either those forms arise emotions and instinctive behavior, which are “lower” than the forms or one goes upwards and perceives the meaning underlying the form and recognizes it as what it is.

    If this is true, then I’d hypothesize that the spreading phenomenon I call mental decoherence is caused by a disrupted contact to the upper astral and mental planes. The constant influx of advertisement and other things draws your consciousness down and down and down and always towards an instinctive state (nowadays it’s fear, fear and fear, mostly) but never towards abstraction and understanding which cripples your abilities for abstract thinking. I wonder if there is some kind of “point of no return”. If an athlete stops his training for a while, he may become weaker but can still recover. If he stops his training entirely and starts eating junk food all the day, after a while he will probably never be able to be truly active let alone be an athlete anymore… What will be the consequences for somebody experiencing decoherence in future incarnations?


  52. This is a just a giant big pile of excellent advice! Thank you so much.

    I’m really intrigued by the quote from the Sâr Péladan. I’ve read a bit about him (what a lot of fun he must have had in his life, full of art and music and magic with no boundaries in between them!), but nothing by him. Do you know of anything in English (in translation, I guess) you could recommend?

  53. Isn’t it truly amazing that in our time, the great majority of people could never even imagine that there could be something like a ‘real teaching’, or a ‘real discipline’ pointing to another reality beyond gross materialism? indeed, it seems like so much of pop, or hipster, or LuLu Lemon ‘spirituality’ expect that whatever they want, or whatever they think they need, can come cheaply, as if simply ordering off the menu at a restaurant, and then will be brought directly to the table.
    People seem to think they can get understanding, or transformation, or vision, without real effort; without paying for it. Does one become a great physicist by simply declaring it? Does one become a great musician without dedicated practice?

  54. BoysMom, if I may, that’s a really interesting observation about live theatre. I suspect the situation may not be as dire as you suggest. I too have really lost the inclination to engage with video over the last 10-15 years, and while I think part of that is my own re-orienting toward other pursuits, I think part of it is also that the video being produced and pushed has become even more debased during that time.

    With live theatre, many very recently-written plays really don’t do it for me, insofar as the reflect the same shallow reaching-downward as most of the rest of the entertainment industry. But I can still thrill with delight at a good production of, say, Shakespeare’s or Andrew Lloyd Webber’s work, or at the stage adaptation of Agatha Christie that I saw last fall.

    There also seems to be an etheric component of live theatre, similar to live music, that may help to sustain (the better sort of) these experiences.

    Which is to say, maybe there’s still some hope, for both of us, in this regard!

  55. PumpkinScone, if I may, regarding “hostile critters” and sleep paralysis: If you haven’t already, you might consider the simple natural magic expedient of leaving a bowl of vinegar very near to the bed. Depending on what it is that’s bothering you, this might be helpful.

  56. A question on identifying your current focus and so what are the areas you should be aiming to stretch in as opposed to trying to reach areas you are not ready for.
    I study philosophy and ethics for fun, I enjoy thinking and learning. But when I’ve tried religious or occult practices my level of interest falls off a cliff. Is this a matter of failure to train my will and form the right habits i.e. I can do it but am resisting, or I am simply reaching too far for where I am at and would not benefit even if I stuck at these practices?


  57. JMG, Alan,

    Re Christian faith: This passage from Hebrews 11:1 has long intrigued me:

    “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”

    I don’t recall what Bible version it was, but I did come across a translation that had the word “perception” in place of “evidence”, not that either word would make any great difference in interpreting the passage’s meaning. In any case, “faith” is described here not as a blind acceptance of divine reality against everything your physical senses and material sensibilities are telling you, but rather as literal “evidence”, that is, a perception of a higher reality. For me, this would indicate that faith can only began with the awakening of the higher senses and the perceptions involved. In this sense, genuine Christian faith is not a matter of belief, let alone a strenuous against-all-odds belief, but of simple perception.

    Jesus, who I bet was joshing around with his disciple, was probably telling Thomas, hey, guy, you’ve had your higher senses opened, do you still have to rely on your physical senses to know the Divine?

  58. Thanks for providing a refuge from the other topic. I think I’ve been obsessing about it for far too long.
    Your topic today is a reminder that I should not let things I can’t control determine how I feel. I need to think and refocus. I feel like the other things are going to work themselves out without me. And that’s how it should be.

  59. Thanks for this JMG! Scientific materialism was tempting for me after I left Evangelical Christianity but left me feeling unsatisfied. I felt something was lacking when only the physical is considered real. I had been exposed to some of this terminology (etheric, astral, etc.) through some reading of New Age material, and what floated through our cultural lens of eastern religious concepts, but I never really had a grip on what they meant, e.g. the difference between the etheric and the astral. It was like I was being called to, but I had to answer “What? I hear you, but I don’t understand what you’re saying!” Your posts are always enlightening and helpful in understanding such concepts, though sometimes I have to reread them to get the meanings to stick!

    As to mindfulness, that was something I could never get into. I could see it being used temporarily in certain situations such as if you were worked up over something and needed to calm yourself, or you fell into the trap of over thinking and ruminating on a situation which could lead you to becoming stuck (I’ve had that happen). Mindfulness can help get you out of those ruts, but I never found it helpful for growth afterwards. I figured mindfulness just wasn’t for me.

    I looked for Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins and easily found copies available for purchase. And it’s public domain, so there are also online versions available.

    Joy Marie

  60. I can add my agreement about the state of pop culture. Now, my personal entertainment tastes fall into smaller subcultures that rarely cross into the pop mainstream, but even within those small niche areas the offerings have been dismal and getting worse every year. Most movies are utterly forgettable, TV shows that sound interesting on paper are insufferable when you sit down to them. One can point to the endless, endless remakes and reboots, or the compulsive need to hamfist political commentary and social justice issues into absolutely everything, whether it belongs there or not, and with all the subtlety and nuance of a sledgehammer swinging towards your face. I suspect those are symptoms rather than the cause.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve noticed some similar change in how I react to advertising. Ads have never had much effect on me, I don’t know why, perhaps because I lack many of the social instincts they’re meant to trigger. Back when network TV and basic cable were the only options, I could easily tune them out. Between not watching much of anything, and when I do having options that don’t involve interruptions every ten to fifteen minutes, I don’t get much exposure anymore and haven’t for a number of years. So on the occasions that I am exposed to some advertisement, I feel assaulted by it. There is no tuning these out; they’re loud, they’re aggressive, they’re obnoxious, they jump out of the screen at you, push you back against the wall and scream in your face. I don’t know if I just lost my tolerance for it, or if there is some change in the ads themselves. I lean toward the latter, though I’m not sure just what that change is.

    A while back, I’d been playing a scrabble app with a few family members, just as a way to keep contact with a few people I otherwise don’t hear much from. It was fine, until the game had an “upgrade” that turned it into a barrage of intrusive, irritating ads that overwhelmed any gameplay. I could feel them making me dumber, it was a physical sensation, a gross unease every time I turned the thing off, trying to delay playing again as long as I could. I stuck it out for a few months post update, family members telling me it’s just five minutes not a big deal. But it was and I had to quit, you want to catch up I got email, otherwise good luck with your lives maybe we’ll see each other at Christmas.

    They still play, them and millions of others. I honestly do not understand how they put up with it.

  61. “Eight or ten years ago in a San Francisco subway station I saw a billboard advertising pop spirituality to the digerati. It showed a young man cross-legged on an office break in stereotypical “meditation” posture. His eyes were closed and on his face was a smile of such ineffable spiritual smugness that one felt a desire to slap him. I bet his mind was empty as a sieve, and that that is the state of consciousness desired in their employees by large corporate employers in that locale and industry.” — I am laughing right now, because I can picture the look on that guy’s face EXACTLY. I’ve seen it way too many times before!

  62. Kimberly, thank you — one of the things I’m watching for is a decline in the popularity of the kind of service business that caters to the egos of the managerial class, unrelated to broader economic trends or to attempts to crash the economy for political purposes. Your stick figure metaphor is entirely appropriate. As for the scales, thank you; up to this point I’ve been following the order of scales introduced by the method I’m using, but I’ll keep that option in mind.

    Nachtgurke, that analysis makes a lot of sense to me. As for what would happen to such a person, why, they’d be reborn as an animal — as far down the animal kingdom as necessary to reach the level of mentality that they settled at. I suppose that’s one way to prune the population of human souls and get ready for the approaching shortfall in human bodies…

    Curious, that’s my translation of a passage from Comment on devient mage, which I’m pleased to say is available in English translation — How to Become a Mage. (Full disclosure: I wrote the foreword.) If you want to get seriously into Péladan, you probably need to read French — though his Rosicrucian order has recently been revived by one of the French Gnostic lineages.

    ShamanicFallout, remember that most of these people have been lied to unceasingly all their lives. It’s no wonder that their ideas are all topsy-turvy!

    Kimari, you’re most welcome.

    Markie, it may also be that this isn’t an appropriate time, or an appropriate life, for you to take up religious or occult practices. Like the Magic Theater in Hesse, they’re not for everybody.

    Will M, fascinating. Do you happen to know the Greek word that’s translated “evidence” or “perception” in that passage?

    Piper, that’s the great fundamental realization of the Stoic tradition — there are things you can do something about and there are things you can’t, and concentrating on the former is much more useful than fretting pointlessly about the latter.

    Joy Marie, you’re most welcome! Yes, I can imagine that mindfulness meditation would be useful in special situations — though I’ve had good results with other approaches as well. Thanks for the links!

    Seaside Hermit, part of the reason ads are getting so intrusive and pervasive is the simple but unmentionable fact that they no longer work very well. People have gotten very good at tuning them out or shutting them off, and the evidence that internet ads in particular result in increased sales simply isn’t there. We’re probably only a couple of decades from the collapse of the advertising industry as it now exists. In the meantime, though, yeah, it’s annoying.

  63. A very timely topic and one I voted for, so I’m rather happy.

    These stages of development: animal – emotional – intellectual – spiritual, reminds me of stages of development in an individual human life. From youth to old age.

    So I wonder if several stages of evolution of the soul can happen in one life, in theory, all of them?

  64. I’d thought that it was the astral body that extended out three feetish, and the etheric body was quite a bit closer in?

    I’ve been thinking maybe that was part of Nachgurke’s decoherence, and maybe especially why it is affecting the PMC – if we’re kept pretty much exactly two astral body radii away from each other, and if you’re in a managerial class, you’re still probably farther than that, working at home all the time – we don’t have a coherent group mind being reinforced anymore. And since most people have been trained not to do anything but think with group mind, it’s like having a bunch of weak-stemmed plants that relied on being propped up by each other, suddenly left to stand on their own. And if we can transfer etheric energy (and physical matter) between bodies, presumably, we also do so astrally, so there may be some people who are now in a sense starving, having not had much occasion to nourish an inner life of their own before, and not knowing where or how to seek out better mind food than what’s on Netflix.

    In advertising I also see echoes of Fortune’s description surrounding the 6th death in the way that the psychic consciousness can be focused by the instincts with the body as a background resulting in “manifestations of lower magic”, or against the concrete mind, with emotions as a background. If advertising and much of the thoughtforms our society communicates is meant to essentially put people into a type of trance “degrading to the personality”, that would result in some bad news.

  65. @JMG,

    Thank you for sharing this – for someone who had never heard many of these terms barely a year ago, it is certainly a pleasure to read.

    Now I hope you don’t mind if I ask a few questions in an attempt to pin down more precisely what it is that makes up the mental plane. I have long been aware that the idea of abstract meanings, separate from the images/emotions that give them rise, is unique to human beings and a few of the higher animals – so it didn’t surprise me when you said that whales, dolphins, elephants, etc. are developing mental sheaths just like we are, but that most animals do not have them – i.e. a typical cat or horse or duck spends its life responding to images and emotions just like the ones we experience, but without ever trying to connect them to another plane of meanings.

    Though you have also said that a word itself is on the astral plane (i.e. we hear the sounds that make up the word, or see the letters) and that it merely points to the meaning on the mental plane. Though it seems that at the same time a lot of those meanings exist to point back down to things on the astral plane – i.e. “warm” or “claws” or “wolf pack” are words that describe things that other critters experience without naming.

    So then language, as most people understand it, becomes a tool for relating one thing on the astral plane (such as the collection of sensations that you get when you hear or see or touch a cat) with another thing on the astral plane (the set of sounds or the set of letters that form the word “cat.”)

    Now, obviously nothing that I’ve described so far is any sort of news to a typical rationalist-materialist who looks down on the idea of higher planes. So in what ways does the concept in occult philosophy of a “plane of meanings” go further than the role of “language” or “symbolism” in non-occult philosophy, where even the crassest materialist still acknowledges that there’s something important about mankind’s ability to arbitrarily link symbols and sense-perceptions in ways that most animals can’t?

  66. JMG,

    >>do you happen to know the Greek word that’s translated “evidence” or “perception” in that passage?<<

    I do not, but I’d like to know. I’ll research.

  67. Thanks for this post John. I’ve been trying to make sense of this exact subject, from your past comments on Dreamwidth and MMs but was a bit confused. This helps me understand it much better.

  68. Hi JMG,

    Here’s a guy who’s not big on meditation for anybody, not just those prone to meditation sickness. What say you? (Please don’t say “Meditate on it.” 😄)

    My own view is that Buddhist and Hindu practices come from backgrounds and views so completely alien to the WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) that for us WEIRDos, jumping into these religions is like deciding you’re a goldfish and jumping into the tank before finding out if you know what you need to know to stay afloat. And they seem highly unsuited to dabblers. (I would not dabble in any religion because to me it seems disrespectful, but with these religions dabbling seems outright dangerous.)

  69. Sarah/JMG:

    > it refined [the ego] into something able to flee into a subtler form, less able to be examined…

    > that’s fascinating, and makes a great deal of sense of the famous “no-ego ego trip” so common among American practitioners of certain Asian systems.

    That is the _precise_ reason one needs a good, carefully chosen, teacher because it is very much an expected outcome, and it is the teacher’s job to continually pierce the subtler and subtler veils. An outcome of that is those actions by the teacher need to come very much from an unexpected angle, and which typically (almost by definition) are not approved by the accepted social standards. If that were not the case, then the teacher’s action would be both expected (ie pointless) and probably harmful, because it just stokes the veils.

    In traditional environments this is both known, and more importantly understood to be secret and not something to be shared because outside of the exact context of that student is meaningless. Alas this tends to conflict heavily with western expectations, where everything is repeated, rehashed, recorded, analysed to death against approved norms, and finally shared for all. The resulting explosions are not pleasant, and the collateral damage to well intentioned teachers is immense.

  70. JMG and all

    An interesting synchronicity. I am currently reading through a wonderfully old fashioned textbook called ‘Elements of Radio’ by Abraham and William Marcus. My edition is dated to 1959 but I digress. In the book when explaining the operating theory of radio, before delving into circuit types and RF circuit architectures, mention is made of the Ether as a medium through which light travels that exists through all points in space and permeates everything. Modern scientific materialists call this “space time” now as a way of avoiding usage of esoteric terminology, but I was wondering if the use of the term ether had a more direct connection with the concepts being discussed. I have heard mention of some people making a link between electricity and magnetism and other energies; The Hieronymus machine comes to mind. But that is layered under so much J.W. Campbell baggage that I’m not sure where, if at all, to start. Is there anything to this or am I just making a big leap because of a shared term?

    John Zybourne

  71. The word in Hebrews 11:1 we’re looking for is ἔλεγχος. In the masculine it means “a means of testing, a trial, a test, Latin argumentum: disproval, refutation.” Also, “an examination, scrutiny.” (Source: the “Little Liddell.”) Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1981), define it as “proof”. The translation “conviction” occurs in The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament. The text in the Vulgate is: Est autem fides sperandarum substantia rerum, argumentum non apparentium.

  72. JMG,

    I copied this off the net:

    “The word translated “evidence” comes from the Greek word elengchos (Strong’s #1650), meaning “a proof, or that by which a thing is proved or tested; conviction.”

    And this:

    “Strong’s Concordance

    horaó: to see, perceive, attend to
    Original Word: ὁράω
    Part of Speech: Verb
    Transliteration: horaó
    Phonetic Spelling: (hor-ah’-o)
    Definition: to see, perceive, attend to
    Usage: I see, look upon, experience, perceive, discern, beware.

    HELPS Word-studies
    3708 horáō – properly, see, often with metaphoricalmeaning: “to see with the mind” (i.e. spiritually see), i.e. perceive (with inward spiritual perception).”

  73. “Fizzy brown sugar water”. LOL. I will never thing of soda pop in quite the same way. There is also at least one brand of fizzy yellow water. Can’t unthink certain associations (NOT the ones in the ads…). I stopped drinking soda pop when I still in college (decades ago) because of what it did to my teeth. OTOH, my grandmother, who died at age 102, used to drink a certain variety of fizzy brown sugar water but only 1 shot glass a day, as an aid to digestion – seems to have worked for her. I’m going to guess that when she started this regimen it was during the era when this particular beverage was still advertised as an aid to digestion. Advertising at its best and intended purpose is simply an announcement of the availability of good and services.

    JMG – Great essay! Thank you. The very idea that an individual should think for oneself – and reminding us that there is more life that what the senses perceive – what refreshing concepts!

  74. Dear JMG,

    Regarding my comments on the biblical story of ‘Doubting Thomas”, I am not aware of ever having “chosen” to interpret it in any particular manner — the interpretation of it that I related is the only one that I was taught in the church in which I grew up, and it is the only interpretation which seems logical to me, given the biblical material. However, it may well be that I am simply taking it too literally and/or too shallowly.

    To be honest, I hesitated to even make the original comment in the first place, as I realize that I am grossly out of my depth here in discussions pertaining to religion and spirituality. In my ignorance, it would probably be better for me to just continue reading here, rather than trying to partake in conversations in which I am clearly out of my league. But please know that it was not my intention to be argumentative or abrasive in any way, and I apologize to you and to the other posters here if I came across thusly.

  75. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith (pistis) is an understanding (hypostasis) of things unseen. Hypostatis has so many apparently divergent meanings that I have given up on choosing between them.

    On the other hand, faith (pistis) more often has the meaning of mutual faith between persons (like “in good faith” or “faithful”) than of affirming a statement. Thomas, as I understand him, says he cannot trust the reappeared Jesus unless Jesus has actually suffered. Then Jesus tells him to feel his wounds and, literally, to be faithful (not “to be a believer”).

    So to bring this back to the discussion of the planes, and also to an old discussion about different forms of knowledge (conocer/saber, gnosis/dogma): the half-instinctive, emotionally tinged friendship between the two, a personal knowledge that cannot be put in words, is meant to become a vehicle for contact with God. It is indeed a blessing to achieve that contact without such material and emotional support.

  76. PumpkinScone, I have issues with night terrors. The Sphere of Protection (SoP) does manage to keep most of the nastier entities who populate them away. I have been doing the SoP for about three years or so, here is my video of it: I also have two videos about night terrors on that channel. I have still been harassed by extremely strong entities from time to time despite doing the Sphere every day. For whatever reason, I am attractive to non-corporeal entities and have always gotten attention from them, much of it unwanted. It’s like how some people are more attractive to mosquitoes because of their smell; that’s me with entities such as human ghosts, dryads, and (unfortunately) demons. The number one deterrent for a foul entity is to call upon a god with whom I have a prayer relationship. The last time I had trouble with an entity, I called upon a couple of the Greek gods and they sent whatever it was running in short order. The foul entities that populate night terrors and nightmares/bad dreams want you to goad you into fighting back: keep in mind they feed off the energy of the fight, not just the energy of fear. Calling on a god terminates their agenda. They are forced out of the area because gods are smarter and more powerful than they are. I don’t work with the saints but I have heard that calling upon them also tends to work. Good luck!

  77. On Mindfulness/Mindlessness and Eastern Meditation.

    I’ve been studying and practicing the Advaita Vedantic Philosophy (in a school in the west) for many years. Your comments, JMG, have been very useful to distinguish the practices.

    1) The central practice is meditation on a mantra. There are many, many mantra (indeed there are books of them) for all sorts of different things from power, wealth to self-knowledge. The raspberry jam principle applies in spades there. The mantra used for the philosophical system are purposeful – focused on the deepest experience of the self within and thereby to come to experience the Self as One. Over years I have found this practice to be deeply effective and developmental, as is proposed by the philosophical texts and teachers of the system.

    2) There are other practices – such as that translated as Reflection, which is a process ( Sravanam, Mananam and Nidhidhyasana) that allows the deep study of texts, great statements and mantra, and is very like what you describe as discursive meditation. The system is explicit in repetition, study, and then discursive meditation on the words / understanding to penetrate the words.

    3) In the early parts of the school curriculum there are exercises similar to mindfulness. This practice is to fall still and connect with the senses to develop the ability to be in the present moment (c.f. Eckhart Tolle). It would be a misunderstanding to say it’s about stopping thinking – even though the stillness of the mind does occur at times of presence. The exercise is to teach the practice of will – holding the attention where you want it, and also learning to observe what is happening in the inner world. These skills are a precondition to meditation practice.

    Many people talk of the relief of not being run ragged by their thoughts (many of which they come to realise aren’t actually theirs) and also even to realise that they are not their thoughts – sometimes the distinctions between mind, emotions and self have not yet been made. This stage is where the subtle misunderstanding arises, from learning to attend to stopping the mind, because the relief of having some space from the mind (being driven mad by modern media) is so strong.


  78. I was wondering if there is a way to settle imagination, I have an over active one and have taken great pains to settle and ground (and very successfully with a family etc its almost too grounding atm and I’m starved of outlet) but I am having the problem that with my creativity repressed it keeps forming almost like a bubble that comes up and manifests spontaneously or at least that is what I think is happening. It’s not feasible for me to release it productively currently with demands of family life (high needs small children that take all my energy in nurturing format) but I’m not sure that what keeps happening is terribly good either, is there a simple way I can disperse the excess creative energy into something useful until my life has enough room (and I’m not flat exhausted and time depraved) to turn it into something productive.

  79. I’ll join the chorus praising this post in particular. I’ll have to go through it again. I really need also to start ordering books that I can read away from the computer, because I’m having more difficulty focusing while using the computer since we completed our move away from Mt. Fuji. I’m having to live with someone who likes his smartphone very much, and my attempts at shielding this room are barely working out for me. In fact, last week if I had had time to respond to Alan’s first comment about observing people being less able to engage in rational discussions (I had no chance to read anything beyond that), I would have told him that if he had a smartphone, to remove the battery and then frame the thing as a monument to human gullibility.

    To your response to young elephant I would add to look at the kind of people the leader in question is attracting and cultivating. Are they empowered? Does she shape them up and encourage them to go out and achieve something? Or are they weaklings clinging to her until she lets them down or until they can otherwise break free from her spell?

    More in a little while…

  80. Further to the above, my chief reason for my response to Alan’s observation is some recent research Arthur Firstenberg has pointed out showing that among people in their 20s to 40s, the more time they spend using smartphones, the less gray matter they have. The fine print says not to hold them any closer than an inch (give or take a centimeter) from your head or you’ll exceed even ICNIRP’s fraudulent standards for limiting microwave exposure (I.e., you actually heat the brain tissue). Now most people are just texting, but that’s no good either for multiple reasons.

    I also wanted to remark that your explanation on why trying to oppose something is a much weaker position than trying to promote something else is very helpful to me. I’ve been aware of such for a while, but just as observations from others on what seems to work and what doesn’t. This is why my focus has been on informing others of dangers of cellphone radiation and surviving 5G. See the censors try to stop me and a million others like me. They do us the favor of drawing even more attention to the issue. Meanwhile, I just love Arthur Firstenberg–I owe him my life, but his focus has been on angry opposition. He radiates anger, and makes a bad impression on many people. Hard to say how effective he has been. He did help me and many others like me.

  81. Dear JMG,

    Thanks for another thought-provoking essay. That taxonomy of planes just comes across as an extremely useful tool for making sense of the world. I know it’s touched upon in many of your works, as well as in those of Dion Fortune, but if you were ever to consider a book-length, focused treatment of the planes that affect the human condition, you certainly have one eager reader-customer here.

    Thanks in particular for illuminating the difference between the organs of action and perception on the various planes. On the astral plane, it explains to me much of why the psychotherapy I’ve been going through over the last few years has been so effective: I’ve learned, through intensive visualization exercises, to construct astral “artefacts” that are more permanent than mud pies. The artefacts are images in consciousness that reflect the balanced, harmonious emotional states I desire, so that when things get stressful, I can calm myself down by simply perceiving them. It’s phenomenally effective, and I like to think it’s because they work on the very plane that’s been causing me so much emotional distress in the past.

    Dear Ip,

    You may be interested in Bernardo Kastrup’s book “More Than Allegory”, which gives a similar affirmative answer to your question as the one given by JMG here, and in great detail. His basic point is exactly what you say: myths are neither literal nor allegorical, but tools we make on one plane to get access to truths on another plane that are not directly accessible to us.

  82. Deep is “down”… Up is “out”… The labyrinth leads in. With a nod to Stevie Wonder, the sublime is remarkably un-present on higher ground.

  83. “The Sâr Péladan phrased it crisply: “If you are animal, be beautiful. If you are emotional, be good. If you are intellectual, seek the Grail. To become beautiful, charge your instincts with emotion; to become gentle, leaven your emotions with thought; to seek the Absolute, develop in yourself the capacity for abstraction.””

    This is extremely helpful. One of the things that I try to “feel” for when arguing or debating ideas is the inner “shape” that unites disparate experiences. For example, during the discussion between Irena and various commenters last week on the topic of Marxism, it seemed to me that the “shape” hovering behind the words (although parts of it were expressed here and there) is what actually happens when a person believes that some abstract “greater good” can trump any concrete individual person (which ultimately admits of the sacrifice of concrete persons to the abstract “Greater Good” however conceived). This dynamic was certainly at work in communist regimes, but it is also at work in others. This dynamic can also be tempered, and I think Irena’s point was, if we focus too intently on the label we may be distracted and miss the inner “shape” which truly bears watching out for.

    Likewise, I have been involved in a friendly argument in another venue about whether attaining salvation (these are mainly Christians) requires that we “vanquish the Beast”. And, as I have often seen expressed here in other conversations, I personally believe that if you are at war with yourself, and you vanquish some part of yourself, the loser is yourself. I am very thankful for a fascinating quote that helps put this into a different perspective. To grow out of something and put it away because it no longer serves a more mature you, is very different from vanquishing a part of yourself.

    “If you are animal, be beautiful”. Lovely!

  84. PS – I realise that your last paragraph says exactly this… I confess I had rushed to comment as soon as I was thrilled by Peladan’s quote, and not quite read to the end of the post.

    In any case:
    “Equally, whenever you encounter the claim that the way to become a better person is to amputate some part of normal human potential, you’re looking at something genuinelyly harmful; that’s as true of those ideologies that insist you should turn off your mind as it is of those that insist you should turn off your libido, say, or your imagination, or your capacities for spiritual perception. Wholeness, after all, is a better goal than mutilation.”

    Hear, hear, say I!

  85. Michal said – “many of my friends end up failing in their lives after many years. Loneliness, a series of addictions, depression, neurosis, financial and health problems,”

    I found the same dynamic in the permaculture movement here in the U.S. The two women who I took classes under and did project with are shadows of their former selves. One developed an undiagnosable skin disease, and was convinced the CIA was tapping her phone and having her followed. The other had an estranged relationship with her only daughter and a serious drug fixation. This was after just five years of leading a local group and teaching courses.

    It was so sad trying to interact with them and feeling like they were just slipping further and further away. To where I didn’t understand until I read this post. I just took what happened with them as a cautionary tale of being too caught up in ego.

  86. Hello JMG, I’ve been lurking on your sites for several years now and love your refreshing, nuanced and intelligent take on things. It is sad that this is not more common on the web. Anyway, this is the first time I ask a question, so here goes: You mentioned to Phutatorius that the pointless thoughtstreams are from the astral place. So what can be done about them?


  87. As I read this the power of forgiveness came to mind. Not sure why. Our culture tends to cartoonishly portray it as a “forgive and forget” like something that harmed us never happened. But when we really forgive someone, don’t we have to encapsulate understand what happening inside them – motivations, emotions, intent, personal history – and our own feelings at the same time, and it’s that full understanding that powers the forgiveness? It’s really hard to do sometimes, that being in someone’s shoes thing. We don’t talk about that much as a culture anymore. Even those who preach that everyone is racist never ask others to put themselves in someone else’s place.

    This post was a real balm for this week. I have a few neighbors I need to help. Thank you.

  88. A lovely post today!

    I love to know that practising advertisement analysis is good for mental health. This is an entertainment of my wife and I whenever we watch a new commercial, to find out who is this advertisement targeted to, and the hour that they are streaming the ads. Specially enlightening when we discovered that commercials for low wage cars had stopped during lockdowns, while high wave cars commercials were in the rage. So we knew who could afford to buy cars and who could not. We’ll add that tidbit of looking for the animal response they are trying to stimulate in our for fun practice.

    I tried that kind of mind voiding meditation with an online course, and I must say it helped me. I was really angst with all that nonstop news about the pandemic and I felt I was about to break. A 25 minutes session per day was enough to recover the calm, and it also helped me at taken control over my life. I gained the ability to limit my exposure to bad news to the extrictly necessary and focus more on things that I could actually do to improve. Then I read you (JMG) saying that the ability to focus can be achieved also with discursive meditation so I tried both.
    I’d say that mindfulness meditation is like sleeping. If you work hard all day and take no rest, you will feel dizzy, but if you sleep too much without having worked you get numb. So, if you overthink things too much, letting your mind rest can be of help, but if you live on auto mode, I see how it might be troublesome. When I was practicing this, it was nice to find the calm after 20 minutes of letting the thoughts go, much better than taking pills. Not just the calm, but something I can only describe as clearing the fog, with your mind ready again to take on whatever task you want. But the continuous practice was pointed to finding the Buddha, which is something I am not really interested in. I think I would take another week or two of mindfulness meditation in case I feel my nerves again go wild, but for a continued practice I prefer this discursive meditation of yours. It trains both focus, which has proven to be really useful, and inspiration, which I hope it will show someday. Besides, 5 minutes per day is easier to achieve.

    @Alan: I was taught the same as you, that we have to believe without having proofs if we want to find salvation, and that is one among other things that pushed me away from religion. Following blindly is not to my tastes. It might well be that ‘faith’ is a sense, and we simply miss that organ which is able to sense ‘things’. That’s why our most famous agnostic, Unamuno, used to say that he wished he could have faith. But I have trouble with that too. Maybe we don’t have this special organ and if we were surrounded by people all saying the same thing, then we would be convinced that there’s something wrong with us that can’t see what other people around us see (or claim to see) so clearly. But the world is wide, and it happens that the things that are hold truth by some people in our corner of the world are blatant lies for others, using the same ‘senses’. So there are two logic outcomes: 1 there’s no such sense, only delusion, or 2 they are feeling something but they can’t describe it in a way that can be understood or even shared with other faithful people (a winged entity can be a flame or a geometric figure for other people).
    What I am liking about the occult is that they don’t insult logic, don’t ask for blind followers or sheep, don’t despise people with other set of beliefs (although they will answer if you defy their beliefs) and contemplate reality in its whole complexity (unlike our priests who seem to only care about souls or the economists who seem to only care about wealth). So, I think occult people fit well with the second assumption.

  89. I have been blessed with a very vivid imagination and as a trained architect it has come in pretty handy. It wasn’t until I got out of school and away from other similarly imaginative people that I realized this little ability.

    People seem amazed that I can see things in my head and see them to completion as imagined. I thought everyone daydreamed about how things go together! It sounds a lot sexier than it actually is, though. I think most people would get bored thinking about nuts and bolts all the time.

    I assume some aspect of this is my makeup and some training. How can this be used from an occult stand point? If I can manifest my imagination on the material plane, what can I do on the others?


  90. Hey Alan

    Were you perchance raised Baptist? I was, and that shallow, literal interpretation of the scriptures is more or less what turned me into a devout atheist/materialist when I finally got to the point where I just couldn’t absorb the ridiculous inconsistencies anymore.

    The other commenters are correct, however, in pointing out that there are in fact other forms of evidence. (I’m no longer an atheist, by the way, having had a genuine conversion experience. That is, the God that is usually referred to here as “the Christian God” made himself known to me very clearly, and no, I didn’t have to see anything nor poke my fingers into anyone’s wounds to believe). And as for “believing whatever weird thing” – yes, I’ve seen that happen, too. There’s a discussion group I used to belong to that I finally had to leave because it seemed like you were _required_ to believe any weird thing that came along, the weirder the better. My motto is, keep an open mind but not so open that your brain falls out. There were brains splattering all over the floor in that group! One of JMG’s basic mantras applies here: remember the opposite of one bad idea (believing nothing that you can’t see) is usually another bad idea (believing everything just because its weird).

    Also pay attention to our host’s question: “Why do you choose to interpret it that way” and your response “I was not aware of ever having ‘chosen’…” He’s not asking the question facetiously. That sort of awareness is part of what he is teaching here. We all are guilty of interpreting things without being aware we are doing it. The trick is to become aware, examine your assumptions (“Meditate on it!”) and, hopefully, make your interpretations deliberate rather than unconscious.


  91. The advertising that most crassly tries to switch off thinking seems to me to be that for cars. After I lived in a city with frequent one-to-four-hour traffic jams, I could never again look on those car ads that show a single car, alone in the middle of a magically empty city, without feeling anger. And the ads for “ecological” or “sportive” cars, driving with screeching tires through what looks like virgin wilderness, make me even more angry.

    SUVs in a city are clearly either an arms race for survival in a car crash, or pure emotion. There are hundreds of F-450 around here. Yesterday, I saw one where the posterior part was built over so that it looked like a van, probably because the owner actually needed it to transport stuff in winter. The built-over version surely costs more, but I bet 99% of the (non-business owner) drivers of such SUVs would not accept the built-over version even if it cost the same. It is simply a matter of looks (i.e. of the sexual and social instinct, as JMG wrote).

    A separate comment on the subject: the talk of “amputation” or “mutilation” reminded me of Matthew 5:29: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (I suppose that was JMG’s intention). That verse is much harder for me to digest than the Thomas episode. Since it clearly is not to be taken literally on the material level, I can only take it as a polemical version of the truth that one cannot always have it all, that sometimes it is indeed necessary to rid oneself of some desire (in the context, desire for some married person). Transporting this from the polemical to a therapeutical vein, it could mean substituting another, more healthy habit or desire, as JMG suggested on the dreamwidth will-training topic.

    PS: Sorry for a mix-up with regard to Hebrews 11:1. My cop-out translation of the whole verse would be “Faith/trust is the understanding/foundation/substance of hoped-for things, the proof of unseen things.”

  92. Pixelated wrote: “And since most people have been trained not to do anything but think with group mind, it’s like having a bunch of weak-stemmed plants that relied on being propped up by each other, suddenly left to stand on their own.” I like this analogy! There’s probably a lot of truth in it. Wrapped back into quantum physics again (I guess it’s this if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail – thing…) there is the phenomenon of entanglement, which roughly speaking means “connected in a special way”. Now if you think of entangled quantum objects, say five trapped atoms that all share this special connection with each other, decoherence destroys this entanglement. But decoherence is caused by interaction with the environment and if it happens, the “disturbed” quantum objects lose their connection with each other but become entangled with parts the environment instead. Which has a lot to say about what happens to individuals experiencing decoherence and why (the concept of entanglement found in Buddhist and Hindu philosophy comes to my mind). Now there are these two levels again – below is the “environment”, the world of instinctive group behavior and above is the world of abstraction, clarity and individuality. I guess it is possible to entangle oneself with higher beings, too, through spiritual practice and the above makes it clear that this is possibly even more important than usual when your surroundings slide into decoherence…

    (And on the other hand, I wonder if there is a kind of “upward decoherence” used to facilitate spiritual advancement – entangle yourself firmly with something above you and then destroy your connection to your environment?)


  93. John,
    This is an excellent article, and provides much material for discursive meditation not to mention careful repeated reading. Much appreciated.

  94. Strikes me that Bruno’s essays on magic are valuable reading when it comes to manipulation of the mental plane, as described in the section on advertising and propaganda.


  95. JMG, if we may continue the question, how would you move the astral down to the life force, and the life force up to the astral. And for a full sequences, say I had a meaning, brought it to an image, then wanted to move it to life force and then physical?

    I had thought life force would be feelings/emotions, but if that’s astral I’m not sure how to work with life force.

    Aside: to continue the Chan Buddhist analogy, it looks like the spiritual body is what Arhats fully develop (nirvana with remainder), and the causal body is what a Buddha has to have, which probably explains why there aren’t very many of them.

  96. JMG
    Thanks for so interesting post. I found it really helpful.

    In your response to Ian:

    “…yes, the question makes sense. In both cases you work on the connection between the astral and mental planes. In the first case, you meditate on an astral image — say, a Tarot card — and seek the meaning in it; in the second, you find a meaning and create an astral image that expresses it.”.

    I wondered if this is what is going on with metaphor and why poetry or other works of art are often so “meaningful”?

  97. Hi Pixielated, your plant analogy is great!

    JMG, I have had so much advertising aimed at me that if the advertising is on a phone I can stare at the top corner waiting for the X to appear and never even remember what they were advertising. That’s how much practice I’ve had ignoring it.

  98. @JMG and Nomad: I, on the downhill side of this incarnation, and “not quite in my dotage,” am now so glad to be taken care of in so many ways, it’s a dead certainty I’ll reincarnate as a small child!

  99. @JMG and Kevin – THAT’s why I could never relate to Otter Zell’s Millennial Gaia, however lovely. The look on her face is exactly what you’ve described! That I gave it to the U.U. Church in Albuquerque before moving may not have been doing them any favors.

  100. JMG: Thought provoking post! From both a fair amount of personal experience and doing a lot of investigation, the field of Buddhist Shamatha (focusing the mind) is a lot deeper and more complex than I believe you believe. Unskillful (neophyte) focusing on nothing, or on the wrong thing, or entering a focused state when depressed or otherwise mentally ill is, absolutely, a recipe for a bad outcome. But that is not what is mindfulness is about and it is not what has ever been advised at any retreat I have attended; indeed, if a good teacher finds you are coming from a bad place or proceeding in a rash way, they will generally not let you attend.

    There are eight Buddhist jhanas (deeply absorbed states) – but probably not one out of one hundred Buddhist retreats actually teaches the jhanas; you have to go looking for them. Vipassina is discursive meditation, very akin to what you seem to be advocating. Shamatha is extreme focusing of the mind generally as a prelude to Vipassina. Most people go from quieting the mind (Shamatha only long enough to enter “access concentration” where the “voice in your head”) goes quiet) to Vipassina (discursive).

    An alternate, which interests me more, is going from “access concentration” to focusing on a material object or an inner feeling of something like compassion (love for humanity) or — if you are trying to gain access to the first jhana (not an easy thing to do for most of us) — transferring your attention from, most commonly, “watching the breath” to access concentration to some “pleasant feeling in the body”. If you are able to meditate on that pleasant feeling long enough with a wholesome mind you may — and I want to stress may — eventually be invited into the first jhana: a state of happiness or joy. From there you may eventually learn how to proceed to the second; and then the third; etc. This can take a lifetime for most people — and if you are coming from an unwholesome or unbalanced place you are not likely to get there ever. The first four jhanas are called “formed” (think in the body) pleasant and calming and restorative and in the body; the fourth is a great sense of equanimity (not nullification nor turning off of the identity) which is cultivated in order to bring it back into the waking world so you can operate from a feeling of equanimity instead of stress.

    There are four jhanas beyond the first four and those are the “formless” (dissociated from the body) states where you may explore things like “infinite space” etc. But even the Buddha didn’t think they had much value and were, in fact, absolutely not a pathway to “enlightenment”. He would know, as he spent a lot of time navigating through them before he came back and decided to sit under that Bodhi tree and practice Vipassina (discursive meditation) until he found another path – a middle way.

    Buddha taught the first four jhanas primarily so monks could develop and keep equanimity, compassion, and wholesomeness in dealing with the real world, with its emotions, and pain, and starvation, and wars, and perversions of all sorts … and leading to death.

    The last thing I want to say about Buddhism is that it is approximately as diverse a “religion” as the whole of Christianity. Also, as with “Christianity” (whatever that is) approximately all of Buddhism was made up by people who lived five hundred or fifteen hundred years after Buddha was dead. These people cobbled on one thing after another after another; split into one lineage after another; got involved with politics and shamanism (nature spirits in the case of Tibet, where it is called “Bon”) and lusty things like sex and killing and all the other perversions mankind seems to want to play with. Tibetan Buddhism is approximately as close to Buddha as the Catholic Church or Mormanism is to Christ. And it is only with extraordinary hubris or ignorance that one can make a claim about “Buddhism” by extracting from, say, Japanese variants.

    Buddha was pretty clear and pretty restricted in what he taught: he was teaching a path: a philosophy and useful life skills to getting disentangled from the noise in the world and in your own head. He was absolutely not teaching a “religion” – as is clear in the original suttras (which were, themselves, not written down until hundreds of years after his death, so there is that to keep in mind, also). Buddha purportedly was asked all the time about the gods (religion). He suggested you not pray to gods because “they need help, too.”

  101. Hi John,
    Really enjoyed your post. Regarding the position of epiphenomenalism (epi from here on out), I think that it’s refuted even with a materialist paradigm. According to epi, the direction of causality runs only one way from the body to the mind. (In epi, the mind is often analogized as a puff of smoke arising from the coal furnace of the body.) But if that were true, then the mind would play no part in natural selection, and there would be no reason for the contents of our consciousness to conform so exquisitely–as in fact it does–to the conditions of our environment (like our ability to discern many hues and shades of green, for example.)

    On a related topic, philosopher David Chalmers posited a philosophical “zombie”; that is, someone who externally behaves just as a conscious person would, but nothing is going on inside. You could examine the zombies brain and detect all kinds of neuronal firings–presumably in response to the environment–but that doesn’t compel the consclusion that the zombie is actually conscious. Chalmers was using this thought experiment to argue that consciousness is a distinct property from physical quantities. There is, however, an important implication of his zombie: consciousness in itself– distinct from the electrochemical signals correlated with it–involves no additional energy (at least energy on the physical plane.) But if awareness as such is untethered from energy, its also untethered from mass; and if untethered from mass-energy, then untethered from spacetime. And so we can see how remote reviewing and clairvoyance are at least theoretically possible.

  102. When I was practically but an egg, I observed some of this to a friend, that ideas emerge in a matrix prior to our being conscious of them, rather like bubbles and as they rise through the medium, words get generated to cover them (more or less adequately) and eventually we become able to use them consciously in conversations, as it were. It seemed to me that I could actually experience/see this as it happened. No one, of course, believed me. I didn’t much care. Later, I found that this process works in the formation of almost anything (et in principio erat verbum) and today I find it especially useful when I am writing proems (prose meditations in poetic form). Natch, it’s all discussed in another form if you care to study Qabalah at all seriously, whether the “religious form” of it, or the esoteric/occult form. So your essay here resonated with me. Back in the day I read Col. A.E. Powell’s books put out by the Theosophical Society, on the four more-or-less accessible bodies. They, too, spoke of this material. Things materialize in more and more concrete form around a substrate of preverbal, preimaged meanings, that bubble up from…where, exactly? A place where we don’t have full functioning, it seems clearly. My two cents.

  103. John said: “Seaside Hermit, part of the reason ads are getting so intrusive and pervasive is the simple but unmentionable fact that they no longer work very well.”

    Another reason would be that so many websites that have ads, aren’t interested in selling you what is in them, they want your data so they can sell your name and info to people who do the ads. Because of that, the placement and presentation of those ads is meant to be as obnoxious as possible. You have to click on them just to get them out of your view, which then serves as a “page view” for purposes of revenue. The ones you do click off, as well as the ones that don’t, tells them a lot about your interests. Click on one FB ad, and you get served a host of others. That ad blockers are popular only increases the arms race.

  104. John,
    “a rudimentary structure made of the substance of the mental plane, and which in the course of further evolution will eventually turn into the first and simplest form of mental body.”
    Interesting. In the context of Druidry, and when achieving the luminous life or gwynfydd, does one in effect move up the planes, i.e. above the material plane and instead reside in the astral or mental plane? And when one is between incarnations, where does the individuality reside? Clarification would be appreciated.

  105. @JMG,

    Regarding your response to Y.Chiraeu: if my guardian angel is an emanation from the Solar Logos, does that mean I eventually will become such a thing? I understood this relationship to be that my guardian angel was someone who has karmic ties to me but moved on first, and now is helping me to reach Gwynfydd. Does that make sense?

  106. JMG & esteemed commentariat

    Thanks for this article! It clears up a few things for me. (And puts me back in Glass Bead Game territory.)

    I have two areas to comment on and will do them in two posts here.

    Part 1.

    Regarding the development of the mental body, something I’ve been thinking about and writing a bit about, relates to the field of audification and sonification. Audification is when something like a geiger counter tells you how much radioactivity is in an area, or a gas detector how much gas is there. It tells you with sound. Sonification has come about as a way of making sounds out of data and information, and its at the confluence of art and science. People have done this with all kinds of data with varying degrees of artistry and success.

    To quote myself from an essay I wrote on the subject,

    “In 1974 a trio of experimental researchers at Bell Laboratories conducted the earliest work on auditory graphing; Max Mathews, F.R. Moore, and John M. Chambers wrote a technical memorandum called “Auditory Data Inspection.” They augmented a scatterplot -a mathematical diagram using Cartesian coordinates to display values for two or more variables in a data set- using a variety of sounds that changed frequency, spectral content, and amplitude modulation according to the points on their diagram.

    Just as science seems to produce an infinite set of visual images for virtually all of its phenomena–atoms to galaxies are familiar to us from coffee table books to science magazines; so ‘musics,’ too, could be produced from the same data that produces visualizations.” Ihde pointed to using the tool of sonification for creativity, so that we might in effect, be able to listen to the light of the stars, the decomposition of soil, the rhythm of blood pulsing through the veins, or to make a composition out of the statistics from a series of baseball games.”

    The composer Gordon Mumma used seismograph data as an inspiration for the “mograph” piano pieces he wrote (he’d worked as a technician at a seismology lab)… and the idea has been taken up more and more by a number of different musicians, scientists, and others. Blind people for instance have a desire for sonification of data to come into being as a way to “read” the weather or other stats through sounds.

    Which brings me to the last part of my essay where I talk about how listening to data could become a form of “reading” through training (and here I see a possible future trajectory for the development of the mental body). The fact that we hear language and not only read it is one pathway in for these developments.

    “Many musicians know how to read sheet music. For composers it’s a basic tool. But what if average people learned how to read music, that is, listen to a composition and extract information from it as if it were a couple of paragraphs of text, or for really long works, a whole book?

    It strikes me that this is a distinct possibility as the field of sonification grows. Just as we have learned to signify and interpret letters and words, we may eventually come to have another shared grammar of sound that allows people to listen to the music of data and interpret that text with our ears.

    This new way of reading music as information has the possibility of transforming the field of radio as the imagination is opened up to new ways of receiving knowledge. It would be interesting to create radio that included sonified data as a regular part of news stories.
    This project of mapping knowledge to sound is implicit in Hesse’s description of the Glass Bead Game. Sonification is another way to bring it about as a reality. Yet to make the most of this listening opportunity, to listen to music in a way analogous to reading a book, we will have to grow new organs of perception. Pauline Oliveros started the work of carving out new pathways for the way we perceive the world in her Deep Listening workshops, concerts and work in general. This work is being continued by her partner Ione, and others trained in the skills of Deep Listening.

    Kim Cascone has also taught workshops on the subject of what he calls Subtle Listening. Through a variety of meditation and other exercises Kim teaches his students how to “grow new organs of perception”. Perhaps through techniques such as these we may learn to listen to data in a way that engages the imagination and transforms it into knowledge. ”

    (My full article with further details and embedded sound examples and more is here for those who want to read it in full: )

    Sometimes when I hear a piece of music, outside of its emotional content, I can extract other content embedded within some of the best pieces. The most profound experience I had was at a concert of Richard Strauss’s “An Alpine Symphony”. Without going into all the specifics it ended being an unbidden initiatory experience as the music translated to internal (and potentized) imagery. It wasn’t sonification of data, but it was using music to tell a story, and it told that story in a way that still leaves me awestruck when I muse on it.

    All the best,


  107. Hi JMG,

    Thanks very much for this essay. It is fascinating reading, and I hope you do more in this vein in the future. The subtle planes are discussed so infrequently outside of occult circles, I really appreciate your clear explanations and examples.

    I have a question for you about the mental plane. In my studies, I have often thought about mathematics as existing primarily on the mental plane. The fact that 2+2=4 is always true, even very long time periods, using different languages, and in different parts of the world, indicates a sort of immutable meaning for the mental plane that just doesn’t exist in the material.

    So why is it that the stereotypical math person is geeky, has a lot of character flaws, and is generally not in harmony with life around him? It would seem reasonable that someone spending time in the mental realm would have all sorts of benefits flowing down from a stronger mental sheath.

  108. Re: advertisements

    I like to pick up bits of 19th and early 20th century ephemera at antique stores, many of which include ads for various goods. The most obvious change in marketing is that older ads, let’s say pre-1960 or so, more often emphasize the utility of the product, how it is better than its competitors in ways that are more or less actually measurable (whiter whites, cleaner floors, shinier polished furniture, more manageable hair, etc.). The older ads present a product that will solve a genuine problem for the customer.

    What stands out is that nowadays ads lean more to the aspirational, things that may or not be measurable, and most importantly to a customer’s emotion. How does this product make you feel? Will you feel accepted in the popular/elite crowd? Does it make you feel better about yourself? Sometimes this borders on the ridiculous, such as those advertisements that leave my husband and me unsure of what the product is that is being sold.

  109. Dear BoysMom are BarefootWisdom,

    You are both quite possibly correct, perhaps I always have been conflating “seeing” with “evidence”, as you suggest. That is an idea on which I need to reflect further, and I thank you for it.

    Dear Simon S,

    I was taught the same or similar techniques regarding “seeing through” advertising, and far back in the 4th or 5th grade! And as for you, I found that seemingly small lesson one of the more important bits that I picked up in my primary education (along with taking a course on probability and statistics on a whim in high school, as odd as that might sound, and also the grammatical and compositional skills which I learned from a wonderful 10th grade American Literature teacher). But that was back in the 1970s, and I am sure that such independent thinking skills are not only not taught today, but are probably actively discouraged.

    Dear Will M,

    As with posters BoysMom and BarefootWisdom, you have given me something to consider here that I had never considered before. Indeed, I have always taken the word “faith” to mean quite simply “belief in the absence of evidence”, which has caused me to almost equate the concept of “faith” with “schizophrenia”. But I have long had a tendency to take things too literally, or in an overly and/or erroneously simplified manner, which is a facet of myself with which I have become more aware in recent years and constantly have to fight.

    Dear PatriciaOrmsby,

    Regarding my post last week regarding the recent apparent decline that I have noted in rational discourse nowadays, and in the apparent ability to even think rationally in today’s society, it may interest you to know that I do not own a ‘smart'(sic)phone, nor have I ever owned a cell phone of any sort. Having thus stood outside that recent social trend, I feel that I have the (relatively rare) ability to objectively observe the effects that the almost ubiquitous presence of those devices has had on our society (with those effects being mostly not for the positive). And I have witnessed not just the effects on our society as a whole, but over and over on individuals of my own acquaintance. Almost invariably, to a person, each of those friends or relatives fairly quickly more impatient, less able to plan or organize, and more distracted as a result. In each case, my relationship with that person suffered, as did I believe the relationships of each of those persons with others in their lives.

    Dear Abraham,

    Like you, I have sometimes wondered if my lack of faith, or my seeming inability to have faith, is not some defect in my character, or something that I am otherwise missing. But that is something that I have almost never discussed or communicated with anyone before now, and my thoughts on it are vague and confused while trying to do so. Yet something seems to be compelling me to try anyway.

    Dear O.E.P.,

    I was not raised in the Baptist Church, but in one of which few people have probably heard, the Polish National Catholic Church. It is an independent offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church, dating back to the 1890s, with most of the parishes in the northeastern USA. I gather that in doctrine, the PNCC is generally rather similar to the RCC in most respects, although notably the concept of original sin is rejected by the PNCC. Both my grandparents (on both sides) and my parents were devout and active members, we attended church and church functions religiously (ha ha), and I was an altar boy in it for ten full years. My parents was even good friends with our priest and his family. But spiritually (to the extent that I have ever been able to feel or even conceptualize spirituality), my upbringing and involvement in the PNCC left me very unfulfilled.

  110. Ecosophian, no, but each of us recapitulates our previous evolutions in the process of reaching adulthood in this one. We recapitulate the stages that brought us to the human stage in the womb, and then we recapitulate the process of getting to our present level in childhood and youth.

    Pixelated, etheric parasites are on the outside of your etheric body, and they stick out a ways. As for your discussion of decoherence, exactly! That makes a great deal of sense.

    Wesley, of course you can talk about the mental plane in the jargon of the materialist. They can’t ignore that level of human experience the way they do the etheric level — well, most of them can’t, at least. What differentiates the occult view from the materialist view is the relation of the plane of meanings to the cosmos and the broader context of human evolution, not how it’s experienced by the individual human being.

  111. My cat Kiki seems to have some psychic abilities. Some background on her: Kiki is a shelter cat I adopted as a six month old kitten approximately 13 years ago. When my husband and I took her home from the shelter, she was sickly and skinny with an infected spay scar and an abdominal hernia. The healing process was long and she spent the first six months with us in an Elizabethan collar. Once she healed, she was an exceptionally large, healthy black cat. Kiki is emotionally needy and over-attached to me, whereas my husband tends to play Bad Cop when necessary. She is “the cat you wear” at least in my case. She spends a great deal of time sleeping in my arms (she’s heavy!) or demanding that I feed or pet her. When I go outside to do yard work, she cries. When I go upstairs to my husband’s man cave/loft area, she cries despite the door being open. She’ll usually come up the stairs after five minutes. It is quite ridiculous. You get the picture. Lately, my husband has noticed she reliably cries and carries on every night about ten minutes before I arrive home. I don’t get home at the same time every night — it can be anywhere from 7 – 11:30pm depending on my work schedule and if I go shopping or visit someone. My thoughts are that she has developed enough of an astral body to make the jump to either human or dog in the next life. She is a genuinely emotional being.

  112. PAPA! it’s me, Kitten Lopez. / i don’t know password/info to my KL account but it’s me from the past, dropping to my knees before you on the beach because i was just writing someone named “Druish” that i felt like i was floundering lost and treading water in the middle of the ocean with my own …what’s the word? …acting on my intuitions?

    and Druish had mentioned finding me awhile back on one of your sites, and let me know he/she was hip to what i was going for. cool. being understood saves wasted time explaining; you can trust their coaching. Druish says we’re talking about similar things. i’m not surprised; i hardly need a telephone anymore at all. / so i come here today and i haven’t even finished and my head is blown to smithereens, like back about sex here. (couldn’t finish. sometimes it’s too bright and need to dull my head and return later / it doesn’t take much for me to scare others and i get plenty spooked by all this, too. no support. no lessons. no “you’re right” except from you and that’s one helluva weight for you to bear, coupled with Wife or not.

    being a point of light in all this is crazy exhausting.

    anyhow thanks for going with what was way down on the list of requested open topics and going with it because i’ve just ordered the book on how to refine this while protecting myself because holy cow… the energy out there is craaaaazy confused and mad as in more insane than i realized.

    i’ll be back to write more thoughts and not just lurk and hope to try and add to this. but thank you. i so needed this and i cannot possibly be alone; just one of the more vocal. some of the deepest readers and thinkers i’m sure you’ve no clue because when your head is blown to smithereens it takes silence and awe and time to incorporate it. / that’s a different space than chatting.

    but i had to FORCE myself to write this because i get too much from your work and where you’re daring to go, to not occasionally claw my way above my own fears terror and weakness to say, “THANK YOU!”

    i’ve been avoiding the interwebs more and more because the internet dulls and warps what i work to be raw for in the current 3D of a tortured san francisco. oh man.. the energy here is crazy. as in not good.

    it’d be better if there was energy anger and not just a leaky passive constant dangerous FEAR. / i don’t recognize this place on a vibe level but (shrug) it’s my home and i’ve gotta give back. us artists are the defibrillators, right?

    that’s why this is epic what you write this week: it’s the playbook i myself needed in how to take this artist as propagandist thing to a whole other new HIGHER level.

    how do we culture makers image makers ones with vision imagination… how do we come together like troglodites rising and making our own images and screw their “options,” and how do we go our own “other” way…not binary… how do we make our own legs?

    i’m not seeing the vibes here and artists have become whores to this machine.

    so who’s free and audacious enough to push their way into people’s hearts?…

    that’s what you’re teaching us. / your wife has something to do with this somewhere. it’s art manifestation vision LOVE… because psychic stuff can be animal “I’m gonna rape you kill you eat you” or it goes “I LOVE YOU SO DEEP WATCH THIS”…

    i’m new to this. but i know it’s THERE as solid as rock / only ignored. that’s the adventure next…

    yeah / this whole art thing is only meaningful now if we artists spread our legs and show our own struggles to DO so. everything else is shtick.

    art has to bleed now or it’s irrelevant.

    thanks, Papa. soooo needed this.

    okay. / won’t write anymore. this was enough. even i will need the empty space and silence to take it into my musculature as a normal thing that even i believed is the kingdom for everyone. not just a select few of us tortured enough by life to find the transcendence.

    time to share the stars or we’re all gonna get it.


    erika “kitten” lopez

  113. Pixelated wrote: “And since most people have been trained not to do anything but think with group mind, it’s like having a bunch of weak-stemmed plants that relied on being propped up by each other, suddenly left to stand on their own.” This has become a major problem thanks to social media — groupthink to the point of people warning others to avoid certain authors or websites for fear of mental contamination (aka the ability to think for yourself and make up your own mind about an issue).

  114. JMG & esteemed commentariat,

    Now to revel in the schlock with comment 2! Or what might be termed, “Highbrow Lowlife” to borrow the name of occultist Carl Abrahamsson’s multimedia website (

    The alchemical mixing of the schlock with the sublime seems like a good recipe for cultural edifications that are also entertaining. I’m reminded also of how Graham Greene split his novels into two categories the “Entertainments” which included his spy stories and others (I liked Brighton Rock quite a lot) and his Serious with a capital S novels. Of course, his books don’t always fit in one or other Binary with a capital B category.

    The tertiary or third option, of blending the the profound with the pulp, could work together to produce literary gold (or cinematic, sonic, painterly) etc.

    Part of the appeal of advertising is how they recuperated surrealist techniques to use in the human-social-engineering departments of the corporations. (Individual and groups of artists have of course attempted cultural engineering with success but on smaller scales. The work of Nigel Ayers comes to mind.) The surrealist art has an advantage in bypassing the brain and being absorbed straight into the subconscious mind (unless one trains against it as you have shown.) As a kind of sinister dream imagery the surrealist advertsarial landscape must be walked through on alert or else the implanted desires may grow into undesirable weeds (some weeds are highly desirable) when the garden of the mind is left untended.

    One dead writer who I think embraces the schlock with the sublime was Harlan Ellison. Some of his short stories may be over the top with pulp overtones, but underneath the superslick veneer, the ideas were bubbling away. If SF was the literature of ideas then, I hope deindustrial fiction can pick up with ideas in new combinations, for the futures were likely to get. And to do it with verve, panache, a taste for cheap thrills on the one hand, and the kind of awakened aha moments you get when the best SF writes lay out a mind opening concept for you to take in and absorb.

    With reading I like to alternate between heavier novels, denser reads, with something pulpy, or downright trashy. In the trash category we have the, er, fine novel “Garbage World” by Charles Platt, or the hardboiled tales of Mickey Spillane. The same is true with music. I can’t listen to just jazz, classical and new music all the time. Sometimes I need some down ‘n dirty rockabilly or punk. Something like the Cramps. Othertimes I need rich nourishment, there someone like Robert Rich or Steve Roach will do the trick.

    All this mixed in with liberal doses of non-fiction on differing subjects to add to the cauldron of creativity.

    I guess that’s it for these session of electro-schlock therapy. Back to the waiting room now to pick up that copy of Mad magazine again, or is it the poems of H.D. I want to dip into again?

    P.S.: Thank you JMG for this space. It has been a life-of-the-mind life saver for me! (No, not life saver mints.)

  115. As civilisations pass through their stages, do the relative sizes of the standing waves alter? Could a particular phase of a society be particularly suited to the development of early-, mid-, or late-stage humans, so have more of them incarnate into it?

  116. I see the question of belief in a different way. Like the Mental sheath and meaning, most words have 4-5 meanings. Ran Prieur for example is very good at splitting a word into the couple of aspects people didn’t realize they were foolishly aggregating. Also a couple translations, and modern language has many more words and jargon since Greek-Aramaic. Clearly over all time, almost no person would get to see Christ’s resurrected body in person. Everybody BUT Thomas was going to “believe” because they can’t check for themselves. But to me “believe” means “think on me”, “connect with me.” With this one guy? Why? Because when he ascended AND ONLY THEN, he became the doorway to heaven and higher things. The beacon to a “Christ Consciousness.” He said, I have to go or the Holy Spirit can’t come and descend on earth. Which it shortly did. So that’s why people are told to “believe” and believing is enough. None of us are nearby, we all must ‘telepathically’ connect to this thing in our “minds”. That is, they reach out to “perceive” it. If not, we will remain separate and unconnected with it, this doorway to a type of consciousness. Simple. That’s why you can be on a desert island without a church or a bible and it will still work.

    Of course it only does this one thing: connect. You’ll still have to do the other work in your life yourself.

    This idea seems to have generated much positive support and interest. There are many many passages and twist like this, given us as rote, only to find they are wildly different or the opposite of the church’s tradition. That’s how traditions go: those who can’t (understand as saints and sages themselves) try to do something useful and teach. But having never been to the territory, that means they make these mistakes. I’d rather have a French speaker from France, but when needs must…

    “the fact that feeling cornered, people will tend to take extreme acts, which is a very dangerous thing….” But this is a wonderful thing if you’re trying to get other people to fight and not have time to notice you picking their pockets. As well as directing a now-mindless mob as your own remote control monster and murder-mob. As Shakespeare demonstrated in “Julius Caesar”. Why WOULDN’T people do this if they could?

    “various other tricks that writers would use was one of the most useful things I learned in school.” Of course not. Then children would be able to defend themselves. They do everything they can to avoid it and reinforce all stupidity here.

    It depends what you’re doing with mind-stopping. One use is to slow down or stop thoughts enough that you can watch a thought appear out of nothing, take over, run a train, be noticed, then disappear. Once you see that for yourself, then you are not your thoughts. Who’s watching the thoughts, then? Could also be useful if your thoughts are controlling you, same as learning to fast if your eating is controlling you. Or the problem today, which is that everybody is in complete delusion, because the word, the thought, is not the thing. Used to be we dealt mostly with fires, waters, foods, winds, and little word on the side, media almost never. Today it’s 99% media with a little personal talking, there is no weather, and we don’t notice food at because we’re posting the pic on Instagram and rating it on Yelp. That’s not healthy and leads to mass psychosis, but it’s easily fixed with simple re-priority.

    In the Radio Ether, Tesla believed in it and others at the time. They had not yet annihilated this equally-likely interpretation in the 30s because in practice it works better. As non-ether theory is stalled now almost 50 years, we may have to go back to it to move forward.

    ἔλεγχος: élenkhos elegchos — a proof, test

  117. @ JMG – You mentioned that people’s etheric senses allow us to ‘feel the vibe’ of other people. I think most people have stories about otherwise friendly dogs being hostile towards a specific person that turns out to be a felon with possibly hostile intent. Similarly, cats in many cultures are regarded as animals that can protect a household from evil spirits. Do animals also have etheric bodies?

  118. Would a dog developing a mental body result from it being extraordinarily well trained?

  119. Am I right to infer the mental plane sheath is the depository of memory and the meaning-rich mythologies we build out of memories? Is the stuff of the sheath the reckoning with fate, our prising it for meaning? Can we actively build up the mental sheath through reflection and autobiography?

  120. I’m guessing then that discursive meditation on philosophy and occult philosophy in general is good/great for developing the mental body, provided it is thought about in a way that minimises the passions? Training the mind, rather than informing it of course?

  121. Greetings to everyone in on this delicious discussion:
    @Alan, re: faith

    Paul Tillich’s slender book The Dynamics of Faith, 1957, showed me an unexpected way through the impasse.

    The problem for many is a religious upbringing that says if we can’t “believe” in Scripture, we are denying God, and if we don’t believe in the literal historic reality of a bookful of myths, we are faithless.

    Tillich depicts this equation of God with the Bible as a form of idolatry. The concepts and practices of any worship are just such a set of images/myths, which can easily be made into idols.

    Faith is not the acceptance of an ideology or a practice, but a lived relationship to whatever we understand to be the ultimate reality or truth. Even for rational materialists, ultimate reality is bound to be something beyond an agglomeration of material stuff—“spiritual” in some sense. Material-rational are incapable of doing even approximate justice to our limited human experience of divine reality. Plato explains somewhere that we can only suggest it to one another through imagery—things like myth, ritual, dream, song, dance.

    If a given set of images and concepts don’t point you to God, do not despair. The images were made to help us connect to reality; they are not the Reality Itself. If they do not serve you, seek another connection.

    Tillich’s discussion persuaded me just to lay the problem aside for awhile, without abandoning it; and, eventually Life–and dare I say, the theosphere—stepped in and pointed my attention where it needed to go.

    Another consideration: Religious people of a mystical bent say that the faith and the virtues displayed by the saints are, yes, something to aspire to, but not actually possible unless one has undergone certain personal experiences; and these are not achieved or earned, but given; and given only “by divine grace.” (Gnat, above makes this point about the first jnana.)

    So there’s nothing to be gained by beating ourselves up about it; what we CAN do is to continue stretching our capacities.

  122. Dear JMG,
    Thank you so much for you clear and concise explanation about our planes of existence. Thank you, Kimberly, for the lyrics and the music of the hymn to Venus and B3rnard for St Michael’s prayer! This site is a wonderful place in the dark web of illusion and deceit the internet is becoming! It occurred to me recently that our way of live is making the access to the astral plane harder: our arts, music, movies and novels are less and less insightful – maybe there is a better word in English. My teen boys only like movies and books older than their own age, the same goes for music with a few exceptions. Maybe the creatives are to focus in making the world as they want it, instead of peering the future in the astral plane as they should (?), because most of the culture production now lacks imagination and audacity.

  123. David, you’re most welcome.

    Your Kittenship, east Asian spiritualities have been naturalized in North America for close to two centuries now, since the time of the Transcendentalists, and plenty of people — those who seek guidance from reputable teachers and sources — have had no trouble at all following those paths. With a little work, it would doubtless be easy to compile a list of people who cracked up messily due to dabbling in Christianity — or for that matter, atheist materialism!

    Daniel, that makes a great deal of sense — and it explains why Western occultism, which for so long had to be passed on in secret and thus couldn’t count on having students supervised by experienced teachers, has relied on a very different set of training methods that don’t have the same features.

    John, ding! We have a winner. When physicists talked about the ether, occultists said, “Why, yes, that’s what we’ve been talking about all along.” Physicists immediately found reasons for talking about spacetime instead of ether. I’m half convinced that if occultists started making a big deal about the Copernican system, astronomers would decide that Ptolemy was right after all!

    Someone, OEP, and Will M, thank you!

    PatriciaT, if I recall correctly, all the fizzy brown sugar waters started out as tonics sold in drugstores, and only later turned into stuff you guzzle to try to look like the models in photos. Me, I can’t stand ’em — they taste like slightly diluted corn syrup mixed with cheap chemical flavors.

    Alan, if you’re not aware of having chosen to interpret the story in that way, I’d encourage you to stop and reflect on that. There are many possible interpretations of that story, and the fact that one of them comes automatically to your mind doesn’t mean that none of the others are possible — it suggests to me, rather, that the interpretations taught by your former church still dominate your thought processes! I didn’t think you were being argumentative or abrasive, just stuck in a single way of interpreting what is in fact a far more subtle and complex story than you were taught.

    Matthias, thanks for this. So you’re suggesting that “faith” in this context should have the sense of “trust” rather than that of “belief” — that makes sens to me.

    MCB, that’s what I’d expect from a well-founded traditional path like Vedanta. The practice of focusing attention on the senses isn’t the same as pop-culture mindfulness meditation, of course, and intensive sensory focus is fine training for will and consciousness.

    Rose, you’re going to have to find an outlet for it. There’s no other way. You may need to do something to make a little more time in your life for yourself.

    Patricia O, those are all excellent points — the last especially so. A teacher who gathers a gaggle of dependent permanent students is someone you want to avoid absolutely.

    Jarle, I’m delighted to hear that your psychotherapy has included some basic magical training! That’s what the ability to create astral images amounts to, of course. and it’s very useful indeed.

    Amanda, and you can also stand on your head and see it differently… 😉

    Scotlyn, it’s insights like that one that keep me turning to Péladan!

    Boccacio, through systematic practice, and through regular exposure to art, literature, and music, you learn how to replace then with thoughts that go someplace and do something you want.

    Denis, exactly. Forgiveness is difficult precisely because it can’t be forgetfulness — it has to be rooted in a thorough understanding. “To know all is to forgive all,” as the French proverb has it.

    Abraham, thanks for this. I’m especially interested in your comparison of the two styles of meditation — that’s helpful.

    Daniel, that’s an extremely useful skill in occultism. If you decide to take up magical training, you’ll find that the inner work that goes with rituals, pathworkings, and the like is much easier for you than it is for many others, and you can expect robust results fairly quickly.

    Matthias, that verse is also one that seems very problematic to me. Shouldn’t the eye be treated like the Prodigal Son? .

    Averagejoe, thank you!

    Fra’ Lupo, Bruno’s writings on magic are very much worth reading in this context, but not something you want to follow. It’s not accidental that the two most well-known practitioners of that approach to magic, Ioan Culianu and Bruno himself, ended up stone cold dead as a result of violent blowback from their magical workings.

    Ian, what you’ve asked for is a textbook on the philosophy of operative magic! That’s what magic is, of course — the art of bringing patterns down the planes into manifestation. From an occult standpoint there’s a difference between emotions (which belong to the astral body) and passions (which belong to the etheric body); consider the difference between love and lust, especially the kind of lust that really doesn’t care what person is on the other end of the act, for a good differentiation.

    Kay, bingo. Yes, that’s exactly how that works.

    Your Kittenship, I suspect a lot of people have gotten to that point.

    Patricia M, no doubt!

    Gnat, that’s why I specified that I was talking about the forms of mindfulness meditation that have become part of American pop spirituality, rather than the original form that was part of a complete and balanced program of spiritual training. Not sure how you missed that…

    Greg, square on target with both shots. And yet you get people who insist on epiphenomenalism, and eliminative materialists who insist that we are all Chalmersian zombies!

    Gwydion, I’m guessing that you practiced meditation in a previous life — the other people I know who can watch meanings bubble up and then take form have all apparently done so. As for Powell, he’s well worth close study.

    David, fascinating. My ad blockers work pretty well, and I avoid sites that won’t let me use them, thus I miss a lot of that!

    Averagejoe, in Druid terms, Gwynfydd is the state of having developed a mental body; you still have a material body but it’s a body of a different kind, not so dense and unyielding as the one we currently have. As for the individuality, it spends part of the time between lives on the astral plane and part on the lower end of the mental plane.

    Justin, thanks for this, but I’ll take tea, thanks — coffee gives me migraines.

    CS2, there are two theories about guardian angels. One is that they’re more advanced souls. The other is that they are a different form of existence altogether. Which is correct? My experiences lead me to think the latter, but it may be that different people have different experiences…

    Justin, interesting. Thanks for this.

    Samurai, the stereotypical math geek has Aspergers syndrome or high-functioning autism, and goes into math because most people with these conditions are better at that than they are at any field of activity that requires people skills. So it’s not that dealing with math makes people geeky — geeky people tend to make a beeline to abstractions such as math.

    Beekeeper, thanks for this. I’ve also noticed the difference.

    Kimberly, animals have etheric and astral bodies, so they have etheric and astral senses. Some, such as cats, have psychic senses that are much keener than their human equivalents — it’s like comparing a dog’s nose to a human’s nose. As for Kiki knowing when you’re coming home, Rupert Sheldrake has written an entire book entitled Dogs Who Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, so it’s a known thing!

    Erika, it’s a crazy time. Keep shining!

    Justin, now you know some of what I was trying to do with The Weird of Hali — pulp-fiction tentacled horrors grappling with serious philosophical issues…

    Yorkshire, a fascinating question to which I don’t have an answer. It might be a good theme for meditation. 😉

    Jasper, excellent. A fine meditation.

    Ben, of course! Animals have physical, etheric, and astral bodies; the only thing they don’t have yet, in most cases, that we have is a mental sheath. Many of them are much more psychic than we are — just as a dog can smell things we can’t, it can sense things etherically that we can’t.

    Youngelephant, no, behavioral training takes place on the lower astral through material planes. A dog develops a mental sheath when it begins, however clumsily, to think, rather than simply remembering, or anticipating, or feeling emotions. That can’t be forced; it happens when the dog is ready for it and not an instant before.

    Jason, there’s a form of memory on every plane. Talk to a good massage therapist and they’ll tell you plenty about muscle memory! Recalling and reflecting on your memories on the astral plane — that is to say, mental images of where you’ve been and what you’ve done and who you’ve known, charged with emotion — is one good way to begin reaching up toward the meaning of those events, and thus helps build the mental sheath.

    Peter, that’s one of its principal functions.

    Paula, you’re most welcome! I think you’ve made a very important point — so long as creative people are trying to force the world to do what they want, trying to control the flow of creation rather than freely participating in it, their capacity to create is blocked by their own egos and the results are dull and forced.

  124. Could it be that living in the modern information age, drowning in advertising and manipulation, is a necessary part of the development of the human race? Ads and propaganda that worked just one generation ago now seem silly to people who grew up in an even more overwhelming sea of stimulation. And most interestingly what will become of these mental defences during the long descent when the tide of outside influence recedes?

  125. JMG – in your reply to Patricia O, you said “A teacher who gathers a gaggle of dependent permanent students is someone you want to avoid absolutely.” Thanks for this! – a light went on when I read your statement, as it clarified an experience from years past. I recall going to a counselor to get help on some emotional issues – every time I felt like I was on the cusp of making a break-through to a healthier thought pattern, she abruptly changed techniques. I finally quit after realizing the sessions were a waste of time and money. I did not want to be a professional patient.

  126. @KKA:

    i do not know whether we are born the way we are, or environment forces us, but i do believe you have to indulge a sadomasochistic “bent.” it’s the writer and actor’s question: what comes first? plot or character?

    does plot determine character or does character define what will happen?

    i say this because a lot of people born sensitive are exploited in ways that Normal People can kick them as the dogs that won’t talk or that no one will believe if they do.

    so a lot of sensitive people who cannot fit in, kind of get off on being “bad.” at least it’s something, right?

    but without guidance, all these bouts of despair pain and self hatred turn into violence turned inward and outward. i had no ways of channeling my love of being a pain in the ass. i got so i distrusted popularity and the internet’s need to get the numbers is opposite of me.

    so i think a lot of bad asses saw hypocrisy and would call it out and this character would determine the plot of their lives. / i know it does for me. / when it doesn’t i am deadly bored and half alive.

    but the reality is as we’ve seen, if you don’t go with the herd, you will lose your livelihood your reputation and be culled. so the fears of death are in fact real when you’re like this. but to be otherwise?… that’s the agony i feel when i pay too much attention.

    but try to answer what you really feel or think one day, without being in a hurry, wanting to smooth anything over… watch what happens. all hell breaks loose. then what?…


    i know nada. / i’m new here.


  127. JMG, your reply about dogs starting to think brought a big smile to my face 🙂 Is there anything a dog owner can do to encourage this? I talk to my dog about human things sometimes. I wonder if that helps? A lot of times when my dog is misbehaving, instead of using a command, I talk to her like a person and ask her nicely to stop, and that seems to work better than commanding.

    Gwydion, your observing meanings comment is very interesting. I might experience something similar but I’m not sure so let me know if this is way off track. — I often think one layer below verbal thought. So I can take all the meaning I would get from using verbal thought and strip the words away. Sometimes a word or two pops in, but if the thought itself was to be converted to words it would be a lot more than 1 or 2 words. Does that sound anything like what you’re talking about? For the record, sometimes this seems useful, but other times I purposefully convert this wordless thought into words so I can utilize it in a journal, note or speech.

    Thinking about this is bringing to mind the feeling of knowing what you’re going to say in a conversation, but not having pulled out the words yet. And a lot of the times you know it’s a “good” thought, but you just haven’t pulled it out of the unconscious yet. I think that’s closely related to my previous paragraph.

  128. Dear Alan,

    You’re most welcome for the suggestion, and thank you for taking it in the spirit that it was intended, as fodder for reflection.

    Also, while I’ve never been a member, it still delights me that someone else is aware of the Polish National Catholic Church. When I was young, I would visit my grandmother, who lived right around the corner from the PNCC cathedral in Scranton.

    Dear Patricia Ormsby,

    I’m sorry to hear that your EMF troubles have been increasing after your move. I know that in the past you’ve welcomed prayers for your health, and I’d be happy to once again focus some my prayers on your behalf in that way.

  129. Dear JMG and KKA,

    Thank you for your ongoing responses to my longstanding quandary regarding the biblical story of ‘Doubting Thomas’. You are entirely correct, JMG, I had never really considered any other interpretation of that episode in the Gospels than the one which I originally learned or formulated myself (thinking back, I can’t honestly determine which was the case). “I was blind, but now I can see!” —- or at least I think I might be getting the first glimmerings of sight, anyway. Thanks!

  130. Archdruid and Kim Steele,

    There’s actually a fun little story that’s told by Indian Gurus about the sudden, global, popularity of Yoga. Vivekananda spent many years advocating Patanjali’s teachings popular in India, but made little headway since they had fallen out of favour with modern Hindus. He noticed the great popularity of western cloths and styles among the people, and realized that to make yoga popular in India, he would have to make it popular in the West.

    He spent years advocating yoga in the west until it became popular. The flood of enthusiastic students coming to India to learn yoga dumped vast sums of money into an almost defunct system, and the upper class in India took to learn yoga with even greater enthusiasm.

    We have those vapid and empty yoga practitioners in the Indian community too, but they spend most of their time with the hip white folk. In India and outside, the traditional forms of yoga are way more popular than the mass market version.



  131. Archdruid,

    I’ve actually had a very interesting experience since I started waking up. I’ve found I really hate to spend money. I spent two years budgeting for a bunch of tools I have to buy for my job in the Trades. The money was specifically earmarked for this purpose, and every tool will definitely see constant use. I purchased the first set of Dewalt tools, and I was so very annoyed when I hit the purchase button. I used to love buying new tools and using them till the were worn down.

    Not sure what to make of it.



  132. JMG,

    If our higher selves are dreaming our current lives, what happens between lives? Does it wake up? I tend to think in those terms, that our lives are like a dream and dying is like waking up and coming back to ourselves. How does the higher self fit into that?

  133. JMG, thanks for the book recommendation! I just ordered it from Thriftbooks for my future library. Thanks also for the clarification concerning astral, etheric, and mental bodies in non-human animals. Kiki acts like a dog in a lot of ways.

    Paula, thank you for your gracious compliment. I did not write any of the Orphic Hymn poetry, which are from ancient Greece. I wrote a few new tunes accompany them because whatever music they used to have has been lost to history. There are 87 Orphic Hymns to various gods and goddesses. I livestream a few of the ones I have written music for (approximately 18 tunes) every day on my Youtube music channel:

    Abraham and others, thank you for being so open-minded about occultism and occultists. Sometimes it seems like JMG’s blogs are the only place on the whole of the internet where atheists, Christians, Buddhists, and fill-in-the-blanks can have a sane, reasonable conversation.

  134. @youngelephant, the most important advice I would give to anyone with a mentally advanced dog is, spend time and pay attention. To learn to engage with meanings, a dog has to practice expressing meanings, and the only person to whom your dog can likely express ideas to is you. This cannot develop very far unless you’re receptive and responsive to those ideas. The more you pay attention to their gestures, expressions, and varied vocalizations, the more of these they’ll develop.

    Note that this runs against a major theme in standard dog training, which basically says to disregard what the dog thinks or wants, and enforce your own will at all times. If you’re responsive to your dog in the wrong ways, the dog can become “dominant” and unmanageable. Not everyone can try this with any dog. The dog has to be astute, and you have to have some flexibility to be able to accept non-subservient behaviors. If you’re trying to fit a pet dog into a busy schedule while conforming to a host of urban by-laws, it’s probably a losing proposition. If a dog is living indoors and mostly alone except for a few five-minute walks a day, you don’t want it expressing its own concepts of where and when to urinate. But a rural dog or a dog you can spend a lot of time with outdoors can become a cooperative genius at moving in concert with you through the landscape. An indoor dog that you spend a lot of time with can still become very sophisticated and creative at toy play. As with (presumably) all creatures, their mental lives build most readily upon their natural predilections.

  135. Prompted by the discussions of meaning, I want to share David Chapman’s site, in case other people here might find value from it:

    Chapman is a former computer scientist who did a lot of work in artificial intelligence at MIT around 1990. He left the field and started following the Dzogchen school of Tibetan Buddhism, but his main site doesn’t assume any background in either one. It’s oriented toward explaining meaning to people from a secular materialist background – especially those who have fallen into a nihilistic abyss after realizing that “rational” ways of thinking about life fall apart upon closer examination but who can’t imagine a way forward. He’s also doing a related project on “metarationality” – how to move beyond thinking in rational systems while still preserving the advantages of this kind of thought.

    I bring him up because I was in that nihilistic void for several years, almost suicidally depressed, seeing everything as pointless and meaningless. His writing did more than anything else in helping me to get through it and find a richer and more fulfilling world on the other side. I think it’s probably going to be most helpful to people who have the same kind of imbalance I did (and still do) between a well-developed rational mind and a poorly-developed spiritual one, but I would bet most people here would find some food for thought there. There’s a lot about how the modern, rational world fell apart intellectually from the mid-20th century on, including some responses to this state of affairs, such as the related countercultures (hippie and fundamentalist, or monist and dualist) that evolved into our two warring political factions today.

  136. Dear Barefoot Wisdom,
    Your prayers would be more than welcome and probably a big help to me. Thank you for offering them! My current goal is to avoid being discovered unconscious.

    Dear Alan,
    Thank you for relating your observations on cell phone users. I used an early adopter’s one all of once, and then wondered if the dizziness was just my imagination. The thing to do in those days (1994-5) was to get a cell phone, and I was thinking about it, but then encountered the huge mass of suppressed research Firstenberg had compiled.
    For me, much more painful than my body’s distressing reactions to EMR has been being forced to observe personality changes in friends when they got their first phone. These changes seemed to be more prominent in women than men. It may be that right at that time I’d just gotten married and retained more women friends than men to observe, or it may be that women are more expressive. In one extreme case, a very nice grade school teacher became assertive (fine), then aggressive, then exploitative, alienating all her friends. She didn’t care. She quickly abandoned the guy she married for his money and ran off to Australia. In most cases, my friends became more callous and less patient and eventually I’d sadly wave another one goodbye.

  137. Hi John Michael,

    Your classic understatement: “invite spirits to take over the movements of your body, what could possibly go wrong?” unfortunately made me laugh, but my mirth was touched with sorrow. Years ago I attended a séance, and the guy taking it had this awful trick of grinding his teeth. Of course this was not good for his tooth enamel, but yeah he came to a bad end from my perspective, and the last I encountered him he did appear to be locked into repetitive and dysfunctional behaviours. Hmm.

    Unfortunately my brain is just not wired for visual memories and visualisation. But thoughts, smells, emotions, sounds, memories, narratives etc. – that’s going on in plentiful supply. Never really been drawn to emptying out that background myself, as it is a form of diminishment from my perspective. You might be interested to know that on the national youth radio down here I have occasionally and very recently heard people talking about meditation, and from what I can glean they tend to naturally practice discursive meditation, although they see the failure to empty their thoughts as an err, failure. Which it isn’t from my perspective.

    Anyway, the sphere of protection which you recommend, does not work for me – as I don’t and am unable to see it. Instead as they used to darkly quip: There are plenty of ways to skin a cat. Although for the record I quite enjoy the company of our feline friends and would not do such a thing, but that is just what they used to say for some weird reason. Anyway, I regularly sing to myself a little ditty which performs a similar cleanse down. If it works… And the pesky things are always trying to score a free ride.



  138. @ Alan, watching the thread that unfolded following your initial comment, I am minded of the saying – “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.”

    There is never any need to apologise for asking questions, and in this case, the discussion that ensued has raised a number of fascinating points and given me (for one) some food for thought. So, even though, for a while, the responses appear to have made you feel like you were on the back foot, I’d like to thank you for raising it. Be well. Scotlyn 🙂

  139. Youngelephant – You’re in the ballpark, for certain. Accessing this process of thought at an early stage can be an aid to getting certain things done, or recognizing what’s happening in various situations. It certainly made active prajna (or vipassana) a palpable reality for me both when I was deliberately engaging in it via meditation and also in my everyday life. Certain obsessive thoughts/feelings go “poof!” when sufficient attention is paid. At times, I’d like those neuroses brought back, but alas, they disappear like thoughts do when we observe their procession through our minds. TSRW, doncha know. (This “stuff” really works.)

  140. I was reading an article about tribalism in politics. The reporter had interviewed red and blue friends before the 2016 election, then in 2018, and finally in 2020. He noted that they all went their separate ways and talked about the other group as “bad.”

    One set of friends had disagreements on interpretation of facts, but remained friends until 2018. The red friend explained about the blue friend, who called him a ‘Nazi.” He said we couldn’t even agree on what was a fact. So we had no basis for anything, and I gave up.

    The reporter discussed that this was the underlying issue – what was truth? Why did people have different facts or different truths? What happened to reality?

    My impression of the people that I had to let go of was that they settled on “feelings are facts.” Not testing it in reality but believing that if they felt it, it had to be true. I felt that they were not grounded in anything. They lived solely in their heads, and were more prone to reading social media and reporting what they read. Usually opinion sections of the New York Times and regarding those opinions as facts.

    I do believe that it has become easier for people to live in their heads and get lost. Hence, they developed mental illnesses since what they perceive is not real.

  141. I did want to comment on the cognitive ability of animals. People have discovered that dolphins do have tribes and language. Honey badgers solve problems and use tools all the time. It would seem that animals may have a mental sheath that we humans may have missed. I am wondering how much is based on being human and using that as a determining factor, and how much is now.

    How do honey badgers perceive problems and solve them? How do they view the humans?

  142. Hi Walt,

    When I was a kid we had a dog who discovered rentier capitalism. When we lived in the country we trained her to get the paper using the “goodie” method. We moved into town. The first morning we found the whole street’s papers on the porch, with Fuzzy chewing on one (if the goodie wasn’t forthcoming, she’d hold the paper hostage, chewing on it till she got her goodie). So there she was, providing a dubious “service “, chewing on the paper, to a whole street full of people who neither needed nor wanted it. Had she been able to talk, she’d have probably told them ,around a mouthful of newspaper, that the chewing was “to serve you better.” So I need no convincing that animals are a whole lot smarter than scientists think!

  143. Dear Walt F,

    In response to your last post, about mentally evolved dogs, I was very blessed to have had such a dog in my last canine companion. Naturally, many people feel that THEIR dogs (or pets) are special, and undoubtedly many of them are, each in their own way. But this dog of mine, Jack, was truly so, as evidenced not just by my feelings, but by innumerable observations and comments which I (we) received from many other people over the course of his life with me.

    I adopted Jack, a malamute/Siberian Husky mix, from a stepcousin in South Carolina, bringing him to Alaska at age 7 without ever having even met him. And from the very first moment when I picked him up at the airport, he appeared to bond to me as if he had known me his entire life. But that bond only grew, as I was in the fortunate position to have Jack with me for almost every waking moment, being self-employed and in a very dog-friendly environment. So I think that, inadvertently but inevitably, Jack and I were able to interact more or less as you outlined.

    On the weekends in the warmer months, I participated as a vendor in a large outdoor market, and not only did I take Jack with me to the market, where large numbers of both people and dogs passed through all day, I quickly learned that he was so self-disciplined that I did not even need to tie him up, which went against both standard practice and the market’s rules. Yet in the years that I took Jack to that market, not only did nobody ever complain about Jack, but my vendor neighbors used to compete to have Jack visit them during the slower times of day, so much did they enjoy his company. This in spite of (or because of?) the fact that Jack was not a very demonstrative dog, eagerly jumping up or licking faces or otherwise begging for attention and affection — no, never any of that. But he had an unusual and calming ‘presence’ about him that many people immediately recognized and were drawn to.

    Having given him this sort of freedom, I felt that our bond only grew that much stronger, and he only very rarely ever abused it, the handful of such times involving other passing dogs with whom he wanted to interact (he was very selective in the dogs he chose to greet or play with, though). But Jack was so self-disciplined that I could trust him to walk through the market, down the street, take himself to the proper dog walking area to urinate when he needed to, and promptly come back to my booth, which he started doing on his own initiative, and much to many people’s amusement. Many other people, both vendors and customers, would recognize and comment on the deep apparent bond that Jack and I shared. And Jack’s understanding of English was uncanny, with him quickly learning literally dozens of words and phrases, with a memory like an elephant. And all this happened and progressed without almost any effort on my part.

    I’ve lived with a number of different dogs (well, canines — one was almost pure wolf) over most of my life, and deeply loved them all, but none of them touched me as did Jack. Even three years now after his death, I have not yet adopted a new dog, so difficult do I find his absence and loss, and the idea of ‘replacing’ him. If there is any kind of afterlife, I hope and pray that Jack will be there waiting for me.

  144. Interesting food for thought here… slightly off topic of the post, but not off the main trajectory of the work here. Someone mentioned this book (The Innovation Delusion: How Our Obsession With the New Has Disrupted the Work That Matters Most by Lee Vinsel) in a post within the past month or so. Anyway, just wanted to share that the author is on the Art of Manliness podcast and I thought those of you who like listening as a form of learning would enjoy it, as I am:

  145. Dear Scotlyn,

    What a kind and thoughtful comment in response to my earlier ones in this thread! I truly appreciate and thank you for that.

    Indeed, I did feel a bit “on the back foot” (a wonderful phrase which I have never encountered before) at one point in this discussion, but no longer, particularly after receiving the several subsequent encouraging and helpful posts by both our host and a number of other members here, including you.

    In such an increasingly coarse, shallow and hostile world, it is profoundly uplifting to have found an online community of such intelligent, insightful and empathetic individuals as this one.

  146. @ JMG – I figured animals experience the other planes. I assume plants do as well? I’ve mentioned before that I experience a real sense of being ‘in tune’ with the big oak tree in my back yard that I meditate under. Of course, the rationalist side of my brain tries to write off that experience as being entirely in my own head. Any tips or guides for trying to differentiate between what’s purely ‘in one’s head’ versus what may be a genuine encounter with the other planes?
    I know that’s probably a very elementary question, but my spiritual training runs the gamut from ‘nothing’ to ‘its all superstition’!
    Also, last night I was talking to a good friend of mine who is an ex-Jesuit (long story), and currently teaches at a Catholic high school. He mentioned that his students respond enthusiastically to ‘authenticity’ and tend to be very skeptical of those who try to come at them with a bunch of appeals to authority. I thought this was in interesting observation for two reasons:
    1 – It stands in stark contrast to our generation (my friend and I were born in 1982), which tends to be a bit more cynical, but overall still trusts ‘the experts’ to various degrees (mileage definitely varies).
    2 – I suggested that this trust in authenticity over experts might be the first stirrings of the 2nd religiosity. We then had to go thru a quick overview of Spengler’s ideas, which he at first rejected. As we discussed it more though, he began to warm to Spengler’s view of history, especially when I could related the cycle of 1st religiosity, age of reason, 2nd religiosity, to the history of Christianity as an outgrowth of the 2nd religiosity of the Apollonian culture. Do you think this response to authenticity in Gen Z might be a mile marker indicating that we are closer the second age of religion in Western culture?

  147. Zero, maybe so. Certainly it’s part of the path we’re walking.

    PatriciaT, most mental and physical health care providers in the US have embraced the “health management” approach — that is to say, they don’t cure you of anything, they just manage your symptoms so that you stay sick and keep going to them for care. It’s one of the more destructive aspects of the corruption of our current society.

    Youngelephant, that’s the way to do it. Don’t pile expectations on the dog, just make a steady, gentle effort to communicate as you would to a child.

    Alan, you’re most welcome. The literalist Christian sects have done their religion and a great many present and former members a great disservice by teaching them not to think about the stories in the Bible.

    Varun, and by this we can know that Swami Vivekananda was indeed an enlightened sage! That’s impressive; spiritual insight doesn’t always bring that kind of practical cleverness. As for hating to spend money, that’s a natural reaction against the constant “spend-spend-spend!” pressures of the consumer economy.

    Onething, that’s a very common traditional metaphor: the Individuality awakes to itself once it finishes shedding the elements of the personality between lives.

    Kimberly, you’re most welcome. I’m quite sure that cats and dogs — who are related, of course, and not all that distantly, all things considered — share similar degrees of psychism.

    Grebulocities, thanks for this.

    Chris, so noted! Verbal spells, which is what I assume your little ditty counts as, are also effective.

    Neptunesdolphins, “don’t believe everything you feel” might make a useful wake-up call, then — though I don’t know how many people would just roll over and go back to sleep.

    Justin, glad to hear this!

    Ben, plants have etheric bodies and so have psychic senses; trees, which are incarnated by the most advanced souls of the vegetable kingdom, also have astral sheaths, which means they have the ability to sense vibes. As for whether it’s “all in your head,” well, maybe so, but your head may be bigger than you think! 😉 With regard to the ex-Jesuits, what do the kids mean by “authenticity”? That can be a very slippery word.

  148. Alan and others:

    Alan, thanks for sharing your beautiful memories of Jack.

    “If there is any kind of afterlife, I hope and pray that Jack will be there waiting for me.”

    In a recent blog post, (, JMG wrote:

    “Spend some time, not just once but regularly, imagining yourself leaving your physical body at death, and still existing.”

    I’ve been experimenting with this, imagining myself encountering (among other things) beloved pets in the afterlife. It’s an excellent meditation.

  149. “In Druid terms, Gwynfydd is the state of having developed a mental body; you still have a material body but it’s a body of a different kind, not so dense and unyielding as the one we currently have.”

    I’ve heard you say this before and it has always confused me somewhat. If makes logical sense that even higher orders of being would have some sort of “grounding out point” an intersection with the material world of manifestation, but that implication also puts that point of intersection within the reach of scientific observation since that’s the branch of human knowledge that treats with the material plane. It’s much easier to latch on to the idea that such beings exist entirely on the higher planes, never touching the material directly and much more challenging to imagine what a material body for such a being would function. Almost all human interactions with such beings take place on the astral or mental level, and even the most miraculous of apparitions seem to be manners of etheric rather than physical projection. So what is the nature of that material embodiment? Is it out of reach of the material senses because it’s something that manifests on an infinitesimal scale, possibly even anchoring onto the planes of manifestation somewhere within the uncanny strangeness of reality on the subatomic scale, in the space between spaces? Or is there something else going on? (One analogy that comes to mind is the manifestation of the sphere in Edwin Abbot’s Flatland who at first appears on the two dimensional plane as a mere point in space, because that is how a three dimensional sphere barely resting upon a two dimensional universe appears to Mr. Square). Or is the degree of manifestation of higher plane entities on the material plane something that fluctuates with the cycles of history, relating to the phenomenon you contemplated briefly a while ago in The Mask of Disenchantment?

  150. Dear J.M. Greer,

    Thank you very much for this post! Regarding the conversion process from etheric to astral (passions and instincts to feelings and images), and astral to etheric – what would be some safe techniques for consciously working with this or doing this in a beneficial way?
    Perhaps this is key to more etherically-focused systems, such as Franz Bardon’s and some of the Chinese internal alchemy systems. In Bardon, one simultaneously cultivates the etheric and astral bodies, and converts things from one to the other.
    When it comes to deities, I wonder if that’s also behind the animal forms of many Egyptian gods (as well as the genders of gods and goddesses). Perhaps these astral images indicate an etheric aspect or ‘vibe’ of the deity as it manifests down the planes.
    Maybe it’s also important to eucharistic rituals – the substances such as bread and wine provide an etheric vehicle for the divine energy.

    Josh Rout

  151. Having lived with a couple of huskies for a few years – they don’t behave like dogs do. There was never the ‘traditional’ kinds of affection, or of loyalty to place.

    What there was was a very deep bonding.

  152. @JMG said, “Wesley, of course you can talk about the mental plane in the jargon of the materialist. They can’t ignore that level of human experience the way they do the etheric level…”

    So noted. Then from what I have understood so far (and correct me if I’m wrong), it seems that arbitrarily assigning meanings to symbols and then using those to think about the world is the hallmark of a mental-plane presence, hence your determination that only a select few animals have a spark of it.

    Also, it occurred to me a while ago, when you mentioned how a working involves creating a form on one plane and then bringing it down plane by plane, that the mental –> astral –> physical sequence isn’t all that different from what engineers do. Basically, we start by using words to discuss and describe what we are going to build, then we create images and schematics to aid in visualizing it, then we actually build the thing. No work on the etheric level, though.

  153. @John Zybourne, JMG re the luminiferous ether,

    There is definitely more to the “ether” vs. “spacetime” distinction than physicists avoiding esoteric terminology. Basically, when physicists in the late 19th century figured out that light was a wave that had properties in common with sound waves and water waves, they naturally supposed it must move in some sort of medium, that this medium permeated everything, and that – this is important – an object could move with respect to the medium.

    Sound, for example, travels in air, and objects moving in the air will experience sounds differently depending on their speed with respect to the air. A number of physicists tried to detect similar effects in light, and measure the speed at which the Earth was moving with respect to the ether. They expected that beams of light would seem to travel faster (from the standpoint of observers on Earth) when they traveled in the opposite direction as the Earth’s movement through the ether-frame. But these effects never showed up.

    Eventually, this led to a major revision of scientific theory – Einstein’s Special Relativity, published in 1905 – in which the ether-frame is done away with; now, the speed of light is the same for all observers, but the distance and the time separating two events depends on your reference frame.

    This paradigm shift is what scientists are usually talking about when they say that the “ether” was discredited and that we all now know that light really travels through spacetime. I am guessing that your old radio textbook gets away with using terminology that most physicists consider archaic because the older understanding of light and radio prevailed when that technology was invented, and is still good enough for the task at hand.

    As for the scientific community’s decision to drop the term “ether” entirely, like they did with “phlogiston,” instead of simply redefining the word to keep up with new theories? Well, I suppose it wasn’t inevitable – after all, we still talk about how electrons occupy an atom’s “orbitals,” even though they don’t actually orbit the nucleus in the same way that planets orbit the Sun. So you may be right that scientists were motivated by the desire to distance themselves from the likes of Helena Blavatsky.

    Still, if you try to present this as the main motivation for the disappearance of the ether from scientific thought, you are going to look ignorant to people who actually understand what was going as Maxwell, Michaelson and Morley, Lorentz, Einstein, etc. were revising their understanding of light.

  154. “Matthias, thanks for this. So you’re suggesting that “faith” in this context should have the sense of “trust” rather than that of “belief” — that makes sens to me.”

    In some languages, such as Russian, the word faith and trust are the same word.

  155. Ip had a question about poetry and myth, and I was actually going to ask a similar question myself, primarily about poetry, so I hope this is okay. In your response, you stated “Poetry, when it’s any good, is an attempt to push language to its limits as a vehicle for meaning; a really good poem is electric with mental plane energies. Myths do the same thing with narrative patterns rather than individual words and phrases.”
    I’ve never had much interest in poetry, but have recently begun to reconsider, especially since poets and poetry have been discussed here so much. I just got a collection of TS Elliott and was considering PB Shelley (Ozymandias in particular sparks my imagination and my favorite parts of LOTR were the encounters that characters had with ruins.). At any rate, my question is: what poets might you recommend for an entry-level poetry reader?

  156. So, if I understood of you wrote in other posts right, after death and before reincarnation the mental sheath also dies and decomposes. Or not?

    If the mental sheath decomposes, where is its development “stored”? With stored I mean the stuff that was learned. In the Higher Self?

  157. Matthias, JMG,

    Having listened to a number of Biblical scholars who focus on Aramaic phraseology, the verses about the gouging out of eyes and so on make a bit more sense to me. Apparently that sort of extreme hyperbole is characteristic of Aramaic rhetoric as a sort of metaphorical attention-grabber, and is certainly not meant to be taken anything like literally! It seems to mean something closer to “So you’ve got this habit that you enjoy–watching a couple hours of television every night, for instance–which isn’t necessarily harmful of itself, but it’s getting in the way of you actually being a good husband, father, devotee of your God, and getting anything useful done. Since it’s much less important than any of those things, why not change your habit and chuck it off the nearest third story balcony?” Phrasing that as “Your eye causing you to sin? GOUGE IT OUT!!!” is merely the punchier, Middle-Eastern way of getting a similar point across that comparatively trivial elements in one’s life should not be idolized at the expense of the truly important, using the temporary physical body in comparison to the eternal soul as an analogy. I certainly don’t read it as an endorsement of either physical mutilation or of spiritual mutilation, such as the obsessive suppression of the libido too common in some Christian sects.

  158. Esingletary, I suspect I won’t be able to answer that question with any degree of exactness until I can do so from personal experience! What the traditional lore says is that those who have passed into Gwynfydd have a material body, but of a very different kind from ours — it’s often identified with the resurrection body or spiritual body of Christian theology. You may be right that the cycles of history have something to do with it, though — it’s worth noting that toward the beginning of the life cycle of a civilization, in what I’ve elsewhere termed Unicorn Time, spiritual beings seem to appear in very material forms quite often — was it St. Dunstan who caught the devil by the nose with his blacksmith’s tongs? — while on the other end of the cycle, in Dragon Time, spiritual beings rarely even seem to appear in astral form: it’s all constellations of meaning fading eventually out into luminous silence.

    Joshua, the method of transferring influences from one plane to another was literally the innermost secret of 19th and 20th century occultism. Eliphas Lévi spoke about it as the Grand Arcanum, Dion Fortune surrounded it in veiled hints…and we’re going to be talking about it in straightforward terms in next week’s post on the Cos.Doc., so your timing is very good!

    Wesley, no, there’s nothing arbitrary about the meanings of symbols. When you begin to awaken on the mental plane you realize that meanings have a real connection to the symbols that represent them, and that the connection can be (and often is) falsified by misuse. If engineers worked on the etheric level, by the way, fewer bridges would fall down. As for the abandonment of ether, as you noted yourself, nobody stopped talking about electron orbitals just because that phrase completely falsifies the nature of electron patterns! It would have been the easiest thing in the world to redefine the ether so that it fit the results of the Michaelson-Morley experiment et al. The fact that they didn’t is due, I would argue, to the terror of being accused of occultism that pervaded the scientific community then and still does so today.

    Onething, true enough! Latin is one of them — fides means both, and is distinct from sententia, which is the word for “opinion.”

    Will1000, that’s an excellent question I haven’t considered before. Ozymandias is one of my favorite poems — I memorized it many years ago and can still recite it from memory. Have you tried W.B. Yeats? He’s another of my favorites, and accessible to beginners:

    “The dews drop slowly and dreams gather: unknown spears
    Suddenly hurtle before my dream-awakened eyes,
    And then the clash of fallen horsemen and the cries
    Of unknown perishing armies beat about my ears.
    We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore,
    The grey caim on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,
    Being weary of the world’s empires, bow down to you.
    Master of the still stars and of the flaming door.”

    That’s “The Valley of the Black Pig” by Yeats. Read it aloud slowly, listening to the sounds and remembering Ireland’s long and bitter history, full of perishing armies known and unknown. A cairn is a sacred mound of stones, by the way, and a cromlech is an arrangement of standing stones.

    Anonymous, the mental sheath remains intact, but even if it didn’t the Individuality or Higher Self would retain all of that.

    Moi Drui, hmm! Interesting. Yes, I could see that.

  159. JMG, I find myself confused by your comments about the planar bodies of plants. What you’ve been saying here, about plants having etheric bodies and the most advanced souls in trees also having astral sheaths, makes sense to me in itself, but I recall some time ago understanding something you said as indicating that plants were on a separate, parallel path through the planes, rather than being just simpler stages on ours. I’m afraid I don’t presently recall just where that was. Was I misunderstanding or am I misremembering, though, or is something else going on, some detail here I’m not seeing?

    Also, while I’m commenting anyway, from another comment of yours on this post:
    “The fact that they didn’t is due, I would argue, to the terror of being accused of occultism that pervaded the scientific community then and still does so today.”
    It occurs to me that there’s perhaps some irony in that, given how many people nowadays are increasingly more willing to trust astrologers, alternative medicine practitioners, and the like than men in nice white coats with suspiciously bulging pockets.

  160. @Will1000:

    T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” is particularly gripping. It reads as though the poet speaks from long personal experience of what can never be seized by study and reason, but only given as a gift.

    Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
    Cannot bear very much reality.
    Time past and time future
    What might have been and what has been
    Point to one end, whiuch is always present.

    John Greenleaf Whittier is worth reading; he is full of old New England lore. Rudyard Kipling is very, very much worth any reader’s time, and much of his most profound work is accessible even to young children. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow has his moments of real poetic grace. Robert Service is always a delight in times of labor and hardship, when laughter and wry wisdom are a much needed medicine.

    One of my own favorites is Lew Welch, an obscure San Francisco poet from the ’60s and early ’70s. His beat poetry, once only available in hard-to-find chapbooks, was eventually collected in “Ring of Bone.” The title comes from this poem of his, from his chapbook “Hermit Poems”:

    I saw myself
    a ring of bone
    in the clear stream
    of all of it

    and vowed
    always to be open to it
    that all of it
    might flow through

    and then heard
    “ring of bone” where
    ring is what a
    bell does.

    Here are two more poems, from his chapbook “Courses”:


    The True Rebel never advertises it,
    He prefers His joy to Missionary Work.

    Church is Bureaucracy,
    no more interesting than any Post Office.

    Religion is Revelation:
    all the Wonder of all the Planets striking
    all your Only Mind.

    Guard the Mysteries!
    Constantly reveal Them!

    and (particularly relevant to our present times)


    Those who can’t find anything to live for,
    always invent something to die for.

    Then they want the rest of us to
    die for it, too.

    These, and an elite army of thousands,
    who do nobody any good at all, but do
    great harm to some,
    have always collected vast sums from all.

    Finally, all this machinery
    tries to kill us,

    because we won’t die for it, too.

  161. In the unlikely event I ever get there, if Fuzzy isn’t around to steal The Celestial Times off doorsteps in heaven, I ain’t going. I’ll go wherever she is. After all, somebody has to be around to give the neighbors back their mangled papers and apologize profusely!

  162. Dear John Michael Greer,

    Thank you for the text – it gives an important frame, context to some experiences.

    I agree that “Mind-closing meditation” would be a waste of time, unless you want to master the process of closing and opening your mind at will – like you do with your eyes.
    But that is extremely important in the development of mental sheath! Besides, I would definitely distinguish between a “shutting down your mental capacities meditation” and “opening the space for mental capacities” which are both non-discoursive. I have always perceived words or thoughts as a map of an unknown territory; never precise enough. A map is very useful and needs to be studied carefully, yet it is not the territory itself.

    When words are taken out of their proper contexts, they seem like a part of map which was cut out and stuck to another part; that much for advertising or campaigns – or lies or misunderstandings in general.

    But words and thoughts seem to be more like a preliminary exercise in reading maps:-). There is so much meaning to be found in – well, in any kind of experience that ever felt meaningful to you. One beautiful example is movement; it seems tied to physical bodies, yet it is beautifully tied to all the mentioned planes. When you watch a dancer, you can learn to do the very same dance just by watching and when you actually dance you might wonder how close – or far apart – your two personal experiences of the dance are… My guess is, the deep meaning of the dance is shared to both of you (to a degree…) – different time, different place, different people; the same deeply meaningful dance.:-)

    Have a nice day!

  163. Hi John Michael,

    But of course, and I also use a regular banishing ritual as well. The city can sometimes be a murky place, and there are times I just can’t shut out the noise. That has been a particular problem for me of late over the past few months since the big smoke of Melbourne has been in one of the strictest lock downs on the planet. I live just outside that area, and from here and when travelling there it looked dark indeed.

    Incidentally, I’ve long since believed that the lack of internal visuals was something of a kick up the pants to get on with the task at hand. Oh well, it happens. 🙂

    Hey, it is worth mentioning that Sâr Péladan’s words which you quoted, were beautiful, and I had not heard them before. In more crass terms it could also be suggested that it is a guide to better living and suggests many worthy goals.



  164. @Wesley wrote, ‘Also, it occurred to me a while ago, when you mentioned how a working involves creating a form on one plane and then bringing it down plane by plane, that the mental –> astral –> physical sequence isn’t all that different from what engineers do. Basically, we start by using words to discuss and describe what we are going to build, then we create images and schematics to aid in visualizing it, then we actually build the thing. No work on the etheric level, though.’

    Actually what is going on in this thinking process is a lot more complex and messy. There are nets of neurons sharing chemicals, hormones going back and forth, bacteria sharing chemicals and many other complex things and the result of it all is a group of people building an architectural structure. In order to make some sense of all of this we create abstractions. One of this abstractions is the way the conscious mind sees this process: using words to discuss, create images of the structure that you want, visualize them, actually build the structure. Other abstraction is the one occultist are using: your mind uses forms, the forms affect the astral, the astral affects the ethereal and it ends up doing its work in the physical. Both are rough abstractions (models) of the reality, and both can be useful if they can predict some outcomes under certain circumstances, for a model is as good as the frequency at which it predicts outcomes.

    Neurology has advanced so much that we can no longer hold the view of our conscious mind in control of the whole thinking process. Another rationalist model includes the primal functions of our brains and nervous system, messing with what we consider a pure rational thought. This new model, with a slow mind and a fast mind, presenting them as distinct entities is still not near to explain what is going on, but predicts things better than the single rational mind. In this model, your thinking process is no longer started by talking about the ideas that bring life to your physical structure, but it must include the animal instincts that want a safe structure to do something like, for example, crossing a wide river safely. And it must include the animal instincts while you are at the drafting stage, sometimes you don’t take the most logical solution, but rather you take the one that appeals your instincts and then you try to rationalize why it was the most logical solution (yeah, the bridge must be red because that is the color that stands better harmonious look of this place, not because I have an animal preference for the color of the blood). Once you include this variable in your model of the thinking process, you have more tools at your disposal to really find a logical solution. Not perfect, but better. The occult thinking does the same. It provides tools for being more in control of your thinking process. Still not perfect, but better.
    Remember, all of them are models, not the reality. The reality is so complex that it is impossible for our limited brain power to harness (laws of physics we can understand since they deal with very very simple systems). But models that work are useful in the domains they are proved to work well.

  165. How incorrect am I in thinking that technology and infrastructure substitute for our mental sheath?

  166. @Rose, while I wouldn’t want to dissuade you from taking more time for yourself if you have that option, one creative outlet you might find helpful if you’re forced to multitask is improvised singing or storytelling. Both are very appropriate during care of young children, and it really lets the creative energy flow without the pressure or expense of more permanent media.

  167. People differ in how well developed their mental sheaths are, and one of the things that’s determined by that difference is how much subtlety and richness your intuitive sense of meaning can handle. If you’ve barely begun to develop your mental sheath, a book or a movie that would be simplistic to the point of crassness to someone with a more developed mental sheath may be not just enjoyable, but actively good for you.

    This prompts me to return to a common theme on these blogs, which is the harmfulness or not of pornography. I personally know guys who can continuously watch hours and hours of porn, and find it pretty much equivalent to light entertainment. I, however, can barely watch five minutes of it before I start to feel uncomfortable and queasy, and any longer than that it makes me actively depressed. I tended to put this down to these guys I know just being a bit crude (which of course would make me “refined”), but this idea of the development of the mental sheath offers another explanation.

    Therefore, the potential harmfulness of pornography may be related to how well developed a person’s mental sheath is.

  168. Mr. Greer.
    This is something that happened to me twice, a long time (about 15 years) ago.
    I was in a fight with my girlfriend. I felt very strong but cold anger. I couldn’t wait to leave. Suddenly I felt something very strange. It was as if the space all around me suddenly filled with a semi-hard foam. Or, it was as if I was a balloon which suddenly inflated and was now pressing against my surroundings. But it was not an out-of-body experience, I was inside myself, except maybe some part for which I didn’t even know that it exists, which spilled out. Or, it was as if the air, or rather the space itself, suddenly somehow became more concrete. The sensation had a very tactile quality. My awareness of space was acute and the space was not empty (filled just with air) but very much full of something. It was a bit suffocating.
    Soon after I left and the sensation disappeared. The other time it happened was probably within a year and in similar circumstances.
    I suppose what was happening was on the etheric plane and having to do with my etheric body. Would you agree? Can you relate this to anything? I would very much like to know – what happened? Why it happened? How it happened? Is that something that I could reproduce and how? A (sensory) ability that could be developed?
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  169. John said: “From an occult standpoint there’s a difference between emotions (which belong to the astral body) and passions (which belong to the etheric body); consider the difference between love and lust, especially the kind of lust that really doesn’t care what person is on the other end of the act, for a good differentiation.”

    Is that then the difference of focusing inward (love) and outward (lust)? Or is it intensity?

    To decide you don’t want something in your life (disagreeing with it) be astral, and hate of something outside of you be ethereal? That I can not like political policies of one side, as opposed to being rabidly angry at them?

    Lately I’ve been thinking about the state and condition I want to be in when I pass on from this life to the state of the beyond. It probably has something to do with my age (63) and that I effectively retired last Fall. That extra time is one thing that has lead me back to the occult. I’ve always said I believed in reincarnation, but now its getting “real” for me, in that I’m actually considering that death is at some point my fate in the Future. Hopefully that’s 15-20 years, but still its something (my departure) that is more there now than decades ago when I felt like most I was immortal. Rather than causing me worry though, its pretty peaceful. Probably in no small part from your words over the past decade and a half.

    BTW, I have Circle of Power and Learning Ritual Magic coming next week. Winter is going to be a time of long reading and many cups of coffee. I should start having better questions for Magic Mondays from now on at least.

  170. @ Erika-Kitten – Salud!

    It took me awhile to orient myself in your word-world, and to recognize connections that are so evident to you, that it doesn’t occur to you they aren’t obvious to others of us.

    And then I begin to see it your way.

    Whoa, Thanks!

    Its a trip worth taking.

    Stay true, keep dancing, keep faith, and God bless.

    @ Will1000, re: entry-level poetry
    My vote for entry-level poetry is song.

    Poetry just naturally goes with song—as the bards of all times and places demonstrate. The poetry of Homer was sung, and some of the pop music of our time has carried some extremely worthy poetry, too.

    Leonard Cohen started out as a straight poet, and then realized if he wanted an audience, song was the way to go. His sung poetry is full-bore, intensely meaningful poetry. He, and I too, consider that the country-western singer-songwriter Hank Williams was one of the greatest poets of his place and time.

    Start appreciating songs for poetic value, and there’s a world to explore from there–enjoy!

  171. @Robert Mathiesen:

    Many thanks for your poetry post. Thanks especially for mentioning Lew Welch.

    Welch disappeared in the mountains near Gary Snyder’s house in California in 1971. His body was never found.

    “This living flowing land
    is all there is, forever
    We are it
    it sings through us –”

    — Gary Snyder
    By Frazier Creek Falls in Turtle Island, (New Directions,1974)

    I will keep an eye out for a copy of “Ring of Bone.”

  172. This topic helped me tremendously. I’ve been making a concerted effort to “reach up.”
    I have no idea how far I’ve gotten. Etheric seems like the hardest layer to me. I do think I’ve reached up to the mental sheath. My experience has been like an eye unable to focus. Something like looking underwater. Images distorted and blurred and indecipherable.

    The points about being “drug down” have made some things VERY clear to me that I wasn’t previously able to verbalize.

    It’s also thrown into focus “man’s search for meaning.” My mind keeps saying that the search is the whole point! We’re grasping at it. Making our first tentative steps into it. Whether we “find” it an advance is secondary to the search. Basically enjoy the ride. I find that fills me with inner peace and not the feeling of failure I’ve had so far.

    Throw away line “What does it all MEAN, Basil?!”

  173. @Wesley, you wrote, ‘Also, it occurred to me a while ago, when you mentioned how a working involves creating a form on one plane and then bringing it down plane by plane, that the mental –> astral –> physical sequence isn’t all that different from what engineers do. Basically, we start by using words to discuss and describe what we are going to build, then we create images and schematics to aid in visualizing it, then we actually build the thing. No work on the etheric level, though.’

    If you looked at a microscopic scale what happened in your brains from the moment you started talking about building a structure and the moment the structure is finally built, you will probably see hundred of million of neurons sharing chemicals, hormones going back and forth, bacteria influencing here and there, and many other interactions from inside and outside your body. If you looked at that scale, you could make no sense of it at all. So we formed models to try to understand what is going on, and what is the expected result. The model you presented is one where the conscious mind see itself controlling every part of the process, and it sometimes predicts correctly. The model we are presented here with ethereal bodies and spiritual and such is just another model that can predict outcomes, and probably it get things right more often, but still it is not the full reality.

    In your depiction, from the viewpoint of the conscious mind, you are missing the animal instincts, what Kahneman calls the Fast Mind. They are always there, even when they are repressed. Just think how often people take unconscious decisions and then try to rationalize them. Like, deciding to paint the bridge in red because that fits with the environment, not because we have a preference for the color of the blood today that we are feeling especially energetic. In a logical thinking process the animal instincts have no place, but this is rarely achieved since the human brain is not a logical thinking machine. Want it or not, you had etheric work in your designing process.
    I don’t think the depiction of the occult is true either, but just another model of what is happening inside and around us, that maybe, just maybe, predicts things more successfully when we are talking human beings, not machines.

  174. Reese, I changed my views on the subject of the state of consciousness of plants through detailed study of traditional occult teachings. As for the irony you mention, why, yes, I’ve been chuckling about that too. It’s worth noting that there are far more full-time astrologers in America today than there are full-time astronomers, and that for some years now — despite Obamacare-style attempts to force people to pay for conventional health care whether they want it or not — more US patient visits per year go to alternative health care providers than to MDs and their assorted hangers-on.

    Robert (if I may), thanks for this! I was unaware of Lew Welch — I’ll have to fix that — although I’m sure I encountered the last five lines of “Theology” somewhere in the past.

    Marketa, I’m not arguing. Again — as I noted in my post — the problem is not with these meditative methods in their proper context in a well-designed and thorougly tested system of spiritual practice. The problem is with the watered-down versions of the methods that have gotten into circulation in the pop spirituality scene.

    Chris, Péladan’s a first-rate guide. As time and circumstances permit I’m going to study some of his other books; as a longer-term project, I’ve long had the goal of coming up with my own book on how to become a mage, using his as a springboard.

    Shawn, good. They do that whenever their users fail to ask themselves, when looking at whatever data hairball the machine has coughed up, “But does this actually mean anything?”

    Logan, that’s a fascinating point, and entirely plausible.

    Goran, you must have learned that trick in a previous incarnation; it was a standard practice in some 19th and 20th century occult schools. What happened is that you closed off your aura so as not to absorb hostile energies from your environment. Yes, it can be developed; one good description is in Mouni Sadhu’s book Concentration — Sadhu himself didn’t think much of the method, but gives all the details! (He was that kind of guy.)

    David, no, not really. The difference is subtler than that — though the conditions themselves are not subtle. The passions all have close links to biology — lust to the propagation of the species, rage to self-preservation, and so on. The emotions are much more cognitive. Of course it gets even more complex because these two influence each other — you may decide that the other side’s political policies are bad, and go from there to the kind of blind rage we evolved to fight cave bears with…

    Drakonus, excellent! Yes, the search is the whole point. We can’t grasp the meaning of it all, but the effort to understand develops the mental sheath and eventually the special mental senses that will enable us, perhaps many lives from now, to understand.

  175. @JMG,

    When I talk about “arbitrary meanings of symbols” I am talking about the way human beings use language to link specific sounds or glyphs to specific meanings which differ for each language: i.e. four speakers of different languages can hear the words butterfly, schmetterling, papillon, and mariposa and link them to the same meaning; alternately, those four people would, in writing, assign four different sounds to the letter J. Is one more correct than the others? No – but linking them up anyway, according to the patterns we learned in childhood, allows us to think and communicate in ways that critters without a mental plane presence can’t. At the same time, attempts by thinkers like John Wilkins to create “philosophical languages” in which every word’s sound derives logically from its meaning through a common set of rules have always been failures.

    Perhaps this is simply something we do in our present phase of development, when we have to make arbitrary linkages between things on the astral plane and mental plane in order to facilitate speech and thought, while beings who exist mainly on the mental plane can work with meanings directly? And obviously the fact that a degree of arbitrariness is involved in assigning words to meanings does not imply that meanings themselves are arbitrary. Just think of the Hebrew owlam, the Greek aeon, and the Germanic weralt all undergoing a similar etymological shift, over a millennium or so, from meaning “man-age” or human lifetime, to meaning “world” or “universe.” Clearly there is some deep link there at the level of meanings.

    Is this a correct – by your light – summary of what is going on with language and words re the mental plane?

  176. @Goldenhawk:

    You’re very welcome. As for Lew Welch’s body, he telegraphed what he was going to do (in a general sort of way) in his last poetry, which was to arrange things so that his remains could be found only by vultures, who would eat them. In the mountains near Santa Cruz that would have been a very easy thing to arrange. All he’d need to do would be to climb to a high spot, open to the sky, but almost impossible to spot from lower down, strip, and there use his pistol, which he had taken with him on his last journey.

    It is not impossible that one of his closest friends might have been able to intuit the route of his last journey and find his remains. If so, that friend must have been wise enough, and respectful enough of Lew’s wishes, to leave his remains untouched where he found them, forever undisturbed except by vultures. As he wrote:

    Let no one grieve.
    I shall have used it all up
    Used up every bit of it.

    What an extravagance!
    What a relief!

    . . .

    All care must be taken not to
    frighten the natives of this
    barbarous land, who,
    will not let us die, even,
    as we wish.

    (From his “Song of the Turkey Buzzard.”)

    That thought comforts me for the loss of the poet and his now forever unwritten poems.

  177. @JMG, re the ether,

    Yes, it is certainly easy to imagine an alternate history of 20th century physics in which the term “ether” was never dropped. But be careful what you wish for! If this had happened it would be very likely that the field of study we now know as “quantum electrodynamics” would have a name like “etheric physics.” Instead of the “electromagnetic quantum vacuum,” scientists would talk about how the luminiferous ether is present in all of space, and couples with all charged particles according to a set of complex but well-known and purely mechanistic equations, formulated by Hans Bethe, Richard Feynman, and a number of other physicists in the 1940s and 1950s. And occultists such as yourself would have to spend a lot of time reminding people that what you call the “etheric plane” is quite unrelated to all of this!

  178. This essay reminded me a lot of the importance of our narratives. The stuff we fill our heads with, and whether we realize it or not, how it forms structures that help narrate the way we think and achieve. Recently I keep coming across a lot of mystical Jewish information. It’s really impressed upon me how their culture and lifestyle, as with many spiritualities, there is a constant reminder from the meeting with people, and daily work probably involving study of works and meditation, for hearing a message helps a lot in keeping a grounded narrative. It the modern lifestyle, folks easily allow their narrative to get full of basic stories, the equivalent of the only the material plane. I think this results in a lot of squirrel moments. Instead of realizing the power of routine and habits, we get lost in new stories, new news, new information. This is one more of those areas we have that constant battle of trying to find the right balance.

    Personally I realize I have a lot of work to do in regards to grounding myself with a narrative. It’s been too easy to follow news, and information all the time, to get to the point where I am so caught up in deciding which one is the best, and failing to realize that the time is now. Personal development, spirituality can all be worked on in any one direction, and at some point better paths for our individual can then open up. What a hard pill to swallow, that I can’t make the right plan for myself at the beginning but instead will need experience and lessons learned to make better choices later on.

  179. John MIchael, of course you may! Always!

    “Theology” was widely cited in the early days of Neo-Paganism, and the last two lines appeared (on the cover) in every issue of Herman Slater’s long-ago “Earth Religion News.”

    If you go looking for “Ring of Bone,” look for the second edition (2012). It was published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore. with a wise and informative new preface by Lew’s very old friend, Gary Snyder.

    Lew ard Gary met as undergraduates at Reed College. They were in the same class and circle of friends (IIRC) as Dell Hymes, who went on to become the most insightful of all the anthropologists I ever read. Ah, only Gary remains now of all that charmed circle! I never crossed paths with Lew, but I met Gary once, and I took a course of Dell’s in linguistic anthropology at UC Berkeley–one of the two most formative courses I ever took.

    “There were giants in the earth in those days.”

  180. @Robert & company: For what it’s worth, I believe the character Dave Blain in Kerouac’s _Big Sur_ is based on Lew Welch.

    @JMG and all: When I came across Ecosophia a little over a year ago–led here by burgeoning interests in both the decline of techno-industrial civilization and occult subjects–I had no idea it would also prove to be a forum for a wonderful ongoing conversation about great poetry. Where else do Welch, Eliot, Whittier, Years, and Jeffers (to name a few poets from this and other recent posts) routinely come up in discussion? Many thanks to all!



  181. Hi JMG

    Thanks for the post, very interesting, as usual.

    I bit OT, but may be not so much, some biologist have started to think in the role of space in the birth and evolution of life on Earth, and this bring some intriguing possibilities about the space origin of the “evolution of the mind” in the famous “Eras” for example in the Brahmanic tradition.

    From many many years for me, and many others, the Darwinian, or the Neo-Darwinian explanation of evolution is not sustainable at all; this theory about random mutations as source of novelty and the natural selection as a screen to drive the process have many many problems to explain what really happened (and happens), from, for example, the Cambrian Explosion, to the evolution of giraffe, and many many more….

    One suggestive theory that could at least explain he novelty in life, is that in fact the virus are not “egoist self-replicant quasi-molecules” à la Dawkins, but in fact “agents of the evolution”, that make quite suddenly huge changes in the genome that explain complex novelty and then the natural selection can proceed its course.

    For example the difference in the genome of humans compare to chimpanzees are fragments called “retro-transposon” that biologist agree are from retroviral origin; in the same the mammalian body produces retroviruses (even with complete capsid) that allow the immune system of the mother “tolerate” the fetus, or many many other similar huge changes in “body plans” that are associated with the genomic actions of viruses.

    So, what are exactly the viruses? If you see with the eyes of mainstream science, that is built on the negation of teleology (or the Schopenhauerian “Will”), they are nasty egoist creatures parasitizing bacteria and cells to reproduce, but looking at them as ecological agents, they seems to be the “agents of evolution” (adaptability), with huge impact not only in evolution, but in climate, geology, and many many ecological aspects. They seems much more “intelligent” (in the big scales) than us.

    There is also a theory about the space origin of Life, and taking steps further, some authors see that the effect of the cosmic space is pervasive all time, and some evolutionary changes on Earth could be explained by the pass of Earth through some Giant Molecular Clouds cyclically after many millennia, and the “viral molecular rain” that happens promoting viral infections and changes, in a subtle way, on how we think and how we perceive the world in some “spiral” speciation process:

    It seems quite clear that “The Will” fill the Universe, and we cannot comprehend what is happening around.


  182. I’ve been thinking (for years) about my “deeper” creative endeavors – namely writing poetry and fiction – and the great difficulty I’ve had maintaining not only the actual practice of “making the things” but also the conveying of the meaning I sense and that wants to be expressed or brought to the level of manifestation.

    There are times when Meaning arrives and, in some way, almost writes itself and that’s juxtaposed with the other experiences of 1) writing things that don’t meet the “meaning criteria” (not that what gets written is schlock, but it doesn’t tap into the “juice” so to speak), and so I lose interest or am less-than motivated; or 2) I get so smitten with the themes/motifs/imagined-wholeness and “deep” meaning of the thing that I seem to fixate on the ideal-form and can’t actually make it manifest (witness the half-completed novels).

    This … dynamic … is present to such a degree that I suspect it is one of the important issues I have to grapple with in this incarnation.

    This is, in some ways, what has turned me toward a religious (if not yet quite magical) life. I’ve not been able to solve it on my own. I have some hope that I’ll make some sort of forward motion toward actualizing (myself? mental forms? what I envision?), but it doesn’t seem to be a guarantee.

    I appreciate this post for helping shed some light on the inner workings, and look forward to continuing to learn via your will-building series and all the other practical advice you’ve given and have planned. I’m still not writing poetry and fiction that frequently (hopefully I’ve not built up too much of a complex around it all that it has become impossible from here on out), but I’m doing my best to dig down to the roots of this dynamic and see if I can’t untangle whatever it is. Maybe I’ve just not “evolved” enough through my various lifetimes and my mental sheath is still that of a baby-soul and I’m getting ahead of myself – at least it’s some consolation that I’ll get to keep trying (and getting closer to success) even if I don’t quite get there this time around.

  183. What I find most interesting in this post is that the legendary “sixth sense” is rooted in our etheric bodies rather than our astral bodies. I always thought it was the latter, because like most people, I generally associated “psychic stuff” with the astral plane.

  184. This is a bit of an odd question. Do you think that looking directly into the pupils of someone’s eye could cause quantum entanglement by the exchange of photons between the optic nerve at the back of the eye, which has a direct connection to the brain? Although surely we are big systems of billions of particles at over 300 Kelvin, so surely wouldn’t remain quantum coherent for the entanglement to be stable?
    I suspect I experienced this when I was speaking with someone I used to work with, and considered a friend, about 3 years ago she said after something we were discussing – about another colleague who had a fairly difficult personality at times and could be argumentative for the sake of it.
    She said “I prefer data to people”. I can’t remember what I said, maybe “sometimes I feel like that too” or something. We looked each other in the eye for a couple of seconds, and I had a sense of some kind of connection, which seemed to me more profound than just me fancying her.

  185. Wesley, the linkages between sound and sense in language can’t be sorted out by the limited intellectual tools we have at our disposal, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be arbitrary. Language isn’t a deliberate conscious creation, after all — as you’ve pointed out, whenever that’s been tried, it’s flopped. Languages are organic growths that emerge from the experience of a community of speakers over centuries, and each word in a language — native or borrowed — is shaped by the whole body of that language and its entire history to communicate what it does. The relation between word and meaning only seems arbitrary when words are pulled out of context. The examples you give from Hebrew, Greek, and Germanic are pointers toward those deeper connections; so is the example that Spengler quotes — the way that Germanic and Romance languages simultaneously wrenched their grammar around in the Dark Ages so that pronouns became necessary subjects in sentences. As for the ether, are you sure that they’re not the same thing after all? Occultists are used to scientists paying attention only to the most mechanistic aspects of a phenomenon, you know.

    Prizm, that’s a valuable point. One of the things that makes our current situation so perilous, as I pointed out very early in my blogging career, is precisely the habit so many people have of knowing very few stories, and all of them variants on the same basic theme.

    Robert, thanks for this — I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    James, thank you! One of these days I may do an entire post — perhaps a special-topic open post — solely for readers to share their favorite poets. I’ve got several others to name…

    DFC, fascinating. Thanks for this.

    Temporaryreality, I get that. Both those pitfalls — too little meaning, and too much — are among the things that every serious writer I know of has had to deal with.

    Mr. Nobody, in some occult traditions, the sixth sense is associated with the etheric body and the seventh sense with the astral body!

    MawKernewek, I have no idea whether quantum entanglement has anything to do with it, but that’s a standard way to establish a connection with another person on an etheric level…

  186. According to the Poetry Foundation, Lew Welch “helped his longtime partner Magda Cregg raise her son, Hugh Anthony Cregg III, who as an adult musician chose the stage name Huey Lewis in Lewis Welch’s honor.”

  187. I was going to ask a question about the mental sheath. Basically, what we know about it is that it’s composed of the substance of the mental plane, and that it’s rudimentary in form compared with what it will eventually become, which is the first simplest form of the astral body. All well and good, but what does it do now? Of course, the answer is that that’s a topic for meditation.

    So, having done so over the past few days… I thought about two material metaphors for a mental sheath. A sheath is a covering or a boundary, delineating contents set apart. So the obvious analogy from abiogenesis is a cell membrane, specifically that of the most primitive prokaryotes. One hypothesis of abiogenesis (though not a currently favored one) is that self-reproducing membranes came first, facilitating the further evolution of the systems inside within the circumscribed and protected volume. Even if at first the conditions inside the membrane are no different from the ambient (aquatic) environment, the existence of the membrane allows the contents to begin to differ from ambient, and so begins the material existence of living individuals.

    With the key concept of separating individuality out of ambience as the defining characteristic of a sheath, a more subtle metaphor based on abiogenesis and evolution presents itself: the sheath as a genome. Like the cell membrane, a genome is formed out of materials from the ambient environment, and its functioning separates out characteristics of the individual from the ambient, in this case to and beyond the point where it accommodates multicellular individuals. Consider body temperature: some organisms have genes for systems that maintain a constant body temperature (warm-bloodedness). For those that don’t, ambient temperature applies instead. So an organism’s genetic sheath either does or does not delineate a characteristic temperature. (Most current abiogenesis theories such as “RNA world” posit self-reproducing molecules preceding any cell membrane, in which case the conceptual proto-genetic sheath would be the earliest definable form of material life.)

    This model can be abstracted through the etheric and astral planes (for instance, if your species only experiences “ambient” emotions we call that a “season” as in a mating season; individual emotions evolve later). But skipping to ahead to as far as I’ve gone…

    Thus I might hypothesize the present function of a mental sheath, formed of the substance of the mental plane (that is, of meanings), also comes down to separating individuality from ambience. Ambient meaning might be something like a dictionary, while individual meaning is something like a working vocabulary. That has to be a crude and flawed analogy, but even so it might be worth noting that a poet can use the latter to form new meanings. Without the mental sheath one cannot, any more than one can write meaningful poetry in a language you don’t know using a tourist’s phrasebook.

    It’s hard to conceive of structures that are formed of meanings but are also as individualized as ones intracellular space or genomes, though. We currently use meanings primarily to communicate with one another, so one can only stray so far from ambient meanings (e.g. in poetry) and still be understood. Comprehending the concept probably requires a more developed mental body.

  188. @KKA:

    i’m smiling and thank you for even trying to understand me; i forget i can come off as esoteric or odd. but all i was really trying to say is that i think Jesus dug hanging with the riff raff because messed up people have extra senses from being steeped in self hate or fear, and the experiences turning sadomochism used on them, turning it into service to something higher. / higher also because the riff raff isn’t so clicked into society and reputation and worried about embarrassing themselves. riff raff are creative as they have to be on the low, and can basically take a punch. / most regular people are conformists and fear discomfort and want IN. i also think you have to have frolicked in evil to know the kickback when courting it. x

  189. Walt, excellent! A very solid sequence of meditations.

    Ian, I recommend Dion Fortune’s The Mystical Qabalah followed by The Cosmic Doctrine as good introductions. Both use the standard occult method of metaphor and symbol in place of discursive analysis, but if you’ve got a background in Ch’an Buddhism you should have no trouble at all making sense of both books.

  190. May I ask a general question? I usually pull a reading about How Things Will Go once a week + whenever something big happens, like a U.S. presidential election. Since I note it down anyway, would anybody be interested in reading a blog of same? Mutual linkage encouraged. I’ll show ‘em yours if you show ‘em mine! 😄

  191. @JMG

    Please feel free to delete this comment if this point has already been covered, but I really felt like commenting because the discussion was about plants.

    As Reese pointed out, plants are on a parallel path from ours, rather than being our less-evolved ancestors (I use this word for lack of a better term) in the occult view. Even if you look at evolution, plants are on a separate line of evolution as opposed to animals. Given this, and also if you take into mind the fact that evolution was not known to, say, Renaissance occultists, do you think that certain aspects of occult theory need to be revised? Just a thought. Unless I’m mistaken, even Sri Aurobindo wrote that plants are less evolved than humans.

    However, after reading about Dorothy Retallack’s experiments on playing music to plants, I am somewhat skeptical of the view that plants have a lower evolved psyche (from the occult perspective). She showed, by way of experiments, that plants were fond of classical music (both Western as well as Hindustani), but disliked rock music and its variants (for those wanting to read more, please read the book ‘The Secret Life of Plants’ by Peter Tompkins). IMO, unless plants had a well-developed sense of discernment, they would not have been able to do this.

    I’d like to read your views on this.

  192. JMG,

    hah! After over a decade reading your blog as food for thought, I’m not surprised I stated something similar to something you’d already developed.

    Since we haven’t yet developed a mental plane, and one of our closest senses to using that is intuition, has there been much work done in exercising intuition to help further develop the mental sheath? I imagine one advantage to having read widely, is having multiple narratives to pull from when using reflective thinking, further developing that mental sheath.

  193. JMG,
    Thank you for the recommendations. Fortunately, my wife already has a collection of selected poems by Yeats, which includes The Valley of the Black Pigs. Interesting to find a new way of perceiving poetry. I had always considered it mainly to be overly-romantic and overly-emotional; so, never really paid much attention. Didn’t consider any of it as hinting at or maybe pointing to higher planes. Thanks for presenting it in a completely different light.

    Robert Mathieson and KKA,
    Thank you for your recommendations, also. I didn’t know Kipling wrote poetry. I had only heard of Kipling because of Disney’s version of Jungle Book. I know, shameful, but there it is. We all have our paths, I guess. Will put him and the others on my list.


  194. @JMG said, As for the ether, are you sure that they’re not the same thing after all? Occultists are used to scientists paying attention only to the most mechanistic aspects of a phenomenon, you know.

    I think you’ve almost answered your own question in the negative. If scientists pay attention “only to the most mechanistic aspects of a phenomenon,” and if, in this alternate-history scenario, the phrase “the ether” comes to mean what “electromagnetic quantum vacuum” means in the real world, and if “etheric physics” refers (as I said it would) to the use of purely mechanistic equations to model the physical and chemical properties of matter as they arise from said matter’s interactions with the ether, then etheric phenomena as understood by occultists would not be “the same thing” as etheric phenomena as understood by scientists.

    Basically, what you are looking at in this alternative 20th century is a world where almost everything that an occultist would assign to the physical plane is considered “etheric” by scientists. This is because all known matter, except for neutrinos, is made of charged particles which interact with electromagnetic fields (i.e. with the ether) and all known physical and chemical phenomena, except for gravity and some nuclear reactions, are mediated by the electromagnetic force (i.e. by disturbances in the ether).

    I think that the reason that the Theosophists chose the terminology they did was because, back in their day, the ether (and electromagnetism generally) was considered somewhat of a mysterious and transcendent force, associated largely with action-at-a-distance. How does radio work? Why do compass needles always point north? What is that tingly feeling you get when you pet a cat backwards and then hold your hand an inch away from a metal doorknob? And so forth.

    But in today’s science, electromagnetism isn’t just how you explain mysterious and exotic and action-at-a-distance phenomena. It is how you explain all material phenomena, except for gravity and nuclear reactions. It explains what light is (a wave in the electromagnetic field), how fire works (negatively charged electrons release energy as they get closer to positively charged atomic nuclei), and why you can stand on the ground without falling through it (electrostatic forces between molecules prevent solid objects from passing through one another).

    So I suppose a summary of what I am trying to say would be:

    1) Nearly all physical and chemical interactions are ultimately driven by electromagnetic forces.
    2) If the term “ether” had survived in physics, it would have ended up referring to the field through which these forces act.
    3) Apart from gravity and some nuclear reactions, everything that happens on the material plane would then be fundamentally “etheric.”
    4) Occultists who wanted to distinguish between what are now called the material and etheric planes would have needed to either adopt different terminology, or else get comfortable using those words in significantly different ways than ordinary scientists did.

    Anyway, I hope this clears things up a bit. Obviously, you are an authority on occult philosophy and I am not; my knowledge base is physics, but I do feel confident enough in what I know to point at overly simplistic allusions to scientific concepts like the ether and say, “no, it doesn’t quite work like that.”

  195. @Walt:

    “It’s hard to conceive of structures that are formed of meanings but are also as individualized as ones intracellular space or genomes…”

    Thank you for these reflections! I’ve been doing some thinking on the topic as well, and I’ve likened it to an identity-forming process. It seems that many things/beings have “signatures”, ie, their structure is configured in such a way that it is ‘of itself’, and cannot be mistaken for something else.

    A maple tree, for example, is recognizable in of itself due to a certain configuration of branches, leaf structure, form of trunk, and so on, such that someone cannot help but recognize that the maple tree species is different than others, and this act of recognition itself happens both in the sense that its structure works as a tool of communication (thus on the plane of meaning) and within the observer (as in the sense of meaning received by the observer).

    Furthermore, this happens at the level of species as in this example, but also at the level of the individual tree within the species, ie, THIS maple tree is configured THAT particular way at THAT particular spot.

    To see this happen more clearly at the level of meaning, I propose that it’s easier to see when considering music. For example, a fugue. As you may or may not know, a fugue consists, at heart, of a subject and counter-subject. Basically, two different, short melodic ideas that complement each other. By nature of the process of composition, a good subject and countersubject are unique, they identify ‘of themselves’ as unique compared to any other fugue, and thus are configured from ambient sound in an absolutely particular fashion. The rest of the fugue consists of the subject and countersubject being developed, ie, from these seeds/structures grows a tree, in the same fractal way.

    More broadly, any art-making seems to consist of the artist making their work self-identify, that is, it differentiates itself from any other work of art within that (ambient) medium.

    And if I may make another leap in concept: if, as indicated by certain strands of occult philosophy, every single thing in the universe (a gust of wind, a rock, a tree, a human, a work of art, a deity) has consciousness, then it would appear that each of these things is striving, as it moves up the planes in its development, to gain even more consciousness.

    Somehow, and I don’t totally know if this is true, consciousness is tied to meaning, such that they are perhaps almost the same thing. When one senses the meaning of something, one senses its identity which differentiates itself from everything else, which is essentially sensing its consciousness.

    Here on this latter point, I’m on shaky ground, and it bears further thought. In fact, there are a number of assumptions in my comment that need further thought, but wanted to throw all this out there into the discussion.

  196. @Wesley – some time ago I did a course on Sanskrit language and grammar, which blew my mind. My academic background is sciences rather than arts and language, so I came to this later in life.

    Sanskrit was probably one of the Great Works of a human civilisation – a bit like perhaps maths and science has been a flower of ours. From what little I understand, Panini was the most famous of a whole lineage of grammarians who worked over a period of 400 years to formulate the grammar of the Sanskrit language and thereby producing the classical form.

    There are many interesting things to say, but Panini’s grammar is astounding. I’m no expert, but here are some of the things I thought were amazing:

    1) The grammar is laid out in ~8000 sutras (rules) which are highly compressed, and can be recited from memory (if you learn them all)
    2) The alphabet is laid out in a matrix of mouth positions and consonant types, which makes the sound more or less replicable across time – meaning that the sound of Sanskrit has changed little compared to other languages. This layout is also central to the compression of the sutras since it allows whole sets of sounds to be ‘tokenised’ into a single syllable.
    3) The grammar gives rules for sentence structure, merging of sounds as you join words, case endings, etc as you would expect of a grammar. It also has rules for meter and rhythm.
    4) The grammar also has a grammar of *word* formation from linguistic roots, where these root forms are also at the root of our own indo-iranian-european languages. An example is the root ‘sta’ which we see in steady, stop, still, star, stem, etc.
    5) The Sanskrit language has a dictionary for the meaning of roots called the Dhatupatha which defines each root through a verb, so to understand the root you need to participate in an experience, rather than abstract definition. When translating from Sanskrit, it is therefore possible to work at a much deeper level.

    These last points may be of interest when looking at the arbitraryness of sound. This system of grammar indicates it is far from arbitrary, and in fact the grammar can been seen as a complete philosophical system in itself, which is incorporated in the alphabet layout too.

  197. @ Prism

    “What a hard pill to swallow, that I can’t make the right plan for myself at the beginning but instead will need experience and lessons learned to make better choices later on.”

    I cannot second that sentiment strongly enough! The story of my life…

  198. JMG, this post takes me straight back to my teacher training year and the discussions of how to help develop abstract, conceptual, ‘higher level’ thinking in students to explain and understand why the ‘concrete’ is and the how’s and why’s of change (my subject was geography). I’m guessing you know Blooms taxonomy:
    It loomed large for a lot of lesson planning.
    Another thought, meta-musing on our Deep Time dinosaur dynasty development last week – would you agree it’s the kind of thinking that can help maintain balance in such turbulent times? The ability to expand and contract thinking from the huge to the absolute here and now does seem to curtail the worst of ego excess. Too many just focusing on the near middle ground right now it feels.

  199. (Rather than saying ‘just’ focusing, ‘overly’ focusing on the near middle ground would be a more accurate statement in my last comment)

  200. .. it’s worth noting that toward the beginning of the life cycle of a civilization, in what I’ve elsewhere termed Unicorn Time, spiritual beings seem to appear in very material forms quite often — was it St. Dunstan who caught the devil by the nose with his blacksmith’s tongs? — while on the other end of the cycle, in Dragon Time, spiritual beings rarely even seem to appear in astral form: it’s all constellations of meaning fading eventually out into luminous silence.

    Hmm, this is a tantalizing and fascinating idea. I’d like to know more. I wonder if it is so. It makes me think of the idea that mankind has fallen from a prior, better state. I’m pondering that lately and taking it very literally, in the sense of our having become more dense. As a Christian, I never really thought much about HOW such a thing might work. We may have literally entered a lower realm, perhaps like going from the higher astral to the lower astral.

    If spiritual beings become less commonly seen, could it be that it is we who have moved, and not them?

  201. As for the ether, are you sure that they’re not the same thing after all? Occultists are used to scientists paying attention only to the most mechanistic aspects of a phenomenon, you know.
    That was my thought exactly. Why shouldn’t they be the same? I think there is a tendency to divorce reality up into spiritual and physical. There are barriers and thresholds, yes, but it is also a continuum. For example, quantum weirdness starts (if I understand somewhat correctly) at the Planck length. I suspect that the Planck length is literally the threshold into the next, smaller, inner dimension of our reality – the one reality.

  202. Mawkernewek,

    “We looked each other in the eye for a couple of seconds, and I had a sense of some kind of connection, which seemed to me more profound than just me fancying her.”

    I don’t know that I would go so far as to consider quantum entanglement, but I do think this can happen. It happened to me most profoundly with a horse once, and also with someone I loved and have carried a torch for all my life.
    I think it is called the collapse of the ego boundary.
    I think of our selves as being a bit like cells – there are membranes that separate us. Sometimes we are able to let others in and its a pretty amazing feeling and memorable.
    Sometimes things can interpenetrate.

  203. David by the Lake,

    Funnily enough as I was writing that line, you did come to mind, a reminder that I am not the only one who suffers this problem. When I look back over my life and see on the opportunities I missed out on because I was waiting for the perfect moment or the perfect thing, I do feel some regret, since it is more obvious now that if I had only acted then the timing may have been better or some other doors may have opened. On the flip side, a lot of things I hadn’t even predicted came into my life and those have often been the most fulfilling. Knowing this, it is still incredibly hard to reframe the way my mind works. Definitely, learning to meditate, relax, and setting aside time for reflective thinking probably have helped the most in preventing me from continuing to get caught up in awaiting/finding perfection.

  204. One basic problem I have been having is trying to figure out how to care for the mind in a world that is increasingly going insane around me.

  205. Lady Cutekitten,

    Are you saying you wrote a blog about the election? Sure, I would like to read it.

  206. @MCB:

    Panini’s work is indeed a marvel of the human intellect. It is possible to do much the same thing for any human language, to some degree. The chief difference is what one can call “systematicity,” that is, how densely the grid (of permitted sounds, of permitted declined or conjugated forms, etc.) is filled up with actual units of the language in question. Sanskrit is maximally systematic, or nearly so; some modern spoken languages are, too. Other languages occupy other places on the continuum between maximum and medium systematicity. (There don’t seem to be any human languages that are minimally systematic.)

    And the precise pattern of this systematicity in any language strongly affects how people routinely think in that language. The easiest examples to grasp come from vocabulary. Here’s an example:

    The thing we call “comnsciousness” has no other common name, ready to hand, in English. Now that English word is derived from the word “conscious,” which is an adjective. All adjectives, whenever they are used, presuppose some noun to which they apply: “Plants are conscious” or “He goes through life in an almost unconscious state of mind.” This is the grammar of English.

    And routine thought follows grammar in every language. Because of the way the word “consciousness” has been formed in English (and in most modern European languages), it is natural and easy to infer that consciousness is nothing but a secondary property of things, and cannot have any independent existence apart from something that might be said to be conscious.

    There are even people out there who will insist that this is a matter of pure logic, not merely of historically formed grammar. All such people are unknowingly trapped in the grammar of whatever language they are using as they reason.

    It takes heroic efforts for anyone to escape such a trap. Most people, even many famous philosophers, are not really up to the task. It can be done, however, and one of the surest ways to escape it is to learn several unrelated languages (or very distantly related languages) very well. (Hard as that might seem, it is well worth the effort it takes.)

  207. I am a fairly concrete thinker, and so, since this post lays out an “anatomy” of sorts, I have been mulling over anatomical questions. Building out from the material body as the analogy, you have mentioned sense organs belonging to the other bodies, but, I cannot help wonder instead about digestive organs. The material body, as you know, is not static thing, but a set of processes that have the effect of continually reconstituting a prevailing pattern. Materially, one takes in food, deconstitutes its components into raw materials, transforms them, applies various filtering and selection processes to them, and reconstitutes them into temporary, but endlessly renewed, places in the material assemblage that constitutes the body at every moment. Food for the material body comes to us from the dead bodies of plants and animals.

    Moving on to the etheric body, I assume that the “freshness” element in food refers in large part to whatever raw “etherials” are still associated with the dead plants and dead animals we consume, although such etherials may rapidly dwindle, affecting the quality of food for our etheric bodies. Although our etheric bodies can also be sustained by raw etherials received via sunshine, skin contact with the earth, and breath, I presume, the raw etherials contained in our food are also important in the digestive processes by which the etheric body reconstitutes itself from moment to moment.

    Moving on to the astral body, I know that I have often used digestion as an analogy for patients in my clinic in order to explore how a person “digests” and processes experience. Our experiences suffuse whatever sensory impressions we perceive with emotional overtones, and this suffused whole is what we call an experience. One must then “digest” it by masticating, ruminating, extracting and filtering and selecting what is useful for reconstituting the astral body, and, importantly, one also eliminates and releases back to the outside that which is not useful. I have used this analogy before, but this post makes me realise that there may well be astral organs of digestion, whose primary food and raw “astralials” for building the astral body, is living experience – that peculiar suffusion of sensory perceptions and emotions which arise from within our relationships and interactions with others around us. I might hypothesise that certain mental illnesses, such as depression, may well arise from poor function in these astral digestive organs.

    To construct a mental body, then, if the analogy with the material body holds, is a matter of establishing a form for it to manifest, and a source of raw “mentarials” from which it can reconstitute itself moment by moment. Meanings, together with other as yet unknown raw “mentarials” may well be what the digestive organs of a mental body will process.

    I suppose, in all this, my question is this. As you have often pointed out, the material world is so arranged that each living being may eat every day, but is eaten only once. But does this relationship that holds for the material body, which must reconstitute itself moment by moment using raw materials extracted from the dead remains of animals and plants also replicate itself in the reconstitution, moment by moment, of our other bodies. That is to say, is it still the case that our astral bodies and our mental bodies (when grown out from sheathes) will keep autopoietically reconstituting themselves in accordance with the same principle that the body can eat every day and be eaten only once?

    Curious concrete thinkers want to know… 😉

  208. “If engineers worked on the etheric level, by the way, fewer bridges would fall down.”

    Maybe, but I’d be reluctant to cross an etherial bridge while still in physical form. (The etherial bridge falling down wouldn’t be what I’d be worried about.)

    I suppose what you mean must be somewhat more like visualizing flows of energy through the structure as it reacts to its environment. Engineers do something very much like that, but it’s flows of force instead, because they prefer the structure to move as little as possible (and to engineers, energy is only potential unless something is moving). Those flows (typically visualized as lines or paths) run in every direction through every component of the structure, changing and even reversing direction as conditions change. That’s what structural engineering is all about.

    It would take only small-scale tests to establish that e.g. a daily spray of cold water can strengthen a structure. If that were shown, there would still be doubt that etheric energy transfer from the water to the structure was responsible, but physicists would be scrambling for some explanation.

    PS Did you feel the Earth move this morning?

  209. Your Kittenship, you can certainly post a link to your blog here; lots of other people do that, you know.

    Viduraawakened, I’d tend to trust Sri Aurobindo! I’ve read Tompkins’ book, by the way. A more detailed response would take a good chunk of a post; I’ll consider that down the road a bit.

    Prizm, to a very large extent the development of the mental sheath into a mental body has to take place organically, by the ripening force of experience. It can be helped to some extent by encouraging reflection, meditation, and attention to meaning, but you can’t force those things on those who aren’t ready for them.

    Will1000, bad poetry is full of over-the-top emotion — the technical term is “sentimentality.” A good poet makes you feel by connecting you with meanings that have a strong feeling component; a bad poet ladles on sentimental buzzwords and clichés to make up for a lack of meaning. (And sentimentality can use unpleasant emotions as well as warm fuzzy ones; there’s a great deal of sentimentality these days that relies on buzzwords and clichés that evoke anger, despair, depression, and so on.)

    Wesley, I think you’re missing my point. The occultists can simply say, “Well, yes, those mechanistic things are one part of what the ether does. Here’s the rest.” Dion Fortune included the ether in her taxonomy of planes as the upper end of the physical plane, so she was already pursuing that strategy — and she was far from alone. The basic approach of occultism to science for the last century and a half, after all, has focused on the idea that the scientific worldview isn’t wrong, it’s just incomplete.

    Jay, I do indeed. (Both my parents and my stepmother were teachers.) As for maintaining balance in crazed times, yes, that’s one of the most useful skills — if you can rise up out of the welter of moment by moment events to understand broad patterns, it’s easier to navigate and to keep a cool head.

    Onething, that’s the big question, of course — have humans become less able to interact with spirit, or has spirit withdrawn in some sense from us, or is it a combination of the two? My taxonomy of ages — Unicorn Time, Phoenix Time, Dragon Time — is descriptive rather than explanatory: it maps out what happens, as I see it, rather than claiming to explain why. The question of why it happens is much on my mind of late.

    Alan, that’s one of the things I’ve been talking about since the beginning of my blogging career. We live in a world where most people are cheering on, as “progress,” a series of choices and changes that are bringing about the decline and fall of our civilization, and will guarantee them and their descendants troubled and impoverished lives. That’s crazy — but it’s the reality we live in. There are various ways to deal with it, which I’ve discussed in previous posts, and I’ll have a great deal more to say about it in the months and years ahead.

    Scotlyn, that’s a fascinating question to which I don’t happen to have an answer. Meditating on it might be a good idea… 😉

    Walt, I’m not suggesting the etheric bridge as a replacement to a physical one, you know. What I’d suggest in terms of the etheric dimension of engineering was something closer to feng-shui — it would be interesting to see, for example, if bridges that happen to be placed in fortunate relationships to the local feng-shui last longer than ones that are unfortunate relationships. As for the earthquake, yes, I did indeed — though I wasn’t sure until I checked the news whether it was an earthquake or a large truck.

  210. @Robert M

    Thank you for the additional comments on language. It’s fascinating.

    Over the years studying Vedantic text I have occasionally worked with a system of studying some of the most profound statements in the original Sanskrit language in the School I have attended. The way the study is done in groups means that you don’t need to be an expert – the School offers introductory courses, which give access to the texts in a very thoughtful way. The method used is to take time and translate with a dictionary like Monier-Williams which references the root of each word, and then tracing back to the root forms using the Dhatupatha.

    It is possible to get a very deep understanding of the text this way, and you get a sense of an entirely new possibility of using language where word meanings are emergent from the root forms as you reflect on the text. The meaning becomes rich, wide and deep, and the ability to penetrate the words is incredible.

    When reflecting on the great statements of the tradition I can feel what you are saying about the limitations language has on thinking, and what other forms allow. I can also appreciate the importance of the linguistic project of the civilisation to refine language to allow reflection in these deeper ways.


  211. I don’t know why, but I am finding this podcast I listened to by David Bashevkin from about mysticism relevant to the topic this week. He quotes E.O. Wilson’s work Consilience stating “The love of complexity without reductionism makes art; the love of complexity with reductionism makes science.” He then discusses the word reductionism, how many break things down into simple forms yet how mysticism tries to picture the whole thing. In some ways, this seems to connect with the planes of existence when we break then down into the material, etheric, astral, and mental, and how it is common for us to reduce things into those separate planes, and perhaps as I asked earlier, try to target one plane for exercise or for maximization without considering the whole system. Further, when recognizing these are systems that start at the bottom and work their way up, as things have evolved, it further helps me appreciate the need to effect things at the bottom before working at higher levels..

    When looking at it through these lenses, I can easily see how people get trapped into reducing things, perhaps in the name of science, and forgetting to see the whole picture. This really helps me see the whole picture of many current situations much clearer. Thank you for the reminder!

    As an aside, in another of these 18forty podcasts, I heard mention that as more have become atheists, there are more seeking mysticism. If this is the case, I feel more relieved that there is a new spirituality awakening as you’ve mentioned before.

  212. Wesley, Walt and JMG: Thank you for the debate about meaning and sound of words! This is very dear to my heart, so I would like to add some thoughts.

    1. It has been said that grammar is the body of a language, and sound is the soul (an imperfect analogy, of course). Just as grammar changes, some sound changes occur again and again in different languages, and I have never heard a single explanation for why they happen. For example, in older Greek (and in Doric and Aeolic) the name of the moon was pronounced selaanaa, which in Attic and Ionic changed to selehneh – exactly the same change as from older and British can’t to American cant. In Lucretius and Sallust, one often sees optumus, which changed (presumably through optymus) to classical optimus. The same process transformed all remaining Latin us to sound like y in French, but stopped at this point. In Greek, the same change transformed the sound of the letter ypsilon in Kyme (fixed in Latin Cumae) to y (fixed in our school pronunciation) to sound like Kimi in modern Greek. The ü in German Füsse derives from older u and has, in Southern dialects, become i.

    2. Just as there have been synchronous changes in grammar, there have been synchronous changes in sound. For example, around 1300 the word mine sounded like meen both in English and in all forms of German. From 1600 at the latest, it sounded like maa-in both in English (except Hiberno-English), in Dutch and in German. The only explanation I have ever seen offered for how synchronous changes happen (even accepting there is no answer to the why) is the presence of bilingual speakers, but there was not much bilingualism between the two languages at the time, so how was the change coordinated?

    3. These changes would be mere curiosities if the sound of words was arbitrarily connected to their meaning, as Wesley suggests. I have no proof except my strong intuition that this is not the whole story. I have read that a perfectly clear style doesn’t allow the writer or speaker to lie. For my part, I am either a complete sucker for sound, or I feel the importance of sound in convincing me of certain ideas.

    Shine, perishing republic

    has a strong effect on me, forcing me to take it serious, in part because of the repeated sh and the recurring i (alone or in the diphthong).

    Charles Williams is not by far the best poet of the English language, but I believe certain thoughts of his because of the alliterations and the rhythm:

    …the happy dead
    Who flashed in living will through the liquid wish…

    All lies in a passion of patience – my lord”s rule…

    …Draw now the tide, spring moon, swing now the depth…

    Virgil’s effect is inseparable from his sound, he is untranslatable as Ursula Le Guin remarks in her introduction to Lavinia.

    Without Dante’s force of sound (and the preceding 60 cantos), I wouldn’t accept his invitation:

    Lo tuo piacere omai prendi per duce:
    Fuor se’ dell’erte vie, fuor se’ dell arte…
    Non aspettar mio dir più nè mio cenno:
    Libero, dritto e sano è tuo arbitrio,
    E fallo fora non fare a suo senno,
    Per ch’io te sopra te corono e mitrio.

    4. So if my (and many others’) intuition is right that convinces us of certain thoughts because of they way they sound, then sound changes are crucial to what facets of meaning can be gripped in a language community. To continue Walt’s train of thought, not only do people (including poets) half-consciously add new shades of meaning to words all the time, people also change their pronunciation all the time, and this happens almost unconsciously. It is very hard for mere humans to arrive at true meaning, and we use everything we have at our disposal.

  213. @jbucks, thanks for taking my musings farther.

    If I can try to return the favor… connecting meaning with consciousness as you suggest could go a long way here. One path for such a connection is narrative. My favorite hypothesis for what consciousness actually is and how it works is that it’s how we perceive the process of turning signals from the world into narrative. It takes a lot of evolved complexity to go from a bundle of different sound frequencies and light patterns to “I watched a man use an axe to cut down a tree.” When we turn that process on itself and ask, “how am I able to do that?” the narrative we form is “I am conscious.” But that doesn’t mean that’s the only way consciousness can occur.

    By many philosophies, the axe only exists as an axe, rather than an arbitrary arrangement of matter, if there are conscious beings perceiving it as such. The axe acquires identity or meaning as a character in our narratives: someone made an axe; someone used an axe. Any consciousness the axe could have would then have to be merely a reflection of our own consideration of it, our use of it in our narratives. That is, secondary to our own consciousness.

    But applying that to the tree is dubious. Was the ancient primeval forest prior to land animals meaningless, or meaningful only in retrospect for its role in our natural history narratives that we’re presently conscious of? That’s, not to put too fine a point on it, absurd. A tree having its own concrete consciousness in accordance with having an astral sheath makes more sense.

    The question of whether everything in the universe has consciousness (or meaning), or contrarily whether we only project our own conscious perceptions (and meanings) upon them, reminds me very much of the centuries-long debate over the nature of vision. The question was, do the eyes sense a distant object by emitting something that meets the object (like our sense of touch), or does the object send something to our eyes (like our sense of hearing)? If it’s the first one, it makes it difficult to explain darkness. If it’s the second one, it seems just as difficult to explain how the objects know where our eyes are so they can aim signals at them. The concept that resolves the seeming dilemma, ambient light, took a lot of figuring out. Even now we tend to think only of the light that meets our eyes. We rarely think about the space we’re looking through being thick with photons traveling from everywhere to everywhere else.

    Aha, that word again… ambient. Ambient meaning, as I was characterizing the mental plane, is not understanding without a mental sheath, just as ambient light isn’t vision without a visual apparatus. Ambient consciousness might, and arguably must, differ greatly from the consciousness we experience.

    Borges suggested that every page of the Library of Babylon might actually be laden with meaning. As often as I’ve returned to that library in my meditations, it seems another visit is in order.

  214. @JMG said, “Wesley, I think you’re missing my point. The occultists can simply say, “Well, yes, those mechanistic things are one part of what the ether does. Here’s the rest….” The basic approach of occultism to science for the last century and a half, after all, has focused on the idea that the scientific worldview isn’t wrong, it’s just incomplete.”

    I think that part of the reason we seem to be talking past each other is that you are focusing on a question of substance, i.e. “does the ether do more things than the materialists think it does?” And I am focusing on a question of philology, i.e. “If the word ether had not dropped out of scientific terminology, then how would modern scientists define and use this word?”

    So in this alternative version of the 20th century, where “luminiferous ether” means what “electromagnetic quantum vacuum” means in our version, then it’s quite easy to imagine occultists saying to scientists “Well, yes, those mechanistic things are one part of what the ether does. Here’s the rest.”

    And then the scientists would say, “We have a fairly complete understanding of what the ether does; it was formulated in a number of mechanistic equations developed in the 1950s and 1960s by the likes of Richard Feynman, etc. If the inner-plane effects you’re talking about actually exist, then whatever is making them go is not the ether!”

    So that is what I mean by describing this as a question of philology rather than substance. I am not arguing against the incompleteness of the scientific worldview. (Even though I am a trained physicist I have always found the worldview of scientific materialism to be incomplete, and I find the paralogic that so many scientists deploy in order to avoid thinking about phenomena that they can’t explain to be rather baffling).

    As for Fortune’s decision to include the etheric plane as the upper end of the physical plane, that seems reasonable to me. You’ve said before that etheric substances interact with water, steel, and other physical substances in a variety of ways that depend on the physical and chemical (i.e. electromagnetic) properties of the water, steel, etc. The etheric substances would need to couple with the electromagnetic quantum vacuum (i.e. the luminiferous ether) in order to do this. At the same time, they would also interact via other forces that aren’t included within the scientific worldview, and thus couldn’t be driven by what the alternative 20th century’s scientists had defined as “the ether.”

  215. “Walt, I’m not suggesting the etheric bridge as a replacement to a physical one, you know.”

    Yes, I know. That was a wry joke.

    I’ve heard of nearby bridges affecting the feng shui of a site, but not of feng shui principles for the bridges themselves. That’s not surprising; it must be a rather specialized field.

    Engineers do take prevailing wind directions into account. One might hope that low sun angles versus usage patterns would also be considered in east-west-oriented bridges, but it might not be a priority where other constraints (especially limited available sites/routes) apply.

    From my own experience using bridges, I can guess what a few principles might be, based on what I find more comfortable to use. A bridge arcing higher than the landscape or structures on either side is undesirable. Aimed directly toward hill tops or the very highest structures is also undesirable. Long non-suspended bridges are better with a gradual curve (though that’s more expensive!). Blue always looks wrong for bridges crossing water, though that’s the most common color (perhaps because matching the water and blending into the sky sounds like a good idea). Probably a host of other principles for colors and materials. But if for example spanning traffic crossing at right angles turns out to be inauspicious, we’d be out of luck because most overpasses do exactly that by design.

  216. Finally, a kitten cute enough to be the monthly kitten of October! All kittens are cute, except those hairless ones, but for the monthly kitten only the exceptionally cute Tactical Assault Cute Kittens (TACKs), the ones who will make hardened fighters throw down their rifles in order to cuddle them (the kittens, not the rifles) will do. So here she is:


  217. Hey JMG, I have a note of you saying that chakras will exist in the mental body when we finish developing one and that it’s good to meditate on them with the guidance of a qualified teacher. Is that process contained within your Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn learning track?

    Was planning on eventually asking that in a Magic Monday, but I figure it’s on topic for this post.

  218. JMG,

    The earlier discussion about propaganda has given me an idea which I am calling Propaganda School. I’d like to invite interested members of the commentariat to join in.

    I’ll be posting (probably twice a week until I run out of ideas) with a quick description of one propaganda technique that is in common use in the mainstream media/politicians and I’ll demonstrate its use from a current media article then give readers an exercise where they can analyse the technique for themselves. The focus will be on the more subtle forms of propaganda rather than the big bad ones that seem to have gotten most of the attention.

    An introduction to the concept and the first exercise can be found here for anybody who might be interested –

  219. Prizm, I found Consilience an intriguing and frustrating book; I think Wilson was groping toward something important but didn’t get there. Still, many thanks for this.

    Matthias, thanks for this also — excellent points.

    Wesley, no, I’m not talking about substance. I’m talking about rhetorical tactics. Scientists like to think that they can decide what words mean, and once that happens, everyone is constrained to use the words to mean what scientists want them to mean. Occultists, and a great many others as well, are used to playing merry hob with that sort of simplistic language game. Notice, to cite only one example, how the world “quantum” has been twisted out of its scientific meaning and put to use in pop spirituality! Still, you’re right that we’re talking past each other at this point.

    Walt, I’m sorry to say that it’s the kind of joke that zooms over the heads of people with Aspergers syndrome! Still, thanks for the clarification.

    Your Kittenship, thanks for the delayed explosion!

    Youngelephant, no, because students of the Golden Dawn tradition these days can’t count on access to a qualified teacher. The practices central to the GD are those that can be done on one’s own, without skilled guidance, and still produce excellent results.

    Simon, thanks for this.

  220. @JMG, MCB, Matthias,

    Thank you for your continued interest in my questions about language.

    There is something I am still trying to make clear, though. When I say that the link between the sound of a word and its meaning is “arbitrary” I do not mean that words got their meanings randomly, absent historical context and complex psychological processes! Obviously there are deep relationships there, which nobody fully understands.

    What I mean by an arbitrary linkage between sound and meaning is that

    1) The relationships between sounds and meanings do not derive from logical rules which are known to the speaker; they just have to be learned.

    2) Speakers of different languages and dialects can learn and use different words to express the same concept, and the question of which words a language will end up containing at any point in time are not fixed, but are contingent on number of historical processes.

    Just think about the example I gave a few comments ago: butterfly. The only way to know what this word means is to learn its meaning from somebody else – you will not be able to figure it out by examining the word’s constituent parts! Also, it is easy to imagine a historical scenario where the influx of French words into Middle English goes a bit further, and English-speakers end up dropping the word “butterfly” in favor of some variant of “papillon.”

    The philosophical languages of people like John Wilkins failed because they tried to fight against this aspect of human language. The idea behind Wilkins’ project was that a good enough philosopher could arrange the meanings of all nouns, verbs, and adjectives into a tree with branches upon branches of concepts where, for example, apple, peach, and plum were all on the “fruits” branch, which was a part of the “things that grow on plants” branch, and so forth, with every other word you might care to use.

    The plan was to invent a language in which every word’s spelling and sound was derived from its location on the tree through a set of logical rules; then, people using this language of “real character” would be able to get straight to the true meanings of whatever they were trying to say and communication would be much, much better than with natural languages. But it failed because, as it turns out, there is no one true way to categorize all human knowledge.

    Loglan and Lojban, a pair of languages created by computer scientists in the 20th century in an attempt to make a communications system free of ambiguity, are also unusable in practice. Meanwhile, there are lots of people who can speak Esperanto, Elvish, Klingon, or other artificial languages which don’t try to purge all the seeming arbitrariness out of natural language, and in which the relationship between words and their meanings simply has to be learned the way one learns a natural language.

    So that is what I mean when I claim that there is an “arbitrary” relationship between the sounds and meanings of words. I am not saying that they lack historical context, or that there are no deep psychological reasons why the same patterns show up over and over again in linguistic evolution. What I am saying is that relationships between sounds and meanings usually cannot be derived from logical rules, and must simply be learned, and that different people can use different words to refer to the same concept without one being more or less right than the other.

  221. @Walt F:

    You wrote: “The question of whether everything in the universe has consciousness (or meaning), or contrarily whether we only project our own conscious perceptions (and meanings) upon them …”

    There is another possibility, though English is not able to express it in any way that makes intuitive sense. The closest we can come in English to that third possibility is to say “consciousness has everything in the universe”–including us, who wrongly suppose that it is we (and possibly other things) that have consciousness.

  222. Will1000,

    Other than a few poems which have stuck with me since childhood, I’m relatively new to poetry as well. I would always skip over any snippets of poetry included in a novel, even. I am learning to enjoy it now and the very first time a poem grabbed my attention as an adult was “Skeletons and Us” by Damir Ovčina, which appeared in “Scar on the Stone: Contemporary Poetry from Bosnia,” a collection that came out in 1998. I’m not sure why, but it made an impact at a deep level, that I still don’t understand. You maybe able to find it at your library or online:

    Also, if it hasn’t been posted in the comments already, another reader has compiled the list of memorized poems suggested by JMG’s commentariat:

  223. @ Mathias

    “1. It has been said that grammar is the body of a language, and sound is the soul (an imperfect analogy, of course). Just as grammar changes, some sound changes occur again and again in different languages, and I have never heard a single explanation for why they happen.”

    I’m not sure if I’m misunderstanding your point here, but sound IS part of grammar. Phonetics and phonology are the two disciplines of linguistics that deal most directly with sound while explanations for changes in language and sound over time are handled by historical linguistics.

    Historical linguists have a number of explanations for why sound changes in a language. None of these are definitive because there are many variables at play but a few examples may be relevant.

    One is economy. All else being equal, a sound change that requires the speaker to exert less energy to communicate a meaning is preferred.

    A more important one, and one that contradicts the last point, is that sound is a very important group identity marker via accent. Accent is usually a class marker or marks a speaker as belonging to a group in a geographical location. Thus, the British Queen’s accent has undergone quite some change during her life. Although not so important these days, once upon a time this would have caused members of the aristocracy to change their accent to match hers thereby causing a change in the ‘language’.

    A third important consideration is that language is a system of symbols that aims for some level of internal consistency. Thus, any change in a phoneme for one word can be expected to drive equivalent change in structurally similar phonemes causing language-wide systemic change.

    Of course, modern linguists are also materialists and wouldn’t dare to consider any explanations for changes requiring a different plane but, nevertheless, these explanations hold up well on the material plane.

  224. @JMG

    Thank you for your reply. Yes, an essay discussing this in detail would be something I would definitely look forward to.

    Although, personally, I am of the view that even if plants are not as evolved (from the occult perspective) as we are as of now, there is nothing to say that they might not be in the future. After all, plants have been around for approximately half a billion years and evolved on a path parallel to the one taken by our mammalian ancestors, so who knows, maybe in the next 100 million years from now, they might evolve some sort of self-awareness/mental sheath akin to what we humans have today. Of course, assuming that humanity is still around at that time, we might have already evolved to the next stage, for all you know.

  225. This is a very agreeable discussion! It could profitably be extended to the meaning found in a face painted by da Vinci, a landscape painted by Turner or Caspar David Friedrich or a fugue written by J. S. Bach. However, I will stick to language, which I have thought about the longest.

    MCB, reading a text that deeply is very rewarding! For one semester, I participated in a comparative linguistics seminar where we read the first page of a Welsh legend about king Pwyll. Our pace was one or two words per week, and it was not even a deeply philosophical text!

    Wesley, I agree with the content of your argument as you now stated it. Some more examples of logical languages are described in Umberto Eco’s The search for the perfect language! What put me off was the word arbitrary, which sounds as if a fairy-tale king or a 20th century party secretary one day at breakfast decided that everybody had to use the word “pirlimpim” for a butterfly – while of course (as we agree) there are so many options besides a language of obvious logic and a language of arbitrary decree.

    By the way, your example of Norman French making even stronger inroads into English resonated with me because I am just now reading Paul Kingsnorth’s Wake, a novel entirely written in a form of English derived from Old English, narrated by a headstrong rebel against Gi-yome the bastard.

    Simon, thank you for filling in available hypotheses about sound change. I wrote my original comment in a bit of haste – my major point was about the difficulty in explaining simultaneous and coordinated sound changes in different languages, and I should have been less categorical about the lack of hypotheses for sound change. I regard the “economy of sound” and the “cohesiveness of language” arguments more as general constraints on language change: they are not sufficient to motivate a single change.

    On the other hand, the social marker hypothesis surely has merits, but it does not explain why a single influential individual like the Queen, or a group of individuals like comedians or rappers, embarks on a certain sound change. Any sound change (respecting general constraints) would suffice to establish a social contrast, but why this one? Such hypotheses remind me of some genetics papers where a change in the allele frequence of a gene just has to be connected with a gain in fitness. At least in genetics, we know there is an element of chance involved; in phonetics, we can’t be sure there is anything random. It is in fact very, very hard for people to consciously change their pronunciation, as anybody learning a new language can attest; the process is even more unconscious than adding a new use to a word. However, being unconscious doesn’t mean it is random.

    You are of course right that pronunciation is part of grammar in general, I should have contrasted changes in pronunciation with changes in syntax. They are sometimes coordinated (like when a language starts to blur case markers so that/because it develops a rigid word order), but often independent from one another.

    Again, this is a very agreeable discussion, and it has so far taught me a lot about the contributions of conscious vs unconscious speech acts and the interplay of the individual with the collective as we try to find meaning in the world.

  226. It has occurred to me more than once that this blog and it participants are playing The Glass Bead Game. This week’s topic in particular seems to have inspired us to explore wider and deeper connections in the realm of Meaning.

    Thanks to all!

  227. Mr. Greer.
    Thank you for answering my previous question. I have one more.
    It’s about my mother. In her early thirties she had some kind of psychotic episode. At about the same time, there was a problem with her thyroid gland and one of the pair was surgically removed. After that she was in fine health for about 15 years and then she acquired a mental illness, a chronic condition which she still has, about 20 years later.
    I will describe her symptoms shortly. Mostly it is some kind of psychosis. She is euphoric a lot. Singing, yelling (once she did it in airplane during flight) and dancing in public spaces. She is very theatrical. Walking barefoot, dressing extravagantly, getting her first tatoo in her old age. Filling her apartment with pictures, slogans, figurines and toys, crosses. She became very religious (which she was not before), obsessing with God, declaring herself to be a holy spirit once or twice, Christian, though she was also very big on Sai Baba until he died. She also had a thing for Feng Shui and Louise Hay, and is in general very interested in matters spiritual and psychological. Another of her occupations are numbers – she is always spotting combinations of numbers (mostly same numbers) on license plates. She had a case of kleptomania. Lately she is getting rid of a lot of her stuff, leaving it on the street for anyone to pick it up.
    Her sleep is disturbed, she sometimes sleep very little, like two hours per night. She has been hospitalized many times, on average once or twice per year. Her diagnosis is bipolar disorder. However, it seems to me that present scientific medicine doesn’t really know what this condition is, what caused it, and they definitely don’t know how to cure it. They are treating it at the level of symptoms with chemicals which have bad side effects.
    Do you think that mental illnesses in general, and this one in particular, might be malfunctions of non-material bodies? This would explain why present medical science can’t grasp them.
    Do you have any idea about the nature of this illness and how to cure it, or at least alleviate it? Thanks.

  228. This might edge into the banned discussion, but wanted to let the community know if they haven’t seen it that long haul truckers are doing tik-tocks saying how angry they are about the treatment of 70 million people and they may go on strike. I don’t have to detail the impact of that action to the people here.

  229. Sorry for the rather late question, but the question popped into my mind late in the week after this post, after a brief conversation (in unrelated context regarding a woman with a severe mental disability).

    I’m curious as to how mental disabilities function on the different planes. For example, somebody who has Down’s Syndrome obviously has a disability that manifests on the material plane; their body has a chromosomal mutation, and they have cognitive disabilities that go along with that. But would they also be “disabled” in a matching fashion on all or some of the higher planes? Do all of the bodies (etheric, astral, mental sheath) experience disability in this incarnation in a similar fashion, or does it manifest only on the material plane? Is the individuality itself in some way injured or disabled (permanently or just temporarily, for this incarnation), or is the individuality just experiencing an incarnation in which is must cope with a disability for one lifetime (I’m guessing the latter)?

    Apologies if this is a stupid question or if you already answered it, but I’m just curious how that works.

  230. Matthias and those involved in the language discussion,

    At the beginning of the year, I did a lucid dreaming experiment where I would chant sefirot names on the Tree of Life in my dreams. Every single time without fail, a force would overtake me and guide my actions or take me places. Hebrew is considered a sacred language and I believe the sefirot names are especially sacred. Ever since this experiment, I have wondered why the original speakers of a language chose the sounds they did to represent those ideas. The scientific materialist would undoubtedly call it arbitrary, or come up with some theory friendly to their belief system. But as Matthias pointed out, that doesn’t answer the question sufficiently. I don’t think the question can be answered by the scientific materialistic/rationalistic thinking of our age.

  231. Hello JMG,

    1 – “Where the mental plane impinges on the astral plane, by contrast, we can grasp ideas by their astral handles and proceed from the form to the meaning.”

    That must be why ancient Greek mystery schools placed much emphasis on studying geometry.

    2 – Alternating between concentration and divergent mode of thinking sounds like a good exercise for training the will, not only the mental sheath.

  232. Robert Mathiesen: “There is another possibility, though English is not able to express it in any way that makes intuitive sense. The closest we can come in English to that third possibility is to say “consciousness has everything in the universe”–including us, who wrongly suppose that it is we (and possibly other things) that have consciousness.”

    Is there a language that expresses this adequately? Does “everything participates in consciousness” adequately approach what is meant here?

  233. @Goran – I’m sorry to hear that it’s a mental illness, but looking at my own psyche at this time, wonder how much is return of the repressed. I have this most incredible longing to run wild – “the little madness, that keeps us from the greater”* -to whoop and holler, sing and dance, put on costumes and party with the pagans and the s/f fans, or get in the car and speed down the road, with my CDs of rebel songs (Irish, pagan, Leslie Fish) playing at top volume.

    I’m sane enough to know how much of this is beyond my abilities, and how much is the lack of the subcultures in which I enjoyed much of that freely during festivals and s/f cons. And how much is frustration at now being in a social atmosphere of great diversity of opinion and background (lacking in aforesaid subcultures of late), but quiet and mannerly and orderly enough to make one want to take up heavy metal and scream.

    However, yes, in your mother’s case, it does seem as if her Id has run amok, and the lack of sleep is very disturbing. And – has she been checked for physical causes such as thyroid imbalance?

    I hope this helps you some – if I’ve offered things you’ve already thought through, my apologies.

  234. Another reason that care of the mind is important that I realized is important..

    When writing out the planes of existence, I recognized a similarity to when I had written out van Goethe’s kingdoms classification, and how those can also relate to our personal stages of development. Beginning with the mineral, which becomes plants, then animals, finally humans. Since the lecture I got that information from was a Waldorf lecture about the stages of our development, they also included a fifth stage, for the spiritual. There seems like a fair amount of similarity to the planes of existence, especially in that one must begin at the first plane and work their way up, likewise one must development from the first stage and work their way through the others.

    The realization that I came to, was that I so often look at things in a linear fashion. In reality, I was only taught to see things in a linear way. There are also patterns, and as our host so often points out, things are often connected in triads, quads, and so on.

    Recognizing this, I am reminded of the importance again, of training the mind to be aware of and see other patterns surrounding us, often deeper patterns. Ones which might include history, as well as ones which might include the spiritual.

  235. Wesley, so by “arbitrary” you mean basically “we can’t come up with rules that model it.” That seems like an odd usage to me, but thanks for clarifying.

    Viduraawakened, that’s one of the teachings you’ll find in American Rosicrucian sources, curiously enough. The idea is that the souls who are in the plant kingdom in the current cycle of the cosmos will be the equivalent of animals in the next, and the equivalent of humans in the one after that. Those beings who are now angels were at the human stage one cycle before this one, when we were equivalent to animals and the souls currently in plants were in the mineral kingdom. In the cycle after this one, we will be the equivalent of angels, today’s animals will have advanced to the human level, and so on. Whether it’s literally true or not, it’s intriguing to see the world that way.

    Goldenhawk, excellent! Yes, and this is one of the things that Hesse was talking about, of course.

    Goran, that’s got to be very difficult for you! I’m sorry to say, though, that the magical dimensions of mental illness aren’t something I’ve studied in any detail, and it would require someone very knowledgeable about such things to tease out which aspects of the illness are physical and which are metaphysical. You’re certainly right that current medical science has no idea what to do with such illnesses, other than try to drug the patient into numbness — but I don’t have the specialist knowledge that would be needed to do anything more.

    Your Kittenship, here’s Sir Purrsalot about to go into action…

  236. @Someone:

    None of the languages (that I know well enough to have an opinion about) can do this. But all my languages come from Europe, and they all descendants of a single (reconstructed) ancestral language, which historical linguists now call “Indo-European.” Some American or Australian aboriginal languages might be able to do this, but I don’t know enough about any of them to say one way or another: certainly they were/are entirely independent from the common “grammar metaphysics” that has shaped all the Indo-European languages.

    “Everything participates in consciousness” isn’t really adequate either, alas! To most speakers of English, that sentence merely suggests that all “things” are united in their consciousness, but it ducks the main point here, namely, the possibility that consciousness would still exist even if no physical “things” had ever existed at all, not even any time and space and matter and energy, anywhere. In English (and other European languages) this “third choice” is almost unthinkable, yet it remains a genuine possibility.

    (IMHO, it is not just a possibility, but the actuality of existence. But I can’t demonstrate that to anyone else.)

  237. @Goran – amplification –

    Dementia takes everybody differently, but I’m convinced return of the repressed is part of it. My ex-husband, who I last saw in memory care, was gentle, polite, relaxed, and happy. In his right wits, he was always tense, suspicious of everyone, defensive, and quick to take offense – though once well away from his father and under the authority of the army, he was delighted to learn things that totally contradicted his father’s prejudices. For what that’s worth.

    BTW, and I forgot to add this, thinking it obvious; I do think your mother has gone into some sort of dementia, and know how dreadful her symptoms must be to you. May your gods or God and saints, and those of your mother, be with you both.


  238. Goran,

    there is a great deal of correlation between thyroid and mental (un)health.

    I recommend you see what you can find in “the literature” – and here I mean both published peer-reviewed studies and lay-persons’ information (since this can often be the information that the medical establishment ignores until it can’t ignore it any longer). Just search for “thyroid and mental health”, “thyroid and anxiety”, etc. It’s possible to have hypo and hyperthyroidism simultaneously, and frequently, doctors do NOT ask patients to get the more comprehensive thyroid panel that reveals more nuanced information.

    The website “hypothyroid mom” has a lot of information that may be of use.

    Obviously you were asking JMG for the magical side of this issue, so I apologize if this was presumptive of me to bring up from the more mundane level since you didn’t ask about it.

  239. Denis, I understand that a strike has been called for Thanksgiving weekend. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of it — a series of rolling strikes by blue-collar workers could bring this country to its knees, and I suspect that a lot of blue-collar workers are thinking of that just now.

    Your Kittenship, awww…

    El, it’s not a stupid question. The Individuality isn’t injured at all, but the astral, etheric, and physical bodies differ from that phantom state we call “normal” in certain more or less predictable ways. The experience of disability is one of the experiences souls need over the course of their incarnations, and so they get it.

    Minervaphilos, (1) exactly. Exactly. (2) It is indeed.

    Prizm, very true. The attempt to force the mind into narrowly linear modes of functioning is a common feature of what passes for education these days, and it’s also one of the things I satirized in The Weird of Hali with the Radiance.

    DFC, no doubt it’ll be a peaceful protest — just as peaceful as the ones we saw this summer…

  240. Did anyone else have a boring Halloween? We had no kids and the city cancelled the block party.

  241. A feature of our so-called civilization has been the pervasive presence of war and things (even now reaching new heights of perfection in China) called “reeducation camps” or “concentration camps.” All forms of unspeakable violence that leave an imprint on a person for more than one lifetime…and not only that of the victims. Some forms of disability as well as of mental illness as we understand it would seem to be expressions in some fashion of the consequences of that. It is almost impossible to imagine, let alone endure, these horrors, yet people do…with some regularity. I’m thinking of Goren’s mother in particular, but she’s surely not the only one. Dion Fortune’s Dr. Taverner stories are among the few I’m aware of to attempt to engage in this material, and in order to do so I now have to acknowledge the immense compassion she must have possessed, as well as vast imagination. Kudos, madame, from beyond your time from an admirer.

  242. @Walt: Thanks very much for the further musings, you’ve certainly given me more things to ponder!

  243. Yes, that is a needed message. Two key pieces for me are (1) a commitment to training the life of the mind and (2) a tradition to guide me in understanding and coping with the limits of the mind including ways to manage the ubiquitous attempts to hijack our minds.

    My 10 year old daughter has developed a game of looking for interesting statements that result from inverting the sign of advertising messages and she finds it quite hilarious. (things like “this car raises your unawareness.”) In the process it becomes so clear that the message isn’t about features of the product, but about manipulating the viewer.

  244. Mr. Greer, thanks.

    Patricia Mathews – I can’t quite see this as return of the repressed since I don’t see what would be that repressed which is returning, not in her past (childhood) and not in her symptoms. Dementia, maybe, some kind. It’s a strange case. Thanks for your thoughts and good wishes. Also, your reply to my question about Mammon in October Open Post was spot on. Indeed, what would Black Friday really be but a festival of Mammon?! But what I really wondered was is Mammon here just a metaphor or a real, existing and active supernatural being, a god, demon or something else?

    temporaryreality – yes, I was interested in the magical side or this issue but nevertheless thanks for your reply.

  245. Mr Greer- Thanks for the Butler recommendation. My copy is on the way! Do you have a good recommendation for basic primer on astrology? A good place to start?

  246. Wow. Intelligent, long-form writing on the Internet?! I’m verklempt. And although this was pre-written, I find it timely to the point of prescience. Glad I found you may be an understatement.

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