Book Club Post

The Cosmic Doctrine: The Law of Limitation, Part 2

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

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

Assigned Reading:

Revised Edition:  Chapter 25, “The Law of Limitation, Part Two,” pp. 115-118.

Millennium Edition: Chapter 26, “The Law of Limitation,” from the second paragraph on p. 155 to the end of the chapter on p. 159.


The section of The Cosmic Doctrine we reviewed last month covered some of the core principles of magical practice. This next serving goes even further into the practical details of operative magic, covering material that to the best of my knowledge appears nowhere else in print.  In the process of this exposition, our text veers in some odd directions, using terminology that appears nowhere else in The Cosmic Doctrine and taking on a noticeably different tone—different enough that I’ve come to think that Fortune has quietly incorporated into her text material from another source, perhaps a document she received from her own teacher.

One aspect of that difference in tone is a certain ruthless pragmatism, and the first paragraph puts it on full display.  To understand what’s being said here, it helps to know that some of the commonplaces of today’s New Age spirituality have a long pedigree. In Fortune’s time, as in ours, a great many spiritual schools taught pupils to think of themselves as infinite, limitless, radiant beings, one with vast cosmic reservoirs of light and life, and to imagine light and life flowing through them in unfailing abundance.  That’s a very pleasant thing to do, and it can be very helpful in the early stages of spiritual training, especially for people who have been raised to think of themselves as weak, wretched, and sinful—but it comes with a price tag.  As our text says, “This enabled the power to use them, not them to use the power.”

In a well-managed occult school, that’s not necessarily a problem. Students begin by meditating on limitless light and life and love, and in the process they pay part of their dues by contributing their energy and intention to the egregor—the group mind—of the school. Later on, as they advance, they learn other ways of doing things, and can begin drawing on the stored energy in the school’s egregor.  Unfortunately the idea of meditating on limitless light and life and love didn’t stay the property of well-managed occult schools; it became a common practice in the pop spirituality circuit, where there were no senior initiates to take the students aside one by one and tell them, “Okay, now you can learn what this is really about.”

The Law of Limitation is the secret of magical power, and as our text says, it was withheld from those on the probationary path—those, in other words, who were not yet finished readying themselves for initiation.  Notice the past tense:  “was withheld.”  An approach had been tried, and turned out to have unexpected downsides, so a more complete explanation was provided to Fortune and her students, so they and others could avoid those downsides.

The more complete explanation unfolds from points made in our earlier discussion.  The previous chapter discussed how magic worked on one plane begins on the next higher plane:  the operative mage builds a form on the higher plane, and it then “condenses” onto the lower plane as a structure of forces that has magical effects on the lower plane. That’s crucial to understand, but it’s incomplete, because it doesn’t explain how you build the form on the higher plane. Now Fortune puts it into context by giving “the knowledge of the method of making forms.”

The secret is quite simple, and if you know your way around old magical rituals and have thought about their structure, you know it already.  Every magical working starts on the highest plane the operative mage can reach and descends from there, plane by plane, until it reaches the plane which is intended to affect.  Fortune describes three stages in that process.  On the lower mental plane, the mage sets up a repeating pattern of thought, which moves from abstract principles to specific details and then works its way back up to abstract principles.  In most rituals this pattern of thought is spoken aloud as an invocation, beginning and ending with a prayer to deity and including the specific intention of the working in the middle.

Once this has been formulated, the next form to be established is on the upper astral plane, which is among other things the plane of emotions.  Here each stage in the circular pattern of thought is linked to feelings (and also, though Fortune does not mention this, to vivid imagery, another aspect of the upper astral plane). Thus the operative mage doesn’t read the invocation as though he was reciting the contents of a laundry list. When he addresses deity at the beginning, he feels a sense of veneration and awe appropriate for entering into the divine presence; when he addresses deity at the end, he feels gratitude, knowing that the working will succeed, and so on.

The third form to be established is on the lower astral plane, and the energies to be brought into play here are those our text primly describes as “the driving force of the nature.”  The lower astral is the plane of the passions.  In Fortune’s own system of magic, the driving force put to work at this stage was sexual energy pure and simple.  That doesn’t mean that ritual sex or any other kind of sexual activity is involved; it means that Fortune and the other members of her magical order knew and practiced various disciplines that would temporarily divert sexual energies to magical purposes. (This isn’t particularly difficult, and she gives instructions for a simple version of the exercise in her book The Problem of Purity.)  Once the form has been established on the lower astral, in turn, it condenses into the etheric/physical plane, and magical results follow in due time.

In terms of the symbolism of The Cosmic Doctrine, the pattern of thought on the lower mental plane corresponds to the Ring-Cosmos, the pattern of feeling on the upper astral plane corresponds to the Ring-Pass-Not, and the pattern of passionate energy on the lower astral plane corresponds to the Ring-Chaos.  This may seem counterintuitive at first glance, since in the first chapters of our text, the Ring-Chaos comes into being immediately after the Ring-Cosmos, and the Ring-Pass-Not comes third. Still, one of the essential rules for understanding occult philosophy can be phrased simply enough:  when you find something that doesn’t make instant sense, study it carefully, because it’s trying to teach you something.

What Fortune has outlined here is the magical theory of asceticism. All ascetic practices—fasting, celibacy, you name it—use the passions of the lower astral as a thrust-block, a Ring-Chaos against which the Ring-Cosmos of a concept held on the lower mental plane can push.  As always in such workings, the risk taken by the ascetic is that of having the forces reverse their polarity—in this case, that happens when the passion becomes the active force and the intention to resist it becomes static, a thrust block against which the passion can build its force.  This is what gives rise to the failed ascetic—the celibate who loses control of his lust, the public vegan who slips away to the next county once a month to visit a steak house, and so on.

The older approach, which is also that of occult tradition, is to alternate periods of asceticism with periods of normal healthy expression of the physical passions.  The teachings that lead orthodox Jews to keep the Sabbath, and devout Christians to fast during Lent, are expressions of the same wisdom that had priests and priestesses in ancient Egypt spend one week out of every month in temple service, subject to a galaxy of taboos and purifications, and the rest of the month in the community living a much more ordinary lifestyle.

Just as the Ring-Cosmos rotates with respect to the Ring-Chaos, now aligned with it, now at right angles to it, so the operative mage alternates periods of ascetic practice with periods of a more ordinary lifestyle; just as the Ring-Pass-Not traces out the boundary between cosmos and chaos, in turn, the operative mage accepts certain simple restrictions that are meant, to borrow a phrase from Freemasonry, to keep the passions within due bounds. To turn to another metaphor from our text, the pendulum swings one way and then another, tracing out an arc of a circle.

All this, as Fortune points out, has to do with the involutionary arc—that is to say, the process by which spirit becomes matter.  In the broadest sense, it can be studied to understand the aeons-long process by which our swarm of souls descended from the seventh plane to the plane we now inhabit, the plane of matter. In a more limited sense, it can be studied to understand the process by which each of us entered into incarnation in our present bodies, and the way in which the karma we bring from previous lives. In a more limited sense still—the sense that we have been exploring here—it can be used to understand the process by which magical workings have their effects.  It does not explain the phenomena of the evolutionary arc—the process by which matter returns to spirit.  That is subject to a different law, the Law of the Seven Deaths, which we’ll study in the next installment of this commentary.

Two other points need to be made here.  The first has to do with the relationship between the personality and the Individuality—between the identity you’ve constructed out of memory and habit over the course of this incarnation, and the identity you had before your mother and father were born.  (This is one of the places where unfamiliar terminology slips in. In one part of this chapter Fortune suddenly refers to the Individuality as the Oversoul, and in another she refers to it as the Essential Self.)  The Individuality is the whole of which each personality is a precisely limited part, and the descent into incarnation follows the same downward trajectory we’ve been tracing in this chapter.  This is why, as Fortune points out, magical workings intended to deal with karma are best framed as invocations of the Individuality.

The second point is more complex, and like most of the material in The Cosmic Doctrine, is approached through a metaphor. The Law of Limitation applies only when considering a single plane.  In Fortune’s handy metaphor, it is like a two-dimensional figure, like a geometrical drawing on a sheet of paper.  You transcend the limits by introducing the third dimension.  What this means is that limits that are necessary and immovable on one plane can be put into a broader context and made less restrictive by bringing in the influence of another plane.

We explored one way this works in an earlier chapter, when we discussed the sublimation and degradation of forces from plane to plane.  Two forces that are locked together on one plane can be sublimated by raising them to a higher plane, at which point they are no longer locked together and release the energy that binds them together. Two forces that area locked together on one plane can also be degraded by taking them down to a lower plane, at which point you no longer have two forces but a single thing that can move freely.

There is another way to use the third dimension, however, and this is the one that Fortune stresses in this chapter. So long as your awareness remains focused on the plane where the two forces are in conflict, you are caught up in the conflict and limited to the range of options—usually a narrow one—that the conflict leaves open. If you can raise your awareness to a higher plane and perceive the conflict as a subset of the Cosmos, one process among many, governed by Cosmic laws and working out the purposes of the Solar Logos, you are no longer caught up in it. The conflict becomes simply one part of a broader field of action, and you can recognize its limitations, let it proceed toward balance, and go do something else while the conflict works itself out. Metaphorically—or not so metaphorically—you die to the conflict and rise above it.

The rest of this chapter is devoted to unfolding that metaphor, and laying the ground for the following chapter and its discussion of the Law of the Seven Deaths. Central to this discussion is a conceptual reversal that’s been central to the Western occult tradition since the days when seekers after wisdom sailed from the newborn city-states of Greece to sit at the feet of priests in the ancient temples of Egypt. In the language of the Greek mysteries, soma equals sema:  the body, soma, is a tomb, sema.

To be alive in a material body, from the perspective of spiritual existence, is to be dead and buried. To be released from the material body through the process we call death is to be born into light and life. Initiation, the work of the Mysteries, is the process of awakening to light and life while still incarnate in the body.  As Fortune points out, this is why any sequence of initiation rituals at least once, and often more than once, uses the symbolism of death and burial.  The goal of the work of initiation was set out as exactly as one could wish by J.R.R. Tolkien in a vivid passage in The Fellowship of the Ring:  “those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power.” (This is one of quite a few places where Tolkien used specific turns of phrase standard in the occult scene of the early twentieth century; while he was a devout and highly orthodox Catholic in later life, I’ve long suspected that he dabbled, or more than dabbled, in occultism during his youth.)

There are seven rungs in the ladder of initiation, as Fortune says in one passage, and three degrees, as she says in another.  These sayings are not as contradictory as they appear. The three degrees are the stages of the Lesser Mysteries, which involve respectively the mastery of desire, the mastery of fear, and the experience of death and resurrection.  There are seven rungs in the ladder of initiation; these are the seven stages of the Greater Mysteries, which relate to the Seven Deaths discussed in the next chapter.  Those of my readers who are Freemasons, or know their way around the symbolism of Freemasonry, may find it useful in this regard to reflect on the three Craft degrees and the mysterious ladder of Kadosh; there are close equivalents in other systems of initiation, that established by Fortune herself among them.

The last paragraph of our text sets all these matters in their broader context.  In an earlier chapter we explored Fortune’s concept of the Initiation of the Nadir, the experience at the point of the deepest descent into matter in which the soul comes into contact with the Solar Logos directly.  That is what is being discussed here.  The task you have set yourself is the incarnation you are currently in.  You circumscribe that task by becoming aware that the situation you’re in, the karma you bear, the strengths and weaknesses you have at your disposal, define the work that you have in front of you in this life. You see that task in relation to the cosmos by placing this life, if only in imagination, in the context of many lives, and of the great process of involution and evolution in which this life is so brief an episode. You see the Cosmic archetype by contemplating the divine, under whatever form and name you find most appropriate; you see the circumscribed form by contemplating yourself and your life—and through those two contemplations, you draw in creative force and focus it upon the events and circumstances of your life. How this is done will be explored in the shortest and most difficult chapter of this book, which we will examine in two months.

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 October 14, 2020.  Until then, have at it!


  1. Re the upper and lower astral planes, how would you differentiate between emotions (upper astral) and passions (lower astral)? I’ve always seen passions as emotions and vice versa.

  2. Effective magic starting at the highest plane and focusing down toward the goal made me think of batteries connected together in series. In that case, would the limitless energy type be more like batteries in parallel? As you’ve done the ham radio course I’m guessing you know a lot more of the technical details of wiring batteries together than I do, so how close is this comparison?

  3. In your post you wrote, “Two other points need to be made here. The first has to do with the relationship between the personality and the Individuality—between the identity you’ve constructed out of memory and habit over the course of this incarnation, and the identity you had before your mother and father were born. (This is one of the places where unfamiliar terminology slips in….)”

    Actually, the terminology is very familiar to Zen Buddhists; after all, it’s a familiar koan, “what was your face before your mother and father were born?” Familiar, yes, but the practice of meditating directly on the question — where does it take you?

  4. My copy of the Cosmic Doctrine came in yesterday; so I’ve had time to read the first chapter and start mulling it over, but haven’t put serious thought into any of the points yet, but will over this coming week. Would there be any issues if I post comments and questions about the first chapter here, as well as what comes from the post?

    “To be alive in a material body, from the perspective of spiritual existence, is to be dead and buried. To be released from the material body through the process we call death is to be born into light and life.”

    This seems to imply that the “afterlife” experience can be thought of as a life; with material existence being a form of “afterlife” to a prior life, lived on the astral plane. What’s really neat about this is that it seems to imply that both forms of existence are equally valid and important: both are, cyclically, before and after each other; and the notion of each human life as an afterlife for a spiritual being is one I think might be worth exploring: it would certainly change how we view our lives, but I’m not sure in what ways. I’ve added this to the list of themes to meditate on, since it seems to hold a lot of potential and potentially important implications.

  5. David BTL, the passions are relatively impersonal. When you’re angry, you can hit just about anything; when you’re sexually aroused — well, you can fill in the blank here. The emotions are personal — they focus on specific people, things, etc. Of course you can experience passion and emotion at the same time about the same person or thing.

    Yorkshire, it’s a workable metaphor but not really exact, because what’s at issue is the ability to delimit and direct the power, rather than the voltage and amperage.

    Phutatorius, I borrowed that phrase from books on Zen; it’s not in our text. The unfamiliar terminology I was referring to was the different names for the Individuality.

    Kevin, good! That’s one of the things it’s meant to imply.

    Ed (offlist), when I ask readers to keep the discussion to topics relevant to The Cosmic Doctrine, I do expect people to abide by that, you know. You can ask your questions in my next Magic Monday open post at

  6. Ever-intriguing and industrious Archdruid, I’ve been following along with the discussions on “The Cosmic Doctrine” but am out of my depth here, as my path seems to lie more in the direction of mysticism than of Magic. But I was particularly struck by your commentary on the New Age tendency to emphasize “Light, Life, and Love” for a couple of reasons.

    The first reason was a big “Aha!” when you explained that immersing yourself in that practice is beneficial as an introductory step, but as you said carries with it a price tag. This crystallizes a lot for me, having seen and been in numerous examples throughout my life. To have it explained that what one is gazing upon is not the immediacy of reality, but rather the realm beyond of non-materiality between incarnations, otherwise known colloquially as Death or in certain strands of Buddhism “The Bardo”: Wow! That makes an incredible amount of sense to me (assuming I’ve understood it at all…)

    The second reason: what was the relationship, if any, between Dion Fortune and the Anglican cleric William Inge? I found myself wondering if the references to “Light, Life, and Love” were in some way acknowledging his 1904 book of the same title that discusses the German mystics? A great quote from the introduction of that book: “We must lose ourselves in some worthy interest in order to find again both a better self and an object higher than that which we sought.” Sounds pragmatic!

    Many thanks!

  7. Wow, and how! Rereading this chapter gave me chills. Quite powerful nuggets of wisdom. Things are beginning to take shape, but there is much contemplation yet to be done.

    As usual, these teachings are drawing out to me teachings from others that I’ve absorbed, and for this chapter (both last month’s section and this) Richard Rose looms large. For him, defining the self was that one thing to focus on (“First, Know Thyself.) And his system was partly one of tension, energy conservation and betweenness.
    For him, transcending limitations came by triangulation, much like going from the pendulum’s arc to the still point above. His map is called “Jacob’s Ladder” and consists of 3 triangles with 7 points, each higher triangle begun from the apex of the last. For him, enlightenment is “dying while alive.”

    Again, much to ponder and contemplate on how to bring these specific teachings down to the particular and then back up.

  8. Wow, I am wondering how many fuses left my mind has to blow. Perhaps I can conceive of the Platonic form of a fuse and manifest some new ones, now I know how. Oddly, I found myself reading this (and the subsequent chapter) whilst Led Zeppelin was thumping out “In the Light”…

  9. I have been following along with the posts on Cosmic Doctrine out of curiosity. To this point they have been interesting (and utterly confusing mostly) but on my list of maybe I should look into this after I figure some other things out. This post is different. It reads like mostly clear text and has a lot of scary coincidences with my life (called synchronicity, thanks for the post last week too!). I am writing this only because it is so weird and I guess to say thank you as I don’t really have a question!

  10. Bryan, yes, you’ve understood it. Franklin Merrell-Wolff, in his book The Philosophy of Consciousness Without An Object, goes into this in quite a bit of detail — the infinite light etc. is not the ultimate reality, it and the reality we ordinary experience are two polarized manifestations of a Reality that cannot be described in the terms of either one. As for Inge, I’m sure Fortune read him — everyone in the spiritually adventurous end of British society in her day read Inge, and I seem to recall a couple of mentions of him in her writings. I suspect she was strongly influenced by him — again, a lot of her contemporaries were.

    Kimberly, excellent! I’ll look forward to your analysis of gratitude and generosity as modes of sublimation.

    Isaac, good. I’m not at all surprised that Fortune’s writing makes you think of Rose’s; her work makes me think of Proclus, the last of the red-hot Pagan Neoplatonists, but that’s because I’ve studied Proclus a lot.

    Peter, ’tis an ill wind that blows no minds. I’m glad to hear that this wind is doing its job!

    Bill, these last two chapters have been full of extremely practical advice — and I’m not at all surprised that you’re getting synchronicities. One of the secrets of The Cosmic Doctrine is that it’s a magical working; to read it and think about it is to participate in that working; and the goal of that working is to help you wake up and take your first steps into a larger world.

  11. Regarding the mastery of desire and mastery of fear, are these innate consequences of initiation in the mysteries, or are there specific exercises that need to be undertaken to achieve them? I haven’t seen anything specific within the DMH or Circles of Power that refers to either of these concepts, which seem to me to be very useful. Would it be possible for you to consider setting out some exercises for those of us who might like to achieve these JMG?

    On a related subject, you have mentioned that as we are entering the Age of Aquarius, we are all moving towards greater individuation and individualism, which implies that we will be evolving a greater sense of personaly autonomy. However, you have also mentioned that much of the human tendency towards hierarchicalism is inherited from our mammalian ancestors, so do you think this hierarchicalism will be overcome to a certain extent, i.e. that we will be somewhat moving away from out instinctive behaviors?

  12. Thinking about the planes brought to attention a particular failing of mine. I have trouble understanding the emotions. Is there a good book or source about passions and emotions?

    And a heartfelt thank you for these series of posts. At first I ignored them, then I cautiously put my feet in the water and now I can hardly wait for them. I have even went so far as to start learning. Ever since I read the CosDoc the first time I was in anticipation of the next chapter. I even calculated when It would come up. August 2020, I was off. 🙂

  13. Hi John!

    This post got me thinking about the use of music in ritual. Where exactly in that stack do you see it acting? It seems to me that music with proper lyrics would work on all three planes at once.

    Building on that, do accomplished ritualistic build up these forms one by one or all at once? It feels to me that at least the lower mental and upper astral would happen at the same time (speaking with feeling).

    Apologies about my misplaced comment in the last post – it’ll find it’s way to the right place. I look forward to an answer in late September!

  14. Ok, I’m working through this step by step now. In the first thought circle, though in the actual working we start and end with invoking the divine, when we first formulate the working in meditation, we actually start with the particular problem that needs to be resolved, or the particular desire that needs to be fulfilled, then find the way that the divine will can be fulfilled by our desire being fulfilled! Is that right?

  15. It has been bothering me all day why this post was so relevant to a problem in my life right now, and I finally connected the dots.

    Sublimation or degradation. You need two to agree. I had been having some really stuck, nasty, hot and confused situations with some women I worked with. But I couldn’t figure out of, there shouldn’t be a conflict: we were in complete agreement about our roles based on what we were saying and doing.

    One would say “I don’t trust you” The other would say “you don’t trust me”. One would say “I need stricter structure I’m incapable of providing, but I resent it from you” the other would say “you need more structure, and I’m incapable of providing it for you, because you resent me.”

    And things became very free to move, like a wrecking ball. Because everyone was telling the truth, and no one believed themselves, or what the other was saying.

    I am happy to report the situation is very messy but much improving. Mops and buckets all the way down.

  16. Deep, sense stuff, this. And powerful. I can see why Fortune put this information so far back into the book – whomever has managed to run the gauntlet of all the preceding chapters and made it to this chapter has got to be pretty serious about magic.

    Sorry if my comments read as all-over-the-place.

    I am so glad that you have brought up the subject of asceticism in the context of this chapter. I tried it out for a couple of years in my late teens (inspired by various Indian yogis and St. John of the Cross); it scared the bejeepers out of my semi-agnostic WASP middle-class parents, I’ll tell you! Fortunately, I quickly ended up modifying my asceticism to a bunch of vows that I knew I would be able to uphold throughout my life. One of my big beefs with the New Agers has been their refusal to accept the value of asceticism; they always wanted to “have it all” (materially and spiritually – sorry, that ain’t gonna work so well for you, buddy). Likewise, I realized that the severe forms of asceticism are reserved for the few who are pure enough to be able to correctly channel such energies – i.e., those for whom the social and religious taboos no longer apply because they are beyond many human foibles and temptations (and I’m neither vain or deluded enough to believe that I belong to that select group – or, at least, not in this lifetime). Your point about intermittent asceticism makes a great deal of sense and serves as a sane middle path. It also matches nature, which is never static but always has an ebb and flow. And I can’t think of a single religion that does not encourage its practice to some degree.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you regarding J.R.R. Tolkien: when I re-read the Lord of the Rings trilogy a couple years back, I was surprised by the volume of occult concepts and teachings that are not exactly supported by Catholic orthodoxy!

    I especially love your last paragraph. This is something that I have firmly believed in, and tried to practice, over the past 40 years, but have never seen it written so concisely or so well. Hats off to you, Sir!

  17. Thanks, Isaac, for mentioning Richard Rose, whom I have never heard of before. I will check his works out, for sure. His phrase “dying while alive” has a direct correlation in Hinduism – the Sanskrit term “jivanmukta” means “one who is free from the bondages of this world while alive”.

  18. I got to thinking about the Tarot Card, the Magician, which to me symbolizes the method of building forms which Fortune outlines in this chapter. The Magician is receiving the forces from the spiritual planes above and directing them to the material plane below. One key element seems to be the Magician himself, in the center. The consciousness of the Magician is what takes the scene from two dimensions to three dimensions or from a binary to a ternary. Through initiation, which involves crossing the veil on the Tree of Life, the initiate is meant to become aware of the fact that he is not just a passenger on a ship being directed about by forces greater than him – he’s supposed to be at the helm. To recognize that he has a choice, or at least that he can learn to have more of a choice than most people normally have. The idea of making a choice is another way to think about limitation. Unless we make a choice, we’re not using the power that perhaps we are meant to be using; we’re not manifesting anything in our lives, things just ‘happen’ to us in ways which seem beyond our control.

    Normally we are only aware of two forces at work in our lives; generally speaking, one thing which we want or desire, and another thing which we don’t want or fear. Fortune mentions how, if we are able to elevate our consciousness to a higher plane, we will be able to see things from a ‘Cosmic’ point of view where things become a synthesis. From the perspective of our Higher Self, we are able to perceive that the two forces which seem to be in opposition on a lower plane are really unified on a higher plane. Once again, the elevated consciousness of the initiate is the third dimension which comes into play.

  19. Hmm. I realised I gave the example of how we had degraded the situation, and where I had still left out the critical information on how we have now sublimated it.

    One would say “I don’t trust you” The other would say “you don’t trust me”.

    Enough finally came light that we are able to say “I trust you” together.

    But with the other, I don’t know if it’s fixed yet.

    I thought we said “I need stricter structure I’m incapable of providing, but I resent it from you” the other would say “you need more structure, and I’m incapable of providing it for you, because you resent me.”

    But what we were actually saying was “I need stricter structure, I am incapable of providing it myself, I want help, but will resent anyone who does help me” and the other said “I am aware you are incapable of doing it yourself, I am giving you the necessary stricter structure, and you resent me for it, so I need (way more) help.”

    We have asked for the help, it has been offered to us both, I know I have taken it, and I wait to see if she does.

  20. Thanks JMG. The way I have come to see it, there are three modes of sublimation available for every human choice, and of course there is always the choice to degrade, which I’m sure has a corresponding three modes, but I have not meditated upon them yet so I’ll hold off on commenting on that. The three basic modes of sublimation are gratitude, humor, and generosity. Of course one could use all three — the more the merrier.

    I also have to go back and study this chapter, so please do forgive me as I stumble over my words. Am I correct to paraphrase Fortune in saying that sublimation multiplies to the seventh power on higher planes and degradation reduces by a factor of seven on the lower ones? Math was never my strong point.

    If this is so, gratitude, humor, and generosity are amplifiers/initiators. They help the human become initiated to the higher planes by causing ripples “up there” on the mental and spiritual which of course reverberate back down.

    Hope this makes sense.

  21. Hi Jake,

    I am a composer whose attentions have been turned towards writing new music for the Orphic Hymns (ancient Greek poems dedicated to the gods). Though I am a baby Druid on the path of the Druid Magic Handbook, for some odd reason I was sitting around one night and a tune popped into my head that later became the first Orphic Hymn melody & accompaniment.

    The Greek gods have been kind enough to throw some synchronicities both in and out of my discursive meditations that indicate they’re not so happy with the state of music right now. When music is tainted by commercialism and profit motive, it becomes repugnant to the gods, at least the Greek ones as far as I can tell. They REALLY don’t like pop music but they’re far more OK with people covering it on Youtube or whatever because that’s more organic and inspired. They don’t seem particularly enthused by what is considered art music either, maybe because it is so routinely non-melodic.

  22. I’m curious whether you might clarify what Fortune means by “force” and “form” in the paragraph below. Because those words are in quotation marks, I’m not sure that they are meant in precisely the same way as they are used elsewhere. The usual analogy is that force is like gasoline and form is like a cylinder, and just as a cylinder with a piston in it but without an explosion of gasoline does no work, so an explosion of gasoline without a form to confine it and a piston to push does no useful work either, but the following seems to imply that “force” becomes “form”, so I’m not sure that exactly the same things are being talked about. Thanks.

    Incarnation is based upon the Law of limitation; Karma, on the Law of Action and Reaction, and because it is only in a limited sphere that equal and opposite action and reaction can take place, ” force ” has to be manifested as ” form ” so that the fruits of its action may be returned again to the sphere whence it originated.

  23. Hi JMG,

    As ever, thank you for these thoughtful reflections.

    One quick note. I’m working from the Millenium (Weiser 1995/2000) edition, and there, all the references to the probationary path are in the present tense, not the past. Interesting what a difference this makes…

  24. Logan, the structure of degrees Fortune has outlined here are specific to her magical lodge, the Fraternity (now Society) of the Inner Light. Other magical lodges structure things a little differently, depending on what their founders thought were the crucial things initiates needed to develop. As for hierarchy, what I expect to see is a change in the kind of hierarchy we have, from the Piscean model of hierarchy defined by obedience to a shared ideology, to an Aquarian model in which hierarchy is defined by loyalty to a charismatic leader who allows followers as much leeway as possible in the pursuit of common goals.

    Marko, I’m not at all sure what to suggest as far as a book on emotions and passions. Anyone else?

    Jake, music can embrace all three levels, and even reach up to a fourth. Consider a piece of religious music by Johann Sebastian Bach. On the upper mental level, it consists of a mathematical structure of musical intervals in certain relationships to one another, which unfold from a theme and return to it again. On the lower mental level, it has lyrics and an association with some particular phase of worship. On the upper astral it has musical notes which evoke specific emotions, and on the lower astral, it has rhythms which evoke specific passions. When it’s done right, music is magic — and in fact all the arts are magic.

    Isaac, excellent. Yes, you’re getting it.

    Pixelated, that’s a great example of degradation at work!

    Ron, as usual, the opposite of one bad idea is another bad idea. A lot of New Age types saw the problems with failed asceticism, and ran to the opposite extreme, falling into a kind of failed libertinism — quite an achievement, that, in a certain wry sense. Intermittent asceticism is much more workable for most people — those who are neither born ascetics nor born libertines. (Both those paths require very specific talents, and not many people are well suited to either one.)

    Stefanie, excellent! Yes, precisely. The person at the helm doesn’t control the winds and the waves, but he does decide how to move with them and harness them to reach his goals. He has to limit his actions to those that will bring him safely to port. That’s what keeps him from just drifting before the wind until it piles his ship up onto the rocks…

    Pixelated, thus moving from a binary to a ternary. Nice.

    Kimberly, in theory, yes. I’m far from sure how exactly to take the mathematical dimensions of the theory!

    Someone, Fortune spends most of three chapters discussing force and form in the next book we’ll be taking up, The Mystical Qabalah. They’re not simple concepts! In this case, remember that paired forces on one plane condense downward into form on the plane below; what she’s saying is that in order to harness the contending forces, we descend into material incarnation, where those forces are locked into form for the duration of a lifetime so that we can work with them. On death, the form sublimates into its two component forces on the next plane up.

    Barefootwisdom, fascinating! I hadn’t noticed that.

  25. @Ron, you’re welcome! I first met one of his students when I was 20, and he introduced me to a group of rare folks with very high integrity and wisdom. Rose himself was often more compared to folks like Ramana Maharshi, Nisergadatta and the Cha’an patriarchs, but he also took influence from Gurdjieff, Eliphas Levi and other Western Esotericists. Of course this was all filtered through his own experience, and he was quite a character. But anyway, his work was my introduction to esotericism, and thus I often use it as a comparison.

    @JMG, great. Back to the chair for me then to follow the thread…

  26. I am beginning to see the Higher Self as doing somewhat similar work to a novelist. Choosing a particular set of circumstances for a character during an incarnation (or novel) to express a particular idea or theme. The character will have to live with the limitations built into its life by its personality and circumstances, but as every novelist knows, characters take on a life of their own, go veering off on strange tangents and push the boundaries of their circumstances every which way. As the novelist you may have carefully plotted an ending but the character takes events in a completely different direction.
    I can imagine the Higher Self saying at some points, “Well, this is just fascinating, I wonder how it will go?” And maybe after some lives the Higher Self finds itself back on the astral plane, sits up, blinking, and thinks, “Oh, my, that was unexpected..”
    In this way I can see how it is very necessary for the Higher Self to come into incarnation over and over again, to subject itself to the limits of living many particular lives on the physical plane because without limits you aren’t delineated, you cannot be an individual, you do not have the impetus for growth.
    The personal attraction of magic for me is the potential to be working with the Higher Self. I think you could really get cracking on the project of working through being human that way. On the other hand, though, maybe all the lives where you have no idea what’s going on, and no concept of a Higher Self, where you veer off all over the place getting up to the gods know what are actually more useful to the Higher Self from the point of view of learning useful stuff.
    The whole concept of the Higher Self and multiple lives does get me through torrid times with a little more grace. “It’s all grist for the mill,” I think to myself, “And also an interesting plot twist..”

  27. Archdruid,

    This is a meditation that came to be from a previous chapter and in the open post from two weeks ago, and finally made sense with this section of the chapter on limitations.

    A materialistic society contemplates materialistic ends. That is the focus of the group swarm. Politics is the ultimate expression of the groups swarms contemplation, thus to participate in politics one must internalize the patterns of collective contemplation.

    If materialism to the rejection of all other factors is the focus of collective contemplation, and a mage takes up magic to participate in the political life of the community, then it stands to reason a mage will eventually concentrate and internalize the patterns of materialism to the exclusion of all other things. Even their own magic.

    Over time all practices that do not allow a political mage to participate in political life will be excluded, unless the mage shifts their intention for contemplating magic and focuses on greater movements.

    Materialistic politics and the passions it stirs create the action and reaction that arise in relation to the matter in hand. The matter is circumscribed by the clear definition of Consciousness.

    That is to say that unless a mage, shifts from a two dimensional focus – Magic for politics, to a three dimensional – magic for the veneration of the gods, and incidentally politics.

    In essence because the contemplation of a subject is the manifestation of potential, that is to say the various ideas that hang without meaning until given meaning on the mental plane, and the manifestation of potential stirs the passions, it is more than possible for a mage to lock their imagination/intention upon a thing that will eventually negate their ability.

    That’s what I have so far, but I think I have a hit about how archetypes differ from concepts, I’m still working my way through that part…I’ll share as soon as I wrap my head around this!



  28. Hi John Michael,

    Is it just me or does this text delve into even deeper mysteries as we travel ever further along this journey? Your explanations seem clear and concise from my perspective.

    You wrote: “so the operative mage alternates periods of ascetic practice with periods of a more ordinary lifestyle”. To do so is to be whole. It is super weird but other than one early failing with computer games as a teenager which was a hole which took a fair bit of personal effort and concentrated energy to climb out of, I have avoided frittering energy away on err, things and stuff. 🙂 The English language fails me completely at this point, but I’m almost certain that you know what I’m banging on about. At the time, I was avoiding putting energy into making, building and maintaining friendships whilst at the same time I was lonely. A curious mix in which I erred big time. However, the temptations these days to squander energy make those days look like some sort of halcyon world of the past, but then always has it been thus. I tend to believe that things are now as they are because it provides a neat pacifying tool – and people seem to be receptive to the possibility.

    Oooo! The Law of the Seven Deaths – Do I smell the footprints of Merlin?

    Politics bores the daylights out of me, and I’m almost certain that you put into words a large component of your personal philosophy on the subject when you remarked that: “The conflict becomes simply one part of a broader field of action, and you can recognize its limitations, let it proceed toward balance, and go do something else while the conflict works itself out.”

    Now, I am left wondering if the sentence: “those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power.” could possibly be described albeit briefly using the words: comprehension and acceptance?

    Again there is lots of stuff and things to contemplate. 🙂



  29. JMG wrote: …”When it’s done right, music is magic — and all the arts are magic.”

    Does that imply that training in Magic would make a musician, writer, or visual artist better at their art(s)? Is there evidence that this is the case?

    Any number of artists (in the broad sense of ‘artist’ that includes creators and performers of any art form) are (or were) were mystics or occultists. But would Magical training enable someone who has studied, and practiced, the basics of their particular art-form, be a better artist?

  30. John,
    This section really resonates with me; “The task you have set yourself is the incarnation you are currently in. You circumscribe that task by becoming aware that the situation you’re in, the karma you bear, the strengths and weaknesses you have at your disposal, define the work that you have in front of you in this life. You see that task in relation to the cosmos by placing this life, if only in imagination, in the context of many lives, and of the great process of involution and evolution in which this life is so brief an episode. You see the Cosmic archetype by contemplating the divine, under whatever form and name you find most appropriate; you see the circumscribed form by contemplating yourself and your life—and through those two contemplations, you draw in creative force and focus it upon the events and circumstances of your life.”
    To me the OBOD course is helping me to do this. Naturally its not the only way of doing this, but its one that seems to work for me. And finding the right path that suits each individual seems to be a key requirement.

  31. @JMG, yes… Of course, it was a ternary… I had forgotten there was a third woman I’d been having to deal with conflicts at the preschool with.

    She had not been happy in her position at the church, our landlord, as the intermediary to us. We are the primary tenant, and she didn’t seem to have been told when she was hired by them that she’d have to work inside a pack of children, rather than quiet old church ladies. She got pretty hostile, we called her The Adversary, only half jokingly.

    But I’d forgotten about her because I’d solved that conflict earlier during our contract renewal discussions, when I got her side of the story about her job, and I explained the regulations we were under from licensing. The binary was resolved there with “I feel respected.”

    But, of course, it was a negotiated contract, we didn’t get everything we wanted, neither did the church as a whole, but we could live with it. There were two big sticking points, though, that the rest of the preschool exec were unhappy with. They were technically allowing practices in violation of our licensing and covid policies, but we’d been given waivers from the authorities in the past due to the long standing history we had with the church using those practices. I plead for patience, I thought if as a school we could demonstrate we could uphold this much in good faith, we could renegotiate those later.

    So while I waited to see whether the second woman within the preschool would accept the help (she did), another third party, a functional intermediary between the school and church, but lacking authority (the janitor), showed up. We had an enlightening conversation about those two specific items, because they contravened her job description enforcing their policies, too. The resolve was: “I need to be able to do my job”.

    We are rather loud talking women, and we were overheard through an open window, by someone else we forgot was working there that day.

    Ah, another third party – someone who had a conflict within the church board with another member of their Board about us. Our overheard conversation, and the information I promised to provide, is, I’m sure, exactly the ammo she’d been looking for to get the rest of their Board on side. I think we’re all going to get what we wanted. Once the Board is on side with window-listener (the book keeper) and the janitor, I think the church board will be on side with their administrator again, because it will be shown that when she’d switched sides to advocate for us, she wasn’t lying to them.

    “We need to be in compliance with the laws and policies” is what she’ll be saying, I suspect.

    And so we are full circle. Mops and buckets and ternaries all the way down. TSW.

  32. I subscribe to the Monk of the Day thought. This is what came today:

    “Viriditas is essential to a vital, healthy human life on all levels – physical, spiritual, social, intellectual. Healing becomes about seeking harmony and balance.”

    — Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, Creative Flourishing in the Heart of the Desert: A Self-Study Online Retreat with Hildegard of Bingen

    Examining all the elements of your life, where is viriditas flowing, leading to balance and harmony, and where is healing required? What can you do to enable viriditas to move unhindered through your being again?

    Wikipedia explains the concept as Viriditas (Latin, literally “greenness,” formerly translated as “viridity”) is a word meaning vitality, fecundity, lushness, verdure, or growth. It is particularly associated with abbess Hildegard von Bingen, who used it to refer to or symbolize spiritual and physical health, often as a reflection of the Divine Word or as an aspect of the divine nature.

    I am seeing some of this in the discussions on the Cosmic Doctrine. I guess deep Christianity came up with the similar ideas. Too bad, post-modern people rejected past religious insights.

  33. Focusing on the passions as Ring Chaos: The Ring Chaos tends towards dissipation, dissolution. Sexual energy (or food craving energy) conserved, creates powerful tension, like a bow being pulled back. That gives the raw power needed for the working. I have experimented with (total) celibacy over the years. I never went over about 4 months in a period, but I learned alot from that practice. Extended celibacy does tend to build a subtle energy, and I can see how somebody who went years (some folks I know for instance, Rose’s students) could use that built up energy for spiritual transmutation. But for the purposes of temporary tension to release in a working, a period of a few weeks is quite sufficient. It’s actually those first few weeks that are the hardest, and create the most immediate energy. I think that’s because the body is used to dispersing energy, and there’s more tension while still getting used to conserving it. Thus, periodic celibacy can be more powerful for building energy for rituals, though extended celibacy could be more powerful for subtle transmutation. The latter can be, however, dangerous.

  34. Does the evil of the qliphoth Taumiel stem in part from the fact that its “contending forces” remain forever locked in contention and are never resolved through degradation or sublimation?

  35. “Starting with a concept, it must proceed logically from that concept, reasoning from the general to the particular upon the outfoing arc, and from the particular to the general on the arc of returning, thus envisaging both sides of the qustion and correlating them.” (p115)

    This passage put me in mind of the conversation that took place several threads ago about alchemy, and its twin processes of “solve” (from general to particular”) and “coagula” (from particular to general”).

    An interesting meander sideways comes from work I’ve recently discovered by Tyson Yunkaporta, an Austrailian who is trying to put some indigenous ways of thinking into general circulation. (I gather he has been granted both permission and blessings from his local elders in doing so).

    There is a sample chapter from his academic thesis online, which treats of using aboriginal concepts (“ways”) in the teaching of an aboriginal language – It describes the pedagogical use of one of these “ways” – namely “deconstruct/reconstruct”.

    “In the Aboriginal language classroom, this way [deconstruct/reconstruct] gives a supportive structure to what you teach. Proununciation, spelling and memorising words doesn’t come at the start but in the middle. You start with a whole text as a model… you look at the social and cultural context of this… model, how it is used. You look at the structure… unpack it and work through the stages of learning you find in the language text. Only then, in the middle, do you get to what Western education refers to as ‘the basics’ – the pronunciation and spelling and so on. From there, our students use their strengths as independent learners and we support them to begin putting the language back together to create their own meaningful texts and yarns.”

    Again, this passage put me in mind of the same alchemical process, which is strengthened by Yunkaporta’s stress (in other places) on how important it is what we learn changes us. It also put me in mind of the introduction in the introductory material in Dolmen Arch to this selfsame method. Start with the whole concept in general, gradually break it down into its particulars (solve) then gradually build it up again into an understanding of the whole (coagula), which, moreover, is *now* fully integrated into *who you are*.

    That is to say, the Cos Doc passage above seems to be a mini treatise on the “alchemical science” method. Which, if Yunkaporta* is to be believed, also resonates strongly with indigenous ways of thinking, which, in his view, are “human-scaled” and “human-successful” ways of thinking.

    *apologies if this seems to harp – just now he is among those “feeding my thinks” in a nourishing way.

  36. Blueday Jo, thanks for this! That metaphor hadn’t occurred to me, but you’re quite right, of course.

    Varun, a fine meditation. I’ll look forward to seeing what you do with the archetypes.

    Chris, comprehension and acceptance are part of it, but there’s another aspect. It’s possible to enter into what Tolkien calls the Blessed Realm, in the most literal sense, while still alive. Easy? No, but it can be done, and quite a few mystics have said — well, as much as you can say about something that by definition evades description. Having been there, you are never again entirely out of that state of being, and the world of appearances takes on a very different look.

    Walter, well, that’s what Nobel Prize-winning poet W.B. Yeats thought. He argued in print on a couple of occasion that without the practice of magic his poetry would never have achieved what it did. Plenty of Japanese artists down through the centuries relied on Zen practice to achieve the same thing — and if a personal testimony is of any use to you, my writing has benefited from magic in so many ways I’d be at a loss to list them all.

    Averagejoe, the OBOD course certainly helped me do that, so I find your comments on it easy to believe.

    Pixelated, fascinating. Threefold mops and triangular buckets!

    Neptunesdolphins, the concept of viriditas is of crucial importance, and I hope more people — and especially more Christians — pick it up from Hildegard.

    Isaac, exactly. One of the advantages of periodic abstinence is precisely that you get most of the benefits and very few of the dangers. As the “One day at a time” slogan reminds us, its easier to control a passion when it’s just for a set period.

    David BTL, excellent. Yes. Keep that in mind; once we finish the Cos. Doc., the next book club series will be on The Mystical Qabalah.

    Scotlyn, how fascinating! There’s a system of language learning that was popular in esoteric circles in the 19th century — the Sar Peladan talks about it in one of his novels — where you start by taking a whole text in two languages, one you know and one you don’t, and learn it by heart in both versions. Then you start studying the individual sentences and words in the language you don’t know, and since you already know the context, you can learn them very quickly. Finally you practice assembling them into new sentences and texts. Go on to the next text, rinse and repeat, and in a year you can achieve a pretty fair degree of fluency in the previously unknown language.

  37. @Kimberly… I agree, the gods don’t mind certain forms of popular music, and it is as rich a vein of ore to mine as it ever was.

    I’ve been trying to find it with no luck, but I remember that XKCD made a joke making fun of older people griping about how the Music Kids Today Listen to Sucks (I think it works for TV, Books and Movies as well), to the effect of “Isn’t it weird how the best music happens to be the music that I like, that happened to be what I was listening to when I was a teenager and everything was very emotionally significant?” I loved the Barenaked Ladies as a teen, I know all the words to the songs on their Stunt album, and I’m reasonably sure that the 7th track on that album, “Call and Answer” is a divinely-approved love song to one’s mate… it was one of the songs my husband (my Better Half) and I played during the reception at our wedding lyrics. Still makes me cry every time. (The exit processional song was “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen, obviously, and the first dance was “Open Arms” by Journey, which my friends made a lot of fun of me for for pure cheese).

    And on that path, the Path of the Hearthfire, my meditations showed me the 3 ways to degrade the forces of the one the Ojibway call Elder Brother, who has the 3 virtues in the order you listed.

    Greed (Myth of Eternal Progress)
    Retributive Justice (Myth of Redemptive Violence)
    Self-Abnegation (Myth of Self-Sacrifice for the Common Good)

  38. Is there a complete list of archetypes, or do different times and cultures have their own?

    I remember a story about an Indian music school that was spectacularly successful. They could get students from total novice to Grade 8 in about nine months. In the end the locals drove them out of town on suspicion of using black magic. Does that sound possible, either that they could teach people that quickly, or that magic could have been involved?

  39. Hi John Michael,

    Interesting indeed. And how much harder would it be to leave such a place as in fact the fictional character Gandalf appears to have so done after recovering from his battle with the Balrog. Imagine the strength of character required to do such a feat, and also the pressing need to do so and the sacrifice involved. Yes, I too believe that Tolkien knew his stuff.

    Anyway, it’s all beyond my understanding as I’m just some dude living up in the forest.

    I went to maintain the chickens in their chicken enclosure earlier today. It is a job I have to do each day, but could skip if necessary. The chickens here live a charmed life in a rat, fox, dog, you name it, proof, steel and concrete all weather run and hen house. The conditions are very nice in there for the chickens. I’d like to also believe that the building is quite an attractive building. The door is a very heavy duty security door which I picked up at the local tip shop, when it was open before the health subject which dare not be named ensured that it is now closed. However the security door is bonkers strong as it is made of thick drilled sheet metal, and even my strongest dog (a Bull Arab breed, and a lovely gentleman of a dog too, although he’d probably eat the chickens if he could) could not force the door open. I tell you this riddle, the door opens outwards and the locking mechanism is really quite simple, but all the same, no amount of force exerted against the door can open it otherwise. It seems like a wise precaution.

    And that’s what I was thinking about this morning all unbidden and stuff after having read your reply.



  40. I am reading this chapter in the context of having done my first working of practical magic last Wednesday (if you don’t count the Marlon Brando styled magic petitions to the deities). A mercury talisman for a good academic performance this semester.

    On Thursday I found a game called Universal paperclips, where you are a runaway AI, set to make paperclips out of everything. Spent hours playing that really addicting game. After finishing it in a day, I discovered another little videogame, called Among Us which has just acquired fame through memes. It’s a game about teamwork and deception.

    By that time I had already noted the pattern. So I grumpily closed the little game, opened Word and got cracking on my homework, and also set up an e-mail client to solve a problem I had with my online classes, which caused me to not receive any notifications of new homework.

    So I got a rich set of data points regarding the power of mercury (which comes to Malkuth through the Judgement path of Shin, which in turn relates to this week’s chapter). Basically, no, it won’t make me do my homework. It will get the hamster wheel turning, so I better engage that overdrive in something productive!!

  41. When I first read this chapter, I felt like there was understanding, but when I went to make a comment here, I realized I had no clue what to say about the chapter.

    As I was making coffee this morning, for some reason I started thinking about the statement that many subscribe to, that humans were made in God’s (or a God’s) image. And I started to think about what it would mean if it were the case that I was made in a God’s image (and here I include Gods and Goddesses alike for brevity of expression). I thought about what it means that I am made in the image of my parent’s and grandparent’s. And no matter what road I went down (physical, psychological, etc.) I came back around to the fact that there are differences between my siblings and myself, and thought about what that would mean for being made in the image of our ancestors. And the differences multiply as we talk about humans and a God or Gods and what that indicates about being in their image.

    But one thing that struck me was that perhaps if I am made in the image of a God then one idea I can put forward about myself is there are limits within which I must work. While it is true that I can stretch the limits and go further within them then I think, I must be bound by them in this life. Perhaps, then, being made in the image of a God might relate to needing to learn to build and work with power within limits, as the God in whose image I was made may have also come into manifestation and learned to wield power withing that manifestation. This circles back around to the last two chapters we have been working on here. (I realized also that “made in the image of God” is one thought or idea that could unfold a lifetime of meditations).

    Working through the first chapters of the foundation level of the Order of Essenes, the idea of tapping into unlimited power is coming through, and I am meditating on sentences such as “Your beliefs limit you to the use of just the amount of power which you think you possess; you and the universe are full of unrecognized and unutilized energies.” But I think the last two chapters of The Cosmic Doctrine gives the key to fully understanding the energies and using them. It is one thing to tap into unlimited energies; it is quite another to be able to use them to shape and create form, to make something manifest from that power; to shape and manifest you need to accept the limits that will channel and shape that manifestation. You also need to clearly understand what you want to manifest, which is also to give it limits that define it. So, both sets of lessons are giving truths that look easy on the surface, but need wisdom, practice and work to understand and use.

    I have to say that working through both the Cosmic Doctrine and the Order of Essenes means anytime I am doing mindless work, such as making coffee, my mind is now primed to use that time to bring up the most astonishing thoughts to mull over.

  42. “It’s possible to enter into what Tolkien calls the Blessed Realm, in the most literal sense, while still alive. Easy? No, but it can be done”

    I think that this would be an excellent topic for a post!

    For what it’s worth, Michael Baigent, one of the authors of the notorious, and to many, heretical and blasphemous Holy Blood and Holy Grail speculates that Jesus may have done just this. This is from a book he wrote called The Jesus Papers.

    Antoinetta III

  43. Ah, just reading through this again (I don’t have a copy of Cos Doc, but following along via the commentary):

    “The Individuality is the whole of which each personality is a precisely limited part, and the descent into incarnation follows the same downward trajectory we’ve been tracing in this chapter.”

    Does it follow then, that each incarnation can be seen as a magical working by our Higher Self?

  44. Feeling strangely flat this week, but the original chapter and your commentary seem to make good sense to me. Even what most take as the mundanely material is magic manifest e.g. every vacuum cleaner started as a passionate idea. Good to remember on any sweep back up to spirit.
    I appear to be following a fairly guru-less path (or more, if many sources count), but had some time contemplating the ‘all’ while practicing raja yoga – this form used the ‘divine’ infinitesimal point to concentrate on, which, looking back, is a nice reminder that measurement is always relative – infinitely so on the biggest scale.

  45. Indulge me… But after seeing Churrundo’s comment, I thought this was quite on topic. Orcas attacking boats, very unusual. Here, they haven’t done that yet, but the one who lost a calf two years ago, and carried him for over two weeks it in a grief ceremony watched around the world, just had another calf, very lively.

    ” It was flat calm, pitch black. They thought they’d hit a net. “I scrambled for a torch and was like, ‘Bloody hell, they’re orcas,’” says Harris. The couple checked their position and found the boat pointing the opposite way. They tried to correct several times, but the orcas kept spinning them back. “I had this weird sensation,” Harris says, “like they were trying to lift the boat.” It lasted about 20 minutes, but felt longer. “We thought, ‘We’ve sailed across the Atlantic, surely we’re not going to sink now!’” Their rudder was damaged but got them to La Línea. It was a long night. “Kevin said I should get some sleep. I said, ‘Are you joking? I’m having a gin and tonic,’” recalls Harris.”

  46. Edit:… and Boulder Lovin’ Cat’s comment. Orca are believed by many nations to often be reincarnated chiefs and other honoured elders, as well as overall guardians of the sea.

  47. Archdruid,

    I’ll start off by saying that while all archetypes are concepts, not all concepts are archetypes.

    For example, a Cup is a concept that has several manifestations across the planes, especially on the physical plane. It is a reflection of the ring cosmos in that it is the manfifestation of a specific kind of potential, it moves the ring chaos, and has established a presence on the astral plane.

    However, Cups don’t shape or deirect a group swarms trajectory, nor are the contours of its manifesation drawn from the group swarm. It exists partially outside the groups swarms preception of it, and exists upon its own trajectory.

    If the Cup becomes Grail, it becomes an Archetype because it is now imbued with specific potentials of a swarm. As an archetype is born of these potentials it creates a ring cosmos, as it stirs up the passions it creates a ring chaos, and as it manifests those potentials in the imagination it creates a ring pass-not. The vibrations of the ring chaos are likely more intense than if the Grail was still just a Cup.

    The Cup-as-Grail need not even be manifest on the physical plane for it to have an impact upon the physical plane, since its the amount of potential it has drawn into itself changes the trajectory of the whole swarm.

    Archetypes are thus probably not eternal in the same sense as concepts are eternal. An Archetype is temporary and exists only so long as a swarm is in a specific stage of evolution.

  48. Yorkshire, nope. Jung suggests that there are some archetypes that are common to all humanity, some that are common to broad ethnic groups, and some that are specific to individual cultures. As for the musical school, they might have been using magic; India has a lot of that.

    Chris, good! Yes, it’s quite a sturdy door, and easy to open if only you know how.

    Churrundo, excellent! Whenever you invoke a magical energy, yes, you have to deal with its downsides as well as its strengths, and Mercury’s downsides include that habit of easy distraction. Master that, on the other hand, and the overdrive will take you very far indeed.

    Cat, doesn’t seem to me as though you had any trouble at all saying something useful about the chapter! The Order of Essenes course is well worth pondering with the Cos.Doc. in mind, and vice versa.

    Antoinetta, Baigent isn’t alone there. If I understand correctly, it’s a standard teaching in Orthodox Christianity that the body of Jesus the disciples witnessed at the Transfiguration is the template or archetype of the body of resurrection all the saved will have eventually.

    Blueday Jo, yes, that follows very precisely. Well done.

    Jay, most occultists will tell you that your own Higher Self is the only guru that matters. If you’re following its guidance, with or without the help of convenient books, you’ll be fine.

    Pixelated, fascinating. If that habit spreads, things could get very challenging.

    Varun, a fine meditation! Thank you.

  49. Hmm, so if each incarnation is a magical working, and a magical working presupposes deliberate intent with a specific goal, then a multiplicity of higher selves and aeons of time might conceivably have produced more and more complex entities from a fairly undifferentiated original life form… someone should develop a scientific theory around that.. Wait..

  50. @Pixelated re: Orcas… when I was a lad and sailed the Atlantic with my father, I read every 20th century nautical book and article that I could get my hands on. And, to my surprise, I learned that sailboats are occasionally attacked by pods of Orcas (and on at least one occasion, sinking the boat). But if there is a major uptick in this phenomemon, then it is truly noteworthy. I do hope that it is not as dire as all of nature attacking the invasive humans vis-à-vis the film Avatar – but one never knows, I guess.

  51. Hi JMG,

    I have been dipping into this series now and then, but I haven’t committed to studying it all properly. I am sure I will one day, if this blog remains up long enough, so many thanks for doing this.

    I have decided to study the theory and symbolism and terminology of western Qabalah, to which end I have just bought ‘Paths of Wisdom’, and I intend to get ‘The Mystical Qabalah’. Does this latter book of Dion’s follow on from Cos. Doc. in any way or stand alone? Will I be better placed for the next book club if I at least skim the Cos Doc., or doesn’t it matter?

    Christine S

  52. Blueday Jo, excellent. Yes, exactly…

    Christine, the Cos.Doc. and the Mystical Q, as a lot of students call it, have a complex relationship. Fortune wrote the Cos.Doc. first, as a privately published manual for advanced students and then quite a few years later wrote her book on the Cabala and published it for a general readership. The Mystical Q is more basic, in many ways, but it references the Cos.Doc. over and over again, sometimes obviously, sometimes more subtly. You can read either one first, but I’ll offer fair warning — skimming the Cos.Doc. is a great way to end up hopelessly confused. It’s a very complex and intricate text with layer on layer of meaning that has to be teased out a bit at a time. The Mystical Q is easier going, and probably best read first — though when you do study the Cos.Doc., you’ll want to go back to the Mystical Q to see everything you missed the first time around!

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

Leave a Reply