Book Club Post

The Cosmic Doctrine: The Evolution of a Great Entity

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

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

Assigned Reading:

Revised Edition:  Chapter 8, “The Evolution of a Great Entity,” pp. 39-43.

Millennium Edition: Chapter 7, “The Evolution of a Great Entity,” pp. 55-57, and the first half of the following chapter, to the bottom of p. 60.

Commentary:

With this chapter the text shifts in an important way. Up to now, The Cosmic Doctrine has made use of physics as a basis for its “nearest approximate metaphors.” The images that we’ve been presented all have to do with space and movement.  Within that framework, a kind of visionary astronomy has been unfolded, setting out the principles of occult philosophy as though we’re talking about the formation of suns and planets.

There are good reasons for that approach. For most people in the industrial world, the narratives of modern science provide the raw material for our thinking, in exactly the same way that the mythic narratives of ancient Greece, let’s say, provided the raw material for Classical thought. Many Americans who grew up when I did will recall the glorious Chesley Bonestell paintings of the newborn Earth commissioned by Life Magazine and published in a very widely read coffee-table book, The World We Live In; equivalent images were commonplace in Fortune’s time and today as well. These are our creation myths, and it was a wise choice on Fortune’s part to use them to provide a half-conscious mental background for her teaching.

The challenge that has to be faced by any set of metaphors that relies on physics, though, is the barrier that materialist science has tried to raise between matter and mind. That’s the barrier Fortune needs to get past in order to make her account of the cosmos relevant to magic—the art and science, remember, of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will. She does the job with considerable aplomb by the straightforward tactic of driving right through the middle of the barrier, sending fragments flying in all directions.

Let’s see how this works. She starts by asking us to imagine the consciousness of a Great Entity, one of the traveling atoms of the Cosmos that has passed through the whole process of Cosmic evolution and settled down on one of the seven planes of being to create a solar system of its own. At first, the consciousness of that Great Entity would simply be a dim sense of whirling, reflecting the movement of the Ring-Cosmos. That becomes established, and fades from awareness in the same way that any repeated stimulus does. (Pay attention to your tongue. Before I mentioned it, were you aware of the sensations it was receiving?)  Then the secondary movement of the Ring-Chaos follows, entering consciousness and then fading out as the Great Entity becomes habituated to it. From there, step by step, every other phase in the evolution of the Cosmos is reflected in the consciousness of the Great Entity.

Why? Because the consciousness of the Great Entity is nothing other than these patterns of habituated movement. Fortune points out: “(T)here is an unbroken line of development from movement to thought. Tangential movement is a simple form of reaction. Thought is an infinitely complex form of reaction. It is a question of difference of degree, not of difference of kind” (p. 40 revised edition, p. 56 Millennial edition).  Think of your consciousness as an extremely complex set of movements that have worked out all their interactions and whirl smoothly and silently on, until disrupted by some new influence.

It’s common for people to treat this sort of understanding as though it’s a dismissal of the very idea of consciousness—as though it’s saying “consciousness is nothing more than very complex movement.” It would be just as accurate to say that movement is nothing less than very simple consciousness, and that physics studies those forms of consciousness that are simple enough that their results can be predicted by mathematical formulae.  To say that movement and consciousness are the same thing doesn’t mean that consciousness doesn’t exist—it means that everything is conscious to one degree or another.

The point to take from this discussion is that Fortune’s account doesn’t set out two separate realms of mind and matter (philosophers call this dualism); nor does it see mind as an effect or product or illusion created by matter (in philosophers’ jargon, materialism); nor does it see matter an effect or product or illusion created by mind (to philosophers, this is idealism). Rather, to Fortune, mind and matter are the same thing experienced in slightly different ways—or, in modern industrial society, chopped in half to make the universe fit an ideology with a covert agenda. (This makes Fortune’s account, in philosophers’ language, a variety of monism—though, as we’ll see, Fortune shows that philosophical monism and religious theism are perfectly compatible if you approach them both in the right way.)

We’ll get to these latter points as we proceed. For now, let’s turn back to the text and watch the slow dawning of complex consciousness in the mind of a Great Entity. As it finishes the process of Cosmic evolution and settles down into a stable orbit on one of the planes of being, and the other atoms that accompanied it out to that plane settle into their own stable orbit, the Great Entity repeats the motions that it absorbed from the Cosmos, and imparts those same motions to the swarm of atoms that surround it. The swarm proceeds to sort itself out into the miniature Cosmos we call a solar system and Fortune, like the astronomers of her childhood, called a Universe. (The term “universe” didn’t get its modern meaning until the discovery of other galaxies in the mid-20th century; the term literally means “that which rotates together,” and was already being used in the Middle Ages for the Earth-centered cosmos imagined in those days.)

Fortune talks about this same process in two ways, once in terms of motion, once in terms of consciousness; these are the same thing, but our habits of thought make it difficult to grasp that, thus the repetition. The Great Entity repeats the motions of the Cosmos, and thus—this is simply another way of saying the same thing—formulates the concept of those motions. The repetition of a motion, after all, is the simplest form of reflection on that motion. So we can begin to see the Great Entity meditating on the conditions of its being, the vast movements of the Cosmos it absorbed during its long pilgrimage through time. As they respond to these motions, the atoms surrounding the Great Entity recapitulate that pilgrimage in a reflected form. They absorb the fruits of its experience; we might even say that they receive an initiation from the Great Entity, and are introduced to the modes of consciousness of the Great Entity. Certain aspects of religion can be understood in this way; others—well, we’ll get to that further on.

The solar system doesn’t simply settle down into habituated motion and unconsciousness, though, because it isn’t isolated. Three main sets of influences from the Cosmos, as noted in previous commentaries, affect the solar system as it sweeps around the Central Sun on its orbit. First of all, the great phases of the Rings continue to affect it. When the Ring-Cosmos is moving toward the Ring-Chaos, all the solar systems within the Cosmos are stirred into new activity and the generation of novelty; when the Ring-Cosmos moves away from the Ring-Chaos, all the solar systems settle down to the elaboration and synthesis of the new influences absorbed in the previous phase.

Second, the Great Entity and its solar system pass through the twelve Rays one after another. These rays are far from interchangeable; each one has its own distinctive influences, which are reflected within the solar system in the form of the twelve Zodiacal influences. Think of the way that the Earth passes through each of the twelve forces of the Zodiac as it circles the Sun; the same thing happens, on a vastly greater time scale, as the Great Entity in the Sun follows its own orbit around the Central Stillness. This is the Cosmic factor behind the astrological ages marked by the precession of the equinoxes: the change from one age to another happens when our solar system, in its orbit around the Central Stillness, passes from one Ray to another.

Third, other solar systems are sweeping around the Central Sun on their own orbits, and those on each plane move at a different rate of speed—the closer to the Central Sun, the faster the rate of movement. Here in the seventh Cosmic plane, we’re subject to the influences of solar systems on every other plane of being. Those influences have two parts, one of which we’ve discussed already and one of which we haven’t.

The one we’ve discussed is the (metaphorical, remember) gravitational attraction exerted by systems of each plane on the atoms that share the same geometric keynote of that plane. A Great Entity on the seventh Cosmic plane has matter of every other plane in its solar system, and so when a Great Entity on the sixth Cosmic plane goes past, all atoms that have a hexagonal keynote are influenced by it; when a Great Entity on the fifth Cosmic Plane goes past, it’s the turn of atoms with a pentagonal structure to be affected, and so on. Only the atoms of dense matter are unaffected by these influences.

The form of influence we haven’t discussed so far is what happens when a solar system of a higher plane passes (metaphorically) between our solar system and the Central Stillness. That weakens the gravitational influence of the Central Stillness, so that every atom of the higher plane tends to move inward toward the solar system moving past, but every atom of every other plane tends to drift further out toward the Ring-Pass-Not, the boundary of the Cosmos.  Our solar system doesn’t fly apart when this happens, because it has its own gravitational attraction, and a complex network of stresses in equilibrium holding it together. Those keep it on one piece, but the pressure of the contending forces puts strains on the structure of the solar system and sets up various unbalanced patterns of movement.

These, in turn, are the origin of positive evil. We’ve talked already about negative evil and positive evil—the basic inertia and resistance that provides a thrust-block for creative action, on the one hand, and the actions of individual beings that follow the momentum of the Ring-Chaos rather than that of the Ring-Cosmos, on the other.  Negative evil is necessary for anything to come into existence—if there were no inertia, no thrust-block against which the forces of the Ring-Cosmos can push, there would be no Cosmos at all.  Positive evil, by contrast, isn’t built into the structure of existence; it’s accidental, though in a sufficiently complex Cosmos the accidents that bring it into being are inevitable.

Fortune gives us two new labels for negative evil and positive evil; she calls the former Cosmic evil, and the second universal evil. (A universe, again, is what early 20th century astronomers called what we call a solar system.)  Negative or Cosmic evil is always present in every solar system, forming the background inertia against which the solar system’s evolution unfolds.

Positive or universal evil, by contrast, comes and goes; it appears when a set of discordant stresses moves through a system, and disappears as the discords are gradually brought back into balance. Positive evil thus takes the most extreme forms in the early phases of any evolutionary process, when the patterns of force that will eventually bring the whole system into balance haven’t yet become habituated. Over time, the balance becomes harder to disrupt, until finally the entire system has settled into perfect balance—and then, of course, a new Cosmic phase begins and the process starts over again.

Positive evil takes two forms, which Fortune calls by indicative names. Perverted force she calls sin; perverted form she call disease. (Remember that the word “perverted” means simply “diverted from its normal course”—the common sexual meaning of the term is secondary to that basic meaning, and isn’t what Fortune is talking about here.)  While the term “sin” is unpopular these days, it does a better job of communicating the particular kind of imbalance Fortune is discussing here than any of its partial synonyms. Sin and disease, unbalanced force and unbalanced form, are the tangles that work their way into a solar system and have to be pulled out straight again in the course of evolution.

There’s a subtle point here that we’ll be exploring in more detail later on. In one sense, as we’ve just seen, positive evil is the product of forces from outside the solar system setting discordant patterns at work within it. In another sense, as discussed earlier on, positive evil is the product of unforced choices on the part of individual beings. That seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it? As we’ll see, though, that apparent contradiction resolves itself as we begin to come to grips with the process Fortune calls epigenesis and less careful philosophies call free will.

Notes for Study:

As already noted, The Cosmic Doctrine is heavy going, especially for those who don’t have any previous exposure to occult philosophy. It’s useful to read through the assigned chapter once or twice, trying to get an overview, but after that take it a bit at a time. The best option for most people seems to be to set aside five or ten minutes a day during the month you spend on this chapter. During that daily session, take one short paragraph or half of a long one, read it closely, and think about what you’ve read, while picturing in your mind’s eye the image you’ve been given for that passage of text.

As you proceed through the chapter and its images, you’re likely to find yourself facing questions that the text doesn’t answer. Some of those are questions Fortune wants you to ask yourself, either because they’ll be answered later in the book or because they will encourage you to think in ways that will help you learn what the text has to say. It can be helpful to keep a notebook in which to write down such questions, as well as whatever thoughts and insights might come to you as you study the text.

Questions and comments can also be posted here for discussion. (I’d like to ask that only questions and comments relevant to The Cosmic Doctrine be posted here, to help keep things on topic.) We’ll go on to the next piece of the text on March 13. Until then, have at it!

59 Comments

  1. Thanks for helping us through this dense book!

    One question, more about the creation of the book. How are we to take the method that the book was written? Did it actually happen the way it is described in the introduction or is there some literary liberties there?

  2. John–

    Obviously there will be considerably more thought put into this month’s chapter, but one thing that leaped out at me in this first reading.

    In your discussion of positive evil, you pointed out Fortune’s notions of perverted force and perverted form. Given the parallels with the triads of the druidic elements and the columns of the Tree of Life, what of the middle pillar/third element of consciousness/nwyfre? That is, is there “perverted consciousness” as well? If so, how would it relate to the other two? If not, why not?

  3. Matt, that’s an interesting question with no really definite answer. Fortune lived and wrote at a time when some claim of superhuman inspiration was standard in works of occult philosophy; Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine and Heindel’s Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, the two most widely read books of the type in her time, both present their authors as humble scribes taking down teachings from inner-plane masters, as of course do such equivalent works as Yeats’ A Vision and Crowley’s The Book of the Law. To what extent that was a literary device, to what extent it was a description of the actual process of writing, and to what extent it was something in between, perhaps rationalized into the latter in retrospect, is really hard to judge.

    If I may offer a personal example, the first volume of The Weird of Hali basically wrote itself over an eight-week period — I’ve never had anything of that scale come into being so quickly, requiring so little conscious effort on my part. If it had been a work of occult philosophy, and if I’d been alive in Fortune’s time, I might well have decided that it was communicated by some superhuman entity.

    David, excellent! Keep that in mind as we proceed; Fortune has some very specific things to say about that.

  4. Greetings John, what would you say is the “ideology with a covert agenda” in modern industrial society that chops in reality in half to make the universe fit? What is the ultimate goal of such an agenda, and who’s agenda is it?

  5. JMG,

    the first thing that comes to my mind when I think it over is this: rituals use gestures and movements, because it is in reality the most basic form of consciousness. In other words, its not the insight that drive the change, but change in patters of movement that generate higher-order insights and experiences? So even when not fully understanding or engaging without great zeal, if practices enough times, the well-designed ritual will have cascading effect on the magician?

  6. My mind goes to the story of Adam and Eve, who inhabit their own mini-Universe until the snake comes and introduces positive evil in two forms of original sin and pain (in childbirth and having to work for food) for daring to expand outside their bubble. If we look at the Bible story, there does seem to be a certain tragic inevitability to that particular origin story. So it’s probably fruitful to look at other creation myths too, right?

  7. “…the consciousness of the Great Entity is nothing other than these patterns of habituated movement.”

    It seems to me that consciousness is the context within which awareness of movement and the slow complexification into thought can happen. A potential conscious entity must have some content for its conscious awareness, and that would be the movement. A consciousness must have something to be conscious OF, and thus it might seem that this newborn atom-entity develops consciousness over time. But the substrate that makes that growth in consciousness possible has to be there, a basic awareness.

  8. Dion says at the beginning of Chapter 7 that basically now we’re going to take a look at things from within, or from a subjective point of view. Thinking about that in terms of the Tree of Life, the Sephiroth are objective (or relating to the Macrocosm), while the Paths between them are subjective, in that they relate to an individual’s consciousness. The act of Pathworking is to comprehend and incorporate or internalize the various states of consciousness symbolized in the Tree of Life. Like following an instruction manual to re-calibrate or reprogram our consciousness in the image of the divine consciousness.

    From the text: “This central nucleus will have implicit in it, the modes of reaction to which it became habituated during its experience of the phases of Cosmic evolution.”

    Similarly: “Having had the Cosmic factors implanted in its nature by the experiences, it proceeds to bring them into function independently of the Cosmic impulse of its own momentum…”

    This could refer to how on the evolutionary journey back up the Tree of Life along the paths, every path imparts a glimpse at a different type of consciousness which is eventually retained by the initiate – he or she begins to think and act in accordance with the framework of the universal consciousness implicit in the Tree. These changes of consciousness gradually become internalized.

    I’m probably reading too much into this part of the book, as I’m not sure if she is really referring to humanity at this stage in the game. The Great Entities might be beings on order more of say, a Sun God, but because of the microcosm/macrocosm (As above, so below), the concepts she’s discussing here might equally apply to us.

    What stands out for me here is the fractal nature of the universe – how it repeats its basic framework at different scales. As in the evolution of the Great Entities – they learn or are initiated by the framework or basic characteristics of the Cosmos which have been laid down before them.

    And one more thought from this bit of text: “This nuclear atom continues to make its accustomed reactions owing to the momentum of its particles. These actions upon its part induce the corresponding reactions of the loose aggregations of matter from each Cosmic plane that are gathered about it.”

    This made me think about how an individual can affect the consciousness of those around them by drawing them into sympathy with his or her thoughts or moods. This can be done either intentionally or unintentionally. An example of this would be the way that someone in a good mood can lift up the consciousness of those around them, or how a grumpy, angry person can make the people around them also grumpy and angry.

  9. Well, *now* I’m aware of my tongue. Thanks. 😛

    Seriously, though, I find the whole relationship between motion and consciousness fascinating. On a human level, it reminds me of phenomena like how smiling makes people happier even if they’re not doing it out of happiness, and other “fake it ’till you make it” principles. For a less literal sense of “motion,” there’s also the tendency of spies or actors to find their roles influencing them. (Happens in LARPs too: the concept of “bleed” has people who care more about committed relationships than I do freaking out about in-character romance on a semi-regular basis.)

  10. Changeling, excellent! Yes, in fact, one of the reasons that effective magic always has a kinesthetic element is that body movement is as primal an experience as you can have.

    Kimberly, it is indeed.

    Onething, Fortune is talking about the origins of that substrate, not about the origins of its content.

    Stefania, while we’re not talking about human beings yet — our species doesn’t show up for some chapters to come — your point stands; As above, so below; what works for the Solar Logos works also, on our smaller scale, for each of us.

    Isabel, just one of the services I offer! . Yes, exactly — every emotion starts out as a motion, and only later is internalized as an inner perception.

  11. “Onething, Fortune is talking about the origins of that substrate, not about the origins of its content. ”

    I dunno…I have a couple of problems with this. I guess the main one is it means that matter is primary rather than consciousness. Whatever the void before the ring cosmos and ring pass not consists of – something gets into motion, but what was it before that? What set it in motion?

    So it seems that you are saying that consciousnessless movement leads to consciousness.

  12. JMG et al
    I found David (DbtL) reference to nwyfre the Druidical third element instantly helpful, even if I know not why, yet. It sent me to look up nwyfre and again this led helpfully to your own writing for AODA http://aoda.org/publications/articles-on-druidry/threedruidelements/ .
    I have been contemplating the formation of the Logos for a while and have begun to find DF’s ‘physics’ metaphor of a ‘Solar Universe’ leading somewhere. I am still pondering, if very vaguely, that ‘knowledge’ is related to ‘movement’ and ‘transfer’, even when it is apparently ‘frozen’ in ‘architecture’ and ‘form’, and perhaps likewise in ‘memory’.
    On a practical level this from your AODA piece is apposite to my recently coining a term for my own use Failure of the Scientific Mind. This was to deliberately sound a bit over-the-top rhetorically (smile), but for sure the following quote is relevant to the world I live in: “Time and again, well-intentioned experts using the best tools science has to offer have tried to tackle problems outside the laboratory and failed abjectly. Rational architecture and urban planning, scientific agriculture and forestry, and innovative schemes for education and social reform often cause many more problems than they solve, and fail to yield the results predicted by theory.”
    best
    Phil H

  13. Changeling, long ago I came across a book by Serge Kahili King which taught Hawaiian Shamanism which forms the sole way I see the World.

    One of its principles is that memory is stored in your physical body, specifically the muscles tense at the time of your learning the lesson. That repetitive movement re-enforces that knowledge. Pairing a specific action you want to have happen with a unique body motion, allows your to re-enforce that desired action every time you repeat the motion.

    The Body Knows on a fundamental level and it can change Reality.

    The US Army did a study that I’m aware of. See they are very interested in teach people to shoot well. But that usually requires them to shoot a lot of bullets. The Army wanted a way to cut some of that cost, so they had some people just practice aiming an unloaded 45 caliber pistol and dry firing it.

    Draw, Aim and Shoot.

    They found that the actual experience of firing a real bullet wasn’t the important thing, it was building up the muscle memory of the action. You could teach good shooting without wasting a lot of bullets.

    I suspect that occult ritual does the same thing. When you try and affect change on the World, and do it with the same gestures each time, it re-enforces your intent. That you can mentally re-enforce your actions by just taking a moment and re-acting the movements associated with the ritual.

    Never underestimate the power our physical self has to affect change in the higher plane.

  14. Changeling, long ago I came across a book by Serge Kahili King which taught Hawaiian Shamanism which forms the sore of the way I see the World.

    Wish we had edit, lol. That should be “the sole way I see the World.”

    [Fixed it — JMG]

    While its not about this weeks Ecosophia topic, I want to say that we are also posting each Wednesday over on the Green Wizards, please check us out after you visit John here on Ecosophia..

    This week’s post is for writers and is called “Story Circle: Creating Minor Characters In A Short Story”. It deals with the challenges of creating good background characters and the way we can do it in the minimum amount of words.

    Writers remember that we have a active and helpful community of fellow writers, who you can share your story and seek input from. There are currently TWO open submissions for stories so get to writing..

    Announcing Not One BUT Two New Short Story Contests!

    I wanted to thank the people who have registered this past week on the Green Wizard site, and remind you to check your spam folder for the email back that your account has been approved. Many of you didn’t try to see if you could log in and I suspect you thought that we didn’t see your new account. I check new registrations twice a day and approve them as soon as I see them.

    If you have any problems please email me at green wizard dtrammel at gmail dot com.

    I look forward to all our new Green Wizards sharing their knowledge and experiences on our forums. We may be in a short period of plenty economically BUT we will soon see another stair step of Collapse soon. Some of us will make it through it unhurt but a few will see themselves forced into Collapse.

    Are you ready if its your time?

    Let us help you prepare.

  15. Thank you, JMG, for this guided tour of the CosDoc. Even though this is the first time I am commenting, I have been following along since the beginning . This past month’s break was especially productive as I was able to restart the book from the beginning as well as catch up on some missed commentary.

    I have found that Fortune’s metaphorical framework of the Cosmos to be quite beautiful and compelling. We’ve watched the birth of a primal atom from the vortex of the tangential forces caused by the secondary movement of the rays. We’ve seen this primal atom attract and bond with other primal atoms to create composite atoms and then seen this composite atom follow the path of the flowing Ray to grow and move through the cosmic planes. Then the atom, when it reaches the maximum complexity of that sector, bounces and spirals off the Ring-Pass-Not at an angle that will ensure the composite atom will travel all 12 Rays. Movement begets movement. Upon completion, we see this traveling atom rest in the Central Stillness, basking in all its glory, until the Ring Cosmos passes into its negative phase and sends forth our experienced atom through the Cosmic Planes once again, this time as a Great Organism, with great gravity, collecting static atoms it encounters throughout the Planes, until it finds its natural resting place according to its original composition and collected mass. Now, our Great Organism can settle down to its own orbit and establish its own cosmos. Internal movement becomes habituated and must be maintained. These movements become implicit to the inner elaboration of the Great Organism. All the cosmic factors of its cosmic evolution are combined and recombined in an infinite diversity of a manifested universe. This momentum of movement, independent of the forces that created it, is our evidence of the Cosmic Will, the creation of the Great Entity. Thoughts are infinitely complex movements. Each thought an unique collection of movement and experience. This Great Entity puts in motion the memory of its experiences and uses the dynamism of Good and the thrust-block of Evil to create its own cosmos. It knows Good and Evil and is therefore a God.

    Just as the Great Entity creates its own universe, so do we create our own universe, the central point to our Cosmos. As above, so below. We too, are all gods, or at least potential gods as we learn the characteristics of Good and Evil.

  16. Chageling’s comment and your response made me think of the role of muscle memory and practice, practice, practice has on any type of creative endeavor. If you are going to make something, you have to go through the motions to do so. The more you make those motions the finer your creation becomes, but “perfection” isn’t the name of the game, mastery is. There are always variables that create distinctions in any piece no matter how practiced you are. Motion, consciousness; motion, creation; motion, experience. Heady stuff.

  17. In Virgil’s time, this creation myth was top-notch science (translation by Greenough, 1895):

    “…for he sang
    how through the mighty void the seeds were driven
    of earth, air, ocean, and of liquid fire,
    how all that is from these beginnings grew,
    and the young world itself took solid shape,
    then ‘gan its crust to harden, and in the deep
    shut Nereus off, and mould the forms of things
    little by little; and how the earth amazed
    beheld the new sun shining, and the showers
    fall, as the clouds soared higher, what time the woods
    ‘gan first to rise, and living things to roam
    scattered among the hills that knew them not.”

    It sounds much better in Latin:

    “Namque canebat, uti magnum per inane coacta
    semina terrarumque animaeque marisque fuissent,
    et liquidi simul ignis; ut his exordia primis
    omnia et ipse tener mundi concreverit orbis;
    tum durare solum et discludere Nerea ponto
    coeperit, et rerum paulatim sumere formas;
    iamque novum terrae stupeant lucescere solem,
    altius atque cadant submotis nubibus imbres;
    incipiant silvae cum primum surgere, cumque
    rara per ignaros errent animalia montis.”

    I can hear the rain falling in “altius atque cadant”!

    The whole poem is marvellous, my favorite among Virgil’s eclogues.

    http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Verg.+Ecl.+6&fromdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0056

  18. JMG and all,

    The idea of creation myths framing our perspective and led to things such as Classical Thought, and modern insistence on science for an answer for everything, really grabbed my attention. Turning that insight over and over in my head has been a great source of interest. I’ll probably keep doing so.

    It’s led me to think that our seeking of a creation myth is a habitual motion. Many cultures, nationalities, spiritualities, take the time to develop a creation myth and then find any number of reasons to justify that myth.

    Is this habit a perverted form of humanity? And would it be considered evolutionary if a group of people didn’t concern themselves with a creation myth?

  19. This section reminds me of an article I have read called “Your mind will not be uploaded)”

    http://www.softmachines.org/wordpress/?p=1558

    The author does not talk about consciousness but biological information processing (he is a physicist not a philosopher).

    “Is there any general principle that underlies biological information processing, in the brain and elsewhere, that would help us understand what ionic conduction, synaptic response, learning and so on have in common? I believe there is – underlying all these phenomena are processes of macromolecular shape change in response to a changing local environment. Ion channel proteins change shape in response to the electric field across the membrane, opening or closing pores; at the synapse shape-changing proteins respond to electrical changes to trigger the bursting open of synaptic vesicles to release the neurotransmitters, which themselves bind to protein receptors to transmit their signal, and complicated sequences of protein shape changes underlie the signalling networks that strengthen and weaken synaptic responses to make memory, remodelling the connections between neurons.

    This emphasises that the fundamental unit of biological information processing is not the neuron or the synapse, it’s the molecule. Dennis Bray, in an important 1995 paper ”Protein molecules as computational elements in living cells”, pointed out that a protein molecule can act as a logic gate through the process of allostery – its catalytic activity is modified by the presence or absence of bound chemicals. In this chemical version of logic, the inputs are the presence or absence of certain small molecules, and the outputs are the molecules that the protein produces, in the presence of the right input chemicals, by catalysis. As these output chemicals can themselves be the inputs to other protein logic gates, complex computational networks linking the inputs and outputs of many different logic gates can be built up. The ultimate inputs of these circuits will be environmental cues – the presence or absence of chemicals or other environmental triggers detected by molecular sensors at the surface of the cells. The ultimate outputs can be short-term – to activate a molecular motor so that a cell swims towards a food source or away from a toxin. Or they can be long term, in activating and deactivating different genes so that the cell builds different structures for itself, or even changes the entire direction of its development. “

    That quote about seems like someone expanding on this :

    “Fortune points out: “(T)here is an unbroken line of development from movement to thought. Tangential movement is a simple form of reaction. Thought is an infinitely complex form of reaction. It is a question of difference of degree, not of difference of kind”

  20. ‘New’ discoveries in science seem to validate ‘old’ understandings in magic. Perhaps just 2 different maps of the same territory?

    CosDoc seems highly compatible with quantum probability science. Fortune seems to allude to the process of how infinite potentiality (the Absolute or Unmanifest) grows into highly complex Manifest universes, minds, bodies etc. Orderly quantum states seem crucial — 3 rings, 12 rays etc in creating some sort of meaningful order. Without discrete states AND THE GAPS that seperate quanta (space, time, etc) then everything would be a non-distinct big pile of steaming brown poo.

  21. I had a very strange experience last night. On a 13 hour plane ride, I read through the entirety of The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage, taking breaks to read other books and to try to link what I was reading to The Cosmic Doctrine. I did not sleep on the plane ride and fell asleep at my destination, very jet lagged. A few hours later, someone awakened me, and when I looked at them my mind was processing their presence through the filter of Dion Fortune’s cosmos. It was an experience I was unprepared for, but I simply made do with it and found I was able to interpret my own behaviors in Fortune’s language until I descended to reality. I have been aware since my first encounter with occult philosophy of how it shapes your thinking, but I have never had such a surprising experience of having my mind “meditating” while I was superficially acting normally.

    With that out of the way, I have a comment about the relationship between the two books. The metaphors used in the books are different in ways that I don’t quite understand — seven rays instead of twelve, for instance — but some of it is familiar and intriguing. Here I should warn anyone else reading this that although there are seven planes in both books, the way of counting them is inverted and it’s not clear that the word is being used in precisely the same way, so I am being a bit experimental and rash in the following paragraph.

    In the book on love, Fortune describes how conjugal union may be as shallow as limited to the seventh plane corresponding to physicality, or may extend all the way to the second plane, the first plane being primeval unity. I take it that the reason we are not immediately aware of the higher planes is because of what you describe in this post: in our capacities as Great Entities, our consciousness has gradually been built up so that we forget the deeper, simpler levels of functioning and have progressed through the planes until the seventh plane where we acquired physical bodies. So that, lacking reflection or other spiritual behavior, some people will take actions that are disharmonious anywhere above the seventh or sixth planes.

    But in your thought experiment in this post, you are able to summon up our simpler levels of body-consciousness easily. And religious exercises available to everyone are able to easily recall our awareness of God, some attributes of Whom may be attributed to the Central Sun in this metaphor. Marriages can be saved through such simple work of meditation or prayer.

    Why is there no similar exercise which can easily make us aware of our existence on the second and third planes? I feel like this would make things a lot easier for us. Anyway, maybe I should stick to one book at a time, but making these possible connections is very interesting for me. Writing this comment has made me aware of how much I need to read and meditate on other occult works as well as reread and contemplate this one.

  22. Onething, no, that’s not what I’m saying, and in fact I went out of my way to point out that that’s not what I’m saying. You might consider rereading the paragraph that begins “It’s common for people to treat…”

    Phil H., delighted to hear it.

    David, those are excellent points. Fortune suggests that movement is the simplest form of consciousness, the form in which every other form is rooted; the importance of physical movement in human learning reflects that. (And I have a particular fondness for the “draw, aim, shoot” example — I ran across that research while working on my first novel, The Fires of Shalsha, and made use of it.)

    Jesuapriest, welcome aboard the magic bus! 😉

    Kay, that distinction between perfection and mastery is crucial, of course. Thank you.

    Matthias, it’s still top-notch myth! Thanks for this.

    Prizm, human beings think with stories as inevitably as we walk with feet and eat with mouths. We have to have a story to tell about how we got here, just as we have to have a story to tell about where we’re going. I don’t think it’s a perversion at all — I think it’s part of the essence of being human…and people who claim to be without a creation myth are either fooling themselves, or have lost something essential.

    Jim, fascinating. Yes, the one does seem to build on the other.

    Jeff, also fascinating. My background’s in ecology rather than physics, so I noticed the parallels between Fortune’s work and systems theory rather than those with quantum mechanics, but I’m not a bit surprised to hear that those exist as well.

    Avery, the differences between the books have to do with their audiences. The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage was written for the general occult-book-reading public, which meant most of her readers knew the Theosophical jargon of seven rays and seven planes numbered from the top down. The Cosmic Doctrine was written for an inner circle of students who could get beyond what was basically the occult pop culture of the time. As for the second and third planes, do you mean the lower spiritual and upper mental planes? There are exercises for those, and for every other plane, and the occult teachings of an older generation included all of those as basic training. We can get into that in more detail if you’d like.

  23. As I see this thread is of a recent enough vintage to justify commenting so, I’ll say — I think there are at least a few of us out here in the aether who are following, but behind. Speaking personally I’ve meant to comment for at least two months that I’m studying and catching up with the discussion threads, about two months behind everyone else. It’s Aquarius season and I’m overwhelmed with duties, is all I can say for my failure to get a spring in my step. Hopefully by the time of actual spring…

  24. The “draw, aim, shoot” thing is now cross-referencing in my head with the Gunslinger’s Creed in Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels. (“I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
    I aim with my eye.

    I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
    I shoot with my mind.

    I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.
    I kill with my heart.”) They seem to be coming from opposite places, but I feel like they reach the same point–something I’ll have to meditate on today, maybe!

  25. Haha, magic bus, indeed! My family and I have been living in a nicely converted 1995 International school bus (which we affectionately call the international un-school bus) for nearly 5 years. We are currently on our 7th month of traveling across the US, particularly the Pacific Northwest and California, all while studying the CosDoc. It’s quite the journey!

  26. Hi, JMG & all:
    I was fascinated with the how this week’s post treated what happens within one Great Organism when another on a different plane moves between it and the Central Stillness of the Cosmos. I went back and reread the chapter focusing on the concepts related to that. And this time through, I saw that these events are so disruptive because, in Fortune’s terms, they upset the relations between habituation and attention.

    She says early on “movements that are habitual must be maintained if an absence of distracting sensation, which is the basis of attention, is to be arrived at.” She is saying that attention depends on the absence of distraction.

    And yet, a lot of the time, success and even survival depends on one’s attention being open enough to allow unexpected things to draw our notice. And our present environment, with all kinds of broadcast and digital messages beeping, ringing, yakking at us, competing with the demands of physical reality, the demands on our attention are very great.

    Later she says “The Ring-Pass-Not of a universe is the limitation of the attention of the Great Entity forming that universe. It is its determination to concentrate its attention upon the task it has set itself.” This “limitation of attention”, this determination to concentrate upon the task one has set oneself, seems to be a lot like Will.

    In my own life, those “habitual movements that must be maintained in order to focus attention” would seem to be my daily routines. I considered what the routines have been and what has disrupted them—and the fact that disruptions can be either welcome or not, and either beneficial or disastrous. The factors that disrupt them have indeed felt like the intrusion of some “other world” between me and my center of gravity. Falling in love had effects in some ways comparable to the events of September 11. At such times the “laws of nature” that Fortune associates with habituation, may cease to be dependable.

    All in all, very much worth meditating upon. The Cosmic Doctrine—and JMG’s Paths of Wisdom is, as well– a book that can yield rich new pay dirt every time you go back to it.

  27. I understand habitual actions from a different perspective than muscle memory. My understanding is that once an action (either physical, emotional, or mental) becomes habitual, that it is being controlled by our subconscious. This is in contrast to our everyday waking consciousness, the consciousness of our physical senses and the physical plane. I can take a walk for an hour lost in thought and never be conscious of the mechanics of walking. This is because while my waking consciousness is thinking away, my subconscious is doing the walking. I am therefore a being with multiple levels of consciousness (at least two).

    The Cosmic Doctrine hints that there is a different level of consciousness on each plane in the statement: “As consciousness is limited in its objective functioning to one plane at a time, a unity of the innermost cannot be perceived save by the consciousness that stands therein.” This statement seems to imply that each ring or plane is associated with a different level of consciousness. So possibly, the sixth ring is the subconscious and so on up to the highest level of spiritual consciousness at the Central Stillness.

    How then does the Great Organism have levels of consciousness that would be of the different planes, like humans have different levels of consciousness, if it exists only on the seventh plane? Possibly the Great Organism had these Cosmic levels of consciousness “implanted in its nature by its experiences” when it was a traveling atom moving through the 12 rays and seven planes. These consciousness’ or movements associated with each plane then, “have become implicit in their nature and will be reproduced when they, in turn, set out upon that inner elaboration which constitutes the next phase of Cosmic evolution.” Consciousness then is memory of movement! (I guess muscle memory is a good descriptor of consciousness 🙂

    Finally, our multiple levels of human consciousness are fundamentally then only a memory of the travels of the Great Organism that is our solar system. A nice thought to ponder.

  28. The last paragraph of chapter seven is interesting:

    “The movement of that atom within its orbit gradually, in the course of untold ages, connects its movement with the whole, and the mass flattens out into a spinning disc; then the motions, which you saw in the formation of a Cosmos, are gone through, because the laws of motion are the same upon ever plane, and the solar system sorts out its matter into seven planes owing to specific gravity”

    Since our Earth is the third planet from the Sun, the Central Stillness, we are then on the third plane out. This would mean the number five is especially important for our planet, and our planet would have implicit in its nature especially those experiences the Great Entity had while passing through the third plane in its travels. Our planet would also be especially attracted to Great Entities from the third plane as they pass by our Solar System as it revolves around the seventh plane. The number of Nature is four, the second plane out from the Central Stillness, so then Nature would be especially influenced by Great Entities traveling past our Solar System from the second plane. I’m not sure of the practical use of these ideas, but interesting ideas to meditate on.

  29. Re the discussion of consciousness-as-motion/motion-as-consciousness

    This ties in with one of the threads of conversation in the last post re free will vs determinism and one conclusion that the randomness exhibited by the Cosmos would have to be interpreted as will. To some, this presented the “ridiculous” result that the Cosmos was conscious.

    Perhaps in addition to complexity (motion as simple consciousness or consciousness as complex motion), there is also the factor of scope. Could a component part, conscious at its own level, be aware of the consciousness of the whole on a much grander scale? By analogy, I consider the notion of a cell in my body, aware of itself, working to maintain its homeostasis, aware of its internal state, conscious of its neighbors and interacting with them. (“Hey there, Larry. Got any of that ATP in today? I’m running a bit low.”) Could such a conscious being even conceive of my consciousness? That is, the consciousness of its “cosmos” of which it is but one small part? To some degree, that is the challenge we have: the scope of the greater being is so immense that we have difficulty grasping its contours. It’s awareness isn’t like ours, so we don’t acknowledge it as such.

  30. There’s an interesting discussion on the current open thread at Slate Star Codex about consciousness that ties in with the discussion here.

    Hoopyfreud makes an analogy between “hard problem of consciousness” (i.e. the problem of why subjective experience should exist at all) and the problem of causality (i.e. what it means to say that even A causes event B rather than simply event B following after event A). Hoopyfreud argues. that rejecting the existence of a hard problem of consciousness (and thus, they seem to think, subjective experience) is like collapsing “causes” into simply “followed by.”

    User 10240 responds that

    When I say I don’t think there is a hard problem regarding consciousness, I don’t say that there is no consciousness, but that what we call consciousness is just an ability to perceive things, to think, and to also remember and think about our own thoughts.

    User Protagoras responds that

    10240 has the right answer; Hume doesn’t say there’s no causation, and those of us who reject the hard problem don’t say there’s no consciousness. Rather, the situation is that you insist that what we call causation is missing something, and that what we call consciousness is missing something. And insofar as nobody on your side has ever managed to explain in a way I can make sense of what is supposed to be missing, I find this hard to take seriously (in both the causation and consciousness cases).

    I find this comment particularly interesting, because I can’t decide how similar 10240’s and Protagoras’ conceptions of consciousness are to the one presented here. (Of course, Fortune is saying something stronger than they are: namely, that all motion is consciousness, not just the motions in nervous systems that we typically associate with perception, but that’s not the point I want to pick up on.) To me, they seem to be asking for an objective description of a fundamentally subjective phenomenon before they’ll accept that there’s something their account is missing.

  31. Apologies in advance if this is way too materialistic. I don’t have a great capacity for philosophical thought.

    The easiest way for me to conceptualize a thrust-block is through physical movement.

    In ballet, the “pushing off” is highly emphasized. It is sometimes very straightforward – you push down with the ball of your foot to go up on demi-pointe. It is also sometimes indirect – you “push off” the strength of your core, through your standing leg and the earth, to extend the working leg. It’s not the leg in the air doing the most of the work, it’s the leg on the ground.

    I was also taught to envision a second floor – parallel to the ground at the height of my hips. With practice, you feel as if you can sit on it, which provides a mental focus for the physical strength it takes to balance.

    Also emphasized is the required relaxation between exertions. You need to alternate between them, or your muscles will clench and tire. There is a constantly shifting mix of pushes and relaxations throughout your body.

    All of which takes many many hours of practice, of course. You can’t read about it. Muscle memory is amazing. One of life’s richest rewards. I’ve always been baffled by the AI hype that we could recreate the brain without the body.

    Relating this concept – that movement and consciousness are the same – to my experience with dance helps me understand it at least a bit.

  32. OK, JMG, I did go back and read it and have a better take on it now. It seems to be saying that consciousness and movement are the same thing, which is interesting in light of the fact that nothing is every still… so maybe movement is what consciousness does.

    I’m also confused about the central sun or central stillness. I would understand this to apply to the entire universe, but each galaxy has a galactic core. What are we referring to here?

  33. “But the revolutions of Great Entities upon other planes of the Cosmos are conducted at different paces and without relation to those Entities of other planes than their own. Therefore they will pass in line with each other periodically, momentarily blocking the pull of the central attraction upon those organisms further out than themselves, and also exerting a gravitational attraction upon all particles of their own plane and planes above their own, in the mass of a great organism on an outer path. This cutting off temporarily of the central attraction upsets the equilibrium of the outer organism, removing the centripetal check upon the centrifugal force, but the tendency of certain types of molecules to fly inwards towards the attracting body tends to counterbalance this.”

    Trying to visualize this image, keeping in mind that here is somehow the origin of positive evil, I got a sense of the divisive action of the other Great Entity, how it cuts off the flow of energy from the Central Stillness to our Solar System and causes some atoms to fly inwards. ‘Inwards’ here might mean closer to center, along the path of evolution towards union with God or the cosmic energies. Some fly outwards, which would then mean away from God, towards separateness, division. The atoms could represent the different aspects of a person’s consciousness.

    That started reminding me of a passage in Israel Regardie’s book, The Art of True Healing, (which discusses the Middle Pillar exercise):

    “How can there be depletion if vitality and cosmic currents of force pour through man, saturating his mind and body with its power? Primarily, it is because he offers so much resistance to its flow through him that he becomes tired and ill, the conflict finally culminating in death. The complacency and confusion of his mental outlook, the moral cowardice by which he was reared, and his false perception of the nature of life – these are the causes of resistance to the inward flow of the spirit.”

    So these other Great Entities or outside influences effectively cut us off from being able to perceive the flow of divine power emanating from the Central Stillness. We may have had that awareness at some earlier point in our lives. This would clearly be an obstacle on our path of evolution. It divides our being, creates inner conflict, clouds our inner vision from being able to perceive the great abundance of cosmic power, and sets up the wrong kind of thoughts (and thus actions).

    Some examples of the ‘confusion of our mental outlook’ come to mind, especially when thinking about the two types of positive evil. Perverted force might manifest as greed, anger, envy, pride, excessive consumption – anywhere there is an excess. Perverted form would be more along the lines of pathological states of consciousness like fear, self-doubt, sadness, shame, repression – anywhere there is a lack. I’m all too familiar with these self-destructive tendencies that manifest periodically, especially in new or challenging circumstances.

  34. @david by the lake says: “the scope of the greater being is so immense that we have difficulty grasping its contours”. That’s for darn sure. I personally feel a connection through movement – especially the simplest of barre and stretching exercises and extra especially with my favorite music. A couple of years ago it occurred to me they could be used for prayer. I started to think of the movements as a reverence (that’s the elaborate, over the top bow you see in ballet – a demonstration of respect for your audience, or your teacher, or the pianist in class). I find it very moving – a connection to something bigger to whom I pay respect.

    Mr Greer, you said above that “people who claim to be without a creation myth are either fooling themselves, or have lost something essential.”. I guess I would be one of those people. I get a little freaked out by certain concepts such as infinity and fractals. Trying to imagine an explanation of origin – it makes my head hurt to think about, so I don’t. What have I lost? Perhaps I should meditate on that question?

  35. Hello, all. I also am here,following, but somewhat behind, like Athena.

    Stephania’s comment “Perverted force might manifest as greed, anger, envy, pride, excessive consumption – anywhere there is an excess. Perverted form would be more along the lines of pathological states of consciousness like fear, self-doubt, sadness, shame, repression – anywhere there is a lack.” immediately resonated with me, especially as in TCM, one of our fundamental treatment heuristics is “fill the empty, empty the full”. As to the Regardie quotes, there is a classical Chinese view of the “channels” (that we treat with acupuncture) that they connect the human being to the energy of heaven and earth, and are the means by which these energies may seamlessly flow.

    I will be paying close attention to the energy disruptive passages between entities described here by Fortune: “Therefore they will pass in line with each other periodically, momentarily blocking the pull of the central attraction upon those organisms further out than themselves, and also exerting a gravitational attraction upon all particles of their own plane and planes above their own, in the mass of a great organism on an outer path.”

  36. Hi John Michael,

    Out of curiosity, do you see positive evil in the resistance to change that is present in our society – even if the current circumstances lead to poor outcomes? But then if I’ve read correctly (and please be understanding if I’ve missed the point), can’t an individual react to the force of positive evil, and consciously choose to go off and do something else with their time that brings part of the whole back to a new equilibrium? Mate, this stuff is complicated…

    Cheers

    Chris

  37. JMG
    It is hard to be materialist about activity, especially perhaps about neurological activity. What are the ‘five senses’ and do we include the ability to sense time? My introspection – and memory – suggests that though I am conscious, I am necessarily reliant on unconscious activity making its own proper sense – like a rolling background of complex detail; some magic carpet on which I ride.

    I am not a Logos, of course, but ‘as above, so below’. Smile

    And I am not reliant solely on my own activity, but must include both my conscious and unconscious awareness of entities; ‘outside’. Whether they are awake or sleeping they are beyond the immediate circumference of self. There are connections between the worlds of inference and our stirrings. ‘Did Chuang Chou dream he was the butterfly / or the butterfly that it was Chuang Chou?’ (Li Po – but see also the little verse quoted below).

    What is it to ‘wakeup’?

    And I infer that my ‘unconscious awareness’ is much wider and responds to its own tunes. In my world ‘emotion’ surfaces as consciousness, an alert, awake in its own way.

    Without necessarily being conscious of the detail, living forms routinely sense autonomy, distinguish between memory and circumstance, and are aware of a world of autonomous entities, and of intention; can ‘smell’ emotion by inference. And then there is the magic of recognition to inform us?

    I remember an analogy you made a good while back about not confusing wireless messages with the state of a transceiver. How does that analogy / metaphor stand with the Cosmic Doctrine?

    And I throw in this for good measure. A recent paper in Science on neuronal development says: “We suggest that the existence of genuine preconfigured sequential motifs at this stage is consistent with Kant’s proposal on the a priori requirement of mental constructs of space-time for the development of other cognitive faculties.” U. Farooq & G. Dragoi Science 11 Jan 2019: Vol. 363, Issue 6423, pp. 168-173

    best
    Phil H

    Small grey parrot

    Imagine in your feathered sleep
    the unknown forest
    Comes with assurance
    of friendship, of true mind.

    S….e
    2005
    For the lone young parrot recently arrived at Villa V…..

  38. David Trammel,

    thank you for the great example. It remind me of the great Milton Erickson story of training Olympic sharpshooters with hypnosis, so that they always are relaxed and aim correctly 40/40 times, just by sitting them in chair and making sure they experience the same emotional state on the last shots (most stressful) as on the first one (the easiest).

  39. BTW we have a thread on the Green Wizard forums in the Circle on “Critical Thinking and Mental Skills” where we are discussing muscle memory.

    Re-enforcing Muscle Memory – Call and Point Safety Check

    Clarebroommaker posted a fascinating take on the skill, in using repetitive actions with a bouncing ball to teach children who have difficulty with math:

    I tutor kids and have had two of them who had significant difficulty memorizing their multiplication facts. For one of them, there was also lack of understanding of what multiplication even means. But their parents were really concerned that their schools were moving on without them and that they should do the memorization regardless of understanding! For both students, the “sevens” were the biggest challenge. For kid #1, I wrote the facts on a large ball. We made a game that involved answering or asking the multiplication fact after catching and before throwing the ball. When kid #1 had mastered the “sevens”, she told me things like, “7 X 3 = 21 is right here,” as she demonstrated a hard pass of the ball with two hands from waist level. Then, “7 X 7 = 49 is right here,” as she showed bouncing the ball a single time on its way to the catcher. So that may be some sort of muscle memory for math.

    We are so much more than just our brains.

  40. JMG, Red Rose Loon, and all

    That creation myths are frameworks for all of us really hung me up because I’ve had a hard time with creation myths. Raised a Christian, we were led to believe that the world was created in seven days all through the work of one god. Modern science presented a very different alternative. Culturally, the USA has been trying to define it’s creation myth and what once may have been accept definitely isn’t now. That makes sense within a civilization in decline, and that also makes sense why it’s great to get other ideas out there. The motions, and thus consciousness we create now can help the next generations.

    On a side although not completely unrelated note, last night I heard for the first time on BBC Radio The Real Story an American professor, Ashley Dawson of CUNY who voiced the idea that the Founding Fathers had created a Republic which allowed for less Populist Democratic strength precisely because they wanted to have a society which allowed for slavery. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3cswkfh The attack against the US Founding Fathers, and thus the US creation myth has begun.

  41. Athena, by all means take the time you need! These posts will be staying up for a good long time — I’ll take ’em down eventually, but that’s going to happen when these get turned into a book, for which I already have a publisher. The Cos.Doc. is best taken a little at a time, and there are no prizes for hurrying.

    Isabel, interesting. I read the first of the Gunslinger novels a very long time ago, and didn’t go on to the next — it was an interesting concept but I’m not a fan of King’s style of writing. That said, that’s a nice incantation!

    Jesuapriest, thank you for this! Knowing that somebody’s still doing that makes me feel a little less geriatric.

    KKA, excellent! That’s the sort of meditation Fortune was trying to elicit, as I’m sure you’re quite aware.

    Dan, good. The Great Entity doesn’t just exist on the seventh plane; it’s been on all the planes and through all the rays, and so embodies all the planes within itself. Not only that, but it gathers around itself matter from all seven planes, and so as the Great Entity imparts its own motions to the swarms of atoms, it creates a solar system of seven planes around itself.

    David, a very good point. Consider a dust mite crawling in one of Mozart’s wigs. Could it have any conception of his music, or his marital problems?

    James, I’ve come to consider all this talk about “the hard problem of consciousness” rather circular. Consciousness is the one thing we know directly; everything else — including the material objects that supposedly give rise to consciousness — we know only as experiences in consciousness. So I’d be willing to admit that there’s a “hard problem of everything else” — but consciousness? That’s like insisting that paint on the wall exists and then questioning whether there’s a wall.

    Rose, you’re taking the metaphors straight back to your own lived experience, and that’s one very good way to make them vivid and meaningful.

    Onething, we’re referring to a metaphor, of course. Don’t take this as a textbook of astronomy!

    Stefania, a good solid meditation. Thank you!

    Rose, that’s why I specified a creation myth. We can’t understand how the cosmos came into being, so we tell stories that capture what little we can understand and put it into a narrative. “Myths are things that never happened but always are,” said Sallust; if you were to think of one of the old creation myths that way, would it help?

    Chris, exactly, and exactly. Yes, it’s tough going — glad to see you’re getting it nonetheless.

    Phil H, another fine meditation. 😉

    Prizm, understood. The problem with both the standard narratives of creation these days is that nobody’s willing to let them be myths — no, they’ve got to be facts in the most clodhopping sense. The sense of myth as a story through which an otherwise inaccessible reality shines, like the sun through thin clouds, is very difficult for a lot of people these days to grasp — and of course those who want to turn everything into a political weapon have no time for anything that could let in a little of that light…

  42. I recently came across Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael and was struck by his rethinking of human evolution. Especially, the idea that agriculturalists are Takers and pre-history tribal cultures are Leavers. The agriculturalists have gained the knowledge of life and death (as embodied in the Adam and Eve story) and use that power to destroy everything and everyone that gets in the way of our producing food. This is evident nearly everywhere we go, so much so that it is now difficult to find places that have been untouched by agricultural man. Civilized vs. Uncivilized. Progress vs. Balance.
    “But beware binary thinking”, I hear you say. So, what does the CosDoc teach me? I think of the positive and negative phases of the turning of the Ring Cosmos, Cosmic good and Cosmic evil, yin and yang. A place where it is and a place where it is not. There is duality. Yet, every pairing must have a third feature, a force that keeps them separated. The positive, the negative and the force in between. The Ring Cosmos, the Ring Chaos and the Ring Pass Not. The holy trinity, yet that basic duality remains. The dynamic force of evolution and the thrust-block of evil.

  43. John—

    So, pertaining to Fortune’s observation: “Differences of degree are reckoned along the length of the same Ray; differences in kind are reckoned in the sequence of Rays round the circle.” Translating this into polar coordinates, the angle theta relates to differences in kind, while the radius r relates to differences in degree. But these are discrete, rather than continuous variables, as defined by the intervals of the twelve rays (pi/6 radians per interval) and the seven planes, and within them the sub-planes, along the length of a Ray.

    But what does that mean, actually? I understand we are talking metaphor here, but where does this tie into reality? I suppose one might ask, “what does one mean by reality?”

    Also, looking at Fortune’s last sentence re universal (positive) evil as a disturbance at the outset of an evolutionary cycle which is gradually worked through, I think of the standardd differential equation “dampening” problem, wherein an oscillation is gradually reduced to stillness (like a spring) via frictiona nd other forces. Does this translate in terms of what she is talking about? Is evil a necessary disturbance which initiates an evolutionary cycle? Was the rebellion in heaven and the fall of Lucifer, to put it into Christian terms, a necessary event to induce development from stasis?

  44. John—

    Re dust mites and Mozart’s wig

    I’d hope, however, that the issues with which greater consciousnesses deal are more compelling than just grand extrapolations of our mucking and flailing about here! That possibility is just too depressing to think about.

  45. Jesuapriest, the factor that Quinn left out, to my mind, was simply the fact that his division between “Takers” and “Leavers” represents two stages in a historical process. Every human ecology starts out “taking” and then gets a clue. When human hunter-gatherers reached the Americas and Australasia, sudden dieoffs swept all three continents as the hunter-gatherers slaughtered everything they could; only later, as starvation taught them bitter lessons, did they become more sensible of the reasons why this was a bad idea. (Nor do hunter-gatherers leave natural environments anything like as unchanged as Quinn thought, but that’s a subject for another time.) In the same way, agriculture started off as a profoundly destructive force, and gradually mellowed out as people under the lash of starvation and misery figured out how to weave it into the broader ecology — and then industrialism came along and launched into the same trajectory. We’re still in the “slaughter all the mammoths” stage of industrialism, though it’s not too hard to see the jaws closing in there, too, and the ecotechnic industrialism of the distant future can just barely be glimpsed here and there.

    David, I think your first question sounds like an excellent theme for meditation; how all this fits into the universe we experience, of course, is a crucial point with any set of metaphors. As for the fall of Lucifer, yes, and in fact some occult philosophies back in the day took exactly this tack in interpreting the Biblical metaphor.

    As for higher beings, well, think of it this way. Imagine, just for a moment, that one of the dust mites in Mozart’s favorite wig was suddenly, by some sudden dust-mite equivalent of enlightenment, able to glimpse some of what Mozart was doing in his music, and in the process got some sense of just how much vaster and more intricate a world Mozart inhabited — a world not limited to finding bits of dust to eat among the strands of a wig. That’s what enlightenment is like to a human being — finding out that the universe is infinitely vaster and more intricate than we can possibly imagine…

  46. Hi John Michael,

    Thank you! The metaphor used is producing a huge blank in my mind, so I’m really struggling with these essays, but I can glimpse the concepts and overall goal and thrust of the work. It is a fascinating and also worthy project.

    Maybe I spend too long immersed in a clearing in a forest, but every now and then whilst reading these essays, I get the impression that the story presented by the author could be adapted to the forest and all its various goings on forming the story. Dunno. If I wrote the story it would read like a children’s tale, but it would still contain the general thrust of the larger story.

    I’m not kidding either about what I wrote in the earlier paragraph, the work is a worthwhile goal.

    Cheers

    Chris

  47. Oh, man – JMG, does the Bonestell portrait of young Earth ever bring back memories! I can’t count how many times I gazed upon that painting (and all the others in ‘The World We Live In’) when I was growing up in the ‘60s. It still comes to my mind’s eye when I think of the formative stage of our planet nearly 50 years later.

    The chapter on the ‘Evolution of a Great Entity’ has definitely been my favourite so far, as it ties in so many previously covered concepts but puts them on a more familiar-sized scale. When Fortune first alluded to Great Entities earlier in the CosDoc, I was imagining that she was referring to Gods; now I see that these ‘entities’ can be interpreted in various ways. Utterly fascinating!

    One comment about the whole consciousness/motion theme. As one who believes that the more subtle a thing is, the less temporal its nature, I feel that consciousness is the only constant and that manifest universes (and their motion) come and go. One of the Sanskrit words for world/universe is “jagat” which literally means “comes and goes”.

    But at the same time, I fully accept that at least at the human level motion has a profound effect on consciousness. The most recent strong experience I have had of that was when I learned tai chi several years ago. Ever since then, the way that my body moves and interacts with the world has been different (much more fluid for one), but it goes way beyond that to an attitude towards “self” and “other” – and that is simply from practicing tai chi daily to the point that it became almost effortless. It has helped me a lot in my organic gardening and composting activities as well. This experience has helped me to relate to what Fortune seems to be saying (earlier in CosDoc) that the highest-level consciousness in the universe has been learning from its experience of alternating “days” of activity and “nights” of reflection.

    I’m so glad that you decided to take us all on this “magical mystery tour”!

  48. JMG and all –

    I’m finding it very interesting in comparing Dion Fortune’s Cosmic Doctrine with the work of Jacob Boehme, the early 17th c Christian mystic and theologian. Both have Kabbalist influences (though it’s somewhat in doubt if Boehme actually ever saw a copy of the Kabbalah), both had Christian perspectives, albeit very unorthodox ones, both outlined a schematic of the evolution of the Cosmos, both stress the so-above/so-below fractal nature of the Cosmos, both employ metaphors, obviously, to get their message across, both seem to contradict themselves at times, the usual trip-wire for the overly materialist mind, both are dense, often seemingly impenetrable, requiring long periods of meditation – and both seem bottomless in their insights; return to them again and again and you’ll find a new revelation or meaning to be had.

    Boehme of course, doesn’t use modern science tropes as does DF, and he’s nowhere as elaborate in his depiction of the cycles-within-cycles nature of the Cosmos, but here’s one interesting similarity – they both describe the Cosmos as beginning with *movement*. In DF’s “scientific” description, the prime movement is of a current in space that due to the pressures of momentum and inertia, curve around to eventually form the Cosmos-enclosing Rings. Now, this is obviously a metaphor because before Manifestation there was no “space” or time, for that matter, through which a current could move. Boehme, on the other hand, seems more direct in describing the movement as somehow taking place within the endless Unity of the Unmanifest. It unravels like this – an “unequal pressure” in the Divine equilibrium came about because of desirousness “to be something”. The desire became concentrated because the Unmanifest Unity “had nothing of which it may make something to itself”, and so the Unity compressed itself into a yearning, a “magnetical hunger”.

    Unequal pressure leads to a flowing, a motion (basic physics). Thus an agitation, an “anguish” results, this due to the insatiability of the Divine desire. The anguish however, is the original source of sensibility and the capacity for feeling – out of nothingness, a somethingness has been born. Divine nature becomes perceptible to itself, and it is out of this fiery matrix that the Cosmos is formed. The Unmanifest becomes the Manifest, but it is a sublimated Manifest – because the Divine Unity is now mirrored in the mode of perceptivity, it can manifest in infinite myriad forms.

    So, just as The Cosmic Doctrine outlines the macro-microcosm scheme of the Cosmos – fromR Rings to solar logos to humans – so Boehme has his own above/below scheme, in which the original desire-to-anguish-to-manifestation/Enlightenment of the Unmanifest is reflected in our own spiritual lives. That is, through our acceptance of necessary pain and anguish, we grow in spiritual perceptivity, and we literally participate in the nothingness-to-somethingness that is the essence of Divine Creation. And that’s why it’s an error to think of our “lower self” as something to be discarded or eradicated – our lower self is rather the ground base, the necessary spark that inspires the manifestation of divine love and enlightenment.

    Of course, with his emphasis on surrender, Boehme stands as a mystic. Dion Fortune is a mage, and I suppose that is the critical difference between them. Still, between them, there seems to be plenty of overlapping themes and parallels.

  49. John–

    Re disturbances and evolution and cyclicity

    Apologies ahead of time for the lament.

    The challenge (or rather, one of the numerous challenges) I have is the unresolved tension of the cyclical structure. It is a great (surprisingly emotional) knot that arises within when I contemplate this representation of Being. Rather like a carrot forever dangled before the plodding mule, or the boulder King Sisyphus can never get to the top of the hill, we never “get there.” We are never able to resolve the tension, fix the problems, settle affairs, come to a resolution of issues, reach the goal. It feels like a perpetual bait-and-switch operation, where the answer keeps getting shifted to another place.

    We’ve talked about the metaphors of Cos Doc in terms of US politics (the notion of the thrust-block, for example), and the same application pertains here. We are, once again, getting embroiled in the mutterings and thrashings of the up-coming cycle; we’re debating the same issues, shouting the same slogans at one another, experiencing the same tensions, dealing with the same idiocy, uttering the same vacuous nonsense, and still not doing anything to actually fix the problems before us. We’re some twenty months from the election and I’m already thinking, “Can we get *on* with it already?”

    If every step in the dance is only a prelude to the next step, where does the dance get you? Why the dance? What is the goal here?

    The disturbances and continuous, unresolved tension seem like the perverse joy of someone who keeps shaking the snow-globe just as everything gets settled. (Or again, Sisyphus losing his grip just before he reaches the top of the hill.) It feels more like a prison sentence than enlightenment. Peace, enlightenment, wholeness (to me, anyway) would be a *lack* of disturbances, things in their places, all tensions resolved, systems operating smoothly, known, safe, and understandable.

    How is this endless irresolution “good” in any meaningful way? Why would the Unmanifest create a trap of this nature? Or rather, why would the Unmanifest emanate a First Principle which would create a trap of this nature?

    Or am I projecting tension within onto the universe without, floundering about in Thaumiel rather than resting in Kether?

  50. Re “perverse joy” in my previous post

    An ant-farm is likely a better analogy than a snow-globe, but the point is similar.

  51. I followed book club late so some of the chapters I haven’t spent very time with. That said, I’m reading Spengler at the moment and my brain finally adjusted to his writing, so CosDoc isn’t that bad. The training-not-informing enjounder reminds me of the visualizations one makes to through a baseball with proper follow-through. No, your hand isn’t actually touching the ball at that moment but if you aren’t imagining it properly you can’t do it.

    I’m finding it very easy to parse Fortune’s metaphors through the lens of persuasion and mass politics. One of the odd blessings of the current political polarization is it lets you see more about the human mind than would be possible in calmer times. Its like an earthquake that brings an unseen layer of rock to the surface so you can see all the geological strata. Now I understand why Biblical prophets spoke the way they did – if they spoke in the direct, subject verb object manner of everyday speech their ideas would be resisted by running headfirst into a preconception. I feel like there’s more to this strata idea but I can’t articulate it. Because we have groups of people with incompatible interpretations of the same facts we can see how mass minds form ideas and how those ideas exist almost as living beings, with such complexity its more accurate to describe them as personalities than philosophies. So when prophets and poets speak of these things, I can see the mundane practicality of it – once you recognize part of a pattern you are aware of the whole even if you can’t see it. Experience tells you what to look for. Better to call that whole by a name people can visualize like angel or demon.

    Fortune’s analogy of force ties so well with persuation. A force moves in a straight line. It maintains shape only when intersected at an oblique angle. This means if you see an idea sustaining itself, but you’re only seeing the main idea, you need to look further, until you find the lesser idea coming in at a weird angle. This suggests that ideas are not objects, not statics, but dynamics, always shifting. A body of ideas only maintains form when resisted at an angle. That subtle resistance guides ideas through their necessary cycle so they end up roughly where they where when you starting observing them. So this means if you can’t place an idea-form in some kind of cycle, you don’t understand and need to keep looking. But some ideas shift so slowly, so quickly, or distributed so widely amongst disparate people that they are hard to percieve. Or else the idea you’re looking at isnt being resisted and will move away from you harmlessly.

    The metaphor of oblique resistance to create form implies that anything already holding form by the time you see it has already conquered any directly opposing forces. In the case of ideas that can mean the well for the anti-idea has been poisoned already. If you want to resist the idea you jeed to identy the smaller resisting idea thst gives it form, and hit that from an oblique angle. It may be hard to completely destroy an idea but maybe you can transform it into something less dangerous – neutralize it. This requires freshness. Only a fresh image or concept carries the oblique function, and won’t already be incorporated into the opposing ideas poisoned well idea defense. This also implies that all static ideas are vulnerable. For a dynamic to maintain form it must cycle. Either it must be very old, and have had time to in orporate defenses to other ideas, or utterly formless – imposssible to percieve its cycle. This implies over time all idea cycles twnd towards formlessness, or, from the other perspective, the all idea beholders tend towards slow or course perception. And that means old ideas have a tendency to create generate slow and course perception amongst the the minds that hold them.

    And that’s just the first paragraph.

    Ultimate stillness, stability, lack of suseptibility to influence, occcurs when all perceptions, all modes of thought, all perspectives are incorporated into a mind. When an atom has traveled each ray out and back again, when a mind or ides cycle has incorporated every possible perspective its culture, its universe, has to offer. This means your defense to persuation is a proactively open mind that interogates phenomena independant of other’s will, so by the time you are a subject of persuasion all arguments are hopeless frontal attacks.

    And this last chapter gets interesting because we view the same from the perspective of the atoms. A fish doesn’t percieve the water it swins in. This relates to the revealed strata I mentioned earlier. It also means the flux of ideas that constitute one’s own cycle are largely inperceptable to oneself. The only way to open that perception, temporarily, is to expose oneself to new experience and thereby disrupt the cycle of ones own thinking. This allows you to see for a short while the patterns of your own thoughts, and determine the strong forces that define your cycle and the oblique forces that keep its form.

    I am curious to see where this all leads.

  52. David by Lake-

    I’m not sure that DF doesn’t posit a “resolution”, a point at which a solar system, galaxy, Cosmos reach a complete synthesis and an “end of time”. It’s just that the end of time is not permanent. It starts again, a new dance. Sounds fun to me.

    What lake, btw? Michigan?

  53. @ David BTL, (if I may)-
    In reflecting on your lament, I do understand your outcry about the relentless endlessness of it all, like a jukebox that someone has programmed to play the same song over and over, but it occurs to me that the goal of the dance *is* the dance. Water doesn’t nurture life unless it flows and cycles. When I return my food scraps to the compost pile, my prayer of thanks is for being allowed to participate in the cycling of energy and nutrients, knowing some day I’ll be compost too, and a compost eater. Or to tie back to (sigh) election politics, Washington wouldn’t allow himself to be made President for life- the ideas and the people representing them have to flow, sometimes rather vigorously. Lack of disturbances would mean stagnation and death. (The cartoon Christian version of heaven, sitting on a cloud strumming a hymn to God’s perfection in aeternum, always seemed more like a punishment to me, an eternal time-out.) Or to tie back to the post’s original content, if movement is consciousness, wouldn’t a lack of tension mean the end of consciousness? The stillnesses are there, it seems to me, the rests in the rhythm, but overall the song goes on because… it’s the song.
    –Heather in CA

  54. John–

    Re my previous

    I need to learn to not post when I’m feeling frustrated with the world, which tends to cause me to say dumb things and ask questions I already know the answer to. (Answers I don’t necessarily like, mind you, but certainly that I already know.)

    The (painfully slow) work continues…

  55. @ Will M

    Understood. As I mentioned above, I made the error of posting at a moment of particular frustration with things, taking positions I know to be invalid (e.g. that there is ever goal in the teleological sense, or that the point of the Dance is anything other than itself).

    With re to the lake in question, yes, I’m a handful of blocks from the Michigan and can hear it quite clearly from our back deck when the wind is up 🙂

  56. I must say that the phrase “heat death of the universe” came to mind a couple of times in this chapter where DF described periods of stasis and equilibrium.

  57. Hi, JMG,

    I took the time while you were having a break to catch up on the Cosmic Doctrine so I could pick up again when the discussions started anew. I am glad that from now on there can be a full month for me to contemplate a chapter—it takes me 3-4 times through to feel I am understanding what is happening and to be able to move on. I made my first reading of chapter 8 today and had to smile at this sentence: “This digression which, strictly speaking, belongs to another section of this subject, is made here to ensure clearness of comprehension in the argument pursued” as I am not sure at all yet the concepts of this chapter are made clearer to me. In contemplating the beginning of the great entity, I felt a little stirring of memories from when I was very young, and felt connected to the sense of growing consciousness. I still have more passes through the material to get to enough understanding to continue on next month, though, and the discussions here I have found very helpful with that.

    I did have a strange thing happen to me, though, after reading this month’s chapter. I have moved on to Paths of Wisdom after four very slow years of going through Learning Ritual Magic. In my first reading of the descriptions of solar and etheric charging, my thoughts were, “How in the world can I do those when I live in an apartment complex with no outdoor space of my own and so many people wandering around watching what I do?” But reading today, I put the Cosmic Doctrine down, and the thought that sprang into my mind was, “Of course I can do solar and lunar etheric charging and I will.” It is strange how the contemplation of this book seems to help me in my practice in ways that seem quite strange to me.

  58. “Every emotion starts out as a motion, and only later is internalized as an inner perception.”

    Applying this principle to cognition more broadly reminds me of Julian Jaynes’ notion that language preceded consciousness as we understand it. Essentially he argues that humans didn’t develop the perception of an inner space in which their thoughts arose until they had become accustomed to using that metaphor to discuss the minds of others.

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

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