Book Club Post

The Cosmic Doctrine: Influences of the Manifested Universe, Part Two

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 21, “Influences of the Manifested Universe,” from the last paragraph on p. 94, beginning “The doctrine of the planes…” to the end of the chapter.

Millennium Edition: Chapter 22, “Influences of the Manifested Universe,” pp. 128-134.

Commentary:

With the subject of this section of The Cosmic Doctrine—teachings concerning the Planetary Spirits (in the revised edition, Planetary Beings), Star Logoi (in the revised edition, Ray Exemplars), and spiritual evolution—we again come into territory that has much to do with practical magic. Fortune’s writing here is extremely careful, since as always she was concerned not to hand out practical teachings to those who were not equipped to deal with them. In order to make sense of what she has to say, it will be necessary to jump back and forward a bit as we proceed.

Let’s begin with the Planetary Spirits. In Chapter Fourteen, Fortune explained that Planetary Spirits are “creations of the created,” patterns of enduring movement in space laid down by the three primal swarms in their journey down and back up the planes. They are kindled into being by the Lords of Flame, given bodies of the substance of each plane by the Lords of Form, and elaborated by the epigenetic play of the Lords of Mind. They do not have Divine Sparks of their own, and so their evolution depends on the evolution of the beings incarnated on them.

As we have seen in previous chapters, too, the planets did not come into being all at once. The primal swarms made them one at a time as they descended through the planes.  In those chapters, the genesis of the planets was presented in a simplified form, as though the swarms moved step by step away from the Sun as they descended. That was useful for the sake of instruction, but the actual order—an important key to the practical dimensions of The Cosmic Doctrine—is rather different, and is shown in the diagram to the left.

As noted there, the Earth was the last planet formed, and is thus the planet of the physical plane; the Moon represents to us the upper half of the physical plane, the realm of etheric forces.  Mars corresponds to the lower astral plane, the plane of instincts and passions, and Venus to the upper astral plane, the realm of the higher and more abstract emotions.  Saturn is the planet of the lower mental plane, the realm of concrete mind, and Mercury the planet of the upper mental plane and the abstract mind. Jupiter, the first planet formed, is the planet of the lower spiritual plane, and the Sun itself represents the forces of the upper spiritual plane.

To what extent this order reflects the actual events of the solar system’s formation is a question I propose to leave to the cosmologists.  As metaphor, it works well, because the planetary forces as understood in astrology and invoked in magic do in fact correspond very precisely to the planes assigned to them here: the cycles of Mars match the passions and instincts, those of Venus those of emotion and creativity, and so on. From now on, when you think of the swarms moving down the planes in their great journey, imagine them moving from planet to planet in the order given, dwelling on each world in bodies formed of the substance of the corresponding plane—bodies of the upper mental plane on Mercury, in other words, and the lower astral plane on Mars.  This reflects, and in a certain sense might explain, the fact that of all the planets in our solar system, the Earth appears to be the only one that has physically incarnate life on it.

No doubt many readers will have noted by now that this scheme assigns no role in the process of spiritual evolution to the planets Uranus and Neptune, for minor planets such as Ceres and Pluto, or for any of the smaller bodies that make up the solar system (other than comets, which we discussed earlier). There is a good practical reason for this.  The seven planets Fortune includes in her scheme are also the ones that have extensive bodies of magical lore built up around them.  Any mage with a grasp of the traditional lore knows how to invoke the energies of Venus or Saturn, for example, while the same is not true of Ceres or Neptune. Centuries of hard work will have to go into reworking the existing lore of planetary magic to fit a ninefold rather than a sevenfold system, and in the meantime, mages have other duties to attend to.  It may also turn out that, in the magical systems of the far future, the other planets, minor planets, moons, asteroids, and Kuiper Belt bodies have roles unrelated to providing homes to incarnate beings.

The Planetary Spirits of the seven planets Fortune discusses here are responsible for that last task, and they are the great conditioning influences for the evolution of each swarm as it passes from world to world. As explained back in Chapter 14, each Planetary Spirit acquires bodies corresponding to all seven planes, so that eventually swarms of Divine Sparks will be able to undergo the full evolutionary cycle on a single planet. Eventually is not yet, though, and the Planetary Spirit with which we are most concerned—the Planetary Spirit of the Earth—is the youngest of the Planetary Spirits, and since she is the planet of the physical plane, her highest and subtlest aspect is on the higher etheric sub-planes of the physical plane.

Each of the Planetary Spirits, however, also has a Lord of Flame as its guide and guardian. In the language of ceremonial magic, these Lords of Flame are the archangels of the planets; other traditions have their own names for them.  Each of these beings has other spiritual beings working under their direction to further the evolution of the Planetary Spirit and the swarms who work out a stage of their evolution on the planet. Fortune refers to these helping spirits as “Initiates who know the consonants of the Names,” which is a subtle bit of Cabalistic wordplay; originally, written Hebrew included the consonants of words but not the vowels, which had to be learned from a teacher in the days before the current system of vowel points came into use. In the same sense, the spirits who serve the archangels of the planets are furthering their own evolution by doing so; having mastered the obvious aspects of the plane on which they operate, they are learning the subtle inner aspects of the plane through their labors.

The Star Logoi are similar to the Planetary Spirits. As explained in Chapter Seventeen, the Star Logoi originated as the group souls of the swarms that followed the three primal swarms, and now function as the guiding forces of the signs of the Zodiac. Each of the Star Logoi has a Lord of Mind assigned to it as its guide and guardian; in ceremonial magic these are the angels of the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Each new swarm receives particular guidance from the Star Logos corresponding to whichever one of the twelve Cosmic rays was affecting the solar system at the time the swarm set out down the planes, but all twelve of the Star Logoi influence each swarm and establish twelve basic types of soul in each swarm.

Our Earth is in the midst of all this. It has a Planetary Spirit who is the youngest of her kind and still has long ages of evolution ahead of her.  It has a Lord of the Flame, called the archangel Sandalphon in Cabalistic literature and other names in other traditions, who is the regent of the Solar Logos on this world.  It has many other spiritual beings inhabiting it, including Lords of Form and Lords of Mind; and it also has beings of our swarm who have completed the work of this plane and, having been initiated by the Lords of Mind, assist the evolution of other souls.

As Fortune points out, this involves work with the other Planetary Spirits and their regents, and also with the Star Logoi, because the Planetary Spirit of the Earth reaches only as far as the etheric sub-planes, and humanity has almost completed its evolution on those sub-planes. To awaken the capacities of the higher aspects of the self—those that correspond to the planes above the physical—the Planetary Spirits and Star Logoi and their guiding archangels and angels must be brought into the picture, because they possess the contacts with the higher planes that our Planetary Spirit has not yet evolved. This has important implications for human evolution.

As incarnate human beings we have already received the initiations of the Earth and the Moon.  We have awakened to objective consciousness on the physical plane, and the next great step for us will take us from Earth to Mars, where we will begin the process of awakening to full objective consciousness on the lower astral plane. That journey will not be made with spacecraft, however, since the densest bodies we will have then will be made of the substance of the lower astral, and the transition will be a movement of souls rather than of bodies. As Cosmic time is reckoned, Fortune says, that transition is not far off. What does that work out to in human terms? Our text doesn’t say—nor, of course, does it say how literally or metaphorically this statement is to be taken.

There’s a practical lesson to be learned from this point, however.  At this stage of our species’ collective evolution, for a great many of us, a fixation on the purely material aspects of life—on what Fortune calls “the supreme humanity of the animal aspect”—is a form of retrogression that leads to the Left-hand Path. Remember that Fortune gives a very specific meaning to that term, one that differs from some of the uses it’s been given since her time. The diagram shown here offers a useful mnemonic; for Fortune, the Left-hand Path is the path of retreating back along the line of evolution already accomplished, while the Right-hand Path is the path of forward motion toward modes of evolutionary experience we haven’t had yet. Both rise up the planes—but one involves gaining abilities we haven’t developed yet, while the other involves shedding abilities we’ve gained and reverting to older forms.

The rest of this chapter needs to be understood with some care, as Fortune here brings in her own personal religious beliefs.  At the time she penned The Cosmic Doctrine, she believed, as many Christians in her time believed, that the polytheist faiths of the past were appropriate at that stage of evolution, but that they had passed their time and the strict monotheism of the Abrahamic faiths was appropriate now. She also believed, as many people influenced by the Theosophical movement believed, that monotheism was also a transitional phase, and that it would be supplanted in turn by reverence for the Masters and the hierarchies responsible for spiritual evolution, with Christ as the Master of Masters off beyond the hierarchies.

These beliefs were very common in Fortune’s time, but not many people hold them these days, even in the occult community.  Fortune herself, later on in her career, reevaluated her dismissal of the gods and goddesses of traditional Paganism, and ended up using her considerable abilities as a novelist and ritualist to attempt to reestablish reverence for Isis and Pan in the modern world.  If you happen to be a Theosophically influenced Christian, in other words, by all means take what she says as face value; if not, take it as the way a broader pattern of ideas looks from within the worldview of a Theosophically influenced Christianity.

That pattern of ideas can be outlined readily enough.  On each plane except for the physical plane, there are always two swarms moving through—one in a subjective state descending through the planes, the other in an objective state rising back up. The swarm on the descending arc receives its initiation from the swarm on the ascending arc. So far, so good—but here on Earth, at the nadir of the arc where involution ends and evolution begins, there is only one swarm present; there ain’t nobody here but us chickens. Furthermore, in Fortune’s scheme, the most important initiation of all—the initiation of the nadir, the point at which the individual soul wakes to objective consciousness and begins to make use of the potentialities it has picked up on its long journey down the planes—can only be given and received on the physical plane.

This initiation is therefore conferred straight down the planes, as Fortune says, “by those who have attained perfection on the seventh plane”—that is, the upper spiritual plane, which has the Sun for its planet. This is the initiation of the Logos, which Fortune identifies with the initiatory aspect of Christian faith. That identification works well enough so long as it is not treated as an exclusive matter, since the logic of Fortune’s great metaphor requires that all the souls in our swarm (or nearly all, since the comets take some few) receive that initiation, and this includes people who completed that part of their journey long before Christianity came into existence.  One way to understand this part of the metaphor is to see the initiation of the Logos as something that every religion can provide to its believers.

There are subleties to this scheme that deserve close attention.  While our swarm was still completing its descent into matter, having arrived on this planet but not yet fully awakened to objective consciousness on the material plane, we still interacted to some extent with the beings of earlier evolutions, whom we called spirits, gods, and many other terms of the same kind. This corresponds precisely to the worldview of traditional societies, full of spirits and half-glimpsed beings of all kinds—the “demon-haunted world” Carl Sagan denounced so angrily, if you will, as well as the world full of gods that the Greek philosopher Thales described in reverent terms. At the nadir, the point of deepest descent into matter, that is no longer the case, and the only beings who can reach us at that point are the perfected entities of the upper spiritual plane.

Fortune suggests, though, that this is a temporary state. On the far side of the initiation of the nadir, the terrible silence of a cosmos of empty space and dead matter gives way to a living world again. We again come into contact with other spiritual beings, but our relationship to them has changed. We have woken into objective consciousness, and can begin to perceive the planes above matter; we can, once that point has passed, begin to take part in the greater processes of the cosmos, and prepare ourselves to help later evolutions as we have been helped. To make use of a homely metaphor, we will cease to be clients and will be hired as members of the staff—in entry-level positions, to be sure, but with very nearly limitless possibilities for advancement.

Within the structure of Fortune’s great metaphor and the broader context of occult tradition generally, it is not unreasonable to speculate about whether other groups of human souls made the same transition before us, either in civilizations known to history or in those more distant ages that occult literature and Fortune’s own writing discusses—the Atlantean era, the Lemurian era, and so on. Whether or not this is the case, the entire structure of The Cosmic Doctrine requires that all other created beings in our solar system, from the Lords of Flame on down, have been through some analogue of the same experience we are undergoing now: the temporary descent into a world made only of matter and void, the collective equivalent of the mystic’s Dark Night of the Soul, followed by a return to life and light.

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 May 13, 2020.  Until then, have at it!

113 Comments

  1. Hello, JMG and others. I was all set to ask a question, but there at the end of the post, you addressed it quite nicely. I’ve been reading three books more or less side by side: Gareth Knight’s “Experience of the Inner Worlds,” C. S. Lewis’s “Miracles,” and your own “A World Full of Gods.” The former two books were reminding me all too much of the forms of suspect reasoning I encountered during my teenage years in the Methodist Church. In short, I wanted to throw both books against the wall. Now, here comes DF making a similar argument about “ultimate” monotheism. I feel pretty comfy with the soundness of your reasoning in “World Full of Gods.” And, having read many if not all of DF’s novels would have to agree that later on she did not seem to be all that committed to monotheism. Thank you for clarifying.

  2. I have to say it angered me quite a bit to be presented with a new planetary scheme, and one that makes no sense at that!

    Then I tried to trace the pattern on their corresponding shephiroth, and let’s just say it’s quite a unique course…

    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  3. Phutatorius, oh, granted. All through the 20th century Christian apologetics deployed the same set of arguments for monotheism over and over again, without ever quite noticing that said arguments only convinced those who wanted to believe. CS Lewis is the classic example: everyone I’ve ever met who found his arguments convincing was either Christian to start with or was looking for an excuse to return to Christianity. Remove the will to believe and the whole rhetoric tumbles to the ground at once — and yet neither Lewis nor any of the others who used it seem ever to have noticed that.

    As for Fortune, like most of us, she was a bundle of incongruities; she remained a devout if eccentric Christian her entire life, and came up with quite a series of excuses and justifications to combine that with the fact that she knew perfectly well that what she and everyone else in her society desperately needed was a good hearty dose of Paganism, complete with reverence for and celebration of those earthy forces she discussed so well in her novels.

    Churrundo, hmm. I don’t understand why that made you angry; my reaction, when I first encountered it, was “Okay, interesting — that doesn’t seem to make sense at first glance, so I’ll meditate on it.” It seemed to work… 😉

  4. Are the gods, in “looking across the diameter of the plane to his gods”, on the involutionary arc the same as the Nature forces in the list she gives? Is the nadir she mentions here the same as the buoy which one rounds in the metaphor of the yacht race she uses elsewhere? Thanks.

  5. JMG, I have read a few of these Cosmic Doctrine posts and they have fascinated me. But where is the concrete evidence for any of this? What reason do I have to believe any of these ideas, just because somebody else said it? Where is the proof?

  6. Someone, yes and yes.

    Kuja, may I cite, again, the crucial quote from the beginning of the book? “In these occult teachings you will be given certain images, under which you will be instructed to think of certain things. These images are not descriptive but symbolic, and are designed to train the mind, not to inform it.” The Cos. Doc. is not a set of statements about objective material reality, but an attempt to communicate a way of thinking through the use of the nearest approximate metaphor. You can certainly treat it as a fictional cosmos, an interplanetary Middle-earth or what have you, if that makes it easier for you to deal with the work; the point of the work is not to feed you a bunch of alleged facts, but to teach you how to think like a mage.

  7. “The diagram shown here offers a useful mnemonic; for Fortune, the Left-hand Path is the path of retreating back along the line of evolution already accomplished, while the Right-hand Path is the path of forward motion toward modes of evolutionary experience we haven’t had yet. Both rise up the planes—but one involves gaining abilities we haven’t developed yet, while the other involves shedding abilities we’ve gained and reverting to older forms.”

    Wow! Trying to wrap my head around this. The Right-hand Path seems straightforward enough: spend gobs of time in discursive meditation, prayer, maybe formal magic, maybe not, and nip at the edges of the lower mental plane as you work your butt off developing a mental sheath. Slowly you ascend and eventually shed your meat body for what Druids call the Luminous Life.

    The Left-hand Path is what has my head spinning. OK, so let’s take a hypothetical televangelist. Let’s say they are materially quite successful and famous but ultra-slimy and sociopathic. The televangelist lives a long and sordid life, and when they die, their astral body goes to the place they were the most in tune with — wasn’t it Marion Zimmer Bradley, alleged pedophile, who complained of red-toned nightmares every night? So the televangelist, now a hungry ghost, sheds its astral body, then trashes its mental sheath, all the way up until they land on a comet headed towards a black hole… does that seem correct?

  8. Okay – thinking like a mage – I still found the description of the left-hand path distressingly like what I’m doing – trying to do – get a grip on the material world as it is, dishes and chores and all that, after a lifetime (it seems) of living in my head. And quite like what our dropouts from a decaying empire are doing, getting down to ground-level reality. But that feels like a serious misinterpretation. My second thought – the “just plain piggy badness” of the Ahrimanic path – Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago…. seems a better fit, but one mist beware of an interpretation which sounds like Luciferian smugness, so… thinking like a mage… and drawing a blank.

  9. Could you give an example of “thinking like a mage” and relate it back to one of the concepts or visual metaphors in the Cos Doc in terms of how it helps you think that way?

  10. Kimberly, close. Remember that on the descending arc, the soul is in a subjective state like dreaming, rather than being in an objective state like waking. So the televangelist starts by becoming subjective again on the mental plane — he no longer thinks in any real sense, though he can parrot buzzwords and mouth platitudes, while being guided entirely by astral emotions and imagery. Then he becomes subjective on the upper astral plane — his emotions and his imagination become automatic, uncontrolled, obsessive, and he is guided solely by basic biological drives. Then he becomes subjective on the lower astral plane — his passions and drives become automatisms. Finally he dies, becoming subjective on the physical plane, and he has to work his way all the way back to where he was. Or not, and the next comet has room for a new passenger.

    Patricia, no, what you’re doing is an important part of the right hand path, because the RHP is about waking up to objective consciousness on all planes. Many of us start doing that on the inner planes before we’ve really finished doing it on the physical plane, so we have to go back and catch up on the physical side of the work. Fortune used to encourage her students to take up some kind of handicraft or hands-on hobby, precisely because it helped them get that focused consciousness on the physical plane that provides a foundation for other kinds of work. She also used to insist that the dormitories at her magical order’s retreat center at Glastonbury be cleaned every day, for the same reason. (Her students used to call her “the Fluff” because when she spotted a dust bunny, she’d call out, “Fluff! Fluff!” and have someone clean it up.)

    Otp, if it were that easy to explain and give examples, do you think that Fortune would have needed an elaborate set of metaphors to communicate it?

  11. I have read JMG’s posts and most of the comments but rarely post. This is my first post in years. I today feel the need to share. I haven’t read Dion Fortune but I can relate to what JMG is talking about:

    (1) Around 1974, at age 22, I attended a six-months’ long Transcendental Meditation Program™ (TM) teacher training course in Europe. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (MMY) (acronym definition) introduced us to Hinduism’s Kali Yuga; of course, he mentioned no time-frame, only that we had a role to play. MMY taught that if as little as 1% of the worlds’ population practiced meditation (he was biased towards TM) (in my opinion, any kind of meditation is better than nothing), it would change the evolution of humans-animals-plants-mineral on Earth. I took him at his word. I think that is a pretty valid assumption. That was forty-five years ago.

    TM — the meditation itself — was a god-send to me. Many criticize TM, but I defend it. Due to factors beyond my control, I stopped practicing TM after ten years, but even then, it was ‘over my dead body’ because part of me died after I could no longer practice it. Don’t get me wrong: around 1977, the TM movement/organization became toxic, has since become disreputable, and sucks. The versions of Buddhism coming from Southeast Asia, Tibet, and Japan are much better choices. (Forty-odd years ago, Buddhism was nearly non-existent in America.)

    Since the 1980s, I met many, many others saying much the same thing as MMY did when he talked about Kali Yuga (that is, from different schools of meditation), like those espousing ascended master, Kuthumi:

    http://www.kuthumi.com/

    I just now looked up Kali Yuga in Wikipedia. Among other things, it says, “Rulers will no longer see it as their duty to promote spirituality, or to protect their subjects: they will become a danger to the world.” Sound familiar? Trump. Avarice and wrath will be common — humans will openly display animosity towards each other — ignorance of dharma will occur. Sound familiar? The world now. The rest of Kali Yuga’s description sounds pretty darn close to what has been happening for the last, identifiable so, twenty years.

    Being somewhat aware of Kali Yuga helps me not have gotten caught unawares. JMG’s speaking about Dion Fortune jives with MMY’s teachings.

    (2) In the early 2000s, I studied OBOD Druidry.

    (3) A little background: My parents, born in the mid-1920s, by 1946, became zealot-atheists. They decided that “God was Dead” (along with contemporaries who had experienced World War II) and, in the 1950s and 1960s, brought up their kids as atheists. I had no choice whatsoever. So…

    I became aware of one serious deficit in my life-long education: I was ignorant about Christianity. To fix my cluelessness, since 2012, I read dozens of books on Christianity. I joined a local, farm-community church, and gave it a 2-year shot, attending at least three Sunday mornings each month and getting to know everyone. The church people were old-style 1950s tradition. The typical age was 75. They knew all about casseroles and nothing about the Internet. They knew less than nothing of meditation. Neither the building nor the people gave me anywhere close to what I needed. They were into “praying” but, heaven forbid, you closed your eyes during prayer. “Closing one’s eyes” was/is tantamount to courting Satan. After I understood that parishioners viewed my closing-of-the-eyes as, at best, daft, I fled. Many of the people were sweet but that particular church group deserves to fail. I give it two years tops. The sad thing is that the people in charge had zero ability to figure out why they could not retain people. It was because they didn’t want to hear from anyone who had ideas they hadn’t approved of ahead of time. Ugh! On the flipside, I learned what I needed to learn.

    One of the things I learned is that some Christians have a “do it my way, or nothing.” The answer is (hint, hint, wink, wink): nothing! Non-Christians walking through doors of churches, giving any one church a good, hefty chance, will not accept “do it my way” or “we have always done it this way so we expect you to too.” Americans won’t/don’t tolerate that attitude. Churches flub it, and flub it, and flub it — ad infinitum flubbing. Now that I am well-versed in Christianity, I will likely return to Buddhism. Here I am mixing religions, but Christianity demonstrated it has no ability of helping me deal through whatever phase of Kali Yuga we are in.

    In contrast, sitting in meditation (in my case, currently TM-ish) helps me deal with things that are Kali-Yuga-ish, although I couldn’t say how.

    —–
    Writers: Please define your acronym the first time you use it in each comment. On more than a few occasion, I have tried to figure out what, for example, ADA means. If you are tempted to abbreviate something like ADA, have compassion for the reader. Write out the whole thing the first time you use it in that comment, such as “Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA).” Even if people have talked about the Association of Drainage Authorities at length in previous posts/comments, assume the reader, the ones right then reading, knows nothing about those previous references. Define! Many thanks.

    Woman Who Closes Her Eyes When Meditating

  12. I’m glad you broke this chapter into two parts, because this second part is one that is kind of head scratching for me right now, and I have a feeling it may not become any clearer until I have been through it a few more times and relate it to other points of study from the Cosmic Doctrine and other writings.

    When you said there is nobody here but us chickens, it resonated with me though, that this is why everything seems to be so hard won, both spiritually and materially. There is help, but from a long ways away up the planes, and for those of us at the nadir, it is hard to hear that help, or sometimes hard to understand how it relates to us in the here and now.

    This chapter also made me think of our concept of Gaia, and the symbiotic relationship where we depend on and are influenced by Gaia, but in turn she depends on and is influenced by all of the life forms on earth.

  13. JMG,

    Fair enough – was hoping to be able to use an example as a breadcrumb to follow as I struggle to make sense of the text and find an angle of approach that is more fruitful.

  14. “…and it also has beings of our swarm who have completed the work of this plane and, having been initiated by the Lords of Mind, assist the evolution of other souls.”
    Does this imply that the process is speeding up because of the increasing number of initiates?

  15. Thanks JMG. I’m imagining a demon in a conductor’s cap yelling “All aboard!” Is it on the right track to understand the televangelist’s soul as an image that loses resolution? The words that spring to mind are degradation, dumbing-down, coarsening, blurring. On the other hand, the RHP is a sharpening of faculties, I would think. Sharpening could be lofty like scrying the land of the lost Grail or contrastingly mundane and earthy is my thoughts. If Dion Fortune encouraged people to garden or to neaten up their rooms/remove the Fluff, was it to sharpen their view of everyday, material realities? Like how the kung fu master makes his students carry water up the hill?

  16. JMG, is it possible to follow the right hand path without becoming adept of a formal religion, like Mormonism, Catholicism, Islam, etc?

  17. Handicrafts – yes! I sewed my first mask, without a pattern, and hence somewhat too small for comfort, and will wear it until I can make a more comfortable one. In fact, I’ve been doing a fair amount of sewing lately, with “the world’s smallest sewing machine. Needs no batteries nor any power source, can fit in your pocket, can be used anywhere there is a decent source of light; only two pieces plus thread and pins.” Though you need a piece of fabric to hold the needle!

    Anyway, thanks. Arkansas author Suzette Haden Elgin had a young visionary as one of her many characters in her Ozark Trilogy, and the Grannies ordered that her mother set her to peeling potatoes and such work. Just as Dion Fortune’s “all-head-and-nerves” character Ursula was set to scrubbing steps by the villain, and her stepbrother/guardian said it was the best thing he could have done for her.

  18. It is “only by the influences of the planets that he can raise consciousness to the higher planes, and upon the tides of the planets he must make the transition.” Could you say something about this, specifically, what is meant by “the tides of the planets”, and how one guages them?

    “It is to the children of the elements that earth is an Initiator, not to the children of men.” Who/what are the children of the elements?

    I find it odd that she ranks the saints above the Nature forces, if by that she means Christian saints, since they are younger than the gods historically. I suppose I might say the same about the Masters, if by that she means ascended human beings. Did she mean something else? (I also might be forgetting something in all of this.)

    Thanks.

  19. Okay, I appeared to have gotten the wrong idea completely. Is this metaphor then entirely fictional with no connection to reality, without any claim to be actually true? My personal interest is what actually and really happens to the soul after death, and I was under the impression I was reading an alternative theory to reality and the progression of the soul. Would Dion Fortune say any of this could potentially be objectively true, or is it purely a means to an end to train the mind to think a certain way?

  20. Kimberlys last comment brought me to the idea that the decline of Western Civilization might be a case of degradation, where an organism successively loses the abilities of the higher planes; the organism in this case is a civilization. Conversely, during the rise of a civilizatipn or a culture a rising in the manner of the right hand path happens. But in reality, the processes involved probably are more complex and less linear.

  21. JMG, does regular old housecleaning count as physical plane? Or do you have to have a specific intention that “this dishwashing is dedicated to my work on the physical plane,” the way you would say “Lord, I offer up the cleaning of this week-old cat puke I just found , for the poor souls”?

    Every time I think of pet puke I regret my mom not having been Christian. One year she absent-mindedly left a 2-pound box of Valentine candy on the coffee table. After everyone went to bed, the dog ate it, box and all, with predictable results. She threw up all through the house. Mom had to take the day off to find and clean it all. Had Mom only known, she could probably have got 2 or 3 generations of ancestors sprung from Purgatory by offering up the cleaning of that mess! 😄. (I was too little to be entrusted with the task, thank God, though she did send me into the backs of all the closets with a flashlight.)

    New Age News: Ira Einhorn, the Unicorn Murderer, has died in prison. Did any of you know him or his victim? The movie has receded into the mists of time but I think the crime was in the ‘70’s or early ‘80’s.

  22. Afew times now I’ve thought of a question that seemed so obscure it would have to wait for the open post, then the next post up was actually a perfect setup to ask it. And it’s happened again. 🙂

    This is on the subject of human development. You’ve stated humanity is what it is and we’re more or less stuck with it, the only escape route being up to Gwynfydd. But humanity has changed in some remarkable ways over its history. There’s a theory that when our ancestors started cooking food, it altered our evolution. We didn’t have to chew as hard and a weaker jaw allowed a different-shaped skull and a larger brain. One innovation set off much more potential.

    There’s also things like the change from natural to revealed religion, and how Protestantism totally changed how people saw work, time, and the body. If I understood one of your posts on art, people didn’t even used to see in what we think of as perspective, until that science was invented and people were conditioned to see that way. If the bicameral theory of mind is right, human cognition may have been through a change so substantial it’s not really possible to even imagine what thought used to be like. But it was still a human innovation.

    Given that, isn’t it possible there are similar or greater non-spiritual changes still possible in humanity’s future?

  23. @Kuja:

    Are you taking for granted that the human mind–any human’s mind whatever–has the ability to frame statements about what happens after death that might be either true or false? If so, that seems to me like a really bizarre assumption. Why would anyone make it, especially when discussing the realms wholly outside of our Einsteinian universe of time and space, matter and energy?

    It is precisely those realms that Dion Fortune is exploring here, with as much or as little success as anyone can, using the only tools available to ordinary human minds: metaphor and metonymy, paradox, and so forth. Logic doesn’t yield any useful results here, just as it doesn’t yield useful results when an musician tries to break through to new heights as he composes his music.

  24. @JMG

    If you’d please indulge us with the TV evangelist tall tale, what would be his destiny other than a one-way ticket on the Comet Express? Serving a 100+ year sentence at the Hectic-Exercises-for-Love-and-Learning Detention Center? Reincarnation as a sewer rat? Repayment of karma debts to every soul he reached through the TV-box?

    @Kuja

    If I may… the point is that everything you can be told about the transcendental realities, including life after death, is Dogma. That is, whatever anybody tells you, you have to take their words in good faith because there’s no way they can demonstrate beyond any doubt. I had already written a whole bunch, but I don’t want to sell anything to you. I will just say the stuff discussed here is a way to gain some knowledge first hand.

  25. Dear JMG — Thank you so much for writing out your insights on this chapter for us! I kinda thought DF was saying something like this, but then, again, for all I could tell, she mighta been saying something else entirely.

    Your last sentence gave me a sort of illumination! I had been wandering around in the nadir for a few decades, feeling around in that collective dark night without any assurance my next step wouldn’t be over a cliff.

    And this gives me some objectivity about why that had to be!!!

  26. Jupiter is listed as a beneficent planet in several types of astrology. In what sense is Jupiter in the “lower spiritual plane”? and “lower” from whose point of view? humans’ point of view? Did Fortune describe Jupiter as “lower” because it’s beneficent to humans and not to Lords of Flame?

  27. A horrible thought –

    Starting with the premise “This Stuff Works,” how many here used to earnestly wish, back in the 20-teens and before, “stop the world and let me off!” And now – have their wish?

  28. Meditates, I certainly agree that any kind of meditation is better than nothing, and your basic mantra meditation — which is of course what TM teaches — has a long track record. It’s not the kind I do, and it’s not the kind that Dion Fortune taught and practiced, but if it works for you, by all means! As for the church you describe — hoo boy. I’ve encountered that same weird hostility to actual religious experience, and never understood where it comes from.

    Cat, as far as I can tell, Gaia is what Fortune was talking about when she discussed the Planetary Spirit of the Earth.

    Otp, and that’s exactly what you can’t do. As Fortune explained at the beginning of the book, take each image and associate it with the various thoughts she assigns to it, wrestle with it, accept the places where it doesn’t seem to make sense, and let the whole process ripen into new modes of thinking.

    Shadow_Rider, that’s an interesting question which our text doesn’t answer.

    Kimberly, exactly. As we become more objectively conscious on every plane that we can experience, we build the capacities that will allow us to complete our work on this plane, and that process makes us clearer, more precise, more intricately patterned.

    Bruno, yes. Each soul probably has to go through at least one life of intense religious practice within some religion, but it doesn’t have to be one of the so-called “world religions,” and once the soul passes through the initiation of the nadir it will be drawn to other experiences and other ways of relating to the spiritual realm, which may or may not have any connection to religion at all.

    Patricia, it’s a necessary form of training, especially for those who have a talent for the nonphysical realms!

    Someone, excellent! You’re paying attention. The tides of the planets are tracked by astrology; the point here is that you can pick up the planetary contacts by doing rituals when the planets are in appropriate positions in the heavens — and, by the way, this allows the solitary practitioner to do the equivalent of high grade magical initiations without having to mess with a lodge, with all its internal politics. The children of the elements are the elemental spirits, who (like the Planetary Spirit) have no Divine Spark but are capable of developing one. As for the saints, I think she’s mistaken here, but that’s what she says.

    Kuja, it’s not fiction and it’s not fact. Imagine for a moment that you were trying to describe fire to someone who had never seen it, and for some reason you couldn’t just show them. (Let’s say you’re communicating via radio with an alien who lives undersea on a water planet.) Your alien friend already knows about some Earth things, so you say, “well, it’s kind of like a flower in that it’s red and pretty, and it’s kind of like a really small sun in that it gives off light and heat, and it’s kind of like an animal because it feeds on fuel and excretes ash,” or whatever other metaphors you have in mind. That’s what Fortune is trying to do here. She’s trying to give you a set of metaphors for something you cannot yet see for yourself, and the process of working with those metaphors is part of the process by which you learn to see for yourself. If you want to know what happens after you die, btw, I recommend the scientific research that’s been done into reincarnation and near-death experiences; there’s a lot of it, and it will give you a good idea of what we all go through between one life and the next.

  29. Another great post. The Cos.Doc. are always some of my favorites. On the subject of the descent through the planes and back I can give a bit of corroborating info on what some of the Tantric traditions teach.

    Here’s another way to look at what Cos.Doc. touched on this month in terms of each person’s own body and mind according to the various Dharma religions.
    Note: While reading the following keep in mind what this month’s Cos.Doc. essay is saying:

    According to Dharma Tantra traditions there are only 114 pathways through the human body to attain to one’s ultimate nature. To be most fully human with one’s potentials in full flower. There are over 72K subtle body nadis (Meridians in Daoist terms) that make up the human energy body. Of these there are 114 junctions and pathways that are major junction centers through the body and heart-mind (note: heart-mind is not the same as one’s ordinary mind) that will end in attaining to one’s Ultimate Nature.

    These pathways and junctions always meet in triangles but when seen by someone who can perceive these junction centers the energy emitted will appear as a sphere. Think of tossing a triangular rock into a still pond. The rock is a triangle but the ripples radiating outward will be circular. So it is with the human body and the various life-energies we picked up migrating down the Planes. All life on this planet has these energies, not just humans. But in humans it’s finally gained untapped and most crucially – uncapped potential.

    The average human has 21 chakras at work. So working to get that 22nd chakra awake and functioning already sets one apart from the average person one meets at work or the street, etc. Once someone begins to be interested in spiritual or magic practices that means the 22nd (and possibly more) chakra is starting to wake up.

    According to Tantric tradition a person with all 114 chakras fully awake and functioning will seem like a god to an average human. You can do major miracles on a cosmic scale (yes – as in galactic scale), not just a planetary or human one. In Daoism such a being was said to have the ability to change even his/her cosmic Celestial Fortune.

    Here’s another thing that blew me away that I learned. The miracles that Jesus is said to have performed – including bringing people back from the dead days later – can be done by someone who does not yet have all 114 centers fully awake according to Dharma Tantric traditions. This is the potential residing in every one who is incarnating as a human. That’s the untapped potential inside every one of us just for being a human. Now imagine what that must mean if you are talking about an *actual* God or Goddess. The scale of such a “Blessed Being” is so far beyond human comprehension there is no way it can be talked about or understood as humanity is currently constituted.

  30. About the mnemonic graphic of the Left Hand Path (LHP) and the Right Hand Path (RHP)… I’m confused. Shouldn’t the arrow on the LHP point downwards? I’m thinking of our televangelist… technically, he’s not ascending in any way, shape, or form. That’s why I thought of his physical body dying first and losing astral and mental clarity last, because in its own sick way, it’s still an ascension.

    Thanks for your help, I’d be up a certain creek without a paddle without it…

  31. Booklover, that’s an excellent point. The decline of a civilization does in fact unfold like the degradation of a personality, with the higher plane functions failing first. Hmm! I’ll want to do some serious thinking about that.

    Your Kittenship, no, you don’t have to offer it up as a mortification or what have you. Simply do it conscientiously, as part of your work on the physical plane. As for Einhorn, that’s an appropriate end for a long, sad, and ugly story; thanks for letting me know.

    Yorkshire, of course. The birth of each human culture is an example of the sort of thing that you’ve described: a group of people find a genuinely new way to experience and work with the world, and that becomes a living collective presence with its own arts, crafts, and so on. The one thing to keep in mind is that no such event brings about Utopia — we remain human, and subject to all the usual follies and flaws thereof.

    CR, according to the Druid teachings, he’d drop down to whatever mode of animal incarnation corresponds to what’s still more or less functional in his soul, and would then have to work his way all the way back up to humanity. Let’s say the remaining scraps of objective consciousness in him correspond roughly to the state of consciousness of a rat, he gets reborn as a rat, and spends as many lives of ratness as he needs to build the structures of consciousness that would enable him to move to something with a more complex nervous system and a different range of experiences. Rinse and repeat until he gets back to the human level and has to try again.

    I don’t know what Fortune would say in response to your question; her writings on the after-death state focus on the transition out of the body and don’t deal much with karma. That’s what I’d say, though.

    KKA, I think a lot of people are going through the initiation of the nadir right now, so you’re not alone in that darkness.

    Jenxyz, good heavens, no, not at all. It’s lower compared to the upper spiritual plane, is all. Equally, there’s an upper and lower mental plane and an upper and lower astral plane. Fortune simply finds it useful, for purposes of instruction, to divide the astral, mental, and spiritual planes into denser and less dense halves.

    Patricia, oof! You know, you could be on to something…

    Panda, one of the central themes of occult spirituality is precisely that as human beings we’re taking our first baby steps in a world full of power and possibility we can’t yet even begin to imagine. In the Cos.Doc.’s metaphor, again, we’re still in the process of awakening to objective consciousness on the physical plane, and getting our first glimpses of objective consciousness on the lower and upper astral planes. We have a vast amount of growing and learning ahead of us as we work our way up the planes.

    Kimberly, we’ll get further into the problems with the Left Hand Path as we proceed. Basically, that black arrow doesn’t mean that the televangelist rises up the planes, while any part of him remains intact; what happens is that he loses capacities that he’s built on the way down the planes, and so there’s less and less of him left. If he were to pursue that path all the way to its end there would be nothing left of him but a prime atom on the seventh plane, which would then finally be free to start resonating again to the rhythm of the Logos.

  32. @Someone

    I would like to toss my 2 cents in on the question you directed to JMG about planetary tides and their influences. If I may suggest something from Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev he gave the following example and one could possibly set it up as a beginner meditation training.

    Sadhguru gave the example of the moon. It’s probably the easiest for a beginner to notice and understand. He says that on the night of a full moon one’s chi will rise to it’s highest potential. He said, “you become more of what you already are. If you are loving you will be even more loving. If you are a bit crazy and unbalanced you will become even moreso.” The moon’s tide amplifies whatever you’ve most cultivated for yourself. If you’re spiritual or magical oriented you’ll start wanting to do it consciously. If not, the amplification will be upon whatever you’ve self-cultivated unconsciously.

    Sri Rohit Arya also says that planetary tides are the reasons various, disparate religious traditions hit upon shaving their acolyte’s heads. I know of Buddhist nuns who shave their heads bald because the tide boost is too big a benefit to ignore. A person’s Chi gets a huge boost on the night of a full moon. It helps when one’s goal is to awaken more of their subtle-body chakras and unlock the full flowering of one’s potential. It’s a gift from Mother Nature and it’s totally free.

    You could try shaving your head and then just keep a little notebook with notes of what one notices on full moon night meditation vs those that are not.

  33. With respect to one’s picking up “the planetary contacts by doing rituals when the planets are in appropriate positions in the heavens”, do the Picatrix and Secrets of Planetary Ritual 2nd Edition contain this information, and if so, is it the same in each, or does the latter contain substantially more information? (I have the former, hence the question.) Would I be looking in the wrong place with either of these? Thanks.

  34. To MeditatesWithEyesClosed:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, especially with Christians. My husband comes from a religious family — Seventh Day Adventists (SDAs), specifically. The SDAs have very exacting, specific ideas about what pleases God and they don’t even care how off-putting their “do it my way, or nothing” is to those they are so desperate to convert. Also, if you want to spot a vegan who regularly cheats, the SDAs are chock full of that sort of “vegan”.

    I dared suggest to my husband’s cousin, who admits he has not seen a ghost or spirit personally, that not all non-corporeal entities are manifestations of the Devil as the SDA prophet Ellen G. White would insist. He came at me with “All spirits are not devils, but all spirits are angels, some are fallen (devils) and some are unfallen. And we don’t have a soul we are souls and mortals so the idea that ghosts are dead loved ones is a deception of the devil and his fallen angels.” So this guy has NEVER SEEN A GHOST OR SPIRIT and yet he knows all about it somehow? Um, really?

    I replied: “I disagree, having had many encounters with ghosts, spirits, fairies, and the like. I have had a ghost cat in this house as well as past apartments — it’s exactly that, the ghost of a cat who is dead. It’s no more harmful or helpful than a deer in the forest. Demons exist, and the surest way to invoke them is to sink to their level. Some ghosts are the etheric bodies of loved ones, but that’s not an eternal state. But I could be wrong. The demonic part, specifically the Luciferian attitude, comes from those who proudly decree they know the mind of God, and I think that’s why Christianity is so quickly becoming a minority religion. Christians cannot admit they could be wrong.”

    Unfortunately, Christians aren’t able to have a dialogue about spirituality because they aren’t willing to admit they could be wrong. Additionally, and this is from my limited understanding! we aren’t just souls — we have material bodies and other subtle bodies that form on the planes Fortune is talking about in this chapter. For my husband’s cousin, the material plane doesn’t matter (matter doesn’t matter LOL) because Ellen G. White told him it’s disgusting and only a distasteful stepping stone to Heaven. Ugh, Christians make me stabby!

  35. > terrible silence of a cosmos of empty space and dead matter

    I must be an oddity. I have perceived “silence of a cosmos of empty space” but never felt afraid nor saw dead matter.

  36. The Dark Night of the Soul starts/restarts at a point where a person sees the damage one has done up ’til that time. One feels regret and has a serious need to repent. One admits, “I am a bad person and I need to stop.” This is no small decision. One says, “I need to lessen doing bad things” thereby creating less additional “bad-karma,” and starts the process of paying back the bad-karma one has already accumulated, indeed welcoming the pay-backs. Without paying back, no light. Lots of bad things happen: why bad things happen to bad people. The process is typically a spiritual emergency, and is very difficult, lasting years or lifetimes. (For those who are Hitler-like, I suspect paying back bad-karma would take millions of lifetimes.)

    One is so mired in dealing with paying back OLD bad-karma that the whole thing feels dark. It feels dark for a very long time. One never knows when paying-back will finish. Bad things keep happening. One feels, “Why do bad things keep happening to me after I decided to be good?” You can do all sorts of “good-karma” actions but those things won’t prevent bad-karma from returning to haunt you. It doesn’t work like that. It is during this time that there is (at least) one absolute must: one must develop faith (of some sort) that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If one doesn’t develop some sort of faith, one “aborts regret and repentance” and returns to creating new bad-karma, thereby digging oneself deeper into continuing to be a bad person.

    In Buddhism, when one feels regret and has serious need to repent, it is appropriate to “take refuge.”

  37. Fortune’s definition of the left hand path is at odds with how many occultists nowadays view it. It seems to be trendy to say you’re on the lhp, I got this from wikipedia (I know).

    “Left-handed path practitioners embrace the dark as well as the light in order to invoke the alchemical formula solve et coagula (“dissolve and precipitate”), confronting the negative in order to transmute it into desirable qualities.”

    It struck me that people who become addicted to substances are on the left hand path. Their better qualities get eroded – it happens to many people who get into positions of power too.

    Also with Fortune’s emphasis on physical tasks, does that mean we have to master the physical plane before we can really progress on to the other levels?

  38. I’m struck by the similarity of this to many mythologies often talking of one god being born to another god who was before them, who the newly created god would slaughter, creating the world from. Often at some point that god would die being replaced by their heirs. In some ways cyclical, but in other ways different and new.

    So many in todays world like to dismiss the relevance of those stories, but one doesn’t have to look far to realize our current fading civilization, and the seeds it will leave behind. It’s a grateful thing that there are guides to help step up on these paths!

  39. Hi Meditates,

    ADA = Another Darned Acronym 😄

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist! My sinus infection finally cleared up so I feel well enough to make mischief now.

  40. 1. In the last few thousand years, most of our species went from many gods, to one, then to none. Is that indicative of many people approaching the nadir?

    2. Should we expect to be able to encounter and learn from many more lower level spirits as we make the turn and ascend, even while still physically incarnated?

    3. Is it possible that we might be providing something like a small initiation for familiar species like dogs and cats? They seem very close to us in their level of consciousness, and I can imagine a secies that is just this side of something reaching back to offer a hand to one that’s just the other side.

  41. Hi Kimberly,

    Don’t confuse 7th-day Adventism with mainstream Christendom. We have a long history of wondering if we are wrong; St. Paul agonized about the possibility, and there’s 2,000 years of conclaves and conferences and general argument about what is right or not, and thats BEFORE we get to the invention of Protestantism, which provided a whole new inventory of things to worry about. There was even at least one shooting war over when Easter 🐣 should be celebrated. (!). Get a good general history of Christianity to learn more. (We all have plenty of time to read, but we can’t go to the library! 🙄)

  42. Christmas makes sense here. The initiation of the nadir is like those dark days between Winter Solstice and Christmas… mirrored in Easter where Jesus comes back from being dead for 3 days. The Solar Initiation of the Nadir.

  43. JMG said “The decline of a civilization does in fact unfold like the degradation of a personality, with the higher plane functions failing first.”

    Arnold Toynbee went into that process in quite a lot of detail in A Study of History, which is on my re-read list as soon as I get done re-reading Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West.

  44. Ace of Spades, are you THE Ace of Spades? If so, I really enjoy the Saturday pet feature and the frequent changes of topic.

    If you’re not that Ace of Spades, hello!

  45. Someone, excellent. Of those two, the Picatrix is the one that has the initiations. You’ll find them in Book 3, chapters 7-9. You might also want to begin with the invocation of Perfect Nature, which is in Book 3, chapter 6. The rituals Fortune had in mind, of course, were more modern — Regardie’s The Golden Dawn gives the details.

    Meditates, as with all this work, your mileage may vary!

    Kimberly, thanks for this.

    Meditates, that’s one form of it. John of the Cross, who coined the phrase “dark night of the soul,” spoke of a lesser and a greater dark night; the first is the purification of the emotional life, and reflects the sort of thing you’ve described here. The second is the purification of the spirit, and goes beyond karmic issues (or what Christians would call sin) to deal with the existential gap between humanity and divinity. In Hermetic occultism those are called respectively the Veil and the Abyss.

    Bridge, of course. I discussed the tangled history of the phrases “right hand path” and “left hand path” in a blog post a while back. Fortune’s terminology here as elsewhere is shaped by her own distinctive magical philosophy. As for work with matter, no and yes; no, you don’t have to master matter before you can do anything else; yes, you do have to master matter before you can complete your work on this plane, and begin having incarnations of a different kind.

    Prizm, excellent! Yes, exactly.

    Kyle, (1) that may be part of what’s been going on. (2) Yes, this is something a lot of occultists experience. (3) I’m quite sure we’re doing that. Cats, dogs, and certain other animals have been displaying remarkable increases in intelligence of late, and one very plausible explanation for that is that the souls incarnated in those forms are achieving objective consciousness.

    Isaac, that’s an excellent point.

    Ace, he did indeed. I have the complete A Study of History on my bookshelves, right next to Spengler, and plan on thinking about the connection between his views and Fortune’s philosophy when next I read through it.

  46. Dogs have been smart for quite a while. Our dog who ate not wisely but too well re-invented either extortion or capitalism. When we lived in the country, we trained her to get the paper, rewarding her with a goodie. She was supposed to give up the goodie after a while and bring the paper for free, out of the joy of serving her masters. Not bloody likely. If no goodie was forthcoming, she’d chew on the paper while giving you the fish eye. It was difficult to yell at her without laughing because it was so funny. My brother did manage to bully her into giving up the paper once. She sat under Mom’s desk and sulked the rest of the day, and wouldn’t talk to him for 2-3 days after that.

    Summer came and we moved into town. Went out to get the paper off the porch and there was a very pleased poodle sitting there with a good-sized stack of newspapers. She’d cleaned out the whole street, and at the rate of exchange, one goodie per newspaper, she was sure she’d made a killing.

    I do not recommend food-reward training unless you have a beagle and that’s the only way to get his attention.

    My neighbor’s dog seems pretty smart too.

  47. To Cutekitten:

    Meh. A large portion of that two thousand years has been spent killing each over not over doubt but dogma. It’s that scene in the Life of Brian with the lost sandal and the lost gourd over and over again, except real people go to their real deaths for it. Jews do a pretty good job of questioning whether or not they’re wrong, Christians not so much. And that’s truly sad, because Christianity was the religion of mages once.

    Just my opinion, but until Christianity recovers its magical roots, it no longer resembles its founder, Jesus. Without Jesus, there isn’t much point to Christianity.

    If anything, modern Christianity encourages a great deal of materialistic, solipsistic behavior that seems decidedly (to this novice, at least) Left-hand Path. My husband’s cousin with his arrogant “my ignorance is better than your knowledge” thought-stoppers does not seem to be evolving towards a more subtle and complex set of perceptions, at any rate, and neither does Joel Osteen or the parishioners at MeditatesWithEyesClosed’s ex-congregation.

  48. JMG, the degradation of declining civilizations, losing the abilities of the higher planes, could be one factor which explains why at different epochs there are diferent amounts of creativity in the human population of a place, independent of the number of humans at that place. It reminds me of the question, once posed here, why, in a population of seven billion people, there aren’t many more Einsteins than a hundred years ago.

  49. Taking that metaphor of the gods a little further, many gods have those who take left paths and others who take more rightward paths. This fits in well with the left and right hand distinctions. It also fits in well with the Qabalistic Tree of Life. It seems like we are building up to this possibility in a way that me seems more like natural selection but we all have our own biases.

  50. In ‘The Next Ten Bilion Years’, what did you imagine life being like for the remaining pockets of humanity in last phase of our existance?

  51. Kyle, (3) sounds like the spiritual version of Lev Vygotsky’s ‘zone of proximal development’ in education. 🙂

  52. I started reading your blog about three months ago while researching catabolic collapse.The Well of Galabes series collapsed my previous lens to the world to the ground and the Cos. Doc series is building it up back. The shift from the “material world is all there is” to “there is obviously more here” was huge.

    In general, how do we reconcile different religions’ and individuals’ approach to interacting with higher planes? Do beliefs of individuals determine what entities they interact with? Is it assumed that any well researched method that shows success is reliable?

  53. I am really sorry so many of you writers have had such weird and unpleasant experiences with Christians. Come to think of it I have met some interesting Christians too. But so many are not, and can hold an interesting dialogue with which I might or might not agree but I don’t even begin to think I can understand God or that they can either. The older I get the less I know. If only my family didn’t agree so wholeheartedly.

  54. What is a person like me to make of all of this. A person who thinks atheists are much too religious?

  55. John, I have to say as someone who grew up in church (and still consider myself not only a “cultural christian”, but an esoteric christian as well) I find no contradiction between Fortune’s monotheism and pagan polytheism. For me this is reconciled in the Hermetic Kabbalah by the concept of the Ain Soph. Esoteric Christianity is neither monotheistic, nor polytheistic, but rather henotheistic. Although the cosmos is populated with a myriad of gods, goddesses, archangels, angels, elementals, etc… or as the Apostle Paul called them, “thrones, dominions, principalities, powers…”, they are all part of an eternal underlying reality: The One.

    I know none of this is news to you, but I often find it funny that people from a Pagan background get turned off by any mention of Christ in the context of esotericism. A little digging in to the history of early Christianity will lead to certain conclusions; one being that the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth and Christ are technically not the same being. Another thing is that Jesus of Nazareth has absolutely nothing to do with the exoteric religion of Christianity (which is more like a form of white Satanism). Pagans might be surprised to find out that they probably have a lot more in common with the historical person of Jesus than they realize if they were to sit down and have a philosophical discussion with him. And another thing: when some people talk about Apollo or Osiris, I think “Christ”, “The Sun”, “Higher Self”, etc…. No difference and no need to split hairs. But like I said, I know you know all of this anyway. For anyone else out there who is interested though, Rudolf Steiner’s work is a great resource.

  56. Your Kittenship, that sounds like a good many of the dogs I’ve met!

    Booklover, yes, that’s certainly one factor involved there. Another is the fact that from within the worldview of any one culture, there are only so many discoveries that can be made and only so many great creative breakthroughs that are possible, and once those have happened, what’s left is what Fortune calls epigenesis — playing around with an established stock of ideas or creative motifs.

    Prizm, a Darwinian interpretation of the LHP-RHP distinction seems very sensible to me! In Fortune’s system, though, you get more than one chance, and it takes many lifetimes of misguided hard work before you face the total extinction of the Unknown Death.

    Yorkshire, small tribal societies in isolated corners of the world, dimly remembering that things had been different once upon a time, and gradually dwindling due to disease and subsistence failure until, one by one, they flickered out of existence.

  57. Ethan–several years ago I audited a seminar on the historical Jesus in the Philosophy dept of U. Nevada, Reno. The first point made was that no real historical investigation of Jesus had been possible until the various Churches lost their ability to imprison or execute heretics. In other words, not until the 19th century. In the course we read several interpretations, each carefully supported by various evidence and each, in some ways, convincing. There was Jesus as a mystic giving teachings that the material minded of his time could not comprehend– “the kingdom of God is within you” There was Jesus the revolutionary, genuinely convinced that the angels of God would intervene and drive the Romans out of the Holy Land. There was the Jesus ‘created’ by his followers after his death, a compound of Jewish messiah and Greek hero myths—and so on. It was a fascinating class, although my interest was purely philosophical, being a Pagan of long standing. Some of the texts we used were Jesus: a Revolutionary Biography by John Crossan; Conflict, Holiness and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus by Marcus Borg; The Christians as the Romans Saw Them by Robert Wilkin; and the Moral World of the First Christians by Wane Meeks. There were others, but I can’t find the titles right now. Crossan and Borg, in particular, are serious Christian theologians, not popularizers.

    Rita

  58. Kimberley,
    Most wars occur because of some variant of greed. People then dress it up as a righteous war by saying, “God said to”, which is not that different from pointing to a brother and saying, “He made me”.

  59. My relationship with one of my non-corporeal mentors started out when I was her pet cat. Long ago, when she was incarnated as a human, she found me when I was a starving, abandoned kitten on the street and nurtured me back to health. She has also shared with me that dogs, cats, horses, parakeets, and other pets are often the last stop before incarnating as a human, so that’s why it is important to love and nurture companion animals, so they can build up their astral bodies to make the trepidatious jump into human incarnation.

    For the record, neither am I even slightly turned off at the mention of Christ in the context of esotericism, nor am I confusing Jesus of Nazareth the person with Christ the Logos. My journals are full of thoughts and ruminations about Christ. I just don’t find that most of his soi disant followers can discuss him intelligently or sanely. I will be delighted if Christians step up and start proving me wrong.

  60. JMG, I believe that Science will eventually have to concede that dogs are a lot smarter than it gave them credit for. Cats I’m not sure about. The cats I’ve known seem to be about evenly divided between very smart and very stupid.

  61. JMG out of curiosity, the cosmic doctrine in this chapter says something about the left hand path being a short circuit that is set off whenever a being or entity reverts to an earlier form of development. That seems to be what is likely to happen to western civilization in terms of technology. You yourself are advocating such a short circuit, trotting out older technologies that actually work. While I agree old technology may hold the key to a sustainable future, I am curious how you would relate this to Dion fortune’s left hand path and being knocked back down/pruned back down the evolutionary path…..

    Stay safe, and social distance,

    Old Venerable Persian Chair of Nails =)

  62. RE Exoteric Christianity as a form of “white Satanism”

    I’ve always thought the paranoid rhetoric from fundamentalist Christians about attempts by their enemies to impose a “one world religion” and “one world government” was an exercise in unintentional comedy, since Christianity was the first religion that we know of which tried to impose itself as the world’s sole religion, based on the idea that Christianity is the One True Religion and all other religions are delusional at best. It’s a classic example of projecting one’s own shadow, in the Jungian sense of the term. Its also worth noting that the only other religions that attempted to do the same thing, namely Islam and Marxism, both originated as Judeo-Christian heresies and absorbed many of the bad habits of institutional Christianity.

  63. Nomad, the key is to recognize that the spiritual realm is much vaster than the material realm — and that’s huge enough! There’s ample room in the spiritual realm for many different gods, powers, worlds, and modes of spiritual development, just as there’s ample room in the material realm for different people, communities, cultures, and modes of making a living. The best guide I’ve yet found for a spiritual path is to look at people who’ve been on the path for a good long time and ask yourself whether you would want to be like them; if the answer is yes, go for it.

    JillN, I’m kind of in the middle here. I’ve encountered a lot of very thoughtful, tolerant Christians with whom I’ve had interesting conversations, but unfortunately I’ve also encountered a much larger number who were dogmatic, narrow-minded, and full of hate for anyone who disagrees with them. So I see both sides of this discussion…

    Admirer, of course most atheists are too religious. If a religious person is someone whose thoughts constantly turn toward God and the teachings of their faith, then your standard angry atheists are religious people; they’re constantly thinking angry thoughts about God and whichever religions they hate most — in my experience, at least, a great many atheists seem to think about God more often than believers do. Was that what you had in mind?

    Ethan, and I have no quarrel whatsoever with Christians who approach their faith that way — not least because they aren’t the kind of Christian who’s constantly trying to jam a leatherbound copy of the KJV down everyone else’s throat! The teachings of the explicitly Christian organization Dion Fortune founded, the Guild of the Master Jesus, are very much along the lines of what you’ve outlined here, of course.

    Your Kittenship, cats are weird. I suspect they seem smart-but-stupid because their mode of intellect is at a 72° angle from ours!

    Persian, it’s a source of wry amusement to me that no matter how many times I explain otherwise, people insist that I’m talking about going back to the technology of some earlier time wholesale. That hallucination is a result of the myth of progress, which can only conceive of technology as a monolithic unitary phenomenon varying in a linear way over time — thus you have “the technology of the 1950s,” say, as a single thing, which you have to accept or reject en masse. What I’m suggesting, and have said many, many times, is that this is a deeply misleading way to think about technology, and that it makes more sense to think of the available range of technologies as a smorgasbord from which we can take whatever specific items will best fill our needs. Some of the technologies we choose will have been invented longer ago than others, but there’s still ample room for continuing innovation. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to get this relatively simple idea past the yard-thick concrete that seems to surround so many brains…

  64. Well, as long as we’re being sort of loose about subject matter, here’s something I’ve meant to ask for ages. Most of you who are Americans have probably heard of the Donner Party. (“Donner, party of 14–oops, 12–I mean, Donner, party of 9–“. “Never mind, we’re full.”). My question is, did any of our psychics here ever tour the area, and if so, what, if any, impressions did you feel?

    Note to any surveillance we’re under: If citizens are beginning to think of the Donner Party, Maybe you better set us free Real Soon Now. 😄

    What do Druids do for the spring holiday? For the first time in 40 years, we have not colored eggs, because small or medium eggs (bigger ones don’t fit in the teacups) have been unavailable since early March. You can get large or x-large so the Land of the Free, the Brave, and the Egg Sandwich on Whole Wheat is still safe.). I’m going to learn how to paint designs on eggs with food coloring in case this happens again next spring.

  65. I just had a moderate epiphany. It has to do with the three rings and the supernal triad of the tree.

    I am not sure if you’re aware, but in Spanish there are two ways of saying “to be”. One is the more absolute “ser”, which is how a dog “es” a dog. The other is the more relative and temporal “estar”, which is related to the word “state” (estado, in spanish). A dog “es” an animal, but a dog “está” here, or there, or doing something. I wouldn’t doubt that the word “stay” is related to it.

    So the way you phrase it in Paths, reality first “is”, then it “does”, then it “está”.

    The Ring Cosmos Is, then in relation to the Ring Chaos it Does, or acts, then as a result of that action, it “está”, and also creates the space where everything else also está.

    I do not know of another language that has this two different ways talking about being.

  66. I am looking at the issue of biophobia (which you illustrate so beautifully in the H P Lovecraft/Radiance antipathy towards the biological and slimy) vs biophilia.

    Cos Doc makes it clear that it would be a mistake to assume that the 1st plane of physical effects which we can apprehend with the five senses is all there is. But an equal mistake to “believe that life can work out its evoution regardless of the laws of the physical plane.” This would be a reference, I assume, to the biophobic aspect of some types of religious aversions to sex, in particular, and other slimy and smelly physical realities.

    Personally, it is the biophobic and world-phobic aspects of my childhood faith that I had to leave behind. I found that I could not but love the world, and love my body, and love being physically alive and active. My search has always been, rather, to re-connect to the life of the earth, whereever it lives.

    Pondering further on this, Cos Doc says: “each plane is capable of independent function”. I presume this means that connecting to physical reality, BEING physical, purely for its own sake, is part of “working out our evolution” here.

    However, I want to add that during the last Cos Doc discussion the topic of food came up repeatedly, and it seemed to me that something as straightforwardly physical as food can have existence on many other planes as well. And this is due to the element of eating that some call “communion”. That when we eat we partake of the life of another being. (The corollary being that one day, we too will become food for other living beings to partake of).

    And eating, by itself could be a reaching directly up to the spiritual plane (as in many types of communion rituals, which treat the act of eating as partaking of both a physical life and a spiritual life.) But it could also have a left hand path aspect (unconcious emotional eating, mental categorising of different foods perhaps, or mental attempts to extinguish hunger, and dietary obsessions, whatever plane formed on), whereas, going up the right hand path, one could seek to consciously cultivate the act of eating in higher planes, with, say, emotional tones of gratitude, with mental understanding, with spiritual partaking. And of course, with the power of conscious refusal to commune with certain life forces or life experiences (CAFO torture, for example).

  67. There is one point that I would like to ask for clarity on.

    You say: “The swarm on the descending arc receives its initiation from the swarm on the ascending arc.” Which sounds like the ascending swarm on the 5th (say) initiates the descending swarm on the 5th. The reason the 7th then initiates the 1st is *only* that there is “nobody here but us chickens” – ie no other swarm on this plane.

    But when I read the following passage, and then look at the illustration at the end labelled Fig 20, it suggests a slightly different arrangement. “Initiators always function across the diameter (upon a diagram you will see the significance of this) and the seventh initiates the first.” The diagram (Fig 20) makes it look like all the initiations are “across the diameter” of the circle – ie the 7th initiates the first, the 6th initiates the 2nd, the 5th initiates the 3rd, and only the 4th initiates *within* its same level, initiating the 4th.

    What is the order of initiation here?

  68. Hi John Michael,

    There are times when reading your writing on such subjects that I have at the back of the mind: the intuition that the cosmos and the entities therein, have a vast and bizarre sense of humour. The English language is not so good for describing my intuition, but all the same that is the best description that comes to mind.

    So, you’ve plainly stated out what the Great Work is, and yet the inkling of humour arises in me because people will dismiss it in a Monty Pythonesque sort of way such as: No it’s not.

    Perhaps it is a journey? 🙂

    Speaking of which, just like the future, you have to keep a foot planted firmly in each corner. Too much in either direction is a bad move. Hey, the old timers used to say: God helps those as helps themselves, and it is true no matter what religion or belief you subscribe too. Not sure how many people got that particular memo though.

    As to technology, you know plenty of interesting technologies from today will make their way into the future. Look at plant grafting for just one example, and that is an amazing technology which is certainly easy to put into practice – if you’re hungry enough. Organic gardening is another amazing tool. And don’t forget the sheer litter that is all of the unusual and useful minerals brought from the deeps of the Earth, then concentrated and now littering the surface.

    Cheers

    Chris

  69. Hi guys,

    Alot of interesting discussions going on here and I thought I would contribute myself.

    Firstly, Christianity itself is a religion in decline because of one simple fact. This is going to surprise people but when you look into history, Christianity was the full I would argue liberal institution. The whole concept of Jesus’s teachings and the New Testament was very much a liberalising factor in changing the world. The concept of no slavery, living in peace with your neighbours, tolerance, higher education, etc do come from the Christian faith.

    It was in essence the bedrock of the Renaissance, the enlightenment and all that followed. It did have a rocky start with the eventual corruption of the Catholic Church but that was the nature of the times. It kept on evolving until it eventually has reached a point where there is no more evolution to be had. The world has opened up too much now that Christianity the evolver has no more room or place in a post modern society.

    Therefore and this relates to John’s previous posts about astrology and how the world is now going to enter a negative, dividing axis rather then the previous positive unifying one. The future of Christianity therefore is going to be that of the conserved, the protector of life and keeping our Humanity in a world that is rapidly changing.

    Take genetic engineering for example. In a few decades down the line, we are going to end up with children who are going to end up resembling Khan Noonien Singh out of StarTrek. This is something that will disturb our Humanity.

    Or robotic enhancements to the body. Once again it disturbs nature and the balance. Same with using robots en maase to produce all of Humanity’s labour, leaving men and women redundant without anything to do.

    We can already see the effects of post modernism already with the collapse of the family unit, the breakdown of social respect and other problems. The trends will only start to get worse when technology rapidly starts to evolve.

    Therefore that is Christianity’s fight for the future. Taking the more Conservative role. Pagans also are important in this fight but the problem Paganism has is that fundamentally speaking, it is always focused on the individual, not the collective. Christianity is more about the collective and hence can put up more of a fight in the long run.

    I’d actually like to see a Christian-Pagan alliance in the future in order to help combat these future societal trends as I do feel both groups have alot to offer the other in terms of ideas and support.

  70. Mr. Greer, I’d like to request you to review the book ‘The Human Cycle’ by Sri Aurobindo. As you have written about Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee, I thought you might be interested in this book as well.

  71. About the nadir of material incarnation: isn’t it the case that every civilization, where literacy was widespread, has had an age of rationalism, where atoms and empty space are all which is acknowledged? Western civilization has gone markedly further in this regard than other civilizations. Maybe some extremes of materialism, not only mass consumerism, but others, are nonviable in a non-industrial civilization.

  72. I have found the chapters covered in the past two posts on CosDoc to be the most interesting so far… finally, something my astrology-influenced mind can relate to! While the parts about the planets and the planes was pretty straightforward within the CosDoc itself, your explanatory notes on Earth’s situation in all this and the right and left hand paths were greatly appreciated: I would have been hard pressed to figure them out without your insights.

    In a way, I am glad that the formation of the solar system as expounded by the astrophysicists and their ilk does not jive with the sequence of planet formation given in the CosDoc: this helps the reader to recall that the whole book is an extended metaphor and is meant to train the mind rather than inform it.

    Reading about these two paths made me recall the two paths taken after death as described in Chapter 8 of the Bhagavad Gita, where the soul takes either the bright path (and does not get reborn) and the dark path (in which re-birth is guaranteed). Many commentators on these verses have stated that in the bright path the soul goes to the Sun and on the dark path the soul goes to the Moon (for some time). Keeping in mind that the CosDoc relates the Sun to the upper spiritual plane and the Moon to the etheric plane, I see some potential “harmony” between the Hindu and CosDoc views. However, I am happy to note the differences as well and would prefer not to “shoe-horn” one system into the other.

    One last point: as far as explanations go, I would like to have seen more of a description from you about the “subjective” and “objective” consciousness regarding spiritual evolution before and after the “nadir” (though your comment to Kimberly helped quite a bit). Some people (like me) can stomach only so much abstraction before they feel clueless. Still, a very small fly in a large vat of ointment!

  73. Your Kittenship, it depends on the Druid, of course! There’s always a ceremony at the spring equinox and generally a fancy meal, but the rest depends wholly on who’s doing the celebrating and what they like to do.

    Churrundo, fascinating! Thanks for this. I don’t know offhand of another language that makes that distinction either, but it’s a useful one.

    Scotlyn, no argument there — a tradition that ranks the world and the flesh alongside the Devil as the enemies of God has some problems. Yes, I’m pretty sure Fortune had sex very specifically in mind when she wrote that, as she was dealing with a lot of middle-class English people who were tied in square knots over the fact that they had sexual desires, but of course it applies more generally. Food is an important one — watch the way that some chronic dieters treat hunger the way a Victorian prude treats lust, for example.

    As for the order of initiation, that’s left extremely unclear by our text. Most of the references make it sound as though the returning swarm on each plane initiates the outgoing swarm, but there’s that diagram and one reference that suggests that the returning swarm on the second plane initiates the outgoing swarm on the 6th and so on. It’s worth meditating on it both ways and see what you learn from each of them!

    Chris, of course! The old alchemists used to chuckle over the fact that they could explain in so many words what the Great Work is, how it’s done, and what the First Matter is that you need to start with, and every single time people would give them blank looks and say, “No, really, tell me the secret!” The cosmos definitely has a fine sense of the absurd.

    Ksim, it’s quite normal for a religion to move from liberal to conservative as it ages, and as religions go, Christianity’s well into middle age. Still, I don’t know that I’d recommend betting on the arrival of those robotic enhancements, genetically engineered children, etc. Expecting clichés from bad science fiction to show up in the real world has been a sucker’s bet for a good long time now.

    Rajat, I’ll consider it. Sri Aurobindo is a writer I’ve wanted to study for a good long while now.

    Booklover, the only way in which I think we’ve gone further into materialism than past civilizations is that printing and widespread literacy has made it possible for materialist ideologies to spread much further through society than in previous eras. Whether that turns out to be viable in future societies is an interesting question.

    Ron, sure thing. You experience subjective consciousness every night when you dream. Think of the way that in a dream, the most bizarre things can happen and you don’t notice — you’re in a place that’s supposed to be your home but it has nothing in common with the place you actually live, and then it turns into a waiting room at a train station, but instead of boarding a train you walk through a door into a green landscape or what have you. That happens because in dreams, the division between subject and object doesn’t exist; you don’t experience yourself as a subject over against a world full of objects, so the kind of reflective thought that would make you think, “Hey, this isn’t my home!” is absent. That’s the state that souls are in as they descend through the planes — a state corresponding to the dream state — and the transition to objective consciousness is very much a matter of waking up and becoming able to reflect on yourself and your experiences. (Yes, some people do this in dreams, which is what lucid dreaming is about.) Does that help at all?

  74. To Churrundo — thank you so much for that. I am trying to learn Spanish and that was the clearest explanation of how to treat the ser/estar verb I’ve come across.

    I don’t know Japanese language, I only study it, but there are three forms of “to be” in Japanese: desu, aru, and iru. Aru is for people and animate objects, iru is for things, and desu can apply to both.

  75. JMG and @churrundo, Portuguese does. And it spells exactly the same, “ser” and “estar”. Great insight, by the way.

  76. Watch out for “Esta muerto, Jim”—“He’s dead, Jim.” It is not “Es muerto” because being dead isn’t, or wasn’t, an inherent part of his nature. Although if you’re an obvious gabacho people will be nice if you slip.

  77. JMG You know how you just said “Some of the technologies we choose will have been invented longer ago than others, but there’s still ample room for continuing innovation. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to get this relatively simple idea past the yard-thick concrete that seems to surround so many brains…”

    What I’m getting at is that these old technologies that are to be pulled out of storage are in a way the cosmos knocking us back, like spirits that have failed miserably at a particular for of incarnation, like in this chapter of the cosmic doctrine.

    I think partly what’s going on is with the concrete surrounding so many brains is that, it’s like they haven’t learned what they were supposed to from this incarnation of technology.

  78. *puts on linguist hat*

    The distinction between ser and estar in Spanish is actually a quite common distinction in the world’s languages. The technical terms are stative and dynamic, and the difference is essentially one of “this is (and won’t change)”; and “this is (for now)”. I’d have to consult some old class notes to say for sure which languages use it, but I remember that a lot of European languages are on the list, so it’s not an especially exotic or uncommon feature.

    As with the different ways of knowing, it’s a useful feature which English just happens to lack….

  79. So I’m a person with an extremely active dream life, and I feel comfortable saying I enjoy it. Even the troubling dreams, even the dreams where I have to go back to middle school English class even though I read Dostoevsky and I don’t fit into the desks.

    Where do I fit into this scheme of right hand and left hand paths, then? Does I work against evolution by taking pleasure in dreams? What of all the wisdom traditions in the world that find great value in dreams?

    Or is it more a matter of what I do in my waking life? I’ve been largely disconnected from the waking world for large segments of my life. But I took a turn somewhere in there, and now I’m trying to get up to speed in the world of matter, and I seem better equipped to perceive the blunt realities of the 21st century than most of the people around me.

  80. @JMG @happypandatao @Kimberly Steele

    Great posts and comments thank for for the food for thought
    on this early Sunday morning. I want to make a critical
    thinking point starting with happypandatao’s writing:

    “According to Tantric tradition a person with all 114 chakras
    fully awake and functioning will seem like a god to an
    average human. You can do major miracles on a cosmic
    scale (yes – as in galactic scale), not just a planetary or
    human one.”

    If this teaching bears truth then I point to JMG’s response to
    booklover:

    JMG I’m going to change your response just slightly with bracketed additions for the purpose of my post..

    “..printing and widespread literacy (, t.v. and the internet) made it possible for (advanced spiritual teachings) to spread much further through societies than in previous eras.”

    Now I want to use Kimberly Steele’s hypothetical televangelist character. First I want to point out that some sects of Evangelical Christianity believe something very close to happypandatao’s description that humans are capable of attaining God like powers. Their practice of this concept can be seen in the televised healing events in mega churches.

    When our televangelist character exploits these types of advanced spiritual truths, without thinking but rather as a regurgitation of a talking point to keep the donations flooding in, is this a form of engaging dynamically in positive evil? Quickening his decent back into frog form ect. Occultists, as I understand, keep things hidden for good reason. Thanks to the above mentioned printing press, literacy rate, t.v and internet, these teachings are available to anyone who tunes into that station so to speak. Although, of course it is also an empowering teaching; to know you are on this path to great power. But nevertheless, if a person has just stepped on the bridge they may want to keep an eye on the tumbling waters below and respect the boundary, or the ring pass not, of their current spiritual world and fulfill their requirements as per their development respectively… However I think it must also be true that some folks are ready for this teaching at the beginning of their latest incarnation.

    On a personal note I ended up making myself sick this weekend. I thought I could just juggle in the very difficult and careful task of crafting a complex magical item for my practice with everything else going on with family, work, and health. By the time I arrived on site I was barely well enough to strike hammer to steel.

  81. Hi John,

    You have made some good points. When it comes to Christianity, I think it will come roaring back to life as the long descent continues and has a key role in helping Europe to revive itself. However the big question remains is if that revival will come from Europe or from Russia…

    As for America, I think that overall some sort of new pagan sort of religion will find its home there and the future battle of ideas will take shape between eventually a more conservative Europe and liberal America…

    In regards to GM children and robotic enhancements, you have a good point. It’s like the people who thought we’d have space colonies in the year 2020 and look where we are now. Facing another prospective crisis with no major expansion in sight.

    However I wouldn’t close the door on the idea entirely. I think it’s more of a watch this space moment. You never can truly know what is around the corner.

    Also yes I do have a question to you in regards to planetary evolution. So are you saying that thousands or millions of years into the future, eventually planets such as Mars, Neptune, etc could evolve to become like Earth and eventually host physically sentient beings? Years after life on Earth has ended?

  82. Sorry for another post but I forgot to add this in the original. I am sure everyone on here is aware of the Annunaki hypothesis? Even though there is scepticism on the accuracy of the reports, the actual idea sort of fits in with what John is saying about Dion Fortunes work.

    The Annunaki supposedly came from a hidden planet in our solar system. Not from many solar systems away but out very own. They came to the Earth and eventually helped to jump start Human evolution for their own purposes of course.

    I must confess, although we can hold our scepticism on the subject, I do feel that if planets do eventually evolve in our solar system to support life, I could quite easily see an advanced Humanity doing the system. Finding a life form on another planet and evolving it for their own purposes. Life creates life. Life will go on. Life will repeat itself, etc.

    So maybe in terms of physical evolution, what has come before will come again and continue around the cycle we go on.

    Just some more food for thought.

  83. Churrundo and Kimberly – It took me a while to get the distinction between ser and estar, but it’s a very useful one. One humorous point, a little OT: I was wrestling with two forms of “for” – “por” and “para” and noticed the way “para” was linked with the infinitive verb. And suddenly flashed on all the ballads I’d ever heard of sung and started translating “para + infinitive” as “for to,” as in “she sent [her sons] to the North Country for to study their grammarye*…” and it worked a treat. But I had to re-translate it back into “standard” i.e. modern English for class.

    * magic, not grammar as we understand it. Which latter, in those days, might well still have meant Latin grammar. Which was much used in magic, hence the confusion in terminology….

    Pat the Digressor.

  84. John—

    The LHP which is discussed here appears similar to the warnings given in the discussion of Triad VI of the Grade of Practitioner (pages 222-224 of The Dolmen Arch, Volume 1, specifically on page 223 which talks about those who seek to harness the will (individuality) to satisfy the passions (personality). Am I correct in linking these two themes? And would you consider the likes of Aleister Crowley (and his life) to be an example of this?

  85. Ksim3000–Please do not judge the Pagan mindset by its modern manifestations. Remember that when Paganism was the norm–it was the community religion, the one that supported family life, community institutions and government. Early Christianity attacked all those things, urging followers to leave their families, refrain from marriage, defy the governmental authorities, etc. From the Pagan point of view Christians were atheists, forsaking the gods of the community to follow the teachings of an executed criminal. Christianity was only able to become the norm by compromise of those earlier stances, consenting to bless marriages, baptize babies, celebrate harvests, etc. Now that Christianity has made it self a supporter of the status quo those who try to recover Paganism are the rebels–but the same is true of those who decided to become Buddhists, or Moonies, or even become a different kind of Christian–such as Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses. I actually know someone who rebelled against his Catholic upbringing by converting to Orthodox Judaism.

  86. The ideas promulgated in this chapter of the Cosmic Doctrine look as if humanity as a whole were to spiritually progress forward. But the occult lore, as JMG explained it, says that individual souls progress, but not humanity as a whole, because human bodies are for souls in a certain state of evolution. So it seems to me that the religion of progress tends to slip in some versions of occult lore (ands in the ideas forwarded by some commenters). Would you please elucidate on this matter, JMG?

  87. Hi JMG,
    Well I have literally just negotiated a settlement deal from my current (disintegrating) job, courtesy of a certain little virus and what I saw as mismanagement, so am looking across vistas new for a staff position. Is appearing that quite a few others may be too so plenty of opportunities for collaboration as well as some competition. Will be interesting no doubt – any general advice or observations you can offer for this next little period welcome (I’m in the UK). Also since I can remember I’ve had four as my ‘favourite’ number (aren’t these strange how they just pop up – I can’t explain where it came from?!). Anyway, I say that because it added something for me to the idea of 4 being the ultimate symbol. I looked up Tetragrammatonic and got some of the Hebrew link but not much clue of how it adds to the ‘power’ of the Trinitarian. Got any feeling on this?
    All fascinating, as ever.

  88. Persian, it seems to me that you’re still assuming that later = “more advanced,” whatever that pair of buzzwords means. In a fair number of cases, technologies that were invented earlier are more complex and sophisticated, and the later ones are dumbed down; we had a discussion on one of my forums a while back about the fact that Roman concrete was of much higher quality and durability than ours, for example, and the brute-force chemical methods used by so much of modern medicine are much less subtle and often much less effective — though of course much more profitable to the pharmaceutical industry! — than the methods they supplanted. So I don’t think your equation works.

    Cliff, it’s the sum total of your life that counts, not this or that aspect. If you use your dreams to escape your problems on the material plane, that’s going to land you in various kinds of trouble; if your enjoyment of your dream life doesn’t hinder your engagement with waking life, it should be no problem at all.

    Ian, yes, very much so. We’re in a period of tremendous spiritual possibility, and equally tremendous spiritual risks. The secret teachings of the ages have been splashed all over the internet and published in convenient paperback editions, and so the portals of both the right-hand and the left-hand paths have been flung wide open. According to some legends, that also happened in the last centuries of Atlantean civilization, for whatever that’s worth.

  89. I’m still caught on the Mental Plane, the idea of it and what it means.

    This all may be obvious. But I’m only just now drawing the connection that it is at once:

    1. The plane of the Platonic Forms, which have a role in creating the objects that we perceive in our universe, both physical and astral;

    2. The plane of thought.

    Given number 2, when we think, we are always acting on the Mental Plane. If that’s the case, the knee-jerk response is “Well then, what’s the big deal? We all think, and most of us spend, if anything, too much time thinking.”

    But, of course, the first thing one learns when one commits to a practice of meditation– any kind of meditation– is that the vast majority of our thought is not, in fact “our thought.” Most of our thoughts consist of scraps of popular culture, television and other forms of media; social scripts; resentments and cravings rooted in the ego (i.e., the Lower Astral) and the body). Nor do we have any control over them; for the most part, they come and go as they please, or as permitted or induced by conditions in the body. Nor is this condition limited to ordinary people or to those we might consider “stupid.” The only difference between very intelligent people and ordinary people is that, in the case of intelligent people, the scraps of popular culture that repeat themselves automatically in their minds are more likely to be books written by college professors than soundbytes heard on the television.

    I’m very much including myself in this, by the way. When left to its own devices, my mind is as chaotic and automatic as anyone else’s. The best I can say is that I’m able to generate at least some original thoughts, because I spend at least some time every day practicing discursive meditation. The same, of course, will be true for everyone who meditates, and that leads to two conclusions:

    1. Meditation is the process whereby we attain objective consciousness on the Mental Plane. I assume that this is the same as building a body on the Mental Plane, as we discussed last time, though I may be wrong (can a Mental Sheath have objective consciousness?) The automatic thoughts that we experience most of the time is how we live subjectively on the Mental Plane.

    2. But the Mental Plane is, as we’ve seen, the Plane of Form, and Forms have a causal role in creating our universe. That means that, by practicing meditation we are, in some small way, raising ourselves to the level of the Gods– that is, the beings that create our universe.

    And a final thought– What about Eastern systems of meditation, that focus only on liberating the mind from automatic thoughts, and not directing it toward the creation of new thoughts? Well, I don’t know. But I’m reminded of something I read in the medieval Taoist meditation manual, The Secret of the Golden Flower. The book was discussing the way that, before we begin to meditate– to “turn the light around,” in the author’s terms– we act like billiard balls, moving automatically from one thing to the next. Once we can still the mind, we gain the ability to control our actions. (We could put that in terms of Thomistic theology by saying that we meditate to become non-contingent beings, and therefore, in a small way, like unto God.) This suggests that, from the point of view I’m discussing here, Eastern and Western meditation techniques aim toward the same goal, but they have different points of emphasis.

    Okay I’m going to stop now. I’m sorry if this post is only half legible, it’s been a very long day. But am I understanding all of this correctly?

  90. Not CosDoc, but Easter Sunday and the Qabalah – since last night’s bedtime meditation chose me rather than me, it – a meditation on Tipareth, which is what Easter is all about! The sacrificed god, the king, and to go back further, “the king who gives his life to save his land and people.” And that the traditional witches of Britain kept up a lively connection with Tipareth, since by and large, they attended the Church of England services regularly, along with everybody else. As I watched a broadcast Episcopal service yesterday, which was a lot easier to see than to hear, alas. Easter energy was very much in the air here.

    BTW – while the Creed says “I believe in one God,” it says nothing about adding a Goddess; who Catholics have traditionally (though theologically incorrectly, according to all the churchmen) equated with Mary in all her manifestations. My family is not quite that High Church, but having moved here from a state in which Our Lady of Guadalupe has exactly that status, it comes easily to me.

  91. I think ( possibly incorrectly ) that the spiritual progression in terms of the birth of the seven planes is matched by the material birth of the the planets in the cosmological sense, but the relationship between them could be forever beyond our comprehension from here ( earthly dwelling LHP). I suspect, therefore, that moving up the RHP could be the necessary process which reveals the actual connection ( otherwise known as “Nature”). Apologies for fuzzy logic!

  92. @Cos.Doc. Readers, @JMG

    I wanted to transcribe a portion of an interview Sadhguru gave that touches on the ascent back up the Planes. It’s hard convincing most people to set doubt aside for a moment and consider the possibility any of this Cos. Doc stuff might be true. Well I know JMG doesn’t need convincing but maybe some other readers might appreciate the following info.

    Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev Quote:

    “There are different dimensions of stillness. For example, in our experience normally a human being is breathing somewhere between twelve to fifteen times per minute. Breath is very directly connected to how the mental fluctuations happen.

    Suppose naturally, not by effort but by doing the right kind of things with your system – naturally – if your breath drops below eleven (per minute) then you begin to understand various reverberations that are happening around you. In terms of all the subsonic sounds in which the animals are communicating it becomes very obvious to you.

    If your breath drops below 9 (per minute) naturally, without controlling it, then what the plants are exuding, the plant life, what it is doing becomes very obvious to you.
    If your breath drops below 6 (per minute) then what the inanimate things, how they’re reverberating becomes very obvious to you. This is known as Ritambhara Pragna. That means the reverberations of every form and the sounds attached to it become very clear to you. Or in other words, the nature of the universe can be grasped. If you know the language of the inanimate, every form, how it is made, what is its nature, what it is right now and what it will evolve into or what it was yesterday, and what it has evolved into – all this is becoming apparent to you.

    As the concerns of survival recede human beings will naturally evolve into perceiving higher things. But the important thing is the level of static because breath is a survival process. If you sit still it goes down. The more still your body becomes, the less you breathe. If you bring your whole system to a certain level of stillness, not being in a hyper ventilated state then your level of perception goes on increasing. So as the stillness deepens these are presented traditionally in various ways. It is usually called Rudra*, Hara** and Sadashiva***.

    One is still but he is vibrant, roaring. Another is still but he is in activity. Another is absolutely still. Now always that which is absolutely still is referred to as the Ultimate Intelligence. Everything else – in its anxiety to be active is sacrificing its intelligence at a certain level to be in a state of action. But that which is absolutely still is considered the highest intelligence.

    It is only in Eastern Mysticism the source of Creation is always celebrated as the highest intelligence. This is the biggest mistake modern societies have made. People were told, “God is compassion.”, “God is love.”, “God is generosity.” These things mean something to you only when you don’t have them. If you are not loved, you will look up. God should love you. If you are not fed well you want a generous God. If you are down in some way you want a compassionate God. But if you don’t make any assumptions, if you look at a blade of grass, if you look at a flower, if you just look at the structure of an atom, one thing is the source of creation is the highest level of intelligence that you can ever recognize, anywhere. If you look at the Creation it is smack with intelligence all over the place. If we had only told people that God is intelligence, we would have a more sensible world.”

    *Rudra = Brahma, the Creator
    **Hara = Vishnu, the Sustainer
    ***Sadashiva = Shiva, the Destroyer

    The following is the original Youtube vid from which the above was a partial transcription. The earlier sections of the interview go into the human energy body sheaths we all picked up while descending down the Planes.

    https://tinyurl.com/tfbogjc

  93. 1. They do not have Divine Sparks of their own, and so their evolution depends on the evolution of the beings incarnated on them.

    What does this mean?

    2. I don’t get what star logoi are. I thought there was one, belonging to the sun.

    3. You say that being fixated on the material causes one to go onto the left hand path. Thinking of the diagram with the two arrows, “Both rise up the planes—but one involves gaining abilities we haven’t developed yet, while the other involves shedding abilities we’ve gained and reverting to older forms.”

    It makes sense to me, and as I am reading lately about the extreme decadence of some of the elites of this world and some in the entertainment industry, getting caught up in things we would consider evil – but I am confused about how, if we humans have only recently come to a completion of the etheric or thereabouts, how can that black left hand arrow retrogress and shed abilities we had, if we never had them?

  94. Just an observation. It is interesting that occasionally I recognize some occult concept you talk about as having appeared in some pop culture movie.
    In this particular occasion, it would be ‘Ghosts of Mars’ were Mars is inhabited by ghosts (in this case scary monster ghosts that are then accidentally released from a tomb/prison and chaos ensues).
    The writer clearly was familiar with the concept from the cosmic doctrine and played off of the idea for the story.

  95. Kimberly,

    “Unfortunately, Christians aren’t able to have a dialogue about spirituality because they aren’t willing to admit they could be wrong. ”

    Actually, they can’t have dialog because they can’t admit that the Bible could be wrong, or their understanding of what the Bible says could be wrong. Additionally, they are very hampered because they cannot explore freely with their minds many forbidden areas. One has good spiritual conversations with those who have some experience pondering or experiencing things. Christians may have a lot of those, but only within prescribed boundaries.

  96. jmg,

    It seems you mention two different possibilities to deal with those on the left hand path. One is to become something very primitive and work your way up again, and the other is being flung into outer darkness on the back of a comet.
    Is there a difference?

  97. JMG: Re: Ancient, or old technologies: I am a fan of steam engines and have built several models of Hero of Alexandra”s engine. They work fine.

  98. HappyPandaTao – According to my wife, my breathing rate slows to a dangerous extent while I am asleep, and it seems that sleep apnea is a widespread medical condition. (Bedside machines to enforce regular breathing are even advertised on TV.) Rather than seek to lower my breathing rate to achieve enlightened stillness, I end each day with an affirmation: “I will breathe regularly through the night, and awaken to the new day.” (I have none of the usual risk factors for sleep apnea, but have practiced various forms of meditation since my teens.)

  99. These posts are so great. This seems to me to be the most sincere group of seekers I have ever had the privilege to be around. Thank you, everyone. And especially our host.

  100. I wanted to get in one quick, final note before tomorrow’s new Ecosophia post goes up.

    For those who don’t like the overt Hindu classification system Sadhguru’s interview referred to you can map out the following of his sentences like this:

    Sadhguru Quote: “One is still but he is vibrant, roaring. Another is still but he is in activity. Another is absolutely still.”

    One who is still but roaring vibrant = The Big Bang

    One who is still but in activity = Life

    One who is absolutely still = The Beyond and the Beyond-the-Beyond

  101. Lathechuck,

    If you have a steady, slow and relaxed breathing, I think that is OK. Sleep apnea usually has irregular breathing, with long pauses followed by deep, snuffling breaths that sound like you just got to the surface of the water after being a long way down.

  102. Steve T, not quite. The mental plane not the plane of thought, it’s the plane of meaning. Our thoughts are astral forms, but the meaning that sometimes fills them belongs to the mental plane. Other than that, you’ve got it pretty well — and yes, it’s hard to speak clearly about a realm of being that is at the very edge of human perception.

    Patricia M, the Jewish scholar Raphael Patai wrote a book many years ago called The Hebrew Goddess, in which he argued that before the Babylonian captivity the Jews worshiped one god and two goddesses. So you may be on to something…

    Richard, that seems quite plausible to me.

    Panda, thanks for this.

    Onething, we covered (1) and (2) at quite some length in earlier chapters — iirc, you’ll find the details in chapter 14. As for 3, remember that on the way down the planes we develop capacities on each plane in a subjective condition, and then make them objective one at a time as we climb back up the planes. People on the LHP lose even those subjective capacities, and have to regain them all over again.

    David, hah! Delighted to hear it. The Cos. Doc. generally would make great raw material for interplanetary science fiction.

    Onething, yes, there’s a difference. Having to work your way back up again means you get a second chance. Those souls who board a comet undergo the Unknown Death and there is nothing left of them.

    Michael, delighted to hear it. To my mind Hero’s steam engine is a great example of the difference between classical science and ours; it never seems to have occurred to Hero to find a way to use his device to power something else, while that’s literally the first thing our steam-engine inventors thought of.

    JustMe, you’re welcome and thank you.

  103. @Lathechuck

    Going by what my parents have told me, I may have had full-blown sleep apnea from about the age of six.
    It caught up with me in my late twenties.

    If you can, get it checked in a sleep study.

  104. Ok, thanks.

    My initial reflection gives pros and cons both ways – considering it metaphorically.

    I thought about “graduating” into the “for hire” return journey and getting “myself” back up to level 2 (Lower Astral). If I were then to be “taken on” to initiate other beings, I’d probably have most “access” to other beings currently working through *their* sixth level plane manifestation in the Lower Astral – as we’d be working on the same plane.

    But in terms of experience, I’d probably have most in common with those “across the diameter” who are on the 6th plane, but who are only on *their* second level plane manifestation in the Lower Spiritual plane. We’d be on a more level par as far as experience goes.

    So initiating within the plane seems to have the pro of access, but the con of differential experience. Whereas initiating across the diameter seems to have the pro of experiential similarity but the con of not-obvious accessibility.

    At this stage, I know far too little to make much more sense of this, so I will park it for now. Thanks.

  105. @Churrundo and others who have chimed in on linguistics.

    There are other differences that I’ve sometimes pondered on.

    Spanish (which became my second language at four years old), has “estar” and “ser”, but also has other, additional, ways of rendering thoughts that are expressed in English using the word “to be”. For example, English speakers say “I am hungry” whereas Spanish speakers say “tengo hambre” – which word for word translates in English as, “I have hunger”. It is as if to English speakers, hunger is an inner state of being which arises entirely from within, whereas to a Spanish speaker, hunger is a visiting state that arives from somewhere else.

    Since living in Ireland (where I have mostly NOT learned much Irish) I have come to appreciate that Irish has expressions like this, which translate to something like “hunger is on me”. Learning languages, and, especially, strugging with the difficulties of translating concepts from one to another, do expand the mind enormously!

  106. Looks like you missed a few just above David there JMG. Guessing life is hectic busy – funny how that happens. I’ve been quite enjoying heading out to the fields and trees last few weeks.
    A couple of pointers would be welcome though before the next post hits.
    Many thanks.

  107. I went back to review this striking explanation posted in response to a question;

    “Remember that on the descending arc, the soul is in a subjective state like dreaming, rather than being in an objective state like waking. So the televangelist starts by becoming subjective again on the mental plane — he no longer thinks in any real sense, though he can parrot buzzwords and mouth platitudes, while being guided entirely by astral emotions and imagery. Then he becomes subjective on the upper astral plane — his emotions and his imagination become automatic, uncontrolled, obsessive, and he is guided solely by basic biological drives. Then he becomes subjective on the lower astral plane — his passions and drives become automatisms. Finally he dies, becoming subjective on the physical plane, and he has to work his way all the way back to where he was. Or not, and the next comet has room for a new passenger.”

    Wow! Are you sure you’re describing mere televangelists here?

  108. Thanks again for doing this. The Cosmic Doctrine is like the Great Lebowski rug that really ties the room together for my own practice. What I find most exciting is that I am actually starting to understand it even without your explanations. While I highly value your insights and would never have gotten going without them, the book is like a weight room for objective consciousness and the more we train the easier it gets.

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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