Book Club Post

The Cosmic Doctrine: The Creation of a Universe

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 9, “The Creation of a Universe,” pp. 44-47.

Millennium Edition: Chapter 8, ‘The Relation of a Great Entity to the Cosmos,” from page 61 to the end of Chapter 9, ‘The Projection of the Concept of the Universe,” p. 66.

Commentary:

To understand the material in this chapter, it’s important to remember one of the crucial points made in last month’s chapter: the concept that motion and consciousness are two ways of talking about the same thing. When one pool ball hits another pool ball and the second ball moves in response, that response is akin—in a very, very simple way—to what happens when an idea enters your mind and interacts with the ideas already in place there. Is that a metaphor? Of course; everything in The Cosmic Doctrine is a metaphor. As we’ll see, though, it’s a metaphor that has a great deal to teach.

This is especially important to keep in mind as our text shifts focus from the Cosmos as a whole to the individual solar system we live in. As the protagonist of our tale gradually changes from traveling atom to Great Entity to Solar Logos—or to say the same thing in different language, as we move from that entity’s relationship to the Cosmos, through its relationship to the solar system it creates, to its relationship to those beings who inhabit that solar system—the metaphors Fortune uses change gears from physics to astronomy to psychology. Those are all ways of talking about the same things, but “the nearest approximate metaphor” changes as the context changes. It’s well to keep that in mind, to avoid the sort of fundamentalism that fixates on the words and loses their meanings.

With that in mind, we plunge at once into the inner brooding of the Great Entity. That being has gone spiraling outward to the seventh Cosmic plane to take up an orbit there, and swept along with it a vast number of other atoms of all seven basic types. It does this while the Cosmic cycles are in their negative or destructive phase. Why? Because it’s in the destructive phases that a settled order is shaken apart and change becomes possible. Once this is over, the Great Entity sorts itself out—we can think of this in terms of movement, as the vast and intricately tangled pattern of “tracks in space” that form the Great Entity settling into a stable equilibrium, or we can think of it in terms of psychology, as the Great Entity brooding over what it has experienced in its long pilgrimage through the Cosmos.

It doesn’t brood over the Cosmos. The Great Entity is entirely unconscious of the Cosmos, in much the same way that you and I are unconscious of the deep processes of our own minds. The Cosmos forms the foundation or, as Fortune says, the conditioning background of the Great Entity. What the Great Entity broods over, rather, is itself. It becomes aware, not merely of this or that sensation within itself, but of itself as a whole. (In terms of motion, we can describe the same process as the achievement of a state of equilibrium in which every motion balances, and is affected by, every other motion.)

That act of self-knowledge brings a universe into being. That’s easy to say and just as easy to misunderstand. Remember that in The Cosmic Doctrine, consciousness is movement, and everything that exists is space moving. The universe that the Great Entity creates is a pattern of movement in space, set in motion by the intricate movements of the Great Entity itself. The pattern of movement gathers up the atoms that have accompanied the Great Entity out to the seventh Cosmic Plane and begins to move them the way the original traveling atom was moved by the great wheeling currents of the Cosmos.

The universe brought into being by the Great Entity’s knowledge of itself isn’t static. While the Great Entity isn’t directly aware of the Cosmos, it is aware of changes in its own state that are caused by the great Cosmic tides. So the Great Entity comes to know itself as a being in time, changing in long slow cycles as the Cosmic tides shift, and changing also in less predictable ways as other Great Entities on other Cosmic planes sweep past in their own orbits and briefly come between our Great Entity and the Central Sun at the heart of the Cosmos. All these changes become part of the Great Entity’s understanding of itself, and shape the pattern of movements in space that surrounds the Great Entity.

The Great Entity is therefore, in Fortune’s words, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe it has brought into being. It is the god of that universe, if you’re a monotheist, or the chief and parent of the gods if you’re a polytheist. Druids in the Revival tradition who work with the Cos.Doc. thus tend to identify the Great Entity with Hu the Mighty, and the tale of his leading the Cymry from Deffrobani to the Island of Britain with the Great Entity’s journey from the Central Sun to the seventh Cosmic plane; readers who prefer other myths and other theologies will likely have no trouble finding something suitable to their needs in their own tradition’s resources.

To say that the Great Entity is the god of the solar system is to court certain misunderstandings, and Fortune does her best to confront those. Is such a god infinite and omnipotent? From the point of view of the universe it creates, sure, because from within that universe the Great Entity defines and shapes everything there is. From the Cosmic point of view, though, the Great Entity is finite and subject to Cosmic conditions; from the point of view of the Unmanifest, meanwhile, the entire Cosmos and everything in it is a pipsqueak phenomenon not worth noticing.

In the space around the Great Entity, though, are the atoms of all seven Cosmic planes that the Great Entity swept along with it as it went out to the seventh Cosmic plane to take up its orbit. Like the Great Entity, these atoms are complex vortices of movement in space, born of the same Cosmic processes as the Great Entity. Unlike the Great Entity, though, they haven’t done the rounds of the Cosmos, moving through the Rings and Rays and absorbing every Cosmic influence from every angle. Think of them as the wallflowers of the Cosmos, waiting nervously for someone to invite them to dance. That’s what the Great Entity did, and now they’re dancing with it, pirouetting around it as it makes its more dignified way around the inconceivably vast arc of the seventh plane.

Those atoms will take on considerably more importance in our narrative as it proceeds. One thing that Fortune mentions a little later on may make them a little more interesting right now, and that’s the far from minor point that you, dear reader, are one of those atoms.

More precisely, the essential spiritual core of you is one of those atoms. Just as the Great Entity started out as a single atom and became a vast and intricate structure of movements in space (i.e., of consciousness) over immense ages of evolution, you started out the same way and are heading in the same direction. The Great Entity is the creator of the solar system in which we exist, the parent and great conditioning force of that solar system, but at the heart of each being in that solar system is something that has its origins in the Cosmos. The Solar Logos is in Fortune’s view not our father but our elder sibling.

(It’s probably worth taking a moment here to remind those of my readers with strong theological opinions that nobody is required to believe The Cosmic Doctrine, in the sense of “believe” normally heard in churches. The Cos.Doc. is not a scripture. It’s a set of metaphors designed to teach certain ways of thinking that are otherwise very difficult to grasp. I’m fairly sure that Fortune did believe that the metaphors of The Cosmic Doctrine were true, to the extent that any statement that can fit inside a human mind can be said to be true, but I’m just as sure that she didn’t make a fuss about that. If you believe other things about God or the gods, bracket Fortune’s claim as a misplaced metaphor; the rest of the story works just as well if you identify the Great Entity as a mighty angelic being, for example.)

Let’s take a moment to follow the Cosmic atom that became you as it moves through the first phases of its existence. Like the traveling atom that became the Great Entity, it came into being in the seething cauldron of forces at the center of the Cosmos, but its basic geometry was such that it drifted out to one of the seven Cosmic planes and stopped there, settling into an orbit while the traveling atoms were preparing for their great adventure along the Rays. For ages it circled around, absorbing the influences of the Rays passively, until finally the Great Entity invited it to dance and the music started to play.

As the Great Entity settled into its orbit on the seventh Cosmic plane and began to bring itself into conscious equilibrium, so did the atom. Since the atom had been through a much narrower range of experiences, that process was much simpler, but your atom and all its companions ended up with their own modest bits of self-knowledge, or to put the same thing another way, their own sets of tracks in space, laying out the range of reactions possible to each. If you like, you can think of the individual atom as the very first and simplest form of soul, and the pattern of reactions in space surrounding it as the very first and simplest form of body.

So we have the Great Entity brooding over its experiences, and the individual atoms that have accompanied it doing the same thing, forming a vast cloud surrounding the Great Entity; and we have the thoughts of the Great Entity becoming movements in space, and drawing the atoms of that cloud into patterns of motion (and thus of consciousness). Since the only thing in the consciousness of the Great Entity are patterns of movement/consciousness that came from the Cosmos, the Great Entity’s brooding draws the cloud of atoms into a replica of the Cosmos.

So seven planes appear, each one stocked with atoms drawn from the corresponding Cosmic plane—the first plane with atoms from the first Cosmic plane, and so on out to the seventh plane with atoms of the seventh Cosmic plane. Each of the planes divides in turn into seven sub-planes; these are called Regions in the Rosicrucian teachings from which Fortune seems to have derived some of her cosmology, but we’ll stick to her term here. Each sub-plane represents one set of possible reactions on the part of atoms of that plane, and—since substance in The Cosmic Doctrine is always and only movement in space—as the atoms of each plane act out those reactions repeatedly, they create substance.

From this point on, as a result, it’s necessary to draw a distinction between the original atoms of the seven Cosmic planes, on the one hand, and the patterns laid down by their movements within the solar system, on the other. Fortune calls the first set Cosmic atoms, reasonably enough, and uses the bare term “atoms” hereafter for the latter. A little later on, as the Cosmic atoms take up their role as the spiritual essences of beings otherwise composed of ordinary atoms, the Cosmic atoms will get another name: Divine Sparks.

The Divine Sparks ultimately belong to the Cosmos, not to the solar system in which they dance. They are younger siblings of the Great Entity, and while they dance in the pattern the Great Entity’s brooding sets in motion, that’s not the only force that influences them. That’s where the idea of the Great Entity as an infinite and omnipotent god becomes complex, because the Great Entity may be infinite and omnipotent in terms of its solar system but it’s not quite either of these in relation to the Divine Sparks.  They know nothing outside the solar system, but they are still influenced by the background of the Cosmos.

Each Cosmic atom, to be specific, is influenced by the Cosmic plane where it orbited for all those ages, and when Great Entities of that plane come close, the Cosmic atoms that came from that plane are affected by it. Thus the Divine Sparks or Cosmic atoms aren’t simply puppets of the Solar Logos, the Great Entity at the heart of their solar system. They have their own independent reactions. At times they will contend with the Solar Logos, and the Logos will contend with them—and out of this intricate fabric of contention, compromise, and ultimately cooperation, the solar system takes shape and seeks its destiny.

 

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 April 10. Until then, have at it!

54 Comments

  1. John–

    A thoroughly challenging yet rewarding endeavor this is turning out to be.

    Obviously, careful reading to be done still, but to make sure I am on track here, you are saying that our spiritual essences are Cosmic atoms (aka Divine Sparks) while our bodies (and I’m thinking also our habits, thought patterns, etc) are the “bare” atoms which are the tracks in space of the Solar System. Am I following this correctly?

    Secondly, for whatever reason, the idea of the Cosmic atoms being early in the process which leads to the Great Entity (“you started out the same way and are heading in the same direction”) brought to mind the LDS doctrine (or one-time LDS doctrine, I don’t know if it still held) whereby the believer achieves godhead over some dominion. I think it was Brigham Young who developed that doctrine, IIRC. Something like “what we are, they once were; what they are, we will become.” (Rough paraphrase from memory.)

  2. David, yes, our spiritual essences are Cosmic atoms aka Divine Sparks. Our various bodies — physical, etheric, etc. — are formed out of the other, secondary kind of atoms. As for the Mormon doctrine, well, were you aware that Joseph Smith studied Cabala with a Jewish teacher for some years? He was very well versed in Western esoteric tradition. (I’m hoping that someday the LDS will get back to its roots, and a splendid new renaissance of esoteric thought and practice will burst into being in Utah…)

  3. John–

    Re Joseph Smith and Cabala

    Fascinating! No, I was not aware of that. Rather casts a completely different light on my (admittedly partial) understanding of LDS history.

  4. Some very interesting ideas, and I thank you for the time you’ve put into the essays.

    I’ve been contemplating movement and consciousness a lot lately and their relationship to time. Have you read tertium organum? Do you any thoughts on it or how to approach it?

    Regarding your essay last week and machines, I was wondering if you were familiar with the idea of extended phenotypes? The idea of the cosmic atoms evolving is making me think that it may be describing a similar idea from a different pov. And then I start to wonder, working backwards, if her atoms are another way to describe genes.

    Last question, do you think it is possible that Dion Fortune was not describing a system as much as she was teaching how one can come up with a system. That is to say, teaching not how to read the map, but how to make a map.

    Thank you again for your time and efforts.

  5. JMG
    “… a splendid new renaissance of esoteric thought …” seems unlikely in my neck of the woods even given the archaeological legacy of our Neolithic predecessors; those monument builders just down the road from here … but who knows?

    I am minded just now of Robin Carteret’s work at the memorable 2014 London Conference. His illustrations of the swirling flocks of social birds collecting at their winter roosts were beautiful reminders of the collective interactions of autonomous ‘sparks’. Robin also got some of us into a circle with a simple instruction for movement. When he stopped the chaos, we were roughly distributed randomly. When however he changed just one part of the instruction for the next movement session, we ended in distinctly non-random distribution.

    Got me thinking at the time, and seems for me a possible intro to this month’s contemplation.

    best
    Phil H

  6. Hi JMG

    As the divine sparks are atoms gathered from each plane as the solar logos travels outwards, each would carry their original movement with it as being a three, four, five etc sided trajectory. That basic characteristic is there before the divine spark is gathered up and pulled outwards by the solar logos, so does this give some kind of inherent independence or self will?

    Following that thought if we are the divine sparks do we have differing three, four, five etc sided trajectories in our make up, or are we all the same type of atom having ended up on the outermost plane? I am tempted to ask what this might mean, but I can hear you telling me to go and meditate on it.

    CosDoc work always makes me feel like my brain has been twisted inside out then given a good shake. I have really come to enjoy that feeling.

  7. I’ve been following this journey with growing interest, unfortunately not having the free time to follow it in detail. This week’s post, however, triggered several thoughts in my mind. I offer them here in the spirit of “for what value you may find” in them:

    * “Because it’s in the destructive phases that a settled order is shaken apart and change becomes possible.” brought to mind C.S. Holling’s Adaptive Cycle (see https://www.resalliance.org/adaptive-cycle). Could that model be usefully related to what’s being expressed here? (By the way, https://www.resalliance.org/panarchy extends Holling’s model to multiple levels.)

    * Might there be analogies to David Bohm’s Explicate and Implicate orders? (See for instance https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/david-bohm-implicate-order-and-holomovement/. The site’s explication of nonduality seems to be consonant here.)

    * This model of consciousness is the first I’ve seen that properly distinguishes between individual and “global” consciousness, and relates them in a meaningful way.

    * ” I’m fairly sure that Fortune did believe that the metaphors of The Cosmic Doctrine were true, to the extent that any statement that can fit inside a human mind can be said to be true…” Would the statement that “All models are false, but some are useful” apply here? (Understanding “false” not to be taken too literally). And of course, “the map is not the territory”.

    * The “evolution” of the atom in response to the forces acting on it, and the invitation to dance with the Great Entity, reminds me of Nietzsche’s saying: “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

    * ” [individual atoms] forming a vast cloud surrounding the Great Entity”: a cloud of unknowing?

    * “At times they will contend with the Solar Logos, and the Logos will contend with them…”. Heraclitus: “contention is the father of all things”. As I recently learned, the Greek word he used was “polemos”.

  8. The tracks in space = consciousness reminds me of something I remember reading in the 70’s, possibly in an out-of-print book entitled “Getting There Without Drugs:”

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0670337633/ref=olp_page_2?ie=UTF8&f_used=true&f_usedAcceptable=true&f_usedGood=true&f_usedLikeNew=true&f_usedVeryGood=true&startIndex=10

    If we could step out of the Space-Time continuum and look at our lives sideways or from above, they would resemble 4-dimensional worms with the length represented by our time on earth and a kink or squiggle whenever we go from one place to another.
    The author described the worm as having your body at the head as it is today, and your entire past trailing behind you–But I’ve since thought that, from that perspective, we’d see the entire life from beginning to end as a single worm.

    CosDoc really is a wonderful metaphor that seems to link up and integrate a lot of my random thoughts. Thanks again for taking this one on, JMG.

  9. 1. In what sense do you use the terms universe and cosmos? The great entity we are discussing, which appears to be the sun, brings a universe into being by its self awareness. Yet I would have thought that the universe already existed and is synonymous with the cosmos.

    2. Who or what is the author of the cosmos?

    3. You mention a central sun at the heart of the cosmos. But that would seem to skip over the galactic core in the hierarchy.

  10. David, John Brooke’s The Refiner’s Fire: Magic and the Making of Mormon Cosmology and Michael Quinn’s Early Mormonism and the Magic World View are two very good sources for the esoteric sources of some of Joseph Smith’s thought.

    Docshibby, yes, I’ve read Tertium Organum, but it’s been a long while, and the Fourth Way isn’t really my thing. I’m not familiar with the concept of extended phenotypes, but will look that up as time permits. As for Fortune, why, as she explained at the beginning of this project, the point of this exercise is to train the mind, not to inform it…

    Phil H., it sounds like a very useful source of metaphors.

    Pogonip, thanks for this.

    Zebby, good. Yes, Fortune’s metaphor has it that there are seven distinct kinds of Cosmic atoms or divine sparks here in this solar system, with internal geometries ranging from three-sided to nine-sided. We aren’t all the same — though that doesn’t mean that one kind of us is better or worse than the others.

    Dwig, hittin’ em out of the park. Yes in all cases. Serious fodder for meditation there!

    Emmanuel, I like that. I recall a science fiction story that had the four-dimensional worm-shapes as a plot element.

    Onething, first, Fortune does not use the term “universe” as synonymous with Cosmos; it’s another term for the solar system. Second, in Fortune’s metaphor, the Cosmos has no author; it emerges out of the processes we explored in previous chapters. Third, when Fortune wrote, nobody knew yet that there was more than one galaxy; the metaphor — and of course it is a metaphor — still works.

  11. JMG, could you recommend a book or article that discusses Joseph Smith and the Cabala teacher? This is the first I’ve ever heard that-even Richard Bushman’s biography of Joseph Smith doesn’t mention it. (I should note here that Bushman, while a Mormon, is fairly liberal and extensively discusses other controversial things about Smith, like polygamy.)

    Granted, it would make a good deal of sense though-I was a baptized Mormon for three months (long story) and some aspects of the Mormon conception of God are very reminiscent of Western Esotericism.

    The quote David BTL was looking for is “As Man now is, God once was, as God now is, Man may be.” It was first said by Lorenzo Snow, second or third Prophet after Brigham Young, and is still discussed within Mormonism. Gordon Hinckley (LDS Prophet in the 1990’s) was asked about it by a news reporter once, and his answer was one of the most impressive examples of dancing around a question that I’ve ever run into.

  12. Hi John,
    Inspired by this blog and the Cosmic Doctrine I am diving into 19th century literature preceding Fortune, hoping for an easier going.
    So I read Rudolf Steiner’s “Philosophy of Freedom” in my mother-language.
    The principle of monism seems for me to be the principle to go with.
    Somehow this train of thought starting in the German Romanic somehow got lost in the 20th century.
    So here we are picking it up again.
    In the end consciousness and not material seems to be fundamental.
    If we could connect energy with consciousness, we would be at E=mc2.
    This would connect my materialist worldview I lived with for 50 years with the romantic one.
    For me as an engineer this is quite a step to go, but happy to be there.
    Thanks a lot for your inspiration luring me into this topic.
    As you said, it is quite a ride.
    //Bernhard

  13. I am thinking about our universe and God as a great entity. If i understand correctly God would be described in the cosdoc system as this great entity, creating the material universe through introspective selfawareness, but is He then encapsulated in this seventh plane of a Cosmos ”outside” of the universe?

    Does that same Cosmos then contain other great entities? Are there more Cosmi? (…cosmes? Cosmoi?)

    I’m squaring it with actual worldview by quantum gradient multiverse

  14. “You will perceive that a Great Entity comes out from the Central Stillness and takes its place upon its appointed circuit, and conducts its organisation under the influence of the negative or destructive phase of the Cosmos, and this may seem strange to you, that creation should take place under the influence of a destructive phase of the Cosmos, or any other organisation which, by overbalancing the synthesis of forces achieved in a phase of evolution, causes them to embark upon a fresh phase of development in order to re-establish their harmony; and as they commence this phase with the experience of the preceding phase implicit in their nature, they commence where the last phase ended.”

    That passage made me think of the idea of ‘challenge, response and integration.’ So you’re living your life, minding your own business, and then something happens to you, an outside stimulus affects you. This is the initial ‘force’ phase. You don’t really understand what’s happening at first. Then you think about the situation, try to wrap your head around it, and then choose to respond to it in a particular way. You limit the possible reactions to one (thus destroying the infinite other possible reactions), which is the moment something new is actually created in your consciousness. This is the ‘form’ phase, the point at which you understand it. Finally it becomes integrated into your being and you reach a new state of balance or harmony, a new normal, and you carry on as before but with an expanded way of looking at and responding to the world.

    That reminded me of Binah, the Great Mother of the Kabbalah, which means ‘understanding.’ Binah is the Womb which responds to the impulse (force) of Chokmah, giving birth and thus form to it.

    A very simple example of this might be found in Athens and Sparta, the two more famous ancient Greek city-states, who responded to the challenge of a growing population and a lack of fertile land in two different forms: Sparta by hyper-militarizing their society and taking land from other peoples by conquest; Athens by changing the nature of their economy from purely subsistence to export and manufacturing, (developing democracy as almost a by-product of their citizens having some of their time freed up).

    Challenges are how we learn and grow or evolve. All those many fracking learning experiences which cause us to struggle and suffer and grapple with life are what shape our beings. As a child grows up and learns through experience, so do the various universes, and Cosmos, learn and evolve as well. “They climb upon its shoulders.”

  15. Greetings to JMG and intreptid readers:

    Reading and rereading this chapter of CosDoc left me feeling like I was trying to untangle spaghetti. When I sat down to pin down the nature of the conundrum, it centered around my lack of clarity about the process of Creation as Fortune depicts it:

    She characterizes the creation of the universe as an administrative act, an act of mind and will, rather than the work of a craftsman.

    Yet, the “body of God,” –that “unorganized mass of units” that God organized into a Universe– is credited with “the first act of creation.” It includes the “divine sparks”, which had already organized themselves and possess their own self-images and consciousness, but needed God to organize them in the aggregate, so that they could organize their interrelationships and “create” the atoms of the sub-planes.

    There seems to be a deliberate avoidance of drawing a distinction between mind and matter in this metaphor of creation.

    Even the very simple atoms have been credited with assembling and organizing themselves—out of secondary forces and tensions set into play by the movements of the primordial cosmic movements—rather than popping into existence at divine command.

    So, what is “Creation?”

    Is it essentially this building of reactions into patterns and structures, from the ground up?

    Or is it the act of consciousness that recognizes the patterns and then projects them?

    What is the relationship between the consciousness that acts, reacts, and forms patterns, and the consciousness that recognizes patterns and manipulates them?

    After scratching my head over this for some time, I am left with a conclusion something like this:

    Consciousness and the objects of consciousness are like the chicken and the egg. They are functions of one another. Trying to separate them, trying to make one prior to or dependent upon the other is to land yourself in an inextricable morass.

    I’d be interested to hear if anyone else had a better insight on this business!

  16. 1. Oh!
    2. So then does she address the origin of existence at all? Would you say that in this system the cosmos arises out of the unmanifest? So I guess what I am asking is, What is the unmanifest or -?
    3. Why yes, I had forgotten that! I think for me I would imagine the galactic core as the great central sun but knowing that there is another, fractal, layer up that encompasses the entire universe as a whole. Meaning universe in the modern sense as the sum of all galaxies.

    “Onething, first, Fortune does not use the term “universe” as synonymous with Cosmos; it’s another term for the solar system. Second, in Fortune’s metaphor, the Cosmos has no author; it emerges out of the processes we explored in previous chapters. Third, when Fortune wrote, nobody knew yet that there was more than one galaxy; the metaphor — and of course it is a metaphor — still works.”

  17. Tolkienguy, I read about Smith’s Cabalistic studies in an academic journal of the history of occultism back in the very early 1990s. I believe I have the issue somewhere, but it’s probably in a box in the back of the closet; I’ll see if I can find it.

    B3rnhard, delighted to hear it — I’ve got two good English translations of that book of Steiner’s, and find it well worth many readings. You’re quite correct that the monist approach got misplaced over the course of the 20th century, and badly needs to be recovered.

    Ten, the word “god” has more than one meaning in Fortune’s vision. For us — beings inhabiting this solar system, composed of one Cosmic atom embodied in atoms of this solar system — the Great Entity is god. For the Great Entity, and the uncountably many other Great Entities in the Cosmos, the Central Sun is god. We experience the Central Sun and the other Great Entities only through the Great Entity who is our Solar Logos — “none cometh unto the Father except by me” — but beings in other solar systems have their own Solar Logoi, and beings in the Cosmos outside individual solar systems turn to the Central Sun directly.

    Stefania, excellent! A fine meditation on a theme from this chapter. You get this afternoon’s gold star.

    KKA, good. You’re grappling with the challenge that Fortune is setting you. You’re quite right that she’s refusing to accept the standard, and unproductive, distinction between mind and matter; thought is movement, and substance is movement, and the logical conclusion is? Equally, there’s no difference between the consciousness that knows and the things it knows — these are two poles of a single act of knowing, and come into being out of the act of knowing, rather than being prior to it.

    The thing to keep in mind is that the ways of thinking Fortune is trying to teach you really are a massive challenge. That’s why it takes all this complicated apparatus of imagery and metaphor to communicate it. My advice? Don’t worry about untangling the spaghetti. Follow her advice — build up the images in your mind and then move through the ideas one at a time, relating the concepts to the images. That way you develop the capacities that enable you to think like a mage.

    Onething, she discusses the origins of everything in the first chapter. The Unmanifest is impossible for us to understand, or even to contemplate, except through the metaphor of empty interstellar space. Movement in a void: that’s the first thing we can even begin to grasp, and imagining fractal levels above that just pushes the mystery back a step — you can go on in an infinite regression, with Unmanifests emerging out of Even More Unmanifests which appear in turn out of Really, Truly, Super-Duper-Unmanifests and so on. Fortune instead simply draws a line at the point where we stop being able to say anything meaningful about the subject.

  18. “This may seem strange to you, that creation should take place under the influence of a destructive force of the Cosmos, or of any other organisation which, by over- balancing the synthesis of forces achieved in a phase of evolution, causes them to embark upon a fresh phase of development in order to re-establish their harmony.”

    Not that I understand a great deal about computers, however, it makes me think of binary machine switches and how the binary code understructure is common to all computers, from simple to hyper-complex. The creative force is the number one but it is nothing without zero, the destructive or limiting force. The basic zero-one collection of a few primitive on-off switches (the computer in its infancy) evolved to become my iMac, a machine that represents layers of complexity piled on to that original binary code.

    Hope this makes sense.

  19. @Bernhard RE: Matter derived from consciousness–
    Thomas Campbell wrote a trilogy of books on this topic entitled, “My Big TOE (Theory Of Everything)” .You may find it interesting!

    He describes our bubble-universe as fully derived from a ground-state consciousness which connects all of us, down to every quark in every grain of sand. It is a lot like the CosDoc in many ways, but written more from the point of view of a physicist who travels the Astral planes and dabbles in Asian philosophy. Aside from the occasional snarky comment, I thought it was well worth the read.

    It should be available thru any well-stocked library, but here’s a link for the full title and ISBN if anyone wants it;

    https://books.google.ca/books?id=RYHtBPiZVgsC&printsec=frontcover&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

  20. Hi JMG,

    I don’t know that this is the right place, but I am a bit confused by the seven planes and which bodies humans have formed.

    I think I read somewhere (but could be misunderstanding) that souls start on the first plane, the spiritual plane, and proceed to create bodies on the different planes as they evolve, eventually able to form a body on the seventh plane, the physical plane. But I also recall that humans are in the process of creating a fully formed mental body.

    Can you help straighten this out?

    Thank you

  21. We are having the first thunderstorm of the season! Love the sounds, the smell, and the light show. Which has nothing to do with the book but you all will appreciate the sentiment.

  22. OK, that makes sense. I guess I was hoping that someone might have better luck at penetrating the impenetrable mystery than I have had.

  23. Some really great and thought provoking responses. A couple observations:

    1) Stefanie – your explanation of the metaphor is very clear. Thank you, It reminds me of Hegel’s thesis, antithesis, synthesis idea. I need to learn more about Kabbalah, I have minimal knowledge of the system.

    2) KKA – Your thoughts on object and subject are similar to one of the primary ideas crucial to the Buddhist understanding of existence, Pratītyasamutpā, roughly translated in English as dependent origination. I would try to explain more but my mind barely grasps the idea and I don’t have the means or words yet of communicating my thoughts on the matter.

    JMG – speaking of the the above, can you recommend a book or site on sacred geometry. I suspect visual aides can help me clarify my ideas to be able to better communicate them.

  24. John–

    Could you comment further on the paragraph at the bottom of Page 46 and top of page 47 where Fortune discusses the Great Entity’s limitation to the “stuff” of its component orbiting atoms in the creation of its self-projection? Is she saying that we (or our spiritual selves plus the tracks of mental/physical selves) are, in part at least, what the Logos of our system is composed of? Or am I missing a distinction here?

  25. I’ve been stalking you for about twenty years now, John. I’m full of stories, protein, and goodwill. That’s all I got. I’ve read most all of your words. A bit verbose, at times, but I get you. I just planted my friend of fifty years. I have his walking stick in my possession. His initials carefully carved “MJD”. same initials as mine. Bucket list meet, one day. Perhaps.

  26. This is a really fascinating chapter. Creation of a Universe happens in a discreet order. First are experiences, for the Great Entity this is life as a traveling atom. After appropriate rest and settling down upon its place in the Cosmos, the Great Entity contemplates those experiences to create an understanding of itself. This contemplation happens between the time of death and birth, so is not part of physical plane objective consciousness. The Great Entity then projects out a thought form of itself, which attracts the appropriate atoms to itself that correspond to the experiences the Great Entity had while traveling throughout the Cosmos. Once the thought form is populated by atoms, it then becomes the objective aspect of the Great Entity. This objective aspect sounds like a physical body. However, I am not sure if we are at the level of the physical plane yet when objective aspects are mentioned here, but it seems we are close, since objective consciousness generally refers to that of our five senses of the physical world.

    So at a personal level, each of us is a thought form created by our individual Souls between incarnations that reflects the experiences of our past lives. The person we are and the individuals and experiences we attract into our lives to populate this thought form are how we “know thyself.” We both attract atoms to our thought form to create our individual Universe, and because we are individual atoms ourselves, are attracted to and populate a greater thought form that is resonate with our individual one.

    This process of how atoms populate thought forms to create Universes also explains the limits of imagination. I can take pieces of my Universe and with imagination put them together in new ways, such as create an elephant with wings. If I then project this thought form out hoping to create such a being, nothing happens. This failure of creation is because there are no atoms that exist that can populate the thought form of a flying elephant. No atoms have ever had that experience and created a thought form of it. Thus, my creation can only exist on the subjective plane and never materializes on the objective, material one. I wonder, however, if the atoms in my Universe do in this lifetime experience my flying elephant on the subjective plane, so that in a distant future life, such a being could come into existence? (Be careful what you wish for. 🙂 )

  27. @docshibby if also makes me think of the extended phenotype.

    For anyone interested, it’s Richard Dawkins’ hypothesis he hopes to be remembered for – which can be read in the small and elegant The Extended Phenotype. Too bad the Islamophobia and sexism overshadow his personal brand, because it’s one of those scientific theories that when paired with Hollings’ Panarchy essentially mirrors western esoteric thought, giving “rational” support to earth spirituality in general, without the author conceivably even knowing it.

    Essentially, it is the mechanism for group selection that is still argued against by individual sexual selection purists – except Dawkins is able to show that it doesn’t just apply to species groups, but entire biotic and abiotic communities.

    Take the example of the gene for “building a dam” in beavers. Traditionally, we would then have a diversity of dam – building behaviours that would be the phenotype, the expression you can see, of that gene (this is obviously simplified, it’s assuredly more than one gene). But the thing you can also see to know “dam building beaver gene” is present is the dam itself. But not just the dam, but the dozens of species specifically adapted to living in beaver ponds, and living in the forest around a hungry beaver’s lodge. So the bitter sap of the aspen deterring the beaver’s gnawing is also, in a way, a phenotypic expression of genes located in a beaver body, as is the changed size and foraging behaviour of the fish. As is the entire beaver flood landscape.

    It really has to be read in Dawkins’ own words.

    I’m meditating on Beaver itself as the destroyer and builder of ecosystems, the new stability that the forest settles down to think about when they’re done… How each species brings itself, but the beaver gene changes some aspects of how they live, within a new equilibrium. And how the “non living” parts undergo the same changes and adaptation in response on different scales and time periods. Ties nicely into the other series of posts on invasive species.

  28. This week really took it to the next level for me! I’ve been enjoying this series since the beginning, and I think in this chapter it started to really sink in just how deep and significant this book is. The relationship between the Great Entity and the Cosmic Atoms especially is something I plan to meditate on. Our elder sibling, created from and subject to influence from the much wider cosmos just like us? The implications there are incredible, and I look forward to them being developed more. I may be jumping ahead here, but is this where reincarnation comes in for the cosmic atoms? Is reincarnation how they obtain all of the cosmic experiences that they didn’t get before being swept along with the Great Entity? Thanks again for guiding us on this journey!

  29. Hi John Michael,

    I assume that the cosmic sparks get pushed by the winds and at the same time pulled by gravity? And that as the orbits of the divine sparks brush against the Great entities interesting things can occur? And exercising free will can be a bit like swimming against (or bending slightly with) the tides for the cosmic sparks?

    Cheers

    Chris

  30. I keep reading/studying these chapters. In this case, I’m trying to reconcile the notion of the divine sparks with the Buddhist notion of “no self.” It’s always a question in Buddhism of how to reconcile the doctrine of rebirth with that of no self. I can’t say I’ve ever seen it done satisfactorily. I’ve got to keep reminding myself that Fortune’s text is metaphorical, not literal, to train the mind rather than to inform it. Any thoughts?

  31. Hmm, heavy stuff. So basically, the Great Entity doesn’t create anything new (in substance), but simply pulls and pushes on all the atoms within its sphere of influence. All of which is according to an intricate plan based on the long travel they underwent of being pushed and pulled by other atoms/currents of motion. But of course, that’s precisely how substantial new things are created: motion interfering with motion creates an expanding amount of increasingly intricate new patterns. And all of us atoms aren’t simply being swept around by the Great Entity, but we’re being invited to merge with the Great Entity’s long history of motion and contribute to the continued creation of new intricate patterns of motion.

    Whew, hope I can add something meaningful to this vast neverending project eventually. 🙂

    So JMG, what would your universe look like if you were a Great Entity? A lot of OSS stories tied together + some shoggoths maybe?

  32. So, JMG,

    What is being said here about the sun? That the sun itself houses the great entity, is its body, and that the sun there up in the sky is a wise, old being who is the god of our solar system?

  33. @phutatorius

    The Buddhist doctrine of rebirth is basically that one flame is used to lit another flame, but the two aren’t exactly the same flames (if I’m remembering correctly). The metaphor Dione lays out actually maps perfectly onto this flame metaphor, since Dione explains that all substance is motion, so you, me, all the atoms, etc. are a pattern of motion. Through the cycle of life, death and rebirth our pattern of motion evolves through its interactions with other motions.

  34. @Onething

    I’m pretty sure the Sun/Solar Systems from the metaphors aren’t meant to match up with what we call the Sun/Solar System in the physical universe.

    Though with the Unmanifest, Central Sun/Stillness, Cosmos, universe/Solar System, Solar Logos/Great Entity etc. I’m thinking a spreadsheet would be handy about now. 😉

  35. Kimberly, it makes a great deal of sense. The binary digit 1 means nothing without a 0 to give it definition and context.

    Matt, the planes in which human bodies form are the sub-planes of the seventh Cosmic plane. There’s a complete set of seven sub-planes in this solar system, each of them further subdivided, and those are the planes on which our involution and evolution take place; the Cosmic planes are the vast frame within which our solar system and everything within it exists. Does that help clarify things?

    Pogonip, glad to hear it! Thank you.

    Onething, that reminds me of the lecturer who claimed that he would unscrew the inscrutable. 😉

    Docshibby, sure. I recommend starting out with Miranda Lundy’s excellent little book Sacred Geometry, and proceeding from there to Robert Lawlor’s Sacred Geometry: Philosophy and Practice,

    David, we, plus the tracks in space we lay down, are the raw material from which the Great Entity creates its universe, which is also in some sense its body. The Great Entity itself is something else again — an immense, intricate, equilibrated structure of Cosmic forces — but it takes its solar system as a body in roughly the same way that you and I take a new body at the beginning of each incarnation.

    Mike, sorry to hear about your friend! That’s got to be rough. I’ve also just learned of the death of a friend, for what that’s worth — the guy with the scythe never takes a day off.

    Dan, a fine meditation on Fortune’s theme! You and Roger Dean have a common thoughtform, for what it’s worth…
    Roger Dean elephant

    Scotlyn, thanks for this!

    Andrew, got it! You’re in the competition.

    Kwo, exactly. It’s by embodying themselves in the worlds of the solar system, which the Great Entity has made as a reflection of the Cosmos, that the Divine Sparks undergo the same kinds of experiences that made the Great Entity what it is, and so the Great Entity is their initiator and teacher.

    Chris, three for three. Exactly!

    Phutatorius, well, let me ask you this — what is a self? The divine sparks aren’t personalities, they’re centers of motion/consciousness that have developed certain habitual reactions. Is that a self?

    SpiceisNice, yes, basically. If I were a Great Entity, well, my universe would start out much like the Cosmos, since that would be the basis for all my experiences and thinking. I’d definitely put shoggoths in it, though, and more inhabited planets. Oh, and tentacles. Lots of tentacles. 😉

    Onething, remember that all this is metaphor…

  36. Thanks, JMG. It sounds like the planes are fractal or self similar. It also sounds like we will get to humans in due course.

  37. On the Tree of Life, would the original line that bent into the cosmos be perydd? In which case I am thinking muner would be the local great entity for us, and the sun his physical manifestation in the sphere of naf?

  38. Your reply to Phutatorius got me thinking – could it be said that the Great Entity is the Higher Self of the Solar System, and the divine spark is the Higher Self of which I am the projection?

  39. Hi, JMG,

    The quote from this chapter that I am meditating on is about the great entity: “It is therefore fully conscious, for consciousness is but awareness, and awareness is but a reaction to stimulus.” I think it stood out to me because I have been ruminating on consciousness (subconsciously) ever since the discussion on consciousness as a development of all complex systems in your post “The worlds we live in”. I will probably be meditating on consciousness for some time, and especially the consciousness that resides outside of humans.

    I form the picture of the great entity slowly becoming aware and contemplating…and I am reminded of two early memories of developing my own consciousness. They are both from when I was six, and going to first grade at Catholic school. The first was coloring a picture of Jesus in school, and contemplating, “Who or what is God?” and the second coming home from school, lying on the couch and seeing three dots on my stomach—and contemplating, “What are these and why are they here?” not realizing they were the beginnings of a nasty case of chicken pox. And I imagine the great entity looking at the divine sparks and thinking “what are these and why are they here?” or thinking on the great stillness and thinking “who or what is god?”

    Does Fortune’s metaphor extend to speaking of whether all humans are the same type of atoms from the same planes or different types from different planes? And what about the other consciousnesses around us? Sometimes (especially as I am reading the Cosmic Doctrine) I feel like a three-sided atom from the first plane lured out to the seventh plane by the attraction of an entity further along the same path I would like to follow…..

    (Apologies–posted this comment to the “Worlds we live in” post by accident, as I had it open in a different window to reference it. I’m not sure if you can just not post it to that post.)

  40. Phutatorius – My understanding of the Buddhist “no self”, based on Nagarjuna’s writings, is that it is not that there is “no” self, just that there is nothing permanent about the self. The “self” is always changing, always in flux —- Always moving to use Dion’s metaphor. Now admittedly, there are many different schools of Buddhism, so some may have different interpretations. Nagarjuna’s logic is one that I respond to.

    Another set of Buddhist teachings that I respond to is Dzogchen, which at its core, and please forgive the massive simplification, is striving to see reality as it truly is…the five lights — a form of movement.

    Impermanence is everywhere.

    My own seeds of understanding are that energy must move. Movement requires/creates space and time (these three things are one and the same and originate together – perhaps the first “trinity”?). Movement/Space/Time inevitably leads to life and consciousness. How exactly that happens, I have no idea, but I am intrigued by recent physics studies that Jeremy England has been compiling. https://www.quantamagazine.org/first-support-for-a-physics-theory-of-life-20170726/

    I could be very wrong in my understanding, but to meld Professor England’s ideas with Dion’s metaphors, the periodic elements and chemicals are the planes that a spark passes through in its journey to start life. The theory seems to state that life exists to dissipate energy – the more complex that life is, the more energy it dissipates. Why we are needed to this, I have no idea – perhaps the universe is one giant heat sink for a super advanced species.

  41. Re my previous comment, answering a question with a question is a method approved by the Buddha himself – that is, if he had a self. The Equinox is approaching, and I’d guess there’s some analogy with CosDoc there; entering a phase of expansion and new birth. And, though I don’t know the mythology surrounding St. Patrick, I just noticed that his day just precedes the beginning of that growth phase.

  42. Another thought – consciousness is movement, but there’s a Great Stillness at the center of the Cosmos. This would imply unconsciousness, but all the various atoms in the Cosmos moves through it at some point. So is this like the Cauldron of Annwn, a great still reservoir of unconscious soul-stuff that emanates the various sparks on their journeys? Or is there an order of consciousness at work there that I’m not yet seeing?

  43. Phutatorius and Docshibby (if I may),

    In the wider South Asian context where the Buddhist no-self teaching first appears, the various Hindu philosophical traditions take it as a matter of definition that self just means the eternal, and therefore unchanging, core of each person, whatever that might turn out to be. Indeed, different Hindu schools describe that unchanging eternal core very differently from each other, and their internal debates tend to use arguments along the line of “(fill in the blank) is subject to change, therefore it can’t be the self.” For the present conversation, the point is simply that saying “everything is always in flux” precisely amounts the denial of any self as everyone in classical India defined that term.

  44. I haven’t been contributing to this discussion simply because my family’s esoteric views on these questions seem to me to be fundamentally incompatible with Fortune’s system, at least to the best of my understanding. But I might mention here that for us, there is no such thing as a single personal Self for any human being anywhere on the planet, much less one that naturally progresses through successive incarnations. Every human body contains a multitude of Selves, some of which never wake up during the life of that body. Others can be woken up by uncommon actions (for example, in Spiritualist-style séances or trance-work or various rituals). Yet others take turns waking and sleeping. Some of these Selves are so nasty or dangerous that it would be unwise ever to wake them up; others are their polar opposite. None of them really survive the death of the body, but bits and pieces of them are transmitted to one’s descendants (not exclusively by biological inheritance), who also gets bits and pieces of the Selves in the other parent as well. One consequence of this theory seems to me to be that there is no progress for any human toward any sort of a better and brighter spiritual future.

    For us, reincarnation is possible, but not the only option: extinction or eternal stasis in some disembodied state are also possibilities. With sufficient skill, one might be able to choose; but one’s choice really has no cosmic significance whatever. And these possibilities seem to apply to one or another individual Self, not to the whole congeries of Selves in any given person.

    To the best of my knowledge so far, this view of the multiplicity of perishable Selves in every person comes from 19th-century Spiritualist speculations and especially from 19th-century psychical research, notably Frederic Myers’ work on subliminal selves.

    Whether it is a true of a false view, I do not know; but this is my view by inheritance.

  45. response to Robert M.: Your family’s esoteric views agree pretty well with what I read in Alexandra David-Neel’s little book “Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan BUddhist Sects,” especially on pages 101-103. I especially like her comment, “It is not only famous persons … it is also obscure cobblers, the humble farm workers who no one seems inclined to claim as having been ‘himself’ during his former lives.”

  46. Hi Barefoot-

    I appreciate your reply. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the notion of “self” that you refer to is atman. I am not as familiar with Vedanta philosophy, but it is my understanding that on this particular point, Buddhism, especially Mahayana, Chan and Zen, diverges greatly from Hinduism and to lump all “no-self” ideas into a one bucket is not just a simplification, but a mistake.

    Again, I admit my knowledge of Vedanta is limited, but I was under the impression that atman is an eternal, unchanging “self” that we all share, whereas in Mahayana Buddhism, the “void”, “emptiness”, or “no-self”, is the idea that there is no true static “essence”, that the self is constantly in flux. I think its a very important differentiation.

    I am not saying one is right and one is wrong. Not to mix metaphors or philosophies, but I think this is one reason why my own personal leanings are more towards Taoism: The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.

  47. One of my dear friends is fond of saying, when former lives are being discussed, that she was a litter-box scooper in a temple of Bast in ancient Egypt. It seems to be a discussion-stopper, or so she says.

  48. Docshibby,

    Actually, I’m referring to three quite different Hindu traditions:

    (1) the ātman of the Vedānta schools. For non-dual strands of Vedānta, which are the most commonly discussed, the eternal, unchanging self is ultimately identical with Brahman, the absolute reality… and there is only a single such reality. (Other traditions of Vedānta get way more complicated, so I leave them aside for now.)

    (2) the ātman of the Nyāya (and Vaiśeṣika) schools, according to whom there are a great many distinct selves. These selves are classified as substances, in just the way that atomic particles of fire, air, water, and earth, as well as larger material objects (pots, tables, human bodies) are substances. Like all the other substances, selves are the bearers of various qualities: in the case of more material things, think shape, color, smell, etc.; in the case of the selves, the qualities include pleasure, pain, thoughts, and more. And like the atoms (but unlike the medium-sized objects built out of them), selves are eternal and unchanging. Their qualities/properties change, but they themselves continue as the very same thing.

    (3) the “person” (puruṣa) of the Sāṅkhya school, which is arguably the oldest surviving material in Hindu philosophy. This tradition is radically dualist: the person is a perfectly passive witness which quite literally never *does* anything at all, while matter (prakṛti) is active, constantly in flux, dynamic and changing. The fundamental mistake from which you need to be liberated, according to this tradition, is thinking that you are matter. You’re not, never have been, never will be. You’re a “person” who is eternal, unchanging, and always separate from that.

    So, all three of these Hindu traditions have very different ideas about the self, but they share the idea that, whatever it is we really are, that thing must in some sense be eternal and unchanging. The Indian Buddhists reject this.

    For a fairly rigorous introduction to all of this, I recommend Indian Philosophy: An Introduction to Hindu and Buddhist Thought, by Richard King. It’s scholarly but not overly challenging; I’ve assigned it as a textbook in introductory college courses that I teach on these topics.

    (I’ll not be checking this comment thread much more, but you can reach out again at the next open post, or contact me through my dreamwidth page, if you want to continue this conversation.)

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

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