Book Club Post

The Cosmic Doctrine: The Law of the Attraction of the Centre

This week we finish up 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 turned 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 discussion that follows. The text varies somewhat between the two editions, but the concepts and images are the same, and I’ve referred to both.

Assigned Reading:

Revised Edition:  Chapter 30, “The Law of the Attraction of the Centre,” pp. 129-133.

Millennium Edition: Chapter 31, “The Law of the Attraction of the Centre,” pp. 180-185.


We have arrived, after almost three years of monthly posts, at the final chapter of The Cosmic Doctrine.  Each of the two editions of our text has a collection of assorted material appended after the last chapter, labeled “Part II” in the revised edition and “Afterthoughts” in the Millennium Edition, but these are more or less random notes on the material we’ve covered.  Those who want to make a thorough study of The Cosmic Doctrine should certainly study those final notes and meditate on them, but there is little I can say about them that will be useful.

As for this final chapter, any of my readers who are unwary enough to expect Dion Fortune to finish things up with a nice clear exposition of the points she wants to make are going to be disappointed. True to form, this chapter is intricate and richly ironic, a bravura performance of multilayered metaphors to wind up this extraordinary work.  It deserves—and requires!—many readings in order to unpack what it has to say.

The concept that frames this chapter’s discussion is one that we’ve encountered repeatedly over the previous chapters.  Once the Cosmos or a solar system or an individual being has finished the process of coming into existence, every new influence starts from its center, which is also its highest plane, and proceeds outward and downward to the periphery, which is also its lowest plane.  There, once it has finished coming into manifestation, it returns inward and upward to the center.  On the way down, it evolves the capacity to take on a body of each plane through which it passes; on the way back up, it is conditioned by the body it indwells on each plane, and then sheds that body once it has taken into itself the capacities of that body—or, to use a different metaphor, once it has learned the lessons of that plane.

We followed that same process many chapters ago, as we tracked the original traveling atoms of the Cosmos on their journeys up and down the twelve Cosmic rays.  We followed it again with the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind, and again, in more detail, as we talked about the path that each of our souls has followed from the upper spiritual plane down to the plane of dense matter, where we are now embodied for the time being.  In several previous chapters we examined the turn from the outward to the inward arc in which each of us, and our species as a whole, are now engaged. Now our text turns to the same theme one more time, with an eye toward the path back up the planes—the path of return to the center.

There are three ways to follow that path.  Two of them reach their destination, and the other fails to do so. Our text explores them one at a time.

The first, the one that has occupied most of our attention all along, is the way of evolution.  In a certain sense, this is the easy way; it requires no particular effort on your part. All you have to do is let yourself be carried along with all the other souls in the swarm to which you belong. Now of course if you choose this route you can count on being tossed about like a twig in a torrent, flung this way and that, driven up against one obstacle after another, and then again left to circle aimlessly for a while until the current picks you up again and carries you on, but in due time you’ll reach the destination toward which the waters are flowing.

On the physical plane, the way of evolution follows a familiar pattern. Each participant in the current descends into matter, and there works out its own evolution for a time, until it has gone as deep into matter as it can—reaching, as our text says, the utmost complexity of material organization.  Once it has reached that point it begins to synthesize that complexity into a unity, and that synthesis happens on the etheric sub-planes, not the sub-planes of dense matter. As that takes place, the physical expression begins to break down.

This is not just true of individual souls, by the way. As our text points out, it also describes the way that ideas descend into manifestation and take on conceptual form.  Before a thought has taken on solidity in the realm of matter, it is what Fortune calls an inceptive idea—“vague intuition” might be a good translation of this technical term. Only after it has taken material form does it become a concept.  Writers experience this process all the time:  a scene in a story or an explanation in an essay is a blurred half-formed pattern of possibilities until the material effort of fingertips on a keyboard turns it into something solid and definite, which can then be refined further by the labor of revision.  Once the idea has entered the realm of concepts, in turn, it can detach itself from the specific words that brought it to that point; this release from verbal form corresponds to the breaking down of the physical form.

Each of us, in this novelist’s metaphor, exists as a vague pattern of inceptive possibilities until the events of our lives write us down in black and white. Thereafter, having achieved form and definition, we can free ourselves from the page and go on to other things. That, to the nearest approximate metaphor, is what we are doing here in physical incarnation.

Our text is a little more specific than this. Our physical bodies, Fortune suggests, are like the molds used in casting.  Once the hot metal has been poured into the mold and allowed to cool, the mold can be removed and thrown away, because the metal has taken on an enduring form. In the same way, our physical bodies confine the subtle levels of ourselves until they take on an enduring form, after which a physical body is no longer necessary—all its capacities for action and perception have been taken on by the next level up, and we have thereby unified the material and etheric sub-planes of the physical plane in ourselves.  This in turn is simply the first of a long sequence of unifications, which will end with all the capacities of all our bodies on every plane being unified on the highest plane on which we are capable of existing. This is the condition of the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind, and it will be our condition long ages from now when we have completed our evolutionary journey.

The same process also takes place on the level of the entire solar system.  As each swarm of souls sweeps out to the periphery of existence, it brings with it certain patterns of movement that the Solar Logos has conceived.  As they descend, the members of that swarm dance those patterns of movement, establishing tracks in space that proceed to influence the substance of each plane. Once they reach the physical plane, out here at the periphery, they awaken to objective consciousness, and begin to take an active role in the dance, embellishing it with their own epigenesis, and return dancing up the planes to the Solar Logos.

In this chapter Fortune introduces a new metaphor for this process.  If the influences of the Logos at the center of the solar system are spreading outward, she suggests, this can be imagined as the extension of the center.  The inward flow of each swarm of souls can thus be pictured as an outward flow of the center, a spiritualization of the planes, in which each plane gradually takes on the nature of the seventh plane.  In a further metaphor that has seen a great deal of use in mystical writings, the solar system is gently reabsorbed into its god.

The symbolism of Days and Nights of Manifestation, which was introduced earlier in our text, returns here in a new form.  Back in Chapter 3, we watched the Ring-Cosmos turning within the Ring-Chaos, creating a new Cosmic Day when the Ring-Chaos predominated and set a wave of changes in motion, and creating a new Cosmic Night when the Ring-Cosmos predominated and the changes settled down to stereotype themselves.  In Chapter 29, while discussing the Law of Polarity, we revisited that image—but here, as so often before, Fortune shifts to a new metaphor.

Imagine, she suggests, that as the forces of the created solar system flow back into the center at the end of the Cosmic Day, the center itself flows outward, a tide of pure spirit that sweeps out over all the planes of manifestation. Fortune refers to that tide as the Waters of Darkness, and describes that term as “a symbol of spiritual peace, cleansing, and regeneration.”  All the tracks in space that have been laid down during the Cosmic Day are filled with spirit and the positive evil in them is erased.  Then the Waters of Darkness drain away to leave the planes of manifestation ready for the coming of dawn.

It’s a potent image, and even more potent if you remember the immense role that Atlantis played in Dion Fortune’s teaching.  Central to the modern narrative of Atlantis is the vision of a mighty culture in the far past that descended into tremendous evil, and was then washed away by a close equivalent of the Waters of Darkness so that the fields of the world would be left clean for the coming of a new dawn.  That image haunted many minds in Fortune’s time.  J.R.R. Tolkien, in papers published after his death by his son Christopher, wrote of a dream he had many times in which he looked across green lands toward the sea, and saw a mighty wave looming up to sweep over everything.  In our time, when global warming threatens a hundred-meter rise in sea level worldwide, that image has lost none of its relevance!

The Waters of Darkness, then, are Waters of Evil only in a certain very nuanced sense. Light and darkness, good and evil, are the two poles of the creative process, the two hands of the Father in Fortune’s Christian symbolism.  A few chapters ago she reminded us that what look like life and death from our perspective may take on a very different appearance from the perspective of the inner planes, and she repeats that here:  “the right [hand] sends out into manifestation and the left beckons back again; but you, looking as in a mirror, call right, left, and left, right.”  Apply that to the vision of the Waters of Darkness flowing over the fields of manifestation and you have a theme that will bear many sessions of meditation.

The work of initiation depends on that outflowing, as our text explains, for beings who have already completed the descent into manifestation and the return to the center—the Lords of Mind, who are the initiators of our evolution, and those individuals of our swarm who have followed the path of evolution to its end ahead of the rest of us—proceed out from the center as heralds of the rising waters.  Again, the echoes of the Atlantis legend are hard to miss; the initiators here fill the role of the seedbearers who sailed from Atlantis in its last days to bear the secret teachings to new lands. Tolkien’s Dúnedain, who sailed from Númenor to Middle-earth with the White Tree and the nine Palantíri, are cut from the same cloth.

It’s important here to remember that Fortune, like most occultists of her time, drew a firm distinction between the lesser initiations that could be conferred by magical lodges such as the one she headed, and the greater initiations—or, in the language she uses here, Illuminations—that are conferred by souls that have progressed far beyond the human level. These latter do not take place in physical lodge rooms, and our text gives the reason;  they can only take place on planes that the Waters of Regeneration have already reached.  In our present phase of evolution, those waters have not yet begun to percolate through the cracks of the material world, and so for the time being the greater initiations can only take place when the initiate is in an out-of-body experience and has risen, or been brought, to the necessary plane.

As we have already learned, however, there are at least two ways to return to the center—the way of evolution and the way of devolution, the way of the Right-Hand Path and the way of the Left-Hand Path (in Fortune’s specific and rather idiosyncratic sense of these terms).  The former, as we have seen, moves forward along the trajectory of our further development as souls; the latter moves back toward older, archaic influences. Both these Paths respond to the attraction of the Center, but those who take the Right-Hand Path have completed involution into matter, undergone the initiation of the nadir, and passed beyond it, while those who take the Left-Hand Path turn back up the path of involution before they have finished it.

The Right-Hand Path is a path of unification, in which all the complexities of material existence are brought into the greater unity of the spirit; the Left-Hand Path is a path of simplification, in which those same complexities are discarded. The Right-Hand Path seeks wholeness, while the Left-Hand Path seeks that flawed image of perfection that involves assigning all the problems of the individual to some portion of the self—sexual desire, say, or the thinking mind, or the ego—and insisting that this portion of the self is irredeemable and can only be cast aside.  In Fortune’s vision, the Right-Hand Path leads to realization, while the Left-Hand Path leads only to dissolution. The former is the path of love, the latter the path of death.  “Therefore choose love and live,” our text ends.

If you’ve been paying attention, this will have you scratching your head.  Didn’t an earlier chapter point out that death is life and life is death, and didn’t this chapter note that we confuse the right and left hands of God, mistaking the light for the darkness and the darkness for the light?  Of course they did.  The Cosmic Doctrine does not offer anyone a set of simple rules for simple minds. At the end of his enigmatic treatise The Hieroglyphic Monad—another essay meant “to train the mind and not to inform it”—John Dee notes: “Here the common eye will see nothing but obscurity and will despair considerably.” The same note could be appended here.  Which path is life, and which is death?  That, of course, is left for students to explore in meditation themselves.

Yet there’s a hint woven into the structure of this last section of our text.  The Cosmic Doctrine is again meant to train your mind rather than to stock it with ideas that can be used in familiar ways.  To go backward now—to think of what you have learned while reading the text as though it was a set of doctrines to be accepted blindly in the useless “Fortune said it, I believe it, that settles it” manner—is to take the way of simplification and to enact, in a very small way, the Left-Hand Path.  Do that and your efforts will be wasted, for the images and ideas you have studied will dissolve into mere opinions.  To go forward now—to take the mental training you have received and apply it, through repeated study and meditation on The Cosmic Doctrine and other occult writings, by Dion Fortuine and by other authors, including those who influenced her and those she influenced in turn—is to take the way of unification and to enact, in a very small way, the Right-Hand Path.  Do that, and the work you’ve invested in the most important work of twentieth century occult philosophy may just do what Dion Fortune meant her writings to do, and set your feed firmly on the first steps of the Path.

Notes for Study:

As noted in the previous chapters, 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 something new on April 14, 2021.  Until then, have at it!


  1. Question for everyone: while reading the spiritual finale, did you hear music in your head to go with it? If so, what was it like? I definitely did but would like to know what others may have heard before I say and risk overwriting anyone else’s experience.

  2. Sir, thank you. The opportunity to go on this journey with you as a guide came at exactly the right time to help me through the hardest years of my life to date.

    It isn’t that I found “the answers,” but I did find new ways of framing and internalizing the lessons of my own spiritual tradition in ways that made intuitive sense, through a time when nothing was making sense. I’m not wise enough to know for sure what’s next, but I can now feel hope and see a path forward where before there was only a dead-end hallway hung with #inspirational memes.

  3. This, “the same way, our physical bodies confine the subtle levels of ourselves until they take on an enduring form, after which a physical body is no longer necessary—all its capacities for action and perception have been taken on by the next level up, and we have thereby unified the material and etheric sub-planes of the physical plane in ourselves.”

    Is one-hundred percent the doctrinaire Chan-Buddhist emanation body sequence. I can see no deviation. The one thing I would add, is that the first subtle (etheric body) lives a few hundred years, and each one after that lives longer. The basic goal is to get to one that lives so long you don’t have to physically incarnate on Earth (or other similar material world) again. The Mahayana critique of Arhats is that the Arhat body, while long lived, is not so long lived that you won’t have to come back again after an Eon; you supposedly have to go one more level up (the fifth emanation body) to have a long enough lived body that the material plane is something you never have to return to (you can, of course, if you want, though that level of body is also supposed to allow the creation of physical emanation bodies.)

    This, as an aside, is the argument in Buddhism over what the Buddha was trying to do. Did he want to never incarnate in any body again, or did he want to get a stable “Buddha-level” body so he never had to come back to material existence? (The higher bodies are, by all accounts, MUCH MUCH nicer in terms of the feel.)

    The argument for the latter is that his teachings have a ton of practices meant to raise chi/ether and there are also what western mages would call astral and mental level (and even above) practices buried in there, if you know enough to see them for what they were.

    Fascinating series. Thanks for writing this JMG.

  4. I almost caught up before you finished the series, but I still have to read the last two chapters. 🙁

    This process of reading the Cos. Doc. and then reading your commentary & ensuing discussion has been fun.

    I plan on many rereads, and have started doing this for other books too. I’ve also been accumulating a small library of about 15-20 books, that I imagine I could be content rereading for the rest of my life. So I’m taking small steps on the right hand path you outlined.

    I don’t have any specific questions but will be lurking in the comments.

    Congrats on the completion of the series & thank you!

  5. David BTL, it’s the attraction of thinking that you don’t have to deal with your problems. You don’t have to go all the way down into the grubby material basement of the solar system and clean it out; you can just shut the door on it and pretend it isn’t there. Of course the problem, to extend the metaphor, is that eventually the stink drives you out of the ground floor, and then the next floor up, and then the floor after that, until eventually you’re perched unsteadily on the roof…

    Yorkshire, fascinating. No, I didn’t, though I can think of some pieces that would go very well with it.

    Josh, you’re welcome and thank you. May things work out well for you from here on!

    Ian, that’s fascinating. I’m clearly going to have to read up on emanation body theory! I may have asked this already, but if you can recommend a few good English language sources on the subject, I’d be grateful; my background in that end of Buddhism is almost entirely limited to Japanese Zen literature of the sort you saw splashed around the US market in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Youngelephant, delighted to hear it. I go through the Cos.Doc every few years, and each time I slap myself on the forehead and say, “How did I miss that???”

  6. JMG, it is problematic to call it the left-hand path, as if southpaws weren’t as good as the rest of us. Shame on you. Get woke already! 😉

    I think mine was the last generation in which left-handed kids were forcibly switched.

    Most of the cats I’ve known appeared to be (literal!) southpaws. I’ve noticed no clear pattern in dogs, probably because they’re much less inclined to use their front paws as “hands” than cats are.

  7. Thank you for this series. I doubt I would have gotten much out of a first pass through the Cos Doc without your commentary. Is there a certain edition of The Mystical Qabbalah I should get to be prepared for your next series? Any idea when it will start?

  8. I do have a comment on the topic of synthesizing various bodies. Based on what you’ve said previously JMG, the next evolutionary step for a human is to develop a mental body. This would would come from the synthesis of concrete consciousness (knowledge, and emotion).

    I’ve noticed that when one starts building up their mental models of the world, synchronicity becomes a habit. Every new incoming piece of knowledge (concrete consciousness) can be related and understood according to the existing mental models built up through experience and study. Since it’s a habit it’s possible to just start taking it for granted. It’s no longer a meaningful coincidence that Hesse mentions a topic that Jung wrote about, which is also coded into languages throughout the world, it’s just a fact of life. I started to notice this as a result of reading and meditation.

    I’d hazard a guess that it’s possible for people to develop a mental body through the application of one mental model. Such as the Christian saints application of their mental representations of God to the world and their experiences of it. I imagine this builds a different mental body than one of a well read scholarly person. Maybe with emphasis on different mental chakras.

    Hopefully this is an appropriate mini meditation.

  9. I remember reading Aleister Crowley’s novel Moonchild at age eighteen or so and being stupefied about what he was calling the Left Hand Path. He seems to have been accusing the Mathers character of being on the Left Hand Path. I don’t know much about Crowley’s life but I suspect he was doing some major shadow projection on Mathers.

  10. Absolutely agree – a fascinating ride to accompany the, erm, ongoing fascinating ride – thank you for such a fine journey.

    I don’t know if you remember a few months ago I was pushing at (or for) the existence of a ‘final’ goal in life and you weren’t having any of it. Doesn’t making all things ‘One’ (as a representative of evolution) fit the bill? Of course nothing’s ever really final, but from the vantage point of right here, right now, it sure looks like there’s something to aim for.

    I also get that even this knowing doesn’t stop much ‘mucking about’ around it – certainly it seems to me quite a few in ‘the occult’ do like to complicate that which doesn’t always have to be complicated. I guess it just proves we all have to constantly watch out for the best path, as we take in the many views on offer. Love Indeed. 🙂

  11. Love and death are the Love and Strife of Empedocles. Bringing together and Separating. To become a conscious individual in Malkuth, one has to become separate – to separate the self from the other, the observer from the observed. This separation has to be fulfilled completely, and moved through, before one can begin the ascent of Jacob’s Ladder. Becoming separate (which we do not remember) is Identification. We become identified with the form, we become it as we observe it. We create it as we become it. But, are we it? Are we just this body, thoughts and feelings? What are we? There is no Spirit or Soul that can be seen, not with the physical senses. By observing the body, the mind, the senses, we realize that it is not our Essence… what is observed is not the observer! What is the observer? What am I? Now the pull of Love can be felt, the path Home opens. Once the mold is made, the self can leave it, and retraverse the Ray of Creation. But if the mold is not fully formed, if the self identifies as the mold, when the waves of shadow come it stays as the mold, instead of receding as the Light.

    When the Soul is ripe, the fruit capsule separates easily, releasing the Essence of the plant (the seed.) But when the seed head is picked too early, the essence does not separate. When the essence is separated, it can then be recombined.

  12. Interesting comment about ocean levels rising around the coast. Consider als Inland flooding 04March2021 in Kentucky. Here is one video of the Kentucky River flooding in Frankfort, Ky.

    You can see by the chronology Kentucky Inland flooding is getting worse. You can search Google for Paintsville, Ky, and find a municipal parking lot that collapsed because of the flooding dropping several utility trucks into sinkholes, one truck balanced half on a chunk of asphalt, half dangling in mid-air. One winter, while walking in a Ky. relative’s back yard, I found a chunk of rock containing a clear fossil imprint of a sea shell. I’ve always wished I’d saved it; the relative probably tossed it while mowing grass.

  13. This has been a fascinating trip. Would you consider doing a similar book club format for Fortune’s “Psychic Self-Defense”?

  14. Hi, JMG,
    Now that we arrived at the end of the comments, I would like to humbly offer a few suggestions for the next book study:
    1) the Kybalion. You have mentioned a few times that you consider it an important occult work, and I am curious to see your take on it.
    2) the Tao Te Ching from an ecological/whole systems point of view.
    3) the Chaldean Oracles.
    4) Iamblichus’ On the Mysteries.
    5) a work by Manly P. Hall of your choice.
    Keep the great work!

  15. JMG,

    The only books in English I know of that spell it out clearly in one place are by William Bodri. “Meditation Case Studies”, “Nyasa Yoga” (largely how to properly use mantras to improve the subtle body) and “Buddha Yoga.”

    Buddha Yoga is maybe the clearest, but about two-thirds of the book is giving readers information so they can use their bodies to assist humans: living up to the Boddhisattva oath. This will be stuff you’ve studied yourself and probably of less interest to you: Bodri is trying to give serious cultivators skills and knowledge that will be useful in helping people once they have the emanation bodies. He assumes most serious mystics in Eastern traditions don’t know much about anything but mysticism and perhaps medicine.

    Bodri’s a bit of a harsh writer, and he goes on a bit especially on the philosophy of the “first thing”. but he says things most other authors only allude to (except for some Taoist authors, who are pretty clear, with reference to the first emanation body.) He’s also very much “all real paths lead to the same place,” which I’m pretty sure is an oversimplification.

  16. Hi! Just wanted to thank JMG and the commentariat for all the explanations and questions and insights you’ve posted on this book. I joined this party late… I’m only up to Chapter 15, but I wanted to say THANK YOU before the comments in this last monthly discussion are closed. I am enjoying the ride. 🙂

  17. The discussion of the Left Hand Path makes sense of something odd I’ve noticed: most people who believe in a cosmic order (usually styled as “Laws of Physics”) reject the idea of a transcendental reality; while most people who believe in a transcendental reality reject the idea of there being meaning in existence. I always figured it was one of the many unhelpful binaries which are so common in our society, but could not figure out the glue holding it in place.

    The reason for this binary is obvious in light of the Left Hand Path, once we realize our culture is very much on the Left Hand Path with a twist: the material we reject is the subtle planes. So, in order to do this, we have to “rise up” metaphorically much harder and further than usually happens with the Left Hand Path, and this means placing an incredible amount of emphasis on the highest plane we can reach. For those who can reach the spiritual plane, this means rejecting the etheric up to the mental, and so rejecting meaning while embracing the spiritual with far more intensity than usually happens; while for those who can’t reach the spiritual plane, it means embracing the idea of a cosmic order and meaning in everything.

    I think I’ve found a theme for at least a week or two of meditation here!

  18. @Ian, @Cos.Doc. Readers

    Ian said:

    Is one-hundred percent the doctrinaire Chan-Buddhist emanation body sequence. I can see no deviation. The one thing I would add, is that the first subtle (etheric body) lives a few hundred years, and each one after that lives longer. The basic goal is to get to one that lives so long you don’t have to physically incarnate on Earth (or other similar material world) again. The Mahayana critique of Arhats is that the Arhat body, while long lived, is not so long lived that you won’t have to come back again after an Eon; you supposedly have to go one more level up (the fifth emanation body) to have a long enough lived body that the material plane is something you never have to return to (you can, of course, if you want, though that level of body is also supposed to allow the creation of physical emanation bodies.)

    This, as an aside, is the argument in Buddhism over what the Buddha was trying to do. Did he want to never incarnate in any body again, or did he want to get a stable “Buddha-level” body so he never had to come back to material existence? (The higher bodies are, by all accounts, MUCH MUCH nicer in terms of the feel.)

    Your questions have been answered by Sadhguru and other Dharma teachers I follow. Just this past week I posted a transcript of a talk he gave titled: Disembodied Beings: Downloading Exalted Beings. You should read it as it directly pertains to your questions.

    The short form of your answer is that the sports maxim (that’s where I first heard it): Use it or Lose it is in fact a maxim of the entire universe and it applies even to exalted beings. Exalted beings have very, very little karma left from which to build a body and Sadhguru says unless you specifically do right the kind of actions that give you a body the universe will not simply hand one over to you (“rudimentary” is how Sadhguru put these exalted beings have left – so rudimentary in fact that it is practically useless as a karmic armature from which to build a human body from – hence the 2nd best option – downloading them into a volunteer’s body). So the Theosophical Society’s goal to download a Grand Avatar for providing spiritual upliftment and guidance to the entire world was never going to work.

    So what do some people choose to do instead? Earn bodies. All different kind of bodies. This is where the tradition of Buddhism’s (and Hinduism’s for that matter) Nirmanakaya comes in. I had to cobble the explanation from tons of notes taken from many videos and books but here is what I posted below the transcript.

    Note 1: *[On avatars (divine-to-human descent), avadhoots (human-to-divine-ascent) and maha-avatars (grand divine-to-divine descent – or rarely – to human descent).

    From what I gather Madame Blavatsky and Co. were trying to bring down a Maha-Avatar (Grand Avatar) – an extremely exalted avatar such that even actual deities would be able to become disciples of this exalted being. According to Buddhist Sutras the future Buddha Maitreya will be one of these exalted avatars (though he’s not the only one in the universe) such that it’s prophesied 30,000 god-deities and 20,000 goddess-deities will also take Maha-Avatar Maitreya as their guru. A Maha Avatar is an Avatar’s Avatar if you get my meaning. FYI…the future Buddha Maitreya is not scheduled to appear for another 5.6 billion years and all of the current Buddha’s teachings – ie Shakyamuni Buddha – will have long,long,long been forgotten by humanity.]

    ….editing out notes that don’t pertain to the above questions….

    Note 2:

    ***(b)It (ie the transcript) also contextualizes the importance of Nirmanakaya – keeping a physical plane body “frame” so a higher Plane blessed being still has a way of reaching and guiding beings on the denser planes. As Sadhguru has said…unless you practice for having and keeping such a body you don’t just automatically get one. Mother Nature’s maxim: Use it or lose it seems to be a thing even for exalted beings. The beings who do this are known as Nirmanakayas in the Dharma traditions. A Nirmanakaya (like Gautama) keeps a subtle body copy of their physical body around from which they can build future physical bodies if needed.

    Sadhguru has a separate topic on Youtube about spacetime and Nirmanakayas where he mentions Shakyamuni specifically as an example. But he says there are many other such beings throughout the universe whom are also Nirmanakayas. From his other talk I got the impression doing practices to gain a Nirmanakaya body may involve Kalaswara – a (probably very elevated and likely very secret) branch of yogic practices that involve control of spacetime itself. One likely has to be proven over many multiple lifetimes of having upmost integrity and ethics even in the face of grave danger (or its opposite – extreme self-advantage – like Jesus was tempted with) to get such teachings.

    So short answer to your question about the Buddha himself – he most definitely has a subtle body “sewing pattern” or “clay armature” hanging around ready to rebuild a physical plane body should the occasion arise he’d need it. I’m guessing it’s because it involves Kalaswara – spacetime yogic practices – that’s likely why it’s said gaining a Nirmanakaya body is reserved for stupendously high level adepts.

    It’s accounted in Dharma traditions as far more difficult to attain than even attaining the Sambogakaya – the Reward Body of Infinite Bliss and Power. Probably because it has a wee bit to do with that whole manipulation of spacetime itself thing…

    And as I understand it Shakyamuni Buddha has made vows to reach out to dense plane beings like us for 42 Eons after this one is done (Big Bang/Big Crunch). So he has reasons for keeping physical plane armature around.

    There’s more I could add to this week’s essay but I figure the above is a good start. Definitely go read the transcript titled The Real Reason Eastern Yoga and Tantric Traditions Emphasize Knowledge of One’s Breath. Then go read the transcript titled Disembodied Beings – Downloading Exalted Beings – Ep. 6 (of 6). I think you’ll be surprised and delighted at what you find.


  19. Your Kittenship, er, I’m left-handed too!

    Kyle, I’m currently debating whether the next book on the list will be the Mystical Q. or Yeats’ A Vision. (I’ll get to both of them — it’s purely a matter of which one comes first.) As far as I know, all editions of the Mystical Q have the same text, so any edition will do.

    Youngelephant, I could get recursive and suggest you meditate on whether it’s a good theme to meditate on, but I’ll be kind and simply say yes.

    Kimberly, of course he was. Mind you, he was a devotee of the One-Hand Path…

    Jay, the unification is simply the next major project for us; after that, other things happen!

    Isaac, a useful metaphor. Thank you.

    Jenxyz, interesting. Thank you for the data points.

    Pedro, thank you, but the next book in line will either by Dion Fortune’s The Mystical Qabalah or W.B. Yeats’ A Vision. After that? We’ll see!

    Ian, many thanks for this. I’ll give him a read as circumstances permit.

    Justin, yep. The overprivileged classes who are chattering about a Great Reset may want to think again…

    RandomActs, you’re most welcome and thank you.

    Will J, I think you have indeed. Interesting!

  20. Adding my thanks here–this has been both fascinating and illuminating!

    One of the things that struck me was Fortune’s admonition to avoid hate at the very end. Do you think this is a) the beginning of the New Puritanism in re: hate, b) referring to hate not managed in one of the ways she recommends (letting it dissipate or using it as a thrust-block), or both? I could see either way.

    I like the idea of there always being some project to work on, even if there isn’t a grand point to things. Although I’m personally lazy up to a certain point, beyond that I get restless–it’s one of the reasons the idea of traditional Heaven never appealed to me (although I grant that a sufficiently large library, combined with cheese and baked goods, could keep me occupied for quite a while).

  21. Ha! I knew it, JMG! The sinister 😄, arch-Druidic, Freemasonic conspiracy stands exposed at last!

    I can’t remember the name of it, but Stanley Coren wrote a book about left handedness.

  22. Archdruid,

    Thank you for guiding us through this material. I think the biggest thing that caught my eye in this chapter is “leaving the field to the emptiness before the Cosmic Dawn.”

    Unfortunately, the longer meditation I’m doing is probably not going to be done, so I won’t be able to share it here before this comment cycle is over.



  23. The result of my evening meditation is answers to lots of things, but a very, very big question: if we’re rising up to the highest planes we can reach, that implies something else must be descending down to fill our places. Since the rising up as high as we can go is a massive issue in society, what could be descending to fill this gap? I know when my meditation prompts a question like this, I’m onto something big….

  24. Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth, has died at 91. I loved that book as a kid and still love it as an old lady.

  25. JMG,

    I’ll join others in thanking you for running the book club and for your commentary on CosDoc. I tried doing it on my own some time ago and gave up rather soon having no way of anchoring it to anything.

    Even with your commentary, I don’t think that I’ve even scratched the surface of it yet. I did adopt a few tidbits into my thinking vocabulary (tracks in space!) and I can occasionally sense a vague presence of some inceptive ideas coming from CosDoc. The main thing I’ve learned from it though is that there is still a lot of homework to be done before I attempt it next time. Working through the Mystical Quabalah would be a good start.

    Talking of which, you’ve mentioned it already that you have a shortlist of two books for the next book club reading. Without trying to sway you out of this list, I still want to vouch for a couple of titles that I hope could be covered through the book club some time in the future.

    First is Mabinogion. There were many requests for your commentaries on it (and I’m sure there are many more people who would welcome it even though they haven’t asked about it yet!). You’ve also mentioned that it looks that you might have to write a book on it… Well, running Mabinogion through this book club could be one way to get it going! :}

    Another one is Barddas. I tried to approach it by myself a few years ago and it left me even more puzzled than CosDoc. I’m not sure how many others would be interested in getting through it but I’d definitely welcome to see your commentary on Barddas in some shape or form if that’s even a remote possibility.

  26. JMG, thank you. This series has been excellent and has taken me through a far better second reading of the book than my first attempt.

    The separation vs unification theme has been played out throughout most history that I’ve read and it is obviously quite prevalent in western society right now with the woke vs non-woke and so on which hopefully will progress along the usual dialectic route to some form of unification soon: “To be separate is to be dead”.

    I love the last paragraph “Whoever expresses love…”

    Once again, a huge thank you.

  27. John,
    I’d like to congratulate you on what I’m sure will become the definitive companion book to the CD. Despite having not read a single word in the CD, as you know I want to complete the OBOD course first, you have managed to provide me with a comprehensive preliminary understanding of the book, a bit like an artist preparing a preliminary sketch for his students to work on, or a set of training wheels for a child learning to ride a bicycle! In doing so I dont consider that it will in any way compromise the individual masterpieces of wisdom and enlightenment that will follow for each student. I will be one of the first in the queue to buy the book.
    Regards Averagejoe

  28. Thanks for all your work.

    It is weird, but I’m currently studying the Evolution of a solar system, “training, not informing”, and all that talk about laws, subjects, revolutions, paths influenced in what circles they are passing by, … and I have the impression that she’s talking about complete different things. I suspect she’s mocking the royalty, and she’s talking about the state powers, all the people that works for them, their social classes, and the way they get promoted and lead their own departments, regardless of your social class of origin. At one point she’s also talking about spies, the secret service. Also, how to deal with the changes in the admistration. At least, that’s what some keywords hint at, when taken out of this fantasy framework.

    As I write this, I am remembering that what the images provide are patterns. So maybe I am just seeing one system where this pattern can be applied (although the words are so direct when taken out of context, that now it’s hard for me to look for other systems). Maybe in a second reading I will get more insights, but I think I have to let it sit for a while so it ripens. Your commentary about finding new stuff every time you read it again encourages me to wait for a second pass.

    Then, reading your commentaries on the CosDoc, it looks as if you were trying to extract the metaphysical aspect of the work, and lay it easy for your readers, except that you are an occultist yourself so I can’t discard the possibility that you are also purposedly talking covertly, even in these ‘helping commentaries”. (So you can mock Her majesty without Her knowing? Google will catch you one day, hehe).
    That would explain the insistence of using always the “nearest approximate metaphor”, and avoiding what it might actually mean in “objective non metaphoric ways”.

  29. Dear ex ArchD., should you ever compile into a book your series of “notes” on The Cosmic Doctrine, I’ll be first in line to purchase it. I’m glad I trusted your assertions on the importance of Fortune’s opus, and/but would NEVER have made it through the journey without your accompanying explanations. I did not pay equal attention throughout the 2 year-long process, skipped the occasional chapter (but not your notes), and absorbed but a fragment of the whole thang. And … it was still a priceless gateway into timeless purpose. If there was one book I’d love to have in physical, tactile form, it would be the one.

  30. “Jay, the unification is simply the next major project for us; after that, other things happen!”
    I’m sure there’s concession hidden in there somewhere. 😉 It all balances out in the end.
    Actually I wrote “Love Indeed” before ‘popping’ it into a search engine to see what came up. Turns out some guy called John said something along the lines I was grasping at: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”. My background is vaguely Christian but certainly not much more than cultural. Having said that some of my family over there in that there ‘States was entwined in The Course In Miracles for a while. There are parallels all over the place with that. Possibly the most intriguing is when the question of reincarnation is posed near the end of that book, and it refuses to take a definite stance on it. There’s just one responsibilty, so concentrate on that. Funny.

  31. The choice Fortune mentions comes after quite a bit of work along the path of initiation.

    This is Frodo at the Crack of Doom, hovering between casting the Ring into the fire, and claiming it for himself. I think the fact that he actually chose to claim it is Tolkien’s way of illustrating how difficult this choice is – even after everything he’d promised to do, after everything he’d been through (or perhaps because of everything he’d been through) at the critical moment Frodo couldn’t let the Ring go. It was only Gollum that allowed the quest to ultimately succeed. Gollum, as Frodo’s shadow, symbolizes Frodo’s need to face his weakness. Deep down he knew he was just a simple hobbit; that he had needed a lot of help just to get to this stage in the quest. If he had been more of a Boromir – a great warrior with a noble cause, it is likely that the story would have had a very different outcome.

    From the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

    This is a choice between the Personality and the Individuality. But a choice that is very difficult to understand when one is still on the side of the Personality! It seems wrong or impossible somehow to let go of the self that one knows so well. The Personality can seem powerful, compelling; like it has everything all figured out.

    From the Tao: “The forward way seems backward; the bright way seems dim.”

    Or as Fortune puts it: “But you, looking as in a mirror, call Right Left and Left Right.”

    Or more from the Bible: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

    I’m also reminded of the Path of Heh (‘window’) on the Tree of Life. The symbolism of this path suggests that the spiritual light flows down from the upper planes and passes through the individual self of the initiate, which acts as a channel for it. It does not originate in the individual self itself. And the Qliphoth of Chokmah, which is unchecked egotism and pride, which confounds and obscures the brilliant light of the spiritual plane.

    I think it’s key to remember this is a path of development, of change, of possibility to become something more than what one started out as. Each individual self has to come to terms with its weakness and suffering, accept it can’t do it all alone, and surrender that lower self to God. Then the waters of regeneration can flow in and wash away all suffering and solitude and evil, after which point other things are revealed.

  32. I always had problems with left-hand path as in being a left-hander. I had to self-teach myself to write cursive since I was the only left in the class. (I went to a four room school at the time.)

    I guess it is trying to circumvent bad vrs good or some other binary. Make it not so subjective. Personally, I had problems with binary in general. I see life as a multiple answer question.

    Is Fortune being binary in her saying choose left or right hand path or is there something else going on?

  33. @Lady CuteKitten: Same–it was one of the first ones my dad read to us (until I failed at delayed gratification and he failed at hiding things, and I read ahead to the end) and my parents quoted it in a resignation letter from one of their schools. Sounds like Juster had a great long life, and left a terrific legacy.

    @Stefania: Reminds me of the two non-Elfhame paths in Thomas the Rhymer:

    “O see ye not that narrow road,
    So thick beset with thorns and briers?
    That is the path of righteousness,
    Tho after it but few enquires.
    And see not ye that braid braid road,
    That lies across that lily leven?
    That is the path to wickedness,
    Tho some call it the road to heaven.”

  34. JMG,

    What a Journey! A top contender for the most difficult text I have challenged myself with in this lifetime.

    I see the impermanence of our world, and growing inter-plane perspectives as significant forces to consider in navigating the perceived changing roles of the hands of the paths. Perceiving certain human actions and beliefs from higher planes, and divining the broader causal relationships in time from these perspectives alter or confirm our decisions and attitudes perhaps as we go along. And I guess this process in one form or another is endless until we return. Though I have certainly only scratched the surface of this work.

    The modelling of the heavens as a kind of divine bureaucracy by other spiritual systems holds no candle comparitively. This experience has been most joyful and illuminating and your accompanying service to this piece is priceless.

    Many Thanks!

  35. @Ian

    Ian said:

    The only books in English I know of that spell it out clearly in one place are by William Bodri. “Meditation Case Studies”, “Nyasa Yoga” (largely how to properly use mantras to improve the subtle body) and “Buddha Yoga.”

    Good lord. I should’ve guessed it. A fellow Bodri reader. I assume you’ve also read his guru’s books? Master Nan Huai-Chin? I’ve always enjoyed Bodri’s works though to this day I still think his best works are his telephone-sized book How to Measure and Deepen Your Spiritual Realization. It’s available as a pdf. The other being Spiritual Paths and Their Meditation Techniques [ISBN: 978-1452869360] I think I have almost every book Bodri has written.

    There was a time when I listened only to Bodri or to his guru Master Nan Huai-Chin though I have expanded considerably since all those years ago. I pay close attention to JMG for example. His is an entirely new tradition with entirely unique explanations (to me anyway) for ascent up the planes. It’s solely due to JMG’s efforts that I’m finally learning about the Western Druid/Hermetic traditions. Were it not for him I would have never bothered with the Cosmic Doctrine at all. I now see it qualifies as something Tibetan’s would call a terma. A tantric text gifted to western traditions by one or more exalted beings to help guide us. He is right that this book is a very important gift granted to the Western/Druidic traditions by one or more exalted plane beings.

    Bodri insists he first met his guru through one of Master Nan’s yang shen emanation bodies in America while Master Nan’s true body-mind was still in China. I’ve seen enough strange stuff myself now that I no longer doubt Bodri on this at all. 4 completely different spiritual traditions validated Master Nan as an enlightened being.


    On the topic of books about bodies all 3 of those Bodri books are pretty good. I would also like to put forward the book Master Key to Self-Realization by Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj [ISBN: 0615236669]. The entire book is all about the bodies one attains up the planes – each more subtle than the prior one. In fact, Bodri recommends it and says he got a lot of his information from it to put in his Buddha Yoga book. Maharaj’s book is impressive in this regard. Dharma religions use a very different classification system than the Western one uses. But you may still find it useful.


    Oh…I did want to mention one thing. If you go the Bodri route you may end up with the impression, like I did for over a decade, that mantras, chanting and rituals are absolutely required for ascending up the planes. I have since found out that’s not true. It’s entirely possible to ascend without ever resorting even once to those methods. Kriya yoga is all about direct subtle-ization without ever using any of those methods. Sadhguru says it’s going through the front door to get to a main road while using mantras is like going through the back door. “Why use a back door when you can use the main one instead?” Hence why he says he hopes Isha will never become known as a mantra or ceremonial ritual lineage. [His guru directly charged him with the task of rescuing Agastyamuni’s true Hatha Yoga from the debasement it’s undergone around the world into fancy stretching exercise classes].

    My reply to him – which he no doubt knows to be true – is that not everyone is attracted to front door methods. Sometimes back doors can be delightfully fun. I’m not inclined toward rituals myself (I prefer primarily the kriya yoga route myself) though I have done mantras and name chanting – particularly when I thought they were absolute requirements to ascend up the planes.

    It’s interesting to see the difference between Master Nan and Sadhguru even though I believe both of them to be Siddhas. Reading Master Nan I got the impression he was all about using mind methods to get things done so I thought they were essential. Even Bodri has deviated from his guru’s advice a bit because Master Nan always said its unnecessary to “swish one’s chi to purify the meridians or to rotate one’s chi throughout the body” as Bodri’s latest books recommend doing. It was only upon discovery of people like Santosh Sachdeva, Om Swami, Sri Rohit Arya and Sadhguru that I found out mantra and rituals are only 2 methods among many to ascend. I’ve since come to believe that the best methods are the ones you’ll actually do daily. Hence why I enthusiastically advocate for JMGs methods even if I don’t religiously do them myself (well I do SOP but that’s about it and tentative steps into Discursive Meditation).

  36. Just adding my own thanks for this series of posts on the Cosmic Doctrine, every post was very illuminating. I didn’t read the book, but following along with this series helped me to understand much more about the DMH during my meditations.

  37. Isabel, exactly what she meant by that final bit of rhetoric is an interesting question, and I suspect she meant it to be ambiguous. Yes, it’s a good theme for meditation. 😉

    Your Kittenship, since my Masonic initiations include two different versions of the Royal Arch degree — one in the York Rite, one in the Scottish Rite — I suppose that makes me an arch-arch-arch-villain!

    Varun, the important thing is where the meditation leads you, and if it takes more than a month to unfold, that’s a very good sign.

    Will, well, on the largest scale, as we rise up the planes, other Divine Sparks are coming down the planes. The same principle applies at smaller scales: as one civilization etherealizes itself into collapse, another takes on material form for the first time; as one generation ages out, another rises to replace it; as one person dies, another is born; as one fad fades out another takes its place, and so on.

    Your Kittenship, good heavens. I had no idea he was still alive. I also found The Phantom Tollbooth delightful, and it probably bears some responsibility for my regrettable fondness for bad puns.

    Ganesh, duly noted. A commentary on the Mabinogion will have to wait until I’ve got a better reading knowledge of Middle Welsh; a commentary on Barddas — oof. It’s so vast and so inchoate that I’d have to figure out some kind of organizing principle in advance — and the work isn’t exactly congenial to such things, being simply a data dump of everything Iolo had heaped on his desk when he died.

    Stuart, you’re most welcome! My own first reading of the Cos.Doc. was pretty much a shambles, too, so it may partly be that coming to it a second time is easier — but the old tradition of writing commentaries to difficult texts also has something to say for itself.

    Averagejoe, glad to hear it. I’ve just forwarded the manuscript to a contact at the Society of the Inner Light, the magical order Dion Fortune founded, so they can look it over and make sure I didn’t garble anything too badly; as soon as I get the thumbs up from them, it goes straight to the publisher.

    Abraham, of course she’s talking about politics, and many other things as well. That’s the glory of a system of linked metaphors; you can apply them to anything, and if they’re good metaphors, they’ll show you unexpected ways to make sense of the subject. That’s why the I Ching can be interpreted as a handbook of military strategy and why the Bible was a major inspiration for alternative health care theories a century ago. As for me — well, if I were doing something with the text, would I talk about it? 😉

    Brazzart, you’re in luck. The contract’s already been signed, and once the manuscript has passed review by Dion Fortune’s magical order, it’ll be on its way into print.

    Jay, the thought of trying to do a detailed analysis of A Course in Miracles is rather daunting — one of the graces of the Cos.Doc. is that it’s short. No doubt, though, the Course is also intended to train the mind, not to inform it…

    Stefania, a fine metaphor for this body of metaphors!

    Neptunesdolphins, in her usual style, Fortune was taking a concept in common circulation in the occult community of her time and putting her own spin on it. Yes, there’s a binary in there, and yes, she’s avoiding talking about a third option, which she discussed in the previous chapter — the way of the Penumbra. I noted in my own meditations that what she calls the Left-Hand Path (going back up the route of evolution) and the way of the Penumbra (continuing the current line of evolution right out to the Ring-Pass-Not) form a very nice binary of their own, which is resolved by the way of the Right-Hand Path…

    Ian, you’re most welcome. Agreed — Fortune’s decision to discard social models of the spiritual realm (divine bureaucracies, divine feudalism, etc.) for a model based on astrophysics is extraordinarily useful and, to my mind, much more congenial.

    Panda, thanks for this! I think you’re right that the Cos.Doc. qualifies as a terma — and of course, like every proper terma , it requires careful study and much meditation.

    Jbucks, you’re most welcome and thank you.

  38. JMG, will you be taking down this series in the near future when it gets published as a book? If so, how long do we have? I’m happy to buy the book, but I’d like to reread a couple of the commentaries and collect the comments somewhere since there’s a lot of utility in them.

    Also, thanks to HappyPanda and Ian for the food for thought. It’s comforting to know that some Eastern theory overlaps with Cos.Doc.

  39. @isabelcooper – and IIRC, the Road to Elfhame wasn’t a road at all, but cut over hill and dale instead. Very apt!

  40. OT: Re: Dion Fortune – am rereading her four novels, and in Moon Magic, it seemed to me that Miss LeFay was getting a little megalomaniac there. “Will come to be worshiper as a goddess,” indeed! And since I didn’t need the introduction or the commentary to see that her character was Dion Fortune’s own Mary Sue* to some, I find myself wondering if she wrote it in full awareness of the personal trap it could have been for her?

    *For those not familiar with the term, “Mary Sue” came out of Star Trek fanfic – a leading character who is an idealized version of the author, who enters the story and saves the day and/or romances the cast member the author has a crush on. Most of those early fan writers were women, writing fiction for the first time, fanfic being like training wheels on a kid’s bike. “Gary Stu” was added as the boys joined the ranks. I note that some fanfic ended up published professionally and was rather good. I got my own start in Darkover fanfic, and noted that her character Camilla was Bradley’s Mary Sue character. End digression into the odd byways thereof.*

  41. Hello JMG,

    I had a strange feeling reading your post, and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with all of this.

    For the last few weeks I’ve been having a recuring dream, which, as far back in my life as I remember, it never happened before. This dream has different forms, but it always has me floating on water, looking at the long horizon of the sea (sometimes with other peole around), watching as an imense wave comes to swallow everything.

    I’ve been on the path for 7 years now, currently on the 3rd to 4th grade of the Dolmen Arch, and feel like something is stirring, something that makes me very happy that this is path supposed to be, most of the time, a slow walk.

    What to make of this?

    Thank you so much for starting me on this path!

  42. John–

    Re masonic initiations and arch^3-villany

    If you wouldn’t mind, what York Rite initiations did you obtain? There’s a local Royal Arch chapter here and a local Council not too far distant. I’m not really interested in the nearby Commandery (for which I wouldn’t qualify in any event). This is all a ways down the road for me yet, of course!

  43. Just chiming in to add my thanks for this discussion, it has opened new lines of exploration for me.

    I’m celebrating Johnny Appleseed day by baking apple cobbler. Blessings to all.

    “There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the Self. ~ C. G. Jung

  44. I’ll chime in with another sincere thank you to you, JMG, and to everyone who participated in the discussions that followed each post in this series. I’m kind of proud of myself that I managed to hang in there for three(!!!) years and finish reading the book. At one point I got far behind and was really struggling to get much meaning at all, but I put on a spurt and went back to the beginning, reading all the comments and replies after I reread each chapter, and eventually caught up to the monthly schedule. Whew!

    And I’ll be buying your commentary book – I know I have a lot more to get out of this text.

    I loved the image in this last chapter of the souls on the left hand path, I pictured hermit crabs scuttling across a vast pebbly shore, at long last running out of shells to inhabit. Just wondering, JMG, what do you think is the proportion of souls who end this way? From your commentary on this chapter, I got the impression that most souls take the path of evolution, while only a few take the right or left hand paths. I am still not understanding quite how one would end up on the left hand path, in terms of actual life choices – I mean, just being spiritually lazy and such, wouldn’t that just be a part of the evolutionary path? And I recall you saying, perhaps on MM, that you had betrayed some initiation secrets in a past life and had to do many more lifetimes as a result of the karma – but, well, you didn’t end up on the shore trying to find a shell, did you? So is it only if you wig out at the very last step?

  45. Youngelephant, nope. I haven’t taken down any of the blog posts that got turned into books, and it hasn’t hurt my sales noticeably.

    Patricia, Moon Magic was left unfinished when Fortune died, and much of it was written when she was sick with leukemia. Yes, it’s got problems, and it’s quite possible that she ran off the rails a little before she died. Yes, Vivian L. Morgan was Fortune’s Mary Sue, which is why I made that her alter ego in the Haliverse — there’s more about Ms. Morgan and the Fellowship of the Outer Darkness in the roleplaying game.

    Heliconia, hmm! Dream interpretation isn’t a gift I have at all; have you tried journaling about it?

    Bro. David BTL, I’ve received all the York Rite initiations, and presided over all three York Rite bodies. Of all the Masonic initiations, I have to say I like the York Rite ones best — though it’s a narrow win over the best of the Scottish Rite degrees.

    Goldenhawk, you’re most welcome and thank you!

    Helen, and you’re most welcome also. You’re quite right that the vast majority of people stay on the ordinary path of evolution; the two other paths are purely for people who take an active role in their own spiritual development. What gets you on the left hand path isn’t laziness, it’s an unwillingness to deal with the material world, and the attempt to use spirituality as an escape hatch from matter.

    Onething, (1) is the left hand path, (2) is the right hand path, and (3) is the way of the Penumbra we discussed last week — the attempt to abandon all limits and leap outside the Cosmos altogether.

  46. I can’t help but think that the tides of cosmic light and darkness have something to do with the waxing and waning of the effectiveness of magic that Vine Deloria recorded. Toward the end of the Day, with the forces of inertia having set all the forces into material forms, the hard limits of matter are all you have to work with. In theory then, as we’d enter the transition stage when “These [waters of darknesss] then, are percolating through the planes of mainfestation so that the seen will be interpenetrated by the unseen” magic should become stronger again, as the inertia is neutralized.

  47. JMG wrote:
    What gets you on the left hand path isn’t laziness, it’s an unwillingness to deal with the material world, and the attempt to use spirituality as an escape hatch from matter.

    Me: So now I am confused. I always thought of the left hand path as the manipulation of the material world. How does one use spirituality as an escape hatch? I keep thinking of monks, but they seem pretty stable. New Agers perhaps?

    For some reason, I am reading this as “renouncing the material world, and living only in the spiritual world.” Which I interpret the more radical forms of Christianity to be. Is that off the mark?

  48. The question of karma being a driving force of incarnation reminded me of something from remote viewing. As soon as you start learning you hear imagination is a threat to the CRV process. And it is – your imagination can totally run away with you. With this in mind I meditated before one session and got as close to a state of no-mind as I’ve ever been. The session was essentially 100% accurate, but there wasn’t much of it (2 pages compared to around 10 and once over 60) and it felt flat and insipid. From that I discovered that while imagination is a threat, it’s also fuel for the process. In the same way, becoming karma-free may seem like a desirable goal but you may not be happy with hte outcome.

    The music I heard to the last chapter was a fusion of a few things:

    1. The episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes 3D –, particularly the part with the temple and the fish.

    2. Two Enya songs that were in LA Story – ‘On Your Shore’ and ‘Exile’ If you don’t know the words I’d advise against looking them up – I think it sounds better if you don’t know. Also if you scroll down the comments of the second video, two posters plot out a film of The Silmarillion with this as the theme song.

    3. ‘My Weakness’ by Moby This song became famous from the X-Files episode ‘Closure’, where Mulder finally finds out what happened to his sister. Again, ignore the words if possible and just feel it.

    4. The music from episode 7 of McMafia when they arrive at the peace conference (filmed at the Royal Palace in Belgrade – that series had some beautiful architecture). The clip used to be online but unfortunately isn’t anymore.

  49. Hi JMG,

    Thanks so much for this series! I expect to be re-reading all of these posts of yours when the book is published for a long time to come. I found I couldn’t keep up with your pace here, even though I know you deliberately went slowly through this! I tried, but it really takes me a while to get a handle on one piece of the puzzle and start to make sense of the next. I have found that coming to understand what she means, and to think with it, causes the pieces of this book I grasp to blossom into something richer and the whole thing to be clearer. Also I have found the insights I’ve gained from it to be deeply useful, primarily in just the day to day way I focus my time and effort.

    I have found this more book to be more difficult to “get” than other philosophy I’ve read, but also to be much more applicable and useful. More than just a particular insight or set of questions about reality, this seems to be a highly usable tool and one that has become central to my thinking, even with my limited understanding of it. I will probably regret not being able to keep up better and to ask relevant questions at the time, but it is what it is!

    I wanted to say also that a friend of mine died of cancer last year and as it was difficult to see him due to his having a quite compromised immune system, and the realities of world currently, I wrote him a letter to say some of the things that this book and also a book on reincarnation that I read had me thinking about how life might work. Honestly I wasn’t sure that it was my place to say such things but my sense was that many people are terrified of death to such an extent that they couldn’t speak about it directly at all, I started to think this when my grandmother died a few years ago, and thinking seriously about my reactions and my family’s. I basically forced myself to go see her almost daily which turned out to be a wonderful experience, or at least to have really special moments amidst the difficulties of the situation, and for the first time have me able to accept it properly. At any rate I thought that a hard thing for him on top of everything else was that most likely very few people would just discuss the thing that was probably obvious to everyone involved, that he was dying, and that it was worth saying that there was a way of conceiving of life that could possibly make sense of this, even if it really upset me that this was happening to him and that I was going to lose him.

    I was actually really concerned I had made a mistake, because the whole thing made me quite nervous, and I felt it would have been such an awful time to have said something profoundly wrong, but when I broached the topic on his death bed he said he was unable to express what it meant to him which was why he hadn’t written back despite trying several times, that it went beyond something he could ever explain, but that he had deeply treasured it. He tried his best to try but what came out couldn’t be called words and we both cried and it was basically how we said goodbye to each other, as the next time I saw him he couldn’t speak at all and we just hugged each other.

    Anyway, I wanted to thank you for that also as I think had I not been thinking about this due considerably to your influence I might not have dared it.


  50. On the waxing and waning of the effectiveness of magic:

    I wonder whether there may be another, simpler explanation …

    So far as we know, the “four fundamental forces of nature” that modern physics studies–gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force, the weak force–always operate according to precise laws. These forces seem utterly to lack anything like free will or consciousness or sentience.

    What if the “force” that powers magic is a “horse of another color,” so to speak? What if it is conscious and sentient? What if it can actually choose whether or not to respond to a magician’s rituals and workings, and choose how strongly to respond?

    In n1486 the brash young occult philosopher, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, propounded 900 theses challenging the orthodox science of his day. Among them were a number of theses about magic and how it works.

    One of these theses on magic read, To work magic is nothing else than to marry the World (Magicam operari non est aliud quam maritari mundum.

    To marry implies that all parties to the marriage are sentient and have free will. To marry truly well also implies continuing courtship on all sides, both before marriage and forever afterwards.

    Have we magicians forgotten how to court the World, the Cosmos? Does our modern view of the World refuse to acknowledge its sentience and its free will? Might this not be why the effectiveness of magic has waned since the rise of modern science, with its emphasis on a mechanical universe, on quantities over qualities?

    If so, it’s no wonder that the World barely responds, or responds not at all, to our attempts at magic. We have not been courting the World so much as we have been trying to manipulate it. And I think the World has begun to notice …

  51. Neptunesdolphins, as I noted in the post, Dion Fortune has her own very idiosyncratic definition of “Left-Hand Path.” It doesn’t translate well to any of the other definitions! Yes, the New Age movement has a lot of people who are trying to use spirituality as an excuse for not dealing with the material world, and so do some corners of Christianity; these days, though, it’s as common in some corners of the Neopagan and occult scenes — think of all the people who use magic and Neopagan spirituality as an excuse for not dealing with their problems.

    Yorkshire, as I understand it, it’s impossible to become karma-free, because everything you do, or choose not to do, sets karma in motion. That’s why it’s a standard teaching in the occult traditions simply to work on clearing away your negative karma and building as much positive karma as you can, since this will make conditions in this and your future lives more conducive to spiritual practice.

    Johnny, many thanks for this. I’m delighted that the teachings in the Cos.Doc. were helpful to you and your friend in such a difficult time! More broadly, yes, the Cos.Doc. is hard going; the only reason I can talk about it with a certain limited amount of fluency is that I’ve worked my way through the ideas in it upwards of a dozen times, and I’ve also studied some of the texts that influenced Fortune. It definitely bears many rereadings.

    Robert, good heavens. I think you may be on to something very important. (Looks around for an English translation of Pico’s theses…)

  52. Isabel,

    That’s a great way of putting into words something which is very difficult to put into words!


    You said: “You’re quite right that the vast majority of people stay on the ordinary path of evolution; the two other paths are purely for people who take an active role in their own spiritual development. What gets you on the left hand path isn’t laziness; it’s an unwillingness to deal with the material world, and the attempt to use spirituality as an escape hatch from matter.”

    Aren’t both the left-hand path and the way of the penumbra tendencies that most people have at varying degrees of intensity and at various times in their lives? I’m talking about ‘regular’ people, who you might say are not initiates but just along for the ride of evolution.

    Is the left-hand path a reluctance or unwillingness to fully be embodied on the material plane – not accepting one’s sexual desire, or physical limitations, the unwillingness to face emotional problems – trying to withdraw from all of those aspects of existence and ‘not-be’? Is the way of the penumbra movement in the opposite direction – chasing after progress, space exploration, money, power – the creative force unchecked – trying to ‘be too much’?

    Aren’t those tendencies the two forces – Ring Cosmos and Ring Chaos; active and passive – that are locked together to form atoms? From Chapter 4: “There is therefore always a pair of forces concerned in the creation of the primal atom, and this fundamental duality extends into all combinations of which the atom is the base.”

    And isn’t the task of initiates on the right-hand path to bring those two tendencies or forces into balance, or unify them?

    While I find that here, at the end of all things, I’m still full of questions, I did want to say thank you for taking us on this long and complex journey. I may not have all the answers, but I do notice that since trying to interpret the CosDoc, my mind no longer balks at the mere sight of complex texts, which is a welcome change for me. The idea of ‘training the mind and not informing it,’ has proved to be quite accurate. I hope you were also able to deepen your understanding of the book through the process of teaching it to us!

  53. The newest Latin edition and English translation of Pico’s “900 Theses” is by Steven A. Farmer, which I have found available for download on the web in several places that do not require any user registration. Here is one link:

    The 26 Theses on Magic are on pp. 494-503. There are many more theses elsewhere inj the book which deal with esoteric teachings of various sorts.

    I have a PDF of the 1486 Latin text (the very rare first publication of the 900 Theses, hardly any copies of which have survived) also, which I shall upload to directly.

  54. Has anyone else found that they need to repeatedly go back to close to the start, because meditations on something later reveal that something earlier is more complex than it seemed, or was misunderstood entirely?

  55. @neptunesdolphins that confused me too, so I had to think: whenever Fortune talks about the left hand path, I always assume that somehow she’s being pointed about Crowley, who makes a cameo as Astley in The Winged Bull. Since he certainly didn’t take a monkish approach, or what I think of as the Neopagan brand of spiritual bypassing, I’ve been working in the other direction.

    Crowley abused his body in a lot of ways, and, if Astley is true to form, was slovenly and careless about his surroundings. The things of the world were simply a prop, meat, or mud for little boys to play in, to paraphrase a Fortune criticism of Freud .

    Or, when some Swedish woman decides to remake her body into a Barbie likeness with plastic surgery, she’s failing to cocreate – or as Robert brings up – marry – the world and instead use it as a dead thing (the remains of Love exhumed, to quote the Barenaked Ladies), who bludgeon it into an abstract idea of beauty that is only half baked because it doesn’t pay any attention to how real bodies actually are. Or any other countless examples of how we make things that Ron brought up two months ago when we discussed sacrifice.

  56. Stefania, that’s quite correct. All of us experience the lure of the Penumbra, and all of us experience the temptation of the Left-Hand Path; those can be used like the weights at the end of the poles that tightrope walkers use, to give us balance as we pass the initiation of the Nadir. As for learning experiences on my part, yes, very much so!

    Robert, either you were very fast or someone else got there first — just after I posted my response, I went to and downloaded the Latin original. Thanks for the link to Farmer’s book — it’ll help to be able to check my Latin.

    Will, good. That’s normal, and it shows that you’re paying attention.

  57. @Pixelated:

    I haven’t read The Winged Bull, so I didn’t know about the character named Astley. There was, however, a very important real-live occultist named Astley who was roughly contemporary with Crowley: he began his occult career as T. H. Dalton (or d’Alton), then became T. H. Burgoyne, and finally ended up as Norman Astley. He was one of the two founders of the famous H. B. of L. (Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor/Light), which competed with the Theosophical Society and the Golden Dawn in spreading occult knowledge; the H. B.of L. got its members started on doing actual magic much earlier along the path than either the Golden Dawn or Madame Blavatsky’s “Esoteric Section” of the Theosophical Society.

  58. JMG, I must have been pretty fast, since the copy I uploaded seems still to be the only one there.

  59. Oops! I see someone else put up a PDF of a later edition printed in 1532, which also contains a lengthy Apologia for the Theses. Maybe that’s the one you found. The original 1486 edition is there now also: “Pico, 900 Theses” should bring it up. It’s a thin booklet.

  60. JMG,

    I believe, but forgive me if I’m wrong, that I’ve seen you use the concept of the initiation of the Nadir in two different ways. 1) The developing of the physical body which could also be phrased as no longer needing to incarnate on the physical plane 2) The actual point at which one has descended most deeply into matter, which could also be phrased as realizing that one can’t take take any kind of ultimate satisfaction in matter. Maybe I’m just misunderstanding comments you’ve made previously, or maybe you’ve used the term in different ways deliberately? It seems like it’s perfectly valid to use the term Nadir to describe both situations, imo.

    Thanks in advance.

  61. Robert, I got the 1532 edition this afternoon. Thank you much for the 1486 edition, which I’ve just grabbed. I have neglected Pico, and need to remedy that.

    Youngelephant, it’s quite possible, not least because Fortune uses most of her terms in at least two different senses!

  62. Johnny at 53,

    As a person who is probably dying, I commend you. A person in this situation has the normal, protective bubble stripped away and death and all it entails becomes a primary focus as it should. It’s a different reality and those not in the situation naturally fear treading too close but I suspect that very few of us would be offended by such open and forthright discussion.

    I had some spiritually uplifting and encouraging things I wanted to convey to my dad but as things turned out, I didn’t have the chance which I bitterly regretted. (I imagine he figured them out though :- )

  63. “the process of coming into existence”
    I had to stop and repeat that a few times.
    That says it all. Really we can all stop reading and go home.
    You have synthesized the whole of the work into six words.
    Possibly the whole point of what’s commonly referred to as life.
    Thank you

  64. Hi JMG,

    Thanks for taking us all on this journey. The Cosmic Doctrine is very challenging, and it would have been completely impenetrable without your commentaries. Many thanks! I remember flipping through it three years ago and being completely mystified. I can’t say I really understand it very well now, despite all the meditations, but it certainly has put me in a different mode of thought.

    I had the chance to take a class on Dante’s Divine Comedy this winter, and Fortune’s metaphors work very well in that context. The tracks in space, the consciousness of all creation, the concentric spheres, the divine tides–they are all there, perhaps most especially in Purgatorio and Paradiso.

    In this last chapter of the Cosmic Doctrine, I was intrigued by the comments about parasitic types of existence. I have the millenium edition, and on p183, she says “…there are two types of bacterial disease – parasitic and saprophytic…This is an idea which could be elaborated but it will not be done now.” Did she ever elaborate on that theme in any of her other writings?

  65. I have enjoyed every posting thoroughly and look forward to the book you will publish. I will read this thing… again. I felt so drawn to it on my first reading. At this point, I have been able to process the work much more than before, thanks to your tremendous ability to explain the complicated, simply – and to your terrible whit :- )!!! But now, at least for now, this is kind of used up. It seems to have become too mechanistic and the “Lifegiver” seems greater now than ever, to me. Of course, I am the horriblest of a**holes anyway – so, that’s just me.

  66. JMG,

    First thank you for the chance to fallow along on the reading and your insights.

    Youngelephant et all:

    speaking of more Eastern teachings, this whole chapter and multiple meanings and reversals (“the right [hand] sends out into manifestation and the left beckons back again; but you, looking as in a mirror, call right, left, and left, right”) brings to mind “turning words” of Zen teachers designed to transform the mind of listeners by presenting them with multiple levels of meaning. (

    (I hope I didn’t butcher the concept – I am not Zen practitioner. For Western occultism, grappling with paradox, ambiguity of words and multiple meanings represented by one sentence appear to be great way to build up mental body.)


  67. I have wondered if the frantic busyness many people are forced into leaves them without the time or energy to engage in actual, useful work where you truly achieve something .

  68. Hi John Michael,

    Is there not a centre path? A binary option presented as either the right hand or the left hand path, somehow doesn’t match my worldview. Of course it could be me that is wrong in this matter, but there is the element of free-will to consider and the exercising of it which can influence ones journey.

    Whilst it is inordinately difficult to think your own thoughts consciously (or for very long) and thus avoid getting swept along by the currents, those same precious few conscious thoughts I believe, can set the course.



  69. Was contemplating how the cosmic doctrine related to recent politics.
    I see the Democrats and Republicans as a ring cosmos and a ring chaos, with the Democrats pursuing Progress as the ring cosmos And the Republicans being the thrust block/ring chaos. Trump signaled the collapse of the traditional Republicans and the Democrats thrust block, with the former Republicans being spun out into ring pass not (of Trumpism) (the collapse of the Republicans had started at least one other time with the teaparty but the establishment managed to recapture them, ditto with the Democrats and occupy wall street). The Democrats then spent 4-5 years trying to re-establish Trump as a caricature of the thrust block: racist, homophobic, war monger, etc, anything they could push against to get progress restarted. Also explains why they hate Trump as he is a existential threat to the Democrat-Republican ring cosmos.
    Without the traditional Republicans holding them in check, the Democrats will be spinning out of control to whatever their final form is, expending all of their energy like a hurricane that’s finally made land.

  70. Thank you, Robert. The real Astley seems to be the type of continental magician into legal fraud she rolled up into her Astley character, too.

  71. Lady Cutekitten (#73),

    I think that’s part of the point of it! Keep in mind that if you have time to accomplish something, you have time to think, and for a lot of people in the privileged classes right now, that is terrifying. Thinking would mean having to assess whether or not the life they are terrified of losing is a what they want. Since the answer is usually no, this is something they need to avoid.

  72. Travis, and you were ready to understand that. Thank you.

    Samurai, you’re most welcome. I still have trouble with some aspects of Fortune’s metaphor, so you’re not alone! As for her comments about disease, I’d have to look through her work to be sure, but I don’t think so.

    Coboarts, good. Now go on to something else, and return to the metaphor after a few years — that’s very often the best way to make use of it.

    Changeling, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Your Kittenship, that seems accurate to me.

    Chris, good. How would you define the center path? Where will it lead you?

    David, excellent! That strikes me as a good useful application of the metaphor. If you’re right, the Democrats will become more and more extreme (and more and more unhinged) as they zoom off toward the Penumbra.

  73. Dear JMG,

    I never caught up but I did plug-along behind you all and I am so glad I did. The CosDoc has made it to my list of “desert island” books. I look forward to continuing through the text and your posts that help clarify so much. Thanks too, to the commenters for sharing their insights.

  74. Greetings to all the intrepid explorers of the Cosmos,

    What an inititiation this has been! Infinite thanks are due to Dion Fortune and JMG, for this.

    On why magic works:

    Robert Mathiesen’s thought that magic works if and when it wants to, and that to work magic is to marry the world—these thoughts relate very closely to the Persian mystics of Islam (Henry Corbin’s translation of the works of Suhrawardi). In fact, it seems to me that a lot of what the Rhenish mystics and the renaissance mages said is straight from the Persian mystics of the 10th-14th centuries.

    According to the theosophers of the Ishraqi school, all human beings have a relationship with what they call “the Active Intelligence” – which they know as an Archangel, a sentient being with loving concern for those human beings, especially ones that demonstrate affinity with its sphere. Any human being has the potential, but not everyone chooses to develop it. One’s efforts to understand your life and the reality in which it unfolds involve this relationship with the Active Intelligence. An important part of this learning process is the recognition that physical reality is just the tip of the iceberg of existence; and learning to perceive non-material phenomena and think about them in symbolic terms, as one does in learning astrology or a system of divination–and reading CosDoc. As one develops in this direction, the relationship with the Angel can become what we would call “magical”—because it wants to!

    The thing that knocks me out is their explanation for E.S.P., what Corbin calls “supra-sensory perception”. According to the ishraqis, at some point in the unfolding of the relationship with the Active Intelligence, a person’s neurology gets sort of “re-wired” so that supra-sensory qualities that normally one can sense only very faintly and vaguely begin to register on the same part of your brain that normally processes sensory data coming in from your physical sensory organs. The philosophers call that part of your brain the “sensorium”. The result is that one may “see” supra-sensory phenomena that do not register on the physical organ of sight, but which register on your sensorium in exactly the same way that sensory data registers, so that one actually “sees” light, colors, or even more elaborate images—or “hears” words or sounds, and so on for the various senses. Then one has to learn to decipher these experiences as symbols of supra-sensory realities.

    Like having your neurology deal you a tarot card instead of the image of the physical thing in front of you—and you have to read it.

    They say that this faculty employs the same faculties that shape our dreams, and that our own fears, wishful thinking, etc., can skew it. But to the extent one is “clear” of such skew-factors, what comes in though the supra-sensory faculties is objective reality, just as objectively real as seeing the traffic light turn red.

    And since this is mostly a faculty of consciousness rather than a physical faculty, it would carry over into a future incarnation. This would explain how some children as born with synaesthesian, and the like.

    This really explains a lot of things, for me!

  75. Perhaps this has already been pointed out but reading this essay, and the others, i was struck by how the SoP ritual encapsulates Dion Fortune’s understanding and use of the three rings. The ring cosmos is the movement from top to bottom, the ring chaos is created from the horizontal movement at a right angle from right to left leading to the creation of the third ring, the ring pass not. Microcosm reenacting the microcosm.


  76. Hi John Michael,

    Unfortunately time is short this evening and there are only so many hours in the day. So, in order to answer your question thoroughly, may reveal some of my goals, but it also is very hard to respond directly to your question without sounding like a mystic. So here goes:

    The soul is led where the will goes.

    There, that is my take upon life, the Universe and everything. It is most certainly not my intention to critique Dion Fortune’s metaphor, but my worldview is different.

    To offer me two paths and expect me to follow along or fall, is just not in my (and here the English language is limited and I’m struggling to put words to this) but the word ‘purview’, suggests itself.

    There is also sacrifice and service, and the right hand path seems too concerned with the self for my tastes. There, a fine rant and I feel much better for having penned it. 🙂



  77. “Fortune’s decision to discard social models of the spiritual realm (divine bureaucracies, divine feudalism, etc.) for a model based on astrophysics is extraordinarily useful and, to my mind, much more congenial.”

    This is the most obvious thing in the world, but I somehow missed that that’s what Fortune is doing. Or rather, I missed that this is a way to describe what she is doing.

    The spiritual world isn’t a feudal system, a family, a divine bureaucracy– or a solar system. But any of these can be used as a metaphor for the spiritual realm, producing a model that, like all models, both obscures and reveals.

    What this suggests is that there is an endless number of possible models for the spiritual realm. Each model will obscure certain details of that vast realm while revealing others. To be stuck in a single model is to be blind to certain details of the Cosmos. To be able to shift between models allows for a much greater degree of versatility, in the same way that a traveler who can shift between a road map and a topographical map has access to more details in a landscape.

    But even better than being able to shift between models is the ability to come up with models of one’s own. Since the spiritual realm is unimaginably vast, anything can serve as a model for it which will reveal details that were otherwise obscure.

    I wonder if the Master Piece of any true initiate would be the production of just such a model, which would be a great teaching unique to themselves.

    In any case, I thought this, and the first thought I had was, “What would it be like if you modeled the spiritual realm as a forest, rather than a solar system?”

    The forest ecologies that I know in the most detail are those of the Pacific Northwest. If you took such a forest as a model of the spiritual realm– call it the Botanic Doctrine? the Sylvanic Doctrine?– what would it look like?

    I think:

    Creation would begin in an act of immense destruction, as a lightning bolt strikes an ancient, dead tree, shattering it to pieces and starting a fire which sweeps through the lansdscape, leaving charred ruin in its path. Where once was life on the surface of the earth, now there is only open soil– this is akin to, but different from, the Unmanifest. It is the living womb of potentiality from which all life emerges and to which all life returns.

    To the moderately educated mind, this immediately suggests the death of Ymir, Tiamat– or Einegen.

    And immediately, too, we have three terms or forces. The lightning, an active force which descends from above. The soil, a receptive force, wherein dwell the microorganisms, minerals and nutrients that make life on the surface possible. And the tree, symbol of the two forces in union.

    An entire theology can then be worked out from the process of succession, as first nitrogen-fixing invasives appear, then these give way to perennial shrubbery, and then to oak meadow. Finally, a mighty fir or cedar dominates the landscape, providing a home to countless creatures– but also locking up all the potential life into a fixed form. Then, after countless aeons, the lightning returns, the body of the tree is given back to the soil, and the cycle starts anew.

  78. …continuing my metaphor for just a moment, Rupert Sheldrake has, in talks that I’ll probably not be able to find again, presented evidence for causal links between the sun and lightning on Earth. This should probably be (in the metaphor) taken literally, so that the initial lightning flash can be called the son or emissary of the Sun. This is important as, after the initial destruction, the Sun will be the direct source of descending energy. Alternatively, the initial fire could simply be started by sunlight on a hot day– but the image of the lightning is much more powerful, and there is something important to be learned, I think, in the way that the lightning destroys, but then provides the energy of transformation that causes the new creation.

    Anything can be a metaphor for the spiritual realm. I’m thinking of a garden, a household, an ocean, a city, a coordinate grid. As I turn toward each one of them I feel like I’m looking at a deep well that draws me in and through which an enormous range of possibilities open up.

    And it’s also worth noting that, if we hold onto the microcosm reflecting the macrocosm, each one of these metaphors for the spiritual realm become metaphors for the soul. By thinking one of them through, we produce a theology, but we also produce a psychology, and reproduce the exercise that lead Plato to write the Republic. How cool!

  79. JMG, Thank you for guiding us through The Cosmic Doctrine. I must confess, I only caught glimpses of what you were trying to explain. The comments, too, often escaped me. But on the practical side (the “floating-with-the-tide” option), I try to direct my nuisance value to better ends: working to reduce my dependence on the industrial economy and my ecological footprint, trading with neighbours, tending a garden, engaging with my critter friends, thinking metaphorically… small steps toward a happier world. You rock, dude.

  80. Steve T (83 and 84), I like your metaphors. Where I am in the Midwest the final tree would be a mighty oak that would be taken down by a different force (blown down in a windstorm, most likely), but because the windstorm is powered by the Sun’s heat and its interaction with the Earth and its atmosphere, it is in the same class of metaphor.

    I’ll add my thanks to JMG for leading us through the Cos. Doc. by your commentaries, which made sense of Fortune’s highly metaphoric language. I too find the metaphors from it to apply in various ways. The tracks-in-space metaphor has particular resonance for me. Also thanks to all of you who have brought more insights to each chapter through your comments. Looking forward to the next book!

  81. @Robert M #54 – Intriguing. Maybe additional explanation comes from the nadir idea for our current large wave of humanity. It appears a counterpoint metaphoric ‘umbra’ goes with the nadir, and our current ‘concentrated’ physical phase is in effect ‘blocking’ the more subtle signals and connections needed for magical workings.The collective have influence and that adds to the challenge right now. All things pass – just a quick look at New Scientist this week was interesting to me:
    Looked up Carlo Rovelli and he’s a ‘relational’ Quantum Physicist – and he’s treating Everything as a network of relations. Wonder where that kind of thinking gets you? 🙂

  82. Temporaryreality, you’re welcome and thank you. The Cos.Doc. is well suited to a desert island — all that time to meditate… 😉

    KKA, fascinating. Many thanks for this.

    Tamanous, good. I’ve long suspected that John Gilbert had that in mind when he constructed that set of circulations.

    Chris, fair enough! Since the point of Fortune’s book is to get people to think, I see it’s doing its job well.

    Steve, yes, exactly — since our language is solely adapted to the material plane, all we can say about the spiritual realms is in metaphor, and being able to switch from one metaphor to another is a good way to avoid the rigidities of any one model. Your forest model works well — what are its limitations?

    Claus, thank you! It’s a difficult text — and if you’re doing the practical work, that matters at least as much if not considerably more.

  83. A poem inspired by themes developed here and my recent meditations, which include gazing into a crystal stone (Iceland spar, or optical calcite):

    The Lords of Flame and Form

    Pale laughing god
    of schiller blue,
    two distant lights, twin flames,
    between them stands a slender pole,
    the center without name.

    Two fires burn in the darkling wood
    a mist has gathered there;
    vague figures dance between the fires,
    the faerie folk? or air?

    The image shifts:
    two trees, now thicker, gnarled,
    their tops unseen, they grow so tall,
    I approach and bow.

    The fiery lights grow brighter,
    the left gleams purest gold,
    the right, refracted colors stream,
    the northern lights of old.

    “Whom dost thou serve?” I fondly ask
    and Wisdom’s answer forms:

    It is the soul, the Self divine
    that births itself in you.
    Her shining gifts must be expressed,
    Thy flame yearns but to burn.
    For love of this you cannot fail
    The lamp is burning still.

    Goldenhawk, in gratitude

  84. @Steve T. The forest model is comprehensible at a single glance, and makes excellent sense to me.

  85. hey, somebody said my favourite word: sacrifice!

    I thought, since sacrifice was moving a something up the planes, that it was something required on the right hand path; fundamental to it, in fact, given the centrality of sacrifice to Tipareth. So I have chewed on that a lot, and it makes me… slightly less vexed… but I’ve still god gristly word choices stuck between my teeth. Like “growth”, “foundational”, “destroy” and “capital”.

    I liked David Fleming’s Lean Logic years ago, so despite feeling sad trombone in general about Heinberg now, I read Capitalism the doomsday machine because of the Fleming shout out. And I realised that I hadn’t even connected the idea of Fleming’s Carnival to sacrifice before, as I don’t recall if he used the term (and can’t look it up since the book is back at the library), but as Heinberg points out “Here’s the crux of his insight: a healthy society preserves its foundational capital, but periodically destroys or depletes capital that might be used for growth.”

    So I thought, thinking of sacrifice as the willing destruction of growth capital fits well when you talk about sacrifices of livestock, extra parts of food, or even breeding age young people in your tribe.

    What does a person’s growth capital consist of? Does it work for a person cutting off finger joints to be a better hunter? Sure, he can’t do many other roles in the tribe with those hands, now- he won’t be also be a carver, fisher or musician. They’re dedicated instruments for pulling a bow now. But those are colourful and physical examples that Joseph Campbell would like ;-).

    For myself, something like how I spend my time capital works: do the dishes or play guitar? Read this agenda, or Cosmic Doctrine? Each choice sacrifices the other. But I can get out of having to make some of those choices…I could replace that broken dishwasher (I can also not sleep, or eat…).

    Heinberg goes on: “In small societies with simple social structure and rudimentary technology, growth is self-limiting over the shorter term, so these kinds of societies more reliably tend to destroy their growth capital. In big societies with complex social structures and technologies, the self-defeating results of growth take longer to show up, because resources can be imported from further away—so it’s easier for people in these societies to ignore eventual peril and push the accelerator pedal to the floor for the giddy immediate thrill that growth delivers”.

    Yes, that was what I grappled with… I can replace that dishwasher by destroying money capital I could use for food or mortgage instead, but that might be worth it for the value of the time ‘saved’. But, I would use lots of other people’s time, and gobs of metals, fossil fuels and other resources required to keep the infrastructure required to be a society that makes dishwashers. Your money or your time? Your time or your planet? (Notably, the Heinberg article will not go on to grapple with these questions).

    How can I tell whether I made a sacrifice on the right hand path, or a degradation, which can look like a sacrifice, of the left hand path? I mean, maybe I should be playing with my kids instead of doing their dishes, or reading to orphans over Zoom. If I was a surgeon, that time could save a life, or if I had fibromyalgia, maybe I couldn’t stand in front of the sink that long without serious pain. Also, just ask my mom and her friends about women backburning careers and washing dishes (Ruining Everything Feminism Fought For is just one of the many services us younger women offer – here’s my card so I can ruin your son’s masculinity). Maybe I am degrading all women spiritualizing oppressive drudgery we Left Behind.

    I turn to Fortune in her chapter on Geburah in The Mystical Qabalah, giving the example of a person sacrificing their emotions to their career. “If the cut is clean, and there is no repining, an immense amount of psychic energy is released for use in the chosen channel. But if the lesser desire is merely inhibited and denied expression and not really laid upon the altar of sacrifice as a deliberate free-will offering, the unfortunate victim has made the worst of both worlds.”

    I think it unfortunately depends a lot on exactly what meaning I ascribe to my act, what my motivations are, how carefully I weigh my needs over my wants and what I think is best for others now, and over time, and, to speak in the erudite phrasing of my 90’s youth – what I think, like, Time and Stuff is, like, for.

    I know my personal conditions and my values and I decide which of my resources to destroy and thus can stop thinking about it for now.

    Ultimately, I suspect that everyone in my society will be washing their own dishes in the less-distant-all-the-time future, no matter how Unfeminist that future is. If it is the way of evolution, I could avoid making the personal choice to do so now, and it doesn’t make a whit of difference to the outcome for the society and the planet, and why make the sacrifice. Or maybe I make things worse for everyone else faster by not giving jobs to dishwash builders and miners. In reality, with all these people, it doesn’t matter at all what individual choice I make at this point, except to me, and in this case I can always change my mind if new information arises, so it is not as stark as only two choices, forever.

  86. This uncharacteristically terse comment is just to say, thank you for the challenge and guidance you provided on this journey.

  87. Thanks JMG (and Onething),

    My friend was a person who I found quite admirable, besides just generally liking him, at about 30 he quit a promising career in a field he had always loved, even working with one of his childhood best friends in what would be a dream career to most people his age, in order to follow his own personal dream, which had been to open a business of a board game cafe which in turn became quite successful in our city. He was one of those people who seemed to live to a surprising degree in line with his own personal ethics, and talking to him over time I realized how much of what we might call “collapse readiness” in this circle, ie: he brewed his own beer, didn’t drive a car and just rode his bicycle everywhere, and started a business that didn’t require large amounts of energy and seemed to actually do some amount of good in that it encouraged people to socialize without huge energy wastes or television (etc), could just come from an entirely different source altogether – that of an intention to just do good in the world.

    I found it very hard to reconcile this with the series of bad luck that was doled out to him and his wife, his mother died a year before of roughly the same cancer, his business was destroyed by the pandemic (etc), and he died without people even being able to show him the way they normally would have how much they cared about him, as it just seemed incredibly senseless and it pushed against my feeling that there was a coherent order to things at all. It seemed to me after thinking about it in lines with the Cos Doc, etc, that possibly this very hardship was what he was here for, and that that was why he had almost effortlessly done all these other things that many people struggle with for quite some time before they try to do, if they ever reach that point, because essentially he had already perfected that aspect of his character, but this was the part he had left to perfect. That is what I came to believe was possible anyway, and would hope that something like that could be true.


  88. Appreciation. That’s all.

    A few of these concepts – mainly the entwining of two things to manifest something from a higher into a lower plane, and the unwinding of two twined things to release them from a lower to a higher plane are somehow finding their way into my clinical practice, even though I do not really understand them yet.

    I will be reading this again. And for sure, I would not have, without this book club.

  89. JMG–

    I don’t know, but I think the way to find out would be to follow the metaphor out to its conclusion and then compare it to other theological systems.

    I can tell you one thing, though– You often talk about how creating your own magical system without sufficient experience is a great way to heighten the imbalances in your own personality. Embarrassingly, in my first pass through the forest metaphor I’ve done exactly that.

    Why does the tree need to fall to a lightning strike? It’s flashy and powerful, and reveals much to meditation. But is it necessary? No. Trees can also fall gradually, shedding a branch here, a branch there, now the crown goes, and all the while the interior is slowly rotting away, feeding the soil as it does so. At last you’re left with a hollow snag, itself providing a nesting place for birds and shelter for mammals, and finally that crumbles.

    I have a tendency to hold on to things long past the time to let them go. Relationships, cities, jobs– I cling to them even when I shouldn’t, and it takes some sort of lightning strike to finally blast it loose.

    Now, the metaphor itself can be expanded to include this idea. By letting go of our branches and bark– that is, to material things– and turning and returning gradually toward the hidden life of the soil– that is, the spiritual world– we can ensure an easier transition through death to the next life, as well as an easier way through the cycles of endings and beginnings that we all live through in a single lifetime. To cling to outworn structures and refuse change and loss is to call the lightning. This is a helpful idea, and we can see it in other areas– the United States military and the Roman Catholic Church are two institutions which are calling or have already called the lightning.

    But it’s interesting to me and a confirmation of your point about homebrewed magical systems that my first thought was so imbalanced in this way.

  90. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks and there are occasional moments where I’d like to imagine that I’m having an original thought, but it is really hard to know for sure. The same is true for free will and I work very hard at flexing that chance, but even still the land here speaks and suggests potential outcomes which demand to be implemented. Are these ideas mine, or whispers of possibilities? I’m not really sure, but they are mostly good ideas, so off to work I go.

    I pinched a thought from you from many years ago, and it has been pestering me all the while that you’ve been guiding us through this most excellent work. And your thought (which I pinched) was that the universe looks like a messy place run by a collective (I’m paraphrasing your words here, but you get the gist).

    The world which Dion Fortune presented to us in the text is a little bit too neat for my tastes, and I can almost sense layers applied over layers in the world presented to us, but again I don’t mention that as a critique it just doesn’t sit well with me. Dunno, it is probably me and I appreciate you taking us through this world.



  91. @JMG and Commentariate

    Something I feel the Cos. Doc has touches heavily on is human behavior, and consequences of human behavior. In my work I observe that there is a prevelance of what I might call three step thinking. An example of this : If I intervene in a child’s behavior, the child will respond in a predictable way, then the child’s behavior will improve over time, or will not depending on the efficacy of the intervention I used. The first step is the intervention, the second is the expected response and the third is the prediction based on the expectation. I may consult a professional text or ‘expert’ following this if the intervention fails that explains why my prediction failed; a proposed fourth step from someone who has collected data. That seems to be the basic process in my field for determining intervention, albeit simplified.

    The Cos. Doc encourages the mind to develop an understanding of human behavior that I cannot yet adequately explain. I will try and funnel my mind into this different way of thinking over time. I am writing now and looking to develop more as a writer. On that note I have an inkling that well studied analysis on the principles of the Cos. Doc might lead a researcher to form completely undiscovered theories regarding interventions in behavior that could be applied at least on paper.

  92. As I get older, I guess, I start to see that everywhere I look, from here to there, there are the same patterns repeating. Swirls, vortexes, spheres, waves, pattern of electricity through air, etc…
    From the simplest forms to the most complex.
    The cosmic doctrine put in in words for me. Maybe it tangible.

    That said.

    Sports as amusing analogy to the metaphor of the rings.
    Home team would be the good guys, or the positive, or the ring cosmos.
    Visiting team bad guys, negative, ring chaos.
    The game and its rules itself as well as the court or field, the ring pass not.


    Home team positive side of ring cosmos and away team negative. Ring chaos would be the time clock counting down to the death or end of game.
    Ring pass not being the same parameters as above.

    Then of course all the individuals involved, all themselves and every atom in them being ring cosmos as well, repeated seemingly endlessly up, down, inside, and out, onward and so forth…

  93. @Steve
    I think the power in The Cosmic Doctrine is that although a lot of ‘interchangeable’ metaphor is involved, there are elements of spatial thinking that are beyond metaphor. This is certainly one of the reasons I’ve sat up and paid attention to it. There is confirmed (scientifically backed) simplicity and, dare I say it, beauty in the lines, circles and spheres that comes across loud and clear through this creation. Personally, I find that aspect difficult to reimagine. I’d say if there’s an element in her description that’s overtly missing it would be the harmonic or musical element. It’s kind of suggested, but very subtle.

  94. Earlier comments got me thinking about what I remember about The Phantom Tollbooth, and what an unusual fantasy story it is in some respects. Milo’s transformation doesn’t come from the usual lessons about courage or trust or self-reliance or appreciating family. He tours the kingdoms of words and numbers, but isn’t taught grammar or arithmetic. Instead, it’s all about learning to think clearly, to establish balances within an otherwise dismal inner world of un-virtuous extremes (such as, complete silence or senseless noise). Toward the end he overcomes a series of perilous tests by such means as rejecting automatic conformity in favor of ideas, having a sense of humor, testing others’ claims for himself, and accounting for the actual costs of choices. And the end result of all this, in the final paragraph, is that he’s learned to appreciate the world around him.

    Obviously, this is at least in large part a metaphor for ordinary maturation. But the framing, including the familiar fantasy trope of only a short time having passed in the real world during the adventure, gives it some of the character of an initiatory experience as well, albeit an atypical and pun-filled one. Is it overstating (and/or trying too hard to be on topic) to say the Tollbooth diverts Milo from the way of the Penumbra, onto the Right-Hand Path?

  95. John Michael wrote, “What gets you on the left hand path isn’t laziness, it’s an unwillingness to deal with the material world, and the attempt to use spirituality as an escape hatch from matter.”

    Interesting. So, might it be that what then gets you on the Penumbral path, hurtling out of existence, is an unwillingness to deal with the spiritual world, attempting to use materiality as an escape hatch from further incarnation? That would rather neatly explain why those two disintegrating options lead in opposite directions.

    I realize that black magic is one of the more traditional ways to unwittingly slip onto the Penumbral path. I guess I see black magic, with its fixation on personal gain and obsession with diverting the natural flow to itself, as denying any true spiritual side to magic (making of it a lifeless tool) and refusing to go with the natural flow. Well, doesn’t that just sum it up? By refusing to go with the natural flow, black magic is very likely to eventually hurl its user into oblivion. Whether one is trying to put the brakes on the flow to reverse it, or whether one is trying to rev up the flow to break through any limits to endless progress, dissolution will be the eventual result.

    Whichever path to dissolution gets chosen, it’s the unwillingness to deal with (to contemplate) some uncomfortable aspect of reality that ultimately leads to disintegration. Turning away from being willing to contemplate (like a newborn) everything the mind perceives, inflicting an inflexible unwillingness to contemplate distressing thoughts upon the the larger self, is an incredibly destructive act. We all pass through that dark trial — it’s called growing up. Ideally, we all then reclaim those lost freedoms to contemplate whatever we damn well please — it’s called growing wise.

    Whatever this right-think, cancel culture is trying to inflict is truly destructive, and equally truly doomed. They’re fighting against the flow and, at some point, will be quite unexpectedly swept away by it. They’re one “Have you no sense of decency, Sir, at long last?” away from their own irrelevancy. It’s odd that our purity cultists are pretending both the moral (spiritual) superiority of the Left-Hand path, elevated above any mere material concerns (such as razing businesses to the ground), as well as the empirical (material) superiority of the Penumbral path, denying any non-quantifiable spiritual concerns (such as the rapidly deteriorating mood of a discontented populace.)

    Those two deeply incompatible positions are both supposed to be conveyed now by the single label “Progressive”. Look out, that is way too much for one little term to hope to contain — this baby’s gonna blow! The polarized inconsistencies our purity cultists are trying to somehow resolve in those two destructive ideological stances is going to blow their smug, posturing little egos sky high. Oh, this is going to be so very ghastly!

  96. Johnny wrote, “At any rate I thought that a hard thing for him on top of everything else was that most likely very few people would just discuss the thing that was probably obvious to everyone involved, that he was dying, and that it was worth saying that there was a way of conceiving of life that could possibly make sense of this, even if it really upset me that this was happening to him and that I was going to lose him.”

    What a beautiful gift to give to someone before they depart from this culture so obsessed with fear and denial of death. How many have been left to make that transition with no tools except our culture’s fear and denial to guide them through the crossing? Your courage in sharing your thoughts, hopes and dreams about death and your appreciation of its greater purpose in our lives is a gift that will surely affect your friend in all his subsequent incarnations.

    Perhaps, when your paths cross again in one of your future lives (you two sound a lot like the kind of connected souls that keep meeting across many lifetimes,) he will be able to return the favor and offer you a similarly needed gift. Sometimes, rarely, karma works out that directly. If anyone has earned that kind of cosmic reciprocity, you have by helping his soul to willingly release.

  97. KKA wrote, “They say that this faculty employs the same faculties that shape our dreams, and that our own fears, wishful thinking, etc., can skew it. But to the extent one is “clear” of such skew-factors, what comes in though the supra-sensory faculties is objective reality, just as objectively real as seeing the traffic light turn red. And since this is mostly a faculty of consciousness rather than a physical faculty, it would carry over into a future incarnation.”

    From what you’ve described, it sounds like the Persian mystics were very perceptive. The Active Intelligence, Archangel, guardian spirit, or what have you does have a vested interest in those souls it has projected itself into. It is always communicating with them, but, alas, we tend to be awfully poor listeners. The fact that its messages come through the creative, image-making part of the self, makes it terribly easy for the mind to mistake them for its own ponderings or delusions (that’s part of being poor listeners.)

    Supra-sensory images do employ the same faculty that shapes our dreams, but not the same faculty that actually makes our dreams. The feeling part of the self makes dreams out of the various moods that need to be balanced while the mind is asleep. The feeling part doesn’t need to sleep because it finds balancing the moods while the mind sleeps to be utterly relaxing. What exhausts the feeling part is chasing the mind around when the bloody thing is awake throwing everything into imbalance again. That’s a big part of the mind’s job, throwing everything into chaos like a raging toddler, so the other parts of the self can learn better and better how to restore balance every time the little monster goes down for a nap. Gotta love ’em!

    Those mood balancings come with no images (as we conceive of them) until the image-making part of the self invents them for the mind to be able to contemplate as what we call a dream. Thus, it is the same faculty that gives the shapes to our dreams that also supplies the supra-sensory images corresponding to what our body can easily experience yet the mind needs sensory images to become aware of and to contemplate. Given that the Active Intelligence’s messages come through that same faculty, opportunities for confusion and misunderstanding abound. Was that a daydream, a supra-sensory experience, a message from above, or a creative synthesis by the image maker itself?

    Of course, the mind just loves to jump in and declare any one of those as its own delusional creation or to dismiss it as its own wishful thinking — hence, why the other parts find it so rebalancing and refreshing when the mind goes to sleep. Yes, eight hours of sleep is a very good idea unless you have achieved an exceptional level of inner balance. Then there’s always the actual delusions, obsessive fears, and wishful thinking that the mind can engage in and potentially mistake for an authentic offering from the image-making part of the self. Did I mention that the Persian mystics were on to something?

    Where they appear to be a bit off is in assuming that these awarenesses and talents of consciousness carry over into future incarnations. The awareness and talent is learned by the mind, and the mind dissipates back into the energy of creation at the end of each lifetime (at least until the last one when real balance is finally achieved.) Once these talents have been attained in a lifetime, they are certainly more likely to be stumbled upon again in future incarnations because the enduring parts of the self have learned how to better balance with a mind and to clue it in to the whole complexity it is a part of. But each lifetime gets a brand new mind, so there is no guarantee of achieving the same talents.

    Some minds are naturally perceptive; some are dull; some are resistant; some are cooperative; and some are like trying to tame a wild bronco. Karma also has the disconcerting tendency to land us in the polar opposite of our last incarnation to keep us on our toes. So, one’s skill at balancing the self carries over from one lifetime to the next, but the particular talents of the next mind are much harder to predict. The Active Intelligences made the game complex enough to be truly challenging, and risky enough that we could fail by choosing the Penumbral path of oblivion. I think they wanted to make sure we wouldn’t get bored while playing. Not much likelihood of that!

  98. Happy Panda,

    I strongly suspect the reason that Bodri now suggests different methods is that he found the very pure consciousness only methods don’t work for most westerners. The key is, as he said in one of his earlier books, that “true yin gives rise to true yang.” If you stop grasping sense objects, the chi rises furiously, but it’s very hard to truly “not do” and most people never achieve it. I’ve only managed the full effect twice myself, though minor effects I can usually bring up.

    The various Kundalini Yoga (which includes Kriya) methods work, but they have terrible side effects if they go wrong and if you don’t have a master watching you who can correct those problems, then they can be dangerous.

    So the mantras and “swishing” are a compromise. I’m not sure they’re a great compromise, for reasons Bodri addresses directly: you’re calling on spirits for help, and a lot of them are absolute scum (voice of experience here, this is not theoretical knowledge.) Even when they do help, a lot of them like to play very unpleasant games.

    There is also the issue, which Bodri addresses, that the consciousness only schools don’t tend to talk about chi and body development, and so people who don’t manage to “not grasp” enough to get the chi rise, can spend their entire lives meditating and get nowhere in terms of the body attainments. If it doesn’t work, practitioners don’t even know it isn’t working, though, of course, there are some lovely non-body accomplishments you can get. But those won’t break your cycle of reincarnations.

    Didn’t come back to this till late, so you may not see it.

    Bodri was not a great writer early on, in my opinion, but he’s become good now, though still with a tendency to go on a bit too much. Definitely of the “tell them the same thing over and over and over and over again and maybe they’ll get it” school.

    Also, his later books are a lot more explicit about the downsides. I really wish someone had told me that mantras are meant to summon spirits, and that spirits are often abusive assholes before I had already found out the very very hard way.

  99. As an aside, and perhaps just slightly off topic, JMGs book on the cabala was very helpful to me. A lot of my issues seem to come from going straight up to Hod and skipping Yesod, for example (hey, I had a life full of suffering, not by conscious choice, so…) and thus not developing the etheric body properly. It’s been fascinating to me to see what things different traditions are good for or explain more or less clearly.

    For a time Bodri sold tapes with his master’s explaining Western alchemical symbology in terms of an enlightenment path: apparently Nan looked at the symbolism and just found it obvious. There are real differences, but there’s also often a lot of similarities between paths.

    Nan was one of the last masters to get a true classical Chinese Taoist/Buddhist training regime before the Communists destroyed most of it. A lot of spiritual regimes prefer ignorance and denigrate scholarship and intellectuals, but the Chinese tradition generally liked scholarship: do the work and think on it. Very similar to much of Western occultism in that regard. And, of course, Taoism had a very significant alchemical tradition of its own.

  100. Thank you for completing this series of posts, John.

    It’s interesting to read the part on how ideas come into manifestation as concepts, since that reminded me of the work of a scientist I’ve told you about earlier, Ted Goranson, and it’s kinda similar to his theories in one way or another. Basically, he’s working on technology that can model both cognitive knowledge and unknowns, based mostly on Situation Theory from what I gather, which he relates to the Tree of Life (specifically, the Middle Pillar sephirot as the “situation” centers) and the pivotal role of hieroglyphs and the written word within that context. Don’t miss checking his work, it’s scientists like him that we need the most at these times.


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