Book Club Post

The Cosmic Doctrine: The Dawn of Manifestation

With this post we begin 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 going to be a wild ride.

As noted in earlier posts here, there are two widely available editions of The Cosmic Doctrine, the revised edition first published in 1966 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 1, “The Dawn of Manifestation,” p. 11-13.

Millennium Edition: Chapter 1, “The First Manifestation,” p. 19 through the first (partial) paragraph on p. 22.


Before we launch into the text, a couple of notes may be helpful. First, for those readers who haven’t tackled a work of philosophy before, this is not light reading. You know the habits of reading you use when you’re reading for pleasure—reading quickly and uncritically, letting the words weave someone else’s daydreams in your mind? That will emphatically not cut it here.

To grasp what a work of philosophy has to say, you need to go through it word by word, thought by thought, alert to the implications, watching for multiple meanings. That’s why we’re going to take an entire month to work through a chapter three pages long—and why it’s going to take us a long time to move out of what seems like profoundly abstract territory into something that seems more practical in nature. (That’s an illusion; the material we’ll be covering in this first chapter has immense practical applicability, but that probably won’t be evident for a while.)

Second, this is a work of occult philosophy. It’s meant to teach you how to think in ways that don’t come naturally to the untrained mind. What’s more, everything you’ve absorbed from the habitual mental chatter of our society might as well be designed to stop you from thinking the way this book is meant to teach you to think. The habits of thinking taught by the habitual mental chatter of society also have their place, but if that’s the only kind of thinking you know how to do, you’re stuck with a very narrow range of cognitive options. The Cosmic Doctrine will give you a much more extensive mental toolkit, and there are things you can do with it that you can’t do at all from within the stifling confines of modern materialist thinking.

To get anything at all out of The Cosmic Doctrine, though, you’re going to have to work at it, and stretch your mind in ways it may not like stretching at first. The comparison with physical exercise is a useful one: if you happen to be out of shape, your first workout is going to leave you feeling pretty uncomfortable, but if you persevere you’ll get past that discomfort and gain both enjoyment and a significant increase in health and strength.

The method this book uses to teach you how to think unfamiliar thoughts is one that was once very common in occult literature, though it’s fallen out of fashion in recent decades. “In these occult teachings,” says our text, “you will be given certain images, under which you are instructed to think of certain things. These images are not descriptive but symbolic, and are designed to train the mind, not to inform it.” If you’ve ever wondered why books of alchemy show enigmatic images and follow them with equally cryptic text, or why Manly P. Hall’s famous The Secret Teachings of All Ages starts each chapter with an elaborate color plate which may or may not have anything obvious to do with the topic of the chapter—well, now you know.

The images in The Cosmic Doctrine aren’t presented in the form of lavishly illustrated color plates, and there’s a reason for that. Remember that this book was originally privately published, and issued only to members of Dion Fortune’s magical order, the Fraternity (now Society) of the Inner Light, as an aid to training. Being able to imagine things clearly is one of the basic skills of the operative mage. Whether or not you have that skill now is immaterial. As with anything else, you get it by practicing, and The Cosmic Doctrine will give you plenty of that.

Let’s begin. Take the paragraph at the beginning of the chapter (paragraph 3 of the Millennium edition) that begins “The Unmanifest is pure existence.” Read through it once quickly, to get the general shape of it, then again, slowly, thinking through each sentence. If you’re puzzled by some of it, or even by all of it, that’s a sign that you’re paying attention!

Now follow the advice of the last sentence in the paragraph. Spend a while imagining interstellar space: pure empty vastness without stars or planets. Now go through a few sentences of the paragraph, keeping the image of interstellar space in mind. At every point, refer the thoughts back to the image. As you do—and it may happen quickly, or it may take repeated effort—you’ll begin to get a clearer sense of what the text is saying about the Unmanifest.

The same method applies at every point in The Cosmic Doctrine. The images start off simple and obvious, and end up complex and subtle, but all the way through, if you picture the images in your mind and then think through the text in relation to them, you’ll have a much better shot at getting what Fortune is trying to say to you, and the text will also accomplish its primary purpose—“to train the mind, not to inform it.”

With that in mind, let’s proceed. The first concept presented is the Unmanifest. Most occult philosophies, and a great many of the non-occult kind as well, include a discussion of what the ancient Greeks called the archē, the basic “stuff” of existence. In Fortune’s account, that’s the Unmanifest, “a state of pure ‘being,’ without qualities and without history,” that is “best conceived of under the image of interstellar space.”

One useful way to think about philosophies is to count how many basic realities they posit at the foundation of existence. Usually the head count of realities comes to 0, 1, or 2. Philosophies that opt for 0, which we can call nihilist philosophies, see all apparent things as mere illusion and the sole reality as the void. Philosophiles that opt for 1, monist philosophies, see the universe in terms of some single “stuff” of which all things are modifications. Philosophies that opt for 2, dualist philosophies, hold that there are two kinds of “stuff” out of which all things are made—for example, spirit and matter.

Fortune falls squarely in the monist camp—but it’s monism with a twist. For her, there’s one fundamental “stuff,” the Unmanifest, but its characteristics make it resemble the void that’s the ultimate reality according to nihilist philosophies. The Unmanifest is, but its mode of being is so unimaginable to us that we can best think of it as the closest thing to nonbeing any of us can imagine, the empty vastness of interstellar space.

Is this true? Is the Unmanifest actually the basis for everything that we experience?  Ahem. “These images are not descriptive but symbolic, and are designed to train the mind, not to inform it.”  It’s one of the more embarrassing examples of human hubris to think that our brains, which evolved for such intellectually undemanding tasks as finding food and mates on the East African savanna, are capable of understanding the foundations of existence itself. This is why philosophy presents us, not with One True Answer, but with a variety of accounts of the world, some of which are more useful for certain purposes or more congenial to certain personalities than others. The Cosmic Doctrine is one account: an account very useful for certain purposes.  What these purposes are will be discussed in in more detail as we go.

“The Unmanifest is the only Unity,” our text goes on to say. “Manifestation begins when duality occurs.” Duality—or, to give it another name, polarity—is the most important theme in The Cosmic Doctrine. The short paragraphs that follow outline our first sketch of polarity, by way of the usual interplay of image and idea. Imagine interstellar space, and then imagine some of it beginning to flow, forming a current—a current of space, in space, moving through space from space to space. Now imagine the two forces playing on the movement—the slightly stronger desire of space for momentum and the slightly weaker desire of space for inertia; imagine the second force pulling slightly on the first, making it curve; imagine the curve extended over immense distances until the current becomes a vast ring—the Ring-Cosmos.

There’s your second image. The paragraphs that describe the formation of the Ring-Cosmos give you the ideas to think about under that image. All this is metaphor, as the text says; put another way, it’s one account of the basic nature of things. Notice what it implies: that every act of creation unfolds from the intersection of two opposite and unequal forces.

This last point can be developed at very great length.  In his book The Power of Limits, the architect and sacred geometer Györgi Doczi gave this interplay of opposed unequal forces the name “dinergy,” and showed that beauty and creativity in nature and human art can best be understood as an expression of dinergy. Look at the exquisite arc made by a blade of grass bending in the wind:  the arc comes into being from the interplay of the force of the wind and the weaker but still significant resistance of the grass. That’s dinergy—and it’s also what Fortune is talking about, as the two forces transform a current in space into a Ring-Cosmos.

With that in mind, let’s go back to our text. Once the Ring-Cosmos is established, it begins to draw more empty space into its flow, and the Ring-Cosmos turns into a spinning disk. Think of it as the spinning wheel in a gyroscope, or an old-fashioned vinyl record spinning on a turntable. As it spins, it sets up stresses in the empty space beyond its outer edge, and those stresses eventually set another current of space in motion at right angles to the original current. If you picture the Ring-Cosmos as spinning horizontally, like an LP on a turntable, imagine the second current starting out vertically from a space out beyond one edge of the Ring-Cosmos. The same paired forces have the same effect on the second current as on the first, so it curves as it flows, arcing over the Ring-Cosmos, descending vertically past it off beyond its far side, and then circling back beneath the Ring-Cosmos to return to its starting point.

That gives you two rings: the Ring-Cosmos and the Ring-Chaos, spinning at right angles to each other. The Ring-Cosmos is a disk, the Ring-Chaos is a ring outside the disk at right angles to the plane in which the disk spins—all, as our text says, to the nearest approximate metaphor. (“These images are not descriptive but symbolic…”) Once again we have a polarity, just as we did when space first started flowing…and once again the dinergy between the two opposed but unequal forces gives rise to something new.

In the metaphor Fortune uses, “something new” is represented by movement. What happens, in the metaphor, is that the Ring-Cosmos begins to pivot. Our text asks you to visualize the disk of the Ring-Cosmos as having an upper and a lower surface, and the upper surface on the outgoing arc (the first half of the original Ring-Cosmos, which it made by flowing away from its starting point) is attracted to the Ring-Chaos, while the lower surface is repelled by the Ring-Chaos; on the incoming arc, the attraction and repulsion are arranged the other way. This is metaphor, again, but it has quite a bit to teach; it’s not only in cosmological metaphors, after all, that every attraction is balanced by a repulsion and every repulsion by an attraction, and that these alternate at various points of any creative process.

I’ve found that some students have a hard time visualizing the third movement that results, so we’ll shift metaphors a bit. Imagine the Ring-Cosmos as a flat horizontal disk of metal. Imagine the Ring-Chaos as a ring of metal larger than the disk, positioned vertically so that the disk fits inside it, and the two touch at two points, where the ring passes just outside the disk. Imagine that the ring and the disk are connected at those two points by a pair of pins on which the disk can pivot. Now imagine the disk pivoting on those pins, one side rising up, the other dipping down, until the disk is in the same vertical plane as the ring—but the disk keeps pivoting, so that the side that rose is now dipping and that which dipped begins to rise. The disk moves faster and faster, and as it moves, its outer edge traces a sphere.

That sphere is the Ring-Pass-Not, the third of the Rings that define a Cosmos. The Ring-Cosmos is primary; the Ring-Chaos takes shape in response to it, as a function of the resistance of space; the Ring-Pass-Not takes shape out of the interaction between the other two rings, as a function of their mutual attraction and repulsion. Spend some time imagining the whole process as clearly as you can, all the way from the first movement of space to the formation of the Ring-Pass-Not. Then imagine it again, and think through each part of the text that describes the process, until you have some sense of how it all works.

Then apply what you’ve learned to something else—say, an interaction between two people. The Ring-Cosmos is set in motion by the initial action that brings them into contact. The Ring-Chaos is set in motion by the initial reaction to that first action. Over time, the interplay between action and reaction leads to the creation of a boundary—the Ring-Pass-Not—that defines the interplay between them. In the language of systems theory, these are action, reaction, and equilibrium; in the traditions of the Cabala, they are the three pillars of Force, Form, and Balance; in the symbolism of Masonry, they are the three pillars of Strength, Wisdom, and Beauty. Other symbolic systems have their own ways of talking about the same things.

It’s crucial to understand the relative roles of the Ring-Cosmos and Ring-Chaos, and Fortune uses a deft bit of discussion to help you grasp that. The last paragraph of the chapter—in the Millennium Edition, this is the last paragraph on page 21, spilling over onto page 22—is the one to follow here. (In both, it begins “The secondary spin of the Ring-Pass-Not…”)  Here Fortune assigns several descriptive labels to the Ring-Chaos. It’s the prime stillness of the cosmos; it’s the thrust-block that resists the force of the Cosmos; finally, it’s the Prime Evil.

The pun here (“primeval”) is quite deliberate, of course, but so is the moral reference. From within the boundary of the Ring-Pass-Not, the Ring-Chaos represents everything the Cosmos is not; it represents the primal void out of which the Cosmos takes shape. It represents these things, but it is not these things. The Ring-Chaos, remember, comes into being after the Ring-Cosmos, and in relation to it. It is the reaction to its action, the pushback of the Unmanifest against that first movement of flowing space and everything that unfolds from it.

That pushback is also the original form of what we call evil. The question of evil has bedeviled philosophers for a very long time. It’s especially challenging for thinkers who are committed to those monotheist faiths that claim the universe was created by one and only one almighty, omniscient, and infinitely loving deity; a vast number of unsatisfactory arguments have been deployed to try to explain why such a deity would have created a world as well-stocked with misery and brutality as the one we experience. The Cosmic Doctrine, as we’ll see, does not posit such a deity, but it also proposes a distinctive vision of the purpose of evil.

Evil, in Fortune’s account, is a thrust-block. It’s the thing we resist and push off from in order to go somewhere else and do something else.  The nature of evil, and the ways that the initiate uses it as a way to get traction, will be discussed in quite a bit more detail in the chapters ahead, and this will also involve an exploration of the difference between evil as inertia (“negative evil”) and evil as actions on the part of conscious entities that follow the current of the Ring-Chaos rather than the Ring-Cosmos (“positive evil”). The point to take away at this point is that evil is the friction exerted by the Unmanifest, the resistance that allows action to happen.

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 do this, 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 11. Until then, have at it!


  1. Readers might want to check their local library. I was pleased to discover that mine offers the book online for forty days at no cost through a service called Hoopla.

  2. This very alien framework for thought will not throw a wrench in whatever we are studying? In my case, the Celtic Golden Dawn system?

  3. Is it too early to ask about determinism, i.e. whether the interaction of the Ring-Cosmos and Ring-Chaos can only be the one thing that arises from the details of their formation? Or, perhaps, does non-determinism arise from the freedom/randomness implied by the unknowable Unmanifest that underlies their creation? But perhaps this is jumping ahead too fast and is in any case too system-mechanical at this stage of description…

  4. Piggybacking on Packshaud’s question, is the Cosmic Doctrine also compatible with BOTA studies?

  5. As the ring cosmos is spinning around even as it spins within the sphere chaos presumably the point of ‘contact’ between the two rings is forever changing

  6. Though what I’m writing appears to be offtopic, (I hope) it is not.

    For a while I have been thinking on how meditation works. My current understanding of it works like this: if I try to learn some lesson by rote–in a certain place I should not mention the mages used to call it spoonfeeding–such as “eating more calories than you burn will increase your weight,” you accept this is your conscious mind, but it doesn’t become a part of your behavior. For this to happen, you have to “live the lesson,” so that it is learned by the unconscious.

    Another problem is that negative imagery is not absorved well by the unconscious mind. It seems to have no concept of “not.” In fact, contemplating negative consequences will have the opposite effect, making you imitate the imagery.

    Meditation then is a carefully structured set of symbols for the unconsciois mind, made by people who know very well what they are doing, that teach a lesson in a way that makes it to be “lived” so that it “clicks” and it is integrated by the unconscious and assimilated into its behavior. Like what is made in CosDoc.

    This is sounding quite rationalistic. I could have wrote about syncing with mental plane patterns, but I have an old habit to try to present, erm, woowoo in scientific terms to avoid spooking people (and in the beginning, myself).

    Now I have to take a detour, with a problem related to the Celtic Golden Dawn. My progress has been slow, because often I feel the need to make a separate meditation session on some point that appears, sometimes related to the older lessons (I am at the second meditation on the stone for days, and I keep getting insights from it). These stray points are deeply related to the themes but way off the curriculum; an example is that post on the elementals, fae, and humans that I made on the last Magic Monday.

    I have been dealing lately with the way the cycle of Air–Fire–Water–Earth works. I mean, how Fire transitions into Water and so on. I attempted to analise it in terms of the temperature and humidity of the elements. I have noticed that temperature connects to Fire and humidity is related to Water. There are some problems with this approach, but I have a strong feeling that the “rings polarities” of this first chapter in CosDoc are a key to the solution. Which brings me again at Fortune dropping out of the sky to help me with something I was struggling with, like in the case of that thing about the fairies.

  7. I sometimes like to use thinking about complexity theory and weird physics as a kind of secular mysticism. It’s so different from what you normally think about it puts you into a mild altered state of conciousness. The things she’s talking about here are a lot like the things that come into my mind when I’m thinking like that.

    I may be taking this in a different way than was intended but the bit about dealing with evil by surrounding it with a vacuum reminded me of something. I was researching how we go about getting rid of things we don’t want and the examples I looked at included organised crime task forces, weapons inspectors, and the eradication of smallpox. Part of the smallpox campaign was whenever somebody was found with the disease everyone who had any contact with them or just lived nearby was automatically vaccinated. So regardless of whether the patient lived or died the virus had nowhere to go. It was called ‘ring vaccination’. It’s got me wondering what other ways that basic concept could be used.

  8. Patrick, we’ll get to that. In Fortune’s account, the cosmos starts out more or less deterministic due to its sheer simplicity, but as it becomes more complex, in much the same terms as presented by modern chaos theory, complexity leads to feedback loops and to the generation of genuine novelty and spontaneity. Fortune discusses this at length using the term “epigenesis,” and we’ll be exploring that repeatedly as we proceed.

    OtterGirl, as far as I know, it should be fine. If you’re a member of BOTA, you might want to contact someone with a detailed knowledge of the system (which I don’t have — I was a correspondence student at one time, but that was many years ago) and ask their opinion about the compatibility of BOTA with Dion Fortune’s work.

    Orathbone, yes, from within, in terms of the contents of the disk and the ring. Seen from outside, the points of contact appear fixed. It’s like a highway that crosses a river on a bridge. The water is constantly changing and so is the traffic, but their relative positions and courses remain the same.

    Packshaud, good. Very good, in fact. There are no prizes for rushing through the meditations; quite the contrary, the more thoroughly you pursue the work, the more you’ll get out of it.

    Yorkshire, as we’ll see further on, there are some remarkable parallels between Fortune’s account in The Cosmic Doctrine and such modern disciplines as systems theory, complexity theory, and chaos theory, so the similarity isn’t accidental! As for ring vaccination, it’s a little further ahead in the book, but Fortune discusses the constructive way of responding to evil in almost identical terms. Thus you’re definitely on to something…

  9. Belts and disks and spheres, oh my! This is dense stuff for sure. I haven’t read Cosmic Doctrine before, but remember trying to get my mind around all of this when Gareth Knight explains it in A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism. It’s been a long time since I read that, so I’ll go back and review his thoughts on the matter as well. My desire to place these ideas in the context of a story kept bringing Ananke and the protogenoi to mind, but eventually as I tried to stick to the more abstract conceptualization, I thought of something different. As I was reading Fortune’s postulation of the secondary motion of the disk, and I’m not sure I am thoroughly following, I was reminded of the on-again-off-again retrogrades of the moon’s nodes. I’m not sure this metaphor would hold up to scrutiny, but I’ll play with it to find out. Certainly from a simplistic comparison the Sun’s ecliptic and Moon’s trajectory at an angle to it, and the two touch points of the nodes bear a passing resemblance to Fortune’s image. Thanks infinitely for guiding us through this! –Joy

  10. I will have to work with this material more before I have much to say, but one thing that struck me about these three rotations is that they are duplicated in (one version of) the Circulation of Light which closes the Sphere of Protection, so that will give me a bit more to think about in terms of the symbolism of that ritual.

    Also, I can’t really figure out what’s up with “the Logos as a Sun surrounded by His Solar System of Planets and of the emanations of the Logos as Rays,” which was just kind of popped into my edition after the introduction of the Unmanifest as interstellar space; she goes on immediately to say that the Unmanifest is the only Unity, and the Logos seems to be presented as a male symbol, and thus half of a duality, although the female pole is not really mentioned. I would presume the Earth would represent the female pole if the Sun represents the male, their union engendering life, but I may just be making stuff up. And, er, I won’t go into precisely the imagery that came to mind about the Rays as “emanations” of the Logos following this train of thought…

    Additionally, I detect echoes of “the great I AM” when she says of the Unmanifest “IT IS”–which reminds me also of God moving upon the face of the waters vs. the prime duality being space and movement. God as the Unimanifest as a Unity before dualities were manifest (echoes of Genesis here). I haven’t brought this together yet in my mind, but I feel as if there’s a thread to follow.

  11. That was decidedly no jog in the park, yet … the subject matter itself is so foundational to my existential cravings, that it was worth the toil. I appreciate your introduction – I’m not sure I’d have soldiered through without the sense of community. The main source of frustration stemmed from my personal limitations in visualising the geometry in 3D. I got lost after the 12 rays …. struggling with whether these were spokes from the central hub of the first circle, or rather were spokes of the spherical shape created by rotating circles 1 and 2. Having lost that battle … I let go into the feeling of the all-encompassing awesome scope, and sweep of the subject matter, happy to recognise several pieces I had intuited even as a school-boy such as the structural relationship between atoms and solar systems. I enjoyed putting a rock on the Big Bang theory too – it never resonated. I’ll have to spend more time on the visualisation piece.

  12. Please feel free to delete this comment if it is confusing or irrelevant.

    It popped into my head that the Unmanifest compares to potential energy. Also, it occurred to me to think of it as the medium in which all things happen. When I looked into the etymology of the word medium, I found out that it literally means “middle” from its Latin root. So not only is a medium a word for the material an artist, composer, or writer uses (Fortune’s image of interstellar space is a blank canvas and paints) but also “the middle quality between two extremes, a reasonable balance”. This brings to mind idealistic sayings about returning to the center, the middle being home base, or the centering of oneself, or the story of the prodigal son returning to his family, a.k.a. another rabbit hole. My question, which I hope makes sense: if the Unmanifest is the medium of potential, then should we think of the Unmanifest as the only arena where all possibilities exist?

  13. As a chemist the dinergy concept rings true. Electrons and protons have opposite charges of equal value but there is a giant difference in mass between electrons and protons. Electrons have only a tiny fraction of the mass of a proton and hence can be move much faster in any electric or magnetic field. So the structure of atoms is the result of the interplay of the opposite charges and unequal masses of electrons and protons.

    When I was visualizing the formation of the ring chaos I noticed that there are two different ways the ring chaos can rotate in relation to the way the ring cosmos rotates. The ring pass not is in the same place (is this ring rotating? My visualization is static for the ring pass not, a spherical shell. ) but there are two different mirror images that I can visualize for the rotating ring cosmos and rotating ring chaos. Are they equivalent?

  14. @Packshaud: “My current understanding of it works like this: if I try to learn some lesson by rote–in a certain place I should not mention the mages used to call it spoonfeeding–such as “eating more calories than you burn will increase your weight,” you accept this is your conscious mind, but it doesn’t become a part of your behavior. For this to happen, you have to “live the lesson,” so that it is learned by the unconscious.”

    I’ve found that in many ways as well, most notably, for me, with directions. It’s almost impossible for me to follow verbal instructions on how to get to a place if they’re more complicated than “go down this street right here and take a left.” I have to physically go there a time or three, and ideally (given time and leisure) to get lost often enough that I know the surrounding area pretty well too.

    Likewise, at work, a lot of the things I make mistakes in when setting up File X to upload become much clearer once I actually start doing the uploading and correcting the result.

    More directly relevant: as someone who has a lot of trouble translating descriptions to images once motion is involved (the hardest scenes for me to write are fighting and sex), this was a fascinating challenge, and I’ll have to go back through and keep trying. The current impression I get is something like a tilty gyroscope–is that too far off?

    (I also really like the idea of evil, or at least non-conscious evil, as a thrust block, which I mostly can conceive of as the pool wall during my dubiously-successful swimming lessons. :P)

  15. “In Fortune’s account, the cosmos starts out more or less deterministic due to its sheer simplicity, but as it becomes more complex, in much the same terms as presented by modern chaos theory, complexity leads to feedback loops and to the generation of genuine novelty and spontaneity. Fortune discusses this at length using the term “epigenesis,” and we’ll be exploring that repeatedly as we proceed.”

    That sounds interesting. On that note I’ll buy the book and follow the discussion.

  16. Much in these first few paragraphs seems to fit well with my conceptual understanding of physics. At the time of my blog post (, I hadn’t done much esoteric study. This fractal duality has been stewing in my mind since but I haven’t seen much practical use for it yet. I’ve also started to see folding patterns in many things although I’m not sure what it implies either. Thank you for starting this series in alchemical philosophy — hopefully I’ll be able to better understand the things I’ve been seeing.

  17. Fascinating, I very much enjoyed the mental images thus produced… though there is a bit of a glitch for me between the formation of the first cosmic disk and the subsequent chaos disk; when I try to picture in the tension drag ‘lines’ perpendicular to the first disk’s circumference want to form equally around the entire circumference, such that if they are extended to ring the entire first disk and right angles the first implication is like so many lines of longitude. I can by force have them to all be at a pair of opposed points on the first disks circumference and for a single meridian ring of chaos to be just outside of the equatorial disk of order; but this move has a distinctly artificial sensation about it. There is moderate luck by having the point where ‘the bridge goes over the water’ being positioned relative to a so called point of first motion.

    Still the sensation of ‘drag’ or friction acting on the first ring from the second ring is palpable enough once I form that image. The feel of that drag torquing the cosmic disk up and over, turning relative to the ring, also feels fleshy enough. Interestingly, there are eddies at the points when the disk and ring cross, and ‘splashes’ when the disk flips through the ring. Perhaps I will need to edit those back, depending on where the image is to go next, but I am rather keen on the ‘splashes’ as the disk crosses through the ring and they, repeated they give a sort of periodicity to the image as a whole. While the periodicity of the disk or ring completing its own rotation (such that the needle on the vinyl is back to the same point) gives each contrasting periodicity, but it is more localized to the “water or the pedestrian” at the bridge again. Then the splash as for a moment the circuit the bridge is a part of is parallel to the flowing moat of the river.

    Thus there are now, with out factoring in eddies and their ilk, a period native to cosmos, chaos, and pass-not (but which side of that sphere is the Balrog stuck on?). And it is conceivable for those periods to related to each other at any of a vast complex of ratios. Those periods being different we again face a unequality, and my mind is drawn toward a well worn path to a little mental grove where I have been trying to marry Bateson’s definition of information ‘a difference that makes a difference’ with a way of thinking about entropy as ‘indifference’… but I haven’t found the words for the vows to take place, and much further with out more thoughtfulness than I can manage at this moment would risk going too far afield from this weeks post.

  18. I am sure that there is value in training 3D visioning … that its a core element in the training perhaps, but … it would be wonderful to have someone make a CAD model of the flows because I’m not good enough at translating the words into satisfying mental pictures. Even a couple of diagrams would help. Just how those 12 rays find their locations and then give rise to the 7 whatsits is not clear to me. Or … is it supposed to all flow from the meditation starting with “finding” that one basic movement of space?

  19. Dear JMG,

    At first blush, this style of reading reminds me very much of studying a physics textbook as I did in college. Each time I encountered a new equation, I would have to sit and contemplate how it was derived and what it implied.

    I always joke that getting a degree in physics was a mind altering experience…I suspect properly understanding the Cosmic Doctrine may be similarly so.

    -Ms. Krieger

  20. The thing that started coming to mind was regarding magic. So in order to manifest something, would one have to apply a greater desire for momentum than that related to one’s goal, because a reactive force of inertia will be what pulls that arc down? Or at least, one would have to use those landing points, if one falls short of one’s goal, to push further towards that goal. If you can only work so much change because resistance is going to push back on your efforts, you need to be willing to break the process down and make sure you have the time to do so.

  21. I’m so very glad that we are going to proceed so slowly. When my copy first arrived, I gave the first chapter a quick read just to get the feel, and my brain made great whanging noises, as some glimpses seemed to make intuitive sense, others seemed totally opaque, and still others seemed full of potential but like they might take me forever to unpack. I was feeling a bit anxious that I had spent a week on paragraph 3 (“The Unmanifest is pure existence…”) and still felt nowhere near done with it. After reading this post and the early comments, I’m reassured that that’s not a bad thing.

    The image of the two interacting forces, the stronger and the weaker, producing a curve which eventually, over great time/space, returns to its origin, grabbed at me in a way I can’t explain. I literally held my breath for a moment and things went still, and then my palms tingled and my mind started racing with examples. This is the clearest experience I’ve yet had that sometimes, symbolic images are communicating with a part of my brain that isn’t the normal conscious level. Two tidbits I’ve gleaned in relation to this image are an appreciation for tiny changes and the (very) long game. Less powerful forces can still steer vastly more powerful ones, given the proper perspective. [Also, my determination to avoid letting advertising images into my brain as much as possible is renewed- I do not want them talking to my unconscious while my conscious attention is turned.]

    It’s good that I’ll get much more practice with visualization while working through this text. In imagining the three spinning disks/rings, I do just fine with one at a time, or even (kind of) two, but just as when I visualize the Circulation of the Light in the Sphere of Protection, three is really hard, and in fact I think I just toggle back and forth quickly between different permutations of two planes of movement. I am not giving up hope that this is something I can develop, but as my spatial sense is not my strong suit in any regard (I’m terrible at navigation, for example, as I struggle to make mental maps), I’m going to be going through JMG’s descriptive commentary daily to try and push through this barrier. (Or is there a better metaphor to think about this difficulty with?)

    Lastly, JMG, will the comments on this post stay open throughout the month rather than close off at the end of the week when a new post goes up?

    Thanks for this challenge, and the support in meeting it-
    –Heather in CA

  22. I’m curious about the use of a few words and how to understand them. Might you be able to shed a little light on them (not so much definitions but further analogies)?

    First is “planes.” In Intro II, the text says, “Transmitting images in colour and form upon the second plane…” and “but transmitting ideas upon the third plane” and it goes on to talk about the “transmission of messages from one plane to another…”

    – I wonder if planes in this context is akin to planes as imaged in the Ring Cosmos and if that differs from or is the same as the planes referred to elsewhere (etheric, astral, etc.).

    The next is “Logos” imaged as a sun. By Logos should we include in our conception the notions of Word, logic, order? That’s what “logos” calls up for me (admittedly a superficial basis of understanding it) but there’s probably more? Or is it best just to stick with the images given without going into concepts not yet introduced?

    Thank you!

  23. I apologize if this went through already. Technical difficulties. (I frequently have intermittent internet out here.)

    I read the first two chapters last week. Interestingly enough, my visualization of the Ring Cosmos and the Ring Chaos were as you have described. However, the image I developed of the third movement that creates the Ring-Pass-Not was more akin to the arcs of a magnetic field coming off the Ring Cosmos and creating a sphere. I think because of the reference Fortune makes to the surfaces, upper and lower, of the outflowing and inflowing arc, I imagined a flat circle with an upper and lower surface. So that instead of a true sphere, the Ring Cosmos I have visualized was something more like a spherical fat donut with currents flowing over the surface being pulled up and down toward the Ring Chaos. Clearly I need to spend more time on my visualization. As I re-read your explanation, I found myself moving my hands in response to your description to assist with my visualizations. Now I have both images, my original and the one you provided. (And the whole thing is faintly reminiscent of the Circulation of Light in the SoP with the three movements of the sphere, or the three spheres with different spins that merge during the ritual which is sometimes how I see it.)
    Thank you! This is going to be fascinating for me.

  24. Packshaud, re: compatibility between the Celtic Golden Dawn and the Cosmic Doctrine, if you look at the introduction of some symbolic shapes in middle of Ovate Knowledge Lecture 3, you might notice some particularly specific parallels with the material in first few pages of the CosDoc. I just did, at least.

    JMG, I’ll be following along on this journey. I have two questions right now:

    — Is it okay to post questions regarding CosDoc all month long here, or just in the week until a new Ecosophia post appears? I ask because if we process the text at the rate you’ve suggested, many of the times that it occurs to us to discuss something will happen on a non-book club week. If this happens, shall we just take note of it, and save it for the next book club post?

    — What rate are you planning on taking this book? If we do a chapter a month, that will take us nearly three years. (This is not a complaint, just an observation.)

  25. I’m wondering whether the Qabalistic concepts of Ain/Ain Sof/Ain Sof Aur have any relationship to the Unmanifest or the three rings. Perhaps this is a digression.

  26. Joy, excellent! You can also see it in terms of the intersection of the celestial equator and the ecliptic, or (if you’re into Plato) the two circuits of the Same and the Other from the Timaeus — I suspect this latter is directly ancestral to the Cos. Doc.

    Jen, the reference to the Solar Logos et al. is intended to hint at some of the themes in the chapters to come; you don’t need to follow it up now, though you certainly can if you want to. As for IT IS, there’s a specific Cabalistic reference here; in ancient Hebrew, the holiest name of the Jewish god, YHVH, is the third person singular of the verb “to be” — “he is,” “she is,” or “it is.” That’s distinct from the name AHIH, “I Am.” There are various Cabalistic bread crumbs dropped here and there in the Cos. Doc., and this is one of them. (Notice, though, the difference between conventional notions of the Judeo-Christian god and the Unmanifest as Fortune describes it…)

    Marco, whoa, Nelly! If you’re reading about the rays already, you’re going way too fast; it’s no wonder you’re having trouble making sense of the imagery. Stop, back up, and spend the next month working with the assigned reading given in the post — yes, just those three pages. It takes that kind of investment of time to make sense of it.

    Kimberly, it’s neither confusing nor irrelevant; it’s a good point. Yes, exactly: the Unmanifest is the foundation on which all apparent existence arises; all possibilities exist within it, and there is nothing outside it. Again, think of it as space. Can you imagine anything as being outside of infinite space? (Try it sometime; at best, all you’ll get is a mental image of more space that’s somehow detached from the rest of space.) Just as all things exist in space, all possibilities exist in the Unmanifest, as appearances and becomings.

    Jim, good. Yes, they’re equivalent, or to put it another way, they provide equally good metaphors.

    Christopher, glad to hear it.

    Dale, thanks for this. I suspect that the interface between fractal mathematics and the implied systems theory of the Cosmic Doctrine will lead to some very interesting places; I haven’t studied fractals enough to be able to pursue that, nor do I have a background in physics, so your reflections will be of personal interest to me.

    Ray, excellent! Yes, the metaphor requires a bit of artificiality here and there, and the generation of the Ring-Chaos from the Ring-Cosmos is one of the places where that happens. I suspect a less artificial image would be much more difficult to imagine! As for the Balrog, we’ll get to that — seriously! The short form is that the Balrog is outside the Ring-Pass-Not; he’s the thrust-block that enabled Gandalf the Grey to make the transition to Gandalf the White Rider, of course.

    Marco, here again, you’re going way too fast, and failing to put the necessary time into building up the images and thinking about them, so of course you’re getting things bollixed up. Spend a month working with the genesis of the Ring-Cosmos, Ring-Chaos, and Ring-Pass-Not, and after that you can build the other aspects of the system onto that one patient step at a time.

    Ms. Krieger, an education in physics is also intended to train the mind rather than to inform it, so I’m not at all surprised you notice the similarity!

    Jean-Pierre, excellent. You get today’s gold star for working through the metaphor and drawing some good practical conclusions from it.

    Heather, delighted to hear it. Yes, the comments page will stay open for the next month, and I’ll make a point of continuing to respond to comments here until the next Cos. Doc. post goes up.

    Temporaryreality, I’m not at all fond of the introductions to the Millennium Edition, because they presume the reader is already familiar with the concepts covered in the text. We’ll be getting to the Planes and to the Logos as we proceed. Until then, I’d encourage you to bracket those concepts — treat them as you would the X or Y in an algebraic equation, until it’s time for us to discuss their definition under the appropriate images.

    Yanocoches, the rotation of the Ring-Cosmos relative to the Ring-Chaos will be important in later parts of the text, which is why it’s useful to get a clear sense of the Ring-Pass-Not as the sphere traced by the outer edge of the Ring-Cosmos as it pivots around its intersections with the Ring-Chaos. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the ride!

  27. Quin, nice catch. 😉 As for your questions, I’ll be fielding comments here for the next month, and we’ll be taking at least three years to unpack the Cos. Doc. — it really does take that long to work through it properly, if you want to get everything out of it that it has to offer.

    Deborah, good. Keep in mind that Dion Fortune was a Golden Dawn initiate and a very serious student of the Hermetic Cabala; when you find apparent references like that, why, yes, she very likely intended them.

  28. The part about defeating evil, not by opposing it but by “putting it in a vaccuum”, reminds me of my attempts to ignore my salivation (among other things) when meditating, or attempts to go from breathing manually to breathing automatically. To focus on fighting the issue is to focus on the issue, thus preventing it from becoming a non-issue.

    Also, I don’t think it’s relevant to the metaphor (for now at least), but it occurs to me that as the Ring-Cosmos pivots around, it comes into alignment with the plane of the Ring-Chaos, sometimes in such a way that the direction of their flows also happens to coincide, sometimes in such a way that they’re going in opposite directions.

  29. The description of the formation of the Ring-Cosmos, Ring-Chaos, and Ring-Pass-Not sure reminded me a whole lot of the Right Hand Rule of electromagnetism, and how electrical current is generated from coiled wires and magnetism.

    Now I’m really curious where this will go…

  30. Dear JMG,
    When thinking about Unmanifest I was imagining data analysis. The raw data (Unmanifest) has no meaning and cannot be understood. The first mental tool to understand the data is to seek for cyclical patterns, hence Ring-Cosmos. I cannot imagine more primal tool for analysis. Then Ring-Chaos arises when the data don’t fit into pattern and changes unexpectedly. The mind then tries to organize these changes and looks for cyclical patterns within patterns, hence evolution of Ring-Cosmos. This repeats many times and Ring-Pass-Not is formed, the limitation of these methods of finding cyclical patterns in chaotic data.
    Is this interpretation valid?

  31. After finally understanding the way the ring cosmos and the ring of chaos form the ring pass not, it reminds me a bit of the classic astronaut training apparatus you see in science fairs. Also, is the way these rings turn in any way related ir similar to the way one circulates the light of the Cross in the SoP? My understanding is that the vertical line spins forward to create what would be the ring cosmos, then the left to right line spins counter clockwise like an airplane propeller, creating the ring of chaos, then, they start to turn to the left around the vertical axis of the body, creating the sphere of the ring pass not. How accurate is this picture?
    Thanks as always!

  32. So the Ring-Pass-Not is visualized _between_ the Ring-Cosmos and the Ring-Chaos, right?
    –Heather in CA

  33. JMG,

    Thanks, I didn’t realize that; I’m afraid my Biblical knowledge is pretty much confined to the version bequeathed to us by good old King James. And certainly it would never occur to me to visualize the Judeo-Christian God as interstellar space!

    I find that I can visualize clearly the current of space slowly bending infinitesimally under the influence of the two opposing forces until it returns to its origin. I can also envision the Ring-Chaos after it is formed, and, with your explanation, the pivot that defines the Ring-Pass-Not. What I have trouble with is the formation of the Ring-Chaos: “The spinning in one plane continues until the stresses which it generates evoke a new movement, and a second current in space is set up at right angles to the first.” I don’t grasp what stress causes the second current to begin at right angles to the first; it seems as if the first should just continue to accrete indefinitely. Is it this way purely for symbolic reasons? Or am I missing something about the (pseudo)physical forces we are imagining?

  34. Okay, I was only able to read part of the reading from an online source that would not go past page 20. So if these questions were explained in the text, pardon my asking.

    So far I get that there is a cosmic ‘plate’, a chaos ‘ring’, and a spherical boundary defined by the flippin’, trippin’ and dippin’ plate motivated by attraction/repulsion ‘forces’ that belong to the top and base of the plate with respect to the ring. Roughly like a gyroscope toy, but with the additional ‘magnetic polar’ flippin’ and dippin’ spin added in. (Nifty toy idea. Mattel, are you listening?)

    So, does the ‘plate’ behave more like a solid disk of vinyl, all areas moving at the same speed and in the same direction (deosil? widdershins?) connected together?

    Or is there ‘slippage’ with inner bands of the disc turning at a faster rate and outer bands turning more slowly, as if the disc might be like the Rings of Saturn, not connected, just spinning more or less in unison but generally a little out of sync? Or even concentric rings spinning in bands of alternating deosil and widdershin motions (as I once saw a flight of hawks doing in the air above a meadow!) ?

    Or is the disc motion like the spiralling of a vortex – – though not one of Dissipation, so abhorred by Jane Austen, but more like a squashed hurricane?

    And if the disc has any of these styles of motion (vinyl, bands, spiral) then why don’t the Chaos Ring turning at right angles develop the same properties, so that you have two intersecting discs like two spiral galaxies cutting through each other, getting thoroughly tangled and messing up each other’s preferred form of motion?

    Whew! That’s enough questions for now. My image muscles are aching.

  35. Archdruid,

    Against the backdrop of potential.
    Desire builds to a great flow of energy, resisted very weakly by will. The will-not-to being the strongest force of will there is, but weak against sufficiently powerful desire.
    There is friction against potential as the two great forces, desire and will, pull and push against each other in a great arc. The Ring-cosmos.
    Around the edges there is light. First repulsed by will, then drawn by desire, till the light meets itself. The point of meeting is consciousness, and consciousness is chaos. The Ring-Chaos. It does not know what to do with itself, it does not know what it is. Yet, it is there.
    The ring-pass-not…yeah, still working on that.



  36. I read in an interpretation of the Cos. Doc. that the Ring Chaos was larger than the Ring Cosmos, which would have the Ring Chaos passing through the sphere defined by Ring Pass Not at various points. That would explain the Balrog theory above, as well as the extension of that theory, the “Door of Night” from the Silmarillion, in that the forces of the Unmanifest can make it through the Ring Pass-Not at a few very specific points.

    Yet the Cos. Doc. itself doesn’t mention this – the rings appear to be of equal size and nothing can go beyond the sphere of the Ring Pass-Not.

    Are you able to elaborate?

  37. Archdruid,

    The ring-pass-not…is choice. Pass not beyond this point if you want to have the ability to choose…??

  38. JMG and all,

    Oh how relieved I am that we are going to take a nice long time to thoroughly explore this!

    I have had a similar experience to packshaud’s- my meditations will often generate additional related points to consider. I can’t always tell how many sessions a particular theme will require to be fully, or at least satisfactorily examined. Which to be honest, kind of scares my control freaky, “everything needs to be on a schedule” self. (Which is a theme I am meditating on currently – meditating on parts of the practice that are irksome or elicit a negative reaction can yield a lot of information! Sometimes unwelcome, always useful…).

    Anyways, back to the point – it’s really great to be participating with others in a non-competitive space in such a way that taking my time in getting into the depths is encouraged.

    Thanks for that, everyone!

  39. Valenzuela, excellent! Yes, that’s a good example, and yes, the rotation of the Ring-Cosmos into and out of the plane of the Ring-Chaos will be relevant as we proceed.

    KF, fascinating. That hadn’t occurred to me.

    Oleg, don’t worry about whether it’s valid. This is metaphor, remember, and a metaphor is neither valid nor invalid; the question to ask is whether it’s useful, and your interpretation certainly seems useful to me.

    JP, when I first learned the Sphere of Protection, I was startled enough by the similarities to the Cos. Doc. that I asked my teacher whether there was a connection. He insisted that there wasn’t — but it does look very similar!

    Heather, yes. The Ring-Pass-Not is the boundary between the space marked out by the Ring-Cosmos as it pivots, and the space outside it, which is subject to the Ring-Chaos.

    Jen, it’s a metaphor, and that bit is arbitrary. Just assume that for some reason it does so.

    Gkb, because it doesn’t. 😉 Again, remember that this is all a metaphor, and is intended to communicate certain specific things. We’ll be getting into the internal structure of the Ring-Cosmos in a couple of months.

    Varun, good. Keep working. You’ve got a whole month…

    Peter, er, I take it you didn’t read the text. If you did, I’d encourage you to go back and read it again. The Ring-Chaos is larger than the Ring-Cosmos — the Cos. Doc. says this in so many words — and is outside the Ring-Cosmos, therefore the Ring-Chaos does not pass through the Ring-Cosmos — it is entirely outside the outer edge of the Ring-Cosmos. Since the Ring-Pass-Not is the sphere defined by the outer edge of the Ring-Cosmos as it pivots, the Ring-Chaos doesn’t pass through the Ring-Pass-Not, either — that’s half of why it’s called the Ring-Pass-Not (and not, say, the Ring-Only-Pass-Through-In-Certain-Places).

    Nor, of course, was Fortune commenting on Tolkien, or (for that matter) Tolkien commenting on Fortune — I’m pretty sure that C.S. Lewis read some of Fortune’s writings, as there are things in his planetary trilogy that echo her ideas pretty precisely, but I know of no evidence that Tolkien did anything of the kind.

    Varun, nope. The Ring-Pass-Not is the boundary of the whole system. Outside it is only whirling void. For beings within a cosmos, what is outside the Ring-Pass-Not can’t even be imagined.

    Bonnie, you’re welcome and thank you. I’m really impressed by the quality of the comments so far!

  40. JMG,

    I managed to get a copy of the book in the mail this Monday and sat down with excitement to read the first chapter. As the introduction noted, I tried my best to allow the words to convey an image into my mind. I felt good about it but then came back to it the next night and as reading it and after reading it all I allowed my mind to follow the images that were being described. Perhaps because I had seen an image of yin and yang in the shape of a sphere and in which the points which were yin within yang and yang within yin flowed as a current, like positive to negative, I kept seeing this image in my head. It was a struggle to imagine it more disk shaped which I did manage on the second night. The next day, which would be today, tons of connections were flooding my mind, like the irony in my current job within the health care industry which has a great deal of the employees guzzling sodas and energy drinks left and right, and who are far from the picture of health advising people on the phones about their health insurance.

    I connected my upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness, where they refer to their doctrine as The Truth, and my departure from this organization because I was interested in finding a spirituality which had better clarity in it’s answers for why things happened leading me to the occult.

    In the USA at least, I know a fair number of people born between the 30s to the 50s. Many have a very developed sense of work ethic. No work, no games. Many of their children, or grandchildren, who are in their 30s to 50s are quite content with the idea of no games, no work. Using this model has helped me to make sense of a lot of the oddities I see around us.

    There are, oddly as it may seem, a huge amount of polarities in this world. Often one faction of the polarity destroys the other but then another opportunity for the creation of another opposing faction results. It did leave me wondering whether or not we’ll be reading about achieving some sort of balance between the polarities. I also was left wondering just how many things in our life are seemingly paradoxical.

  41. Well, rats, I’m somehow disappointed that there’s no connection between Cos Doc and the Sphere of Protection. It seems so intuitive. Oh well, hopefully dedicated practice in imagining the motion involved will benefit both strands of thought for me.
    –Heather in CA

  42. “as you picture them are imagination” – they are not imagination… just as you picture them…

    A disarming double bind. Things are not as you imagine them to be, and will not be as you imagine them. They can only be experienced, and the experience will train the mind rather then inform it. A scary submission of will for a western mage seeking control or mastery, eerily eastern.

  43. I’m still on “the Unmanifest is pure existence.” There is a lot packed into that deceptively simple phrase, and I’ve been considering it throughout the day. A close reading reveals a lot packed in here. At this point I will not write all the questions and ideas that spring to mind, but (leaving aside the problem of whether you can say the Unmanifest “is” anything, that is, formulate an identity about the unknowable) is this saying that the manifest, by contrast, is impure? And what sullies or dilutes pure existence? Time? Experience? Consciousness? (The Fall?) (Is the Tarot trump of The Fool implicit here?) Is an impure existence made of lesser existence-stuff? How can some things “be” less?

    I begin to suspect that your reading of Sartre was not coincidental…

    P.S. Years ago I learned close reading from a professor who had us spend quite a bit of time on unpacking “Call me Ishmael” You have to be really patient with certain types of text, although it is quite fun.

  44. Hilarious that the Balrog joke actually is a point of traction, I meant it as a bit of empty silliness. Earlier today I used one of my favorite quotes, on the silliness “If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein; which in a way brings me back to the usefulness of evil as a jumping off point for, say transformation, or if you please getting something intelligent done. The other thing I am remembering about evil is that according to a preponderance of folk lore any evil worth its salt cannot be destroyed, at best it can be banished in a sufficiently through manner.

    It is ever so interesting that the Prime Evil is outside of the Pass-Not, a response to the Discworld, and yet already outside of the Pass-not; unimaginable to the beings of the Cosmos, who still can push off of it to transform. Much like the unmanifest being 1 thing that for many a practical purpose seems like nothing, the Prime Evil is a big baddie yet inconceivable; it isn’t present, isn’t here, isn’t this or that, it just drags on, Zarathustra’s spirit of Gravity. The Balrog was a vague being in the book to say the least, much like the villain Sauron; who was ominously resisting Middle Earth but never present. I wonder if those eddies I mentioned earlier where the ring and disk are are their closest (where drag most readily pulls across the Pass-Not) are the Positive Evil. That positive evil in its meekest form is, I think the silliness that Wittgenstein was on about. Beings in the cosmos whose form is a part of the drag of the manifest, the constant friction acting on the manifest, represented, reality. In silliness we let in a little meek inoculation of evil into our midst to play with; that unpredictable still waters which are always outside of our ordered existence, ever prone to resist our motions, and inscrutable. Of course, once that silliness becomes serious, a being can be a manifestation of that drag, giving it agency. Apoptosis and Resentment.

    If one were interested in a theodicy concerning the problem of evil, I doubt a better job could be done that building on this role that evil plays in this philosophy as a necessary point of counter tension to the prime movement; a pot stirrer one might say. Which is almost precisely what Sauron’s old boss was described as being by JRR, who I imagine was more interested than the average bear in theodicy.

  45. Prizm, glad to see the book is doing its job and inspiring thought! It very often takes a while to grasp some of the imagery, which is why a month is a good time to spend on each chapter.

    Heather, there’s no direct lineal connection. You can still make a connection!

    RedRed, good. That’s actually something that’s part of traditional Western occultism — take it from me, it’s at least as scary to be sitting for the first time in the anteroom of a lodge, waiting for your first-ever initiation ritual, knowing that you have absolutely no control over what you’re about to experience and still deciding to go through with it! The extent to which that’s been lost in modern Western occultism is a sign of imbalance, because mastery can only be learned by submission, just as submission takes a great deal of mastery…

    Berserker, excellent! Yes, exactly — there’s a vast amount to be unpacked even from the relatively simple statements in the book, (Especially from the relatively simple statements…)

  46. “Of that which lies beyond we can only know
    by analogy” D.F

    “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof must one be silent.” Wittgenstein T.L.P.

  47. It has been interesting to see the things that jump out and grab different readers’ attention, or cause the most confusion. For me, visualization comes very easy, so I had no problem seeing the rings and their relative movements, but in a way this is its own handicap, because if I had had to wrestle more with that aspect, it might have brought forth other insights. I *see* it, yet I still feel there’s so much left to unpack.

    Meanwhile some of Fortune’s other ideas that pique my curiosity: First is where Fortune says, “The first manifestation was a current in space,” and “All I can say is that space was moving. You will find these clues are a clue to much.” This makes me think of how many different cultures have symbolized the Unmanifest as water–which is, I think, probably the easiest metaphor for imagining a “space” that is/has movement. So it brought to mind the way that, according to the Heliopolitan Egyptian cosmogenesis, the primordial water (which as I understand it is what Fortune calls the Unmanifest) sort of coalesced and formed light, Atum-Ra, symbolized by a (solar) disk. Indeed Atum is often depicted surrounded by Nun (the Unmanifest) in the form of a ring. But I think this may lead into what Fortune is going to say about the Logos, so I’ll wait for that. I get the sense there are nested layers like a matryoshka doll where the symbols are reiterated–or at least rhyme–at different scales. I also begin to understand how you can see through the different metaphors used by different cultures to the shared patterns underneath.

    The second thing that grabbed me is where she writes, “the whole of evolution turns upon the difference in size between the planes.” Why should this be? I hope Fortune will go into it more. I’m not entirely sure what she means by “evolution,” although I would guess based on this first chapter that it’s something along the lines of increasing complexification of manifestation. It seems to parallel the idea of the two unequal forces of desire-for-movement and desire-for-inertia. A difference in their relative strength was necessary to allow the original movement to manifest as a curve that becomes a ring that becomes a disk that becomes a sphere, so maybe the difference in relative size of the planes is working in a similar way? I shall try to meditate on this.

  48. I have no experience with magic, however the philosophy behind this text reminds me a lot of the tao-te-ching
    (Heaven and earth
    begin in the unnamed:
    name’s the mother
    of the ten thousand things.),
    At this moment I am not sure whether to think of the Ring-Cosmos / Ring-Chaos as analogous to the Ying-Yang, or to think of the Ring-Chaos as the edge of the Ying-Yang and the Ying-Yang within the Ring-Cosmos or don’t make any analogy at all.
    Interested in the trip

  49. I am a bit vague about the out flowing and in flowing arc. Their possession of positive and negative charge, fits well enough with an above comment comparing the loophole of chaos’ right angle emanation from the prime movement of the cosmic whirl with the right hand rule of electromagnetism. The image can be embellished ever so slightly to be a functional diagram of a crude DC motor.

    For the time being, supposing I use a cosmic clock face to imagine diskwhirld, could I suppose that 12-6, on the clock face, might be the out flowing arc, and 6-12 one could think of as the out flowing arc? That the side of the clock facing my perspective, call it the top, is positive therefore on the right side, and negative on the left, and that those charges, on the side of the clock facing the wall which we might call bottom are opposite to that.

    Or is there something I am missing particular to my understanding of the out and in flowing of these circles?

  50. Thank you for leading out this journey JMG. It looks extremely fascinating. I am very glad to be walking this path with you and all the others here.

  51. JMG
    It will take me more than a month to get my head round the interesting comments / replies as well as the text. I obtained the 1995 edition in the UK via AbeBooks less than a fortnight ago and read DF’s Introduction as well as Introduction II and Chapter 1. I have also dipped a bit further. Sound and music wait for me.
    Your clear exposition helps considerably with visualization of the dynamic images in Chapter 1.
    I was reassured in my earlier reading of the DF Introduction by the sanity of her musing on her, quote, going “baresark in my quest of the Masters”. Her description of personality in the quality of communication during her subsequent interview rang true enough. I liked ‘weary Jesus’, aka Most Holy Lord of Compassion. This set me off comparing her account fairly favourably with other communications from ‘entities’, whether these have been ‘Masters’, or whatever. Decades ago I was introduced by New Age friends to ‘channeled’ or “received teachings” to use DF’s phrase, and found wanting even the more worthy sounding ones. For want of a better term my ‘aesthetic’ sense was a good guide, and I gave up. On one occasion an anachronism in a supposedly factual account of a previous life was sufficient to trip me out of ‘suspension of disbelief’. I have some thoughts in mind about DF’s ‘Masters’ and about ‘mastery’ and metaphors…but… it’s my turn to muse… are the Masters also metaphors?
    There were interesting asides from the DF Intro, including the contribution from the writing of Annie Besant initiating DF’s quest. That set me off thinking about Krishmnamurti. Likewise I was intrigued by the introduction of mystic Oliver Cromwell. And then the word ‘fluidic’ appeared from nowhere in Introduction II. That sent me off on a small memory quest of my own. And I am trying to give my own answer to DF’s ‘riddle’, and incidentally why I am following this JMG monthly book discussion. Smile.

    So, onto initiatory Chapter One: the words ‘centrifugal’ and ‘centripetal’ came to mind. My first efforts spun off into a reverie on time – that is time with a capital T. As a child I once experienced very briefly the vertigo of the void when actually lying under the field of stars and contemplating outer space. I guess the void can also be experienced when contemplating Time, as for example in death. My contemplation of time this last week, however, was more a matter of classifying the obvious. The experience of time in for example stories , or memory, is very different from other awareness, or so it seems to me. And I search for the role of personality as perhaps transcendent, both instant, changing and persistent.
    I found ‘evil’ less difficult than I might have, having first absorbed a good while ago much of William Blake’s philosophy: e.g. his ‘Marriage of Heaven and Hell’. I have thought again of Defoe’s pithy remark about ‘necessity being the greatest evil’, which has its wisdom for human society. And the facts of biology, predation and ecology are what they are, and as my mother called them, dumb animals cannot be evil in the human sense.
    For what it’s worth I have gone back to Frances Yates and the dynamic mnemonic disc of Roger Lull and as FY put it, the ‘occultisation’ of this by Bruno in his ‘Shadows’. The turning of the ‘thrust block’ dynamic disc at right angles seems to have been missed by Bruno?

    Time is running away with me this morning!

    Phil H

  52. Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but there are some Christian analogs to the definitions. I have heard that “Jehovah” is a way of saying, “The Becomer”, that is, he-who-is-continuously-becoming, unfolding. Yahweh says to Moses that he is the “I Am.” NOT the one who was and will be, NOT a being with a past and future, but he is the Everpresent Now, the stasis field, the Ether. …And again, the Becomer, that which arises from the standing potential field.

    The Logos, like “breath” (a thing fellow Inkling Owen Barfield wrote an entire book on) had a very wide meaning at the time it was written. Logos is like the information. In Plato, there is the real world and the theoretical, intangible, “heavenly” world. If you have a chair, you also have the template for a chair. But! You can have the template for how to build a chair in your mind, with no chair anywhere on earth. So which is more important, more real? Oddly, it would seem the “Logos”, the information-chair, is more important, because you can make a thousand chairs from your knowledge. However, following Plato, every ACTUAL chair will fall short of the IDEAL, which is one basis of saying the heaven is better and earth is a sort of hell.

    For us modern types, Logos is like online information, existing nowhere in the cloud, which may or may not be used. Its counterpoint is “Force”, that is, the expression of that information, the carving of the chair from the template, of the YouTube video being followed in your own workshop. Logos is therefore order, it is the laws of physics that determine what can and can’t happen, and it’s the LIMITS of Logos that make it “Good.” –A pivotal corollary when you extend “Logos” as the “Law,” the “Word made flesh,” and “Jesus Christ,” because saying “no, don’t do these things, they are evil/hurtful/counterproductive” is widely seen as hate and oppression right now instead of love in the sense of “don’t play with fire, in the road, with a cobra” (things might, just maybe! not turn out so well).

    So LIMITS are the basis of reality, in this dimension. The lack of limits, restraint, rules, order — the banishment of Logos — is the path to madness, to psychosis, mass-murder and anti-life.

    What is beyond the ring? Well, we’re only talking our 3rd (or 4th dimension). At the very least we suppose a number of dimensions that don’t follow these rules of behavior. Surely THEY would be outside the ring, if following far wider rules of their own.

    But in our world, and following the Buddhist line, we have the Void, and/or the Tao (which cannot be named), the one, which then splits into the two, and into the ten-thousand manifestations. Why? Because for any “thing” to happen, you need to be able to left AND right, up AND down. And if you can become more good, more Logos, more orderly, then you MUST, by the laws of existence, be able to be LESS good, LESS orderly, or to use the word, “evil.” For anything to happen, for good to be chosen, evil must exist. If you want to stay in heaven where nothing can happen because it’s All-One-God-Faith, then there is no evil…because there are no ups, no downs, and no choices. Not much of a story, that. So I don’t see why people think God “creating” evil is a problem. The instant the One-God splits/appears to split into two, there is “evil.” …And Good remains dominant force because Chaos, like Sauron, eats itself, and Good unites and reinforces itself, and therefore always wins. If not, there would be no story.

  53. “IT (the Unmanifest) is the only reality”. So nothing we perceive as reality in the material world is actually real. We are in the Matrix. Plato’s allegory of the cave comes to mind; no wonder most people don’t want to attempt to wrap their brains around it. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” suddenly takes on new meaning.

  54. One general comment before I begin; I don’t remember ever posting an essay that has attracted so much serious contemplation from readers. Thank you, all of you; I’m feeling just now as though the decision to launch this particular Book Club series was a very good one.

    Ray, remember that the Prime Evil is the thrust-block to the entire cosmos, not specifically to the beings who emerge later on within the cosmos; as we’ll see, these grand patterns have echoes that cascade down to the level of the individual person. That said, Sauron’s a great example here, because he spends Tolkien’s entire trilogy off stage, a looming presence you never actually encounter. He’s outside the Ring-Cosmos of the story, and only appears by way of his servants — if you will, his reflections inside the Ring-Cosmos. (One of the things that makes so many Tolkien knockoffs so dreary, in turn, is that their cloned Dark Lords almost inevitably come capering on stage, so that the reader can see all too well that they’re bland little stick figures of evil…)

    Matt, you’re welcome.

    Alexandra, very good! I’m quite sure you’re right about water as a mythic symbol for the Unmanifest — I suppose you could just as well call the Unmanifest a philosophical symbol for the Primal Waters. And the matryoshka-doll quality of the Cos. Doc.’s cosmology is very explicit, as well as an essential key for unpacking the meanings of the text. As for evolution, that’s a complex concept to begin with, and Fortune’s using it in a nuanced way; we’ll be exploring it from various angles as this conversation continues.

    Carlos, the comparison’s by no means impossible. In the broadest, cosmological sense, the Ring-Cosmos is Yang, the Ring-Chaos Yin, and the Ring-Pass-Not the S-shaped line that divides and unites them in the familiar symbol. As we proceed, see how the comparison works for you.

    Marco, fair enough! The mighty four-letter word of power RTFM — since this is a family-friendly blog, we’ll translate that as “Read The Fabulous Manual” — is at least as important in magic as it is in anything else.

    Ray, no, you’ve got it. Now imagine your clock face lying horizontally. From just outside the 12, a current of space flows upward, curves, and descends, passing just outside the 6; it then plunges below the clock face, curves, and comes back up to complete the circuit just outside the 12. This becomes the Ring-Chaos. The half of the clock face between 12 and 6, on one side of the Ring-Chaos, then begins to pivot upwards, and the half between 6 and 12 accordingly pivots downwards, until the clock face is rotating around an axis that extends from 12 to 6, and the sphere that it traces out in this rotation is the Ring-Pass-Not.

    Michael, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Phil, the whole question of “the Masters” and the source of The Cosmic Doctrine is a tangled one, not least because of the far from helpful influence of all those channeled entities you mention. That’s one of the reasons I like to start the Cos. Doc. from Chapter 1, plunging right into the text, without spending time on the introductory material. Are the Masters metaphors? Are they simply the framing devices Fortune had to use in the context of her time to get people to pay attention to her text, the same way that the founders of the Golden Dawn had to cook up all that folderol about a Cipher Manuscript and a nonexistent German adept, and Gerald Gardner had to pretend to have gotten his New Religion out of a coven in the Old Forest? Are they a way of talking about the experience that most authors have at one time or another, of a book basically downloading itself into your brain from parts unknown, and demanding to be written? Or is she describing what actually happened? Those are fascinating questions, but the Cos. Doc. doesn’t depend on the answers for its importance.

    Jasper, of course there are Christian analogues, and you’ll find specific references to certain aspects of Christian teaching as we proceed. Dion Fortune was a devout if heterodox Christian — she drew a sharp distinction between Jesus the person and Christ the cosmic principle, which IIRC would have gotten her burnt at the stake not too many centuries ago — who, like a great many Christian esotericists before and since, saw no contradiction between praying to Christ and invoking the Pagan gods and goddesses of nature. More broadly, your comments about limitation as the foundation of existence are spot on; we’ll be talking about that in much more detail as we proceed to later chapters. Fortune would have agreed with you heartily about the problems with the notion that all limitation is wrong; the attraction of outer space — the craving for limitlessness — was in her view, and is in mine, one of the great driving forces of positive evil.

    Marco, thanks for this.

    Kimberly, good. There’s a lot of Plato here and there in the Cos. Doc.!

  55. Is it OK to study the Cos. Doc. while working the Dolmen Arch course? If not, I can just make copies of your essays and hold onto them while I finish the latter, then pick up the Cos. Doc. at that point.

  56. SLClaire, that shouldn’t be any kind of problem, as long as you can handle switching between different ways of looking at the world! I went through my phase of intensive study of Nietzsche while developing the magical system I published in The Celtic Golden Dawn, and it didn’t hurt me any. 😉

  57. Carlos

    The taoist myth of Pan Gu is an almost exact parallel of Fortune’s account of creation.

    “Long, long ago—not in a land before time, but a time before land—there was nothing in the universe except an enormous egg-shaped entity.

    Inside the “egg,” the opposite forces of yin and yang were all scrambled; it was a complete mess. But over time, the interactions between various substances and energies eventually conceived a being—a shaggy, horned giant named Pan Gu.

    For 18,000 years, Pan Gu (pan goo) slept and grew. One day, he suddenly awoke. He opened his eyes, but saw only pitch-blackness. He strained his ears, but heard only unnerving silence. Pan Gu found his dreary surroundings highly disturbing.

    Flustered, Pan Gu conjured a magical ax and landed upon the egg a mighty chop. The egg split into two with a thunderous crack. Slowly, yin and yang began to separate. Everything dark and heavy sank down to form the Earth. And the rest, light and clear, drifted up to form the heavens.

    But Pan Gu was anxious that the halves would close up again, and so he stood between the two halves to keep them apart. With each passing day, the sky rose 10 feet further above him, the Earth thickened 10 feet below him, and Pan Gu himself grew 10 feet just to keep up with the growing expanse and hold on.”

    The egg is of course the unmanifest, eggs being a symbol of potential. Yin and Yang are the Ring-Chaos and Ring-Cosmos (I don’t know which is which) and Pan Gu the Ring-Pass-Not

  58. I am baby stepping my way through this visualization. I am focusing on getting the imagery right before intensively pairing the visualization with the text.

    For me I am visualizing the ring cosmos as a clock on the desk in front of me and it is moving clock wise (of course). I imagine the pivot points for the intersection of ring cosmos and ring chaos at 12 and 6.

    For me, I started out visualizing ring chaos not at 90 degrees to the clock face but at a much smaller angle. In my mind I start ring chaos out a few inches above the 9 and I have the ring chaos move clock wise (in the same direction as ring cosmos) it dives through the plane of ring cosmos at 12 o’clock and comes back up through the plane at 6 o’clock. The whole time it moves in the same direction as ring cosmos.

    Then, because I know that ring chaos could also move in a counter clock wise fashion (while ring cosmos is still only going clock wise) I tried to visualize this combination of motion. And honestly it was a bit more difficult, I think because they are going in opposite direction.

    Then I returned to the easier visualization of the ring chaos at a small angle and moving clock wise, and I increased the angle until I got to 90 degrees with no problem. After 90 degrees I was back to more difficult visualization with the rings moving in different directions.

    I understand what I am visualizing is slightly different from the exercise outlined, I am rotating the plane of ring chaos around and keeping ring cosmos flat on the table, rather than rotating the plane of ring cosmos and keeping ring chaos at 90 degrees. It is an easier visualization for me but I am guessing I should work on visualizing both ways.
    Should I be paying more time and attention to the things that are more difficult to visualize?

  59. This bit is bugging me:

    “As new senses open up, more planes of existence can be known. There is, however, a limit to the knowledge of the finite. Perception ceases at the barrier of manifestation. Of that which lies beyond we can only know by analogy. The Unmanifest is pure existence.”

    I quote the rest for context, but namely, “a limit to the knowledge of the finite” followed by the assertion that we cannot know anything beyond manifestation, which seems to imply that the Unmanifest is itself finite (although unknowable), which seems incorrect. The image of interstellar space implies infinity; although, as of the last astrophysics class I took, there is some debate about whether actual space is infinite or not, as you (JMG) said in another comment, it is hard to imagine anything beyond/outside of space except more space somehow divided from the rest. I want to read this as “our knowledge is limited to the finite,” which seems to make more sense, and would make the Unmanifest both unknowable and infinite, but that doesn’t quite seem to fit Fortune’s actual words.

  60. Dear JMG,

    Having encountered some snippets of modern physics, I find it very difficult to imagine the unmanifest as an empty void of interstellar space. My mind gets inevitably distracted by the visible cracks in this simple vision of endless emptiness as soon as I remember that space has it own intangible properties, and thus cannot be considered truly Unmanifest. Some such property – the topology of the Cosmic Arena – is able to make the picture incompatible with what is drawn in the first chapter of Cosmic Doctrine. Imagine Ring Cosmos formed on a toral surface: the dynamics of Ring Cosmos and Ring Chaos would be completely different. There would be no Ring-Pass-Not because Ring Cosmos would be unable to complete its revolution. On a surface of a torus, there would be no option to form a disk, instead, there would be different streams, isolated from each other, and of different qualities. And this is only one of many ways space could be organized. There are countless other possibilities, some even more strange. I’m thinking of eternal inflation, a great number of dimensions, interconnectedness between space and time, to name just a few.

    Of course, I understand that by imagining all these other pictures I may completely miss the point of the exercise. But I wonder if sneaking a common-sense notion of 3D Euclidean space into a model for the most basic knowable, for good and evil, for order and chaos, might lead to some disaster in the future.

  61. If the Unmanifest is a great stillness, of the potentiality of all possible being, and the manifest is a great movement, of change and of specific becoming, does the Unmanifest lose a quality that is being manifest and re-absorb the experience of that quality when it becomes, again, Unmanifest?
    This is chewy stuff! My brain hasn’t worked this hard since an undergraduate course on Heidegger. I am glad I am not the only one struggling to visualise the planes and angles of movement being describe so thank you for the additional imagery.

  62. Thank you so much for doing this study of CosDoc – for sharing your knowledge you’ve earned over so many years.
    The occult writings I’ve tried to wade my way through – both the egotistical ramblings and the rantings against the egoists have had me flummoxed for a good long while. I knew there was something to be learned but never was able to connect to any material that felt real to me.
    I’m old now, I only want to move towards the truth. I don’t have time for any bs anymore. Sincere thank you for sharing. Would be lost on this path without your pointers.

  63. Got the pdf. Thanks Marco!
    Clarification, please: the spinning + flipping cosmos defines the sphere of Pass-Not. But the Ring-Chaos ALSO rotates making a sphere outside that? So its spin is like a flowing band of river, and its rotation is around a Polar Axis at a 90 degree angle to the original plane of the cosmos (which by now is flipping and no longer stays put in that plane?). Oy. I am not sure about the second sphere’s motion, see.

  64. For some reason when I try to get a handle on whats going on between Ring-Cosmos and Ring-Chaos, Jeremy England’s work on dissipation-driven adaptation ends up in my thoughts.

  65. JMG, due to your essay “On Occult literature” on May 30, this old agnostic has decided to take the plunge and join in with the study of the Cosmic Doctrine. I don’t have anything specific to ask or comment on, since, after reading through the comments and questions, along with your answers, I have found everything (so far!) that I have wondered about addressed. I am also glad that you plan on keeping this post thread open for further comments and questions all month, since I’m sure there will be more to learn and ponder upon with multiple readings of the text. Perhaps this will assist me in getting a good solid grip on the world and the forces that flow through it.

    Joy Marie

    P.S.–I have formerly commented on your blog as simply “Joy”, but as I see another Joy is also participating in this discussion, I’ve changed it slightly so there won’t be any confusion between us.

  66. So, according to this great whirling metaphor, every action generates its own reaction from the wider world, and that reaction attracts and repels the original action. The interaction between the action and reaction then defines and sets limits on their relationship.

    The idea that there are no straight lines in the cosmos, is this partly a commentary on how life generally unfolds? Nothing seems to go straight towards a purpose, but meanders in some direction, even if there’s someone driving it.

  67. On a mundane and personal level, the image of Unmanifest/space undertaking movement counteracted by slightly less equivalent inertia is applicable to my (current) life’s tendency toward act and then release-of-act (or purposeful and purposeless moment/momentum) with a slow swing back around to those things needing further action, not square one, but spiralled back around. At least there’s a natural pattern there and at least I do come back around eventually, though I do need to practice not letting aeons lapse between revisits.

    I’m mulling some questions over and when I reach the limits of my heretofore untrained at “unpacking” mind’s ability to sense, suss, or feel its way further, will pose them here.

    Fun, chewy stuff!

  68. Jim, the exercises you’re doing are great for building your capacity to visualize, but in order to make sense of the text, you should probably visualize the specific images that the text asks you to visualize…

    Jen, this is one of the reasons I prefer the revised edition. Here’s how that same passage reads there: “As new senses open up more planes of existence can be known. There is, however, a limit to the knowledge possible — the finite. Perception ceases at the barrier of manifestation. Of that which lies beyond we can know only by analogy.” That is, the Unmanifest isn’t finite; manifestation is finite. We can thus know manifestation directly, but we can know the Unmanifest only by analogy. I suspect the version in the Millennium Edition is a bit of bad editing, as it makes no sense in the context of the teaching!

    Oleg, yes, you’re missing the point of the exercise. “These images are not descriptive but symbolic, and are designed to train the mind, not to inform it.” If Fortune had wanted to use Lobachevskian or Riemannian space, say, for her metaphor, she would have — those were already being discussed by cosmologists before the Cos. Doc. was written, and we know from her essays that she kept up with quite a few branches of science. Since this is a metaphor, not a description, and since the point of the imagery is to train your mind to think in ways that it’s not used to thinking, the question is simply whether you want to learn what the text has to teach; if so, bracket the geometrical complexities and follow along.

    Waterworks, the Unmanifest has no qualities — “a state of pure ‘being’, without qualities and without history’ — so it can’t lose any. How do qualities come into being out the Unmanifest? The same way anything else does — a current flows in space and forms what we may as well call a Ring-Quality, its movement generates an orthogonal Ring-Absence-Of-Quality, and the pivoting of the first ring in response to the second generates a Ring-Pass-Not. Yes, you can apply this same logic in many other contexts!

    Patricia, good heavens! Sorry to hear this. Energy for a prompt recovery on its way.

    Just Me, you’re welcome and thank you. I know the feeling — there’s a lot of crass nonsense out there in the occult field.

    Gkb, our text is just a bit evasive about the movement of the Ring-Chaos, but it seems to work best to think of it as stationary, the static thrust-block against which the movements of the Ring-Cosmos push off.

    Rabbter, hmm! I’ll have to look into that.

  69. Joy Marie, delighted to hear it. Welcome aboard the bus!

    Kfish, that’s what the Taoists say, and they have a point. There’s more to the metaphor we’re working with than that, but that’s certainly an element.

    Temporaryreality, good. That’s one of the points Gyorgi Doczi makes in The Power of Limits.

    Zach, yes, there is — it’s the Millennium edition rather than the revised edition, but if that’s what you can get, that’s what you can get.

  70. Dear JMG, your mention of CS Lewis’ Cosmic Trilogy is timely, since I was going to ask you whether we should imagine interstellar space in a ‘modern’ way (utter darkness, emptyness) or as Lewis does in Out of the Silent Planet and in the Discarded Image, quoting the Ptolemaic and medieval cosmos, and envision it full of Light. I have to admit the former is somehow easier for me, to imagine darkness to start with, and then just enough light to feel the movement and ‘see’ the rings forming… Loads of work here indeed, particularly for someone with a weak point at visualizing…, glad you’re leading us at this pace!

  71. JMG, thanks! That was rather making me want to chew the carpets when trying to reconcile it with the rest of my musings on the chapter.

    Hopefully I will manage to get my hands on a revised edition at some point.

  72. I’m a bit confused here:

    “From within the boundary of the Ring-Pass-Not, the Ring-Chaos represents everything the Cosmos is not; it represents the primal void out of which the Cosmos takes shape.”

    The picture I got was of a cosmos-disk spinning within the ring chaos, which completely surrounds the cosmos disk. And the Pass-Not is simply the boundary of this disk as it spins, which outlines a sphere, but that sphere should be identical to the boundary of the disk itself, which is contained inside the Ring-Chaos. But above you seem to say the Ring-Chaos is inside the boundary of the Pass-Not.

    I am/was having some trouble seeing inertia as evil, since it seem to be the resting state of the unmanifest, which is existence itself.

    (I have been pondering for some years the mystery of existence itself, and it does make sense to say that the unmanifest is existence itself, so this is interesting.)

    And the unmanifest is supposed to have no characteristics, but a tendency toward inertia might be called a characteristic.

    But if it takes an overcoming of inertia to get a universe to manifest, as Paul LaViolette writes in Subquantum Kinetics, then I could see that as one way to look at it.

    On a more personal level, there was a situation between me and another person that involved that person engaging in rather extreme and unpredictable inertia that ultimately frustrated me to the point I became utterly overwhelmed with rage, and I think may even have been a final straw that led to my health issue.

    I had never thought of negative evil, or how destructive inertia can be when action is called for and when other people depend on you doing your part. Child neglect might be another form of it.

  73. Okay, I’m in. My copy is in the mail. I decided against ordering the ebook. Here’s my question for now: Does making drawings (or for instance, computer renderings) of the things you’re supposed to visualize defeat the purpose, help or merely pass the time time?

  74. Longtime lurker, first time poster.

    I thoroughly enjoyed Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth and followed along with the book club posts since I already read the book. It just so happens I had The Cosmic Doctrine in my to-read pile. I’m glad I waited to follow along with this series. It’s already helped immensely in the first three pages!

  75. Reading the assigned portion several times tonight, and I really will have to delve into it deeper to truly understand it of course, I was reminded very forcefully of the Hermetic Cabala, especially concerning the Sephiroth being comprised of various Angelic and and Qlippothic components. If I’m on the right track, the RIng-Cosmos would be Angelic and the Ring-Chaos would then be Qlippothic and the interactions between the two is then something of an anatomy and physiology lesson on the Sephiroth, which she is visualizing being held together by various fixed forces, like an atom’s nucleus. If this is the case, she is elucidating in breath-taking manner, describing exactly how and why a Sephira is spherical and defining it in terms of its own internal tensions and forces. If I’m understanding correctly, Dion Fortune implies that the Ring-Chaos may be older than the first, which fits very neatly with the Cabalist idea that the Qlippoth are remnants of an earlier created universe. I am very curious to see where she goes with this; the text gives off a very numinous feeling.

  76. Manuel, Fortune’s starting from the modern idea of space, so imagine it as dark and empty. Yes, it takes some work, but it gets easier as you practice.

    Jen, I’ve got a publisher looking into bringing out a new printing of the revised edition — I’ll keep everyone informed. Since this project is going to take us around three years, if things work out, you’ll be able to get your hands on the revised edition while we’re still at work.

    Onething, nah, I’m not saying that the Ring-Chaos is inside the Ring-Pass-Not. I’m saying that if you’re inside the Ring-Pass-Not, as of course you are, the Ring-Chaos, which is outside, represents to you everything that’s outside. As for evil, what we’re talking about at this point is negative evil, the kind of evil that expresses itself as inertia; later on we’ll get to positive evil, which is much more active.

    And no, as you see, your comment didn’t get lost!

    Justin, you can use drawings if it helps you picture the images in your mind. It’s the picturing in your mind that’s the important part, though, so don’t let the drawings replace your imagination!

    Wesley, thank you! That’s good to hear.

    Violet, as you’d expect from Dion Fortune, there’s Cabala all through the Cos. Doc., but it’s not always there in a simple or straightforward manner. In a certain sense — and only in a certain sense — the movement that creates the Ring-Cosmos is the phase of Withdrawal; the movement that creates the Ring-Chaos is the phase of the Primal Worlds; and the movement that creates the Ring-Pass-Not is the phase of the descending light. The analogy can be taken too far, but it’s worth exploring.

  77. The idea that unequal forces produce a curve, beauty and functionality makes me think of longbows and katanas. Both are constructed so the outside and inside curves have different properties. Though here it’s the other way round, where the curve and the different material of each side (sapwood/heartwood and different hardnesses of steel) produce, and absorb, unequal forces.

    There was a Horizon documentary that illustrated how the vacuum of space isn’t really nothing. It showed the closest we can get to nothing on earth – inside NASA’s vacuum test chamber. The commentary said “This is nothing. But it’s ‘nothing’ in three dimensions; ‘nothing’ through which light passes.” So if you were outside the Ring-Pass-Not in complete nothing you wouldn’t be able to see the rings from a distance because in nothing there is no distance. In fact you wouldn’t be able to see it at all because light wouldn’t be able to pass through nothing to your eyes. This doesn’t need to affect the metaphor or the visualisation, although it did give me the idea of trying to imagine standing on the Ring Cosmos or Ring Chaos, looking up and seeing the other spinning above you. It does demonstrate how hard it is to think of true nothing and questions whether such a thing can exist in the conventional sense.

  78. Hi John Michael,

    This is a gift, it comes with the price of work! Your riddle from last week is now resolved. It is a privilege, and an obligation that you present us with. I must scramble to get a copy of the book. I find screen reading to be tiresome for my eyes.

    The winter has arrived here with a thud. It is 37’F outside right now and the wind is howling and the rain is coming in waves. Last evening a hungry wombat was out in the rain in the orchard. They can generally rest in their burrows for three nights if conditions are sub optimal (i.e. wet), but three nights of rain have now passed and it continues to rain. From a deep time perspective, this area that I live in was once dominated by blackwood (Acacia Melanoxylon) rainforest, and the tall eucalyptus trees battle it out with the wet/dry adapted rainforest species for supremacy. It is interesting to watch them duke it out.

    My old blog is now dead and deleted. Gone. But a phoenix arises from the ashes! Anyway, I like the new blog better than the old blog! Hehe! Sometimes it does not pay to sit still.



  79. JMG
    Thanks for reply. I understand your going straight into the philosophy as it is made available in the images. OK, we have got “received teachings” out of the way.

    I am not sure, however about DF’s own knowledge base. She says upfront in Intro that she has made no special study of this branch of esoteric science and the ideas herein, “… and have only the most elementary knowledge of physics and none whatever of mathematics.” My comment is that despite what seems sincere protestation (and I would need to describe similarly my own elementary knowledge base), 2nd hand knowledge and ideas especially in our modern semi-educated world, float around and manifest in our minds and conversations, and become part of vocabulary.

    As you say, DF could use the idea of evolution in ‘nuanced’ ways. JMG quote: “As for evolution, that’s a complex concept to begin with, and Fortune’s using it in a nuanced way; we’ll be exploring it from various angles as this conversation continues”. My guess for what it is worth is that hierarchy comes into DF’s understanding of evolution because that was the way it was commonly discussed in the first half of 20th Century. Traditional Christian religion presumably was not the only tradition to struggle with interpretation of evolution, let alone with the idea of deep time. And the first globalisation had brought from elsewhere well-worked ideas on void, existence and time. And goodness knows how newly verified aspects of quantum theory were filtering into meditation and contemplation back in her day?

    So the boat has sailed. And we venture beyond the present scientific method and the reach of the tools of classical logic and humdrum inference that normally circumscribe an arena for imagination. We extend rather the role of metaphor. That which we can see, that which we can reliably infer and can submit to logic and consistency of intelligible exposition, needs to proceed more by analogy and metaphor if we are to find useful limits to reality. JMG quote:“…the attraction of outer space — the craving for limitlessness — was in her view, and is in mine, one of the great driving forces of positive evil.”

    I admit to being lost about ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ evil.

    Change, direction, intention, wishes, cravings, priority, and the others as they come in and out of existence…
    Ray Wharton above quoted: “Of that which lies beyond we can only know by analogy” D.F.
    And Ray added: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof must one be silent.” Wittgenstein T.L.P.
    I suppose we can look among analogies for constructive metaphors and if it is possible, their verification?

    Phil H

  80. “Evolution is a thrust from the surface towards the center.
    Devolution, or Dissolution is a suction into outer space.”

    This is very interesting almost a reversed schema of the abred -ceugant model. Thinking of evolution as going toward a point, as contracting or converging, has for a good while been antithetical to my thinking; on the other hand thinking of dissolution as an outward suction toward a perimeter of incomprehensible chaos seems less foreign. Though the evolution of a given being in manifestation could be going toward a certain track in the cosmic-vinyl; as the center is a trackless point to any particular being, being the center of all Creation as such (Creation in this sense being identified with the ring-cosmic, not with Being Beyond; the Heavens in this way of thinking)

    The chaos-belt, which exists out side of the manifest world, as a sucking vortex drawing outwards, makes me thing of each radii of the Ring-Cosmic as a chain of being, so that the needle might move toward the center; such that it is closer -on average in the spacial metaphore and in connection in a more systemic metaphor- to the whole of the Ring-Cosmic; or it might more toward the outer limits and exist in an world where only a tiny hinter-bit is close to it, too far from the center to perceive the cosmic forces acting upon it, but instead swung by the turbulence of the Ring-chaos’ inscrutable wonkiness.

    I suppose that there is a reasonable compromise between my afore acquired method of thought of evolution progressing toward a wide range of options, and this new central focused schema thus: It is the RING-Cosmos not quite a disk. That is to say at the center of the windy need tracks of all created being is still a circle of great diameter, but from the chaotic static of omni possibility beyond this is still small, and can be seen in the empirical case of convergent evolution. Such that out of many more possibilities there are a comparatively few forms that are converged upon at the climax of various tracks… before that form in its maturity is again acted upon by aging-chaos, a different kind from the thrust block chaos.

  81. So, if Unmanifest is “to be” turned back on itself, and anything existing in interstellar space that we can measure because we know interstellar space is not empty, is manifested stuff, can we consider Unmanifest to be the Black Swan that our human capabilities cannot fathom? Even though these unfathomables can and will have great influence in some way at some time? And what we are practicing here is new senses or organs of sense that will allow us access to what hitherto remains hidden to us? Like the inklings we learn about dark matter? And is knowing dark matter is unmeasureable it is manifest and therefore not unmanifest?

  82. For what is worth, I got my PDF copy of the CosDoc 60’s edition from this source:

    I am behind a highschool firewall now, so I am afraid I cannot double check the URL, but you should be able to google for Six Crowns Dion Fortune if the former option does not work.

    (on further reflection, apparently most adults find as cringey for teens to look into non-mainstream religion as into porn)

  83. It has been mentioned that Fig. 1 of the Ring Cosmos can be perceived in two different ways. The standard way, for physics teachers at least, is to see the left arrow on the lower arc as in front, and the right arrow on the upper arc as in back, thus we are looking at the top surface of the ring rotating clockwise. This is how I saw the Ring Cosmos.

    Fortune later describes the upper surface of the outflowing arc as positive and this is depicted in Fig. 4. The left side upper surface of the Ring Cosmos is labeled as positive. I was confused, this would be the inflowing arc.

    And then I saw things from a different angle. The right arrow on the upper arc could be in front and I was looking at the bottom surface of the ring. Had Fortune already altered my perspective?

    There are facts, for example Fig 1, and the explanation thereof. The facts can be perceived from different angles and two observers, given the same facts, may disagree on the explanation.

    It also occurred to me that the two observers, one seeing the top surface and the other the bottom surface, would both say that the rotation is clockwise, yet clockwise from a bottom view is really counterclockwise from a top view. Perceived agreement may not mean actual agreement.

    JMG, thank you.

  84. Would like some further clarification on the difference between philosophy and occult philosophy. I suspect non-occult philosophers think that their work too is “meant to teach you how to think in ways that don’t come naturally to the untrained mind.” The difference, I suppose, is in the kind of “training” we are talking about? Would it be correct to say that occult philosophical training entails essentially non-rational kinds of mental exercise? (Would it be fair to say “aesthetic” exercise?)

    Aside from this question, I confess I am experiencing strong feelings of resistance to this book. Largely because decades ago I undertook mystical (?) work like this with high hopes, but eventually decided that the particular school I was involved in was mostly about squeezing ever escalating fees out of its adherents and ensuring their docile loyalty to the guru. Obviously, you aren’t trying to do anything similar here. But old disappointments and resentments linger.

  85. JMG, a reprint of the revised edition sounds like a worthwhile endeavor. You can count on one purchaser at least!

    Today I was thinking about this bit:

    “It [the Unmanifest] is the only ` Reality’. It alone is substance. It alone is stable. All else is an appearance and a becoming.

    It struck me as strange to refer to the Unmanifest as being “substance,” since this seems to imply materiality. But I conclude that Fortune is using “substance” to mean the undifferentiated primal stuff; when it enters manifestation, it differentiates and takes on qualities and history: “an appearance and a becoming”.

    But then I was also bothered by the assertion that it was stable. Well, why did it start moving, then? And why does manifestation come about at all? I re-read the bit about the Ring-Cosmos forming, which Fortune says is caused by the “desire of space for momentum.” As for why it desires this, I got nothing, but it seems to indicate that the Unmanifest has a will in some sense.

    Then it occurred to me that you can (albeit imperfectly) map the three Druid elements onto this picture: Calas being the substance of the Unmanifest, Gwyar its movement, and Nwyfre the life and will that makes it want to move in the first place.

    I am not very clear on whether the rings, once they have formed, are in manifestation, or are just sort of…organized pieces of the Unmanifest floating around in more Unmanifest. We’re still dealing with pretty abstract analogy, so I’m thinking we haven’t reached actual, knowable manifestation yet, but my thinking in this area is rather fuzzy.

  86. Before the beginning of time, God (well, the Unmanifest, but since it’s the Unmanifest, it can’t have any name that I give it, so I figure any name is as good as any other) felt his all-encompassing awesomeness, and desired for another consciousness with which to enter into relation in order to share that feeling. So with the strength of its will it caused space to move; a giant exhaled breath of the intention which led to the differentiation or limitation which eventually becomes the Ring-Cosmos. This is the movement away from God which led to the beginning of a new individuality. (Since time did not exist before this moment, technically speaking one could consider creation to be happening at all times. Actually, the same could be said about space). At that moment of creation when time began, God noticed for the first time his own existence, since now there was another entity which had been differentiated from him which reflected him back to himself. That was when he noticed he was lonely, as this new entity was something separate from him in a way which no other thing had ever been. So God, with a powerful inhalation, exerted another force of will to try to draw the new individuality back to him, leading to the force that Dion’s calling the Ring-Chaos or inertia. But I guess the new individuality also had a desire, to go forth and explore and exist as an individual separate from God, so the force of the Ring-Cosmos proved a little bit stronger. Anyway, the interplay of these two forces led to the Ring-Cosmos starting to spin, filling with energy and becoming a new consciousness, a new universe unto itself, a sun, sephira (or individual human, for that matter); what is being called the Ring-Pass-Not. Taking into consideration that well-known occult saying, ‘as above, so below,’ one might figure that it has its own creative power or will just like God has, so eventually it starts the process all over again, and it creates a new Ring-Cosmos, Ring-Chaos and Ring-Pass-Not. And so it continues, with the interaction of these two forces which leads to the creation of a third force taking place at a variety of different scales throughout all of existence, leading to the universe as we more or less know it.

    The tendency of the newly created entity to go forth into space (the desire of space for momentum) would be the Qlippothic tendency, or what has been referred to as positive evil; a movement away from the Unmanifest. The word ‘progress’ comes to mind here for some reason. The force of inertia pulling back towards unity with the original God would be negative evil, or that force which exerts a drag on the will of the new individuality, trying to bring it back to the Great Negation and destroy it in a misguided attempt at affection on the part of God. If the two forces were of equal power, nothing would happen, or more specifically they would cancel each other out, leaving us back at the Unmanifest, which, all things considered, seems pretty boring. If the force of the Ring-Chaos didn’t pull it back a little, the new individuality would continue forever in one direction in a truly unlimited way, itself undifferentiated and undefined. But it seems the universe doesn’t actually work that way, as instead there’s a unique balance, a tension between the two forces that leads to the creation of the third force at the boundary where they meet, the Ring-Pass-Not. I always get the infinity symbol coming up at this stage of my meditation, even though it is not one of the images that Dion mentions.

    A question to which I have no answer: is the Unmanifest a state of consciousness to which humans can aspire, after several lifetimes of the work of initiation? Is it Kether? Or is that giving humanity way too much credit? I suppose once a being attained the state of the Unmanifest, it would start all over again with the whole process of creation, so it may not matter much.

    That’s my version of these first few pages; or at least how it occurred to me in meditation! I would say there’s quite a lot of room for misunderstanding to occur though…

  87. Archdruid,

    Where is the prime stillness, is it between the ring-chaos and the manifest or between the ring cosmos, and ring chaos?



  88. JMG,

    The imagery got be thinking back to Mystery Teachings, specifically the 7th Law of Evolution, and more specifically the words: challenge, response, and reintegration. Taken over a long period of time, like evolution, one could experience a multitude of challenges, each one slightly altering the direction of something and forming a new ‘thing’ or ring-cosmos. That is then met with another challenge which prevents further development…a ring chaos that brings about a steady state of ring-pass-not…until another challenge…rinse and repeat.
    Relating this to a “change of consciousness in accordance with will” I suspect one must continually throw these challenges (or primevils, maybe?) at the direction things are going to willfully steer things ever so slightly into the direction you want it to go. Taken over time, the thing or place you’re aiming for, could manifest itself, or, these multitudes of cosmoses can build an egregor. It gets a little mushy and complex, so I’m now really starting to appreciate how the imagery and symbolism is so important to the “description.” How the gods enter in, I’m not sure, but I’m guessing they lurk outside the ring-chaos. Perhaps they assist with the initial challenge. As would a magical ceremony, I suspect. Just one way I’ve looked at it…very much looking forward to the ongoing discussion and appreciate corner of the interwebs that you and your readers/commenters have carved out! Thank you.

    Mike T

  89. Hi JMG,

    This esoteric piece of work has close resemblance to other essays I have read around the same topic. For instance, the discussion around ‘space’ and ‘movement’ closely parallels that of ‘akasha’ and ‘prana’. Here is an essay by Swami Vivekananda (Monist Philosopher from India) on this topic:

    And the Trinity of Ring Cosmos, Ring Chaos and Ring-Pass-Not closely resemble Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu (in that order) — that of creation, destruction and sustenance. I think a relentless outpouring of creativity (e.g. Beethoven, Bach for the Western Classical Music – Tyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Syama Sastry for Carnatic classical music (South Indian tradition)) rely on tapping into this source (IT is the source from which all arises).

    Interested to see where the further reading of this work leads to.

  90. Jen,

    You were exploring this:
    ““It [the Unmanifest] is the only ` Reality’. It alone is substance. It alone is stable. All else is an appearance and a becoming.”

    My understanding of this comes from discussion I’ve seen using the word ‘real’ (as opposed to illusion) in Hindu and perhaps Buddhist philosophy. That alone is real which does not change and does not depend upon anything else for its existence. All things which DO depend upon prior causes, are also changeable and subject to – oh boy I’m reading ahead a bit – evolution and dissolution. We of course think of something nice and solid like a chair as ‘real.’ But it is just another piece in the kaleidoscope. It has no ultimate and permanent substance.

    Since the unmanifest is existence itself, that’s the rock bottom. It does not arise from prior causes and conditions. That of course is its ultimate mystery, a puzzle our brains cannot fathom, and one which atheists reject as a possibility.

    But on that note I have had an insight. To me, God is that unmanifest, ultimate reality outside causation. Atheists like Dawkins say such a thing cannot be. But yet,

    1. They manage to believe in a universe whose causation is unexplained, and
    2. Even more, they ignore that the mystery of Existence Itself actually has two components to it, one being the unfathomableness of existence but the other is energy. Whence energy?

    We are used to, in the back of our minds, a kind of understanding that all things come into being due to prior conditions, but where does the energy come from to power a universe? This is just as big a mystery as that anything exists at all.

  91. The idea of two unequal but opposed forces has been faintly reminding me of something, and only just now have I been able to pin it down – the Golden Ratio. My modern mind wants everything nice and neat and symmetrical, but in studying sacred geometry I learned about this precisely balanced inequality that’s not really expressible in numbers, per se, but which allows the expression of great beauty.

    Also, as I turn this stuff over in my head, I find I conflate the Unmanifest with the Ring-Chaos. Maybe because Fortune says that it represents the “prime stillness” for our Cosmos. And I suppose, if I imagine myself standing on the double-whirling Ring-Cosmos staring outwards, the Ring-Chaos appears to describe an immobile sphere interposed between the Unmanifest and the Ring-Pass-Not.

    So without an external viewpoint, it would seem that the Unmanifest is evil or chaotic, and I have to remind myself that this is just the layer between the Ring-Pass-Not and the Unmanifest (if I’m imagining this correctly).

    Part of what boggles me is that the narrator is giving us a description of the metaphor from the outside-in, so that we start with several images of unknowable things. Then we come to the Ring-Pass-Not and a firm insistence that we can’t know anything about the unknowable things the narrator was just describing to us.

    So on one level I’m still figuring out how to seriously grapple with this metaphor that keeps loudly insisting that it’s just a metaphor, and not to be taken literally.

  92. Yorkshire, excellent! A katana makes a particularly good metaphor for the metaphor, because it’s straight before it gets its final tempering; a layer of clay is put along one side of the blade and not the other, and the differential in the speed of cooling causes the blade to take on its exquisite arc.

    Just Me, I gather the revised version is all over the internet at this point! Fascinating.

    Chris, I agree about screen reading — paper is just a lot easier on the eyes. I hope the winter isn’t too harsh!

    Phil, it’s quite possible that some of Fortune’s ideas were based on inaccurate science, but since all this is metaphorical anyway, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. As for positive and negative evil, we’ll be exploring that in much more detail in the months ahead.

    Ray, good. In later chapters we’ll get into a much more nuanced vision of evolution, with a lot in common with Toynbee’s idea of growth through challenge and response. At this point the metaphor is being sketched out in only the most general terms.

    Larry, metaphorically, sure!

    CRPatino, hmm! Yes, the link works. That’s the revised edition, no question, but it gives the date of copyright as 1957. Clearly the history of publication is a bit more complicated than I’d thought.

    Peter, good. Keep that in mind as we proceed and see where it takes you.

    Dave, occultism refers to the specific traditions of magic and related arts practiced in the western world since ancient times, and suppressed first by organized Christianity and then by organized rationalism. Occult philosophy is simply that branch of philosophy that deals with occultism, and with the perspectives on the cosmos that come from experience with occultism. No doubt many other kinds of philosophy also include works that now and again try to teach unfamiliar kinds of thinking; the point I wanted to make was simply that all occult philosophy does so, not that no other philosophy does so.

    Jen, the rings are in manifestation, since they have qualities and history, but they’re a very, very basic form of manifestation, a long way from the richly complex form we’re used to. As for the rest, good; keep working with those ideas, and any others that occur to you.

    Stefania, we can aspire to the Unmanifest, but it’s not at all a good idea. No, it’s not Kether — quite the opposite. For us, within this particular cosmos, the Unmanifest is represented by the Ring-Chaos, which is the Prime Evil, and so to aspire to the Unmanifest — for us, and for other beings within the cosmos — is to aspire to the Prime Evil along the path of devolution. More on this as we proceed!

    Varun, the prime stillness is represented by the Ring-Chaos. It’s not actually still, but it’s as close as we can come — from within a cosmos — to the concept of stillness. The only real stillness is the Unmanifest.

    Mike, good! Challenge, response and reintegration — yes, those are another set of names for the three rings. As for the gods, no, they’re not outside the Ring-Chaos. Do you recall how, in most mythologies, the universe comes into being and then the gods are born? It’s the same way in the Cos. Doc.

    Laser_focus, those metaphors will work, too!

    Onething, excellent. Yes, that’s very much in tune with what Fortune is saying.

    Cliff, the Golden Section is a fine geometric example of what we’re discussing. As for the use of metaphor, that’s got layers within layers, and they’re quite deliberate. Partly Fortune is trying to fend off attempts at fundamentalism — she’d seen people go all dogmatic and literalist about Blavatsky’s writings, and threw in the discussion of metaphor to make that less likely. But there’s more to it than that, of course.

  93. The first paragraph is a pretty accurate description of the Tao IMHO!

    It also seems analogous to much of the quantum theory, particularly the zero point field.

    Looking forward to working through this with you. I’ve had the book for many years and read it many times.

  94. When I finally sat to read the first chapter with visualisations and got to the point of seeing the first movement of the Unmanifest, I saw something very different immediately – instead of the movement being circular and forming a ring it was toroidal, as in the whole space turning through a doughnut shape taking many different circular paths and all coming back to the same starting point. It was very vivid and had life on its own! In this image the Ring Chaos was a ring going through the middle of the doughnut and all around it. The image was quite difficult to shake off before I could force myself to see the shapes as described in the book and in this blog post. Very interesting!

    It seems to be related to the image I had for electromagnetic fields that was drilled into me back in the uni days. It also corresponds heavily to how I saw the energy field of my body with middle pillar/central ray that goes through the central axis of the body being the shaft the toroid is wrapped around. Similar to this painting here:

    So far what came up while contemplating the material of the first chapter… Somehow it resembles the structure of a persona with Ring Pass-Not representing the ego and Ring Chaos – the shadow. And if it makes sense to see a structure of a person like that, then shadow as our tendency to say “I’m definitely not THAT” is the cornerstone of the whole construct!

  95. JMG
    Ah … perhaps in my simple way I might just be getting it. Smile

    Peter K wrote: ‘And then I saw things from a different angle’. … ‘Had Fortune already altered my perspective?’ …
    ‘There are facts’ … ‘The facts can be perceived from different angles and two observers, given the same facts, may disagree on the explanation’…
    ‘It also occurred to me that [for] the two observers’ … ’Perceived agreement may not mean actual agreement.’…

    You JMG responded: ‘Peter, good. Keep that in mind as we proceed and see where it takes you.’

    And Darkest Yorkshire cited some useful metaphors for the DF metaphor. You JMG liked the functional beauty of katana and responded: ‘A katana makes a particularly good metaphor for the metaphor.

    And then I was re-assembling a beautifully designed wooden scythe by means of its metal clamping (The context was perfectly co-incidental; the scythe had been on my back while I biked to and fro to help with cutting grass for a coming theatrical performance by friends at a stone circle. The point being that ‘assembly’ of the tool was something I have not needed to do very often, and I was slow). Not being perfect click-and-fit hard plastic, care and judgment was involved in tightening the clamped parts. It seemed like metaphor and awareness go together, and reminded me that our memory is not made of precise digital data-bases that can click and perfectly replay. Hmm… I will see where it takes me! Smile.

    Phil H
    PS. I too hope Chris work and winter in Australia all go OK. I am a good bit older but 7 years ago it took 6 weeks and some to recover from the real flu. And thoughts go also to the right wrist of Patricia in America to mend in quick order.

    Sadly I must report that it seems none of our swallows or house martens have made it back this year. This as far as we remember has never happened before. The sand martens arrived thank goodness at the river, though fewer in numbers. If there is no big flood in the next few weeks their young should fledge: more insects by the water; we have been in drought.

  96. @ JMG, thank you for clarification! It has proven itself to be helpful for furthering my understanding.

    Interesting to note, last night I went over the assigned text several times scrupulously imagining each image. I did this until my head hurt, and soon fell asleep and dreamt abundantly and vividly.

    This morning while doing the LBRP I noticed that the pentagrams remained in the air after I drew them it was uncanny, there they were, the drawn lines sparkling faintly. I had caught some glimmerings of this, but this was a big change. Doing my morning discursive meditation I noticed that I was more easily able to concentrate.

    Honestly I’m not sure this is effect is caused, at least in part, by contemplation of images that ” are not descriptive but symbolic, and are designed to train the mind, not to inform it,” or it is just a happy coincidence. Nonetheless, it seems worthy of mention here.

  97. Stuart, it does indeed. One of the things I’m hoping to see here is people with many different levels of exposure to the Cos. Doc., from first-time readers to longtime students, sharing their insights, so it’s good to know that there are others here like me who’ve put plenty of time into it.

    Ganesh, to my mind Alex Grey is practically an anatomy-textbook illustrator when it comes to the subtle body, so where that’s concerned, you’re not far off. The Three Rings of the Cos. Doc., though, exist at a far more basic level — it’s only after we have the formation of a center and the development of the planes and rays that a toroidal geometry comes into play. Here it’s just circles and spheres!

    Phil, excellent. I don’t know enough about the manufacture of scythes to know how easily that could be made into a metaphor, but it seems like a good one potentially…

    Violet, fascinating. See if the effect continues.

  98. Mr. Archdruid,

    how would you compare geometric cosmology of “The Cosmic Doctrine” with the one in “The Symbolism of the Cross” by Rene Guenon?


  99. Well, after my first reading of The First Manifestation, I have to say: I’m quite puzzled, but in a good way. Though I had some trouble cottoning onto the points Fortune was trying to make at first, and worried that I would be unable to see the true meaning behind the text, I must admit that Fortune’s metaphorical model of a cosmos originated from the duality of space and motion in an uncaring Unmanifest is making a lot more sense than it did at first. In particular, the characterization of evil not as anything under human control, but the friction exerted by the Unmanifest against the creative energies of the Ring-Cosmos, simply another role played by the basic actors of force and inertia, makes perfect sense once you consider the roles of the Ring-Cosmos and Ring-Chaos as action and reaction, respectively, and the way evil deeds tend to exploit good acts in the small snippet of the inner Ring-Pass-Not we call our home.

    However, I do have one question related to The Cosmic Doctrine, and I hope it’s not too blatantly obvious: what are “Logos”, as Fortune defines them? I was unable to find anything related to them in the first chapter, or the first part of the succeeding one. If this is a metaphor, as it most certainly is, then I haven’t realized the true meaning.

  100. Thank you to everyone for your comments so far. I understood the mental image pretty quickly after the original post but I was not sure what to do with it. It’s so different from other images I am more familiar with, like the simple image of light yang ascending towards heaven and dark yin descending to earth. For one thing we are not in a simple world of up-down or east-west, but in a complex realm of rotational movement and plane intersection. It was great to read everyone’s attempts to visualize this and put it into contexts familiar to them. This made my own image easier to meditate on as I thought about the simultaneous attraction and repulsion, and the moment of intersection. But I am still trying to get my head around how the Ring-Cosmos is formed in the first place, and how the Unmanifest differs from the Manifest (since the Unmanifest exists prior to difference). Hopefully I’ll have time to reread and contemplate this over the next month.

  101. A couple of questions, which I hope won’t detract too much from the quality of the general discussion:

    I understand that the Ring Chaos is spinning at a right angle to the Ring Cosmos but is it also rotating about an axis ( but in a direction opposite that of the the rotating/spinning Ring Cosmos)? The text states that the Rings are mutually attracting and repelling, which to me suggests that they both have the capacity to rotate as they spin. I’m picturing nested spheres here.

    Second, the form that arises from the rotation of the spinning Ring Cosmos about its axis is a sphere. Why is it not termed a “Sphere Pass Not”? A Ring-Pass-Not seems, well, superable to a consciousness determined to go beyond it, whereas a Sphere permits no escape from any direction. Thinking of a Ring-Pass-Not causes my visualization to become static. Furthermore, if it is simply a Ring, what is its orientation relative to the Ring Cosmos and Ring Chaos? I feel that I’ve missed an important point somewhere.

    Thanks for this opportunity

  102. JMG re: Kether

    Thanks very much for your reply. That would put Kether right in the center of the three Rings, if I’m taking your meaning. I’ll have to try to wrap my mind around that! I’m getting a very strange image of the Tree of Life, made up of Matryoshka dolls, drawn by M.C. Escher…but I’m probably jumping ahead.

    Today I went back to the line about training the mind, not informing it. I visualized the three Rings as surrounding me (i.e. with myself as the center), where I imagine my aura to be, and got some interesting results. I found I could still see it there later on in the day, outside of meditation.

    I think the act of trying to visualize and hold such a complex image requires intense concentration, which is what could lead to the change in consciousness needed to actually start understanding what is being talked about in the book. The regular mind isn’t going to be able to do it by just thinking about it.

  103. Goran Kon, that’s not one of the works of Guenon’s that I’ve read, so I’ll have to leave that question to those who are familiar with both.

    Ethan, “Logos” is singular, “Logoi” is plural. (It’s a Greek word.) We’ll be discussing the generation of the Logoi in later chapters; here Fortune is dangling the term like bait.

    Avery, good! That’s one of the reasons why I want to take a month for each chapter. There’s a lot of meat to gnaw on.

    Dirtyboots, no, the Ring-Chaos is stationary. Imagine for a moment a magnet that’s moving, and another magnet that’s bolted to a wall. The magnet on the wall can still attract and repel the moving magnet, depending on which pole is turned toward it, without itself being able to move. As for the term “Ring-Pass-Not,” Fortune inherited it from the Theosophists; it’s actually a sphere, of course, but the term “Ring-Pass-Not” was firmly enough established in the occult jargon of her time that she pretty much had to use it. It also makes a neater verbal formula that way — the Three Rings sound better than the Two Rings And A Sphere. 😉

    Hmm — “three rings for the Elven-kings…” Probably not related, but if I ever wanted to pose a fine question on symbolism to students familiar with the Cos. Doc., I’d ask them to assign the rings Narya, Nenya, and Vilya to Fortune’s three rings, and justify their choice…

  104. @Stefania,

    I encountered the symbol for infinity as well, as an observer positioned on the Ring-Pass-Not watching the path of a random particle within the spinning, rotating Ring Cosmos. Such a particle will follow a helical path that doubles back on itself. This shape, projected in two dimensional space roughly approximates the infinity symbol. Whether this signifies anything within this cosmogony I haven’t a clue but it provided great entertainment.

  105. So, if Kether might represent the central point within the Ring Cosmos, then the current in space is the 2, Chokmah, tracing a line representing the duality movement/inertia, which takes a circular, zodiacal path under the “gravitational” pull exerted by the center point. Upon completion of its circuit, aeons have passed and the first ring is complete, giving rise to 3, Binah, Saturnine conditions, the emergence of time and 2 dimensional consciousness. Then a new condition, 4, Chesed, emerges, an orthogonal projection of movement, giving rise to the possibility of a 3rd dimension, structure, the full flower of Jupiter. Finally, 5, the sphere having been traced, Geburah imposes its limits, the Ring-Pass-Not.

  106. I was taking a first pass at the final paragraph of the assigned text and really beating my head against a wall- some of the sentences just didn’t even make grammatical sense!- so I decided to check out whether the Milennial Edition might be part of the issue. I downloaded a PDF of the “other” version from the link posted above by CRPatiño, and guess what? MUCH better. Grammar problems solved. Also, the sentence which ends the paragraph in the Millennial Edition has much more to it in the other edition, including a description of the Ring-Pass-Not as the Prime Limitation, and the other edition has this additional sentence not included in the Millenial: “Therefore, at base, it is the Prime Evil which enables the Cosmos to come into being.” Those seem like some juicy bits to be missing. So heads-up, folks who are making do with the Millenial Edition in paper, it might be worth comparing versions electronically now and again.
    –Heather in CA

  107. In your reply to Yanocoches, you said, “…it’s useful to get a clear sense of the Ring-Pass-Not as the sphere traced by the outer edge of the Ring-Cosmos as it pivots around its intersections with the Ring-Chaos.”
    The image I get, then, has the Ring-Cosmos inside the spherical Ring-Pass-Not, and the Ring-Chaos outside the RPN Sphere. Is that correct? Also the rings connect at two points. Does the line between the two points form an axis around which the Ring Chaos and the Ring-Cosmos tumble? It seems possible that the rings could also generate a Ring-Pass-Not if the ‘axis’ tumbled end over end, or in other orientations.
    I am tempted to try my own drawings of these images–Would it be better to only visualize them?
    Thank you, once again, for a fascinating commentary on this difficult book! Perhaps, at the end of this series, you will publish an annotated Cosmic Doctrine?

  108. Hello, I am awfully glad this post will stay up for the month. I’m still chewing on the first paragraph on the unmanifest. Pure existence which IS, and is substance, stable, ‘reality’ (why the quotes here, I wonder), source of all. It is not appearances, or becoming, it is without qualities, or history. It is unknowable. It is unity, manifestation begins when duality occurs. This prompts a reflection on the manifest, which is not substance or stable, which springs from a source, is not ‘reality’ (why the quotes?), is appearances, becoming, has qualities, has history, is knowable – all of which, I would add, are precious features of life as we know it.

    Presumably manifestation also ends when unity occurs.

    This would be why the unmanifest is also “the Great Negation”, because at any point, if unity occurs from duality, all manifestation is dissolved. Union negates manifestation, its qualities and its history. And perhaps it is this which makes certain types of potential union (such as a sexual union between two incarnate beings, or a mystical union with non-incarnate beings) feel fraught with danger.

  109. Vilya, mightiest of the Three, blue and gold, as if it might be Sky and Sun, Strand and Sea, shall stand for the Ring Cosmos. Rivendell, the Homeliest Home, has (according to Samwise) something of everything: the Shire and the Golden Wood, Gondor, king’s houses, inns, meadows and mountains all mixed. The Third Ring, Narya, wth the stone red as fire, fits best as the Ring Pass-Not; as indeed, Gandalf, wielding it, says to the Balrog “You shall not pass!” He prevents evil from crossing the abyss, and also from breaching the bounds of Good Taste, or at least of Decent Propriety. Very British, that.

    That leaves Nenya, of mithril and frosty white adamant to play the role of Ring-Chaos. Lothlorien, situated outside the Cosmos, place of ageless time where days bring healing and not decay, demonstrating the negative evil of slowing Change by drag and resistance against mortal mechnicals and their whirligigs of motion. The Place where trees are Home. How the trees get their roots nourished if decay is retarded, I do not know; maybe decay is whisked out of sight by Elf CharLadies?

    To be sure, Galadriel is associated with the changeless stars and when tempted by the One Ring imagines being more treacherous than the sea, stronger than the foundations of the earth, which argues that her sympathies are with elemental forces that tend to oppose and resist the pesky incursions of Man and his straight-line Machines into places of beauty and natural curves (ooh-la-la!)

    I should have thought the One Ring was more chaotically evil, but perhaps that ring is a ‘positive’ evil or a corrupting one, like, say, the tripartite Rings of money, greed, and pride, domination, decadence, and despair. Pure, hurtless Gold being the form of the One Ring, and treeless, dead landscapes of desolation being the end result of its action –what else to set against it save the Red, White and Blue colors of the British Flag?

    Where is the Ring polished Oak and Emerald Green? is my question. Does Radamast the Brown wear it? Or Goldberry, River Daughter? Where, if it exists, shall we find it? And who shall wield it? Elessar’s Beryl is all but overthrown, once more. Gr8 Jet Coal and the Gyre of Plastic rule the land and the sea. Perhaps the Emerald was shattered and its fragments lie scattered about the world, powerless – – unless a thousand of thousands of thousands of little Samwise Gardeners dig it up from the soil and, all together, put it to use…?

  110. Dirtyboots, good. You can also see the three rings as the three supernals, and the seven planes (which we’ll get to in a few chapters) as the seven spheres below the Abyss. There are other ways of relating the systems, too. Which is correct? Whichever one helps you make sense of the metaphors.

    Heather, yep — that’s why I prefer the revised edition, and why I’m talking with a publisher right now about getting it back in print.

    E. Goldstein, yes, the Ring-Cosmos is inside the Ring-Pass-Not and the Ring-Chaos is outside it. The axis that connects them is the axis on which the Ring-Cosmos pivots, but the Ring-Chaos remains stationary in the metaphor — since there’s nothing outside the Ring-Chaos but the Unmanifest, of course, there’s no way to tell whether the Ring-Chaos moves or not, since there’s nothing manifest against which you can gauge its movement.

    Thank you, by the way, and I’ve already lined up a publisher for a commentary on the Cos. Doc. — it’ll probably be twice as large as the Cos. Doc. itself!

    Scotlyn, excellent. Yes, and again yes.

    GKB, hah! I knew somebody was going to take me up on the implied challenge. The question of the green ring is an interesting one — the rhyme only provides for three elven-rings, but there would seem to be a fourth wanted…

  111. Galadriel also threw down the walls of Dol Guldur and “cleansed’ its evil, so she must be a Superb Housekeeper to put that slimy mess in good order. Who could destroy positive evil better than negative Evil who lives in the Forest Primeval? Tolkien also said that Death was a Gift to Man so that Aragorn and Arwen may meet again “beyond the circles of the World.” Speaking of circles, the last paragraph says, “On the outer sphere there is also a secondary derivation, and… it represents…the prime stillness…that which resists, which alone enables MOMENTUM to be achieved, and you may call it the Ring-Chaos—the “Prime Evil.” (all-caps, mine) Not motion, not movement but *momentum*, or possibly, acceleration?

    Some kind of perpetual motion machine seems posited. Or else the Positive Cosmos forces are stronger than the negative Cosmos forces. Because, otherwise, if Upper-Outflow positive Cosmic arc is attracted to Negative left-hand top-half Chaos arc, what happens once it swings just past the nearest surface of Chaosring? Why, the backside of that Chaos-arc is positive, which ought (in good physics) to be attractive to the negative Underside Cosmos-outflow arc, hence make the Cosmos start swinging backwards! So that the drag (if equal) would tend to make the Cosmic Platter stand still, not keep on turning.

    Unless both Ring-spins are so perfectly timed as to make each Positive-Negative Draw be followed directly by a Neg-Neg or Pos-Pos Push. Or if Pos-Cos force is stronger than Neg-Cos force, so positive-motivated movement always wins. Or there is a wildly unpredictable mix of meetings between pos’es and neg’s of each Ring so that the Cosmos would wobble all over the place if it were not secured by pins at the two points where Chaos touches down. Which means you never know which way the World is gonna Turn: flipping forward, s-l-o-w-l-y turning backwards, speeding up then halting with a jerk—etc.

    Okay, I know, I know, this is only metaphor. But at what point does the metaphor break down and become inapplicable?

    Come fo(u)rth Rings for Hobbit Things:
    barley, milk, and song.
    Each tiny chip of emerald
    makes us severally strong.
    Barley, hulled; Milk, butter, cream;
    By songs sweet lulled as in a dream.

    Though we are scattered, weak and small,
    attend to matters house and Hall.
    Every tree, and thee and me
    Mayor and Thain and All.
    Stand firm and rooted fine:
    Taters, beets and long-leaf pine,
    Maple, cherry, plum, and ash,
    Beech and yew and oak;
    Corn and orchard, clover, grass,
    Longbottom leaf for smoke.

    Rings on our fingers; hair on our toes
    In our hands, the Middle Lands:
    Who knows, who stays, who goes?

  112. JMG wrote, “Can you imagine anything as being outside of infinite space?” I used to try to do that when I was a child. But like Wordsworth wrote, ” At length the Man perceives it die away,/And fade into the light of common day.” When I told my parents what I was thinking about, they told me not to; it’d make me crazy, I just returned from a week with no computers, TV, cellphones, coffee or alcohol, and am reading this week’s post for the first time today – so I’ll be rereading more carefully the chapter in question over the next month.

  113. Much of the first page (first four paragraphs) of the Cosmic Doctrine is reminiscent to me of the Buddhist teachings on emptiness and dependent origination which imply that to be manifest something else has to arise alongside it. Nothing is able to exist without something else, “this” implies “that.” Therefore all phenomena are “empty” because nothing exists in isolation, without duality. And perhaps that is why the word “Reality” as applied to the Unmanifest is in quotation marks, because it is actually what we would think of as not-Reality from the point of view of manifestation.

    I have spent much of the day pondering the idea of the prime duality being ‘space’ and ‘movement.’ And I keep asking myself whether space would be able to exist without movement. The reverse was easier to see. As I know it from years of studying movement via dance and physical therapy, movement does not exist without space. Movement simply cannot occur without space in which to manifest itself. Even the joints of our bodies have to have a measure of space in order to move. Once that space collapses, range of motion diminishes and eventually ceases to exist, a “frozen joint.” As I think about the inverse, space existing without movement, it occurs to me that movement defines space. As we walk around a room, we define the space of the room. A dance composition defines the space in which it takes place, and the space is an integral part of the dance. The clouds and the rain bands that I can see outside my window as I type this define the space of the sky for me today. So perhaps space is as dependent on movement as movement is dependent on space.

    The other theme for my thoughts today has been the ideas as DF defines them of momentum vs. inertia, momentum being the force causing movement and inertia being the force causing non-movement. I wonder if these two forces also serve as a type of prime duality. Both have the quality of ‘inertia’ as defined in physics of things continuing as they are, bodies at rest tending to stay at rest and bodies in motion tending to stay in motion. And DF states that each factor is present in all motion. Each force, momentum and inertia, acting together, acting on each other, creates change, otherwise no change would occur. Things would continue as they are. This led me to Fortune’s definition of magic as a *change* in consciousness in accordance with will.

    So magic could be thought of as the ability through the exertion of will to utilize the forces of momentum and inertia to effect a change. For example, one could apply the force of inertia or momentum (or both at different times) on a habitual pattern of behavior, depending on which is needed when to create the desired change, or one could apply one force to overcome or nudge the other to create the desired change.

    Thanks so much for this,


  114. @Jen

    Concerning your first comment, having just switched to the Revised Edition I find that the Sun is ungendered in that edition’s wording; but in response to your observation that “the female pole is not mentioned” I was looking at the section and my mind latched on to some of the old folklore about Lilith and Eve as significant; make of this tentative line of thought what you will.

    Thinking of thermodynamics, the churning of energy behind life requires the heat sink of the dark night every bit as much as the heat source of the radiant Sun. Lilith is symbolic of the female as that heat sink, as demon of the night, and mother of demons by union with the Angle of Death; she is deeply related to the Ring-Chaos. Also she is co-created with the prime masculine of Adam in the folk lore. Furthermore, in many a tradition the Primal Waters is associated with femininity, but being undifferentiated it itself lacks gender, but the Ring-Chaos represents the Primal Waters to the Ring-Cosmos; so for the Ring-Chaos to be symbolized as a female pole to the Logos makes some degree of sense. The Darkness itself as the feminine to the Rays of the Logos, fits to a certain degree of truth, but I don’t reckon it captures enough, it needs Eve.

    The Earth, planets in general, is made of the remains of stars; parallel to Eve’s origin story; and unlike Lilith who only gave birth to demons, the Earth is stupendously fertile of generative life. Also Eve is the trigger of knowledge; similar to how the material basis of the Earth as a recipient of the emanations of the Logos is capable of memory and history, while the cold cold night of Lilith can only take the emanations back into the perfect stillness beyond.

    This parallel jacks up the carefully laid out chain of being of the tradition from which I borrowed the figures, specifically by conflating Adam with the Logos, but so it goes. Dion may have a totally different direction in mind, but I thought this line of thinking seemed significant to me.

  115. @JMG some further thoughts and @Yanocoches whose thoughts are the ones that cohere with further thoughts…

    “Nothing is able to exist without something else, “this” implies “that.””

    It had struck me forcefully that the list of things the CD says the unmanifest is “without” – being “qualities” and “history” – seems to be missing the thing that so many human creation stories mention – ie “relationship”. Unity is without relationship. The manifest begins when duality occurs and relationship becomes possible.

    To me, the possibility of relationship, wherein qualities and history will matter, is what makes manifestation of finite beings precious, and perhaps, dare I say it, necessary. Though, of course, what do I know? Perhaps, I should say, “necessary to manifest beings”.

    Also: “Movement simply cannot occur without space in which to manifest itself.” Again, it strikes me that movement also cannot occur without time in which to manifest itself. In this chapter of the CD, time is not referred to directly, but is implied in the use of the word “history”. Still, for movement to occur there must be a time before, a time after, and a time during which it is occurring. And the movement creates a history of the where and the when it has been.

    And, Yanocoches, whose name suggests a meaning in Spanish of “already no cars”, thank you for placing change into the context of magic and “change of consciousness”. More to think about. 🙂

  116. I was musing on the title of this chapter,“The Dawn of Manifestation”. To experience dawn, one must be on a planet with the sun coming up behind the horizon. The image Dion Fortune gives us of the three rings has the reader’s perspective on the outside of the cosmos, which would be like looking at the sun and planets from outer space, where dawns are not experienced. So I took it to be a clue to understanding the metaphor from the inside, from the manifested point of view because just like you cannot experience a dawn unless you are on a planet, you cannot experience the dawn of manifestation unless you are already manifested, which is not possible.

    Pure existence, the unmanifest, is not yet hidden behind a horizon to dawn. What is there that could create the horizon to hide the unmanifest from the eyes of those in the shadows before the dawn? There are no eyes as yet to see and nothing as yet to be the horizon.

    So I imagined the unmanifest as black space, and in that unmanifest, the desire to move was matched by the desire for inertia and, balanced, movement was held back. Stillness, even though both inertia and momentum are desires of the same space. Just like before a dawn, though, when there is a glow building on the horizon as the sun approaches, the desire for movement grew stronger until, like the sun’s rays that spill over the horizon, which is inertia in this case, it overcomes the horizon and floods the land with its rays.

    The dawn of manifestation occurred at the point when the desire for movement overcame the desire for inertia because the first movement through space is already manifestation. Movement and space is the prime duality, and manifestation begins when duality occurs.

    The Logos/Sun then is the unmanifest-that-becomes-manifest as it clears the horizon of inertia, and it traces an arc in the sky, much like the ring cosmos, from our point of view.

    I’m connecting inertia with the resistance that Will encountered that produced consciousness. Was that also inertia or something else? I’m also connecting dawn to the East/Air/Illumination of the SOP. And that one must overcome inertia to manifest anything. And, back to my image above of dawn, a horizon becomes possible only when one force becomes greater than the other that held it in balance, and the illumination of dawn can be experienced. Somewhere in all of this, is the fact that the unmanifest is hidden from us, behind a horizon (of manifestation?) This spins off into a lot of possible meditations. Hmmm.

  117. I’m not sure if I’m visualizing this the way some others are.

    We have a prime movement in space which attracts more space to it, thus setting up a spinning disk like a ring of Saturn. However, the thing I note here is that the “disk” has a very large center, so it is really more like a ring of Saturn (as DF says) than a vinyl record or a clock face, unless one imagines the center holes in each of those as being very, very large. Another way to visualize this, perhaps, is as a very large, very slowly rotating, stationary hurricane, made up purely of motion in space, with a very large eye.

    A second ring is set up in opposition to this, also like a ring of Saturn, at right angles to the first and just outside it, which makes it larger in diameter than the first.

    The inner, spinning ring begins a second movement, one of rotation around an imaginary axis.

    Of this second movement, as I understand the text, DF then says (Millennium edition): “The secondary spin of the first circuit is the Ring-Pass-Not, and the circuit of the second formation [which I take to mean that motion which is described by the second, rotational spin of the ring about an imaginary axis] is that sphere which sets a bound to Chaos.” Essentially, then, the first ring, by its secondary motion around an imaginary axis, becomes a kind of Dyson sphere. This is not the solid kind, which isn’t what Freeman Dyson had originally intended, and which is the least probable kind, and not, obviously, constructed for the purpose Dyson intended; the Wikipedia article on the Dyson sphere shows some alternatives. DF’s is another, if we accept this analogy as useful (and not strictly speaking correct, since she is not envisioning capturing as much energy as possible from a star). It is this hollow, virtual sphere which is the Ring-Pass-Not. (It is virtual because it is constructed by a secondary, rotational motion. It is not solid.) The Ring-Cosmos then consists of its original motion and the Ring-Pass-Not (the kind of Dyson sphere set up by the secondary, rotational movement of the first disk/ring around an imaginary axis). “When this secondary movement has completed its first circuit and sets up its steady revolution, the new Cosmos is in being.” So the new Cosmos is the product of both movements of the Ring-Cosmos; it comes into being once the first round of secondary movement has been completed.

    I’m a bit unclear whether the Ring-Chaos bounds this Cosmos or is included as part of it. I’m inclined to think the former, since it is the “thrust-block” that prompts the Cosmos into being, “the prime stillness, — the immobility in which it is rooted.” This would make sense, since Cosmos and Chaos are in a sense opposed.

  118. This reminds me of nothing so much as the little electric motors we built in Cub Scouts: the ring of wire inside the ring of magnet, with a commutator and battery to keep it all going. If I continue this metaphor, that means that the “current” through the Ring-Cosmos needs to reverse periodically to keep the Ring Pass-Not in existence. There’s also the implication that there’s…something…out in the Unmanifest that provides enough energy to keep the Ring-Cosmos turning.
    And if we’re aboard the Ring-Cosmos, if we could see past the Ring Pass-Not we would see the Ring-Chaos and the Unmanifest itself whirling madly…but that’s a meditation for another day.

  119. I don’t see how the ring chaos could be stationary. Isn’t it so that nothing is stationary?
    The ring chaos got set up as a reaction to the ring cosmos, and it formed itself by moving. And what, it met up with its other end and stopped moving?

  120. I can see, but only in a limited way, why it makes any sense to consider the ring chaos as the prime evil. Yes, that which truly blocks development could be evil, but likewise that which remains stuck and hard also could be called evil. So the chaos resists differentiation and tends toward God or the unmanifest. But the excessively manifest (human ego?) resists God and surrender and ultimately resists change, learning and growth, if too strong.

    It’s interesting the DF says that evil left to its own devices tends toward dissolution and will be too simplified to remain evil and thus can be transformed into good.

    It is obvious that it would be a true evil if either force did not exist.

    We all know about entropy, and consider it generally as a bad thing. My car is going through some serious entropy right now, and I’m not happy about it! But who has realized that entropy is a gift almost equal to existence itself? If we had no entropy, the whole universe would have frozen up long ago. It is the dissolution of things back into their constituent parts that allows this great kaleidoscope to keep turning.

    I thought of an analogy when I read Kafka’s Metamorphosis (what was I doing reading fiction? : )
    The son in the family did not just become any insect, he became a dung beetle. I think in terms of worms, because we keep worms and therefore have a vermicompost system. These worms and dung beetles eat disgusting stuff – but their excrement is lovely, sweet smelling loam. Whereas we like fresh food but our excrement is arguably rather foul and we are even ashamed of it. The point is that without the vultures and worms and awful bacteria, we couldn’t get a fresh clean start.

    The cosmos is no different. If all remained unmanifested in a timeless forever, that would be dreary! But without the return to the unmanifest everything would ultimately turn to crap unredeemably and we would no doubt become completely insane.

  121. Greetings JMG and all,

    CR Patino, thanks for the link to the revised edition!

    In considering the effects of dinergy/complementary but unequal forces producing a curved movement, I can’t help but think of the formation of meanders in rivers, their curving and recurving over time. (Thanks to the Sandy River and Its oxbows where I was spending time last week for that insight.)

    Apologies if what I’m trying to say isn’t very clear or sensible- I’m still chewing on it 🙂

    I started thinking of this process in terms of what I had read here and in the CosDoc because I had a hunch that the two might be related.

    This seemed at first to contrast with conceiving of the circle, disc and sphere (or -slightly- ellipsoid forms of those?) of the CosDoc’s genesis, which in my mind appears more symmetrical and closed. To me, a symmetrical, closed system is also soon a dead system. So how can all -this- come from -that-? There had to be a wobble in there somewhere. And that’s where the unequal but complementary forces come into play, in the beginning, the desires of space for movement and for inertia.

    However, might the boundaries of this regular, closed, macro-system of Ring Cosmos, Ring Chaos, And Ring-Pass-Not that emerged from the two desires, by the fact that the boundaries exist, cause the alternation of the forces inside to occur on a wide variety of smaller scales, and give the appearance from inside of being a bit more irregular? The ratio of the scales of the curves when viewed together fitted inside one another are asymmetrical, but each component curve of that system may well be symmetrical in and of itself.

    The symmetricality is one moment in time/POV, the nesting systems giving the appearance of asymmetricality is another.

    That idea makes me think of the wheel of the year, and the transformations that occur in its arcing. It’s the alternation of unequal but complementary forces that drives the transformations, in both polarities, and in multi-participant actions. Not just alternations of forces of equal power, but of those powers in their waxing and waning at various points in their movement and metamorphoses. The year’s turning can be conceived of as perfectly symmetrical and balanced circle/sphere in one macro-view, and as a relationship-field of forces and movements that are never at any one time equal and symmetrical, but always moving and acting on one another which in turn changes and shapes those forces and relationships.

    I don’t know that that is entrely correct, but it feels like it’s edging up to a picture of how it might be. I need to meditate on it more.


  122. It just makes so much sense to me that in the unchanging, limitless Unmanifest there was something that wanted to move- of course it desired to move- but it also did not want to unmake the perfect eternal stillness. Who has not felt the pull to leave and the pull to stay? And finally the desire for change overcame the desire for sameness, and then imagine that first rush of movement! The very first differentiation, duality, separateness! But of course the pull towards origin doesn’t go away just because movement is wonderful; it always shapes the course of the movement, and eventually One comes home, back to where it all began, but now the differentness continues, since the movement outwards Itself created something new, which doesn’t disappear just because the circle has come around. And so the perfect arc of movement continues, outward and back, ever returning, singing its manifestness in the cold dark Unmanifest, whirling its own Being.

    But one day, one aeon, there is a niggling sideways pull at the edge of the path, and another exactly halfway back to home…

    That is as far as I have gotten today. I am not generally given to poetry, or even very imaginative prose. This seemed to introduce itself to my brain on its own. I am hoping the Ring-Chaos drops in to say hi, too, since I am very curious about what that feels like.

    Enjoying everyone’s thoughtful comments, especially gkb’s Hobbit song. I laughed out loud at “Rings on our fingers; hair on our toes…”

    –Heather in CA

  123. addendum: “asymmetricality”?? I seem to have forgotten that the word “asymmetry” exists. oops 🙂

  124. I wanted to echo the resemblance between the Emptiness and the zero point field where pairs of virtual particles are continually popping in and out of existence. Some cosmologist wonder if our universe simply arose from random fluctuations of the zero point field. Thermodynamics allows for local decreases in entropy of the system even by random fluctuations as long as net entropy increases.

    I noticed that the initial forces momentum and inertia are apposed by not completely, that is they are not anti-parallel. In order for inertia to pull momentum in to an arc there must be a component that is orthogonal.

  125. I came across these questions while I was reading:

    In response to “IT is the verb “ to be” turned back on its self. “ Does that literally mean “ IT IS is TO BE”?

    Also: “IT is a state of pure “being”, without qualities and without history.” Does this mean with out consciousness and without a memory?

    Also: “The Unmanifest is the Great Negation; at the same time IT is the finite potency which has not occurred.” Would this be similar to a description of Cerwidin’s Cauldron?

    Also: “All I can say is “space” was moving: you will find these words a clue to much.” Is this idea similar to the discussion of Schopenhauer’s “Will”?

    Also: If I imagine cosmos disk spinning fast enough it creates the optical illusion of a solid sphere, so the image that came to mind was the earth rotating on its axis with the atmosphere being the Ring-Pass-Not and space being the Ring Chaos, does this fit of is it too literal?

    Also: I don’t understand the moral judgement of “Prime Evil”. Is it just a matter of perspective? From a seal’s point of view a shark is evil, but from the shark’s point of view it’s just hungry. It is limited in it’s diet. Shark’s (or at least most species of sharks) don’t have the option of being vegetarian. Evil to me implies a desire to cause harm, is having a limit the same as being evil?

    Thanks for offering the book club, it’s fun to think about these things with other people.


  126. On the Ring-Chaos being stationary.. I, too, had thought of it moving as well the Ring-Cosmos, seeing them spinning in opposite directions, one inside the other. But from where could that be “seen”? – only from outside, outside manifestation, which makes no sense. If we are in the cosmos, we either see ourselves at stationary, or everything else. It would be more common, wouldn’t it, to posit ‘ourselves’ as the stationary part?

  127. Gkb, how far until the metaphor breaks down? A good question with no firm answer. Keep on applying it in different ways, and see what kind of sense it makes as a metaphor for other things.

    Phutatorius, one of the advantages of childhood is that you try things like that. 😉

    Yanocoches, here as so often this week, I’m just sitting back and watching the meditations unfold.

    Scotlyn, true enough — in unity there can be no relationship. The first and simplest relationship is that of the first two rings; can you apply that metaphor to other forms of relationship?

    Myriam, nicely done.

    Squalembrato, no, you’re basically on target. The Ring-Chaos bounds the system; it’s on the outside of the Ring-Pass-Not and thus represents the Unmanifest for all beings who are part of the Ring-Cosmos.

    RPC, good! A metaphor for a metaphor…

    Onething, “stationary” in that it spins in place, rather than tumbling end over end the way the Ring-Cosmos does. As for the Ring-Chaos as the Prime Evil, we’ll be developing that in much more detail in next month’s reading.

    Bonnie, excellent! We’ll be getting to the genesis of smaller cycles within the great Rings in upcoming chapters.

    Heather, very nicely done.

    Andrew, exactly. Nothing in the cosmos of the Cos. Doc. is exactly opposed to anything else. More on this as we proceed…

    Candace, those are excellent questions, and i’d encourage you to spend this month reflecting on them, and any more that come to mind. One hint: the desire to cause harm is only one kind of evil, and a very complex mode of what Fortune calls positive evil. What we’re discussing here is negative evil — if you will, the evil of Murphy’s Law and of the endlessly frustrating stuckness of existence. More on this next month!

    Matt, ding! Got it in one. “Stationary,” as Einstein pointed out, is always a matter of whose perspective we’re discussing…

  128. By the way, I’ve had a number of people try to post questions unrelated to The Cosmic Doctrine, when I asked that questions and comments to this post remain strictly on topic. If you were one of those people, that’s why your comment went into the recycle bin rather than onto the comments page. There’ll be a new and somewhat broader post going up tomorror — we’ll be going through the Cancer ingress chart for the US, and reviewing my predictions from the Aries ingress back in March — and an open post the week after that; please save comments that aren’t about The Cosmic Doctrine for one of those. Thank you!

  129. I see that nobody so far has brought up Newton’s spinning bucket argument or what Einstein called “Mach’s Principle.” The rather confusing description at the bottom of p.12 referring to “the outer sphere” which also has “a secondary derivation….” is what I have in mind. Mach’s Principle is an attempt to deal with absolute and relative motion and fixed reference frames as illustrated in the spinning bucket argument. Here the idea of a “thrust block” makes good sense in terms of the notion of a fixed background or reference frame against which motion can be measured. But the description on p.12 is confusing because it refers to an outer sphere; I had pictured only one sphere, that of the “ring pass not.” Does this imply that there are two spheres?

  130. ot: thx for magic monday answer on doing lbr on astral. stood facing east w. useless arm in bent-arm cast and froggy voice, and used mental imagery and small head motions instead. seemed to take very well. pat

  131. Bonnie’s and Heather’s comments read one after the other somehow coalesced in my mind as the action of Wolfram’s Rules of change and alternation: how different rules of simple changes create different patterns, sometimes regular, sometimes chaotic and/or fractal, sometimes all three emerging from the same rule, but proceeding down the left, middle, or right side of the page as the rule continues to operate.

  132. I went back to the first ring and thought about it some more. Got the picture of vague, drifting disturbance above and below the spinning ring—sort of like two kaiser roll bun tops with the Cosmos sandwiched between like a slice of very thin ham, creating a vast sphere of three-part differentiation. The two kaiser bun tops spun in opposite directions (deosil and widdershins) and gradually ground away at the cosmos until they fragmented it and drew it back into a disorganized state. So paired, they effectively neutralized its motion, returning everything to undifferentiated unity. Then I thought there is no evidence against the idea that some such thing might have happened before or be happening now for all I know. And the same for many other possible angles of ‘lift’ or ‘drag.’ It is only in the specific case where the rings of motion occur at right angles, and are ‘pinned’ by polarity, so to speak, that the secondary spheres of motion emerge from the system.

    The Cub Scout motor might be the same—only at a specific, fixed angle does the working current emerge from the relationship between the magnet and the coil of copper wire. So it is only under the condition that unequal oppositions are fixed at right angles to one another that the ‘motor’ of increasing complexity is set going. After that, it does not matter if the sphere of Chaos is careering round everywhichaway like a greased ball-bearing in its socket of the Unmanifest—it will always be locked into cross-hatched opposition to the cosmic sphere and appear static from within the cosmos. Which agrees more with my untaught notion of how Chaos dances, so I like it better. Of course, if the ‘pin’ of polarity should work loose, that’s when some serious odd would come into play.

  133. I read chapter 1 last year. I’d intended to read the whole book, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of the Ring-Chaos. After that, my brain just sort of sat there tapping its foot until I was done looking at words. So I set the Cos. Doc. aside to await this discussion.

    Here’s the interesting part. I reread the chapter before I read this post, and I was able to visualize everything. What changed? Maybe it was a cumulative effect of several more months of daily ritual work. Maybe some part of my unconscious mind had been chewing it over. But I like to think it was my exposure to the Sphere of Protection.

    There’s a version of the ritual on the AODA website, but the portion called Circulating the Light is described incorrectly. In the Magic Monday Q&A of March 26, Mr. Greer gives the correct description, which I copied word for word into my journal. It’s not a ritual I currently use, but it’s likely that I will at some point. Besides, being able to visualize it right scratched an old itch.

    The imaginal construct of the Sphere of Protection is not what is found in chapter 1 of The Cosmic Doctrine, but I think it gave me what I needed to make the leap.

  134. Dirtyboots,

    that sounds interesting. I seemed to perceive the infinity symbol as a result of trying to visualize the movement of the three rings simultaneously. For me it was more of a feeling that I noticed in my body. Like you, I have no idea what, if anything, it could mean at this point! Thanks for sharing your other insights on the Tree of Life, too.

  135. I have been up in the mountains to which I must soon return, and am hideously behind on comments and correspondence, but a couple things I have been thinking about before I lose communicative ability again:

    JMG, thank you for clarifying that the rings are indeed very basic forms of manifestation. It seems to me that the description Fortune gives of the Ring-Chaos toward the end of the chapter makes it sound as if the Ring-Chaos is itself the Unmanifest, or a representation thereof, at least to whatever exists inside the Ring-Pass-Not. The sense I’m getting is that the Ring-Chaos is as close as we within the Cosmos can get to contemplating the actual Unmanifest, which is still further out.

    I was also thinking about the fact that the Ring-Cosmos exists for a while without the Ring-Chaos; good without evil (even laying aside the moral baggage of these words, by which I gather Fortune means something closer to creativity/order and entropy). I swear I am not deliberately trying to squeeze this text into a Judeo-Christian box, but this inevitably brought to mind Paradise before the Fall and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Perhaps it’s because I’m revisiting Milton. Indeed, Adam and Eve did not seem to do much of anything before the Fall, so perhaps the idea of Prime Evil as thrust block works here too!

    Speaking of Milton, as I was reading Paradise Lost and seething with dislike for his egomaniacal prig of a God, it occurred to me that if we are thinking of the Unmanifest as God, perhaps the most significant difference from the Judeo-Christian narrative is that Fortune’s is a Pantheistic vision; God does not create the universe but becomes it. And the Judeo-Christian God (particularly God the Father) also strikes me as being a rather unbalanced half of a polarity (male/female and solar/telluric, among others) rather than a Unity.

  136. I’ve read and worked on the images as given in the text a few times, returning each time to the beginning to look deeper or afresh or … something… (using both versions, one in print, useful for marginalia and question marks, and one electronic, useful for finding easier original wording).

    Today I would like to ask two questions, the first about the way something is worded and to find a way to un-stick my conceptions from what the text suggests, and the second about what position might be useful to take relative to the text and adherence to image and metaphor.

    1. Here is the text: “The Unmanifest is… best conceived of under the image of inter-stellar space.” What this suggests to me is the space between bodies. I find this a counterintuitive understanding of something called Unmanifest that’s equated with ‘pure existence,’ ‘the source from which all arises,’ ‘infinite potentiality.’ Why not liken it to infinite space, or primordial vacuous space or some other term, I wonder. Inter-stellar, by its definition, calls to (my) mind that which is manifest already. How can pure potentiality, the *a priori* of beingness exist or be imagined existing, in interstices between already manifest things (stars, planetary bodies, atoms/molecules, etc., without concession to that limitation. Am I making an assumption that the text is referring to that which exists, to existence itself as the origin of all things?

    2. This leads to something perhaps more fundamental to my approach of this exercise: I am of two minds – to engage the images at face value – to work with them and let them work with me as they are given – and thus to take them as close to literally as possible (as much as is possible for a human mind, or for *this* human mind, versus or in conjunction with taking the text as metaphor (as is suggested, and thereby to not get too concerned about the wording). Do I take DF’s approximations and go with the “gist” of what she means? Should i continue to do both? Is one to be preferred?

    My boat’s a bit beached on these shores… so thank you for any suggestions.

  137. Rage quit after reading the first chapter. Actually threw the book across the room screaming ‘wtf is this hippy BS’. In the back of my mind a naging voice, but JMG is such high quality, every review on amazon is high…. What If I’m wrong?! Reread it. Wait, I’ve heard similar ideas in Japanese text I enjoy. Some of these ideas are great… Moved On a couple of pages. More rage… ‘please for the love of all that is good wft are you saying ‘!?!? Book returned to the cover of room. re, reread it… This is great, was this part even here last time?!?……….. This will probably be one of the most challenging books Musashi’s Book of five rings? Safe place, Seneca? Love it. This? This is going to be something other than reading. The frustrating thing is there’s something here worth pursuing…….

  138. John,

    Because my library doesn’t have a copy of The Cosmic Doctrine, I’m reading it online. More specifically, I’ve taken the text from a PDF version of it and am creating an HTML / CSS version of the work. It is stored on at the following address:

    How far I get depends on how far my understanding grows. 🙂 This HTML version may be useful to you or some of your readers. If others wish to contribute to this project, I’d be willing to share the workload.

    ~Steven Caro

  139. I can’t shake the sense that the Ring Chaos serves as a prime meridian, establishing in its intersection with the Ring Cosmos the primordial celestial poles and serving as a primitive horizon from which to begin to mark time’s passing–the first and successive dawns. In this way it serves a corrective role, a navigational standard of time and position–the earliest sense of objectivity from which justice has a chance to arise. Though the Ring Chaos does not belong to the cosmos, it is an essential girder of the cosmos, helping to keep further developments within the cosmoplasm from running off the rails.

  140. JMG,

    It seems you have created a run on the market for revised editions of the book – AbeBooks cheapest copy stands at $64.29 as of writing this comment, and the copy I ordered got cancelled.


    In an effort to expand my search to find a reasonably priced copy, I have created a spreadssheet (which can be found here: of the editions of the book so I can search by ISBN, but I do not know exactly which are the revised edition.

    Is anyone willing to add to the spreadsheet to note whether their edition is revised or original? If there are editions I have missed, I would value that addition as well.

    Hopefully this can be a resource for everyone searching for a copy of the book.


  141. Hi JMG,

    “To be” is to act, to create yourself in movement, to become. But the Unmanifest is without becoming.

    Does this relate to your essay on Sartre? The inertia of untaken paths hangs over each of us and drags our ambitions towards innaction?


  142. Greetings All,

    I’m a newcomer to the site. I stumbled across it while studying Eastern philosophy and found an essay by JMG about the Tao Te Ching being an introductory textbook of systems thinking. I’m excited to read more of this book and see where it goes. My first three thoughts are

    1) this seems like a westernized rehash of a lot of Buddhism and Taoism. Why not go straight to the source? I ask earnestly. Is it different? Is it the same but westernized to make it more accessible to different cultures? Or was it a marketing technique to cash in? I enjoy zen koans so I wrote this – I finally met a guru who told me the truth. He told me that all gurus are liars.

    2) Has any read Jeremy England’s theory of why life exists? He is an MIT math guy who claims to have a formula that proves that life forms from energy essentially to dissipate energy. The more complex the life form, the more efficient it is at dissipation. I’m no mathematician but to me it helps with a lot of this philosophy. If the unmanifest, or Tao or Brahman is the pure energy of everything, then it would make sense that energy must dissipate, thus the need for manifestation and life.

    3) Dion mentions movement being the first manifestation. Wouldn’t the first manifestation be time? Are movement and time two words/concepts for the same thing?

    I look forward to seeing exploring and discussing.


    Ps – I practice yoga and mantra meditation twice daily. Are there any things I need to be aware of or more informed about on this journey with you all. I know very little of the western occult.

  143. Thank you so much for this assignment JMG – I was looking for something to do for the next 3 years 🙂

    I am slow to absorb new things, but quick to jump to wobbly conclusions, so the slow reading method makes sense for me for sure. I’ve allowed the Ring metaphors to steep for a couple of weeks (I admit to starting before your post last week), and this morning I ventured into the discussion of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. I’ve been reading a few sentences before my morning meditation, then sitting with them and seeing what comes up. My understanding of DF’s core point on not resisting evil, which is really her Master’s point, is to let it be and so to let it go. The Ring Cosmos, if we want to call it ‘good’, is creative, concentrating. The Ring Chaos, in opposition to that, tends to dissolution. So to oppose ‘evil’ in this context is simply to allow it to disperse, rather than throwing a lot of positive energy at it in resistance to it? I’ve found that with my own emotional and other troubles over the years – that holding on to them, through carrying grudges, holding grievances or generally obsessing about them – builds them up. To just be with them allows them to disperse and move on. Transmutation back to nothingness. This is just a glimpse of an idea at this point, but am I on the right lines?

  144. @ onething & Ray Wharton

    Thank you both for your comments regarding some of the things I’ve been musing on! I am finding much to ponder in them both.

  145. Archdruid,

    The first manifestation is movement, it created a dualism from the unmanifest. I was really confused by this because the book says the desire for movement was opposed by the desire for intertia. It seems like two things sprung from the potential of the unmanifest, but that’s not quite right. The unmanifest is potential, and desire is also just potential. When the potential/desire turns to movement, it becomes will and is countered by will. A negative against a negative, or positive against a positive. That is to say desire/potential/unmanifest became will/movement/manifestation. The potential was realized in a common force of movement and resistance. Movement cannot happen without resistance.

    You need both resistance and movement to have manifestation.

    So much more to sort through.

    I am enjoying the pure symbolism of this book. It occurs to me that symbolic exploration is one of the schools of philosophy that scientific materialism has most viciously attacked and destroyed, because it is the one school that can expose SM as the symbolic model that it is.



  146. Hi JMG,

    If you view the Ring Chaos and Ring Cosmos from a certain position, do they look like a cross?

    Also, is Interstellar Space a pun on the initials of IS?


  147. I’ve been following along with everyone’s comments via subscription and I love the conversation going on so far.

    On a Cosmic Doctrine semi-related note, John, I wanted to ask if it would be a bad idea to be reading Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine at the same time. I’ve had the massive tome for a while and it’s finally seemed like a time to start chipping away at it, but since we are working with the CD meditatively, would tossing in the SD as personal reading potentially confuse things?

  148. Phutatorius, I’ll have to look up Newton’s spinning bucket — my background in physics isn’t that extensive. As for the reference to the “outer sphere,” that’s confusingly phrased; I took it to mean the outside as distinct from the inside of the Ring-Pass-Not.

    Patricia, glad to hear it! I hope your arm is healing well.

    Gkb, I need to go back to Wolfram again and see how much intersection I can find between his ideas and the Cos. Doc. — my guess is that there’ll be quite a bit. As for cosmic kaiser rolls, sure, but here again those aren’t the specific images Fortune is using to try to communicate with, you know…

    Ynnothir, fascinating. It might be entertaining sometime to work with the relation of the SoP to the Cos. Doc. and see what further developments of the ritual might be possible.

    Jen, two solid insights. A lot of mythologies have a period of primal peace and relative stasis at the beginning, so Eden isn’t a bad metaphor for the metaphor. As for Fortune’s idea of God, we’ll be getting to that in rather more detail, and a less Miltonic God than the one in the Cos. Doc. is hard to imagine!

    Zach, a lovely bit of Blake! Thank you.

    Temporaryreality, I suspect the reason that Fortune used the phrase “interstellar space” is that human beings can’t actually imagine emptiness except in relation to things that aren’t filling it. Remember that she’s not saying that the Unmanifest is interstellar space, or even is like interstellar space — just that we, with our limited capacities, can best imagine it that way. As for your second dilemma, the text requires both — moving back and forth between understanding it as literally as possible, and treating that understanding as a metaphor, is the process by which it unfolds its meaning.

    Tenchu13, good. That shows me that you’re actually grappling with it. If your copy ends up flying across the room once per chapter, or more, that’s not a problem, so long as you keep on wrestling it to the ground.

    Steven, thank you!

    Dirtyboots, don’t shake that sense. It’s a good way to think about the Ring-Chaos.

    DutyBound, thanks for this! I’ve got a publisher working out the details of a new printing of the revised edition right now, so there should be good news shortly.

    Johnny, I don’t think anyone’s ever done an existentialist analysis of the Cos. Doc., but it’s certainly an option!

    Docshibby, if all you see in this book is a rehash of Asian ideas, that may not be the book’s fault. I’d encourage you to follow the advice of the famous Zen master and try emptying your cup so you can enjoy the taste of Dion Fortune’s English tea…

    Mark, excellent. Yes, that’s very much what Fortune is talking about. It’s the same strategy used in aikido and some of the other, subtler martial arts; you don’t block a punch or a kick, you’re just not there where it lands, so the energy is expended in empty space.

    Sidney, welcome to the journey!

    Varun, a very solid point! “May God us keep from single vision and Newton’s sleep…”

    Johnny, yes, if you’re standing in line with the points at which the two Rings cross. As for IS, it’s quite possible!

    Jean-Pierre, that should be fine. You may find some interesting crossovers between the two — as well as some very deliberate differences.

  149. Thank you, and belated Alban Heruin greetings to you and Sara. I hope you have a fruitful summer! (Also, I hope that there’s an enjoyable potluck, if it hasn’t already happened, in your near future).

  150. If the Unmanifest is perfectly stable and without history why would a first current occur or an initial ‘destruction’ happen?
    It has to be inherently unstable. Or it could be mainly about time and not about space, maybe space is just a byproduct, a manifestation of time. Because if we picture a ring it would never begin or end- but how could one imagine any begin with no starting point?
    It is very challenging to even consider something existing that never began.

    Concerning the plane of the first ring: It forms a current, is the current really aligned in only one plane? Imagine any and infinite amount of elements of the Unmanifest begin to move in infinite and random directions each individually constrained by own anti-force, it would create an infinitely dense sphere right away. Also would consequently each element receive its own chaos ring or would a chaos sphere – also random and infinite – enclose the cosmos?

    Thank you for this space.

  151. I have been grinding on the chapter a bit more, mostly getting pulled off in the direction of various philosophical riddles that I been on my mind’s shelf for a decade or more, which excepting an infection point in the beginning lead pretty far from the text as such; an example would be a project of inverting the chain of being such that the higher one goes ‘up’ the chain the more we are dealing with reflections of reflections, to put the point in symbolism, but that those reflections being further from the unmanifest -indeed reflections of reflections could be rendered as manifestations of manifestations with only slight violence to the terms- they ironically do a good job of symbolizing very profound truths. The image of this is to imaging looking for a light source by observing rays which have bounced off a long series of smoked (dim) mirrors. If you see light after so many dimming reflections, and (this is tricky) can be confident that the light you see isn’t a contamination of the observation, then you can be confident that what you are observing was, before the reflections a very bright light source. Perhaps, nod to Plato, a light source too bright to observe directly with our cave addled eyes. Math has some truths like this, even moderately abstract mathematics is fantastically abstract from the sense experience and everyday concepts which gave rise to them, and yet despite coming out of a hall of mirrors or abstractions tested against abstraction for consistency, we end up with concepts so powerful they were the gold standard of truth for a vast multitude of great thinkers. But, this was on the shelf, and came out rather all at once trying to figure out how we could even ‘dare’ to talk about such lofty things as the emanations of the logos or, shutter, the unmanifest.

    Closer to the text something that has been stuck in my crawl has been working loose by the talk of “unequal forces”. First I came to realize that Newton, who does deserve much respect in his own right, made a meme too strong. “Equal and opposite reaction.” Golly does that roll off the tongue! Equal and opposite reaction is a bugger of a bright insight, and it is so sayable, thinkable, that it has left DEEP ruts in the roads of my mind, and I betcha deep ruts in the minds of most folks with any serving of rationalist training. Good ruts too, if you are going that direction. For example, in your own MTOTLE your section on causality uses the same byways. The sum of the causes have to (in some sense) be equal to the sum of the effects; a principle of sufficient reason for something to happen if you please. But, I now come to the problem with that great tract by Newton, the cross roads to it, with are a gummed up in my thinking by those very deep and well traveled ruts. I am so used to thinking of the equality of action and reaction, that I can forget that every action is an inequality of forces. Imagine an orbit of perfect balance:

    A system includes object A and object B. They are attracted to each other by gravity, such that escape velocity is x. They are moving exactly away from one another at such at that precise speed, and no other forces are in the picture. So in a straight line they continue to move away from each other with the velocity constantly approaching zero, but never quite reaching it. Eventually the force of gravity between them and the velocity of separation reach an equalized infidecimal. That is Newton with only equal and opposite forces. A silly image. All equal and opposite forces, as opposed to reactions, are static. They gridlock.

    All manifestation is based on some kind of inequality; a difference. Manifestation is entirely dependent on differentiation. But each difference is preserved, a difference can not (via Newton) be equalized with out differentiating something else. This is the birth of information, and manifestation, by way of Bateson. Also, and this bit I am still chewing on, because I don’t quite know what to do with it, differentiation does not birth a duality but a three fold: The two that are not the same, and that to which they are different. I think that this third factor, consider it the filter of maya if you please, is what kicks differentiation to manifestation. The third factor is in and of the first two which are distinct from one another, but, it is needfully of a different ‘logical type’ than the first two; a difference of forces is not the same kind of thing as the forces which are different; a difference is a relation and in a way more primary than the forces which are merely things related, aspects of the relation one could say. I am itching on this like the dawn of consciousness glows from the breaking of these unmanifest atoms. But there is still a great deal of mess here to sort out.

  152. I’m working from an un-paragraphed PDF, so this is a little hard to relate to paragraphs and pages in the print versions. But here goes:

    “When this secondary movement has completed its first circuit and set up its steady revolution, the new Cosmos is in being. ”

    That new cosmos would seem to be a sphere inside the ring-cosmos.

    “The secondary spin of the first circuit (Ring-Cosmos) is the Ring-Pass-Not, and the circuit of the second formation (Ring-Pass-Not?) is that sphere which sets a bound to Chaos. On the outer sphere there is a secondary derivation, and though a spinning circle of motion, represents for that Cosmos, the prime stillness, – the immobility in which it is rooted;”

    Secondary spin = the result of the attraction and repulsion of the sides of ring-cosmos to ring-chaos.

    Second formation = ring-pass-not?

    Outer sphere = ring-pass-not?

    Movement represents stillness.

    Again, that would imply that an inner sphere exists and is the new cosmos.

    So we have a cosmos, surrounded by a ring, surrounded by a sphere beyond which we cannot see, surrounded by another ring. The first ring pushes to the center and causes the cosmos, a universe, to form. The second ring pushes outward, disposing of…something.

    And then ring-chaos comes to symbolize the prime evil, despite being second to ring-cosmos in order of formation.

    You’ve said that DF uses “evolution” in a “nuanced” way. It appears the same can be said of “inertia”, “momentum”, and “right angle”.

    Inertia and momentum are both resistance to acceleration, either positive and negative. This caused me pause. Also, she appears to switch back and forth between scalar and vector without warning, which I call “shifting paradigms without a clutch”. In a Newtonian sense, inertia has no vector, but momentum does. That would be the one difference. (In a relativistic universe, both have vectors relative to the observer and each other.) Yet in her system, inertia is a vector 90 degrees off from the motion, inducing a curve to the path and eventually a ring.

    Once the two rings are up to speed, the inner ring starts to flip like a coin, axis spinning around in a plane that includes the axes of the inner and outer rings. But that means that while the rings are occasionally, briefly, at 90 degrees from each other, most of the time they are not. Yet she still refers to them as being 90 degrees to each other.

    I feel like I’ve missed something there. My one reassurance is that this system has worked for others.

  153. I am finding a great deal of differences between texts. The edition that says its the millennial edition I have has the Unmanifest begin on page 33 and the seemingly older one saying its published in 1947 starts on page 11 which matches the reading assignment. I like that the millennial edition has nice embedded links to the figures, which are helpful, and the figures in the 1947 version seem clearer. Both are electronic versions, which I can pick up at bedside anytime and read without disturbing my wife, rather than turning on a light or escaping to another spot to do the reading. I also find there is an error in the 1947 and the millennial versions’ figures 1-4. The descriptions say figure 1 is the Ring Chaos, and Figure 2 is the Ring Chaos. When clearly the drawing figures say that figure 1 is the Ring Cosmos, and figure 2 is the Ring Chaos. Is this difference significant or a typo? Being a newbie to the study, I have no basis for choosing one over the other and don’t know if it is significant or not.
    There is a great deal of additional text in the millennial edition that does not appear in the 1947 edition. For example section one in the millennial edition begins with “Knowledge falls into two divisions,” and in chapter 1, the 1947 edition begins with “The Unmanifest is pure existence.”
    The millennial edition also has a huge index, and three more diagrams.
    My questions are should I invest in a print edition where the diagrams may be clearer with the hopes of addressing the same information from which you are leading this forum, or are the editions I have sufficient to follow along and gather the necessary reading skills? And whether the differences in the texts will enhance or detract from my practices of these metaphors?
    The commentary has been illuminating. Thank you all for your contributions.
    In my effort to understand the spinning discs of the diagram called out as figure A, I cannot understand how the contents of these two different discs do not interfere with one another, except as creating currents that attract and repel, except to say that the older and smaller one has nothing in it except the Unmanifest, which by definition is empty and meaningless so offers no resistance to the second induced movement of the ring chaos and its interface with the ring cosmos, the ring pass not. Oh what fun!

  154. So, nothing from inside the cosmos can get out past the Ring-Pass-Not (RPN). But can things from outside it get in? DF talks about evil tending toward dissolution (being drawn back toward the Ring-Chaos) but it can’t get back out. Presumably it had to come through the RPN to get from the RChaos into the RCosmos in the first place. But once inside it is trapped, and so dissipates into the raw material of existence (neutrality) and is drawn into the motion of the RCosmos, becoming good. This implies a gradual increase of good inside the RCosmos. Good meaning something like complexity, order–is this at least partially what DF means by evolution? Biological evolution too tends toward increasing complexity/differentiation over time.

  155. @Larry

    Yes, there are a lot of differences, but not quite as many as it appears if you only look at Chapter 1. Most of the text after the actual reading assignment in Chapter 1 got moved into Chapter 2 in the Revised (1947) edition.


    Except for Lovecraftian monsters? That’s the way I read it.

  156. Hi JMG,

    It’s been interesting to keep re-reading this same section of text. I have done some slow readings before, but not this slow. It does something unusual that I don’t know how to describe.

    The main idea in this chapter seems to be that potential can be thought of as an existing thing, in fact it is the most real thing, all else is temporary and an illusion. It can be contemplated by comparing it to interstellar space, a void that encompasses all that we know and that we exist inside of. I don’t know what to do with this, but comparing it to things that seemed similar at first, like Schoppenhauer’s concept of The Will helped me to see that it is it’s own unique idea. The Will is still a useful concept, but it is not describing the same thing. I’m not sure what can be done with this notion of the Unmanifest, but it is interesting.

    The idea that motion and stillness are the ultimate duality is also unique, it isn’t thought and extension (for example – her choice of the word duality I assume is pointed at this notion in philosophy). This is the primary form of manifestation, are all other forms of manifestation derived from this split?

    What seems most useful so far has been contemplating the mechanics of the rings she describes. The relationships she describes between an action and potential are very useful and when I think about them I can see many examples where they seem to be true. I think the idea that there are always two opposing forces at work in everything, and that the weaker one ultimately is what limits and defines the stronger one is very interesting. That there is a connection between limitations and creativity, that desire uses it to push off from is quite insightful and something I have noticed often in art.

    I have something like 15 pages of notes on this now, but I’ll keep at it. I try to return to the image of a current in space as she said it is the key to much.


  157. Hi JMG,

    I wanted to say thanks for your help with this. I had a question about the Logos.

    Is the Logos in her system the idea of concepts? The ground for the set of all concepts, with individual ideas as it’s “Solar system”. Or is it just the thrust of any given concept, and the relationship of other concepts (or maybe just events, things etc) flowing from it?

    Or is it perhaps the very idea of the Cosmic Doctrine? On the cover of my copy there is a sun emitting rays into space (not a larger picture of space).

    Will she expand on this? She just mentions it casually, that it can be imaged as a sun surrounded by it’s solar system, emitting rays, but she doesn’t go into more detail.

    What I took to be the important part was that all of this exists within space.


  158. I seem to have a 3rd printed edition published in 1995, but ‘first published’ in 1949. It seems to be identical to that reported by Larry for the ‘millennial edition’, except for the page numbers. “Knowledge falls into two divisions” then starts on page 19. I am now sticking to the downloaded pdf text ‘Revised and Enlarged Edition, THE AQUARIAN PRESS,LONDON.1957’, which starts “The unmanifest is pure existence.” on page 11.

    Re Ray Wharton’s musing, above. We understand in this DF context, the use of ‘physics’ vocabulary concerning ‘movement’ is intended to be ‘symbolic’, rather than designed to inform. It seems to me, if we extend the ‘physics’ vocabulary, we need the concept of ‘acceleration’. And to continue the analogy further (to get our heads round a concept such as ‘force’), we need ‘energy’, as for example in kinetic energy. And we need to differentiate acceleration from simply ‘movement’. Thus continued acceleration is concomitant with continued increase in energy, even in a frictionless world. Then we could get into the mystery of gravity acting at a distance which apparently bothered Newton’s critics. And I sadly can’t compare DF’s physics (intended as analogies for training rather than information) with Einstein’s physics! Smile.

    Phil H

  159. @Jen and John Roth,

    Makes sense but the ” thermodynamics” of ever increasing goodness is hard to figure. If we assume that his is a system whose nature is to seek equilibrium, there should be a corresponding increase in evil somewhere in the system. Does the Ring Chaos grow for every increment of goodness that accrues to the cosmos? I’m probably missing a key point.

  160. …unless the goodness creates unbalanced stress as it builds, culminating in a collapse

  161. The details of Fortune’s imagery are metaphors, but what are they metaphors for?

    For better or worse this seems to be my characteristic reaction to many occult doctrines. Teachers want me to study elaborate metaphors, understandably because most people apparently have never done so, but what’s behind the curtain? Part of the issue might be I’ve already developed and extensively contemplated my own comparably elaborate metaphors. (I could write chapters about how the conscious universe results from the dynamic interplay between two entities, the Vortex and the Void, whose fundamental impetus is to fill and annihilate one another respectively, and for which the M.C. Escher lithograph “Print Gallery” is a reasonable visual metaphor. Not too dissimilar from portions of Fortune’s imagery, if inverted inward-outward, which is a simple mathematical transformation.)

    But consider me signed up to go along with Fortune’s instead. So here goes…

    Given that the purpose of contemplating Fortune’s imagery is to train the mind, then it seems likely that the metaphor is, at least in large part, for how the mind (or consciousness or will) itself works.

    To the extent that it’s human minds we’re talking about, it’s easy to find analogies to various thought processes in Fortune’s Rings model. Consider the simple (which is not at all simple) mental act of putting things (including e.g. ideas and experiences) into categories. Categories accrete instances and representations (let’s say, a Ring-Cosmos of “chairs”) but that inevitably also establishes a Ring-Chaos of the excluded (non-chairs). Attraction and repulsion at the boundary (arising from figurative borderline cases: doll house chairs? accidental rock formations on a mountain side? conceptual-art sculptures with spikes on the “seat”?) means the category-cosmos cannot be static; tumbling on an additional axis is as good a metaphor for that as any. Nothing outside the resulting Ring-Pass-Not of Chairs can be a chair.

    Fortune’s Ring-Pass-Not, then, bounds all categories.

    That analogy generalizes pretty well, because at the very least, all words and all names are (or generate) categories. Self is a category. Good and evil as we perceive them are categories (though Fortune seems to be implying that actual evil, when fully understood in general, is not). We can’t contemplate beyond the Ring-Pass-Not because anything we can contemplate (even e.g. “a four-sided triangle” or “things that don’t exist”) still amount to or require categories. (It also follows that we cannot actually contemplate the Prime Evil.)

    Does it follow that we (or others) can pass the Ring-Pass-Not when we (or they) can think or exist without categories?

  162. News flash: for the first time today, I could see the three ring movements simultaneously. I wasn’t even deep in meditation- just rereading the text and thinking it over- and there it was. Of course, just as simple as watching the gears in a clock all clicking along, each in their own direction. Further evidence that things happen beneath the surface.

    I’m chewing over the image of the Ring-Pass-Not today. I understand where it is in relationship to the other two rings, and how it’s formed. What I’m pondering is, what is its nature as a boundary? It doesn’t seem to be just a zone where the Ring-Chaos and the Ring-Cosmos just fade into each other, like day gradually fading into night. It’s a hard boundary, through which creatures of the Ring-Cosmos cannot pass. But the two other rings interact within it, or rather it is FORMED by their interaction, like… What? I need a metaphor for the metaphor! Is it like a membrane? Not exactly, because then it would be made out of the Ring-Cosmos, from which it is actually separate. Is something like the squishy repulsion you can feel between the same poles of two magnets, two fields pushing each other apart and making a sort of no-man’s land? (I’ll confess I don’t really, truly understand the nature of magnetic forces either.) Is it just like a hard, infinitely thin crystal sphere, a clean sharp edge between the two other rings, but made up of neither? With that metaphor you lose the interaction between them… Maybe the interference pattern of two waves? In the sense that it’s not one ring or the other, but they both cease to be what they are when they interact? Anyone got a helpful image here? Will we hear more from DF about the Ring-Pass-Not later on in the book?

    And one other question about the Ring-Pass-Not: It’s the sphere described by the edge of the Ring-Cosmos’s disk as the Ring-Cosmos turns over within the Ring-Chaos. But the Ring-Chaos is a stationary “belt” with respect to this flipping motion, like a flowing equator around this sphere. So since (as noted in the comments above) the interacting forces that create the Ring-Pass-Not are sometimes in the same plane, sometimes orthogonal, and sometimes at every other angle in between with respect to each other- is the Ring-Pass-Not’s sphere uniform throughout, or does it also have some sort of cyclical variation within itself? And then what are the implications of THAT?

    –Heather in CA

  163. What first came to mind in reading about the Unmanifest is the following (in a modern translation) from The Book of Privy Counsel(l)ing, which, despite its name, has nothing to do with politics.

    “When you go apart to be alone for prayer, put from your mind everything you have been doing or plan to do. Reject all thoughts, be they good or be they evil. … See that nothing remains in your conscious mind save a naked intent stretching out toward God. Leave it stripped of every particular idea about God (what he is like in himself or in his works) and keep only the simple awareness that he is as he is. Let him be thus, I pray you, and force him not to be otherwise. … Let that quiet darkness be your whole mind and like a mirror to you. For I want your thought of self to be as naked and as simple as your thought of God, so that you may be spiritually united to him without any fragmentation and scattering of your mind. He is your being and in him, you are what you are, not only because he is the cause and being of all that exists, but because he is your cause and the deep center of your being. Therefore, in this contemplative work think of your self and of him in the same way: that is, with the simple awareness that he is as he is, and that you are as you are. In this way your thought will not be fragmented or scattered, but unified in him who is all.

    “Yet keep in mind this distinction between yourself and him: he is your being but you are not his. It is true that everything exists in him as in its source and ground of being, and that he exists in all things, as their cause and their being. Yet a radical distinction remains: he alone is his own cause and his own being. For as nothing can exist without him, so he cannot exist without himself. He is his own being and the being of everything else. Of him alone may this be said; and thus he is wholly separate and distinct from every created thing. And thus, also, he is one in all things and all things are one in him. For I repeat: all things exist in him; he is the being of all.”

    Now, it might be tempting to equate God in this text with the Unmanifest, but there is the Ring-Pass-Not to contend with. While I can “kinda” think about how one might get around this, because DF writes “All we can say of IT is that it is not anything that we know”, and our anonymous fourteenth-century English author had previously written a book entitled The Cloud of Unknowing, I’m more inclined, and really looking forward, to seeing how all of this plays out.

  164. Walt, that was brilliant. That’s the step we need: Moving from allegory to what’s being alluded to.

  165. I have been meditating on the concept of inertia, the pull against movement. I’ve meditated on and off about the concept in MToTLE of limits being a source of beauty and magic, but the best I could come up with was more ways to work around my limitations. So the concept of this pull against movement intrigued me. I often feel my limitations as a drag against what I’m trying to do, rather than the feeling of bumping up against something (although that happens, too).

    I meditated on it a bit, then finally took my meditations to the yoga mat. It occurred to me that every movement my body makes has a corresponding pull, every stretch has a corresponding flexion in an opposing muscle group. If I do something as simple as raise my arms above my head, they don’t flop and hit me because of the opposing forces. I can move effectively because of these oppositions, not in spite of them. Anyone who has done yoga, or danced (or maybe martial arts; I haven’t studied any) knows that sweet spot where the breath is singing through the body, the stretches and flexions are working together without a fight between them, and just enough energy is expended, wasting none.

    I wondered how I could get traction from opposition instead of seeing it as a block, and yet my body does it all the time. Every time I bring a cup of tea to my lips the opposing muscle forces that allow me to do it are (metaphorically) participating in the dance of creation. I’m still working on what that might mean in other areas.

    That’s as far as I’ve gotten in a week. Am I missing the point?

  166. Hi JMG,

    Often I find myself holding two opposing ideas at the same time, typically I agree with one more than the other, but the one I agree with less does limit the one I agree with more. It shapes the edges of the argument I am in favour of – it can only go so far and no more. I think this is an example of this in my day to day experience.


  167. Hi JMG,

    It occurred to me yesterday that sometimes the desire to manifest must be less that the power of inertia. In fact most of the time this must be true. Is Fortune interested or concerned with this? Or is the Unmanifest exactly what I’m describing? Is everything trying to manifest all the time but is unable to overcome inertia except in special cases?


  168. A thought that came to mind: If the Ring Pass-Not is an effect of the Ring Cosmos pushing off of and pulling towards the Ring Chaos, which is what actually creates the Ring Pass-Not in its rotation, isn’t the Ring Pass-Not, in a sense, an illusion?

    It is not a thing in and off itself, but just the perceived effect of the Ring Chaos’s forced rotation, the way a ceiling fan at high speed will look like a solid disk. If the metaphor stretches that far, then there is a way in and out of the Ring Pass-Not, but in order to avoid getting… blasted to cosmic dust by the force of the Ring Chaos, you would have to either have a form capable of withstanding the impact or be able to see and move between the actual gaps quick enough.

    Is that an ability achieved at a certain level of spiritual evolution? A variant on what we might call “enlightenment?”

  169. One possibility is that the Ring Cosmos and Ring Choas form a dinergic pair of alternating dominance. At time 0, when the RCh and RCo are orthogonal, the system is in equilibrium and the forces of growth and dissolution are balanced. As the RCo rotates, the forces favoring growth increase relative to those favoring dissolution, such that at time time point 1 (t1) the rings are aligned and growth is exuberant. As the RCo rotates further the forces of growth wane and maturity/consolidation ensues, until the RCo has “flipped” and is now in a new state (t2) of equilibrium with the RCh.

    The RCo then enters a new phase of its rotation during which it follows a course back toward the initial state of equilibrium. During this return phase, the forces favoring dissolution become dominant and eliminate that which accrued during the growth phase.

    Rinse and repeat, world after world.

  170. The Ring Chaos, it seems to me, is pretty far ‘off-screen’ in our lives. I was farm sitting again last weekend and it was a total mess! Every time I turned around the tenuous order of the operation was threatening to fall into chaos. Cows getting out, a malfunctioning sprinklers, failing electric fence, pigs out, sheep out, unexpected lamb, dog fight, the works. It was as though the drag of the Ring chaos snagged a thread which ran through the fabric of the farm and pulled it into a tangle. I was working my butt off responding to each crisis, playing a lot to triage with overlapping problems, and took a moment to be amused by the fact that I was capable of reacting constructively to such a mess at all. Then I realized that for how chaotic the situation seemed, it was still deeply richly ordered. Each cow, for days on end, continued to be a cow and act entirely within the rubric for cow kind; so to for pigs, sheep, and chickens. Only the irrigation pump really failed to act like what it was, and that was because a single variable (the amount of water flowing through the weir) was slightly out of parameter.

    The issue was that the farm itself, being very recently established had many patterns that were not very deeply whirled into the spinning wheel of positive being, the ring cosmos, but the ply it was spun from (grass, cows, sheep, etc) were each very well spun, and persisted in being what they were even as the farm became a mess. Even when the situation was messy in the extreme, the thinks it became were still know types, a total mess is still ripe with order, a farm gone haywire is a known ‘type’, so typical is it that the topic can be easily recognized in farce with the slightest imagistic prompting.

    In a way I would even go so far as to say that the dragging effect from the ring chaos has a more or less cleansing aspect to it. For example the electric fences were a total mess at the peak of the cacophony, but the situation forced the messed up fencing to be pulled down and then put back up in a much more tidy way.

  171. If the cosmos, chaos and ring pass not are all empty space, which when it moves creating attraction and repulsion, then the empty contents, metaphorically can, and do pass one another. One cannot have spinning spheres that interact sometimes as discs with positive and negative sides pivoting at all possible angles to one another, 90 degrees opposed, with a no pass boundary between them unless they actually pass through one another. That passing through one another is tricky. How do the forces not mix and homogenize? What keeps them as entities even though they are intimate? What happens to that which is not unmanifest? Like Duality? I guess that is what we will find out as we continue our journey.

    I awoke this morning thinking about epigenetics, as the answer to why the genome’s failure to explain all of our chromosomal traits, and the ring pass not and the cell membrane. The insides of our cells [Cosmos] interacts with but is separate from the outside of the cells [Chaos], with this very thin entity, the cell membrane in between, which acts as a barrier to stuff going in and out of our cells. When the universe of conditions are right, needed stuff passes between the outside and inside, and then inside, passes to the organelles in rather obscure ways, but only under the very strict conditions of environment. I guess this activity is actually happening in the manifest part of our cosmos, because it is not part of the unmanifest, because we are manifest. Just think about what repellent forces are required to produce and utilize digestive fluid without destroying the entire structure. I am starting to imagine what this means in terms of immense distances, and eons of time, and counter rotational movements of space slower than a glacial advance and faster than a speeding cosmic ray.

    Thanks Ray Wharton for the description of the interplay of good and evil, and the structure that exists transcending and forming new solutions and making things better in the presence of “evil.”

    I’m asking myself if I’m starting to grasp this or just going off the deep end?

  172. Hi JMG,

    The example Fortune gives of space starting to turn, that is a description of the initial motion that gave rise to manifestation, this same thing happens when anything manifests itself, but in that case it is different as there is always something already manifest, there are already forces in existence. These forces must also contribute towards manifestation, we can divide the manifest from the Unmanifest because the point where it crosses into the manifest is obvious to us, but behind the scenes there is a push and pull of forces that are not always producing results..

    Let’s say I want to get a ball to touch a wall. If I throw the ball at the wall, that takes much less desire from me than for me to pick it up and walk it over to the wall and press it against it, because when I throw it my desire only had to drive a quick motion and then the laws of physics take over, where if I need to pick it up and carry it over it has to sustain a far greater effort and therefore a far greater resistance. When I throw it I take advantage of a lot of already manifested things to push the balance.

    Am I right? Can other (already manifested) forces contribute to the spin of the Ring-Cosmos?


  173. Hi JMG,

    Something I’ll add about this process. I find that thinking about this daily, re-reading it, and meditating on it has caused this line of thought and metaphor to invade my thinking generally. It’s partially because the scope of what she’s describing entails everything and posits something new that engulfs that everything. There isn’t any time it isn’t applicable, but also, because it is a metaphor it’s just a way of looking at anything that has happened or could happen.

    I also feel like answers to questions are given out of order in the text, so sometimes I’ll hit upon an idea, like what I asked you about all the times things aren’t manifest and then reread her line that the Unmainifest was the Great Negation.


  174. Hi JMG,

    One last aside, I read comic books still, they are my popcorn reading I guess (if I had to defend the habit!), but I came across this reading the new issue of Justice League on the weekend, I didn’t realize it was a new addition to the DC universe’s metaphysics until I mentioned it to a friend.

    Anyway, I thought this might get a smile out of you and/or other readers:

    I don’t know how well the more elaborate plot points map to Fortune’s book because I haven’t read ahead (despite really wanting to!)


  175. @Johnny: I’m experiencing the same effect, of the metaphor gently filtering its way into my daily life. The idea that every initiative generates its own resistance, so you always get pulled off course but still continue forward, is really comforting. It’s also contrary to the heroic ideal of achievement in our society, where the hero takes aim and proceeds straight towards their goal through force of personality and will.

    It’s been a bit of a change to have to come back to the imagery day after day, gnaw at it like a dog on a hard bone, then come back tomorrow for a bit more chewing. Each chew pulls out a tiny bit more juice, but it takes a deliberate effort to slow down and take the book line by line on its own terms. Fortunately we’re only doing a chapter a month!

  176. Hello JMG,

    I have two questions I’ve been gnawing on for a while but to no avail.

    Both relate to the last paragraph on page 21 (millenium edition). In the paragraph before that, DF writes of the “secondary movement …completed its first circuit” – so, the Ring-Cosmos, under attraction to Ring-Chaos, begins to flip/spin spherically to create Ring-Pass-Not. She says as much in the next paragraph, but I’m having trouble with her continued wording there:

    “The secondary spin of the first circuit refers to the Ring-Pass-Not, and the circuit of the second formation is that sphere which sets a bound to Chaos.”

    To which second formation is she referring? The new whole comprised of the three rings? and what “circuit” is it making? Nowhere else is it suggested (and here only obliquely) that the whole shebang is also spinning on an axis – but it seems to be conceived that way to come up with something transcribing the “bounds of stillness.” Am I on the right track?

    Secondly, is the prime stillness – rooted in immobility- another word for Unmanifest as that which was unmoving until some portion wasn’t and set this whole thing in motion?

    If this prime stillness is the thrust block of the Cosmos and alone enables momentum, is this implying that Unmanifest has a quality of being “thrust block?” This contradicts its quality-less-ness or maybe this is actually a description of something else “outside” the new Cosmos and its bounding rings. If I’m reading it correctly, though, she calls this Ring Chaos (which previously had only been created as a reaction TO (not initiator of) Ring Cosmos.

    Kinda tangled…

    I very much appreciate any insight or nudges in particular directions you can offer.

  177. Hi all!
    I’ve jumped in on the book club this week and thought I would share my take on the first couple paragraphs.
    I found myself thinking of the pre-big bang state. It’s a kind of void where there isn’t even time in the way we percieve it. I see it as multidimensional.
    Adding some dimensions makes the visualization more challenging,but I think lends some subtlety to the arrangement that leads in interesting directions.

  178. If my minds eye is correct, when in Disc mode, the discs sweep space and intermingle, because the discs transcend boundaries, even the ring no pass with its infinitesimally small boundary sweeps through all the other rings. And, I also see concentric spheres and in that case, the Discs making up each one are more like Saturn rings or frisbees with no centers, and since they are traveling within the confines of their spherical spaces, only influence one another by the movement, inertia interactions [“communicate its movement to the space around it” ] Which is the proper model metaphor? It’d seem that the latter fits better. What do you all think?

  179. Thank you Michael, it’s good to see a Dion Fortune appreciation post! 🙂
    I look forward to read and interpret Liber AL vel Legis with the lens of this book, I’m sure they’ll compliment each other in precious ways.

  180. One note before I start responding: I’m really impressed by the seriousness with which so many people are pursuing this project. I won’t have that much to say to a lot of the longer and more thoughtful posts, since what’s happening is that you’re grappling with the ideas in the text and it’s my job to stay out of the way and let you follow your meditations wherever they take you.

    Docshibby, you’re welcome.

    Temporaryreality, we did indeed!

    Anne, those are good questions, but remember that this is a metaphor, and it’s a specific metaphor meant to communicate specific ways of thinking. To some extent, to get into the metaphor, you simply have to accept that movement in space started, and that it formed a disk.

    Ray, excellent!

    Scomber, good. You’re paying ample attention. I don’t think Fortune had enough of a mathematics background to realize that she was mixing scalar and vector descriptions in a confusing way. The thing that works for most people is simply to bracket the apparent contradictions and try to convert as much as possible into visual metaphor.

    Larry, the versions you have should be fine. The text differs but the visual metaphors are the same, and the latter are the things that count. Yes, there’s a typo! The diagram in the millennium edition is confusing, because it makes it look as though the Ring-Chaos extends all the way to the center like the Ring-Cosmos, and the text makes it clear that this doesn’t happen — the Ring-Chaos diffuses outward, the Ring-Cosmos concentrates inward.

    Jen, I don’t believe Fortune ever talks about things from outside the Ring-Pass-Not getting in. We’ll get further into what good is as we proceed!

    Johnny, excellent! I well recall the first time I really focused on a text, going back and forth over it — and yes, the possibilities just keep on unfolding. As for the Logos, no, it’s not the idea of concepts — here again, we’ll get to that in quite some detail a little later on.

    Phil, very good indeed.

    Walt, the mind is certainly one of the things to which Fortune’s metaphors can apply. Can you imagine a set of general metaphors that can be applied to every category of human experience, to open up ways of thinking about human experience that we don’t normally get from our culture and education?

    Heather, those are great. Keep on pursuing them.

    Squalembrato, fascinating. I wonder to what extent it’s the shared tradition of negative theology that’s making common ground here — as Fortune was highly familiar with the English tradition of Christian mysticism — and to what extent it’s a shared experience.

    Maria, no, you’re square on target. Follow it further!

    Johnny, good! Follow both those out further.

    Jean-Pierre, no, heading toward outer space is in Fortune’s vision the opposite of enlightenment. We’ll get to that.

    Dirtyboots, good. Keep following that train of thought.

    Ray, excellent! You just keep on nailing it.

    Larry, I’m not sure those are two different things. 😉 Interesting that you mention epigenesis; Fortune will have a fair amount to say about that as we proceed.

    Johnny, I’m just going to sit back and smile at this point.

    Temporaryreality, the sphere of the second formation is the Ring-Pass-Not — the implication is that the Ring-Cosmos has two movements, its original movement (the flowing of space that forms it) and its secondary rotation imparted by the attraction and repulsion of the Ring-Chaos. The Prime Stillness is the Ring-Chaos, and that’s also the thrust-block against which the Ring-Cosmos rotates. Does that help?

    Deadnettlez, thanks for this.

    Wesley, good. Now follow Fortune’s metaphors and see where they take you.

    Larry, oddly enough, we’ll get to the concentric circles in a couple of months. As the Ring-Cosmos develops, it sorts itself out into concentric rings around a central stillness. More on this as we proceed.

    Abdulaziz, I admit I wouldn’t have thought of trying to correlate the Cos. Doc. and Liber AL, but if that works for you, by all means!

  181. JMG, hmm! I shall have to wait on further speculation about goodness and evolution, then.

    The final problem I have hunted out in my understanding of the imagery comes at the end of the chapter: “The secondary spin of the first circuit is the Ring-Pass-Not, and the circuit of the second formation is that sphere which sets a bound to Chaos. On the outer sphere there is a secondary derivation, and though a spinning circle of motion, represents for that Cosmos, the prime stillness,”

    So I get how the sphere of the Ring-Pass-Not is formed, but my issue is with “the circuit of the second formation is that sphere which sets a bound to Chaos. On the outer sphere . . .”

    This makes it sound as if there are two spheres being described, with the inner sphere being the Ring-Pass-Not, and the outer sphere being the Ring-Chaos, except that the Ring-Chaos is not a sphere. So is the outer sphere a sort of imaginary globe of which the Ring-Chaos is the equator? It sort of sounds as if the Ring-Chaos is also spinning in a similar manner to the Ring-Cosmos and thus describing a second sphere, but my understanding is that the Ring-Chaos is stationary on its axis.

    Thank you for your patience and the time and effort you are putting into this discussion!

  182. In your comment to Temporaryreality, you mentioned the Ring-Cosmos has two movements.

    Glancing through _Paths of Wisdom_, I saw references to “continuous creation” in the back.
    Is this simply a byproduct of motion within the Ring-Cosmos, or can the whole Ring-Structure
    “breathe” through exchanges with the surrounding Unmanifest?

  183. Fortune says that ‘Space’ and ‘Movement’ is the prime duality, but I feel like there’s another candidate: The distinction between Unmanifest and Manifest. As soon as anything whatsoever (space, movement, qualities wholly alien to human experience, etc.) manifests, there you would have a duality between Unmanifest and Manifest.
    I don’t know if I would go so far to say as this duality is distinct or prior to Space and Movement; rather, the two seem synonymous in some way when I consider the matter.

    Also, along the lines of what Sven Eriksen was wondering about in the Open Post, it seems like there’s a strain of thought within Buddhism (or at least whatever versions of it we’ve got here in the States) that leads towards the Unmanifest. As in, the Buddhist void and the Unmanifest seem to bear a striking resemblance, at least to my untrained eyes.

  184. @Kfish

    I would think the hero myth still applies. The hero is shaped by adversity, but their will is strong enough to manifest their goals. The point I think is that there aren’t any straight lines and so their victory at the end of their journey does not look like the picture of success they had in the beginning. I could be wrong though!


  185. Hi JMG,

    Thanks. I was afraid I was just spamming your comments so I stopped posting, but did not stop thinking about this. And in particular this idea of the accumulation of forces.

    It ended up fusing with an idea I have about myself, which is that I am an accumulation of different entities that work together but also work for themselves, so my organs are telling me how they feel, and this is part of how I feel. If something was crucial enough it would push its way all the way up the chain and become impossible to ignore – what I imagine the difference is between how I feel about my kidney now vs a person who was stabbed in their kidney. Somehow there is some sort of democratic process based on feelings.

    Consciousness is something that can also vote and can lean the vote more one way than the other. It doesn’t get to rule things, unless none of the other parties care, but it can seemingly take control as the little bit it contributes can be the deciding factor.

    Anyway, I am somehow dividable but also viewable as a whole. In the same way it could be said that the individual motions of all the individuated pieces of the universe are both derived from the movement of manifestation as fragments of that initial motion but also constitute it. The moment there is movement there is what Schoppenhauer identified as “the will”, which we know through it’s objectification, and as he points out, we can’t help but be caught up in the separate conflicts even though technically it is a single impulse ultimately.

    The Unmanifest is separate from the Will because she is identifying a conceivable thing which has no desire or motion, no features and no history. My trouble now is that my idea of the Unmanifest seems to amount to multiple things: What could be, what won’t happen, what isn’t, what didn’t happen and what can’t happen – the ability to distinguish between them sounds like it breaks her very definition of it being without distinguishable qualities – so off to do some more rounds of reading this text again to try to see if the answer is there.

    I have found it comic how I will make slow progress towards working through each point to understand her, and when it does click I will later see she plainly stated this discovery at some point in her text, and then of course I realize I have a new piece that isn’t fitting right.


  186. Hi JMG,

    I’ve been thinking about this and I think I have an example based on doing this reading:

    I want to manifest a version of myself who understands this text. Within me, stirred by this action is a resistance. I don’t want to change, and if I must change, I want to change as little as possible. Ideally I’d like to read it and to just get it immediately and find out I’m right already. No matter how hard I apply myself, if I am honest, at every point when I think I’ve made some personal breakthrough with it I want to say, this is it, I understand it now, and so I can stop. It isn’t me firing at my goal and hitting the target, this is a series of struggles against the Unmanifest’s resistance to movement. The signs of this struggle are an indication something is happen here (and therefore more can happen). These struggles shape what I in fact managed to manifest in myself. These are then the “thrust blocks” that allow further manifestation to become possible.

    This is what is unique I think about the way the Ring Cosmos causes the Ring Chaos in what she is describing. This is a useful tool I think! I had struggled initially with the Ring Chaos because I wanted to see it as gravity, a force that the Ring Cosmos swirled around, and is limited by, but it isn’t that, it’s something that pushes against it that is caused by the initial push. This push against is also causing manifestation because it is also in motion. This is why I can describe clearly characteristics in myself that are holding me back, the fact that these characteristics have qualities and history prove that they are manifest.


  187. The month is almost over, and … I have a new experience each time I read the text. Its been wonderfully stimulating. After an initial struggle to picture the process dynamics it began to flow together quite easily, and I chose to spend time on details contained within the visualisation process, which often morphed into real-life thoughts. I began to see that these secondary thoughts were not unrelated to the details being described in the concept. Some would dissolve, others remain unresolved but distorted, few would progress positively, and there were a couple of stand-out “clears” of realisation.

    I came back now to read your initial instruction, and found it actually all made sense, confirming my own images of the creation of the various rings. The last time I read it (one month ago) I had struggled mightily. So, thank you, this is great stuff.

  188. Alright, when I have something really wing nut I want to add to a conversation I used to wat until comment 200 to add it. Back on TADR that put it on a back page, but that don’t work. Still I got some weird stuff I want to post about this stuff. Please be patient.

    So I was thinking about the way that too many Western observers Eastern Buddhism has a distinctly nihilistic feeling; it is so easy for us to process it as a rejection of strife and a willing retreat into the unmanifest to escape the torsional pains of the Cosmos; spiritual suicide if you please. However, it is clear to me from observing Japanese culture, including those parts most influenced by Buddhism, that this is incomplete, and there is an exuberant celebration of life and its foibles that participates in all of this. Indeed that death drive is almost whipped round into the erotic.

    There is a weird cultural creation from Japan that I was recently reminded of, and it is in a very very weird way a meditation on the themes of the cosmic doctrine. It is an animated cartoon, and far afield from JMG’s tastes, it is called Neon Genesis Evagelion. It is very weird, sadly too weird for me to put into words here. Suffice to say that the show presents itself as a cartoon about teenagers in giant robots that fight monsters. But all the groups of characters, the different monsters, robots, everything is quickly reveled to be an allegory for Christian metaphysics as viewed from a Japanese perspective while using the western lenses of Schopenhauer, existentialism, structuralism, and psychoanalysis. The details of how that is done go too far afield to cover here.

    The climax question of the story is whether the main protagonist, a lonely and submissive young man, will choose to bring an end to the pain and strife of existence by rejecting all differentiation between manifest individuals, or choose to live on in the wake of immense trauma and lose. One one side a ‘philanthropic’ group called seele seeks to bring about an end to all suffering through him and the divine forces at play in the narrative; opposite them are the connections to his friends and family, each one very troubled, lonely, and too broken to be supporting of the main characters emotional desires. The main character chooses to preserver in life, because it is the limits and rejections made possible by others that gives him the basic structure to exist, and the opportunity to strive for authentic human connection, in spite of the separation people maintain between themselves.

    That may seem far out for this topic… but I have been thinking so much about the rejection of evil, and the way that it so easily morphs into a rejection of being; that zany cartoon I think might have planted the narrative seeds in my teenage head that even today I use to make sense of some of lifes deeper pains. As a final point of context it is the kind of art that I only partake in when I am already in a gloom, as it slowly rocks that gloom into a deeper and more intense state, until finally that gloom reaches a sort of sublime beauty, and thank goodness it is over… catharsis.

    Those who want an evilless world want no world at all. Those who what to be free of sin, well Zarathustra bless them, for they shall thus pass on!

    The prime evil, being at ‘cross purposes’ to the prime motion of being is inscrutable; it exists outside of the powers of our conception, excepting though negative conception (not this, not that). And yet, it is the perfect compliment of being. Any particular progress into ever more glorious forms of manifestation require an interaction, challenge, push off of the pull of a comparable inglorious thread of the ring chaos.

    Order is attracted to Chaos, but cannot be lost to chaos, only divided into separated and not separated orders. The attraction to chaos is evil, giver of limitations; limitation is the mother of ten thousand beings.

  189. Jen, that’s a confusing turn of phrase, no question. I read it as meaning “on the outside of the sphere defined by the Ring-Pass-Not,” as that makes the whole thing make sense as given. The sphere of the secondary formation is everything inside the Ring-Pass-Not — the “secondary formation” is the rotation of the Ring-Cosmos caused by the attraction of the Ring-Chaos — and the “outer sphere” is simply what’s outside that.

    Jeffrey, there’s nothing in the Unmanifest to “breathe”! The process of continuous creation, as we’ll see, unfolds within the Ring-Pass-Not as the initial movement of the Ring-Chaos becomes steadily more complex, and additional patterns take shape and interact with each other.

    Cliff, in a certain sense, yes, the distinction between the Unmanifest and Manifestation is a binary, but it’s not a duality in the strict sense, because to have a duality both sides have to be able to do something, and the Unmanifest doesn’t. It has no qualities and no history, and nothing happens to it, so it can’t interact with Manifestation to create the back and forth you need to have a duality. That’s why Space and Movement is the prime duality: each of them acts on the other. Space provides something to move, movement provides something for space to do.

    Johnny, I know the feeling. Every time I read the Cos. Doc. I find things there I didn’t notice before, and yet there they are, right in front of me in so many words…

    Marco, excellent. That’s how the process of close reading of a text of occult philosophy works; it’s very good to hear that it’s worked for you.

    Ray, you’re right that I know precisely nothing of Neon Genesis Evangelion, though I’ve heard the name. The thing is, every human desire and every pattern in our consciousness sets up its own opposite in the manner you’ve sketched out. Desire for life sets in motion one Ring-Cosmos, and brings about a desire for death as a Ring-Chaos — or vice versa. Just as Christianity, the most sex-rejecting of all major religions, necessarily gave rise to the ideal of romantic love, the most sex-exalting of cultural ideologies, it comes as no surprise that the world-weariness central to historic Buddhism — “life is suffering” — would necessarily give rise to its opposite.

  190. JMG, thanks. I shall read it that way for now, although it kind of niggles at me as describing something slightly different from the earlier imagery that I have imprinted firmly. Hopefully as we elaborate these visualizations, some of my “wobbly” conceptualizations will solidify via additional context—unless they are overwhelmed by additional confusion, heh.

  191. Thanks for running this book club JMG, love your work, I’ve been following your blogs for aeons now and will endeavor to keep up with everyone here following the CosDoc.

    The quote “We now have two spinning planes which, at two points cut each other” from the Millennium edition confused me. and now I can see that’s absent from the revised edition. Can I safely assume that’s an incorrect translation. They can’t cut each other as the Ring-Chaos is outside the Ring-Cosmos and the Ring-Pass-not is between.
    I got the millennium edition book, but now I’ll have to perpetually keep my eye out on a revised edition (also not a fan of reading books on computer).

    Some of the comments here leave me with the impression the Ring-Chaos is the Unmanifest.
    I’m sure it’s not. As I understand, the unmanifest is the original ‘essence?’ of everything, the Ring-Cosmos, the Ring-Chaos and the Ring-Pass-not. they are all the manifestation of the unmanifest manifesting. Which is correct?

    Lastly, I only just got the book so only just starting, so a little behind (still haven’t gone through all the comments).
    When the next book club post comes out, can we ask questions related to this months post?
    I believe I’m getting the visualization, but need to work on how it’s an analogy, like your example of two people interacting.

  192. “… this universe is a sphere encircled by two lines of force – the Ring-Cosmos and the Ring Chaos – rotating at right angles to each other. The momentum of the Ring-Cosmos is the source of force from which evolution draws its momentum; and the rotation of the Ring-Chaos is the source of force from which dissolution draws its power.”

  193. I’ve been steeped in readings on Christian thought lately, which probably explains why the Christian aspects of Fortune’s work are standing out to me, but I found that the formation of the sphere reminds me of Jesus’ story in a very abstract way – the idea of the cohering, life-giving force moving toward the entropic horizon, then past it and back around again. The cyclical spinning of the Ring-Pass-Not is very suggestive of natural cycles like birth and death (and perhaps rebirth/resurrection, depending on one’s perspective), but that detail of the good being drawn towards the evil without being negated or consumed by it rang a particularly Christian-sounding bell to me.

    I’ve also been reflecting a great deal on what it might mean to say that space itself was moving. One notion that occurred to me was that the movement of space is the Unmanifest seeking to explore itself, flinging itself outward until the full range of possibilities contained within it have been realized and it returns to its origin. The motion of the Ring-Cosmos then draws those manifested realities toward the center, the point where the forces of existence are once again perfectly balanced as in the Unmanifest but have been enriched by passing through the other points on the disc. The center is then a kind of Microprosopus, a reflection within manifest reality of the Unmanifest’s ineffable perfection. Meanwhile the pull of the Ring-Chaos prevents the disc of creation from collapsing back into stasis at the center point, instead expanding the circumference so that ever more potentialities can be drawn into the ring of actuality.

    …Not sure if any of that will make sense to anyone else, but it felt like a step toward comprehension at the time. Thanks to everyone else for your own thoughts on this topic! You’ve given me lots of other angles from which to approach my inquiry.

  194. Ok, that’s good – seems my original image/conception was on track but I just got thrown off by possible meanings.

    Like KNS above, I hope to expand my ability to think analagously with the images – I can kind of pull it into personal anecdote connections, but am not so skilled at doing so on larger, topical scales.

    I did find it an interesting exercise, once I had the images worked out, to go back and change wording to play with the concepts in new ways. For example, re-reading it while switching out metaphors for movement with those for “change,” thus:

    “The first manifestation was a change in space…All I can say was that [Unmanifest] was changing…Now when space changes it has this peculiar quality – being frictionless it never loses [the tendency toward] change but continues to change…When [Unmanifest] changes two forces are at work – a) the force which causes it to change, being the desire of space for change. b) the force which had hitherto caused it not to change – being the desire for space for [stasis]. These two factors are present in all change, but the desire for change, being the stronger, overcomes the desire for stasis, and the desire for stasis continues as a check upon the change…”

    Also, I’m chewing on the section that says Ring-Pass-Not is prime stillness, an immobility that is the thrust block of the force the Cosmos that alone enables momentum to be achieved and contrasting that with the original _____ that allowed Unmanifest to achieve movement/momentum. Unmanifest seems to have had no thrust-block except a desire to have one against which to push off and from which to differentiate one aspect (movement vs. inertia). hmmm

  195. In terms of translations of the Cosmic Doctrine in other languages, are there versions that some of the French or Spanish readers of this forum would recommend more than others ? I’m currently reading the 1962 French translation from J. de la Roche.

  196. Dion in another of her books “The Mystical Qabalah” describes Kether, Chokmah, and Binah in similar terms. Kether is like the space before movement, Chokmah is the movement of the space, and Binah Is the restraining force that gives curvature to space. I suppose you could take the process lower where Chesed (Gedulah) forms the Ring Cosmos, Geburah the Ring Chaos, and Tiphareth the Ring No-Pass. If so, then there are attributes at each state of existence that are interesting. Binah for instance could just as easily have killed Chokmah, but instead chooses to give form. Sort of an interesting take, since the forces then brought forth are weaker, but supportive. It has been a thought of mine that Hod could crush Netzach or be supportive. Just as the rationality can crush the emotional or give it form.


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