Book Club Post

The Cosmic Doctrine: Evolution of the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind

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 seat 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 are listed 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 15, “Evolution of the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind,” pp. 70-75.

Millennium Edition: Chapter 16, “Evolution of the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind,” pp. 97-103.


The construction of the solar system in Dion Fortune’s metaphor continues in this chapter. Over the last two chapters we’ve watched the first swarm of individual beings begin their pilgrimage down the planes of being; we’ve seen how their activities on each plane bring a planet into being, and we’ve watched each planet develop its own Planetary Spirit, which conditions each of the subsequent swarms of Divine Sparks as these descend the planes in turn. Now it’s time to look a good deal more closely at the three original swarms—the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind.

Here Fortune is enriching her metaphor with material that has deep roots in Western occult tradition. I doubt that many of my readers will have encountered the technical terms epiphaniai, epiphonomiai, and ephiomai—literally “appearances,” “voices,” and “acclamations”—which were used for these beings by Renaissance occultists such as Robert Fludd, though I suspect that Fortune knew the terms. To summarize a great deal of lore too quickly, though, the Lords of Flame are the beings that both occultists and more orthodox believers call angels. The Lords of Form are the beings that occultists of various traditions call intelligences or devas. The Lords of Mind are beings to which occultists give various names, of which “inner plane teachers” is probably the most useful. The capacious logic of polytheism tends to give these and other beings such labels as numina or kami; “gods” will do in English.

Let’s begin with the angelic Lords of Flame, the first swarm of Divine Sparks to set out from the Solar Logos and descend through the seven planes of the solar system the Logos has dreamed into existence. (Remember that in our text, when Fortune writes “universe,” she means “solar system”—that was standard usage in her day, at a time when other galaxies had not yet been discovered.)  This first swarm is made up of those atoms that became complex enough in the solar system’s first phases of evolution to take part in the journey up and down the solar system’s twelve rays; they are equivalents, in the smaller scale of the solar system, of the traveling atoms of the Cosmos—one of whom is now the Solar Logos, the god of our solar system. So they come to the work of creating a solar system with much more experience, and much more complexity, than subsequent swarms.

That’s the first thing that sets the Lords of Flame apart. The second is that they begin their work when the solar system consists solely of the Solar Logos and a cloud of atoms around it, dancing to the rhythms the Logos sets in motion. The sole influence on their evolution is the Solar Logos. Later swarms also receive the influences of the Planetary Spirits; the Lords of Flame don’t.

Those are the things that make life easy for the Lords of Flame. The thing that makes life hard for them is that they are the first.  They go, if you will, where no Divine Sparks have gone before. They have to build bodies out of the raw material of the seventh plane, using atoms that have never before been organized into a body; since atoms are nothing more than habitual tracks of motion, remember, this means that the atoms have to be reshaped comprehensively to make their movement-tracks fit the needs of a seventh-plane body. That’s just the individual side of their work. They also have to work together to build the body of a planet on the seventh plane, and the atoms that are their raw material have never been part of a planet, either.

Thus the Lords of Flame have their work cut out for them. When they arrive on each plane, they are surrounded by a mass of unorganized atoms; when they leave it, they leave behind a pattern of forces so intricately coordinated that all subsequent swarms are drawn into it and formed by it.  To use a metaphor from esoteric Masonry, they have the role of Solomon King of Israel, setting out the fundamental patterns and proportions that subsequent workers will follow.

The second swarm has a different task and a different destiny. The Lords of Form or intelligences of nature begin as ordinary atoms of the seventh plane that are drawn into the archetypal form of the seventh plane planet once the Lords of Flame leave it. They gather up bodies of other seventh plane atoms and attune themselves to the Planetary Spirit in the same way that the Lords of Flame did, but they don’t have to do it all from scratch; the tracks in space laid down on the planet of the seventh plane make building a body easier than it was for their predecessors, and they don’t have to create the Planetary Spirit, they just have to learn to work with her.

Both of those advantages come with corresponding drawbacks. The tracks in space that help the Lords of Form build their bodies were laid down by the very different consciousness of the Lords of Flame, and so the Lords of Form have to balance out the resulting vagaries. The same thing on an even larger scale happens when they deal with the Planetary Spirit. On each plane, the Lords of Flame condition the Planetary Spirit, but the Lords of Form and all subsequent swarms are conditioned by her. Each Lord of Form thus has to balance the sometimes conflicting influences of the Solar Logos and of the Planetary Spirit of the planet on which it is incarnate.

The Lords of Form also have a unique function as they work their way down the planes. They come into being on the seventh plane when the Lords of Flame have gone on to the sixth, and build seventh plane bodies; when the Lords of Flame go on to the fifth plane, the Lords of Form proceed to the sixth, enter into the planet that has been built there, and get to work building sixth plane bodies and attuning with the Planetary Spirit of that plane. Then the Lords of Flame go on to the fourth plane, and the Lords of Form are caught between the gravitational attraction of the fifth and seventh plane planets. The conflicting pulls are strong enough that the seventh and sixth plane bodies they’ve built dissolve into their component atoms, and those atoms are caught up in the structure of the sixth plane planet and remain there.

Meanwhile the Lords of Form circle back to the Solar Logos, pick up the Logoidal vibration again, and start out anew.  Since they’ve already built seventh and sixth plane bodies, they do this quickly enough, and land on the fifth plane while the Lords of Flame are still busy at their pioneering work on the fourth. When the Lords of Flame go on to the third plane, though, the same thing happens to the Lords of Form; their seventh, sixth, and fifth plane bodies dissolve, the atoms of which those bodies are made become the raw material of the fifth plane planet, and back the Lords of Form go to the Solar Logos to repeat the same process. In the language of esoteric Masonry, the Lords of Form have the role of Hiram King of Tyre, who provided the raw materials for the building of the Temple.

Meanwhile the third of the three primal swarms is getting under way. When the Lords of Form move from the seventh plane to the sixth, another batch of seventh-plane atoms are drawn into the Planetary Spirit on that plane to form a new body for her, and like the Lords of Form, they take on the patterns already laid down, becoming individualized beings, building seventh-plane bodies, and entering into rapport with the Planetary Spirit. This third swarm has an easy time of it on each plane, since the atoms it forms into its bodies are already conditioned by having been part of the body of a Divine Spark. They finish their work faster than the first two swarms do, but they can’t move on until the swarm before them takes another step, so there they remain.

Those of my readers who have ever witnessed what happens with a room full of seven-year-olds who have nothing to do, or who remember how their own seven-year-old selves responded to such a situation, know what happens next. They start to play, and tolerably often, this means they get into trouble. That’s what happens to the third swarm. They get rambunctious with one another and with the Planetary Spirit, and the result is what Fortune calls epigenesis.

That’s a sufficiently important concept in The Cosmic Doctrine that it deserves a more complete description here. Epigenesis is what less careful philosophers call “free will.” Consider the way that trainers in aquariums teach seals to perform tricks. They don’t show them tricks and try to bully them into doing them; no, what they do is set things up so that the individual seals are rewarded randomly by a machine that spits out fish at unpredictable intervals. The seals, trying to figure this out, will repeat various things they were doing when the fish showed up. As the machine keeps reinforcing at random and the seals try harder and harder to make the thing cough up fish, they will work out various repetitive routines, many of which look cute to human beings. The trainer then starts deliberately reinforcing the cutest maneuvers, and the seals go on display, splashing about and balancing balls on their noses in the serene conviction that they’ve figured out how to get the humans to fork over the fish.

That’s epigenesis. Any time a being capable of action ends up in a setting that provides random or quasi-random responses to action, you get epigenesis. Each individual being responds differently to it, and so epigenesis leads to differentiation, and to the beginnings of personality. Over time, furthermore, as one layer of epigenesis overlays another, complex feedback loops form, so that this set of epigenetic behavior sets off that set, but only under conditions that don’t put a third set into action. As individual complexity increases, linear cause and effect dissolve into the kind of strange loops Douglas Hofstadter explored so colorfully in his book Gödel, Escher, Bach, producing the unpredictable, reflective, innovative behavior we call thinking.

The third of the three primal swarms are therefore the Lords of Mind. They are the first of the swarms to become fully individualized beings with their own distinct characters, because they are the first to go through epigenesis. The Lords of Flame lay down the basic patterns of existence, the Lords of Form provide the substance of existence, but the Lords of Mind elaborate, individualize, and create. In the metaphors of esoteric Masonry, where the Lords of Flame have the role of King Solomon, and the Lords of Form that of King Hiram, the Lords of Mind have the role of the third grand master, Hiram Abiff the widow’s son, who was responsible for the ornamentation, the metalwork, and the day-to-day construction of the Temple.

There’s a warning implied in that identification, though. As my brother Masons are well aware, and as other readers who know their way around Masonic symbolism also know, Masonic tradition has it that Hiram Abiff did not survive to see the Temple completed. Epigenesis need not result in increased complexity and the awakening of mind. As the metaphor of seven-year-olds left to their own devices suggests, it can also result in chaos and disintegration.

Fortune makes a profound comment on this distinction. Epigenesis, she says, is what happens when energies that are trying to continue in one direction are stymied, so that they play among themselves and develop new aspects and relationships. The technical term for this process is “sublimation.”  If the blockage of the energies continues too long, however, the process reverses and the energies revert to a more primitive mode of functioning; the technical term for this retrograde process is “degradation.”

In some of her other writings, Fortune uses the example of human sexuality to show the way that epigenesis starts with sublimation and ends with degradation. When children first reach puberty they are in no way ready for the intricacies of sexual relationships, and so healthy societies prevent them from pursuing their urges to their natural fulfillment. The result is sublimation: the sexual energies, prevented from finding the usual outlet, flow instead into other pursuits, such as creativity, spirituality, and personal maturation. Once these other pursuits have become stable enough, the child is a child no longer, and is ready to enter into sexual life. Keep the barrier in place thereafter, though, and you get all the neurotic consequences of enforced celibacy, which can be described neatly enough (and were in fact so described by Freud and his pupils) in terms of reversion to childhood stages that should have been long outgrown.

Degradation isn’t a risk for the Lords of Mind. They come into being in a solar system that is still simple enough, and strongly enough pervaded by the patterns set out by the Solar Logos, that they complete their epigenesis on each plane in perfect harmony, laying down patterns that will awaken thought and personality in the subsequent swarms. It is these subsequent swarms are the ones that run the risk of degradation if they remain too long in transitional stages, and of entering into modes of epigenesis that will take them out of balance with the rest of the solar system and send them spinning off on strange and self-destructive destinies of their own.

The second half of the building of the solar system, as the swarms reach the first plane and then begin the long ascent back to the Solar Logos, will be the subject of the next chapter, and of further chapters after that. The outward journey deserves close attention, though, because this is one of the places that Fortune’s great metaphor can be applied most obviously to the details of human life. Most of my readers, for example, will have had the opportunity to interact with organizations at various points in their growth and development. The three primal swarms are, among other things, the stages in that process of growth.

Perhaps, dear reader, you have had the experience of helping to found a new organization. You already know in a small way the work of the Lords of Flame: how much effort it takes to establish brand new patterns of action and communication, encourage members to use those and not bring in other patterns from elsewhere, and learn to think of themselves as members of a group rather than individuals who happen to be drifting through a given set of interactions.

Or perhaps, dear reader, you have joined a group that has already been established but is hitting its growth curve. You know in a small way the work of the Lords of Form: what it takes to gather adequate human material together and bring it into harmony with the existing structures of the organization, and how often you have to go back to the beginning and repeat a familiar process before everything works smoothly at last.

Or finally, dear reader, perhaps you have had the experience of joining a well-established organization, and finding that the work that is open to you is a matter of elaborating an existing structure and working out the subtle variations that make the guiding principles a little better suited to each of the situations it encounters. You thus know in a small way the work of the Lords of Mind.

The same metaphor can be applied in other ways, of course. The thing that matters, as you study The Cosmic Doctrine, is that you learn to apply the metaphors of the work yourself, to use them as tools for thinking, and make sense of your world in the distinctive way Fortune sketches out.

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.

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 October 9.  Until then, have at it!


  1. Re: “If you’re just joining us now, please go back and read the previous commentaries, which are listed here;” Listed Where? There is no link.

  2. I haven’t read your post yet, but I have read the chapter twice. Before I read your comments, I want to say that this chapter was easier going; I was able to place the Lords of Flame and the Lords of Form easily on the tree. The Lords of Mind, I was less certain about. I’m looking forward to reading the post later today after I finish my “chores.”

  3. In the solar system analogy presented here, the Solar Logos is the “Great Being” from which all things in the solar system emanate, and is presented as the end point of the cosmic atom’s journey. However, in other places in traditional occultism Solar Symbolism is used to describe the Lesser Countenance of that being, representing an important intermediary between the Supreme Being and the rest of the cosmos. Likewise, in traditional polytheism, solar deities are often than not the son of the supreme being rather than the supreme being himself. Beyond the convenience of the familiarity of the heliocentric solar system as an image, is there a deeper reason for her use of a Tiphareth symbol to express a Kether concept? Or is the overlapping symbolism just a trap for the overly rigid mind?

  4. Phutatorius, good. The Lords of Flame correspond to the Pillar of Force, the Lords of Form to the Pillar of Form. That leaves… 😉

    Eric, no, the Solar Logos isn’t the endpoint of the Cosmic atom’s journey, it’s just as far ahead as Fortune shows us. In the terms you’re using, the Solar Logos of each solar system is its Lesser Countenance, with the Central Sun of the Cosmos from which each Cosmic atom emanated as the Greater Countenance. Each Cosmic atom that travels out with the Solar Logos-to-be is a soul relating to the Lesser Countenance or solar god, and then completes that interaction and travels out into the wider cosmos to relate to the Central Sun as a traveling atom; meanwhile the Solar Logos, at the end of its cycle of creating and evolving a solar system, also goes on, to a destiny Fortune only indicates in hints. Does that make things clearer?

  5. Hi JMG,

    Thanks for these posts. I just picked up my copy of The Cosmic Doctrine a week or two ago and have started the reading and studying in the past few days, working off your first post in this series. I had two quick questions I hope you won’t mind answering.

    First off, are these posts open for questions in relation to old chapters? Could I ask you a question if one arises as I work through the book behind where you are now (assuming it wasn’t asked and answered in the material’s original post), or do you want it to firmly stay with the current material?

    Second, do you think it’s viable to move through the study a bit quicker than your original once a month schedule? I realize from what you’ve written that it’s important to read and study carefully, to go slowly, and to train my mind for the material. However, could something like going through each section two weeks at a time rather than a month at a time, moving on IF I feel like I have a good grasp of things (and not if I don’t)–would that work? Or do you recommend sticking with the original schedule and just remaining a year-plus behind?

    Thanks so much! I’m already finding this project really intriguing and it’s bringing up some interesting personal questions.

  6. This was a fairly straightforward chapter for me too. The only really difficult part is the exact mechanism of epigenesis making evil. It seems like it’s sort of just doing the wrong thing at the wrong place at the wrong time sort of thing, which is also not quite within the will of the atom. One too many bounced checks.

    Anyway, another thing that tripped me up for a moment when reading your synopsis of the chapter was that the Arch Angels are more powerful than Gods! But thinking a bit, in one way they are, but in another way, since they don’t have free will, they aren’t! Also, it makes sense in this nested hierarchical Monotheism (is that the right word?) of Fortune, being a Christian. The Solar Logos is the True God (or rather, Son of God, since maybe the True God is the Cosmic Sun) and thus much more powerful than any of the beings in it’s solar system.

    Third thing, is Free Will then only possible within the Solar System? And since there is a tension between Cosmic Forces and Universal/Solar System forces, it seems like these Lords are building the possibly evil illusional world. I can easily flip this to the Gnostic idea of the Logos being a Demiurge and the Lords being Archons. It is in the Cosmos that the True Forms exist?

    It is fun to play around with the metaphors, but there is a point where they don’t fit too.

  7. I’m still trying to understand the nature of the atoms being generated in the solar system from Chapter 12, and I don’t think I’ll be able to catch up to the current discussion until I’m clearer on this process.

    What is the process that generates the new atoms in the solar system? In my meditations I came up with two possibilities.

    The first possibility is analogous to the generation of the Cosmic atoms. When the Solar Logos projects its concept of itself, that includes the formation and action of the Rays. The solar system Rays interpenetrate within the Solar Logos to form tangential movements that form vortices that group into various sided figures, just as happened to form the Cosmic atoms. If this is so, then presumably all the same sided atoms are possible, which drift out to the various planes when the Solar Logos projects out its reflection of the Cosmos.

    The second possibility is that while the Solar Logos is brooding, before it projects out what it integrated from its time as a traveling atom in the Cosmos, the Cosmic atoms it brought with it are moving around randomly. Their tracks in space could then interact tangentially and create atoms that have the imprint or reflection of Cosmic atoms as part of their pattern or repertoire of dance moves. The Solar Logos then organizes these atoms into planes when it project its understanding of itself.

    Do either or both of these possibilities create the solar system atoms? Or is it by some other means that they are created?

    I’m also trying to understand why only seventh-plane atoms are involved in the process of creating the composite being consisting of the seed atom, its track in space, and the cloud of seventh plane atoms.

    I’m also trying to understand what it means to say that the seed atom “is a reflection, within the solar system, of a Cosmic atom which is the spiritual essence of that entity.” I seem to have missed how that happened, unless it has to do with the second of the two possibilities I asked about above.

    Finally, I don’t understand why, in the solar system, the seventh plane is the closest plane to the Solar Logos whereas it is the farthest away from the Central Sun in the Cosmos. Is there some sort of symmetry involved, similar to the way that a mirror reverses right and left?

    I may have more questions later, depending on how you answer these. Thank you for your patience and willingness to answer questions and to provide these commentaries!

  8. Hi JMG,

    After spending quite a bit of time of googling Lords of Flame and reading a lot of material I couldn’t really understand, you make it clear in two sentances . Thank you! I certainly appreciate your caution of summarizing too quickly but this gives a structure to attach further information to as it comes along.

    Regarding the answer you gave regarding the relationship between the Lords of Form and Force to the pillars of the tree, is there a similar relationship to be found in the Tarot?

  9. Joel, glad to hear it. You can certainly ask questions about earlier chapters, and the one chapter per month pace isn’t mandatory — it’s as much because that’s how much time I can afford to put into writing these as it is anything else.

    Isaac, hmm. Where do you get the idea that the text says archangels are more powerful than gods? The Lords of Flame comprise all the angelic hosts, from angels up to Cherubim, and they and the Lords of Form and Mind are all comprised within the terms that polytheists use for beings worthy of reverence — numina, kami, gods, and so on. As for evil, we’ll be covering that in much more detail later on; remember that in the metaphors of the Cos.Doc., eternal damnation is extremely rare and you have to work overtime to achieve it, but epigenesis leading to imbalances that have to be worked out by various combinations of grace and effort is a universal experience in our swarm of Divine Sparks; you could even use terms such as “fallen” to describe the result of unbalanced epigenesis, if your religious tradition prefers such labels. Yes, epigenesis only takes place within a solar system; as for the dualist Gnostic interpretation, to my mind that’s a misinterpretation, but of course it’s an easy one to fall into under certain circumstances (those that Steiner associates with the “Luciferic” end of evil).

    SLClaire, you may want to reread Chapter 9. The answer is your second option; the atoms of the solar system are brought into being by the repetitive movements of the Cosmic atoms in the period right after the Logos and the Cosmic atoms that accompany it have settled on the seventh Cosmic plane, while the Logos is still brooding over his experiences and has not yet begun structuring the solar system-to-be. Since an atom is simply a set of movements in space that have become locked into a repetitive form, the Cosmic atoms can create other atoms by their repetitive movements; the atoms thus created become the raw material of the solar system once the Logos gets to work on them — and each of those atoms remains connected to the Cosmic atom that created it, and serves as the Cosmic atom’s anchor in the secondary reality of the solar system. Does that help?

    Fortune doesn’t explain why the seventh plane in a solar system is closest to the center, while the seventh Cosmic plane is furthest from the Cosmic center. Nor does she explain why only the seventh plane atoms become the seed atoms of beings. She just says that these are the case. Treat it as part of the metaphor…

    Phutatorius, nah, within the solar system, they’re Tiphareth, because they’re the Great Initiators. I’d identify the Lords of Flame with Chesed and the Lords of Form with Geburah; then the Logos becomes Kether, the Cosmic atoms are Chokmah, and the tracks in space that become the solar system’s atoms are Binah; the Divine Sparks, the tracks of pure movement that echo the dance of the Logos and serve as the first rough sketch of mind to the beings of the solar system, are Daath.

    Zebby, glad to hear it. As for the relationship of the Pillars to the Tarot — or are you suggesting a relationship between the Lords of Flame and Form and the Tarot? — I’m going to toss that straight back to you. How would you trace such a relationship?

  10. Please allow me to express how completely invaluable your walkthrough of Cosmic Doctrine has been, JMG. Without it, there would not have been any hope at all of gleaning its knowledge, not even a little bit.

    I’m a musician, so like the old saying goes, when you’re a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. I am reminded of the first tune I ever composed in my life, the horrifically annoying three-note pattern I called “Thunder Horse”. I was four or five years old and it took two hands and Herculean amounts of thought-crunching to play those three notes. I was a non-prodigy from a non-musical family.

    My Lord of Flame struggled to scrap those pathetic musical bits together, and the battle would be entirely uphill from there. Similarly, when a student without any previous musical background comes to me for lessons, they have the huge barrier of developing the habit of practice once I show them how to play something about as difficult as Thunder Horse. For guitar players, callouses must be developed on the tenderest part of the fingertips (ouch!) and that only happens one way: regular practice.

    The Lord of Form was a cruel taskmaster when it came to turning a song into a finished product. I had to return to the drawing board many times, not just scrapping countless hours of tunes or dismantling and re-combining them, but also learning harmony and eventually notation. For my students, what comes to mind is the first recital. That’s the one where you cry afterward and your leg/arms/body shakes so bad, you can barely pilot whatever instrument you are playing. Been there, done that.

    Perhaps the Lord of Mind showing up is the brief moment of solace when a song is finished and recorded, or when it is practiced enough to feel as comfortable as it is going to get. For my student, perhaps it is enough mastery to teach a key concept of music to someone else while enjoying the process of learning and performing tunes for the rest of their lifetime, which to me is the best possible outcome.

  11. “Work is Love made visible.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
    It stands out how much work must be involved in all this business of creation. The Lords of Flame, Form & Mind appear to be working their tails off for the benefit of all of us. (I’m sensing there’s more to The Cosmic Doctrine than mere metaphorical imagery.)
    I can’t imagine how much work our esteemed host, JMG, puts into his blog & books. I know how hard I work just to try & keep up with the all the challenges that life presents in my immediate surroundings. Perhaps it’s fair to say that in order to enjoy dancing the Cosmic Dance — & not be left behind or trampled upon by other blissed out dancers — one must embrace one’s work & duties wholeheartedly & without reservation.
    A mentor of mine taught that “creative action is the Lord’s pleasure.” Work not only makes love visible, but it generates an inner pleasure, spiritual connectivity & stability… & if you’re fortunate, sometimes you’ll make a little money in the process! 😉

  12. Well – this chapter’s a lot easier. Kind of feels like the ground I stand upon is no longer tossing and spinning about and after a tumultuous couple of chapters a somewhat familiar landscape appears before me…

    The parallels between the Lords of Flame / Lords of Form / Lords of Mind triad and the triad of Planetary Angel / Planetary Intelligence / Planetary Spirit (as described in your Art and Practice of Geomancy) – or at least 2/3 of a parallel – are apparent. But I don’t see how Planetary Spirit and Lords of Mind match. Looks like we are dealing with two different models (Dion doesn’t seem to have a concept of “mindless forces” in her cosmology). I’d like to know your thoughts on the matter.

    On a different note – in case you haven’t seen this article, you’ll find that it has a familiar ring to it:
    Looks to me like Ian Bogost might enjoy a good read of “Retrotopia”.

  13. Hi JMG,

    Are you going to go through any of Dion Fortune’s other books? I have “Psychic Self-Defense,” which is my idea of an admirably no-[unDruidly word] set of instructions, and “Sane Occultism/What Is Occultism,” which, like G. K. Chesterton’s books, seems to contain many ideas that were common knowledge when it was written but aren’t so now.

    Autocorrect wanted to call the Reverend Chesterton “G. K. Cheeto.” 😄😄😄😄. In a perverse way, I’m beginning to enjoy autocorrect.

  14. Kimberly, you’re welcome, and thank you for the expansion of the metaphor! I know that learning to play on a keyboard, which I began doing after I turned 50, has been an extremely slow process; each step in coordinating my hands with each other took months. Then there was the process of bringing in material in the form of different patterns, rhythms, and sequences, and finally the ability to play a tune more or less clearly; I wouldn’t have thought of that in terms of the three primal swarms, but you’re quite correct that it fits.

    Sivadas, work for me is also lila, play — well, when it’s the kind of work I like to do, and fortunately I reached a point some time ago in my career that I can do the kind of work I like to do and still pay the bills! I sometimes think that the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind are also at play in the fields of the Solar Logos, so to speak; they like to dance, and their dancing brings worlds into being.

    Ron, they’re two different models using similar terms. That said, angels are angels and intelligences are intelligences; the Lords of Mind are certainly not mindless, and fill a different role in the structure of things. As for Iab Bogost’s article, thanks for this! If I had spare copies of Retrotopia I’d mail him one.

    Your Kittenship, we’ll see what happens when I get to the end of the Cos.Doc! I haven’t yet settled on the next book, which is fine, since we’ve got more than a year to go.

  15. Hi RonM,

    We had a “magic potty” where I worked that would flush for 4-5 hours straight, creating a safety hazard because the echoing roar would keep anyone in the restroom from hearing the fire alarm (or anything else). Maintenance would get the Loud Latrine settled down for a day or two and then it would resume the flush-a-rama. One day I brought in a small spray bottle of holy water for a colleague to spray on her permanently FUBARed computer, as IT was out of things to try. It helped. Mostly in jest, we sprayed the Loud Latrine.

    It stopped flushing immediately and never flushed again unless it was supposed to. 😳

  16. Thanks, JMG. I vote for “Sane Occultism,” as the other one’s pretty self-explanatory.

    I think there are a whole bunch of different kinds of brain damage lumped together as the spectrum. Sonkitten has full-blown autism and took to keyboards immediately. He learned to read music in a few hours.

  17. “entering into modes of epigenesis that will take them out of balance with the rest of the solar system and send them spinning off on strange and self-destructive destinies of their own”

    I can’t think of any obvious and pressing examples of this process. May as well go check my Twitter feed.

    Sarcasm aside, the process laid out in this chapter made me think of the creation of the world in Greek mythology, with its generations of gods, and their intermittent feuds with Gaia. Of course, in Fortune’s account the Lords of Flame, Form and Mind don’t seem to interact with each other, while the Greek gods take to civil war like Europeans take to soccer.

  18. Where do the Qlippoth fit in this scheme? Theoretically they come from a universe of unbalanced force that existed before this one, or are they just left out of this scheme entirely?

  19. Ah, thanks for the clarification. Yeah I guess I thought the Lords of Flame were more powerful than the Lords of Mind because it says in the text that they are “composed of the traveling atoms of the universe” and that is the first way that “it differs from its successor.” I guess I am also seeing the influences of the Cosmos as more pure, direct, True, than the influences of the Solar System. But I see that this means the first swarm doesn’t really have free will or power of their own in a certain way.

  20. Just a few thoughts on epigenesis: The group of seven year olds left to their own devices… well, that’s a couple of generations worth of the salary class that I will call the elite bourgeoisie. These are the ones who have come to firmly believe they are the Good People as described in many JMG essays. To them, the Progress narrative is still unquestionable. They have not gotten over Clinton’s loss three years ago because they refuse to admit the reason she lost may be not be her unlikeable-ness, but theirs. As we all know, they’ve become their own encapsulated bubble, and they are easy dupes for corporate interests. I have an expat friend who is frequently baited into FB proselytizing for whatever cause du jour the mainstream media is pimping, like Amazon rainforest fires.

    Speaking of degradation: some Puritan once said idle minds are the devil’s playground. Where would the elite bourgeoisie be and what would they be doing without their parents’ ample money? Most of the elite bourgeoisie are neither self made nor independent of their parents wealth as adults, and yet these heirs and scions feel they are born to their family wealth and therefore owed it for putting up with the “suffering” of being born into rich, complicated families.

    They’ve been in their vacuum chamber too long, so they are turning on each other. Toxicity is so bad, Joe Rogan laughed that they are eating their own like piranhas, the stronger ones sniffing the water for blood all the time. Obama said the left will eat itself.

  21. Every time I think about the triplicity/sequence of Flame, Form, and Mind, the metaphor seems more broadly applicable to all types and instances of origination and change. For instance, there’s an obvious parallel with the Unicorn, Phoenix, Dragon stages of cultural development. Biological evolution too: at the coarsest level, Flame is Precambrian (the slow origin of the fundamentals of respiration, photosynthesis, metabolism, and replication-with-variation), Form is Cambrian, and Mind is everything since. (But since there’s fractal similarity involved here, because of course there is, we can find similar stages when focusing in on e.g. evolution of land-dwelling life, vertebrate evolution, mammalian evolution and so forth.)

    I don’t know about Solomon’s Temple, but every building I’ve seen constructed has gone through three distinct stages. After the “coming soon” sign goes up, there’s a first stage with little visible happening. (A pile of dirt gets dug up and then occasionally moved around; nearby curbs and sidewalks get ruined seemingly at random for no apparent purpose; sometimes a few workers arrive and stand around and stare.) This stage drags on long enough for rumors to start that the project has been abandoned. In the second stage, there’s a sudden flurry of activity and the building actually takes form in a surprisingly short period of time. Then, once the building appears completely finished, it sits seemingly abandoned again for months (this is while the interior is being fitted out) before it opens.

    Shovel, hammer, and paintbrush. Every process I can think of, from gardens to computer programs to marriages, has comparable stages. And one reason this is important, as you hinted at with your analogy of organizations, is the value of knowing where the things in your life stand in that schema. If you show up with a shovel when the structure is ready for painting, you’ll be and feel out of place. Your efforts to build will be unproductive and/or your solutions to problems will fail. Likewise if you show up too soon with a paintbrush, the best you can hope for is someone will tell you, Stop! Hammer time! (Sorry.)

    What I’m not having much success with so far is applying these metaphors back to understanding the point of the step by step details of DF’s narrative. When the Lords of Form go from the seventh and sixth planes to the fifth plane, then back to the Solar Logos, then do the Hokey Pokey and turn themselves about… it reminds me of trying to keep track of particle physics when a k-meson absorbs an omega muon and decays into a negative vogon or whatever. That part of it seems just a stream of facts and names with little coherence.

  22. @ Kimberly S

    Re hammers and nails

    Your music is my mathematics! I have to work hard to not try to force everything into that particular wineskin, as I’ve discovered (that is, I’ve been told repeatedly, ignored that information, then proceeded to bash my head against the wall over and over again until it gradually sinks in) that reality does not necessarily map to that conceptualization.

  23. Your Kittenship, I once cleared a perpetually backed-up drain with half a cup of Florida water. I’ve come to think that magical phenomena may play a much more extensive role in everyday life than even occultists suspect. As for variations in autism spectrum disorders, oh, granted — and there’s also the point that most people on the spectrum have other cerebral disorders on the side. I’ve got ADD and motor dyspraxia — the latter can be translated into English as “clumsy as frack” — and I suspect it’s that last that’s responsible for my very slow learning curve on keyboard instruments.

    Cliff, funny! We’ll get into the interactions between the swarms in a chapter or two.

    Peter, good. Did you catch Fortune’s reference to the way that degradation as a result of epigenesis pursued too long is the origin of some kinds of devil? Follow that out in meditation, with the traditional lore of the Qlippoth for comparison, and see where it gets you.

    Isaac, the Lords of Flame are more powerful than the Lords of Form, but both these swarms and the Lords of Mind are included in the category “gods,” if we’re using the language of polytheism. (So is the Logos, and so are the Planetary Spirits — remember that in a polytheist context, words such as numen, kami, and god simply mean “something that is appropriate for humans to reverence,” and cover a very broad range of beings that can be subdivided in various ways.) That’s the correction I was trying to make. From a polytheist standpoint, the Lords of Flame are gods, so saying “archangels are more powerful than gods” is a little like saying “sports cars are faster than automobiles”…

    Kimberly, hah! Yes, that’s also a good subject for meditation along these lines. In fact, the trajectory of American liberalism from the New Deal to the present is a really good illustration of Fortune’s dictum about how epigenesis starts with sublimation and ends with degradation. The social revolution of the New Deal was focused on replacing liberty with equality as a basic guiding principle in American public life. To fulfill that process, the liberal managerial elite had to be willing to surrender some of the privileges that made it an elite — not right away, since that would have made it impossible to push through the changes they were trying to make, but later on, once the momentum of change was established. The Sixties and Seventies were the window of opportunity when they could have done that and embraced a more participatory society, having pushed sublimation of the drive for equality as far as it would go. When they clung all the more tightly to their privilege and turned against the working class Americans they’d formerly lionized, sublimation gave way to degradation, and the managerial elite began retrogressing, behaving more and more like spoiled children, until now we’ve had a three-year-long shrieking tantrum because they wanted a nice shiny President Hillary and the mean voters wouldn’t give it to them. Watch self-described liberals these days insisting that free speech is bad because it allows people to share ideas they don’t like, demanding absolute belief in whatever obvious absurdity the corporate media is pushing this week, or cheering on Antifa brownshirts as they beat up dissidents in the streets, and you’ve got a perfect model of the political endpoint of Fortune’s analysis.

    Walt, good! Those are all very solid interpretations of the metaphor. As to Fortune’s narrative, though, remember that it’s designed not to hand over everything it has to teach at once. There are meanings within meanings here, and it takes repeated efforts to watch the Lords of Form do the hokey pokey and meditate on it before some aspects of it become clear. In the meantime, if it’s giving you metaphors that help you make sense of your own experience, it’s doing its job.

    Your Kittenship, good. I figure it’ll be time to settle on a new title for the book club posts when we’re three or four months from the end of the Cos.Doc., but I’ll certainly keep Fortune’s other books in mind.

    Yvonne, I note with some amusement that it was published five days after I posted my piece on the whole Chosen One business, and somehow managed not to mention where the author got her idea. Not the first time I’ve had that happen, but this was a good deal quicker than usual!

  24. Thank you, Your Kittenship, for the fascinating and humorous story about the mindless “magic potty” and how holy water made it fall into line. Hmmm. Maybe we need to change the phrase “there’s something in the air” to “there’s something in the drains”. 😊

    JMG – putting aside the superficial observation that the three swarms of Lords seem to be terribly inefficient (their work dissolving at regular intervals, requiring reconstruction – if I was their boss I’d have fired the whole lot!), I am reminded of reincarnation – where once we learn a particular skill or set of concepts in one life, we readily pick it up (or seem to already know it) in the next life. The only thing is that these Lords are not mortal, so the idea of reincarnation is not applied to them. Perhaps “we” are the raw material that the Lords are assembling and refining? Unfortunately, because our historical records over long periods being so patchy, it is hard to tell how true this phenomenon is at the species-level.

  25. Unlikely teenager: I’m the Chosen One.
    Religious leader: Oh, no. I was hoping THIS would be the year the gods would finally let us give up that human sacrifice ritual. I hate it. Well, come on, kid, I’ll get you good and drunk first, it’s the best I can do for you.

  26. Dr Pales’ book has a list I checked to match with Fortune’s: He lists the Spirits of Love (Seraphim), Spirits of Harmony (Cherubim), Will (Thrones), Wisdom (Dominions), Movement (Virtues), Form (Power), Nations (Principalities), Time (Archangels), and Spirits Guarding Men (Angels). Not that they have to match exactly, but having come across lists like this before (in Steiner and Max Heindel, for instance), I am starting to realize that they are just different names for the same thing, or perhaps, a different aspect of the same thing, which is not a thing at all. But I really like “Lords of Flame”, a lot!
    I just purchased Fortune’s Protection against Psychic Attack, and am ordering cosmic doctrine soon. I’ve been following the posts, but looks like I should go ahead with the book. Forrtune seems like the real thing: she even had the wisdom to urge restraint from hate against the Nazis during the war, which is unusual.

  27. You say that the term universe refers to the solar system because we hadn’t discovered other galaxies. But we knew about this one and the word universe – doesn’t it sort of mean “all that is”? So it appears that the term cosmos does refer to the whole shebang, which back then was only one galaxy but still the term cosmos means all that is?

  28. 🎼I can feel there’s something in the drains tonight, hold on…🎼

    This occurred in Baptist Central so most of my colleagues were quite surprised! 😄

  29. JMG,

    Can you elaborate on what Fortune means when she says: “Thus, the Planetary Being of the fifth plane would be an abstract mind; and the Planetary Being of the Earth is an etheric double.”
    Is the earth in the fifth plane in this metaphor and are we a planet of abstract minds? I’m not sure I follow. Thanks

  30. I had a shower thought this morning on the Lords and am wondering if it makes sense or if I am trying to shoehorn the metaphor into something that doesn’t fit. Looking at this from mythology (I am going to use Greek because its the one I am most familiar with), I viewed the Titans as being like the Lords of Form, and the Gods and Goddess as Lords of Mind. The Titans created the form and forces of the world, but the Gods were the ones who took over after them and represent more of the will and thought that goes into those forces. Obviously, this isn’t a perfect fit for all of them, but it is something that I will be meditating on later as it seemed to fit decently well.

  31. I took a long break from the Cosmic Doctrine to finish the Mystical Qabalah, it took me almost a year to read it. A long slog, but I loved it. I have 10 pages left – so maybe I’ll be done in two weeks 🙂 It definitely expanded my understanding of the Cosmic Doctrine. I wish I had taken notes, because as soon as I moved on to a new paragraph, I would forget what I read in the last one. Maybe when I do those path meditations.

    Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind

    A mining scenario: The Lords of Flame are blasting through stone, going deeper and deeper, leaving rubble in their wake. The Lords of Form follow behind, setting tracks and taking cart after cart of rubble out, going a bit deeper each time.

    Once some space has been cleared, the Lords of Mind, the miners, come in and start extracting the resources. They get so much, that they are rich and they build nice houses, start families, take vacations, create art and culture, & give to charity. Over time they start to run out of resources and become more greedy, competitive, desperate, and fall into vices. Or perhaps they become so well adapted to their environment that everything becomes routine, free will is lost, until a new section of mine is cleared.

    I just started raising chickens, how amazing is it that they can be raised by a human yet still know exactly how to be a chicken? I think a chicken still has some free will, but its a lot less than a human. I imagine as humans evolve over millennia, and we find a place of balance we will actually lose some of our free will and become more like other animals. We will return to the Garden of Eden. That might be considered de-evolultion, or maybe balance and stability is the necessary stage before overflowing to the next level.

    The idea in the Cosmic Doctrine that there is a cosmic end goal has really bothered me. I’ve always felt there wasn’t, but now I am re-considering. I grew up with my dad saying something like, “if you are a bad person, you’ll get reincarnated as a fly and eat poop all day.” The idea that becoming a human is the pinnacle of reincarnation really bugs me, for one thing I think flies get a kick out of being annoying and eating poop. And actually that was one of the reasons I rejected paganism, because I felt humans were not above animals. The leader of the pagan group I was in was adamant that humans were on a higher level. For a similar reason, I was unwilling to believe in deities. The Cosmic Doctrine has gotten me to think about it differently. Now I’m trying to understand what part of my philosophy is influenced by Post-modernism (or the Technosphere?), in that all things are equal and meaningless, and whether I should try to root that out from my thinking.

  32. Thanks everyone for your stimulating comments. I think another practical application of these chapters on creation and evolution is that they teach us the process of how to do the same in our own lives. When we really want to create something new, the first step is to create an archetypal pattern (the Lords of Flame), which is typically done through the processes of visualization and meditation on what it is we want. Then we move on and let the Universe bring that which we need into our lives (the Lords of Form). The Universe decides how the archetype will be formed. Finally, when the form comes into our lives, we must actually bring it into final form on the physical plane by taking whatever action is appropriate to bring the form into being (the Lords of Mind).

    Thus, these three Lords are also metaphors for different levels of our consciousness, with the Lords of Mind being associated with that of our physical body while incarnation. In my own life, I have often started the process of creation from the bottom up, so to speak, and let my physical body try and create something new when no archetype or forms yet exists for what I want to accomplish. This has often resulted in failure to achieve my goals.

    One last point is that it is important throughout life to keep working on new creative processes, to keep new archetypes active in our lives. This continual process of creation and evolution in one’s life helps one to avoid the process of disintegration taking over as we grow older.

  33. Dion Fortune synopsizes The Cosmic Doctrine in the first chapters of her book The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage. She briefly explains the difference between Black and White magic in terms that I believe will help all who are doing meditations on how epigenesis sometimes spawns the unbalanced forces, a.k.a. the Qlippoth.

    “These seven planes, while all arising from the Unmanifest as First Cause, are conceived of as having immediate causal relations among themselves; thus the first plane to develop gives rise to the second and determines its manifestation, and the second to the third, and so on, down to the final plane of physical mater, which may be called the Plane of Effects, whereon the results of activities on the subtler planes may be observed and their consequences are finally reaped. It will thus be seen that the esoteric scientist acquainted with the laws of one of the higher planes could control conditions on all planes lying below it, being in his turn controlled by anyone who was master of a plane superior to his own. The final control is regarded as vested in the inherent nature of the Prime Manifestation.

    It is the aim of that branch of esoteric science which is popularly called Magic, to obtain control of conditions upon one plane by acting upon the forces of the plane immediately above it which acts as the causal plane to the lower one. White Magic is distinguished as that exploitation of knowledge which aims at harmonizing and uplifting existence along the lines of advancing evolution, and which, though it may concentrate its efforts upon a particular point, excludes from its benefits nothing which by its nature is capable of receiving them. Black Magic may be defined as that use of superior knowledge which endeavors to cause any section of existence to return to a phase of evolution below that to which it has attained, or which attempts to benefit any special section of manifestation at the expense of the rest.”

    Dion Fortune’s magical efforts to help end WWII is mentioned in light of demonic exorcism in The Exorcist’s Handbook by Josephine McCarthy. The way I have come to see it is that Dion Fortune may have very well stopped a nuclear holocaust or other, equally nasty, Qlippothic demon-approved form of world-sized demise of destruction and devolution. McCarthy does more than hint around that Fortune and her crew were effectively returning a great demonic warmongering force to the Abyss. What degradations of the human race did Fortune help counteract and prevent? I think it’s very possible that Fortune went to the luminous life-side after sacrificing her own body to cancer in order to halt the second “war to end all wars.” Seems to me she would rectify any and all bad karma accumulated over time with such a heroic (yet so calmly and rationally executed in that epically British, stiff upper lip manner) and selfless act. She truly was the greatest occultist of our time, or at least the 20th century. We all strongly believe This Stuff Works; she actually knew How and Why.

  34. Ah! Well thanks for the clarification to the clarification.

    In other news, I have been reading Plato and listening to Secret History of Western Esotericism Podcast and finding a lot of the seeds of Fortune’s cosmogy in his works… so would you say that the Cosmos is the world of True Forms? Or the Unmanifest?

  35. I went back to your commentaries from Chapter 9 through 12 and re-read them as well as your response in an attempt to better understand Fortune’s metaphor. I think a confusion between Cosmic planes and solar system planes may be at root. Let me lay out my best understanding in light of your response to my earlier comment.

    Before it settled out into the 7th Cosmic plane, our traveling atom that became the Solar Logos attracted atoms of all the different kinds of Cosmic planes into its embrace. While the Solar Logos is meditating, these Cosmic atoms of all the different Cosmic planes finish their meditation on themselves and start dancing their tunes. Doing so, each also creates atoms that share in its dance (reflections of the spiritual essence of the Cosmic atom that danced it into being).

    This process is taking place on the 7th Cosmic plane, which is divided into the seven planes given in your diagram in the Chapter 14 commentary. As best I understand the metaphor, that means that the Cosmic atoms can create only atoms of the types allowed on the 7th Cosmic plane, no matter what sort of Cosmic atom it is a reflection of. So the dances of the different kinds of Cosmic atoms can only create seventh, sixth, fifth, and so forth plane atoms of the 7th Cosmic plane. Do I understand this correctly?

    I was also confused about the numbering of the planes – I had thought the 7th plane of the solar system was the etheric/physical, but I see from the diagram that it’s the upper spiritual. That helps me with the part of Fortune’s metaphor where the seed atoms gather seventh plane atoms around themselves. They are metaphorically the lightest, so the easiest to attract when the seed atom has finished with its period of receiving the imprint of the Solar Logos during its traveling along the Rays. Then I can see where each succeeding kind of atom can be added during the swarming period: they are added in metaphorical weight order.

    Also, the process of swarming that’s discussed in Chapter 13, the next chapter for me to work on, seems to be analogous to the Path of Descent in the Dolmen Arch cosmology, since the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind represent a working down the planes from upper spiritual through upper mental in the terms of the diagram. Does this make sense?

  36. “…degradation as a result of epigenesis pursued too long is the origin of some kinds of devil?”

    Did you mean to say devil or evil?

  37. Archdruid,

    I was meditating on the ogham Nuin and its relationship to clarity, and I suddenly realized that the lords of Flame, Form, and Mind are a perfect metaphor for the power of words and non-words in magic. The lords of flame are the equivalent of thoughts/sensations, while the lords of form are the equivalent of the words used to describe the sensations, and the lords of mind are the meanings we give those words.
    Our senses gather up the stray atoms, the varied emanations of the solar logos, what we call reality. It is a greatly difficult task, and bring those emanations together builds our initial conception of “reality.” Our senses move far beyond our minds conscious ability to deal with reality. Out into the seventh plane, close to the solar logos.
    As our senses move out into the world, interacting and gathering up the emanations, our conscious mind goes to work naming and categorizing our sensory experiences. The lords of form essentially gather and name the very formless world, until they hit the point where the senses are no longer certain. Names become vague, and abstractions start to build on each other. The names of things are powerfully important in magic, because they give us a description of the borders of things and the ability to see and work beyond the borders.
    Finally, the lords of mind go to work by taking the words of sensations and begin arranging them into ideas and descriptions of reality. We being to create worlds through the stringing and arrangement of words, upon words. Until that too hits it’s limit.

    The eastern schools of magic seek to get closer to the solar logos by following retracting the steps of the lords of mind, to the lords of form, to the lords of flame.

    That’s about as far as I’ve gotten.



  38. Then again, for all we know flies are the happiest critters that ever lived, and annoying people all day, with frequent poop breaks for both ends, is the bomb.

  39. Ron, apparently the Solar Logos has his own hiring and firing standards. 😉 As for us, we’re one of the later swarms — by inference from details of Fortune’s model we haven’t gotten to yet, there have been at least fifteen swarms before ours. At this point the process seems to be working fairly smoothly.

    Your Kittenship, I could see it. My preference, though, would be:
    Unlikely teenager: I am the Chosen One.
    Old wise man: Okay, please take a number and have a seat in the waiting room — yeah, the one with all those other kids in it. Applications for shiny destinies will be processed in the order received…

    Arkansas, Dr. Pales is using the standard Christian ninefold hierarchy, reasonably enough. All those would be included among the Lords of Flame. By all means pick up the book — it’s well worth close study.

    Onething, the word “universe” literally means “that which turns as one.” Nowadays people use it to mean “all that is,” but that isn’t the meaning it had a century ago.

    Mike, no, she’s drawing a distinction between the planet on the fifth plane and the earth, which is on the first plane. The Planetary Spirit of our planet manifests herself to us most clearly on the etheric plane — the plane of the life force — but Fortune’s oversimplifying here to say that she’s primarily an etheric being; the activities of the three primal swarms see to it that all the planetary beings ultimately exist on all seven planes.

    Trubrujah, that makes sense. You could even identify Ouranos and Gaia, and the other beings of their generation, as the Lords of Flame; Kronos and the Titans as the Lords of Form; and the gods and goddesses of Olympus as the Lords of Mind. Definitely worth meditation!

    Radha, well, I trust you’ll be reading The Mystical Qabalah again, so you can take notes then. That and The Cosmic Doctrine are Fortune’s two most important texts, and no question, they fit together closely. As for a cosmic end point, I don’t think that’s what Fortune had in mind — we have a long way to go beyond our current human level, and even when we proceed beyond that and enter into our Cosmic life, there needn’t be any stopping point. Keep in mind, too, that other swarms of souls have been through the same process ahead of us, and others are following behind us; we just happen to be at the human level at this period of the solar system’s history, going through the process like so many others before and after us.

    Dan, a good solid meditation on the three swarms! Thank you.

    Kimberly, that seems reasonable enough. The great thing is that Fortune spent a huge amount of time trying to pass on everything she knew to students, and the tradition she started remains a living current of Western esotericism. So those who desire to know how and why have something to work with…

    Isaac, what a fine theme for meditation!

    SLClaire, excellent! Yes, exactly — and yes, what we’re talking about in this chapter is the Path of Descent; the return up the planes will be the subject of upcoming chapters.

    Onething, the “d” is deliberate. We’re talking about how certain kinds of malevolent and destructive entities come into being.

    Varun, that’s a very solid meditation on the theme. Thank you.

    It occurs to me that it’s been a while since I thanked the people who are following along on this adventure for their willingness to tackle so utterly unfashionable a work as The Cosmic Doctrine, and work hard at making sense of it. I appreciate you all — those who post questions and comments, and those who simply keep following along as best they can. Among other things, you’re all helping to lay down tracks in consciousness that will assist future students of this lore to make sense of it more quickly and thoroughly. Thank you all for your effort and enthusiasm!

  40. The origins of free will in play struck me, and the case could be made that play is a less disciplined form of ceremonial magic, or ceremonial magic is a particularly complex form of play: imaginative play is one typical form it takes, which as the name suggests requires the sustained use of imagination. More advanced form of play also uses symbolism, by taking objects and making them into something else for the duration of the game. This is as true of imaginative play where the race car is treated as an actual car as it is for chess, where the pieces represent abstract things.

    Magic also relies on memory and intentionallity: the latter can be shown to be key to play easily enough, if you’ve ever watched a group of kids arguing over what the rules of the game are. Depending on the game, a pencil can be a saber, laser, or just an ordinary pencil; likewise, the same pieces can be chess or checkers.

    Memory is also key to effective play, since without it the game can’t work: the game can only work as long as everyone can agree of what everything is, which is only possible if the entire group can remember what has been decided.

    The only thing which it seems to be lacking is ritual, but even then, some games (such as red rover) make use of what could be considered simple rituals.

    What makes this fascinating is that one of the effects of sustained magical work is to awaken the innate capacity for freewill that we have as human beings, and develop the ability to be more than just an automaton. I think I need to take this as a theme for about a month worth of meditations….

  41. I totally agree with your take, Will J, on the close connection between magic and gaming. I’m old enough that I missed the appearance of D&D and all its derived table-tops, let alone LARPs, but my children and many of my students got deeply into them, and shared stories of their experiences with me. My very best students in my university courses on magic were, almost without a single exception, avid gamers.

    These games have brought about a seismic shift in the entire process of becoming an adult, at least in the US, with their emphasis on (as you point out) imagination, symbolism, memory and intention–to which I would add attention and ritual. I consider the invention of this sort of gaming to be one of the few most important of all inventions of the 20th century, as important as the invention of computers.

  42. Fair enough. Well it seems to me after brief meditation on the subject, that the Plato’s world of True Forms is the Cosmos, and not the Unmanifest, as the Unmanifest is formless.

  43. In my thoughts, I was seeing the Lords of Flame as the elements, like air, water or earth, really primal kinds of things. The Lords of Form would be hurricanes, water spouts, dust devils, rain, snow, streams, ocean, rocks, soil, gems, all the different forms the elements can take. The Lords of Mind would be the creatures that lived in or used the elements. In air it would be things like birds, insects, windmills; in water it would be fish, whales, boats; in the earth, it would be plants, earthquakes, hot springs. Of course there is a lot of cross over from one element to another and things done by human ingenuity I think could count the Lords of Mind at work. Does that seem on track with Fortunes metaphor?

  44. Robert,

    “My very best students in my university courses on magic were, almost without a single exception, avid gamers.”

    You taught university courses on magic?!

  45. Says Radha,

    “Now I’m trying to understand what part of my philosophy is influenced by Post-modernism (or the Technosphere?), in that all things are equal and meaningless, and whether I should try to root that out from my thinking.”

    An interesting line of inquiry. Certainly I find it uninspiring…what’s to look forward to if not growing in knowledge and wisdom through the aeons?
    I also find that, paradoxically, it is not those who elevate humanity who think lowly of animals. Rather, those who insist humans are no different than the animals seem to lower humans more than elevate the animals.
    To me, humans are quite obviously on another level than the other animals, though there are the elephants and dolphins to consider. But I have a very high opinion of animal intelligence. Their problem solving abilities at times rivals our own. At least, if you’ve seen some of those crow videos – I am chagrined to admit I am not sure I would have done as well!

    But if you think humans and animals are on the same level, how far do you take it? Is a moth equal to a horse?

    Human intelligence, though, is different. Animals are specialists, but we are generalists. A crow is excellent at being a crow and solving crow problems but humans are fascinated and curious about absolutely everything. And pursue it. When you think about it, that is a rather god-like attribute, because we are engaged with the whole cosmos. And our bodies match that, what with having free hands, opposable thumbs, good vision with upright posture. Our size is about right too. If we were very small, we wouldn’t have the strength to do things like metal working in forges with large fires.

  46. Will, excellent. Yes, exactly; childhood play is how children begin to exercise their innate capacities for magic, and in sane societies, they then develop that further by way of culturally appropriate initiation rituals in adolescence, and education in adult magical practices thereafter. Ours isn’t a sane society, so we have to improvise a bit.

    Isaac, a good first step. Take it further. May I suggest the Timaeus as a helpful source of meditation fodder for comparisons?

    Kay, that strikes me as a useful metaphor for her metaphor.

  47. “childhood play is how children begin to exercise their innate capacities for magic”

    Reading this, I had the feeling of a huge puzzle piece slipping into place. I’ll have to do some meditating to trace out the implications. It may explain why I was so dedicated to daydreaming and make-believe as a child, even when I couldn’t explain why to anyone around me.

    Also, it can’t be a coincidence that in our magic-hating society, we’re replacing children’s play with video games. They’re very ritualistic, but in a way that diminishes the capabilities that Will J mentioned.

    I agree with Robert Mathiesen about RPGs being an important invention. But I also think of a documentary I saw years ago, called The Dungeon Masters, which follows several people who are deep into RPG culture. At least one of the ‘main characters’ is seen to be using fantasy as a way to escape pressing emotional problems, and so resides in a state of arrested development.

    And this strikes me as an example of degradation, in Fortune’s sense. It’s not an inevitable consequence of playing RPGs or what have you, but I feel like it’s a particular danger in today’s culture.

  48. Right now I’m thinking of the Lords of Flame as nwyfre, the Lords of Form as gwyar, and the Lords of Mind as calas. For instance, there are some Chinese characters on a box of mooncakes I bought (Happy Belated Moon Festival, everyone!) and in the case of those characters, the Lords of Flame are the thoughts and origins of language that led to someone drawing the kanji, the Lords of Form who are the physical box and the brown and orange inks, and the Lords of Mind as part of the signal that compelled me and others to decide to buy the mooncakes. I hope this makes sense.

  49. @Onething

    Yes, I did, for about 15 years, from the very early 1990s up to 2005, when I retired from Brown University (in Rhode Island). One course was titled “Magic in the Middle Ages,” but was really a history of Western magic from Antiquity up through the 1500s, with a two-week unit at the end on how magic is (or seems to be) effective–in effect, on “How does TSW, anyway?” The other was titled “Women, Magic and Power.” It was a course on women-led magical religions in the US from the late 1700s down to about 1960.

    You can find and download the syllabi from 2004-2005 on my webpage at, if you want to know the details. Of course, now (fifteen years later) the reading lists would have to be updated to reflect the newest university-level scholarship on these subjects. There has been an enormous amount of very solid scholarly research published on these subjects since 2005. There is even a practitioner-friendly academic professional society devoted to them, the Societas Magica, which meets every May at the International Congress of Medieval Studies, held in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (I had the honor of being one of the three founders of it, with Richard Kieckhefer and Claire Fanger.)

  50. JMG
    It’s getting interesting. (Grin).
    I have only just read this week’s comments. I see Gnostic and Plato have already featured.

    For me it is again the words that are deceptively common place and at the same time difficult. Both you and DF as ‘moderns’ can use ‘evolution’ and ‘primitive’ apparently conveying explanation: similarly ‘perfection’ equates with ‘harmony’. ‘Intelligence(s) equate with, I think, autonomous ‘minds’; ‘beings’, and so on.
    I have been re-reading Kurt Randolph’s ‘Gnosis’ (English edition pbk especially pp. 70-72) in a little more depth recently (difficult). He equates ‘gnosis’, (or as I understand it, they also called it, ‘knowledge’), with our term ‘insight’. I am drawn to thinking about ‘insight’ on the string of ‘planes’ (DF’s description).
    For the Gnostics their god-given ‘insight’ brought them the ‘substance’ of ‘God’ on the ‘highest plane’ bringing with it an opportunity for ‘redemption’. Differently, according to my own and many others’ experiences, including famous accounts in the history of science, more ordinary ‘insight’ is a well-described experience. But insight even of the more ordinary kind clearly differs by ‘type’ depending on the ‘plane’ one is giving attention to. It can, a bit like Gnosis, feel ‘given’, without depending entirely or even much on previous experience.
    The ‘substance’ experienced by ‘insight’ on the ‘highest plane’ might feel closer to God. Closer to home, very differently however, my ‘understanding / insight’ into a carburettor (no previous experience), on one memorable occasion after a professional mechanic told me it could not be fixed, surprisingly got me and the family out of a difficult situation. Apparently, again differently and on a less material plane, I once saw the ‘good’ of a pleasant middle-aged lady. I speculated at the time this could be the kind of experience that underpinned the term as used by Plato. It would not have needed to depend on middle-aged ladies.
    I won’t go over the many famous sudden ‘insights’ or realisations in science. According to reports, these then usually took years of hard work to test and illustrate. Even I achieved one or two very modest realisations of this kind. I guess that on occasion one, usually inadvertently in my case, crosses a border, and is given, however briefly, an insight on the astral plane.
    So far I do not end up with the Gnostics in a dualistic world of God’s substance/ Gnosis on one high plane, and a fallen world lumped in a heap with nasty history at the bottom. There still seems a long line between ‘here’ and ‘there’ and a long way to go. I proceed cautiously. Smile.
    Phil H
    PS Unlikely I know, but Yvonne’s report of another essay on ‘Chosen Ones’ could I suppose indicate an independent insight; a Wallace to your Darwin, as it were. Smile
    PPS Re ‘games’, there is an extraordinary paper in the week’s Science on playing hide-and-seek with tame rats. I would love to share but would betray copyright. Don’t we all have interesting minds!

  51. I can see that the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind are presented in this chapter as influences upon a set of stages, or phases, separated from one another in time. However, I have been musing upon how their different influences weave together into a single moment of experience, each contributing an aspect to it.

    I should add that this musing is occurring within a larger context, which is my long term musing on autoimmune disease and boundaries, which is ongoing since I raised it here a few months ago.

    I first thought about flame, and the way in which all flames every where seem ever ready to be one flame. If you take a lit candle in either hand, and you bring their “bottom” ends together, you still see two candles, however you turn them. But if you bring the lit ends together, suddenly you see that there is one flame. It may still be fed by two sources, but it is one flame.

    So then I thought about form and realised that it is mainly a way to create boundaries, without which flame could never gain the perspective/experience of a particular time & place. A living being could be described as a flame separated out from All-Flame, by being contained within a bounded form. And within which it can discover by doing and reacting and being reacted to – the play of mind.

    I had already discovered some things about boundaries.

    One, they are maintained for so long as the natural destructive forces of entropy, and wear and tear, are kept at bay by the creative forces of repair and renewal. Both are continually at work. The Lord of Form is a creator and maintainer of boundaries. The Lord of Flame may be (among other things) a destroyer of boundaries and separations.

    Two, boundaries must have both stoppings and crossings, to be effective. To follow our current metaphor, the flame within must be kept separate enough from other flames to prevent it from following its natural inclination to dissolve barriers, unite with all other flames and forget “itself,” but it cannot be kept so hermetically sealed that it cannot be fed/fuelled and its ashes cannot be swept out. So all sound boundaries include approved crossing places, called gateways, where substances can cross either in or out, following careful inspection by the gate-keepers, who are also boundary keepers.

    Thirdly, and this bears some relation to what Fortune says can result from the “play” of minds – the hazards are a) that flame can beat form and dissolve all boundaries, or b) that form can beat flame, by closing hermetically and choking off flame until it dies within. (I note in passing that both of these extreme temptations – open borders vs closed borders – are current in political discourse). Ideally, flame and form balance one another and mind can play and learn.

  52. The following comment is separate, being less topical – you may decide not to approve it.

    But in a different thread I saw someone ask if you had come up with a sense of what an “autoimmune” personality is (I paraphrase) and you replied you hadn’t, but not for want of trying given Sara’s experience.

    Anyway, the following may be of no use or help, and it certainly doesn’t address the “personality” question, but I thought it might interest some.

    So, anyway, as I’ve researched autoimmune diseases, I’ve realised that theories about how it comes about fall into two broad streams – each leading to almost diametrically opposed treatment principles.

    Most standard medical thinking falls into one of those streams, which holds that there is no pathogen present, but for some reason an immune system malfunctions, and begins to attack and sometimes destroy its own host’s tissue. The obvious treatment principle in this case is to suppress or weaken immune function.

    Still within this stream of thinking, there is the nuanced version that is based on the insult/mimic theory, which holds that historical exposure (possibly only once) to a particular external stimulus (usually a foreign protein which has somehow bypassed all safeguards against it getting into the blood or the cells) prompts the immune system to react, and also mimics some protein that belongs to the body enough to misdirect immune attacks to tissues expressing that protein. This is often seen to be accompanied by allergies and intolerances, and the obvious treatment principle is avoidance of the mimic, and sometimes accompanying suppression of the immune system.

    The second stream of thinking does not posit a malfunctioning immune system, but an underpowered or underequipped one. This thinking posits the ongoing presence of a genuine hazard that the immune system properly recognises as such, but that it cannot successfully kill or clear. Instead it increases the power of its attacks on the genuine pathogen until the body’s own tissues suffer from “friendly fire”. Suspected pathogens in this scenario include heavy metals, non biodegrade able chemical toxins, moulds/fungi, parasites, and bacteria capable of entering and hiding inside cells. The obvious treatment principles in this case are to assist the immune system to repel/clear the pathogen, and protect the body’s tissues.

    I think both kinds of thinking are likely to be correct in different cases, but the key thing is to choose the correct treatment principles accordingly and see what results. (The treatment principles are amenable to many different actual methods, IMO).

    In terms of our current political situation it may be that the first stream of thinking corresponds to the idea that our borders are too strongly policed, resulting in injury to people who are bit at all dissimilar to ourselves. The second would correspond to the line of thinking that I’ve seen in some quarters, that the policing being applied is powerless against the actual dangers (some of which lie deep within, having evaded the gatekeepers). In any case, helping detect and clear the true dangers, while offering more protection to the body of the host would be the proposals being made there.

  53. JMG: “My preference, though, would be:
    Unlikely teenager: I am the Chosen One.
    Old wise man: Okay, please take a number and have a seat in the waiting room —
    yeah, the one with all those other kids in it. Applications for shiny destinies will be processed in the order received…”

    My take would be:

    Definitely unlikely teenager: I am the Chosen One.

    Harrassed old wise man: Ok but there’s some paperwork you need to fill out first. Then you’ll
    have to take a number and have a seat.

    Definitely unlikely teenager: Didn’t you hear me? I said I was the Chosen One.

    Harrassed old wise man: Yeah, yeah, you know you’re the seventieth one to tell me that. Here’s the
    paperwork. Now just fill it out. And don’t forget to take a number.

    Definitely unlikely teenager: grumbling under breath – takes paperwork and number – comes back two minutes later.

    Harrassed old wise man: Now I told you to take your turn.

    Definitely unlikely teenager: I don’t get this question.

    Harrassed old wise man: Which one?

    Definitely unlikely teenager: This one on page twenty, the one about immunizations. My parents were anti-vax.

    Harrassed old wise man: What about it?

    Definitely unlikely teenager: Does this mean I have to get shots? I don’t want to get autism.

    Harrassed old wise man: (under his breath – we should be so lucky). No, you don’t have to get shots.
    Didn’t you say you were the Chosen One? You’re probably never going to get sick.

    Definitely unlikely teenager: Oh yeah that’s right. Sorry to bug you. (goes back to his seat next to the Chosen
    One with a bad rash and runny nose.

  54. Well howdie. “Timeaus” wasn’t included in the collection of dialogues that I found at the local used book shop, but I did find it online. The similarities are so great that one could say “The Cosmic Doctrine” is a modern update of “Timeaus”… we even start with Plato telling us that this is a “likely story”, just as fortune tells us CD is to “train the mind, not to inform it.” There could, and should, probably be a book written comparing them, but to answer my own question, it seems that the Demiurge/Creator is the Solar Logos and looks to the Cosmos as the world of Forms from which to copy the Solar System. The “recepticle” is more like “the Unmanifest.” We see that we can apprehend the world of Forms with our mind, while the Unmanifest is beyond all grasping. I could, and shall, spend a lot more time in comparing these frameworks, but for now I’ll leave it at that and get back to work.

  55. I’ve been dealing with an annoying blocked and ringing ear for the past little while that is really messing up my ability to concentrate and meditate, and so don’t feel as though I have very much to add to the discussion at the moment. But here are my thoughts on this chapter for what they’re worth.

    The ones that go before are blazing the trail and making things easier for those that follow along.

    I got to thinking about ancestors – the people who came before us, went through the whole process of living already, and are now teaching us who come after them.

    It’s usually easier to try doing something new if you’ve seen it done before. Like how, for example, if your parents got you involved in gardening as a kid, you’d be more likely to take it up yourself as you got older, because the possibility of gardening was already present in your mind.

    In thinking about epigenesis, I got to thinking about how a parent tries to teach their kid the ins and outs of life, and how for a period of time the kid doesn’t exactly take all that advice to heart. The kid wants to play around a bit, explore the world, learn the lessons for themselves oftentimes the hard way, not just obediently do whatever mom says (even though mom is ‘usually’ right with her advice!) So the kid goes through their rebellious teenager phase and runs the definite risk of spiraling off in their own destructive direction, before (hopefully) getting on board with the process of maturation and taking on of responsibility, as the parent is keenly waiting for them to do.

    In keeping with that train of thought, I wanted to say thank you to you too, JMG, for your work in blazing the trail through this ‘unfashionable’ text and making it easier for us to contemplate what you have already contemplated before us.

  56. Cliff, no argument there. Video games are one of many attempts to colonize the childhood imagination for the sake of corporate profit; RPGs are more open — but you’re right that sublimation turns to degradation if the imagination is prevented too long from expressing itself in the world of actual experience.

    KImberly, indeed it does.

    Phil, of course it’s a possibility! If she insists that that’s what happened, I’m not going to make a fuss about it — but until that happens, well, we’ll see. 😉

    Scotlyn, excellent! With regard to autoimmune diseases, Sara’s situation falls between the two models you’ve proposed. Her immune system went into overdrive when she was exposed for a lengthy period (without our being aware of it) to one of the toxic black molds that are all over the Pacific Northwest these days; all of a sudden a range of immune conditions she’d had in a very mild form, including allergies, went crazy on her; and her immune system has remained hyperactive ever since, though it seems to have calmed down very, very slowly since we left the maritime Northwest. I’m not entirely sure how you’d model that.

    Walt, in a certain sense, yes — playing D&D makes it less likely that you’ll buy into the fantastically narrow and hate-filled fanaticism Chick was pushing, and more likely that you might try a more participatory spirituality — “participatory spirituality” being, of course, a fancy name for magic…

    Jeanne, funny! I like it.

    Isaac, in the Renaissance the Timaeus was generally considered one of Plato’s most important works; nowadays it’s very often swept under the rug, so I’m not surprised it wasn’t in the collection you found. Yes, it’s worth very close study, and yes, comparing it to the Cos.Doc. will take you in some fascinating directions.

    Stefania, sorry to hear it — may your ear get over its unfortunate bout of epigenesis and start behaving itself!

  57. @JMG the proof of the model is in the testing. These days, in the clinic, I’m starting to think that every diagnosis/pattern differentiation/model a practitioner comes up with (and practitioner can be interpreted widely – standard doctor, therapist, friend, mage) is a hypothesis which leads to a choice of treatment principles to be tested. If the model resembles the map (and it can only resemble it to a greater or lesser degree) there will be a result. For the practitioner, the important thing is, having chosen your treatment principles, to INTEND them as strongly as you can, using whatever tools you are trained to use. If your chosen intention is close to what’s needed, there WILL be a result.

    Sara is very far from here, and I would not venture to be an absentee modeller, but questions that present themselves for asking would be – is there still validity in helping the immune system to clear retained moulds from the system? Is there still validity in invoking protection of “self-tissues” from “self-boundary-keepers”? If these (or other) treatment principles suggest themselves, I have no doubt the two of you know what to do with a clearly stated intention.

  58. As an avid RPG gamer, I think what you get out of it is measured by what you put into it, in a way which is surprisingly relevant here, but basically they serve one of two purposes: they’re either a way to act on the world, or a way to act through the world.

    I tend to GM, but the NPCs I create are tolerably often independent entities: a lot of the time they do what they want, and on more than one occasion I had an NPC who refused to do what I wanted and sent the plot off in a very different direction. That game was probably one of the best I’ve ever played though, so I’m happy with it.

    Thus, my gaming tends very strongly towards acting through the world: using the world that the group creates as a way to express ourselves, but letting it exist independent of us. I also freaked out one of my groups by writing a thorough description of one of the areas another group had gone to, and then noting I hadn’t mentioned the symbol which all of them had found: that symbol was key to the plot and so the group which went there first had “burned it in” so to speak, and this suggests to me that the worlds have an existence separate from ours.

    The part I find fascinating about it is that there are plenty of gamers who won’t allow their world the level of freedom which I give mine as a matter of course, and many of these gamers have problems with emotional development. GM guides lean towards this sort of play, and so I tend to read them and then toss them. They tend to suggest that if the players come up with a way around your plot, change the world to fit, where I always change the plot to fit the world.

  59. Having caught up, *finally*, one of the things I like about this chapter in particular is the emphasis that each of the swarms has different challenges/benefits, and each of them (or at least the first three–does it continue down the line?) has a different purpose. It tracks with some of the input I’ve gotten during my moments of contact–basically “we need to be different sizes to work with different things/on different scales”, where all of those words are approximations of meaning–and also, I think, with some of the comments you’ve made about particular magical/mystical/etc paths not being for everyone in every incarnation. (Also with a hill I die on interpersonally: the concept that happiness/success doesn’t look the same for everyone*, or even for the same person at different points in their life.)

    On RPGs, sort of similarly, my experience is that there are a number of gratifying and healthy ways to do them, from the beer-and-pretzels style that’s basically an excuse to hang out with friends and eat bad takeout to the deep immersion psychological games to weekend-long immersive LARPs (which everyone plays for different reasons myself, and I won’t claim that “wear a corset and impress cute guys with swordfighting skills” isn’t a major factor for me). And there are times when the ignoring-real-life aspect is helpful–my first year in college, my grandmother died right before a game, and it was nice to spend a weekend not thinking about it and inhabiting the head of someone who *knew* what happened to people after death–because hey, a crutch is great if you have a broken leg.

    Thaaaat said, yeah, there are definitely unhealthy approaches. I can think of a couple people who absolutely *have* to play a game every weekend, and who publicly pressure game-runners for extra sessions and sequels to games that have just wrapped up, and they’re pretty inevitably people in awful marriages or jobs–which can admittedly be hard to act on, especially once “relationship” becomes “marriage and kids”, but still. And I absolutely know some people who use gaming as therapy, bringing all their personal issues to session and getting incensed when nobody else there is willing to act as an unpaid therapist. None of that is great for them, and more importantly–from my rather selfish perspective–it’s not fair to fellow players or game runners.

    Writing this out, it seems to tie into my recent attempts to meditate on Gamaliel from a casual-sex-positive perspective, so that may be a thing I need to ponder some more!

    * “My parents like camping,” is my go-to example; a friend of mine, who sees more movies, uses “Some people *like* ‘The Matrix.'”

  60. @Will J: That, I think, is the best way to do it, and I always admire my GMly friends who are good enough at improv and/or have planned the world out enough to manage it.

    (I remember a college game wherein my PCs did something in the first session that basically got around what I’d intended to be the entire plot, and I was like “…oooookay I have to go to the bathroom. For half an hour. No I’m not frantically revising everything WHY DO YOU ASK?”

    These days, I tend to be more transparent: “Huh. Did not see that coming. Can we call it here and I’ll get back to you next session?”)

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