Book Club Post

The Cosmic Doctrine: The Evolution of Consciousness

This week we continue a monthly discussion of The Cosmic Doctrine by Dion Fortune, which I consider the most important work of 20th century occult philosophy. Climb in and fasten your belts; it’s turning out to be as wild a ride as I expected. If you’re just joining us now, please go back and read the previous commentaries, which 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 11, “The Evolution of Consciousness,” pp. 52-54.

Millennium Edition: Chapter 12, “The Birth of Consciousness in the Universe,” pp. 73-76.


This is a difficult chapter for many students, but it’s also a very important one, for in it Fortune develops her set of metaphors for consciousness in directions that will have important practical implications. We’ll take it a little at a time.

It’s important, to begin with, to remember the definition of consciousness Fortune introduced in the previous chapter: “consciousness is reaction plus memory.” Think about that for a moment. If you had reactions but no memory, the sensations of each instant would erase the sensations of the previous instant. What’s more, none of the sensations would mean anything to you, because meaning is what occurs when you connect a present reaction to a memory from the past: when we say the letter A means a particular sound used in speech, or the word “cat” refers to a four-legged creature that meows, what that indicates is that you connect the shape of the letter or the word to the memory of a sound or an animal.

Alternatively, if you had memory but no reaction, your awareness would be fixed on whatever happened to be in your memory, if anything was, and you would be completely oblivious to what was happening to you at the moment. Combine reaction and memory, though, and you have consciousness; you can perceive at least a little of what is going on around you, and what you perceive can be linked to past perceptions so that it means something to you.

That’s one of two definitions of consciousness that Fortune provides. The other is included again in the present chapter:  “consciousness is an integration of reactions, so that any change in any part is responded to by the corresponding adjustments of the whole.” This definition approaches the same subject from a different angle. Those corresponding adjustments of the whole are the basis of memory; something happens, and the whole system becomes a little different. It is affected by the change: that’s reaction. Its structure is changed in an enduring way by the thing that has happened: that’s memory.

Human consciousness is this same process made complex by billions of years of evolution, but the same patterns can be seen at work in the brain. Sensory organs respond to specific ranges of stimuli: that’s reaction. The brain responds by laying down complex electrobiochemical patterns that enable the reaction to be recalled at a later date: that’s memory. Combine the two and you’ve got the material basis for consciousness. These same two processes can be seen at work in many things other than human beings, some of them not even defined as living by our current notions of what life is. Does that suggest that these things are also conscious, each in its own way? Why, yes, that is indeed what it suggests.

Fortune goes on to differentiate between two levels of consciousness, one of them in the background, the other in the foreground. Each conscious being, whether we’re discussing a Solar Logos or one of the countless beings who inhabit the solar system the Logos has created, has some capacities for reaction that have already been worked out in all their permutations over past cycles of experience, and other capacities for reaction that have just been developed by contact with new experiences and have not yet settled into stable relationships. In the case of the Solar Logos, the first of these categories—the background of capacities for reaction that have settled into stable patterns—are the results of its experiences as a traveling atom journeying out and back along the twelve Rays. The second of these categories—the new capacities for reaction still needing to be integrated into a balanced whole—are the results of its experiences as it reflects on itself, and notices its own reactions to the great Cosmic tides.

Human beings, like all other beings in the solar system, also have these two levels of consciousness or, to put things another way, these two parts of the self. The background of capacities for reaction gained in previous lives is called the Individuality, or the Higher Self; the foreground of new capacities being sorted out by conscious action in this life is called the Personality, or the Lower Self. These can be called, without too much inaccuracy, the unconscious and the conscious selves.

It’s important to understand how these two parts of the self relate. The Personality in each life lays down reaction-capacities that become part of the Individuality in future lives.  In each new life, in turn, the Personality unfolds from the reactions of the Individuality to new experiences. We don’t experience the Individuality directly, because our attention is fixed by the foreground of new reactions to new experiences. but it forms the enduring background to the mental activities we perceive.

It would not be going too far, in fact, to speak of the Individuality by using that old-fashioned term “character.” Your Individuality is the basis of your character, the source of those enduring habits of thought and action that frame the way you relate to the world. Your Personality can be thought of as a set of potential additions to your Individuality, which you are trying out in the changing conditions of your present life. “That which is the Personality today will be part of the Individuality to-morrow,” Fortune writes; readers who know their way around the literature of Freudian psychology, which Fortune studied extensively at one point in her career, will recognize this as a wry commentary on Freud’s overconfident dictum “where Id was, there shall Ego be.”

The Solar Logos or Great Entity goes through the same process on a much vaster timescale. Its Personality comes into being as it contemplates the effects of the changing Cosmic tides on itself, and this Personality is built up along the lines already laid down by the Great Entity’s experience of the Cosmos. So, in this Personality, there are currents of motion that arc around after vast ages to become three vast Rings; there are twelve Rays that stream out from a center and return to it; there are atoms born of tangential movements set in motion by the Rays, which are caught up and swept along in the currents of motion. All told, there is a mirror image of the Cosmos, reflected in the consciousness of the Great Entity, and this becomes a universe of its own—but the Solar Logos is not the only inhabitant of that universe.

There are also the Cosmic atoms that were swept up by the Great Entity on its way out to its orbit on the seventh Cosmic plane. They sort themselves out into orbits surrounding the Great Entity according to their own Cosmic plane of origin. As the Great Entity evolves a Personality—or, to put the same point in a different way, as the Great Entity brings its solar system into being, for the Great Entity’s Personality and its solar system are one and the same thing—the other Cosmic atoms are caught up again in the patterns of movement laid down by the Great Entity in its dance. They become the Divine Sparks of the beings who will inhabit the solar system, and in over the vast cycles of the solar system’s evolution they evolve too, developing their own capacities for reaction and memory.

In the period we are discussing, the period of the first stirrings of consciousness, all this is far in the future. The first development of consciousness in the newborn solar system does not take place in individual Divine Sparks, although it affects them. Instead, the patterns of movement in space laid down by the Solar Logos in his contemplation become organized among themselves, forming a whole system in which a change to any part affects all the other parts. Consciousness is born, in the form of a vast Oversoul that links everything in the solar system. Eventually individual souls will emerge from that Oversoul, but the time for that has not yet arrived.

Two points deserve to be noticed here. First, since the solar system is projected as a thought-form by the Great Entity, it and everything in it contain all the reaction-capacities of the Great Entity in latent form. The Divine Sparks and the embodiments they create around themselves go through the same stages of evolution as the traveling atom that became the Great Entity, but they do so much more quickly, because they are recapitulating rather than breaking new ground. “And God made man after His image, according to His likeness,” says the Book of Genesis; The Cosmic Doctrine agrees entirely with this statement, but interprets it in a way that draws an unexpected kind of sense out of it.

Second, in the relationship between pure movement in space and the stable atoms generated by movement we have the first sketch of the relation of soul to body. Fortune asks the reader to imagine that each atom, as it moves through space, leaves an invisible “track” of pure movement which remains behind it, frictionless and therefore persistent. If a second atom gets drawn into the same “track” as the first, the “track” deepens and strengthens, while at the same time the track is changed at least a little by the vagaries of the atom. Repeat this countless times, and the track in space becomes a rut along which atom after atom moves.

This is the way the Oversoul affects the individual atoms it overshadows. As the atoms develop new capacities for movement from their encounters with the Oversoul, they lay down their own internal patterns of tracks in space, simple at first and then mounting to dizzying levels of complexity.  In this way the atom begins to develop its own mental dimension, and from the Oversoul emerges an individual soul capable of passing through the cycles of evolution itself.

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 June 12.  Until then, have at it!


In (more or less) unrelated news, I’m delighted to announce that the fifth book in my series of epic fantasies with tentacles, The Weird of Hali: Providence, is now available for preorder in trade paperback; the ebook editions should be available for preorder in a few days. The planned release date is June 5, 2019. Interested? Check out the details here.


  1. Would there be any value in accessing the Individuality more directly? (Perhaps it is a moot point, in any event.) My first thought in reading the description was the Bene Gesserit of the Dune universe and their shared-lives (although these were not exclusively their own previous incarnations and were embodied more concretely within the psyche).

    Generally, I think of accreted layers, rather like geological strata, of Personalities which form that Individuality, while the current Personality is the surface/top-most layer which can interact directly with the external world. That imagery does make a good deal of sense.

    But the first definition of consciousness did make me look to the broader concepts we’ve discussed on this blog about things we stereotypically think of as inert (a stone, a river, a planet, a star) as being conscious. And I’ll admit that the underlining of that notion here does cause my eyes to open rather wide…

  2. Yes, this was a difficult chapter, but it was short at least. I’m relatively certain that Sheldrake’s name will come up in relation to those ruts in space that DF discusses. I think Sheldrake was preceded in the notion of a “chreod” by the developmental biologist C. H. Waddington. The wikipedia article is useful here – and suggestive relative to DF’s thesis – but that’s about all I have to say about Waddington at this point.

    I have a question about the cover on the hardback Helios edition. The cover depicts a solar system in which all the planets resemble eyes. Surely that was deliberate on the part of the artist. Who was the artist? Any idea?.

  3. David BTL, Jung’s concept of the unconscious is a little like what you’re suggesting: you have the personal unconscious, then the familial unconscious, then the ethnic unconscious, and so on back to layers that were laid down before our ancestors descended from the trees. A great deal would depend on whether the different layers serve different functions or act in different ways.

    Phutatorius, yes, I was thinking of Sheldrake, and also of Waddington — the concept of the chreod was discussed at some length in the systems theory class I took in my first pass through college. As for the dust jacket, I have no idea — you’d probably have to contact Gareth Knight, who ran Helios Book Service back in the day, and ask him.

  4. Goodness me.
    ‘Chreod’, ‘Waddington’
    I quote Gare, 2017,
    “Waddington explained the development of the concept of chreod as the influence on his work of Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy, notably, the concept of concrescence as a self-causing process. Processes were recognized as having their own dynamics, rather than being explicable through their components or external agents.”

    I cannot go down that road nor into the remarkable mathematics that resulted after Waddington. I will continue to wander among the semantics and metaphors. I have a wistful thought to write something definitive: perhaps’The Discovery of Instinct’, and to meditate on the examples beyond mundane explanation that have riveted my attention when I was lucky enough to experience or see them – human and otherwise.
    Phil H

  5. This provoked quite an experiment. I had the same thoughts as David BTL re: tremendous possibilities of consciousness. It is my experience that crystals are alive and conscious and willing to communicate, but until this post, I did not have a framework to explain why or how. As always, thank you for the most excellent teachings.

    Mountains are most definitely alive and conscious, made so via this same process, and so packed with Herculean energy that they might blow you sideways just a bit the first time you try to communicate with them as conscious entities and fellow travellers in the extant spacetime around you.

    Since by deduction it might be presumed canyons are also alive and conscious, I decided to experiment a bit. I attempted to reach out to the Grand Canyon in the U.S. and got a very Saturnian, gruff old man style response. He does not want to communicate, and quite possibly just doesn’t like humans. It might be the pollution inflicted on his air by humans, but he wouldn’t tell me. I was never really told to stuff it and go away, just the energetic equivalent of annoyed grunts and scoffs to anything I did. I tried again, with the Gorges du Verdon in France, and got a response that indicates pure peace. Every response indicated it wanted me to slow down and slide into peace. The energy was similar to that which I pick up from larimar – from one online resource: “Larimar is a crystal of serenity, promoting relaxation in every aspect.” That’s what attempting to communicate with the Gorges du Verdon did – promote relaxation, actively so, with every response. Like “come join me and relax. Just relax.” Finally, I reached out to a canyon I’ve been to, the one you can see when you’re standing in front of the Prince of Wales hotel at Waterton Lakes National Park. This canyon wanted me to climb mountains and have a look around; go for adventure. It actively promotes reaching for greater heights and seeing sights unseeable until you’re at the pinnacle.

    So, that’s three canyons, two of which persistently tried to get me to take a particular action in response to my contacting them, and one of which made guttural noises in my general direction but didn’t try to convince me of anything.

    How much of this is the entity of the canyon itself responding to my reaching out, and how much of it is the nature spirits overseeing the energy in their locality, or however one might describe the relationships involved, is a question I hope to answer by keeping up with this reading.

    Speaking of keeping up with this reading, I came up with a tip for those who feel this is incomprehensible. I was able to make far, far quicker sense of it this month by reading aloud and by putting a lot of emotion into it. If anyone out there is lost… just give it a try, read the text out loud, using the intonations you would if you were the teacher and were trying to explain it to someone else.

  6. John—

    Is there a distinction in the Individuality as layered Personalities between the physical/biological (e.g. hardwiring of the brain, evolutionary accretions) and the psycho-spiritual (e.g. past lives which may or may not hav been in any particular family tree)? Is the former operation one one plane (the physical) and the latter on another (astral)?

  7. Tying this into Druid philosophy, does it make sense to speak of the transition to Gwynfudd as the point where a soul develops the capacity to be conscious of the background and foreground of consciousness at the same time?

  8. David,

    Extending the geology metaphor, the older selves would gradually be transformed by time and pressure, and occasionally there would be things like volcanoes bringing older material to the surface. The result is that for all but the uppermost layers things have been mashed and churned so much that there’s no resemblance to the initial forms, and even on the surface, the events that happen deep beneath have relevance, since sometimes they’ll come bursting forth, and other times they’ll just shift things (like an earthquake), sometimes a little, sometimes a great deal.

    I like this metaphor a great deal.

  9. For some reason this makes complete sense to me. Perhaps I need to read the chapter more and get confused, but so much of this seems to click. However that is after hours on the road thinking about it, my form of carbon-fueled meditation. Consciousness seems to be plastic, representing past conditions and future experiences.

    I am wondering about the relationship between this and an earlier commentary on the Cos.Doc about how every action and reaction generates in itself a mini-form of the great rings. For example, a thought, a relationship, a word, has its own permeable ring cosmos, ring chaos, and ring pass-not. These mini-rings probably reflect the great rings, through the mediating influence of the oversoul from the great entity. That led me to wonder about the boundary between the solar system and the rest – in the physical plane we would experience that as the heliosheath, which as we know is permeable. Things from inside pass outside it (Voyager 1 for instance), and things from outside (cosmic rays) pass through it too, but it does represent a barrier of sorts.

    I would also ask – does the astral light come from the Great Entity/Oversoul, and is it present on all planes?

  10. Phil, thanks for this! I didn’t happen to know that Waddington was riffing off Whitehead — all I knew about him was what was covered in that long-ago systems theory class.

    Athena, nicely done. You’re right, too, that reading the text aloud is one way to make sense of it — we process words differently when we hear them than when we read them, and doing both at once gives the brain two chances to grasp the meaning.

    David BTL, the first is etheric as well as physical, but yes. broadly speaking.

    Will, that’s the point when you begin to be able to do that.

    Peter, good. Those strike me as good themes for meditation. As for the astral light, as the name suggests, it’s on the astral plane; we’ll get to the genesis of the different planes of being as this proceeds.

  11. This chapter really set my head spinning (which has already been spinning with movements and rings turning, and rays and circles and traveling atoms…). It has set me to thinking about reincarnation and our overall Individuality, as it has been termed here. And looking at the development of consciousness and the Individuality/Personality of our Solar Logos, and if it can reincarnate, just on a different scale than we reincarnate. And then I wonder if that would be possible, could our solar logos be in an incarnation that is not its first. I still haven’t meditated enough even to understand what being a traveling atom means for our logos. I also am thinking that people often think about being ‘one with the cosmos’, but that we are much closer to being part of the oversoul of the solar system, and so what does that mean for us? I have but a dim understanding so far of what I am reading in the chapter, but I have lots of themes for meditation over the next month (and I’m beginning to think, the rest of my lifetime).

  12. Hi, JMG. So if magic is “a change in consciousness according to will” and “consciousness is reaction plus memory”, is it the reaction or the memory that distinguishes magic from other forms of intervention? Or is there a special definition for “will” that will ;-/ be helpful in resolving the riddle?

  13. Our culture cannot seem to accept the “spirits in the material world” theory of evolution as laid out in the Cosmic Doctrine. Freud did not acknowledge the force animating a newborn baby as having gotten there first. From what I can tell, modern humans across the spectrum of religiosity have the idea that we humans are meat-bots who must grow up in order to experience the realms of anything higher than physical sensation. These realms are outside and separate to us according to modern concept. When a human embryo becomes viable, the atheist thinks it is a piece of meat with the potential to become smarter for no apparent reason. The Christian thinks the embryo’s development is independent of the mother or the incarnating soul; it’s a single-use decision made by a remote and often cruel being who lives in the sky. Either way, we have a meat-bot who can only make itself worthy by chasing after attainments outside and above itself in a single lifetime. I perceive the Cosmic Doctrine to be saying, “No, you’ve got it all wrong/backwards, soul first, flesh later, and more lives than your tiny brain can understand”.

    I was an agnostic leaning strongly towards atheism until I ran into JMG’s essay on reincarnation. I was the piece of meat who developed a bit of a mind; just enough that I felt a cheerful nihilism about my own death. I genuinely thought it was the first and last time I would live and then boing, I’d be off to permanent oblivion. So why I had any urge to be decent and not to spend the rest of my life hurting my enemy’s feelings and snorting cocaine off the chests of handsome cabana boys was a mystery. I’ve now had odd experiences of remembering (in bits and pieces) fragments from past lives. I’ve learned enough to know I was a comedian/court jester guy who traveled and sang and played a stringed instrument. His karma has led to the situations I am living down right now. It’s the training he received from his father that gave me much of the musical talent and ability and patience to instruct others I use to make a living. His karma was not all good by any means, of course. He’s not the only one I remember, however, he’s the one I’m clearest about what happened in his life. I also dread admitting this for fear everyone will assume I’m nuts, but I’m pretty sure I remember being a cat. Life isn’t easy if you’re a cat, unless you are my cat. At any rate, it’s my own remembrances of reincarnation that help me with this chapter, though most of it remains over my head.

  14. Just meditated a bit while travelling by train.
    With those cycles evolution gets a direction that is guided by consciousness.
    Thus evolution is not pure trial and error as conventionally taught but more a guided process, which make much sense for me.

  15. Oh, one further thing, I can see all of this leading to a comprehensive description of the ecology of the cosmos as well as of the self. About how we as humans are a system of systems, sitting within an unimaginably large system, all with limits, homeostatic processes, and energetic flow.

  16. Since the comments have dropped off last essay and this one, I wanted to pop in to let it be known that I’m still following closely, I just didn’t happen to have anything meaningful to contribute last time or this one. That, and it’s just starting to make more sense as we proceed. I’m sure at least part of the lull in comments is that others have also been reading without writing in for whatever reason.

    Please keep up the good work! I would absolutely not be able to parse the Cos Doc to the degree I have without these essays. I have gotten to the point that I just read the essay first, then the chapter, and it saves me a lot of trouble.

  17. Hi John, I’m writing as a followup to the question I posted yesterday regarding the connection between Fortune’s definition of magic and her definition of consciousness. I DO think my question was very much pertinent to The Cosmic Doctrine, but – since you haven’t addressed it, nor ignored it, yet – I thought I would write a followup. Obviously, I am very, very interested in the definition of magic. That is because I have either been working large-scale magic in the world for several decades … or I have not. Until I began reading you, I didn’t concern myself too much about how the various “miracles” were happening. I knew I was consciously using positive thinking and trance states; the outcomes FELT like magic; I didn’t see the point in dwelling too much on distinctions as long as I was getting results.

    Anyway, since you persist on not directly answering my question for a clarification (extension) of the definition, but keep tossing it back at me to meditate on some more;-?, I thought your dwelling on the definition of “consciousness” this week was a good lead.

    I am GUESSING the “consciousness” which must ALWAYS be changed by “will”, is the cosmic consciousness. I am guessing the “will” is that of any sentient being within the cosmos. So the all is made aware (my word) and then remembers some “change” in its totality…which becomes the new reality.

    That would all seem to fit the constraints of the definition of magic, I think. However it doesn’t really address core concern: why are some things NOT magic? Specifically, if I willfully remove someone’s lifelong, intense phobia … that changes THEIR consciousness and that changes the world, as well. Why is that not magic? W/hat of Clarke’s Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”? Even ritual magic has “technique”, right?

    Anyway, I continue to think the world (universe) could benefit from a little more clarity in the definition of magic in order to be more open to magic. A square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not necessarily a square.

  18. “You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?” Andy asked.

    “No,” Red replied.

    “They say it has no memory. That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory.”

    I tried to talk to the Pacific Ocean once, this time when I was standing right next to it. I got a warbly response like billions of voices flitting around, but no cohesion. It was Neptunian in the extreme, and I understood oceanic energy – and Neptune – better by the attempt.

    This post, then, explains why. If the Pacific Ocean has no memory, it cannot develop a consciousness. It has reactions, but no memories.

    This doesn’t mean there aren’t parts of the ocean that are conscious. The harbors have memories. The coves have keen memories, carved as they were by time and pressure.

    The ocean currents are not, themselves, conscious. Rather, they’re tracks the atoms follow on the physical plane. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a Central Stillness of that particular set of Rings that would, unchecked, probably burst forth into creating its own new entity. Maybe it already has; it’s certainly been strengthened in entity-hood a lot by the attention to it.

  19. Cat, excellent! Fortune’s metaphor doesn’t deal with the possibility that a Solar Logos might create one solar system, take it through its entire life cycle, contemplate the results of the experience, and then do it again — that would be what reincarnation would look like on that scale. On the other hand, other books of occult philosophy portray things in exactly this way, and Fortune may have meant her students to make that leap themselves. One way or another, though, you’re right that the themes in this modestly sized book can keep you productively meditating for a long, long time.

    Gnat, wrangling over definitions has long struck me as one of the least productive of all human activities, and these days it pretty much always has an unhelpful agenda of some kind, I’ll discuss this further in response to your later and lengthier comment below.

    Kimberly, fascinating. I’m glad that essay of mine was useful to you! Fortune points out in one of her other books — at the moment I’ve forgotten which one — that an understanding of reincarnation is one of the great gifts that occult study has to offer; once you get past the “meat-bot” illusion and grasp the point that matter arises out of spirit, not the other way around, a lot of life’s mysteries become much easier to solve.

    B3rnhard, I’ve also meditated on trains, with good results! As for evolution, exactly; to borrow some phrasing from Aristotle, it’s got its efficient cause, the combination of random variation and natural selection that make it happen, but it’s also got its final cause, the patterning of the whole system that guarantees that certain things emerge out of that process (as in convergent evolution).

    Peter, excellent. Fortune doesn’t take it as far as laying out such a comprehensive description, but she provides all the raw materials and tools out of which and by which one can be built.

    Kyle, thanks for this. I’ve heard from quite a number of people who are following along doggedly, but it’s good to hear from someone else that this is helpful.

  20. I am a couple months back and still playing catch up so this is not related to this month’s exploration. The house I moved into had this old hand crank coffee mill that I tried out of novelty, initially finding it unnecessarily slow and frustrating. Now exerting force in a slow circular motion every morning has become my daily cosmic mini meditation. I am so glad that you are doing this because it is likely I would never have heard about this book or given it a second thought if I had skimmed it. Even though I feel a bit handicapped with some of the cryptic sentence structures it’s been life changing so far by helping me accept a greater reality and also acting like “the rug that really ties the room together” for all the other concepts I am/have been exposed to. And to think it all started by showing up to ADR for my weekly doomer fix and somehow I wound up here!

  21. I wonder how humanity traces its lineage in the context of the Cosmic Doctrine? We have the Great Entities creating thought-forms that become solar systems. But “the thought-forms projected by a Great Entity in its turn gave rise to entities,” and the process of entities creating though-forms that give rise to new entities continues on.

    So, once our solar system thought-form became an entity it gave rise to new entities, the planets. Our Mother Earth is then an entity that came into being first as a thought-form created by the solar system. She is its child. Continuing on, life on earth, including humans, would then be entities created first as thought-forms by Mother Earth, who has evolved into an entity with conscious individuality. Mother Earth is, thus, a very good name for her, since she gave birth, via her thought-forms, to all life around us. All the living beings on the planet then are truly our brothers and sisters. A nice thought to remember next time you pet the cat or hug a tree.

    Humanity would then be a part of the next lower level of entity creation, life on our planet earth. In our development, are we at the earliest thought-form stage (not yet an entity), or are we thought-forms that have evolved into entities that can participate in this creative evolutionary process? Since we believe that humans have both levels of consciousness, individuality and personality, it would seem that we are entities capable of creating thought-forms, and we participate in the process of Cosmic evolution. The statement “thought are things” is literally true for us then, and I wonder what entities we are responsible for creating?

  22. A couple trains of thought got going from this chapter so far. I realize I’m jumping the gun a bit by relating it to our own (human) consciousness, but I’m finding that to be the only way I can really make sense of what Fortune is saying. The first thought relates to what you described in your commentary. The self has a dual nature: one is the background of capacities for reaction, otherwise known as the Individuality, Higher Self, or subconscious. I have this associated with the ‘hidden’ self, which made me think of the occult – knowledge of the hidden. The other part of the self is the foreground, Personality, or Lower Self. Normally we’re only conscious of this part. In a previous post you mentioned that ‘the collective unconscious that humans experience is identical at its deepest level with the mind of God.” That got me wondering if the goal of occult work is to become conscious of the knowledge that part of our Self – the hidden self – is actually part of God, or originates from God.

    The other train of thought was about the tracks in space. I’m getting that it takes a lot of practice and repetition to lay down a track in space. The more the atoms go over it, the deeper and more established it becomes. In the same way as one learns to play the piano from years of regular practice, laying down the corresponding neural pathways, one’s spiritual development slowly unfolds over years through regular daily practice. Ritual magic, prayer and meditation practiced regularly serve to establish new tracks in space, or new ways of thinking, corresponding to the new consciousness gained through this work. The more one practices and uses that new type of consciousness, the deeper the tracks become, until it becomes the familiar, habitual way of responding. I suppose by the time humanity does come along in Fortune’s model, we wind up just falling into tracks in space that the previous types of atoms have established, but we still have to establish those tracks in our own nervous systems.

  23. Based on the definition of conscious provided here I’m having a hard time thinking of anything that doesn’t count as being conscious. This seems to imply everything is to some extent, in some way shape or form, conscious, at least in the view of the world Fortune had. Am I missing something obvious, or have I just found the perfect theme for a month of meditations?

  24. JMG, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m beginning to think that most of the challenges I’ve faced in life, specially the recurrent ones (those I’ve failed to deal with sucessfully so far), are a comeback, or leftover, from my previous lives. Which means that I have to deal with those challenges as soon as I am able to, in order to advance cosmically.

  25. Been studying the nature of Vampyres lately for a literary project and so found myself boning up on traditional metaphysics (no pun intended). Came across this beauty by hippy occultist beat poet turned Sufi Mystic Charles Upton.

    He speaks of ‘spiritual principles’ Oversoul i am guessing , being cultivated to inform the rational mind to govern the desires. This strikes me as very Platonic.
    In the Vampyre, the personality consumed by appetite and desires comes to govern the rational mind. Explains the state of a lot of our leadershio today i think.
    He speaks of memory as being of the passive, sentimental type, that of a sulky Vampyre, or of an active type where great images , icons and beliefs are brought to bear. Seems it is possible to turn away from the individuality and the oversoul to become a beast for the remainder of ones short life and then cosmic compost therafter.

    Does this dovetail with Fortunes basic philosophy ? I sense that it does but i hope i am not muddying the waters by discerning between different types of memory.

  26. Cat, I had a similar thought with respect to the reincarnation of a great entity, which I had been interpreting as the sun – how we perceive it on the physical plane. I had been imagining the end of a great entity, either as a supernova, whereupon all the lesser atoms/divine sparks are set out on the next part of their journey around the cosmos. This is also similar to JMG’s thoughts in “The Next 10 Billion Years”.

    However, I got slightly stumped on the symbolism of a black hole. Naturally one would assume that a black hole with its singularity left behind by a supernova of a great entity is either an example of the Unmanifest in our solar system, or the Ring Chaos, or perhaps both. But we interpret the black hole and singularity within our physics as a seriously scary and dark thing, but a singularity is simply also a way of describing what we literally don’t understand.

    So, there’s also every chance that a black hole is what is left behind by a great entity that has reincarnated somewhere else, which also implies that there is a cost to that reincarnation for a great entity – a big sucking void where the Logos was, which will get you into trouble if you get too close.

    But it’s still a great mystery – both within our present physics and for esotericism in general.

  27. Athena, I’ve always had a sense of places, be they houses, forest glens, or neighborhoods. Before I knew the word “egregor”, I’d be driving down a particular block in the town where I work, and the same feeling would come over me every single time. My husband, who is a staunch atheist, has similar experiences passing through neighborhoods. Every forest I’ve ever walked through has its own unique personality and now that I’m more sensitive to it because of my magical studies, the forest often wants to “talk”. One forest I walk in quite often tells me that it was a dumping ground until midcentury. We miss each other during the months I don’t walk. There are no records of it being a dump that I’ve found; however, I know it. My neighborhood is downtrodden (it’s one of those areas where you ask yourself whether you just heard a gunshot or a firecracker) but it is comforting to me. Coming home to where the houses start getting more shabby every night is like a warm embrace. The rich neighborhood where I grew up grows increasingly more poisonous when I visit my parents, who still live there. It has the same wistful creepiness with a more recent overlay of unpleasant yuppie/NIMBY clueless glitz. I used to visit a small lake that could be downright unpleasant. It wanted to be left alone. I’d go to the forest nearby because it was more welcoming. -Kimberly

  28. Gnat, every definition comes down to someone pointing at something and saying “It’s like that.” (In the fancy prose philosophers prefer, that’s pronounced “every definition is rooted in an ostensive act.”) If you want to know what magic is and how it differs from other things, pick up a couple of decent books on magic, study them, practice the exercises and rituals they teach, and then reflect on your experiences. Otherwise, you’re like someone who’s never had an orgasm, who encounters a definition of an orgasm, and proceeds to insist that a sneeze is an orgasm: after all, a sneeze is a spasmodic contraction that brings about a sense of relief, right? If such a person was good enough at playing the verbiage game, he could defend himself against any attempt by others to tell him that there’s a difference between a sneeze and an orgasm — a difference that’s instantly evident to anyone who’s experienced both, but is hard to express clearly in the blunt-instrument world of verbal definitions without that essential background of lived experience.

    Oh, and no, it’s not true that the consciousness that’s changed in accordance with will by magic is by definition cosmic consciousness. Once again, if you want to know what consciousness operative mages change in accordance with will, you’ll find that out by studying what mages do and how they do it, not by playing with words…

    Athena, an excellent meditation! Thank you.

    Aloysius, glad to hear it. I know the Cos.Doc. is heavy going — it certainly was for me the first time I tried to make sense of it. Thank you for taking it seriously enough to keep at it.

    Dan, good. We’ll be getting into the nature of planets in upcoming chapters; Mother Earth, in the terms you’ve used, is what Fortune calls the Planetary Spirit of the particular planet we’re on, and her emergence and evolution is a little more complex — but again, we’ll get to that. Remember that in the Cos.Doc. cosmology, each of us has at our core a Divine Spark, or in other words one of the Cosmic atoms that accompanied the Great Entity who became our Solar Logos out to the seventh Cosmic plane and joined it in its orbit. In a very real sense, therefore, the Solar Logos is not our father but our elder brother, while the Planetary Spirit is a being of a different kind entirely. More on this as we proceed!

    Stefania, both those trains ran straight to their destinations and arrived on schedule. 😉

    Will, I think you’ve found a fine theme for meditations. You know all those mystics and people from traditional cultures who insist that everything is alive and conscious? They’re quite correct.

    Bruno, yep. By the time a soul has been human long enough to be ready to take up some spiritual path, it usually has a bumper crop of tangled karma, and getting that cleared away is an important part of the work of spiritual development.

    Mensch, it takes enormous effort expended over many lives to turn one’s back completely on the higher aspects of existence and become, as you noted, cosmic compost. Fortune has some things to say about that in a later chapter. Most souls go storming away from the Oversoul at some point in one or another kind of passion, slam face first into one painful experience after another, finally get a clue, and wander back — the parable of the Prodigal Son has been used for centuries by Christian occultists as a way to talk about this. Most souls, similarly, spend a number of lives doing the animal thing in human form, since they’ve just graduated from the animal level and that’s what they know how to do. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of suffering, to develop the possibilities that are unique to the human level and then get ready to pass beyond it.

  29. Who sets the schedule? 😉

    On a different topic, I can’t help but think of all the people in our culture who are anti-mystics and say consciousness does not exist. They’ve always baffled me, but I wonder now if they aren’t exactly what I just called them, basing their philosophy on the opposite of the mystic. It’s interesting to think about, since the mystic seeks to become one with God, while the anti-mystic would seek to become God. They sound quite similar, but in reality there is an immense difference.

    Seeking to become one with God means trying to find the beauty in the world as is; to embrace existence complete with all the suffering and misery, to see what is, and to see why it is good even with its flaws. This requires reaching out to existence, and learning from it, hearing the stories of the beavers and the lakes, the oceans and the stars. And so, as you listen to the stories, and learn from everything, you see why it is the way it is. You see its history, and how it learned, and thus glimpse the mind behind it.

    The anti-mystic, meanwhile, would seek to become God. There is no need to learn from anything, since there’s nothing for God to learn. Thus there’s no point in seeing the mind behind anything. There’s actually no point in seeing the mind in other human beings, since they are nothing more than playthings for God. And once you denied the existence of their minds, is it that much more of a leap to deny your own?

    And, the interesting thing is that denying the mind is actually an assertion of power: I am powerful enough to deny something I feel in my bones.

  30. I’m trying to make sure I understand your response to Mensch. Are you saying it is possible to reach a point where your individuality destroys itself?

  31. I also had thoughts about our solar system’s lifecycle when I was reading this chapter. Our sun won’t have a definitive death via supernova – rather it will grow and shrink as it burns through hydrogen and helium, and eventually it will become a white dwarf for a trillion years or so. So what happens to all the Divine Sparks during that time?

    And at that point I have to shake my head and remind myself that the Cosmic Doctrine isn’t a physics textbook, and at best these are a variety of mental exercises, because there’s simply no way to know.

    On another note, when Fortune talks about the Individuality and the Personality, I can’t help but think that she’s laying the groundwork for the explanation of Jesus. In other words, is it off base to consider Jesus as the Personality of the Solar Logos? Or is that another matter entirely?

  32. John–

    Looking at the three-fold forces of fate, will, and destiny, it would appear that the Individuality would correspond to the first (layered physical, etheric, and astral pasts) and the Personality would correspond to the second (the present, acting consciousness). Does DF also have a corresponding component for the third? And how would it fit into our geologic metaphor?

  33. Just saying thanks also. I got pretty excited when you decided to do this.
    I tried to read the CosDoc a decade or so ago but gave up by chapter 5. So I really really couldn’t do it without your help.
    Thank you.

  34. Hi John Michael,

    I’m still following this journey and cogitating upon the implications. I’m glad that you mentioned reincarnation and memory as that thought had occurred to me too.

    I’m assuming that there is a mid-point between memory and reactions and that that is where useful stuff can happen? Also I assume that atoms/individuals can ever so slightly forge their way away from the well trod track and expand the track? Does this action create space in which others can move? And also (apologies for so many questions) is this possibly why actions speak louder than words?

    As usual you have provided us with another brain teaser.



  35. It is interesting that the basic pattern of evolution of a Great Entity and a solar system, where the Great Entity ponders and projects thought-forms in an iterative process, is similar to the creation story of Genesis in the Bible. In Genesis, after each day of creation (days 3-7) God pauses and “sees that it is good.” God ponders his thought-forms each day, causing a modification of both them and him as the world is created. To me in the context of the Cosmic Doctrine it means that the God of the Book of Genesis is evolving, just as a Great Entity evolves while creating a solar system. It also reinforces the idea that each of us should reflect on what we have created each day. This process of reflection and conscious creation is called spiritual alchemy in many traditions.

  36. Ah – consciousness! – one of the great mysteries! Reading the CosDoc chapters that describe it and your extremely helpful commentary bring several things to mind.

    First: of the several three-word traditional descriptions of Brahman, my favourite is is ‘sat-chit-ananda’ (roughly translates as ‘being-consciousness-bliss’ – and the order of these words is worth meditating on). Hinduism, however, lacks a single universally accepted description of how this ‘chit’ unfolds in creation. The default assumption is that since Brahman pervades everything, every thing is therefore conscious. The whole process of consciousness evolving first at the biggest levels of ‘being’ and then cascading down to the smaller levels as they are created by the reactions of the Logoidal consciousness, as described in CosDoc, works beautifully and logically and, to my mind, fills the ‘void’ described above.

    Second: the phenomenon of the Divine Sparks evolving more rapidly than the Great Entity, as they recapitulate the lessons learned by the trail-blazing Great Entity reminds me of comments made by Sheldrake regarding how when a newly created substance is formed it takes a relatively long time for it to crystallize, but becomes faster and better structured with each crystallization (even when it is entirely new batches of the newly created substance somewhere else on Earth are the ones being crystallized) – as though the “track in space” is being deepened with each crystallizing event.

    Third: the whole concept of “tracks in space” reminds me of the Hindu concept of ‘vasanas’, which are one’s innate tendencies — born of a repeated (often over numerous lifetimes) action, thought or attitude — and that one of the greatest challenges facing those who strive to liberate themselves from the cycle of birth-and-death is to successfully counter those ‘vasanas’ which oppose liberation and to strengthen those ‘vasanas’ that promote liberation.

    Fourth: I love what you said about the Individuality/unconscious self as being the “Higher Self” and the Personality/conscious self as being the “Lower Self”. Western society typically thinks of the conscious as “higher” and unconscious (often referred to as ‘sub-conscious’) as “lower” (for example, the human brain is seen as a highly developed cortex of ‘rationality’ victoriously perched atop the ancient, loathsome, primitive, reptilian brainstem of animal ‘instincts’) – and this has always rubbed me the wrong way. I see the conscious self as being an ephemeral foam-bubble afloat on the unimaginably vast and ancient sea of the unconscious. It’s always to nice to have my ‘radical’ view on the matter vindicated.

    Keep up the wonderful work of putting CosDoc into more comprehensible terms and updating the terminology!

  37. Will, we’ll get to the Lords of Mind, who set the schedules, in a later chapter. 😉 Your distinction between becoming one with God and becoming God is crucial, and a good deal more crisply framed than the fuzzier language I’d been using for the same thing. I assume you realize that this is much of what I’ve been talking about on this blog for months now — the conflict between those who think they can create their own reality and those who realize that their reality created them…

    With regard to my comment to Mensch, it’s a little more complex than that, but we’ll get to that process in a later chapter.

    Cliff, Fortune didn’t get into that end of astrophysics. As for Jesus, well, keep in mind that Fortune was a Christian, if a somewhat odd one. She differentiated Jesus the person from Christ the principle; her book Mystical Meditations on the Collects, as I recall, goes into this.

  38. Hi everyone:

    If you would be interested in discounts on JMG’s books, free eBooks, and autographed copies of paperbacks, and more, consider supporting my effort to free up more time to devote to publishing his books and those of other authors through Founders House Publishing. Please take a look at what I’m offering fans of JMG and the other work I’m doing. I want to be provide you with more great books to read and quality service. Help me do that. Thank you. You can view the page here:

    Shaun Kilgore

  39. I don’t think this distinction is central just for the past few months: I think an awful lot of what you blog about, and have blogged about since the start, relates to that central point: becoming one with God compared to becoming God; or trying to create your own reality vs knowing reality created you.

    I think this is one of the points you’ve hammered home on, trying various ways to approach the point, and I think rightly so: it’s an incredibly important one, and it’s odd to see so many people losing their minds trying to do something impossible.

  40. David, the third factor, destiny, is the pattern of tracks in space set in motion by the Solar Logos, which defines the framework of the dance in which the individual entity is engaged. Geologically, it’s what lies beneath the deposited strata, the mantle and the core — what doesn’t change over time.

    Just Me, you’re welcome and thank you! I didn’t get very far with the Cos.Doc. the first time I tried reading it; by the time I made a second attempt, I’d studied systems theory and had met my first teacher in these matters, who put this and a lot of other things in a perspective that helped me make sense of them. My hope is that my books, and this series of posts (which will become a book when it’s finished), will help do that for others.

    Chris, yes, yes, and yes. Every atom that follows a track in space bends and shapes it a little even while following it. I think I’ve mentioned the word “dinergy” before, the interaction between two unequal and not quite opposite forces that produces form; I’ll be talking more about that shortly in the blog.

    Isabel, glad to hear it’s interesting. If a character in one of your future romance novels starts quoting Dion Fortune I’ll be highly amused. 😉

    (Come to think of it, Britain in the 1920s makes a good setting for romance fiction, so you could even put Fortune into a story as a minor character…)

    Dan, the similarity is anything but accidental. Western occultists have put centuries of close study into the Book of Genesis.

    Ron, Rupert Sheldrake’s concepts are so close to those of the Cos.Doc. that I’ve wondered rather often whether he studied Fortune’s work but had the great good sense not to mention that fact while publicizing his theory. I hadn’t thought of vasanas — my background in Hindu philosophy is fairly sparse — so that’s good to know. As for the whole notion of the reasoning mind as “higher” and the rest of the mental apparatus as “lower,” yeah, that’s one of the great delusions of the Western world, and is responsible for a lot of pointless suffering and stupidity.

    Shaun, thank you for posting this and I hope you get deluged with favorable responses.

    Matthew, that wasn’t original to me, but I’ve done my best to publicize it.

    Will, very much so, but it’s been particularly central to the posts of the last few months. I’ll be saying more about it next week.

  41. You’ve also said repeatedly that the Cosmic Doctrine is not a physics textbook, Fortune is just using some of the language of physics to convey a metaphor. So I suppose the underlying question to my musings is, are we locked forever into orbit around the Solar Logos, so that wherever it goes, we go? Or do we get flung off into the greater system around the Central Stillness?

    Earlier on in the book, Fortune talks about the complexity of a universe or a Cosmos growing until the contents burst out into the Unmanifest to create new universes. Does she return to this idea?

  42. Hi JMG,

    Last year I went to the movies one day and before it started there were two women sitting near me who were having a fairly loud conversation I wasn’t interested in. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I could some how block the stream if I tried hard enough, so I did, and found I was able to focus so intently on the individual phonetic sounds that the words and sentences would escape me and there would be no comprehension, instead the “conversation” was replaced by a meaningless string of sounds. This took all of my effort though and if I broke concentration it became sentences again.

    I hadn’t thought about this in a Cos Doc sense until your example of the way memory works, but I think there perhaps is a connection. It is far easier to hear words and comprehend them than it is to break them in this fashion and prevent comprehension, even though it would seem that listening to something and assembling a mental picture from it represents more work than not doing so. It felt like going against this automatic system of understanding was turning against the cosmos somehow, I was defining a good that went against things set in place in service of the general good of human beings. That move in context is probably a RIng Chaos move against a basic human ability and towards a void of non meaning, even though for me at that particular time I defined it as a good (ie it was my intent to experience this). As such the same effort could accomplish so much less in that direction because it will always be the weaker force.


  43. Also I wanted to say I was still reading along too. I stopped commenting because I found this book was just too much in my head and so I couldn’t distinguish what was important enough to say from what wasn’t, I have almost 2 notebooks completely filled with notes from and on it now. I have focused primarily on the visualization of the geometry, which is the part least natural for me (I actually do think in this way, where I have invisible shapes that make up part of my understanding of some things, but I’ve never tried to mentally build somebody else’s – and certainly not something so specific and odd). I think I can do this quite well up until somewhere after the point where the atoms get on the stage, although previously I would have included the rings and circles and now I think they flow somewhat naturally from the geometry that precedes them in my imagination.

    This week’s essay is the first I’ve been able to understand reasonably well (as in it didn’t just make my head hurt), perhaps from being familiar with your writings, and Sheldrake’s, and also the ideas of Emile Durkheim who suggested religion was a means of instilling a shared moral structure to allow for larger group activities and cohesion.

    I’m not sure if others are finding success this way, but it’s helped me to see this text as existing somewhat out of order, and the instruction to visualize the turning of the basic movement as a basic instruction for how to engage with the book, reading it over and over and getting more out of it the more familiar it becomes. The more I know what she’s getting at the more certain turns of phrase pop out as unusual and seem like clues.

    I would say the biggest impact the book has had on me is a shift in my basic understanding of force. I have long loved something I discovered the Chinese have a word for (Li), which is when you can see the flow of nature evident in things. For me I just love to see the traces of this all around, and for as long as I can remember I’ve seen the beauty of large natural formations in the small ones around me, almost a type of micro tourism that doesn’t require me to go anywhere. Anyway, Fortune has shown me that there is not just a force flowing in one direction, it also flows slightly in reverse. There is a large expansion but also a slight contraction that I never took notice of.

    If this force was Schopenhauer’s “will”, then it doesn’t just get as far as it can, but it also draws back into itself a tiny bit.

  44. At the risk of being annoying, I’ll say that this reminds me of the things I liked in Hegel. Where this is far better is that she is building a tight mental apparatus in this metaphor, so to the degree that I can grasp it, I can actually do new things with it. I can apply it to problems I have and it provides insight.

    For instance, I was thinking about Trump and some of these new politicians on the right and it seems to me that if the left wants to win they have to get under them – by that I mean they have to figure out the greater cosmos that addresses all the issues they do, and then more. So that rather than say “these guys are wrong” they can say, “Actually Trump (etc) are right, but they do not go far enough”. If they can successfully find that level they can possibly take all of the momentum as their own and build upon it.

    I don’t think Hegel would be useful at all in this context, he maybe shows that these politicians are part of some greater story of history and the result of them will not be apparent until later, but that doesn’t give you an angle for work, it’s more likely to lead you to detachment.

    When I reflected on things like collapse I could see that this seemed to be your strategy generally, that rather than try to fight the greater cosmos of declining energy, you could accept that as reality and lean into it, instead voluntarily collapsing and trying to change your thinking and your values so that you like it. A key for me was when I realized that how we subjectively define good and bad is tied to the alignment of our cosmos, because that is something we are able to change with consideration.

  45. @JMG still doggedly paying attention here, too *waves* I am much behind, but recently found the metaphor that “matter is the most condensed form of spirit” coming out of my pen in a discussion, so there is some learning and reflection quietly going on.

  46. @Will J – when you said “the mystic seeks to become one with God, while the anti-mystic would seek to become God. They sound quite similar, but in reality there is an immense difference.”

    You made me think of thoughts I’ve often harboured about the purported “objectivity” of science, especially when invoked as a denial of personal (subjective) experience as data.

    Because it seemed to me that the only point of view which could plausibly claim to BE objective, universal, unlimited by the hereness and nowness that frames subjective experience, is a “God’s eye” (if God were indeed an omniscient God) point of view. Therefore “seeking to become God” and thereby share in the divine attribute of an “objective” perspective is EXACTLY what is going on there.

    Thanks for putting that thought down.

  47. Catching up I just finished read Chapter 7. What I’m realizing is I really have no conscious notion of the things set in motion by others actions and/or the tracks of habitual action I may be doing. Now I’m seeing what the point is of meditation, as a way to pause and just observe. Also divination – a way to stop and collect some data and look around. Both allow a way for me to become aware of something that was just going right by me.

    I always thought of meditation and divination as as way to “get something for myself” – like peace of mind, or calmness, or insight – thus somehow making me special. Now I see it more like just turning on a light in dark room. The first thing I do when I do that, is look around and observe. Then I do an action of getting something, or reading or whatever.

    This is also that strongest reason I have yet to stop social media. The effect of all that input on me – I don’t really know what it is. So much of it is habit, some it is the entertainment, or knowing about a piece of information or joke before others. But what is it doing to me, myself?

  48. PS. @Will J. I should add that the perspective I prefer to the “objective” one would be an “inter-subjective” one – one that permits one subject to come to know and work together with another subject. And inasmuch as God could be described as the source of all subjects, the “inter-subjective” perspective might pertain more closely to the search to know God.

  49. From what I understand, Rupert Sheldrake’s idea of morphic resonance was derived from Henri Bergson’s Creative Evolution. A comparison between that book and the Cosmic Doctrine might be very interesting indeed.

  50. Hi JMG,

    Another thing worth mentioning. Recently a liver pathologist working in stem cells named Neil Theise got interested in some similar territory. He co-uthored an interesting paper about this concept of “sentience everywhere”, extending from work by Maturana and Varela which suggested all life had sentience, and suggesting their standards, that something can detect external stimulus, evaluate it in some sense (liking or disliking), and respond creatively, actually applies to everything we know. It will be interesting to reconsider his ideas with Fortune’s specific insights, particularly with regards to the role of creativity vs pattern. I’ve thought the recent things you’ve said about randomness were valuable and imagine the Cos Doc will help make that clearer (in it’s fashion…)

    Theise’s paper for the curious:


  51. “We will first consider the philosophy of Kanada, generally
    known as the Vaisheshika Teaching, which inclines toward
    an Atomic Theory, akin to that formulated by the old Greek
    philosopher Democritus. According to this teaching the
    substance of the universe is composed of an infinite number of
    atoms, which are eternal, and which were not created by God,
    but which are co‑eternal with Him. These atoms, combining
    and forming shapes, forms, etc., are the basis of the material
    universe. It is held, however, that the power or energy whereby
    these atoms combine and thus form matter, comes from God.”

    William Walker Atkinson, Reincarnation and the Law of Karma

  52. Kimberly, yes! You and I have experienced fascinating similarities, including one of JMG’s essays being cause for breakthrough in understanding what was going on.

    And differences, too, which are expanding my mind even as I type this. You have had great interaction with forests as beings, and I have neglected to ever talk to the whole forests; it’s always been individual trees.

    Yet a couple of my friends have described the same as you, feeling welcomed into individual forests as whole entities, feeling positivity in being present there, and invited back. Until reading your post, I thought this was the effect of the spirit beings *within* the forest. But lo my mind is opened: the forest is its own spirit being, too.


    On JMG’s essay that blew my mind open and helped me understand what it was that had happened:

    First of all, it was this series.

    Second, the backstory here is that I have worked – as have other Ecosophians in the past, I have seen – to save trees. This is difficult to talk about. Suffice it to say that the benefits to having participated in this in the human-controlled materialist world have been less than nil, while the resonances from the spirit world – that I wasn’t even expecting, that I did not even know at the time existed – are still reverberating.

    Last year, I began to think of a particular line of large, beautiful old trees along the street located a couple of miles away. Then I couldn’t stop thinking of them. Every day, thoughts and images of them floating into my head. I could not understand it, but finally after a couple of weeks of this I went over there late in the evening when it was dark, so nobody could see me hugging the trees.

    I went one by one, hugged them, said a nice word and wished them well. I got to the third (of four). I hugged it. I looked up. I could immediately see it was sick. I had been doing a lot of work to open my third eye over the past several months at that time, so I do not think it was evidence that was visible to the eye, but rather the energy seemed sallow and weakened. This is a tree that is 150 ft tall and five feet in diameter – there was nothing about it that would look weak to passersby. I immediately became concerned and – having fairly recently learned about manifestation – set the intention that the tree make a full recovery, shook off whatever illness it had, and was safe. I used everything in my meager newly minted spiritual arsenal: I prayed to whoever was listening, I asked the Universe, I called on the spirits to help. I visualized all the aspects of the full recovery process strongly, and the tree ultimately returned to full strength and vibrance. Then I hugged the fourth tree, gave it my blessing as well, and went home.

    It was months later when I stumbled on JMG’s essay and was thunderstruck when I now understood what had happened. Now aware of the presence of nature spirits, I “saw” them in the replay in my mind come to me inside my home, tugging on my clothing, trying to convince me to go with them to see the trees. They were approximately two feet high and transparent. They didn’t tell me directly a tree needed my help; perhaps they thought I wouldn’t go if it were for that purpose alone. They just knew I liked those particular trees and that particular place a lot, and they used that to convince me to go back and see it again, probably knowing once I got there and would be able to see the tree was sick, that of course I would try to help it. For all I know they were going to every person in the vicinity who had a resonance of caring for trees to try to convince them to come take a look. I’m not sure what language to use to explain this, but they needed someone on our temporal, third dimensional plane of existence to go and manifest, to set the intention that the tree was healed – to even wish or desire that the tree was healed – so it could recover.

  53. Hello JMG!

    In my meditations, when connecting this latest subject with the first, the image that came to me was: what we call the laws of nature/physics/astronomy/magic are “tracks” so large and deep that the whole of the universe runs through their interconnected maze, including those we cannot grasp as humans, which would take us to Mariana trench style profoundity ;P

    What lead me to this: the tracks, then, are the universe’s memory, and the three rings his first reactions, with the Central Sun being his uttering “I Am”. Which then cascaded to the 12 rays and the travelling atoms as the universe pondering “Who Am I?”.

    Thank you! I see this sessions as you sitting in the ágora with curious minds gathered around to listen and learn.

    All the best!

  54. Hi JMG,

    Sorry for being late to the party.

    My brain goes to Nature and Nurture when reading this, and how that happens on so many levels. But this also further emphasizes that Nature is something we build on through Nurture.

    In regard to not being able to really see our Individuality, I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, “People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.” – Michel Foucault

    Ultimately, on a grand scale, we may never see what our individual actions (our Personality) lead to (our Individuality), it’s an order of magnitude too large for us to see and we are pieces in something much bigger than ourselves. So we focus on what change is occurring here, right now, around us. What we can do, influence, impact, and hope that its waves are good ones over time.

    I think the word “auto-reactions” is an important word to bring up. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on free will lately, and it seems that free will is most exerted in our Nurture state.

    Also, the first time I heard about Dion Fortune was when reading W.E. Butler’s “The Magician.” He praises her very highly. He writes in his book, “People use the tree of life in different modes, different representations, but by using these expressions, which act on the subconscious mind and are controlled by the conscious mind, we can do magical work. The subconscious is the main agent.” I think that definitely relates here to the discussion of auto-reactions that we build, through our conscious mind and free will, which act on the subconscious, become patterns, and thus lasting change.

    Moving on, I think there’s a lot packed into this paragraph from Fortune:

    “Thus each new factor evolved increases the complexity of manifestation, and when the utmost diversity, of
    which the factor renders the universe capable, has been arrived at, that phase of evolution has
    reached its maximum development, and there is a pause in the process while the Logoidal
    consciousness perceives what has taken place, and sees that it is good and by absorbing it into Its
    consciousness affects a new reaction, which reaction is, in its turn, projected into the manifested
    universe; so that evolution resembles a series of duplicating mirrors wherein the consciousness of
    the Logos projects its own image; becomes aware of, and reacts to, the image thus projected; and
    the reaction affects the projection, and so the circle is everlastingly revolving.”

    What do I see here? Life as a process of building toward complexity. The importance of diversity. A point of maximum development. Reflection. Morality. Rebirth or redirection. The levels of influence and imitation, a passing down. Cycles.

    You can see all of this at many orders of magnitude all throughout everything we experience, from ourselves to our environment to life itself. Even in the goals of magical work.

    In the second chapter, Fortune touches on competing influences. How each of our competing wills, for example, interact and create the courses we take. I think that’s our constant struggle and also one of our greatest gifts.

    I wish I had more questions, but I’m feeling more empowered than confused.

    Although I could draw a diagram, do you know if anyone else has already taken on the task of drawing out the stages which Fortune lays down in this work? Visuals like the Tree of Life have always helped me with study.

    With great respect for this space and this discussion,

    – RMK

  55. Note: My last comment was a reflection on the messages in Ch. 11 and 12, of the Millennium Edition. References to “the second chapter” are about Ch. 12. Sorry for the confusion. 🙂

    – RMK

  56. Hi JMG

    Still reading and contemplating. Thank you for continuing this study. One of the things this section has brought up for me on a personal level is if or how this might relate to Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously referred to as multiple personality disorder). If you feel it is taking the topic away from productive discussion, please feel free not to post. I was wondering if you had encountered anything in DF’s other writings that might touch on this.

    My own experience with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is that there is an “over-mind” that is aware of all of the things happening to each identity, but the identities are not aware of the memories of the other identities at the time that they are active. As I have become older and remembered things in my life that were too overwhelming to deal with at the time the identities have seemed to merge. I know that there are at least some people who seem to have multiple identities that are aware of each other that have decided not to merge.

    I’ve wondered if “DID” could be like an intra-life experience of reincarnation. But I also wonder what implications a set of personalities that are not very aware of each other, in particular consciously aware of each other’s memories, would have on reincarnation. And for that matter what impact suppressing memories of unpleasant events might have on reincarnation.

    Don’t want to move discussion into a sub-niche, but I was wondering how DF would approach this.


  57. The same day I saw Will J’s comments about “becoming God” versus “becoming one with God,” and JMG’s responses, I also learned about the Ecomodernist movement, whose core concept is “decoupling.” That is, striving to decouple human activity from the natural world, to the supposed benefit of both.

    Four thoughts ensued, in rapid succession.

    1. I suppose it should be no surprise that Ecosophia would have a polar opposite somewhere.

    2. Seems very Radiance-like too.

    3. The dichotomy of becoming-one-with versus detachment-from, on all levels, is a surprisingly big deal. A major spiritual divide. Perhaps THE main spiritual divide of our time and times soon to come.

    4. Said divide goes right through my own life in various ways. Which might be the beginning of understanding why I’ve been where I’ve been and why I am where I am.

    Some of that isn’t expressed well. If it relates to this coming week’s topic maybe I’ll be able to clarify.

  58. @ Athena:

    “But lo my mind is opened: the forest is its own spirit being, too”

    You might want to look up the “Wood Wide Web”, There are some mind-blowing videos on YouTube, all based on thorough scientific evidence. Suzanne Simard is good, as she’s one of the actual researchers, and a good speaker.

  59. I would also like to say thank for this series of post about the Cos Doc. I don’t think I would have made it through on my own and find my thoughts slow to form about what we read each month. So much to ponder. I also find the comments and insights of other to be really valuable too. Your exchange with Will J was really enlightening to me.

  60. @WaltF, regarding the Ecomodernist movement: Well, there goes my good mood for the day.

    Here are some chestnuts from the Ecomodernist Manifesto (

    “Despite frequent assertions starting in the 1970s of fundamental ‘limits to growth,’ there is still remarkably
    little evidence that human population and economic expansion will outstrip the capacity to grow food or procure critical material resources in the foreseeable future.”

    “To the degree to which there are fixed physical boundaries to human consumption, they are so theoretical
    as to be functionally irrelevant. […] Human civilization can flourish for centuries and millennia on energy delivered from a closed uranium or thorium fuel cycle, or from hydrogen-deuterium fusion. […] Given plentiful land and unlimited energy, substitutes for other material inputs to human well-being can easily be found if those inputs become scarce or expensive.”

    “Greater resource productivity associated with modern sociotechnological systems has allowed human societies to meet human needs with fewer resource inputs and less impact on the environment.”

    It’s a remarkable sleight of hand that depicts the Native Americans as ecological monsters for eating meat, while modern Americans are to be applauded because their big screen TVs and cubicle farms and SUVs are slightly less wildly disastrous than they might have been.

  61. Peter, thanks for the thoughts about black holes–they have always been fascinating to me, and now I will have even more fodder for mediation as I think about the esoteric implications of their existence.

  62. @ Cliff, et. al.

    Re the Ecomodernist Manifesto

    I’ll go through it again more thoroughly, but my first response on the initial read-through was an overwhelming sense of hubris. Could we be any more arrogant?

    A marked contrast to the notions we’re studying in Cos Doc, for sure.

  63. @Cliff,

    I didn’t set out to ruin anyone’s mood, so my apology for that. Only a half-hearted one, though, because I find the juxtaposition, along with WillJ’s and JMG’s recent comments, so clarifying. There’s a limit to the horror of something that’s merely repellent. Deeper horror has to have an enticing quality to it. Recycling a bottle instead of tossing it in a meadow; isn’t that “decoupling,” and isn’t it a good thing?

    Our host’s public writings have been addressing the material impossibility of large-scale decoupling since their beginning. In direct response to the Ecomodernist manifesto, George Monbiot and Chrise Smaje, among others, have posted cogent criticisms of decoupling as a political agenda. (In a nutshell: the verb becomes transitive, as in, “we’re here to decouple you from your land.”)

    But even supposing it were actually achievable in some moral and equitable way, decoupling is a false path. The spiritual divide I’m seeing (relevant to this week’s topic and discussion) was poetically framed by Italo Calvino in Invisible Cities in 1972. One of the cities, in fact the “central” one in the novel’s mathematical schema, is Baucis, which is elevated at a stratospheric height on long stilts above a large tract of otherwise uninhabited forest.

    Nothing of the city touches the earth except those long flamingo legs on which it rests and, when the days are sunny, a pierced, angular shadow that falls on the foliage.

    There are three hypotheses about the inhabitants of Baucis: that they hate the earth; that they respect it so much they avoid all contact; that they love it as it was before they existed and with spyglasses and telescopes aimed downward they never tire of examining it, leaf by leaf, stone by stone, ant by ant, contemplating with fascination their own absence. (1978 translation)

    Decoupling represents and realizes all three of those hypotheses which are actually one and the same.

  64. @WaltF: I was being tongue-in-cheek about my mood getting ruined. If anything, I was delighted to find something concrete I can point to when I’m trying to talk to someone about this.

    Those are good points about the deep horror and the forceful decoupling, and I’ll have to meditate on them.

    Also, I have Italo Calvino’s book on my to-read list; I may have to bump it up.

    @David BTL: Yes, the hubris was pretty intense. To think that there are no limits to our expansion and no cost to our actions; to think that we can meddle with a half-billion year old biosphere of immense complexity and walk away unscathed.

  65. @ Bogatyr,

    Wow, thank you for the recommendation to look up Wood Wide Web. A quote from Simard’s presentation transcript that resonates:

    “But there were also critics who tried to discredit my work. In fact, there were a lot of papers written, keynote addresses given, press releases. And back home, a professional ethics letter was actually put on my file. My work was called “a dog’s breakfast.”

    “I know that you know that this kind of intimidation is actually not that uncommon with breakthrough science, especially if it challenges the status quo.”

    Reading: – The 1997 study, “Net transfer of carbon between ectomycorrhizal tree species in the field,” is linked within.

    Simard’s treatment at the hands of the scientific establishment is reminiscent of what paleontologist Gerta Keller has gone through:

  66. Child prodigies getting younger and younger? Videos like the one attached here seem to indicate that. A few people responding to this video on another discussion board saw this as “proof” of the doctrine of reincarnation. But it could also be that this particular “rut” is getting worn pretty deep after several centuries of advancing violin technique, and that this particular “atom” has entered it very early. At any rate, the video is amazing.

  67. Sorry super late to this

    Lao Tzu ?

    “Watch your thoughts, they become words;
    watch your words, they become actions;
    watch your actions, they become habits;
    watch your habits, they become character;
    watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

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