Book Club Post

The Cosmic Doctrine: Atomic Evolution upon the Cosmic Planes

This week we continue a monthly discussion of The Cosmic Doctrine by Dion Fortune, which I consider the most important work of 20th century occult philosophy. Climb in and fasten your belts; it’s turning out to be as wild a ride as I expected. If you’re just joining us now, please go back and read the previous commentaries, which you can find here; the material covered in these earlier posts is essential to making sense of what follows.

As noted in earlier posts, there are two widely available editions of The Cosmic Doctrine, the revised edition first published in 1956 and the Millennium Edition first published in 1995, which reprints the original privately printed edition of 1949. You can use either one for the discussions that follow. The text varies somewhat between the two editions, but the concepts and images are the same, and I’ll be referring to both.


Assigned Reading:

Revised Edition:  Chapter 5, “Atomic Evolution upon the Cosmic Planes,” p. 27-30.

Millennium Edition: Chapter 4, “The Evolution of the Atom,” beginning with the first complete paragraph on p. 38 (which starts with the words “Evolution on the Cosmic planes…”) and the beginning of Chapter 5, “The Genesis of a Solar System,” ending with the second paragraph on p. 43 (which ends “…start back up the spiral to the Central Sun.”).



As with previous chapters it’s probably wise to revisit two points before going on.  First, it’s essential to keep in mind the basic rule Fortune puts at the beginning of the text—“These images are not descriptive but symbolic, and are intended to train the mind, not to inform it.”  Second, this is a textbook of occult philosophy, not of physics. When Fortune discusses atoms in this chapter, she’s using the concept of the atom as a metaphor, not talking about atoms as imagined by the scientists of her time, or for that matter of ours.

Too many students of The Cosmic Doctrine lose track of this basic rule somewhere in these early chapters, and end up trying to force Fortune’s metaphor to fit current scientific notions of atomic structure, or vice versa.  This isn’t helpful at all when you’re trying to make sense of the basic concepts of occult philosophy expressed in terms of visual metaphors—which is after all what we’re doing here.

With this in mind, let’s proceed to the text. At this point in the development of the Cosmos, an immense number of atoms have been generated by the interplay of the forces of the twelve Rays, and begin to drift outward under the influence of centrifugal force. (My copy of the revised edition, dated 1966, has one of my favorite typos in this chapter, in place of centrifugal: “centrifrugal.” I decided many years ago that this refers to people who are too cheap to live in the big city.)

Our text gives us two accounts of the way this works, and they aren’t entirely compatible.  According to the first account, the primal atoms, which are vortices of repeated movement with from three to ten angles, emerge from the Central Sun and fill the first Circle. They then combine with one another to form composite atoms, which are influenced by centrifugal force and drift out to the second Circle. The composite atoms then unite with one another to form more complex atoms, which drift out to the third Circle, and the same process continues until all seven Circles are filled with atoms. The fantastically complex atoms of the Seventh Circle then proceed along the evolutionary track we’ll be discussing next.

The second account focuses not on the complexity of the atoms but of the number of angles in the prime atom around which each composite atom takes shape. In this version, the atoms sort themselves out among the circles based on their number of angles.  The three-sided atoms settle in the First Circle, the four-sided atoms settle in the Second Circle, and so on out to the nine-sided atoms, which take up their station in the Seventh Circle. And the ten-sided atoms? Those are the ones that go on to follow the evolutionary track we’ll be discussing next.

Both these accounts are stated in so many words in the text, and there are specific passages that fit one and not the other—for example, in some places the traveling atoms (the ones that follow the evolutionary track) are described as forming around prime atoms of all different numbers of sides, and in others the traveling atoms are described as forming around ten-sided prime atoms only. This isn’t accidental; Dion Fortune has laid a trap.

It’s a trap you can evade with perfect ease so long as you remember that all the things we’re talking about are metaphors. When Robert Burns wrote—

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose

That’s newly sprung in June:

O my Luve’s like the melodie

That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

—he was using two different similes to communicate the same emotion from different angles. I’ve yet to hear of anyone getting outraged by this and insisting that Burns’ lady friend couldn’t be like a rose and like a melody, since one’s a flower and the other’s a sequence of sounds. Unfortunately such squabbles are far too common when we’re dealing with the intricate metaphors human minds need to use to make any kind of sense of spiritual realities.

That’s the trap. Those who are too prone to take The Cosmic Doctrine as a textbook of physics or cosmology will run into the deliberate contradiction between the two metaphors we’re discussing, and either fling the book across the room because it contradicts itself, or get into a fight with some other student of The Cosmic Doctrine over whether or not the seed-atom at the core of a traveling atom can have less than ten sides. It’s painfully easy, especially at the moment, to imagine Decimalists and Multinumerists shrieking denunciations at each other for falling away from the One True Interpretation of our text, and spending so much time wallowing in the quarrel that they never get around to studying the text. The thing has happened so often…

Fortunately we can sidestep the whole issue by remembering that these are metaphors, and that they can both be good metaphors for a truth that, like all spiritual truths, cannot be grasped by the human mind by any means except metaphor. Here’s one metaphor; here’s another; imagine them both as clearly as possible, think about them, see what sense they make, and then try to get as much of a sense as you can of the structure of consciousness that both metaphors represent.

In both metaphors, we have atoms gradually working their way out from the Central Sun to the seventh Circle, on the edge of the Ring-Pass-Not. So at any given point during this phase of the formation of the Cosmos, you have certain atoms that have settled into their final places, and certain others that have worked their way out from the Central Sun but haven’t yet stopped moving. As they move outward along the tracks of one of the Rays, they absorb the influences of each of the Circles they pass through. Eventually most of them settle into a stable orbit—but not all of the atoms do this.

Whether it’s sheer density or a ten-sided prime atom at the center of their structure that does it, some atoms keep on moving even after they’ve reached the Seventh Circle. Beyond the Seventh Circle, though, there’s nowhere for them to go but the Ring-Pass-Not, and except in certain very special circumstances to be discussed later on, When they reach the outer edge of the Seventh Circle, the Ring-Pass-Not sends them spinning back down the ray toward the Central Sun, and they go straight through and out the other side along the opposite Ray.

When the Ring-Pass-Not sends them back along that Ray, in turn, they reach the Central Sun,  veer a little and go out on a different Ray. This continues until each of the ten-sided traveling atoms has passed out and returned along all twelve of the Rays.  They go outward along each Ray in a straight line, but the Ring-Pass-Not imparts a spin to them, and they make a circular movement on the seventh Circle, and repeat it on every subsequent Circle as they return to the Central Sun, absorbing the influence of each Circle from every side. (All this, remember, is still more metaphor.) Since the atoms themselves consist of nothing but movement in space, and each movement of an atom lays down a track in space that pulls further movement along its trajectory, the result is another immense increase in the complexity of the traveling atoms.

Once a traveling atom has completed the full circuit of twelve Rays, its evolution is finished for the time being, and it settles into temporary stillness in the Central Sun. Once all the traveling atoms have finished the full circuit, a phase of evolution is finished, and the Cosmos as a whole settles into a temporary stillness. As our text points out, this is the third phase in the evolution of a Cosmos. The first is the formation of the Ring-Cosmos, Ring-Chaos, and Ring-Pass-Not; the second is the transformation of the Ring-Cosmos into a disk and the genesis of the twelve Rays, the seven Circles, and the Central Sun; the third is the creation of the atoms and their sorting out by complexity.

In each case, we have an active phase of construction, and then a passive phase of equilibrium in which the patterns of movement created in the active phase settles down into a stable structure. As explained in an earlier chapter, these are governed by the rotation of the Ring-Cosmos relative to the Ring-Chaos.

As the Ring-Cosmos turns toward the plane of the Ring-Chaos, the static condition established at the end of the last cycle breaks up and a new phase of development begins.  As the Ring-Cosmos passes the Ring-Chaos and begins to move away from its plane, the patterns set in motion during the phase of development settle into stability and move toward equilibrium. Then the Ring-Cosmos reaches and passes the point of maximum distance from the Ring-Chaos, and the influence of the latter sets the cycle in motion again.

Apply this same pattern to everyday life, to magical training and practice, or to the cycles of history, and you will find that it makes sense of phenomena that the ordinary linear thinking of our culture leaves unexplained. There is always the period of change in which fresh combinations, permutations, and rhythms of action and reaction unfold, and there is always the subsequent period of rest in which the new forces find their equilibrium and settle into a relative stillness. If you want to make change in any context, you need to allow for intervals of calm between bursts of change.

Lacking those, instead of a rhythm of change and repose, you can count on setting up a rhythm of change and counter-change, in which the imbalances set in motion by too prolonged a movement to one extreme generate an equally prolonged and unbalanced movement to the other extreme—a pendulum motion going nowhere. To avoid this, stop the movement you desire while it still has room to run, so that the rest of the Cosmos can settle into stability around it in its new position, rather than dragging it back the other way. That stability then becomes the thrust-block against which a new round of change can push.

Having reviewed the process by which the turning of the Ring-Cosmos sets the great cycles of the Cosmos in motion, the text briefly notes the previous teachings about the Three Rings, and starts drawing connections between the metaphors of The Cosmic Doctrine and a variety of other concepts from religion, occultism, and science. First, the interactions of the Three Rings are briefly discussed, and compared to the Athanasian Creed, the longest and most intricate of the creeds used in western Christian churches. Here’s the part of it that Fortune is referencing:

“We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.”

Apply the same logic to the Three Rings and Fortune’s point is clear. From the initial movement in space, all Three Rings come into being; while the Ring-Cosmos is in some sense first, the Ring-Chaos second, and the Ring-Pass-Not third, all of them are implied in that original motion, and you can’t have any one of them without the others. Each is an essential part of the whole system that frames the Cosmos.

Fortune’s reference to the Athanasian Creed, though, may also be intended to hint at another part of that document:

“The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding.”

Notice here that the structure of the Christian Trinity is mirrored in the structure of the Three Rings. The Ring-Cosmos, like the Father, comes into being out of nothing—“made of none” is quite an expressive way of putting it; the Ring-Chaos, like the Son, is begotten by the motion of the Ring-Cosmos; and the Ring-Pass-Not proceeds from the interaction of the two other Rings as, in Western Christianity, the Holy Ghost proceeds from the other two members of the Trinity.

(Dion Fortune was herself an Anglican Christian; her book Mystical Meditations on the Collects is a good introduction to that end of her thought. She was also a careful student of early 20th century Rosicrucianism, a widely practiced form of Christian occultism, which she absorbed from her teacher Dr. Theodore Moriarty.  Those of my readers who are familiar with either or both of these traditions will find plenty of points of contact in the chapters ahead.)

So the Rings are compared, if not quite equated, to the Christian Trinity. The Rays are equated to the twelve signs of the Zodiac. The Circles are equated to the seven Cosmic Planes of Theosophical and Rosicrucian teaching. Then, in a sudden leap that seems to leave all talk of metaphors in the dust, it places the Central Sun in astronomical space, at a point somewhere off beyond Alpha Centauri. Once again, Fortune has laid a trap for the unwary; this also is a metaphor, and can and should be explored as such.

Notice, more generally, what our text has done in these paragraphs. Over the last five chapters, Fortune has sketched out an abstract image of the genesis of a Cosmos without connecting it explicitly to any other body of spiritual, philosophical, occult, or scientific ideas. Now, in a few short lines, she hints at a glaaxy of connections—to Christian theology, to astrology, to occult philosophy, and to science. She doesn’t work out these connections in any detail; she simply shows that they are possible, and leaves the rest to her readers—that is to say, to you.


Notes for Study:

As already noted, The Cosmic Doctrine is heavy going, especially for those who don’t have any previous exposure to occult philosophy. It’s useful to read through the assigned chapter once or twice, trying to get an overview, but after that take it a bit at a time. The best option for most people seems to be to set aside five or ten minutes a day during the month you spend on this chapter. During that daily session, take one short paragraph or half of a long one, read it closely, and think about what you’ve read, while picturing in your mind’s eye the image you’ve been given for that passage of text. There are a lot of images in this chapter, so take your time and try to imagine each one as clearly as you can.

It’s particularly useful in this chapter to take a little while to imagine one of the ten-sided traveling atoms leaving the Central Sun for the first time, drifting straight out along one of the Rays, reaching the Ring-Pass-Not, making a circular movement there, and then moving Circle by Circle back down the rays, making a circular movement in each Circle before returning to the Central Sun. Do this several times in your imagination, and notice whether it gives rise to any other images or ideas.

As you proceed through the chapter and its images, you’re likely to find yourself facing questions that the text doesn’t answer. Some of those are questions Fortune wants you to ask yourself, either because they’ll be answered later in the book or because they will encourage you to think in ways that will help you learn what the text has to say. It can be helpful to keep a notebook in which to write down such questions, as well as whatever thoughts and insights might come to you as you study the text.

Questions and comments can also be posted here for discussion. (I’d like to ask that only questions and comments relevant to The Cosmic Doctrine be posted here, to help keep things on topic.) We’ll go on to the next piece of the text on November 14. Until then, have at it!


  1. John on these phrase i think it should have a link?
    “If you’re just joining us now, please go back and read the previous commentaries, which are listed here”
    But there is nothing there.

    Thank you for your work and dedication!

  2. Quick typo check: “the transformation of the Ring-Chaos into a disk” should read “the transformation of the Ring-Cosmos into a disk”, yes?

  3. This morning I was so excited for this post that I read the chapter before going to work. The word movement really found a place in my mind, and was further brought to the fore as I stared out the window watching the trees whipping in the wind. Atoms had moved along the circles causing a disturbance and now they are seeking some equilibrium. In my minds eye, I then saw the industrial society we currently live in moving along the path of a ray, bouncing off the ring-pass-not and hurry along another ray as it seeks its equilibrium. It made sense to me of where many of the ideas you have presented in your blogs have found their framework. It is making me realize what a great honor it is to be initiated into this perspective of the Cosmos. How one person can be and make a change. How everything is a blip in a seemingly predestined plan yet that is only because of the patterns which exist. Our age and society will be forgotten but there does exist the opportunity to leave behind something of value to help combine with the movement currently happening. It’s both a very meaningful and unmeaningful perspective. A seeming paradox. Always seeking equilibrium which will always move once any other motion begins.

  4. I’ve felt a natural inclination to take a short break between pathworking works to let each settle, for example, integrating water before proceeding to air. It wasn’t intentional, just felt right. I guess that makes sense in light of this chapter.

    Help me visualize the circle at the ring-pass-not. I’m seeing the trajectory as a safety pin shape. From the middle of the pin, the atom moves to the ring-pass-not, makes a circle to stabilize and integrate, then returns along the bottom of the disc to the central stillness, out the opposite ray, makes another circle, and comes back to the central stillness. Whereas trying to continue directly could result in the ring-pass-not slapping it back to retrace its footsteps again and again. Is that close to what Fortune had in mind?

  5. Thank you for this explanation. I have a minor note on language: The translation of the Atanasian Creed you quote is slightly different from the one I would expect Dion Fortune to have known.

    You quote: “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence.” The Book of Common Prayer has “Substance”, rather than Essence. (And here we are, back at neo-Platonism.) I do not have a copy of The Cosmic Doctrine, so I am not sure if Dion Fortune is quoting the Creed–with a slight variation–in which case I’d expect she’s varying it from the normal translation for a reason.

  6. Hello John Michael,

    I’ve been reading you for quite a while and have bought (legally and legitimately) several of your books, though due to the complexity of my life at the moment, I will probably not become a magician any time soon, and my divinations have told me as much. But even if I can’t do, I can learn… and so to my (first-ever here) question.

    Fortune compares the Rays to the zodiac. She also says in the previous chapter that the prime atoms/vortices form by the interaction of the Rays and Circles. As I understand the zodiac, each sector of space corresponding to one of the signs is associated with or resonates with certain specific thought-patterns. This suggests then that each Ray has its own unique characteristics. I am not familiar with the Seven Planes, but it seems likely that each has its own characteristics, possibly like the stations on the Tree of Life or of the Druid year.

    So if that chain of logic is valid, it would seem to imply that there are differences within the population of prime atoms depending on which Ray and Circle interacted to form a particular atom. Twelve Rays and seven Circles would give 84 possible interactions. I have no idea what this would mean other than to add a deeper layer of complexity to each composite structure. Am I on to something, or am I misunderstanding the text?

    Thanks for all you do.

  7. This Anglican will have to check out Mystical Meditations on the Collects. I’ve always found the collects shockingly bland, especially when comparing a given day’s collect to it’s proper preface. All Saint’s Day is coming up, and no other day shows this dichotomy more clearly. Thanks!

  8. Eduardo, thanks for catching this! I’ll find time in the next day or two to make a page that includes links to all the Cos.Doc. posts.

    RPC, thanks for catching this as well! I’ve corrected it.

    Prizm, I know the feeling! I’m delighted to hear that the Cos.Doc is helping you make more sense of the world; that’s what it’s there for. 😉

    Kyle, that’s more or less my take on what she’s saying. Remember that the atom keeps on making circles as it goes back toward the Central Sun, and only there stops spinning and heads back out in a straight line toward the other side of the Cosmos.

    SamChevre, Fortune doesn’t quote the Creed, she just mentions it — I had to go find the text online. You can download a free copy of The Cosmic Doctrine here.

    Steve, excellent. Yes, that’s implied by the text — and it’s exactly that kind of implication that Fortune wanted students to derive from the text.

    Anthony, I’m neither an Anglican nor any other kind of Christian, so I’m far from qualified to say just now well — or how weirdly — Fortune’s meditations relate to the Collects! Please let me know; I doubt you’ll be the only Christian in the Anglican tradition who asks me about that.

  9. It seems like one of the realities that I’m discovering is that there are some consistent patterns underlying everything in life, each with various spins, but which ultimately lead back to another pattern! Habits sure do die hard!

  10. JMG,

    How important do you feel “The Great Conversation” of Western culture is within this ray which Western civilization is moving along? I get the feeling that there are things which certain beings with greater perspective are aware of which would benefit the Cosmos as it transitions from one evolution to another. Have you any idea what those things are? 😉

  11. @Eduardo Filipe Freitas Hi mate, if you copy ‘The Cosmic Doctrine’ into the search you’ll get the previous posts 🙂


    “These images are not descriptive but symbolic, and are intended to train the mind, not to inform it.”

    So not the literal truth, but something that rhymes? How far do you go with this or any other occult image? I’ve heard JMG talk about how he works well with texts and had a harder time with the image side of things, whereas I’m the complete opposite so the images come quite readily, whereas a struggle with text. If the image I conjurer up while reading is not the ‘real’ thing, but more a hint or clue, what is the ‘real’? something that shares similarity with the conjured image?

    I’ve had to go back to the beginning as I’m getting beyond my self, and rereading the initial chapter, are the ‘ring cosmos’, ‘ring chaos’ and ‘ring pass not’ all look like the sphere of protection ritual. Is this an example of that rhyme?

    Cheers 🙂

  12. Eduardo (and others who may be interested),

    Clicking the text that says “Book Club Post” at the top of the page will bring up all and only the past book club posts.

  13. The mental connection I made after working out there mental image for the traveling composite atoms was that of reincarnation, with each journey outwards from the central stillness along a ray a metaphor for a life.

    On the idea of the contradiction being a trap, it is also a most important skill, to be able to switch metaphors easily. For example not just looking at a social problems in terms of cost, but also needs of the community, then switching again to look from inside the problem as an individual caught within it. All views can reveal truth none are THE truth.

  14. John–

    The point of allowing for a period rest in order to create continued motion resonates, though it is very much at odds with how we (attempt to) work in this world. This makes sense to me, even if it grates against my impatience 😉 That part of me will just have to get used to reality, it appears.

    This whole course of study is incredibly helpful. Again, thank you for this.

  15. Sidney, delighted to hear it! I’ve already made arrangements to turn this series of commentaries into a book, so you’ll have ample chance for a second pass later on. 😉

    Prizm, in Fortune’s terminology, some tracks in space are very deeply rutted indeed. With regard to the Great Conversation, that’s a standard part of every culture; ours focuses on different themes, but if you look at East Asian cultures, say, you’ll find a parallel conversation unfolding over the centuries. As for what beings with greater perspective would think about it all, why, you’ll probably have to ask one.

    ShiZen, that’s an excellent theme for a month or so of daily meditations!

    Barefootwisdom, thanks for this; I used that as a link in the text early on.

    Zebby, good. By and large, once you’ve learned how to avoid a trap, the skills you develop doing so can be applied in many other contexts…

    David, did you ever push a kid on a swing? You shove, then get out of the way, then shove again once the swing’s motion has peaked and it’s starting to go the other way. The logic is much the same here, and no question, it works better than trying to push continuously the same way.

  16. “Apply this same pattern to everyday life, to magical training and practice, or to the cycles of history, and you will find that it makes sense of phenomena that the ordinary linear thinking of our culture leaves unexplained. There is always the period of change in which fresh combinations, permutations, and rhythms of action and reaction unfold, and there is always the subsequent period of rest in which the new forces find their equilibrium and settle into a relative stillness. If you want to make change in any context, you need to allow for intervals of calm between bursts of change.”

    Hmm. This sounds exactly like what I did with my temporary break from the Dolmen Arches Course. Taking time to process what had come up and then diving back into it seemed like a good idea at the time (even if the break was much shorter than I thought it would end up being). It’s nice to know someone else thinks so too, given that the usual pattern people seek is constant progress.

    I’ve sometimes thought that that, more than anything, is what’s keeping so many people I know from achieving anything with their lives….

  17. Wait a second: are the ten sided atoms expressions of the ten Sephiroth? If so, their journey around the Zodiac can be the evolution of souls through the twelve signs, right?

  18. Anonymous, you may well be right. The ability to take time off when it’s needed, to refocus on something else for a while, to shift to a different tack from time to time — those are essential to a healthy life as well as to any sort of success in the world, and yet our culture’s conventional wisdom blinds people to that.

    Juan Pablo, excellent! Yes, indeed. Keep your eyes wide; there’s a lot of stealth Cabala in this text.

  19. JMG,

    Please help me see if I am following this. Suppose a person is like a prime (?), traveling atom desiring to travel all twelve rays, who is skilled (if not a master) in woodwoking, building, gardening, wild edible and medicinal plant gathering, fermenting, singing, dancing, writing….

    Yet was once described by a former best friend who was and remains a COO of a Fortune 500 corporation, as a “loser, worthless piece of ****, waste of a life”, and who sometimes feels working poor stuck in this circle, sometimes devolving into self loathing with such words ringing within and emanating out of his mouth toward himself in times of stress….

    Maybe that person might need to focus on his evolution by meditation, to master the chaos to become more the master of what he knows, to continue to travel….


  20. The image of the atoms moving along the rays to the Central Sun and resting there for a while reminds me of the idea that there is a time of disembodies rest between incarnations.Regarding the post of Anonymous, I have in my own life found that is a good idea not to do the same thing the whole time, so that my life can be more balanced. That was a while before this post.

  21. John–

    The image of pushing a child on a swing (or “pumping” when on a swing oneself) makes an immense amount of sense.

    Not to open a particular political issue, but with respect to political/social movements generally: is the tendency of people in these movements to constantly push-push-push one of the reasons so many of those efforts fail to produce the results they desire? (In addition to any number of other reasons, of course.)

  22. Spiritual evolution is what came to my mind when I read this section also Platonic solids. Do the atoms of different shapes match up with each other to form the really complex ones? I could see that that would make some really fantastic shapes and complexities. Also do they pick up more atoms as they progress along each of the rays and through each of the circles? I didn’t see that what was written would prohibit that, but it is hard reading.

  23. A few insights about the previous chapters: It seems the concepts of vortices and paths may be used to understand the different methods of dealing with evil from Chapter 2. The statement “when you resist evil you lock up good” can be understood as the crossing of two tangential forces that sets up a stable vortex. The vortex then becomes a primal atom that becomes a stable part of the Cosmos. We thus “lock up good” and “create something new.” However, if we resist evil with evil, we have two parallel forces, which instead of forming a vortex, will follow the same path out to the Ring-Pass-Not where they will dissipate and resolve into their own elements. So when the Great One said “Resist not evil” and “evil is the scavenger of the Gods,” one meaning is when evil is left alone, it creates a path that other evils will follow by attraction to the edge of the Ring-Cosmos and their influences will be lost.

    One other point is that the concept of good locking up evil to create something new, a primal atom, is one way of understanding why everything in existence is dual in nature.

  24. A lot of this is making me think of astrology, or rather re-think about astrology. If atoms are collections of motions that are stable in themselves, but have a larger path through space, that seems a lot like a house. Before this I thought of a house like a bucket that holds a quality about a person, but this is making me think of it like a snap shot of a path of motion. The rays seem a lot like Sun signs, especially considering they pass through Fortune’s central Sun. So, you have these spinning bundles of directions and forces passing through a ray and when they get to the furthest expression of the ray and can go no further they are sent along a related but different ray; that seems a lot like the progression of the signs, like the forces of Cancer have elements of personal service towards community, progressing to Virgo as a desire to perfect the personal expression, progressing to Libra to balance the personal and community expressions.

    I was also thinking about how the stability achieved by the big atoms in the central sun mirrors the equilibrium of the ring-cosmos and ring-chaos.

  25. As I was trying to focus on the first two paragraphs this morning, my thumb seemed to surrounded by light, which was over a paragraph. I decided to read that paragraph, which happened to be the paragraph with the “centifrugal” typo. As I read it, I thought about how you mentioned there were some ideas that were seemingly at odds with one another. So this morning I’ve been thinking about reconciliation. The Bible also has lots of ideas which seem to be at odds with one another. A god of love, yet I recall how he punished a child for jeering at a prophet allowing a bear to maul the child. How does one reconcile those contradictions? And perhaps that is one of the points. There are many things in life which are seemingly at odds with one another but we must constantly challenge ourselves. And why not? Things are consistently, stably changing.

  26. A couple of initial thoughts–

    “Fortunately we can sidestep the whole issue by remembering that these are metaphors, and that they can both be good metaphors for a truth that, like all spiritual truths, cannot be grasped by the human mind by any means except metaphor. Here’s one metaphor; here’s another; imagine them both as clearly as possible, think about them, see what sense they make, and then try to get as much of a sense as you can of the structure of consciousness that both metaphors represent.”

    I’ve lately felt the need to rely on the divine guidance and protection pretty constantly. The thing is, at various times throughout the day it makes sense to call upon the gods of the Druid revival, especially as you present them in the Celtic Golden Dawn, and especially the four elemental gods and the trinity of Hu, Ced and Hesus– and at other times in the same day it makes sense to call upon the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, to pray to the Blessed Virgin. Both feel right, under the right circumstances. Yesterday I was in the woods, in a deep and dark place that felt very strongly like the energies of Cernunnos and Ceridwen, and I called upon them while walking through that place, asking their blessing and protection. Later I was at home, doing the dishes and feeling difficult emotions, and it felt perfectly natural to pray the Our Father, 3 Hail Marys and Glory Be as part of a prayer to be released from them. Druids, being Druids, will probably understand how this can be better than other pagans, but it’s easy to see both pagans and sacramental Christians being offended by this. And yet it makes perfect sense if, like you say, all these names are metaphors for truths that, like all spiritual truths, cannot be grasped by the human mind.

    “If you want to make change in any context, you need to allow for intervals of calm between bursts of change.

    Lacking those, instead of a rhythm of change and repose, you can count on setting up a rhythm of change and counter-change, in which the imbalances set in motion by too prolonged a movement to one extreme generate an equally prolonged and unbalanced movement to the other extreme—a pendulum motion going nowhere.”

    Of course the first thing I thought of was American politics. Among other examples…

    In the late 80s and early 90s there was a major push for Political Correctness on the American Left. This led to a counter-movement against political correctness by the Right, which culminated first in an anti-PC that was as bad as PC (“Oh, sorry for not being POLITICALLY CORRECT” became a way of justifying bad behavior) and then the stifling “patriotic correctness” of the Bush years, in which to criticize the president in any way was to demonstrate that you just Hate America. And love terrorism. And probably are an anti-semite, too, since American and Israeli neo-con foreign policy went hand-in-hand. And of course the reaction to this was today’s stifling and toxic Social Justice movement, which seems to me to be significantly worse than the earlier wave of PC– though, granted, I was a child at that time. I’ve been expecting for some time now that the backlash against this will be a right-wing regime of speech policing that is significantly worse than that which we endured during the Bush years…. and on it goes, with no end in sight.

    Immigration is a similar issue. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that a period of high immigration should be proceeded by a period of little or even zero immigration, in order to allow the cultural and social systems of American life to stabilize themselves. This period could be followed by another period of heavy immigration. In fact, we have this, but not in a deliberate way, so that both immigration and anti-immigration periods take the form of backlashes, which include high levels of hostility toward both either immigrants or the native population. It’s hard to imagine a rational conversation in which– speaking just on a cultural, and not an economic level– the yang of immigration and the changes it brings and the yin of stability achieved by closed borders and assimilation were balanced against one another, as yin and yang must be in a healthy system of any kind. It’s hard to imagine, but it would be nice if we could have it, in good faith and with the use of in-door voices by all.


    “The Ring-Cosmos, like the Father, comes into being out of nothing—“made of none” is quite an expressive way of putting it; the Ring-Chaos, like the Son, is begotten by the motion of the Ring-Cosmos; and the Ring-Pass-Not proceeds from the interaction of the two other Rings as, in Western Christianity, the Holy Ghost proceeds from the other two members of the Trinity.”

    It’s interesting to think of how this teaching would be modified by the Eastern Christian teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone… but I don’t have the understanding either of the Eastern Tradition nor of The Cosmic Doctrine to work through that thought. I wonder if anyone else here does?

  27. I started reading the Mystical Qabalah, to try to understand the 7 circles. I’ve only read a few chapters. It’s very interesting, and tons of overlap with the Cosmic Doctrine! I especially like the concept of “overflowing” to explain evolution.

    My guess on “why 7 circles?” is now 10 minus 3. The first three Sephiroth are represented by the 3 rings, and the 7 planes represent the remaining 7 Sephiroth.

    One of my favorite video games as a teen, Final Fantasy 7, had a song called Sephiroth, where a choir is chanting his name. Now I can’t get that out of my head. 🙂

  28. Thank you for this discussion, JMG and all. An association that came strongly to mind for me, is Stephen Jay Gould’s theory of “punctuated equilibrium” in the evolution of life forms. The atoms which have completed their evolution, resting in the central stillness, are using only as much energy as is needed for them to “be” until change is induced by what Fortune terms a “night of manifestation” – the swinging of the Ring-Chaos. Likewise, life forms are not led to evolve, in the biological sense, unless there is the thrust block of a change – such as climate change or natural disasters.

    I also got quite excited about the resemblances with Giordano Bruno’s memory wheels and systems. I took several months recently to read through Frances Yates’ book (the Art of Memory) alongside your translation of Bruno’s Shadows, and for me these images of Fortune’s illuminate what appears to have been Bruno’s endeavour – to subject any and all intellectual ideas to all other possible influences, by passing each idea through astrological or other spheres of influence in turn. And now I begin to understand why divination is so important!

  29. I’m unable to find a pf online that matches the reading assignment. I thought it had been linked to before. If someone can find it, would you be able to keep that link for each monthly post.

  30. William, that’s always a good place to start. It’s also worth remembering that being well-adjusted to a sick and dysfunctional system is not a sign of health…

    Booklover, I’m pretty sure Fortune intended that analogy. We’ll be seeing more analogies of the same kind as we move from the Cosmos to the individual solar system, and from there to the individual soul.

    David, ding! We have a winner. Successful movements for social change set specific, clearly defined goals, achieve them, and then spend a while — sometimes quite a while — making use of whatever right or benefit has come from the change, before setting new goals and pursuing them. First Wave feminists understood this; they focused all their efforts on winning the right to vote, got it, and then paused to develop their own institutions (such as the League of Women Voters) and convince those who disagreed with their cause that giving women the vote wasn’t the end of the world; only a generation later did a new wave of feminism take off, seeking the next round of changes. Unfortunately Second Wave feminists didn’t have anything like as much common sense as their grandmothers, and having won one set of battles, just kept pushing; the result was the inevitable backlash. If they’d paused, consolidated their gains, and let the rest of society get used to the new arrangement, there would have been no backlash, and the next wave would be getting under way right about now.

    Kay, those are excellent questions that the text doesn’t definitively answer. As we’ll see, in the next (fourth) phase of Cosmic evolutions, the traveling atoms head out again from the Central Sun, and this time they do definitely pick up more atoms as they go.

    Dan, excellent! Yes in both cases.

    Truly, I’m quite sure that the similarities to astrology are intended; in Fortune’s time, if you were an occultist, you studied astrology as a matter of course, and it would have been exactly her style to weave astrological themes as well as Cabalistic ones into this set of images for meditation.

    Prizm, a fine, crisp meditation on a core theme of our text. Thank you.

    Steve, Dion Fortune would have understood that as well. She was perfectly capable of invoking Isis in one ritual and Christ in another, understanding both (and many others) as ways that a divine reality ultimately incomprehensible to human beings reaches out to us.

    Radha, good! Students of this material back in Fortune’s time would probably have started out working with The Mystical Qabalah before going onto The Cosmic Doctrine, so you’re following the traditional course of study.

    Helen, thank you for this! It hadn’t occurred to me to connect Fortune’s metaphor with Gould’s theory, but you’re quite right — it’s the same concept in both.

    Onething, try this link for the revised edition.

  31. Dear JMG: There was a glitch the first time I tried to post—if this is redundant, please delete!

    I was struck by some observations Fortune made in the last 2 paragraphs of this chapter, and was hoping you might comment on them:

    She says that when atoms become composite they take on more ‘weight’, which launches them into a plane farther from the Central Sun, and also makes them susceptible to more influences, and because of that, less free to move.

    My image for understanding that last statement is the way social ties and property make it difficult for a person to relocate geographically.

    Then, Fortune goes on to say that “it is only when the extremely elaborate atoms of the Seventh Circle form alliances that they start back up the spiral to the Central Sun.”

    Is she saying that these additional alliances make the atoms too complex to remain in the Seventh Circle, so that they are rebuffed by the Ring Pass Not and sent back?

    Do these atoms divest themselves of alliances, complexity and weight as they spiral back through the planes inhabited by simpler atoms, or do they retain them all into their next outward journey? She has said of atoms, that by definition “though composite, when once formed they cannot be resolved, but are permanently units.” Do they perhaps divest themselves of the forms that imposed the complexity, while retaining the internal “geometry” of stresses imposed by their experiences?

    I had been imagining the human microcosm’s spiraling return to the Center as something that takes place after a climax of development and complexity in full maturity, with the social and physical retrenchments of old age, followed by separation of the various bodies at death, and physical disintegration.

    Since extremely complex atoms do not “belong” on the inner planes, I imagine that their next journey out from the Center to the 7th plane must happen very quickly. And then, since such complex atoms do not “belong” on the 6th-1st planes, what does that indicate about the spiraling path back in to the Center?

    Am I reading Dion Fortune correctly here, or am I misunderstanding something?

    Your commentary on The Cosmic Doctrine, along with the reader commentary, is hugely valuable!

  32. And i am guessing here the tarot can be superimposed to augment the metaphor
    12 Trumps – rays
    The seven cards 1,2,3,16,19,20,21- rings – but which to which ?
    The three 0,12,20 , cosmos chaos RPN which to which ?

    See what floats up !

  33. Picturing the atoms radiating outwards from the Central Sun got me thinking of how radar operates. Atoms are transmitted outwards like the electromagnetic waves of radar. They can be reflected off of what they encounter and then return to the transmitter, relaying information about the surrounding area.

    If that’s the case, then atoms are like the sensory organs of the Cosmos or Central Sun. They are how it gathers information and learns about itself.

    If we were to think of the atoms as the various created beings, then they (and we) are the conscious sensory apparatus of the Cosmos. We gather information through being alive and experiencing all the forces present in the Cosmos, responding to the various stimuli, and returning to find balance in the center.

    At least, that’s what showed up in meditation!

  34. The importance of alternating patterns of activity and rest came up tonight in the book I’m reading, “Hare Brain, Tortise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less,” by Guy Claxton. I know, but once you get past the rather unpromising title, the author puts together a nice analysis (or perhaps reflection?) on two different types of thinking, which he calls d-mode (logical, rational problem solving) and intuition. He quotes Nobel prize winner Karl Lorenz: “This apparatus…which intuits, plays in a very mysterious manner, because it keeps all known facts afloat, waiting for them to fall into place, like a jigsaw puzzle. And if you try to press, if you try to permutate your knowledge, nothing comes of it. You must give it a sort of mysterious pressure, and then a rest, and suddenly, BING, the solution comes.” And George Spencer Brown, on Newton’s approach: “To arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practiced, requires years of contemplation. Not activity. Not reasoning. Not calculating. Not busy behavior of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply _bearing in mind_ what it is that one needs to know.” Contrast that with the constant meaningless bustling and nattering that is the hallmark of our modern society, and suddenly the utter stupidity and vapidity of so much of public discourse and action makes sense, in fact seems inevitable. The pace of modern life we hear so much about includes no time for contemplation, inactivity, rumination, and our increased efforts to reason our way out only make things worse. Perhaps we need to choose the right things to bear in mind, ‘give it a sort of mysterious pressure’, and then wait quietly to see what settles out. Hmm, sounds kind of familiar…
    –Heather in CA

  35. “When…. they form alliances and become composite, their weight, that is to say, their susceptibility to influences, is increased and susceptibility to influences is all that weight is esoterically. That fact forms the basis of limitation and flight through space. Cut off your susceptibility to influence and you can move freely.”

    This may also be a trap, but it seems that DF is offering us here a way of suspending or sidestepping “limitation”. All it takes is cutting off susceptibility to influence. Given that the “weighty” atom is already a composite of many atoms, each of which have experienced innumerable forces (or influences?) both before coming together, and together as a unit, each of which remains a track in space forever, this does seem to be the same as requiring the atom (or ourselves as metaphorical composite atoms) to cut itself off from it’s history. This sounds almost Faustian – both the temptation of moving freely, flying through space without limitation, and the inbuilt requirement to cut oneself off from one’s history (accrued influences) and relationships (current influences).

    Much to meditate on here.

    Also, how lovely a phrase is “sphere of swirl”? 🙂

  36. JMG –

    At a certain point in reading through your discussion, my mind automatically shifted from visualizing the movement of the atoms along the rays to picturing the movement of the Yang-style Taijiquan long form. Almost immediately thereafter I felt my qi beginning to follow the visualization, spiraling out from the lower dantian toward the extremities and then back again.

    The movements of Taijiquan are continuous spirals with no breaks or pauses, which is why it is so important to come to rest at the end of the form and allow the qi to settle back fully into the lower dantian. This is as much part of the form as the motion itself; you can cause problems if you set your qi in motion strongly and then don’t allow it to return to rest.

    This also reminds me of the Daoist philosophy behind the foundational posture of Xing Yi: the San Ti stance. In the style of Xing Yi that I studied, you begin in the Wuji posture, representing the undifferentiated infinite. This moves next through the Taiji posture, which represents the unity (or “one thing”) that emerges from the Wuji and that brings forth the Yin and Yang (the “two things”). Finally, the body opens with the feet and hands moving apart into the San Ti posture, representing the bringing forth of the third essential from which an infinite set of possibilities can emerge.

    This pattern reflects the Daoist saying that the Dao produces the One, One generates Two, Two generates Three, and Three generates all the things in the world.

    It’s always interesting to meditate on how these exact themes appear almost identically in both eastern and western esoteric thought…

  37. KKA, good. To take your metaphor of social ties and possessions a little further, imagine someone in a Midwestern town who becomes a celebrity — let’s say she writes a book that becomes a bestseller. As that happens, though she retains her existing friendships and possessions, she moves out into a wider world — interacting with news media, reviewers, other authors, and the literary public — which brings changes and experiences she wouldn’t have had if she’d just kept on working as a librarian in South Bend, Indiana.

    The atoms that begin the journey through the twelve rays are highly complex, and they become almost unimaginably more so in the course of their passage through the rays. As we’ll see next month, when they leave the Central Sun in the next phase of Cosmic evolution, a different principle determines where they settle out.

    Uxurious, a solid guess. Figuring out how that sort of correspondence works is the kind of exercise Fortune liked to leave to her students. I’ll look forward to seeing how you work it all out. 😉

    Stefania, I like that metaphor!

    Heather, exactly. Exactly. That’s why discursive meditation is so powerful a tool for thinking; it helps the practitioner get past the chatter and start accessing the mind’s deeper potentials.

    Scotlyn, good. Very good. That’s the underlying logic behind Fortune’s comments about evil in a previous chapter. If you oppose something you become susceptible to its influence, and limit your freedom of action — which is something worth doing in some situations, but it’s not the only game in town. You can also let it mosey on past on its way to the Ring-Pass-Not, and remain uninfluenced by it.

    Ailin, an excellent point. The circles and spirals that define the Cosmos in The Cosmic Doctrine make it a particularly good fit to Taijiquan — I’m thinking here among other things of Step Forward and Punch as I was taught it, where the fist moves out in an apparently more or less straight line (actually a subtle spiral, of course), and then draws back in a more obviously curved pattern involving the other hand. As for your broader point, which is also good, I tend to think that the reason the basic teachings of Taoism and Western occultism are so similar is that they’re talking about the same spiritual and philosophical realities — the differences between the traditions are partly a matter of emphasis, and partly a matter of the very different modes of practice.

  38. The statement “The Central Sun is that point in space which would be reached if a line from the sun of your system were drawn to the star known as ‘Alpha Centauri’ and thence projected.” is interesting because it is written as if stated by someone who lives outside our solar system. The term Central Sun is also written as a proper noun where the sun of out solar system is not. Our sun and solar system to this greater intelligence may just be a complex atom traversing and evolving in the ring/plane system of a greater Primal Trinity. A nice thought to keep one humble, and thanks to this greater intelligence for watching over and guiding us.

  39. By the way, I wanted to mention — month after month, I’m impressed by the seriousness with which so many readers are taking these commentaries and the amount of hard mental work so many of you are obviously putting into The Cosmic Doctrine. That’s always something that a teacher of occultism hopes to see! Many, many thanks to all of you.

  40. I’m struck by the difference between atoms (which Fortune finally allows us to call ‘matter’) and forces. Both are ultimately the same thing- just movement in space- yet scale and structure give them very different characteristics.

    Ever since reading your book ‘A World Full of Gods’ I’ve been playing in my head with ideas of monotheism, classical polytheism as you describe it, and Hindu polytheism, which seems to combine both. If God is the Unmanifest, then all deities and beings in the Cosmos are ultimately of the same origin and substance, only manifesting at different levels of complexity. My question for the last little while has been, on what level does it make sense to speak of discrete gods and goddesses with individual motivations and wills, and on what level doesn’t it?

    Now I’m asking myself a different question. Are deities more like atoms or more like forces? The Rays and Circles are more or less discrete entities, but less so than the atoms. What I think I’m describing is a middle perspective between classical monotheism and classical polytheism.

  41. Yes, it is interesting that the Orthodox Church actually broke with the Roman in part over the issue of the wording in the creed, which in the original Nicene creed from about 360 or 380 or so, states that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. Actually, that is biblical. Jesus stated it that way in the gospel. The Orthodox church says that the Roman way is not only an illegitimate change, but that it diminishes the person of the Holy Spirit. I have tended to agree with this as the Holy Spirit in western churches tends to be tacked on here or there as almost an afterthought, whereas in the Orthodox Church they are meticulously even handed regarding the Trinity. The Orthodox Church also says that the Holy Spirit is the uncreated energies of God.
    They also say that the wording of this ‘proceeding from the Father and the Son’ in the creed was a later error that got out of hand and couldn’t be corrected. But I did not know about this Athanasian creed, and it actually slightly predates the Nicene council, so obviously there has been these two ways of interpreting it for a long time.

    It’s not always easy to draw parallels with the various trinities and cosmic beliefs that use the number 3. Certainly with the three rings, it works very well with this Athanasian creed.

    My own interpretation of the Christian Trinity is that God the Father is of course the missing feminine element, and is God the Mother. Mother, Son and Spirit. She is the mother because she is the void of pure potential, the dark and unknown abyss from which universes manifest. The Source. Obviously to birth a cosmos is feminine. The Word (son) is the mind of God and what I call the organizing force. To be sure, without this Word, nothing that was made could be made – because it creates structure! How it’s born I am not sure but what I see is a union between chaos, the unmanifest, the void – and the incredible way that life and the universe is filled with order and rays and spheres and cycles and DNA and cell membranes, and, and, and….I find it very masculine, it’s all about structure.

    Well the Holy Spirit is God’s spirit, the nonlocal, the ether, the plasma, the life force. The unity in motion, the unmanifest moving through the manifest, the bridge.

    An analogy I have heard is the sun – the body of the sun equates to the Father (really the Mother) and the heat of the sun is the Son, and the light is the Spirit. You see they are all one and they all arise from one another and you can’t have any in isolation yet none are identical either. But the body of the sun is yet the source of the other two.

  42. First of all, thank you for bringing The Cosmic Doctrine down to Earth for me and others. I am confident I would have been up a creek without a paddle without this series of posts and their commentaries. The study of this book in particular has made a thousand more occult books that were misunderstood by me seem well within reach given time and discursive meditation.

    Going back to metaphors, modern people tend to carry the curse of thinking literally: hence people taking the Bible and Q’uran at face value and fighting wars over semantics, like the scene with the shoe vs. the gourd in the Life of Brian. In my college years, my friend and I went to see a film called Prêt-à-Porter about the fashion industry. She kept waiting through the movie for Prêt-à-Porter to show up as the starring role, not realizing it is the French term “ready to wear”. I’d make fun of her if I hadn’t been similarly naive during many occasions in my life, with no end in sight.

    The first image that came to mind when Fortune described the atoms and their sides was rain drops on a windowpane and how some slip downward fast, join others, and drip off in pools as others seem to stay put. Like the other readers, there are lots of images flooding in and making sense where before, obscure books like this seemed hopeless. Thanks in advance for a lifetime of gifts, JMG.

  43. I just want to say to the commentators as well as JMG, your essay and comments are really appreciated. I don’t feel as though I have anything meaningful to add to the conversation other than my appreciation for the conversation in general. What a gift.

  44. JMG–re Second Wave Feminism–part of the problem is that the push of the feminists for greater access to financial control, good jobs, education and careers overlapped with the point in the economic cycle at which resource depletion was starting to kick in, the 1970s. The result was that while some women were fighting for prestigious careers a larger number of women were being pushed into the workplace as two jobs became necessary to support a family. This led to resentment and backlash from both the men who felt unmanned by no longer being able to do the male job of supporting a family and from the women who did find housekeeping, childcare and so forth a worthy use of their time. And in reality women got stuck doing both jobs without family leave, child care and societal support that some other nations offer. Getting the vote was a clear and easily defined goal. The goals of second wave feminism were less easy to define, and a lot less easy to achieve, and arguably have not been achieved..So how would the movement have known when to stop?

  45. Thinking about the journey of the atoms along a Ray out to the Ring-Pass-Not, then bouncing off and coming back to the centre, to travel out again past the same circles but on a different Ray – ‘feeling [the Ring-Pass-Not’s] force from all angles’. It seems a lot like a person’s journey through life – we experience similar circumstances repeatedly, but due to our previous journeying we’re not the same person as last time, and each encounter changes us again for the next repeat. Scale it up past a single lifetime and now it’s a metaphor for reincarnation.

    Thank you for this series; I know I wouldn’t have gotten this far without a guide. It’s a very, very big metaphor.

  46. Hi John Michael,

    As a fellow of the ‘centrifrugal’ way of life, I salute Dion and her foresight for understanding the one true way… 🙂

    I’m getting a sense of creation and consumption all in one circular motion with your words, but will have to dwell upon them more. Incidentally, I often feel that it is a deliberate ploy to get people to busy themselves and fixate upon abstract goals rather than peering out, considering and wondering about the world that exists about them. I see that playing out in peoples lives where they have little time for reflection, and I can’t but help think that this is a deliberate construction. But other than a vague sense that it is so, I have no real comparisons to draw other than my own experiences and historical accounts from books. Dunno.



    Hi Petervanerp,

    Thanks for the shout out last week! 🙂 You may be interested to learn that I’m considering completely re-wiring the battery room so as to incorporate everything I’ve learned over the years and also reduce the issue of inductance from the inverter. This stuff is inordinately complicated and it just isn’t a set and forget system. It would be nice if it was…


  47. Re: Rita’s post,
    The question of when the movement would have known to stop is a very practical one. It is clear to me that there are cycles such that certain times are better for pushing, creating and starting new things, and other times are best for consolidating your gains and building a solid base from which to push farther. At the highest level I assume you look to astrology to read where on the cycle you are at the time. Would the point on the cycle translate down through all the microcosms? Could a microcosm’s own cycle be out of phase with the higher cycles?

    More important to me, if you can’t yet make sense of astrology is there another way to see when to stop pushing?

    In the example of feminism, I’m sure that getting the vote was a clearly defined goal, but also sure that the women driving the movement had further goals-such as electing women to office-but stopped pushing in order to consolidate their gains first. In the second wave, after being accepted into the workplace the inequality of treatment would have been painfully obvious, and so the temptation to keep pushing would be irresistable.

    Also want to second Tude’s sentiment: thanks to all of you for the conversation. As someone just beginning practice (CGD) with no previous occult knowledge, the Cosmic Doctrine is a bit too abstract for me at this point, but I’m learning a lot from listening in.

  48. Regarding the concept of periods of change and instability, followed by periods of equilibrium, this reminds me of Gramsci’s idea of the Interregnum. Gramsci saw this period of instability in a generally negative way, with its “morbid symptoms”, which, watching politics unfold in the UK at the moment, seem to consist of the devotees of the old order losing their minds, and their new challengers often reaching back to atavistic ideas.

  49. Scotlyn, JMG

    I was also considering the paragraph that mentions ‘susceptibility to influences is all that weight is esoterically…cut off your susceptibility to influence and you can move freely.’

    So…we have atoms streaming outwards from the central sun. At this stage, they are very simple and light as they are not yet under the influence of very many forces. They could be thought of as energy, vibrating at a very high rate, existing only on the spiritual plane or on the innermost circles closest to the Central Sun. As they journey outwards they gradually begin to slow down as they are acted on by the various forces. They get heavier and heavier as they go, and undergo a change of state from energy to gas to liquid and finally to solid, the heaviest state of matter. At this point they are under the influence of a large number of forces and their vibrational rate has slowed considerably. So, as the atoms gain complexity they gain more weight, which is another way of saying they become susceptible to more forces acting on them.

    From an esoteric point of view, the evolution of the individual, or the return path of the atom would involve somehow gradually starting to lose this weight, or somehow cutting oneself off from the forces. Although that is a bit hard to conceive of considering the forces ‘form the framework of the universe,’ at the very least we could hope to be fully conscious of the forces instead of unconsciously being under their influence.

    As a simple example, let’s say my society with its materialistic focus on progress tells me I must be a successful career person, drive a fancy car and live in a McMansion etc. Once I (hopefully) begin to evolve esoterically, I will no longer blindly be led about by this influence or force of society. The force is still there, as other people around me are influenced by it and fall into its track in space, but it ceases to compel me or guide my actions and decisions. I could now decide to do what I really want instead of just unconsciously following along with what society tells me to do and taking the path of least resistance.

    So it would seem that the esoteric work of an individual’s evolution is going to involve somehow creating resistance to the effects of the forces. It’s going to involve some kind of work or effort to get out of the tracks in space, to get free from the influence of the various forces. If this book does actually turn out to be about occult philosophy and not physics or chemistry, then I’m hopeful that Dion will give us some instruction as to how we might go about doing these things.

  50. Yes, this is an amazing ride. The first time I read Cos.Doc, I knew it was really something. Now, reading and rereading, after rereading again, and with your insights, I’m beginning to think I might be able to get my fingertips onto it. I noticed long ago that the master’s touch was light, and that every time I picked up something new I tended to over do and over correct. Since working with the circuit of force involves working with opposites and their influences, it would be nice to spend less time in the wildly overreaching and over-correcting phases. Your comment “instead of a rhythm of change and repose, you can count on setting up a rhythm of change and counter-change, in which the imbalances set in motion by too prolonged a movement to one extreme generate an equally prolonged and unbalanced movement to the other extreme” and the structural understanding Cos.Doc is describing are very helpful. It seems that an action in a specific direction should be careful, and a lag time should be expected, before gauging the amount of impact. It seems so simple, like adding salt to soup. I’m looking forward to when you release your related book. This is so fascinating!

  51. I found this section of CosDoc to be truly fascinating. The point about change followed by stasis is a phenomenon that surrounds us in nature in terms of the course of the day (dawn and dusk being the transitions and day and night being stasis) and the year (spring and autumn being the seasons of change and summer and winter the seasons of stasis). Why modern Western society cannot fathom the wisdom of this approach is totally beyond me.
    On the social front, I note that Mahatma Gandhi had only a few big campaigns in his Indian independence struggle. He waited enormous amounts of time (for example, 1919 to 1930) while other freedom fighters impatiently gnashed their teeth eager for the next battle with the British Raj. But Gandhiji wouldn’t budge: he waited until the gains of the previous campaign had reached full fruition before determining the next move.

  52. Successful movements for social change set specific, clearly defined goals, achieve them, and then spend a while — sometimes quite a while — making use of whatever right or benefit has come from the change, before setting new goals and pursuing them.

    This is something I’ve thought of before: if giving in to someone means they’re going to demand even more from you, at some point you’re going to stop giving in, even when the request is otherwise reasonable. I suspect that’s part of why the movement for trans equality was so easy to derail: coming on the heels of the victory for same-sex marriage, it often felt—and I say this as a supporter!—like there wasn’t even supposed to be a discussion; everyone just has to accept this now. This despite Republicans’ best attempts to make it relevant and attractive to cisgender people by pushing absurd bathroom laws.

    This is also part of another problem in our society, that the concepts of rights and responsibilities have been effectively decoupled. When the two go together, and an increase in one comes with an increase in the other, you can have an effective motivational structure. When they’re decoupled, you get some profoundly perverse incentives and institutions.

  53. Ron M

    Thank you for your insight re the seasons and the CosDoc model! Living in Australia I have for many years, off and on, been trying to come to some ecologically and spiritually appropriate mental model of our local seasons. Maybe it wouldn’t seem obvious to others, but in trying to decide which religious/spiritual/occult traditions and rituals might work for me in my area this seems to matter a lot!

    We are in a frosty temperate area with a very hot dry summers so the inherited Northern European/English model of Spring/rebirth-Summer/ripening-Autumn/maturity-Winter/death and associated spiritual imagery doesn’t really fit. If you try and shoehorn it in we very much have two ‘mild death’ periods – Summer and Winter and two ‘less intense rebirth’ periods – Spring and Autumn. Which seems … awkward. Middle Eastern sourced religions (themes of progression towards death as heat) and Scandinavian spiritual traditions (themes of progression towards death as extreme cold and snow) also haven’t felt quite right to me here.

    Even more complicated if you consider trying to accommodate the local indigenous model as, although not much has been published, it seems likely to have had six or eight seasons of wildly different lengths which related to a progression in the pulses of availability of certain food stuffs (eg the short but intense ‘season’ for eating lots of migrating Bogong Moths and getting fat before the coldest period).

    However, I can definitely see a locally appropriate seasonal model alternating stasis and change instead, along the lines of: Spring/solar energy ramp up – Early Summer/burst of change – Mid Summer until Autumn rains/consolidation and bunkering down – Autumn rainy period/water energy ramp up – Late Autumn/burst of change – Winter/consolidation and bunkering down. This corresponds well with major climatic influences and peaks and droughts of local foods and has a lot of interesting implications spiritual and otherwise.

  54. Reading the previous chapter of this book changed my consciousness somehow. Trying to assign meaning to what changed later I’d say it got me out of my ‘thinking mind’ or an excessive identification with it.

    I had an unusual ‘dream’ that night where I was partly awake and partly dreaming. I was vibrating at a different level, there was a kind of shimmering sound, and there was a sense of an external presence. At times felt frightened — why I would feel frightened I can’t understand, as it was so beautiful. It kind of reminded me of how I felt when a Lakota-trained person did a shamanic healing on me and I felt connected & balanced like I never had before, and felt a vibration. In another part of this ‘dream’ a woman walked toward me and handing me something — a book I think.
    I’m amazed how writing can do this. Having worked with music a lot I can easily pick out patterns in writing — there is always a rhythm unique to each individual, but can change some according to moods — but this is something different. Perhaps she is very deliberately laying down a track, or perhaps in an unusual state of consciousness when writing it.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading this chapter too, but I’m a little frightened so I keep putting it off.

  55. @Stefania – thank you so much for your thoughts, you have definitely helped me visualize things much clearer, and have inspired me to continue on with the reading.

    It is extremely difficult for me to think in the way I believe this book wants me to think, or is guiding me to think. But I have this overwhelming feeling that if I am to come to any sort of greater understanding of who I am I need to try.

  56. While thinking about the complex atoms making their circuit through the rays, what sticks out to me most is that the atoms go out along the rays in a straight line, and then begin to receive influence from the seven circles only on the way back. This would imply to me that the atoms are receiving the most complex influences first, and then the influences become progressively less complex as they approach the Central Sun again. I’m still contemplating what this could mean, but it seemed significant to me.

  57. Hi JMG,

    I found I actually needed to take this book in slower than you are doing it with us even. At least in the way I’d been trying to do it, so now I have read up to chapter 4 and I’ll keep reading your guides and stay up to your point in the book, but I will not worry about all the close readings right now and do them with time. It’s just too much to take in and try to work through all at once. I think this is maybe like you are talking about though, giving my thinking the time to catch up to these ideas.

    I mentioned this before to you but I’ve found these ideas incredibly widely applicable, almost like an invisible basket that everything else I think about or have thought about before has a spot in. So with each bit more these concepts invade my thinking and start ordering it. It’s a good thing! It’s been very useful already, but I couldn’t keep up the pace I was doing and it felt more right to go slower with it.

    I had some questions though, earlier (I think in chapter 2) she made a statement to the effect of, “creatures of a Cosmos cannot leave the Ring-Pass-Not, even in thought,” I found this rather provocative and after a lot of thought I wondered if she is not getting at something else here than it first seems. Her comment in this chapter about how new Cosmoi spring from existing ones, and that all things follow this same set of rules seems to relate it. Is she saying that when we think of something outside our Cosmos we effectively leave it?

    I’ll use the example of music genres (something I thought this fit well with). I am less of a fan these days, but I used to be fairly involved in different heavy metal scenes, and the genres within it do seem to function this way. A band or two will sometimes do something new that isn’t normally allowed within the limits of (suppose all the bands are interpreting “heavy” as something fast, but then a few start to go slow) you’ll see eventually a new Cosmos created that bands spin around. Once the genres are formalized then each has it’s rules and limits and future genres get created from within them. So what was one thing becomes multiple, contained within the larger genres. Each time these limits are more restrictive but they give rise to genuinely new forms that can be very dynamic – they get more out of less.


  58. Hi JMG,

    The atoms can be understood as a smaller Cosmoi – is that correct? They have motion and it follows that the same laws apply where they create their own Rings. I know Fortune made a comment about this relationship being applicable at any scale. I think that is what she means.

    It seems that if that is true, many seemingly unrelated (and even opposing forces) are created by the motion of a larger cosmos that underlies them (and drives their movement). If you can discover it, and align yourself with this greater cycle, you can take advantage of the momentum of this far more powerful source.

    A person can align their cosmos by looking at what they consider good, by definition it is the same as the movement of Cosmos they are in. If they can consider something else good then this act is changing their alignment.

    Also I think that if the cosmos goes in cycles your thoughts must also go in cycles (as individuals and as groups).

    The last thing I wanted to mention was that it occurred to me that the motion of thoughts and the motion of an object in space are not the same. At first I thought that thoughts must have no motion at all, because I was thinking about how you can contemplate things without making any steps towards realizing them, and how really this is empty, and “unmanifest” much like space. But then I thought that thoughts are still more manifest than things I haven’t ever thought at all. So it must be like the scale issue, where they follow the same laws relative to their own nature, maybe on different planes of existence. Physical manifestation of change requires actual physical movement though.

    I want to have fewer Cosmoi that I am aligned to by seeing the greater cycles and seeing how they are good. I want to physically echo that movement, both in ritual and in execution because this is movement in the direction that will increase that good. This is because my action makes the thoughts realized and because it can stir another to action.

    I am still struggling to conceive of the geometry of the Rays and Circles, and of the movement of the atoms, but these were some messy thoughts that came to me as a result of turning these ideas over in my head within the structure she’s laid out

    If I’m up the wrong tree here it’s cool – I’ve found all this stuff quite a bit more interactive and useful than philosophy often is (and I like philosophy!)


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