Book Club Post

The Cosmic Doctrine: The Beginnings of Mind

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

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

Assigned Reading:

Revised Edition:  Chapter 12, “The Beginnings of Mind,” pp. 55-58.

Millennium Edition: Chapter 13, “The Beginnings of Mind and Group Consciousness,” pp. 77-81.


This chapter is trickier than most, and has to be read carefully in order to dodge a pitfall or two and find the trail Fortune has marked out. I suspect, for what it’s worth, that this is entirely deliberate. Whenever the text of The Cosmic Doctrine comes close to certain of the secrets of practical occultism, Fortune does something of the kind.  That was standard practice among occult authors in her time, and she herself defended the practice in her writings. Times have changed, and a great many things that were secret in her time can be found splashed all over the internet in ours; that was one of the reasons I decided it was time to write a commentary on the Cos. Doc. that’s noticeably less reticent than the original text.

Fortune starts out by drawing a distinction between objects, on the one hand, and the tracks in space left by the movements of objects, on the other. An object moves and then comes to rest, but the track in space left by the movement keeps on flowing. These two things, concrete objects and abstract movements of space, form the two halves of the universe we experience. Atoms in motion form the half we call matter, substance, manifestation; pure movements apart from atoms and other objects form the half we call spirit, mind, consciousness.

Did you spot the trap? Atoms are themselves pure movement, as Fortune explains repeatedly in the first part of this book. Movement and space, between them, are all there is. Thus the distinction between objects and tracks in space is more apparent than real. Objects are tracks in space that, through repetition, have settled down into a stable condition. The tracks in space that still look like pure movement apart from objects are those that haven’t yet gone through all their changes.

One important implication is that what is spirit, mind, consciousness today, if it sustains itself over time, becomes matter, substance, manifestation tomorrow. We explored that same point earlier in a different context, when talking about the difference between the Individuality (the part of the self that endures from life to life) and the personality evolved in each life. The point applies more generally, though. Understand it in its fullness and you grasp the necessity of repetition and rhythm in operative occultism.

With that point made, or rather hinted at, Fortune turns at once to the narrative of the solar system’s development she’s been tracing out since Chapter Seven. On the Cosmic side of things, we have the Solar Logos, once a traveling atom moving through the Cosmos and now the center of a solar system, and we have the Cosmic atoms that were swept up with the Solar Logos on its journey out to the seventh Cosmic plane, and now circle around the Logos. From this point on references to the Cosmic atoms will be relatively sparse in our text.

This is because we have passed from the Cosmos to the solar system: in effect, into the dream the Solar Logos dreams as it orbits the central stillness. That dream is our reality. Though each of us has a Cosmic atom at the core of our being, we don’t wake from the dream until we have passed through an entire cycle of evolution.

Within the dream, the phenomena of the solar sytem itself take center stage.  Those consist, first, of the tracks in space laid down by the uncoordinated movements of the Cosmic atoms, which (since any repeated movement ends up becoming a manifested reality) become atoms in their own right, the raw material out of which the solar system will take shape. Second, we have the tracks in space laid down by the dance of the Solar Logos, which reflect the Logoidal experience of the Cosmos and draw the atoms of the solar system into their pattern.

Those are the ingredients of a solar system. Because the consciousness of the Solar Logos has been imprinted with the rhythms and patterns of the Cosmos, its dance imitates the Cosmos, and everything else in its solar system is drawn into that imitation and become parts of a Cosmos in miniature. At the center, in place of the Central Stillness of the Cosmos, is the Solar Logos, and the same pattern of Rings, Circles, and Rays discussed in the commentary to the first part of The Cosmic Doctrine is recreated anew on a smaller scale.

That process doesn’t happen all at once. Remember that the Solar Logos is still part of the Cosmos, and is constantly being influenced as it follows its orbit on the seventh Cosmic plane around the Central Stillness by the Rays through which it passes and by other Great Entities on higher Cosmic planes. Each of these things causes adjustments in the movements of the Logos—that is to say, in the Logoidal consciousness, for in Fortune’s metaphor mind and movement are the same thing—and these adjustments cause corresponding adjustments in the dance of the atoms about the Logos.

Thus the Logos moves in its immense and intricate dance; one after another, the movements of the dance lay down tracks in space; through repetition, the tracks become enduring currents of space, and begin to influence the movements of objects that encounter them. One after another, the structures of the Cosmos are mirrored in the newborn solar system, and every object in the solar system is drawn into those patterns and begins to absorb the imprint of the Cosmos to at least some degree.

The objects that matter most at this stage of the process are the secondary atoms—the atoms created by repeated movements in the solar system, not the Cosmic atoms that existed before the solar system was born. As in the Cosmos, so in the solar system, some atoms are more complex than others.  They sort themselves out in exactly the same way, most of them settling out into seven planes, which can be imagined as great concentric circles orbiting the Solar Logos.

(A note on planes is probably in order here.  In the Rosicrucian occult philosophy that provides the unstated subtext for The Cosmic Doctrine, there are seven great Cosmic planes, six of which are completely outside our knowledge and understanding; everything we are capable of knowing about exists on the seventh Cosmic plane. The seventh Cosmic plane is divided into seven planes, which are the planes on which our spiritual evolution takes place.

(Each of the seven planes is divided in turn into seven sub-planes or regions; the physical plane, for example, is divided into the solid region, the liquid region, the gaseous region, and four etheric regions, the chemical ether, the life ether, the light ether, and the reflecting ether. Fortune’s students learned all this material from the standard occult literature of the time, and some of the details of The Cosmic Doctrine make more sense if you keep the Cosmic planes, the planes, and the sub-planes separate in your mind.)

There’s an interesting reversal between the Cosmos and the solar system that needs to be kept in mind here as well.  In the Cosmos, the seventh Cosmic plane, where the most complex Cosmic atoms settle out, is the plane furthest from the Central Sun. In a solar system, by contrast, the seventh plane is the one nearest the center, and thus closest to the Logos. This is one of the ways that a solar system is a Cosmos turned inside out.

This is crucial here because not all the atoms of the solar system settle out into the seven planes. Some are too complex and become traveling atoms, like the traveling atoms of the Cosmos but on a far smaller scale. The traveling atoms, like their Cosmic equivalents, have a more complex destiny than their simpler cousins; they are imprinted by the Logoidal consciousness—and since this has been conditioned by the Cosmos, the traveling atoms of the solar system receive at second hand the same Cosmic imprint as the traveling atoms of the Cosmos.

In the metaphor, of course, that’s expressed in terms of motion. So you have great numbers of secondary atoms that are too complex to settle out in any of the seven planes of the solar system, and each of these dances in rhythm with the Solar Logos. The dance, as it repeats itself, becomes a track in space echoing the thoughts of the Logos. So these traveling atoms become twofold entities: a complex atom, with a track in space laid down by its attunement with the Logos which governs the motion of the atom.

Since that track in space is pure motion, it is of the same nature as the motions of the Logos and can interact in some sense with the Logoidal consciousness. Since it has been shaped by the motions of the Logoidal consciousness, it contains in embryonic form all the possibilities for reaction that the Logos itself evolved during its long ages as a traveling atom of the Cosmos. The secondary atoms that settle into place in the seven sub-planes have that same potential, but since they don’t come into direct contact with the Logos the potential remains unfulfilled for the time being. In the traveling atoms, that potential becomes a reality. In this way, as already noted, God makes man in His image and likeness.

So we have our secondary traveling atoms. Each one is a set of movements that has become stereotyped through repetition and now acts like an object. Each one also picks up a new set of movements absorbed from the dance of the Solar Logos, which gives it a set of new possibilities for reaction and memory—which, as my readers will recall, is Fortune’s definition of consciousness. Finally, each of these atoms begins to attract other atoms into its dance. These latter are not traveling atoms but ordinary stay-at-home atoms of the seventh plane. These form a body, the seventh-plane body of a new kind of entity.

The original traveling atom is called the seed atom, and Fortune calls it “the beginnings of a vehicle.” The term “vehicle” was much used in the occultism of her time where nowadays occultists prefer “body.” It is overshadowed by the track in space that guides its motions and those of its seventh plane body. As we’ll see, this track in space has a special destiny. If the seventh-plane atoms attracted by the seed atom are the first foreshadowings of a body, the track in space is the first foreshadowings of a spirit, and the composite being made up of these three things is an entity capable of evolution.

Each such entity is a reflection, within the solar system, of a Cosmic atom which is the spiritual essence of that entity. As already noted, Fortune will have little to say about the Cosmic atoms in much of what follows, but they should not be forgotten. The Cosmic atom was there before the solar system was born and will be there after it has dissolved; it enters into manifestation in a solar system for an entire evolution the way a soul enters a body for a single incarnation—and the composite form made up of a seed atom, a track in space, and a seventh plane body is the most basic form of its embodiment, the form you had at the beginning of your own journey through the realms of manifestation.

That’s a key theme to keep in mind as we proceed. We are not talking about things that happened to some other kind of being in some other Cosmos far, far away. What Fortune is trying to communicate, using the nearest approximate metaphor, is your own spiritual biography, the immense journey that brought you to the beginning of this life: as Iolo Morganwg’s Barddas puts it, “through every form capable of body and life to the state of man.” As we proceed further, the applicability of Fortune’s great metaphor to our individual lives will become increasingly clear.

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 July 10.  Until then, have at it!


  1. “…a solar system is a Cosmos turned inside out.” This reminds me of the medieval view of the cosmos from Lewis’ “The Discarded Image,” where in the spiritual world God is at the center and humanity at the periphery, but in the physical world the Earth is at the center and God is diffused across the entire heaven. I wonder if there’s a lineage here?

  2. It occurred to me since quite a while that many ideas in the Cosmic Doctrine, which were already discussed here, seem to have something to do with the subject of reincarnation. I didn’t comment on the Cosmic Doctrine, but I do follow the discussion and read the chapters.

  3. Thank you for this elucidation. It occurs to me that many, if not all, Fortune metaphors such as “tracks in space” are pointers to things beyond our immediate understanding or ken.

    As I study and ponder CDoc, I can’t help but sensing that all the metaphors point to an incredibly dense “probability space” of which the first principle is Stillness ie Unmanifest prior to Cosmos, the second principle is uncaused motion, and the third principle is Patterns ie emerging consciousness, memory, matter, i.e Manifestation.

    Every probability in Manifestation seems conditioned by prior probabilities, perhaps that’s why we are “in the image”. Qaunta, coherence, resonance, dissonance all make sense in terms of probability — ie without light, space, and time separating “objects” then everything would just be a big pile of brown **** lol.
    Anyhow, I merely mention this because as you note, metaphors taken literally are self-limiting, and uncaused but conditioned patterns in probability make more sense, to me at least.

  4. A confession and a revelation. The confession is that around chapter 6 or 7, I lost my copy of the revised edition. I doggedly read all the subsequent posts, but became more and more lost.

    The revelation is this. Last week, knowing I had a couple of lengthy bus journeys ahead of me, I printed off a new copy, and used the bus journeys to read through chapters 1 to 12. Revelation. It is all beginning to be, dare I say, approachable. (I won’t say I suddenly understand it all, that would be far too overconfident). But, I found myself able to read through, make images in my mind, say things like “oh, of course” and such, without feeling that I was encountering a strange language, as I had done initially. I suspect that the “tracks in space” that have been left by participants in this very reading group played a big part in this sense of increased ease of comprehension.

    Now that I have “caught up” with a fast reading, I will be going back to a slow reading, bit by bit.

    Meanwhile, may I mention a couple of bits from previous chapters that caught my particular attention in this “catch up” reading?

    1) From Chapter VI:

    “…and such process continues until such time as the organisation of the Cosmos becomes so mighty in the force it has generated, that it bursts the Ring-Pass-Not, and the Great Organisms rush forth into the Unmanifest, and by their swirling movement gather ” space” about them and, in their turn, build new “Cosmoi”. Such is the story of Cosmic evolution.”

    I think that if any mention of a Ring-Pass-Not “bursting” has been mentioned in these posts, I must have missed it. So, I’m guessing that in the fractal way of things, whenever a three-ring system modelled on the Cosmos, reaches the end of its evolution, this is a death of that system, and death occurs by the bursting of its Ring-Pass-Not and the contents so carefully concentrated and built up within it “rush forth” to become material for other systems. This would be what happens to a cell, for example, when it dies.

    2) From Chapter VII:
    “…you start where God leaves off…”

    This is actually startling, but also thrilling, and has led to some fruitful cycle thoughts.

    3) From Chapter VIII

    “…the absence of sensation to which the presence and continuance of habituated reactions in their accustomed ordered sequence alone can give rise…”

    This immediately struck me as a definition of what we consider “health”. Mainly because people consult me clinically when something UNaccustomed and NONhabituated occurs and produces an uncommon stimulus demanding their attention – pain, altered functions, etc. When a person is not receiving any non-habitual signals from their body, that is to say, it is as if sensation is absent, while “continuance of habituated reactions in their accustomed ordered sequence” are present, they consider themselves healthy. And, can give their entire attention to the world around them, rather divide it between the world and the demands upon attention that an unhealthy body issues.

    Anyway, I am back as an active participant in this study, and thankful to be so.

  5. Would it be correct to make an analogy between the Solar System and its Atoms on the one hand and the development of an Ideology/Paradigm and the people that think with it on the other? Therefore the mechanics described by Dion Fortune provide a model of the co-evolution between viewpoints and individuals? And from the perspective of an occultist, a clear understanding of the model, validated by actual practice, can provide points of leverage to influence their evolution while still keeping in mind that the process has its own dynamics that cannot be fully controlled?

    There is something quite meta about this entire Cosmic Doctrine line of collective study…

  6. Have you ever heard of Human Design? What you describe seems almost directly analogous with a different jargon.

    The basic split of atoms (matter) and spirit (abstract movements of space) would, in Human Design, be matter and dark matter.

    The three ingredients to form reality – a seventh plane body, a seed atom, a track in space, are described in Human Design as the Design Crystal, Personality Crystal, and Profile (the geometry you traverse in this life adhered to by the Magnetic Monopole).

    You even say “these traveling atoms become twofold entities: a complex atom, with a track in space laid down by its attunement with the Logos which governs the motion of the atom” which describes the BodyGraph, with its greater whole than the sum of its parts.

    I ask if you have heard of it because I wonder if I could have understood your/Fortune’s descriptions of reality without the metaphysical framework I’ve gleaned from Human Design. And because the two adhere so well, I have to acknowledge Fortune really was on to something, trying to find the language for it. Excellent dissection of Fortune’s work on your part!

  7. This was a hard chapter to fathom. I had to read it, look at your notes, then read it again, then think about some of the ideas. One of the thoughts that seemed clear to me through the reading, is that of the reflection of the Cosmos in the Solar Logos and then again in the traveling atoms that follow the Solar Logos. And in that, I begin to connect the thoughts of microcosm and macrocosm in my current studying of Circles of Power. On the one hand, we are seeing the Cosmos indirectly, and may not be able to grasp it fully; on the other hand, we have more potential here than we may realize: “Thus it is that the traveling atoms of a universe contain the potentialities of reaction of which the nature of the Logos is capable.”

  8. Reading this chapter a couple of days ago, I found it more impenetrable than usual. I’m relieved to find out it wasn’t just me. I’ll continue with the attempt and see what transpires.

  9. “One important implication is that what is spirit, mind, consciousness today, if it sustains itself over time, becomes matter, substance, manifestation tomorrow.”

    “…consciousness today… becomes… manifestation tomorrow”.



    And this is precisely because manifestation is a sort of density of movements “in the abstract” which when less dense are still more diffuse consciousness.

    And that density comes from repetition and rhythm, deepening particular tracks in space until they are dense enough to be “held constant” and manifest.


    In a word.

  10. Following on from Scotlyn’s comment can I paraphrase a thought? ‘That which was not possible before, becomes possible.’ Somewhere, ‘memory’ makes recognition possible? This reminds me of something. If we might try a poetic way of telling the story? Where we end and sources begin, water issues fresh from the ground, Mnemosyne the mother of the muses starts Calliope on the epic adventure to the sea.
    Phil H

  11. A lot of different thoughts came up for me with this chapter. The traveling atoms are different from the other atoms (the ‘inanimate atoms’). Unlike the inanimate atoms, they’re not just moving around randomly reacting to the influences of the solar system and the other atoms around it. They move with a definite circular rhythmical motion. There is structure to their motion and hence, their thoughts. They’re not swinging from one extreme mood to the other – happy, sad, angry, peaceful; rather they have reached equilibrium. Fortune says “These travelling atoms have escaped from the laws of the manifested universe which bind into forms.” To me this signifies the laws of the material plane. Taking some themes from the Kybalion, they don’t escape the causation or structure of the higher planes but fall in with the higher laws, and thus master circumstances on the lower plane. They’re free from the endless back and forth motion or rhythm of the emotions on the lower plane, or at least they can avoid being controlled by it.

    The travelling atoms’ motion or thought is structured due to their contact with the Logoidal ideas. Something in them has awakened and become active – higher aspects of their consciousness, higher planes of awareness similar to that of the Logos. They’re now acting in accordance with the imprint or mold of the Cosmic order, following the Logoidal plan, having more of an understanding of the Logoidal consciousness and how things operate in the universe. They have been bathed in the Logoidal ideas – like being baptized or initiated into a different way of being, or receiving the emanations of the Holy Spirit as it descends; the light that was before the worlds. They are receptive to the divine order of things, like the geomantic character of Gwyn – a cup being filled from above, from a higher order of consciousness. It’s like the Logos is trying to teach them his song, and they gradually come to learn it by induction, through their evolution through the universe. “They have imparted to them by the Logoidal vibrations, the same rhythm as the Logos is vibrating to.”

    It would seem that the Logos would like us to be emulating its plan or song for the universe, not just bouncing around at random doing our own disconnected thing. Like what JMG has been discussing recently – how we don’t just create our own reality out of whole cloth, we co-create it with the Logos based on the framework for the universe. It has structure and limits. It’s possible to be receptive to that imprint and embark on our creative endeavors from within it. Sometimes we think we can sing our own song, but it’s not really so. We’re meant to be a part of the Logoidal song and hence, the song of the entire Cosmos.

    I notice how the whole process then repeats itself, in that the travelling atoms don’t just relax in the warm glow of the Logos, but they start having a similar effect on the inanimate atoms as the Logos had on them. They draw them around themselves. I was reminded of the stories about how Jesus through his activism attracted his disciples and many followers into orbit around him, as though with personal gravity.

  12. RPC, hmm! I don’t know, but it’s a possibility worth exploring.

    Booklover, excellent. Yes, that’s one of the things the metaphor is about.

    Jeff, that’s certainly one way to make sense of it. One of the useful things about Fortune’s decision to frame the discussion in overtly metaphoric terms is that it allows plenty of room for individuals to frame things in terms that make sense to them.

    Scotlyn, delighted to hear it. I suspect your newfound ability to make sense of the Cos.Doc. is also simply a function of repetition — after a certain number of encounters with the concepts, they leave tracks in your mental space…

    Erick, give it a try and see how well it works! “Meta” is a good label for this sort of symbolic philosophy.

    Togaj, no, I haven’t — there are lots of recently hatched pop-occultism groups out there, and I haven’t really tried to follow them. It sounds as though Human Design took some of the standard concepts of occult philosophy and gave them new names borrowed from various sciences. Still, if it works for you, by all means.

    Cat, no question, this is heavy going. You’ve caught an important concept, though — the way that the Cosmos mirrors itself down the planes into smaller and smaller microcosms is a crucial element of the occult vision of things.

    Phutatorius, no, it’s not just you. This is one of the tougher chapters.

    Scotlyn, ding! We have a winner. You now understand one of the basic principles of operative occultism.

    Phil, good. Yes, that would also be a good metaphor!

    Stefania, a fine meditation. Thank you.

  13. Hello John (& All), I recently completed an initial reading of, The Cosmic Doctrine, as per your recommendation. My mind is now entirely blown!! Felt attuned with a force of transcendence, sacredness & beauty while reading. After I let the concepts percolate awhile, I will reread the book & your related blog posts. Got more of that medicine!? 😉 Are there other books which you consider to be of such stature & profound significance in the occult genre? Thanks for all your blog posts & books. You contribute an invaluable service.

  14. “So that each moving atom in the universe, by its movement, creates a counterpart of itself, of the same type of existence as that which forms the Cosmos, therefore of the same nature as the Logos of its universe.”

    I think it is difficult to underestimate the seriousness of the implications of the former paragraph. It’s a bit… terrifying. Every choice is a test. Every moment is a fork in the road. A seemingly simple trip to the grocery store, school day, or walk in the forest brings a new world to life — each tiny experience shapes the trajectory of the soul. No wonder so many people report having the “back in school” recurring dream. We’re all in school for an eternity. All of those people with Trump Derangement Syndrome (especially the ones throwing around bad intentions with amateurish, half-hearted magic) are doing a real number on themselves, because now I see they are creating mental prisons of delusion and hysteria from which it could easily become impossible to escape from within a single incarnation. Clearly magic exists whether one believes in it or not.

  15. One important implication is that what is spirit, mind, consciousness today, if it sustains itself over time, becomes matter, substance, manifestation tomorrow.

    One thing this reminds me of, besides the daily practice of a banishing ritual, is the dumb definition of insanity that people like to trot out: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    I’ve had the thought for a while now that this is also the definition of practice. I suppose the difference between practice and insanity is knowing what results a pattern of behavior will produce. For instance, wanting to lose weight through undergoing crackpot diets, versus wanting to promote health through daily exercise.

    So… what leads a person to begin scrutinizing the links between their behaviors and the outcomes? Because gods know this is not a universal quality.

    Though each of us has a Cosmic atom at the core of our being, we don’t wake from the dream until we have passed through an entire cycle of evolution.

    Would this be the equivalent of reaching Gwynfydd?

  16. Hi JMG and all,

    I’m one of those people who is still keeping up with the book club in read-only mode. It normally takes me a couple of weeks of daily grappling with each chapter before I start getting any sense out of it. And even then, the sense rarely comes in during the grappling sessions – most of the time it’s through some other activities. This means that I don’t have much to contribute to the conversation and even when I do it’s too late – we are moving to the next chapter. Nothing to complain about though. I enjoy the process and I intend to stay on this train until the last stop! :}

    One thing I noticed is that, while the material is becoming less accessible as we go, the metaphors become easier to correlate to my experience – they feel less and less abstract. It was mentioned a couple of Cos Doc posts ago that Unmanifest is relative rather than absolute and it came home to some extent to me while digging through the previous chapter.

    In some way, for human Personality, until it gets involved into some honest spiritual work and does it for a while, Individuality is as good as Unmanifest – it doesn’t seem to exist. This relativity doesn’t seem to be stopping at the human level. I was meditating on one of my behavioral quirks a couple of weeks ago and it brought me to a part of myself that I’ve rejected in early childhood. We ended up having a lively conversation and through that I learned that the mechanism or rejecting and then projecting this part of myself outside of myself was in some way similar to my human personality being born and developing as if separately from my Individuality. And now, as I, as human level Personality, work towards Individuality, in a similar fashion, that part of me, that was rejected in the past, is working towards me. Me, as human Personality, to it is Individuality and for a good few decades I was for it as good as Unmanifest.

    Once again, thank you for making this reading easier for us. And thanks to everyone who is orbiting around this book club for supporting an engaging vibe of learning. :}

  17. Hi, JMG – well, this is all putting a new complexion on the deep resistance my Protestant soul still expresses towards ritual, which I may have mentioned in earlier threads.

    I was brought up to think of candles, incense, rote prayers, ritual services and etc, as props or crutches for people who lack a direct connection to God, and although my theological ideas have undergone profound changes throughout my 40 years or so of adulthood, I find myself still quite nervous around actual “rhythm and repetition” and all its relations, in practice.

    If I may, the SOP, being amenable to change, and to an individual approach, and not too overly rigid, manages to permit me to practice without too much resistance. Still, there are many aspects of ritual and ceremony that I struggle to approach.

    I think I shall be putting this insight to work in the next wee while, developing rituals that I myself can more readily participate in.

  18. Hi John Michael,

    I’m slowly working through your essay. I did notice that your quote: “its dance imitates the Cosmos, and everything else in its solar system is drawn into that imitation and become parts of a Cosmos in miniature.”

    It sort of indicates that there is a sort of overall pattern and/or more interestingly – links. Perhaps a good analogy is that: much in the way evolution changed mammals from small rodent like creatures during the days of the dinosaurs, to the sort that you see today – like us, it happened because it was both a possibility in this solar system and part of the larger dance. So I presume, but of course knowing that we cannot know, other solar systems would have different dances?

    And further, there is an ongoing accumulation – but with no certainty of the path or manifestation both of which could diverge – as the cosmic atom proceeds along its journey?

    Despite having grown up reading dodgy pulp sci-fi, I have little interest in space these days and I’m firmly of this planet in desire as well as in a more practical understanding of the concept. Some people feel otherwise, but I disagree with them. The metaphor for this story doesn’t work well with my brain for some reason, and my mind keeps coming back to a series of stories between an elder and an initiate. Dunno why, can’t explain it, but the space stuff jars my perceptions in this context. It could well be written using another metaphor – and that isn’t a criticism, but just an observation.



  19. I started reading the Cos Doc along with your posts last year but had to let it go during Chapter 4 when I had too much else going. Now I’m back, having worked through Chapters 1 through 3 again in the past few weeks and currently working through Chapter 4, the building of the atom. It’ll probably take a few months to get through the earlier chapters, but eventually I’ll catch up with the discussions here.

    What struck me as I visualized through all the metaphors of these first few chapters is how apt the metaphor of moving space now seems to me. If I’m not paying close attention, I think of myself and the not-myself as solid objects. But when I sit down in meditation and experience myself from the inside, I don’t feel solid at all. There is something different about the feeling in the part of the leg pressing against the chair, for instance, but inside the body, it really doesn’t feel like anything solid; it’s evanescent. Movements in space, in other words. In the scientific metaphor, the solar system and the atom are mostly empty space as well. Even a subatomic particle isn’t solid in the Newtonian sense. Fortune’s moving-space metaphor, with the different kinds of Cosmic atoms forming and whirling around, seems a great deal more apt now than it did when I first encountered the metaphor last year.

    BTW, my success in improving my visualization skills through the Dolmen Arch course work in the last several months have made it much easier to visualize Fortune’s imagery in the Cos. Doc.

  20. I do understand Scotlyn’s point about ritual and ceremony quite well, because nowadays, it is quite difficult for cultural reasons (the current situation of religion and rationalism) to find an healthy approach to these things and spirituality. This is one point in favor of Druid magic: it seems to be relatively flexible.

  21. “One important implication is that what is spirit, mind, consciousness today, if it sustains itself over time, becomes matter, substance, manifestation tomorrow.”

    This seems rather horrible. If consciousness becomes matter, isn’t that like death? And isn’t it a downgrade?

  22. The thing that caught my attention here most was the bit about the travelling atoms not being bound by the same rules once they go out to the furthest boundary and return. It tracks with a lot of what I’ve been meditating on about the Path of Tau and the journey to the underworld, and about travel itself–that experiencing places or modes different from what you’re used to makes you better able to discern between the rules/standards that always apply, the ones where there’s some wiggle room, and the ones that are just weird byproducts of a particular time/place/history and make no sense. It also seems to tie into the concept of the magician or priest as generally outside their home society to some extent.

    (The danger there seems to be thinking you’ve experienced enough to know for sure that a particular rule is just dumb human/social/whatever custom, and that you are Above These Things–that leads to all sorts of badness, from the guys who think they don’t have to shower to get girls to the people who think “hey, don’t randomly murder folks” doesn’t apply to them. “Travelling atoms still have to abide by the rules of the larger cosmos” might be the applicable metaphor here.)

  23. Hi JMG,

    We have only made it to page 81 and what a long, strange trip it has already been. My experience has been that it takes approximately a month to come to any kind of grips with the assigned reading, and I certainly would not have made it this far without your commentary so thank you very much. For me at least, the pace you are setting is about right.

    One question that has been nagging at me is what exactly is Fortune’s definition of Logos? It is one of those terms that has a lot of potential meanings, depending on the context. The one I am most familiar with is that Logos is the Word of God. She seems to equate the Logos with a Great Entity, so maybe the Word of God is close in this case.

  24. Up to Chapter 13 of CosDoc (I have the Millennium edition), I felt that I was ‘getting it’ through a combination of my own reading and meditations, and your first-class commentary, JMG. However, like both Cat and Phutatorius, I find this chapter to be really tough going. To be honest, I find it almost impenetrable.

    The first page is clear enough, but then it gets into “tracks in space… [that] are mutually cancelling”; a “central point of unmanifestation”; tracks in space that are “the nature of a closed figure”; “Logoidal Phases” and “Logoidal ideas”; a “huge replica of the Great Entity”; “miniature reflections of the Logos”; “Logoidal vibrations” and “Logoidal rhythms”; the “Logoidal Mind”; “circular rhythms” that “sets up a vortex”… I suddenly feel like Dorothy when she first arrived in Oz! And, to be honest, I found your commentary only marginally helpful.

    It looks like I have hit a brick wall that can only be opened if I have (or create) a Rosetta Stone, or have been given a rope that as 1,843 knots in it (which, of course, must be untied). Perhaps the sheer profusion of images requires that (for a change) I re-read each paragraph umpteen times and meditate on each of these images in isolation of each other. I know the chapter is about the creation of the Mind but 90% of the images are going right over my head. Right now, I feel like I can handle the Nursery Rhyme “Row, row, row your boat” (which I find to be the deepest Nursery Rhyme in the English language) but not much more complex than that! Rather humbling…

  25. This morning I’m noticing that the “back-to-front” nature of a universe compared to a cosmos includes the fact that the Unmanifest that “wells up” is at its centre, not at its outer boundary. The welling up Unmanifest in this case is arising from “Logoidal consciousness” – ie, it is thinking, imagining, playing and these previously unmanifested phenomena are made available to complex atoms arriving at the centre to help “real-ise”.

    And I suppose the word “reflection” is the key to why it is all back to front – there is something of a mirror quality involved.

  26. Hi Scotlyn,

    I found that even though there is much of this book (so far!) that I do not understand properly, the image it’s helped me form, this metaphor, gets clearer slowly and more intricate. So there is a part of it that I am struggling with and don’t know how to use, and then a part of it that makes sense. What I find compelling about it is that the parts I feel I understand are quite useful and it does feel like when I try to hold my ideas or observations about the world up to it they find a home in this framework, I think as a result it’s slowly becoming a a kind of default tool for my thinking, even though my grasp of it is clumsy. I feel like this is the goal, it feels in line with her concept of things, I know I will use maybe the wrong terms here, but I feel like there is a move to get under things, to try to find a simpler, greater movement within or underneath what presents itself. So she doesn’t fight with your specific observations, she doesn’t claim truth and so you can’t even dispute it on that level, she tries to get under that process, to give you a metaphor to house everything in.

    I felt I had like you a feeling of “getting it” again with these last couple chapters, at least a bit,

    My recent breakthroughs are to do with how external forces do not move Great Entities (I think this is the term she uses at this part – I don’t have my book here and I am far from an expert), they are guided by inner states. This, I think shows how the movement of an idea can transfer from the mind of one person to others, if they find it is manifested before them and represents something that their inner feelings find appealing. Then they align with that movement.

    Also how movement requires direction, and how attempting to move in multiple directions simultaneously is impossible or at least counterproductive – this is one of the ways that limitation is a powerful tool. I also suspect that the 12 and 7 connect to the idea of time (12 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months of the year) maybe I’m wrong, but repeated movement over time.

    I’m not sure I’ve explained myself well but something in your first post felt quite familiar so I thought I’d write.


  27. Part of Stefania’s extensive meditation perhaps brings us to the utility of one of the essential precepts of Stoicism: the importance and utility of distancing oneself, if only a little, from the crude impacts of physical and emotional ‘reality’, so that one can advance to a widened range of experience and perception – the truly human.

    This is also expressed in the Sufi saying: ‘Are you merely a polo ball, to be driven this way and that by the impact of the mallet?’

    In the Ancient world, the Stoics were criticised for not over-emoting over life’s little (inevitable) incidents, such illness, death, loss of fortune, injustice, illness.

    But they would have replied that to spend one’s life in mere knee-jerk reaction to what is inevitably a part of human existence on this plane, is in one sense not to have lived fully at all. -compared to what is possible to those who try….

  28. If what starts as movement–spirit, mind, etc.–becomes manifest in a body as it evolves, what is happening in cos doc terms when a human achieves gwynfydd and no longer incarnates in a physical body, yet evolves to continually higher states? It seems that it has finished a trip in one direction, and begun to go in another. I’m reminded of the Inferno, in which man goes through hell, turns on the devil’s midsection, up is down and down is up, and then proceeds to heaven. How would Dion Fortune state the change in direction as one enters gwynfydd?

  29. I would like to briefly summarize my understanding of this chapter on “The Beginning of Mind” to make sure that I correctly understand how the terms mind, atom, and object are being used. The concept that mind is a “pure movement in space” makes perfect sense. What tends to confuse me is that the terms atom and object immediately make me think of something that is material. Yet I believe that in this chapter we are not yet really talking about the material plane when discussing how each of our minds came into being.

    So in the beginning, I was a traveling atom that was not yet material. As this atom, I traveled the seven planes of the universe and eventually settled down for a time near the central point where the “Unmanifest wells up.” The tracks I laid while traveling were the beginning of my mind. These tracts then (my mind), because they are near the central point of the universe, harmonize with the Logoidal mind creating a universe in miniature.

    Then eventually, my mind¬–atom will begin to contemplate its experiences and project a thought form that will become my physical body. So I am a composite of the pure movements that I have created in my evolution (my mind), the non-material atom that created those movements, and finally the physical body that resulted from the thought form created by my mind–atom contemplating its experiences.

    This is interesting because the Cosmos started with pure movement that then created atoms, where I started as an atom of our universe that created pure movement that then became my mind. Thus my mind is a reflection of the Cosmos/Logos. Thanks everyone and that is where my mind is tracking right now as it contemplates the Cosmic Doctrine.

  30. Scotlyn, JMG:

    JMG wrote: “One important implication is that what spirit is, mind, consciousness today, if it sustains itself over time, becomes matter, substance, manifestation tomorrow.”

    And Scotlyn wrote: “And this is precisely because manifestation is a sort of density of movements ‘in the abstract’ which when less dense are still more diffuse consciousness. And that density comes from repetition and rhythm, deepening particular tracks in space until they are dense enough to be ‘held constant’ and manifest.”

    What I’ve noticed in my own magical practice is a certain amount of what I have been thinking of as ‘backsliding,’ although that may be a bit too ungentle of a term. For example, I’ll identify a specific imbalance in my consciousness, try to deal with it using magic, and then celebrate figuring it’s gone for good. Then a short time later I’ll notice the same imbalance popping up again, just like a cat with nine lives that keeps on coming back. It has been quite frustrating at times! I’ll go through a phase where I’ll notice the imbalance popping up, at least be able to recognize that it’s an imbalanced way of going about things, but not be able to do much to balance it out. I think my geomantic oracles have also noticed this because there have been times when I could almost see them doing the spiritual equivalent of a facepalm in response to my questioning, or hear them asking in frustration, ‘Have you not figured that out yet?!?’ I too would be getting sick and tired of the imbalance in question, but would be held under its power for a time longer, carry on swinging from one extreme thought or emotion to the other, and would have to resort to apologizing to the oracles for being possibly the worst mage ever 🙂

    In light of the Cos Doc and your comments, I can start to reframe this. So my old patterns of thinking are etched into my consciousness like tracks in space, and my thinking can almost not help but fall into those tracks, like how bike tires can almost not avoid falling into streetcar tracks (if you’ve ever ridden a bike in downtown Toronto, you might know about this). Through magic I’ve been trying to get my consciousness to move over into new, better functioning tracks in space, which originate from the Logos. For a while I stay in the new tracks, but then I inevitably get drawn back to the old, more familiar, more established tracks. So hopefully, through enough repetition in magic and exposure of my consciousness to the Logoidal tracks, they’ll eventually become better established, and the ‘backsliding’ will be decreased.

    From the Cos Doc: “Then you have this condition: an atom…which is too complex to settle down upon a plane of manifestation, returns to the Centre, having developed by its movement a circuit of pure motion which is of a Cosmic type of manifestation. Its Cosmic aspect is stamped with the Logoidal image, tuned to the Logoidal rhythm by the process described, and this abstract aspect of the atom…causes its concrete aspect to move with a circular rhythm…and this circular rhythm, being thus held constant, as distinguished from the tangential movements of the atoms of the planes, sets up a vortex, and the atoms about it are drawn into that vortex.”

    The above passage almost makes it sound like the atoms can permanently establish a new track in space that is held constant. Although at any rate, ‘just keep doing your practices’ still seems like sound advice to me.

  31. Shivadas, excellent. As we used to say back in the day, ’tis an ill wind that blows no minds!

    Kimberly, yep. That’s the terrifying thing about freedom, as Sartre used to point out: you get to make your bed however you want, but then you get to lie in it…

    Cliff, the thing about repetitive behavior is that you need to watch what the results are. If you’re good with them, great; if not, why, you need to change. As for the awakening of the Cosmic atom, that’s way further along than what the Druid material is talking about. Druidry tends to be fairly pragmatic, and so focuses on the changes we can move toward in this or immediately subsequent lives; the Cos.Doc. is tracing out things on a gargantuan scale, in which the movement from Abred to Gwynfydd is only one modest step in the immensity of our spiritual journey.

    Ganesh, excellent! The thing is, the Cos.Doc. can be studied with advantage over and over again for many years. Western cultures have nearly forgotten how to work with a text in that way, revisiting it again and again, going deeper with each pass — I know some people who still remember how to do that with the Bible, but even there it’s not common. The kind of sustained attention that Hindu pandits give to the Vedas is something we’re going to have to relearn in the centuries ahead. Yes, the Cos.Doc. is a good place to start.

    Scotlyn, I wonder if this is one of the places where a spectrum has been replaced by its two extremes, with dead and fossilized ritual and no ritual at all as the only two options seen as available. Ritual is a creative art, a performance art in which the practitioner and the audience are the same person, and practicing a ritual like the SoP is just like practicing a piece of music — you can ring a lot of changes within the established framework!

  32. I would like to wish all dads, sons, and daughters reading this a happy Father’s Day.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled learning.

  33. Chris, yes, yes, and of course it could be written with any number of other metaphors. Fortune chose the metaphors of space because a lot of people find those evocative; you can find different metaphors in other occult texts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    SLClaire, delighted to hear it.

    Booklover, that’s certainly one of the things I like about it.

    Onething, not at all. Matter isn’t lower or lesser than spirit, it’s simply spirit that’s taken on a stable form for a time, for the sake of making certain kinds of experience possible.

    Chris, and that’s certainly one source of potential metaphors!

    Isabel, nicely put. Exactly — the traveling atoms aren’t free in the sense of completely random or self-directed, they’re free in the sense that they’re not locked into an orbit around the Logos, and so can enter the presence of the Logos and become able to relate to it in a richer and more interesting manner.

    Samurai_47, Fortune is being evasive. In the traditions of Rosicrucian mysticism, the Christ, the Logos or second person of the Trinity, dwells in the sun — the Biblical reference is from Psalm 18, “He hath set up his tabernacle in the sun.” By talking about the Solar Logos she’s able to nod and wink to Christian students without upsetting those who have a well-developed Jesus allergy. You can approach the Cos.Doc. from a Christian or a non-Christian standpoint — the metaphors work either way.

    Ron, yeah, this is a tough one. Take it a little at a time.

    Scotlyn, nicely done.

    Dashui, fascinating. Thank you.

    Xabier, excellent! Yes, exactly.

    Kyle, it’s not actually a change in direction, but something a little different. In Abred, the soul is contained in and limited by a body. In Gwynfydd, the body is contained in and transformed by a soul. The dwellers in Gwynfydd have bodies, but the bodies are imperishable and responsive to the will in a way that our current bodies are not.

    Dan, excellent! Yes, exactly.

    Stefania, yes, exactly. The tracks in space laid down by previous thoughts and actions can take quite a bit of time, effort, and understanding to overcome. The more often you can deliberately do things the way you want to do them, rather than the habitual way, the sooner you can make that happen — but it’s not fast no matter what.

  34. What caught my attention in this chapter, and the point to which I return again and again is about a quarter of the way in:

    Traveling atoms, having gone out to the outermost plane, return from it, not to a Central Stillness, but to a central point where the Unmanifest “wells up” and becomes manifest. It is with that phase of the development of manifestation, wherein new aspects of the Logoidal consciousness are being realized, that these traveling atoms find their nearest affinity.

    Logoidal images have to pass from a Cosmic state (that is unmanifest when viewed from the standpoint of a universe) to a manifest condition, and in that transition they pass through a phase which is identical with that state of existence of the tracks in space drawn by the movement of an object. Therefore, being of the same nature, they can influence the tracks in space thus drawn.

    Seems to me we have some parties to this discussion that are very familiar with this process! For me, it connects to processes of artistic inspiration, what might be referred to as the Muse. And also, the processes of manifesting what was formerly unmanifest.

    DF refers to “great numbers of travelling atoms returning to the creative center and being bathed in the influences of the Logoidal ideas”.

    Daily I awaken from dreams that seem to take me to such a place, and I find I don’t have the conceptual equipment to bring what I find there over to waking life.

    Any comment?

  35. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for the confirmation of my suspicions about the metaphor. This topic is something that I have not read about – directly – before and so it is nice to understand that it is not a case of ‘one size fits all’. Such a circumstance would make for a rather dull world. And who wants that? 😉 The world is far more fascinating than most people may consider it to be.



  36. Explain who and what the Central Sun is, particularly in relation to the “sun” in its physical aspects that we can see up in the sky, and its spiritual “Logoic” aspects, or is it an entity or being? These are very esoteric uses of ordinary ideas which is why I suppose it is esoteric, haha. If there is a Solar Logos there is an earthly/planet Logos. I don’t recall reading this before. It’s opaque.

  37. Just a thought: We in the West are educated, that the material is fundamental and from there everything evolves, like consciousness is an emergent property of the brain.

    However the more I think about it, I am considering that consciousness (tracks in space) is fundamental and everything else emerges from there.

    So in my mind where Fortune wants to guide us, is to change our perspective:
    From material being fundamental to consciousness being fundamental.

    Nice summer evening to meditate here…
    Thanks for the guidance, John!

  38. Another thought: Isn’t E=m*c square pointing in the exactly same direction?
    Here energy is fundamental and matter is evolving from that.
    Somehow that formula for me also shows the point that Fortune want to point us to:
    The material world is not so solid as it seems for us and matter is not fundamental.

  39. DF’s prose in CosDoc often seems Dadaesque. It was, after all, the 1920s. Not to belittle the serious content, but I wonder to what extent she was also having some fun with the reader.

  40. Hi JMG,

    I’m starting to work with Chapter 5 now. I’d like to have your comments about some things that occurred with me in my first meditation on that chapter which I did not find discussed in the comments on Chapter 5.

    I started envisioning the primal atom as Fortune describes it: two tangential movements circulating about each other, with a core of motionless vacuum. Then it occurred to me: motionless vacuum is what is outside the Ring-Pass-Not. If the motionless vacuum within the primal atom can be equated with the motionless vacuum outside the RPN, then an atom is sort of like a Cosmos turned inside-out. And if that’s the case, little cosmoi could form inside the atom from the same process that formed the Cosmos of which the atom is part. As above, so below, and all that.

    Then I realized that I’ve imagined Fortune’s atoms as like a chemist’s atoms: teeny-tiny, way tinier than me. But she never says or implies this. The Cosmos is so unimaginably huge that even an atom that is teeny-tiny on the scale of the Cosmos could be vastly huge at my scale, bigger than our galaxy, for instance. That made sense of my thinking about an atom that could hold cosmoi within it. Imagine such an atom then going through all the unimaginably complex process of evolution she describes!

    Anyway, I wanted to ask if I’m on the right track in imagining that there might be a correspondence between the space inside an atom and the space outside the RPN and if it then made sense to imagine cosmoi forming inside the atom.

    Another thing that this brings up: the atoms I learned about in chemistry class, and in fact all the scientific metaphors we use, can be described in just the same way as Fortune’s metaphors: they are meant to train the mind, not inform it. The two systems train the mind to different metaphors that then allow the minds so trained to do different things. Neither of them is any more “real” than the other; both are useful to those who know which one to use when.

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