Book Club Post

The Cosmic Doctrine: The Law of the Seven Deaths

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

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

Assigned Reading:

Revised Edition:  Chapter 26, “The Law of the Seven Deaths,” pp. 119-123.

Millennium Edition: Chapter 27, “The Law of the Seven Deaths,” pp. 160-166.


In the chapters of The Cosmic Doctrine we’ve studied over the last few months, Dion Fortune has passed on an extraordinary body of practical occult instruction—more of that relatively rare commodity, as noted earlier, than you’ll find in many entire books on magic. In this chapter she goes even further into the deep places of occult philosophy and practice.  The last two chapters covered the work of the involutionary path, the process by which each of us descended into the world of matter, which is also the process by which each of us began our current incarnation, and the process by which any of us can learn to wield magical powers.  The material she covered in those chapters is essential to understand how we got here and how we can work with the world that surrounds us. The material in this chapter is even more crucial, because it deals with where we go from here—and how.

It’s worth taking a moment in this context to recall the scheme of spiritual evolution Fortune has sketched out for us in previous chapters.  Each of us began as a Cosmic atom, born of tangential movements in the Central Sun, where the twelve Rays intersect and set vortices spinning, and then drifted out to whichever Cosmic plane corresponded to our basic structure. Each of us was caught up and swept along in the movement of the Great Organism who became our Solar Logos as it moved out to the seventh Cosmic plane, and became part of the great cloud of Cosmic atoms surrounding the Logos in the early days of the solar system. Each of us, caught up in the rhythms of the Solar Logos, became a three-part organism—a Cosmic atom, a seed-atom created by the movements of the Cosmic atom, and a Divine Spark that reflected the Logoidal influence.

In that threefold form, each of us swirled around the Logos for long ages while the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind brought the worlds into being. Each of us then began our own long pilgrimage down the planes, existing in the dream state of subjective consciousness, evolving on each plane the capacity to build a body of that plane, conditioned on each plane by the rhythms of the Planetary Spirit active on that plane, and guided by the Lords of Mind.  Each of us descended all the way to the lowest plane of the solar system, the plane of dense and etheric matter, and worked our way through a long series of incarnations on that plane.  Each of us finally awakened to objective consciousness and took our first steps on the long road back up the planes to the throne of the Logos—and here we are.

The Seven Deaths are the seven steps that lead to the way of ascent.  Let’s take them, as Fortune does, one at a time.

The First Death has already been discussed in these commentaries at great length.  Take two forces in motion and bring them together so that they intersect, and a vortex is born, which absorbs the movement of both and spins in place.  The moving forces die to themselves, and a stable pattern in space is born. Everything enduring in the Cosmos, from the three great Rings to the least grain of dust in our solar system, comes into being by some form of that process.  Notice the core principle here:  the death of one thing is the birth of another.

The Second Death has also been explored in various ways in these pages. (Please note that this isn’t the “Second Death” talked about in writings about the afterlife.) In the First Death, the moving forces and the vortex exist on the same plane.  In the Second, there’s a change of planes.  Two forces come together on one plane, and the vortex they create comes into being on the next plane down. This is death from the perspective of the higher plane—two forces die—and birth from the perspective of the lower plane—a vortex is born.

Your birth into this life happened that way:  a soul ready to descend into matter and the energies set in motion by an act of reproductive sex flowed together and formed a vortex, which brought your body into being.  From the perspective of the higher planes, as Fortune discusses further on, you died and were buried in a body.  From the perspective of the lowest plane, the one you experience with your ordinary senses, you were born. Yet the same equation can work the other way around.  The vortex can and, indeed, must finally unravel and release the forces that created it.  From the perspective of the lowest plane, each of us will die; from the perspective of the higher planes, each of us will be born out of matter.  Your birth was an example of the Second Death.  Your death, the death of your present body, is an example of the Third.

The Third Death is death as we usually mean that term.  Each soul alternates between periods of being alive (in the conventional, material sense of that word) and being dead (also in the usual material sense of that word).  As Fortune points out—and she’s in line with a great deal of Western esoteric tradition in doing so—we gather up experiences in what we call life, and absorb and benefit from those experiences in what we call death.  In Fortune’s precise if amusing bovine metaphor, “we graze in the fields of Earth, and lie down to chew the cud in the fields of Heaven.”  We plunge into the maelstrom of life, to borrow a different metaphor from a Marvel cartoon character, and then rest on the shores of death to catch our breath and make sense of what we’ve experienced.

Does this imply that death is nothing to be afraid of?  That’s exactly what it implies. The prophetic religions of the last two and a half millennia or so have a lot to answer for, but one of their most disastrous missteps was the effort so many of them put into making the thought of death as terrifying as possible, in an attempt to scare people into being good. Of course it didn’t work, and it turned the normal, natural, healthy process of ripening toward death into a nightmare for countless millions of people. Nor have the materialists and atheists who came after them improved matters any by insisting, in the teeth of considerable evidence, that when you die, you stop existing. A considerable share of the follies and brutalities of the modern world are caused by the inability of so many people to think of death as anything but the worst outcome they can imagine.

Fortune’s advice here is excellent. Spend some time, not just once but regularly, imagining yourself leaving your physical body at death, and still existing. Read books on occult teachings about the afterlife—Fortune’s own short book Through the Gates of Death is a good place to start—and use those as a guide to reflection.  Imagine yourself between lives, a conscious being still embodied in some of the subtle bodies you presently have, interacting with other dead people and with spiritual beings who have never had material bodies, or outgrew them ages ago. Get used to the idea of being dead, so that you no longer fear it.  The prophetic religions made death terrifying by convincing people to imagine themselves frying in Hell; the same work of the imagination can be turned around and used in reverse. Get comfortable with the reality of death and you’ll find it much easier to live fully and joyously.

What makes this easier than it might be is that we all undergo an experience very closely related to death at regular intervals—for most of us, every night.  Yes, that would be sleep, which is the Fourth Death.  Sleep is far more important, and far more complex, than the conventional wisdom would have you believe. When you sleep, your Individuality—the real you, the you that existed before your mother and father were born—detaches itself from its masks and bodies to the extent that it is able. Those Individualities that still have a lot of work ahead of them on the human level rise only to the astral planes, the planes of desire, and contemplate in subjective consciousness the images of human desires.  That is appropriate for them, since they need to pass through the experiences generated by those desires

Those that have gone further may rise to the mental planes and contemplate abstract ideas. This is the source of those dreams that offer answers to problems, provide guidance in life, and now and then foresee the future.  Genuinely creative people, those who don’t simply recycle the contents of an existing stock of tropes but develop their own language of images and ideas, gather the material for their work in dreams that are consciously forgotten but subconsciously recalled. Finally, those who are in the process of outgrowing the human level of existence rise to the spiritual planes and waken to objective consciousness on those planes.  The personality usually does not remember such awakenings but the Individuality does, and it can make adjustments in itself and its current personality to correct its course.

The same differentiation according to evolutionary levels happens after death. Souls that have completed only a small part of their journey on the human level spend most of their time between lives on the astral planes.  In some cases all their time is spent there, and the newborn child ends up with substantial traces of the personality of the last life. Most often, though, and more and more often as the soul gains experience, it rises through the planes to whichever sub-plane was the highest it reached in life.  This is where the Fifth Death happens. The soul awakens into objective consciousness, recognizes itself as the Individuality, and knows its personality as one of its expressions rather than its true self. The Christian language (“beholding the face of the Father”) which Fortune uses here may or may not appeal to you; if it doesn’t, try to see through it to what it symbolizes.

(One of my teachers, many years ago, liked to suggest that we are like people who were stuffed into gorilla suits in early childhood, so early we don’t remember it. The suits are very cleverly made; they stretched with you as you grew, allow you to eat and drink and excrete and move and do all the other activities of life—but you’re still stuck in a gorilla suit. Then one day, by chance, you notice a little glint of metal down low on your belly, and on examination discover that it’s a zipper pull.  You pull it open, and discover two things. The first is that a lot of what you thought was true about yourself is only true of the gorilla suit.  The second is that you can take the gorilla suit off, look at yourself in a mirror, and say, “So this is what I actually am.” The gorilla suit is your personality, the person under the gorilla suit is your Individuality, and the process of taking off the gorilla suit is a fair metaphor for what happens in the Fifth Death.)

At the end of this section of the chapter, Fortune includes a comment that really doesn’t communicate much unless you know a once-famous comment by Helena Blavatsky:  “What you desire, that you become.”  I imagine the old Russian mystic saying that with a cold little twinkle in her eye, because she’s quite correct—just not in any sense her listeners were likely to understand. Fortune’s comment is thus meant to help her students avoid making smoking craters of their lives.  If you desire power, you will indeed obtain vanity; vanity, in turn, will slam you face first into one miserable experience after another; eventually, as a result, you will learn strength, foresight, and wisdom—and thus gain power. Blavatsky and Fortune are both right; your desires will give you the results of what you have permitted yourself to desire, and those results eventually will give you your desire. It’s just that the road there may not be to your liking. Be careful about what you let yourself desire!

Trance, the Sixth Death, used to be a great deal more important in occultism than it is today. What Fortune calls “normal psychism’—the use of the trained imagination (“picture consciousness” in her terms) as a replacement for trance states—has long since become standard, as its dangers are considerably less. Fortune summarizes the dangers neatly here. When you enter trance, the subplane of being with which you are in contact will depend precisely on your own inner state, and the risk of being drawn into negative magic by unfulfilled desires is not small. There are ways to avoid this, and the specific measures she gives here are among them; if you happen to have a talent for trance states and choose to develop that talent, Fortune’s advice is good.  Otherwise, you’re better off working with ordinary imagination, where your conscious mind remains in control of the situation and it’s easier to keep the passions in check.

The Seventh Death, finally, is illumination, the state that Eastern spiritual practices call enlightenment. In this experience the Individuality awakens to full objective consciousness while the physical body is still alive and wide awake.  The personality is seen for what it is, a temporary mask that the real you uses to interact with the physical plane and the other beings incarnated there, and the Individuality can experience the reality of all the planes at once.  It’s an overwhelming experience, even when it happens only for an instant—which is usually the way things work out at first.  To exist in this state permanently is to step beyond the human level of existence while still in a human body.

Fortune uses a neat play on words here to communicate the total reversal of perspectives that happens when illumination arrives or, on a smaller scale, when consciousness begins to glimpse the reality of the Individuality through the mask of the personality.  “A living death”—back in the day, that was a convenient shorthand for a life so miserable and restricted that it was, in the imaginations of those using the phrase, indistinguishable from death.  Look at death from another perspective—the perspective the Fortune offers in this chapter—and the concept proceeds to stand on its head. To be dead is to be free of the limitations of matter and capable of rising up into consciousness of the Individuality.  To pass through illumination is to achieve that state while still incarnate in a physical body.  The quote from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings cited in last month’s commentary is a good description of the result.

To become an initiate in the full, rich sense of the word—the sense that Fortune is using here—is “to live at once in both worlds,” to dwell simultaneously on the physical plane and the inner planes, to be in full possession of the powers of a spiritual being while still in full possession of a physical body and all its functions. This is not an easy state to attain. In one of her other books Fortune mentions that it takes a minimum of three lifetimes devoted to occult study and practice to achieve that condition—and it takes enormous perseverance and discipline to accomplish all the necessary work in just three lifetimes!  Keep in mind, however, that this is the ultimate goal of the Path; there are plenty of worthwhile achievements to accomplish on the way there, and even the first steps have their benefits.

Notes for Study:

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

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

Questions and comments can also be posted here for discussion. (I’d like to ask that only questions and comments relevant to The Cosmic Doctrine be posted here, to help keep things on topic.) We’ll go on to the next piece of the text on November 11, 2020.  Until then, have at it!


  1. This might be a stupid question, I’m not reading the Cosmic Doctrine (yet) and so perhaps I missed this, but why does the cosmos want us to be wise rather than vain? Thinking about it for a second, and reflecting on my experiences so far with the SOP, it appears perhaps that strength, wisdom and foresight come about through the ability to see oneself in context, that wisdom comes from seeing one’s place in the cosmos, and this is a type of power, in the sense of having clear vision and inner unity. So if each individuality has to go back upwards through the planes, then this is why we need that sight to be able to do so. I’m sure that this perspective I’ve outlined is limited, being as I am only on the first stages of the path.

  2. I liked the practicality of Through the Gates of Death. Like the reason for putting flowers and candles around the body. The etheric body has been cut off from the metabolism that was its energy source, and until it dissipates, it’s going to be hungry. Those things provide energy so it doesn’t drain some hapless passer-by.

    What would you consider the ideal death and funeral to make for the best afterlife and next incarnation? What circumstances or actions can cause the most problems there?

    There’s a movement called ‘death positivity’ that’s trying to bring back some sanity into the attitude to death. One of the main organisations is called the Order of the Good Death: For those who can tolerate video, this channel is awesome: A lot of the people in death positvity seem to be atheist, so there are predictable gaps there, but they nail the cultural, psychological, and practical aspects.

  3. JMG, I used the wrong word in my puzzlement about your strange graphics. The right word is “grawlix.” “Gravlix” has to do with salmon.

  4. So if a person were entering the spiritual plane at night they probably wouldn’t remember..would they remember entering the mental plane? Can mental plane dreams still have the presence of regular dream imagery? Basically highly meaningful, regular in visuals dreams?

    Tibetan Buddhists talk about a state called the “Clear Light Mind” where one exists as field of awareness in the form of light blue, sometimes whiteish light. I want to map this to the spiritual plane..would you agree?

    What if one has dreams/night time experiences of all the planes? Including dreams of fulfilling unconscious desires? What would that say about the spiritual state of someone?

    Feel free to tell me to shut up and meditate on any of these questions 🙂

  5. Oh – And I experienced another out of body tension dissolving while reading this. This time I felt it mostly in the left interior of my head, but some of it felt a decent ways off. Not as far off as the first one. Thoughts?

  6. John–

    How does one not make a smoking crater of one’s life? It would seem that most forms of desire would lead one down a path similar to the one you described. Power, security, knowledge…what goals are appropriate for an occultist to pursue?

  7. The Church has been talking about the importance of a good death for 2,020 years, give or take. Glad to see more people taking up the idea of a good death in the U.S. Since we know we have to die, we might as well try to make the process as beneficial as possible.

  8. Jbucks, the cosmos couldn’t care less whether we are vain or wise. If we’re vain, it watches with perfect indifference as we plow into one self-inflicted disaster after another; if we’re wise, it’s just as indifferent to our successes. Strength, wisdom, and foresight happen to be the qualities that bring success, and failing over and over again due to a lack of such qualities is a good way to figure out eventually that those are what we need to cultivate.

    Yorkshire, the best approach would involve keeping the body intact and not pumped full of embalming fluid for three days after death, and then cremating it, and returning the ashes to nature as promptly as possible — Hunter S. Thompson’s decision to have his ashes shot out of a cannon was a trifle melodramatic, but the principle is a good one. (Scattering them in a green place is just as good.) That way you have ample time for the etheric body to complete its separation from the physical, and then you reduce the physical body to its elemental components so there’s no risk of getting stuck due to an etheric connection. A saint or sage can handle having physical relics preserved, and there’s good reason to do that, but for the rest of us, complete physical dissolution helps. The big problems come when (a) the soul clings to the corpse, or (b) the family preserve the body and then pour all kinds of clingy emotions at it, or (c) death takes place in the midst of emotional trauma and the soul is unable to go on.

    Your Kittenship, so noted! Yes, the “┘∩╗♣♫!!!” was a grawlix; it was an attempt, using the limited palette of Word symbols, to imitate the alien grawlixes in the cartoon you linked to. Sorry for the unintended obscurity.

    Youngelephant, all of us range up and down the planes in sleep — or our Individualities do. Which planes we remember depends entirely on (a) what planes the personality can function on, and (b) whether the personality has begun to establish (or, rather, recognize) a link between itself and the Individuality. As for the Tibetan Buddhist concept, I’d have to know a lot more about it to judge.

    David BTL, power’s particularly troublesome that way. Wisdom’s generally pretty safe, by contrast, since if you desire wisdom you have to start out by realizing you haven’t earned it yet, while most people who desire power think they deserve it.

    Your Kittenship, true enough. Most religions and many of the older philosophies recognize that preparing for a good death is important!

  9. Sometime last year, I had a dream about the usual mall/school that is a common trope for many dreamers. In the dream, my husband and I found a detour into a forest. There was a sunlit grove with a circle of old men standing in it. The old men welcomed us. They were very kind and friendly. My husband proceeded to do a bunch of parlor tricks. Since this was a dream, he was able to shoot rainbows and sparkles from his fingers. I stared reciting the Druid Prayer “Grant us, O Holy Ones…” They smiled and closed in around me and took me somewhere. I don’t remember the rest of it.

  10. I have some quwstions: Where does lucid dreaming fit in the scheme of the Seven Deaths? It happened to me somewhat more often than usual lately.And did I correctly understand that the soul ascends from the lower to the higher planes during the afterlife, so that the higher astral plane follows the lower astral plane, and so on? This was the way Dion Fortune described it in The Gates of Death”.

  11. I have been studying Kabbalah and have read the Cosmic Doctrine twice. The second time around things seem a bit more clear. I find myself taken off of my path numerous times, but when I come back I feel more peace than before. Is there ever going to be a time on this earth in this lifetime that I stay on my path? How can I contemplate and reflect upon this…

  12. Dear John (OK, that just does not sound appropriate!),

    Regarding the “Fourth Death” of sleep, I have a number of times experienced during sleep a phenomenon of which I have never heard nor read, and I wondered if and how these experiences of mine might relate to the sleep-related travel to the various existential planes mentioned by Dion Fortune.

    Very occasionally, I have had extremely vivid ‘dreams’ in which I seem to be somebody other than the person I am in the waking world, and during these dreams I have often experienced emotions, usually very strong emotions, which I have NEVER experienced even once in my (waking) life. These dreams (if that is what they truly are) are immediately recognizable to me as being different on some fundamental level from ordinary dreams — they are not an obvious rehashing of the previous day’s events, nor contain any of the surreality of ordinary dreams, nor do they seem to be any sort of manifestation of any current personal spiritual or emotional conflict or upheaval. In a few of them, in fact, I have felt a deeply profound sense of peace and contentment that I do not think I have ever felt in life. In a handful of others, I have felt sheer terror, or a crushing sense of dismay, that again I have never (knowingly) felt in “the real world”. But within each “dream”, I am obviously somebody other than the person whom I know as “I” while awake. Some of these dreams were so vivid that I can recall them decades later (I am the same age as you).

    Do you have any possible insight into these experiences? I apologize if this question is somewhat off-topic.

    On a side-note, do you think that the psychosis that inevitably accompanies prolonged sleep deprivation is simply a manifestation of physical/physiological stresses and imbalances, or perhaps partly (or mostly, or entirely?) a product of psychic and spiritual stresses and imbalances instead?

  13. Caitlin Johnstone – Rogue Journalist must be on your wavelength, JMG. Her current poem posted on her website is… “Buddha in a Gorilla Suit”…. Hmmmm…

  14. Cranky McSpitefulpants reporting for duty, Sir!

    I was looking forward to this to see if I’d got the fifth and Third deaths mapped right, but I did not – the fifth death is not what happens to each person who dies. It sounds like a person would have to have already experienced the seventh death in life before being able to experience the fifth death after uh… Death? The third death, rather. Or is the fifth death another conscious state a person can experience in life – passing the Veil rather than the Abyss?

    @youngelephant I wouldn’t be surprised if you felt a real ‘out there’ thing. Yesterday was Mars opposition, and I was bracing to see if that would affect me, but it didn’t make anything go boom in the lives of all the people around me, causing me much mopping, like September Tuesday’s did. Several of kids at the preschool had really bad nights, apparently, but we had also just had a long weekend, so ambiguous data point.

    But today I finally pulled the plug on a terrible egregor that was gutting me, after going to the beach to sit and mope for a bit.

    (If you desire to lend your strength you have earned, to help those who are weak, in a society where weakness has been cultivated, prepare to have a bad time. You’ll discover you were actually cruel, and the real kindness will be to let them earn it the way you did, otherwise you’ll be bound together as slaves to each other).

    I had lifted my head from my hands to greet a man walking his dog so as not to look like a drunk at ten am, and he told me the Buffleheads arrive tomorrow. They come at the same day every year, almost to the exact hour. He said they come because at this time, a vortex in the earth magnetic energy field forms and they just… Fall into it (everyone else says it’s because they count 298 days from when they left). So he said, buck up Councillor (oh crap, didn’t know he recognized me): if you’re feeling the Void sucking you in today, it’s just a bunch of ducks coming, haha.

    Maybe the voids form all over this time of year to pull apart the vortices that were ready to go. And this year there are a lot of them.

  15. John—

    Re goals, desire, and the dangers thereof

    I suppose something worth bearing in mind (for my own benefit) is that we will never, in this plane, achieve anything remotely close to power or wisdom or knowledge in any absolute sense. More like pre-schoolers (if even that) who seek status or fame on the playground…

  16. “Get comfortable with the reality of death and you’ll find it much easier to live fully and joyously.”

    Thank you for this. The notion of “a good death” has been on my mind lately. Having been intimately involved with two not-so-good deaths this past year, and as All Hallows Eve draws close, it seems a good topic for meditation and further study. I can confirm that familiarity with death can lend a certain depth and poignancy to life. I like the idea of imagining myself talking to spirits in the afterlife to come.

    Regarding Blavatsky: “What you desire, that you become.” This strikes me as the distorted basis for those cults that sprang up around the Jane Roberts “Seth” material, the Hicks “Law of Attraction” phenomenon, etc.

  17. “Does this imply that death is nothing to be afraid of? That’s exactly what it implies. The prophetic religions of the last two and a half millennia or so have a lot to answer for, but one of their most disastrous missteps was the effort so many of them put into making the thought of death as terrifying as possible, in an attempt to scare people into being good. Of course it didn’t work, and it turned the normal, natural, healthy process of ripening toward death into a nightmare for countless millions of people. Nor have the materialists and atheists who came after them improved matters any by insisting, in the teeth of considerable evidence, that when you die, you stop existing. A considerable share of the follies and brutalities of the modern world are caused by the inability of so many people to think of death as anything but the worst outcome they can imagine.”

    This paragraph strikes close to home, and dovetails with some issues that have become central to my life lately.

    To put the matter as bluntly as I possibly can, it is simply the fact that some people are better off dead, and that many of us would be better off if some people were willing to die.

    This is a very difficult thing to say. I don’t know if, even as I say it, I agree with it. Gandalf’s admonishment not to be too eager to deal out death and judgment comes forcefully to mind. Gandalf was created or channeled by Tolkien, the Catholic, and I am mostly in agreement with the Church on what are called right to life issues. (As with much else, they take an idea that is mostly right, most of the time and turn it bad by insisting that it is always right, all of the time. But that’s a different story.)

    But consider the following examples.

    Six years ago a family member died at a young age. She was only 20 years old, and it was a terrible tragedy. Or was it? You see, two years prior to her death, she had suffered a devastating injury. While her body recovered, her mind never did, and she went from being a highly intelligent, kind and loving girl to a near-vegetable, unable to speak except in incoherent laughs and gurgles, in terrible pain, unable to move on her own, kept alive by constant medical intervention. If her death was a tragedy, the tragedy occurred two years prior to the death of her body, and– this is unbearable even to write, but it is true– her life would have been vastly improved by allowing it to end when the time had come.

    Three years ago, a friend of mine’s mother died at the age of one hundred and four. She spent the last 5 years of her life– if you can call it that– in a hospice whose sole purpose seems to have been to drain money from my friend. He went from being financially well off to a state of severe poverty in that time. During the last days of her life, he went to see her– her hospice was in another state– and I happened to spend the night in his bedroom. His apartment was a sunny, pleasant place, and I was surprised by how cold and dark his room felt. I chalked it up to a lack of dusting and went to sleep. That night I was troubled by nightmares in which I was being harassed and berated by a vicious old woman. I woke up in horrible pain, a type of pain I have only ever experienced in “sleep paralysis” spirit attacks. I was so appalled that the next day I attempted a ritual of exorcism in his room, using the LBRP and Rose Cross. The old woman died the next day.

    In both of these cases, the person was kept alive by sheer willpower. In the case of the girl, it wasn’t her will, but her mother’s– and the day that her mother finally spent a single night out of town and away from her, she finally died. In the second case, it was the woman herself, who was apparently terrified of death and renowned throughout her long life for her strong will. Either that, or she had actually died long before, and a malign entity had stepped in to make use of her personality. In any event, when death finally came, it came as a blessing. In both cases.

    Another case. An 85 year old woman of my acquaintance was never the world’s most pleasant person (as any waitress who had the misfortune to serve her could tell you), but over the course of the last year she has turned into a horrific parody of herself. A Kennedy Democrat of the old style, she came down with a severe case of TDS in 2016, which at this point has metastasized into CNN-induced psychosis. I mean that literally. She spends every waking hour glued to the TV, CNN always on. She talks of little besides Trump and Coronavirus, and becomes nastier by the day. Her eldest daughter lives at home with her, and her life has been turned into a waking nightmare. The home is a fortress, which no one can enter. Apparently the windows can’t even be opened for long, because Covid is Out There.

    I am not saying that, in this case, the world would be better off if the woman in question died. In this case, Gandalf’s admonition applies. But I am saying that I am looking on with utter horror, and more than a little disgust. The two important lessons for me are these: First, the catastrophe of the last year is entirely self-induced, and entirely rooted in our rejection of death. The entire world would be better off if we were willing to accept the fact that, yes, even smart people like us, with Twitter accounts and iPhones, have to die when our time comes round. Second, I absolutely refuse to face old age and death this way. I want to age with as much grace and serenity as I can, and to face death with courage and with gratitude for the life I have been given.

  18. JMG, you mentioned a while ago, when discussing reincarnation, that “things move from lesser to greater complexity, but they don’t move towards a final goal”, however, surely, the idea of involution/evolution outlined in the Cosmic Doctrine suggests otherwise? The universe (or our spherical ‘corner’ of it) ever slowly becoming conscious of itself as the great interconnected whole it ever is. Of course there’s plenty to experience within the Great Play, so much so that it’s a d*** sight more interesting to the Unmanifest than just being Unmanifest, but levelling up is ultimately the fate of the inquisitive mind, n’est-ce pas?

  19. I have a theory that we have a diving and rising pattern through the planes as we sleep. Let’s say I go to bed at midnight. My initial foray is into the lower astral plane, and I bounce between this and waking/nearly waking (descent into the material plane) for an hour or two. Around four or five a.m., I am traveling more through the mid-astral plane with brief dips into the lower astral. The deepest part of sleep around 8 – 9am before I wake up brings me to the higher astral with brief dips into the mid-astral. That dream I mentioned upthread happened right before I woke up from a decent night’s sleep.

    If I don’t get enough sleep — and most humans do not get enough sleep — my consciousness becomes stuck in the embattled lower astral where I spend most of my dream time. This might serve to explain how mystics are somehow able to transcend the need for 7 – 9 solid hours a night. My guess is they don’t need the normal human’s amount of sleep because they effectively spend much of their waking hours in the upper astral.

  20. JMG-

    I am curious about the second and third death in this schema. You write “Your birth into this life happened that way: a soul ready to descend into matter and the energies set in motion by an act of reproductive sex flowed together and formed a vortex, which brought your body into being.”

    Except in my case (and many others I’m sure) I was artificially implanted, I suspect no one knows for sure since this is a relatively new thing, but do you have any opinions on what implications this difference might make, if any at all?

  21. Thanks for this essay. As I was reading it, this really vibed with me. I don’t know what other word I should use to describe the electrical / magnetic tingles that you get when reading something that resonates. “The death of one thing is the birth of another.” Amazing.

  22. Hi JMG,

    There are a couple of passages in this chapter where Fortune refers to the dream state as one of wish fulfillment. My understanding is that this was one of Freud’s ideas, and it was something that Jung took issue with. I’m curious if Fortune studied Freud, if you happen to know.

  23. Some thoughts on this:

    You have said before that, at least currently, there appears to be about a ~30 year interval between incarnations. It strikes me that this, as a ratio to the average human lifetime, is almost identical to the ratio between sleeping and waking hours. Is there something to that, or am I seeing a connection where none exists.

    Also, I suspect that most of my dreams are probably on the mental level, because (1) they seldom seem to have to do anything with physical desires or fears, (2) I can clearly interpret things like words and numbers in them, and (3) I have on one recent occasion actually been a fictional character of my creation in a dream, and (4) if I can remember them at all, they’re generally pretty vivid. Am I accurate in this perception or am I barking up the wrong apple tree?

  24. Also, thank you very much for the gorilla suit story. I had a lot of trouble with the middle part of the 5th Death section. It made a reasonable amount of sense until “with the waking of desire come again the dreams and with the dreams the recall into matter”. Can you help me parse this out?

    The man has put his personality into a wider context as just one expression of the Individuality, has recognized the limitations of the lesser love, and he is then born into the plane of the individuality. Why do the desires wake up and drag him back into matter? Is the idea here that a human being can only withdraw from desires incrementally, and the experience of illumination/enlightenment are only possible in small doses at first?

  25. In autobiography of a Yogi, there is a student much loved by Sri Yuketsar who disregards his advice and spends 30 days gambling, whoring and so on. Yuketsar, weeping,kicks him out. “I can no longer teach him, now the world will have to be his teacher.”

    Anything you really want, you will get (in Yogananda’s metaphor “God gives you everything you desire.”)

    Properly understood, this is scary as h*** and my own experience is that it is frighteningly true. At the very least I suggest asking for gentleness and/or kindness and to not say things like “the fastest possible path.” In the same way, be careful asking for what you deserve.

    (All by way of saying I find the parallels to the traditions I understand rather remarkable.)

  26. Brendhelm,

    a Hindu sage I know said that the standard Hindu pattern is almost 200 years between incarnations. When he investigated Tibet (where in his opinion, some things had gone really wrong) one reason he fingered is the immediate reincarnation pattern among lamas: no rest between lives (and often more than one incarnation at the same time.) He felt it caused certain types of insanity and abusive personalities (I do not have any way to check this work and offer it “as is.”)

  27. Your Kittenship, “grawlixes” ought to be alien beings who speak solely in punctuation…

    Kimberly, you’ll remember when it’s time.

    Booklover, lucid dreaming is one of the more useful forms of the fourth death; it shows that you’re beginning to achieve continuity of consciousness outside the material plane. Yes, Fortune’s understanding of the order of planes is mine as well.

    April, maybe your path is more winding and complex than you think it is!

    Alan, dreams are complex, and a lot of very strange things happen in them. I’ve also had dreams when I was for all intents and purposes somebody else. Beyond that, I’m not sure what to say. As for the consequences of sleep deprivation, somebody would have to do some experimentation to find out.

    Danaone, funny. Thanks for this

    Pixelated, no, the fifth death does happen at least briefly to everyone who dies. Yes, the fifth death can be experienced in life.

    David, exactly. All we can do is gain such power or wisdom or knowledge as is appropriate to our level of consciousness, which is pretty modest.

    Goldenhawk, exactly. They bought into the simpleminded version of Blavatsky’s dictum, and failed to sense the catch…

    Steve, for what it’s worth, I agree with you. It’s one thing to save somebody’s life by quick and effective interventions that solve a problem that can be fixed, and entirely another to force someone to stay alive in misery and pain through constant medical interventions. The terror of death that seems to have seized control of Catholic moral theology in recent years is impossible to justify if you actually believe in an afterlife!

    Jay, but there’s no final goal. Sure, you can level up; there are six planes above this one, and other modes of growth and transformation beyond that — but it doesn’t involve a specific stopping place to which we’re all destined. Furthermore, it’s quite possible to refuse to level up. We’ll get to that in an upcoming chapter.

    Kimberly, that makes a great deal of sense, and fits the pattern Fortune among others sketches out.

    Anonymous, it would take some serious clairvoyant investigation to see what effect that would have, and as far as I know the investigation hasn’t been done yet.

    Dennis, pay attention to that. It’s a sign of the inner senses waking up.

    Samurai, Fortune was trained as a Freudian lay therapist, though she later studied Jungian psychology on her own.

    Brendhelm, I wish it was 30 years! A lot of people these days come back into incarnation after only a few years out, and that’s why there’s so much oversplash of subconscious memory. As for your dreams, since they’re vivid and not connected to physical desires, they’re in what Fortune calls the upper astral. The mental planes are abstract — you don’t get images there, you get meanings and relationships.

    Samurai, that’s exactly what it means. The Individuality can only wake up very briefly at first, and once it slips back into subjective consciousness it dreams another personality into being, full of the next set of desires that need to be experienced, understood, and resolved into understandings.

    Ian, exactly. There’s a bit in one of Manly P. Hall’s books that imagines the gods setting out a banquet of all conceivable things before the human soul and saying, “Whatever you want, take it…and pay for it.”

  28. Ian, what you wrote about Tibetan lamas, reminded me of the consequences of sleep deprivation, i. e. dream deprivation. It is an interesting parallel.

  29. Hi Samurai 47,

    Wish fulfillment my [unDruidly word]. I never did get to finish that book I dreamed up, which I really wanted to finish. It was well-written, at least the English translation was, and very interesting.

    Dion Fortune was a psychoanalyst (Freud was big back then) and if I remember right she thought you should go through psychoanalysis before taking up sorcery. What I don’t remember is why, but I bet JMG remembers.

  30. JMG, *chortle*. I can see it now.

    FASTLEFT: All right, let’s negotiate. Since everyone wants the same thing, peace and prosperity, this should be very simple.

    GRAWLIX: @&()&!?,!!!?

    FASTLEFT: Uh, well, I am not sure the other faction would [passing serf drops heavy pewter dish on his finger] Oh, #*#{*€?!!!!

    GRAWLIX: Done!

    And everyone lives happily ever after. That’s even easier than visualizing whirled peas. I don’t know why our world leaders don’t negotiate this way. All you need is a heavy object and a serf who works for Deus Ex Machina Airlines, and everybody’s golden. Even Kim Bad Hair couldn’t screw things up if International negotiations were conducted in Grawlish, although I expect he’d try.

    I must say, I do find it somewhat irreligious for a man of the cloth to have such a large vocabulary of unDruidly words. We’ll have to work on that as the saga moves along.

  31. Dear JMG,

    Although I was hoping you might have some sort of meaningful insight into my odd “dream” experiences (which I would perhaps more specifically label as “altered consciousness while sleeping” instead of “dreaming”), it is nevertheless good to read you declare that you simply do not know what to make of it. It is increasingly rare to read or hear almost anyone with any sort of public forum nowadays state that they simply do not know something, rather than trying to pretend that they do.

    This is maybe not quite fitting to this particular circumstance, but a quote by Lao Tse comes to mind: “Those who know do not say; those who say do not know”.

  32. What advice would you give to someone looking to preserve talents acquired in one life, when going onto the next? Like I’m really good at music among other things…. and I am not too keen about clinging to myself/personality because I can clearly seem room for improvement with there… but it’s what I can do that seems worth bringing into another life. Isn’t that why we have kids though?

    And why the heck is the dating market so crappy today. It was terrible before Corona hit but I mean this is total SFHUICTKED now…. People aren’t acknowledging aging never mind Death. I think Death wants a little company to talk to.

  33. JMG,

    In regards to Dennis noticing tingling sensations being a sign of the inner senses waking up – how long does that stage last and what comes next? Are there any resources that describe that process?

  34. I don’t know why I get this feeling, and I think it’s a very human feeling, but when I approach the end of knowledge revelation I sometimes wonder, “is this it”. I mean, I know that the things in this text that are described are not the things in reality, and that there are worlds and aeons of development ahead of us human souls, but I worry that there is some final end point of it all where development cannot continue. Of course, “this banality of finality” fear of mine is human, and I know that even at the end point of the cosmos, when it’s so full of life it becomes possible to bust open the door to the Unmanifest and start anew. So perhaps that is just my human, and not cosmic fears

  35. Steve T: be very, very careful about the “better off dead” trope. It’s not your call, and it has a long history of brutal abuse by power elites. Such talk is “blunt” and “difficult to say” for excellent reasons, both pragmatic and spiritual. It is a temptation; get it behind thee.

    As for TDS: its Patient Zero is Trump himself. Therefore it is prudent to keep him as far as is practical from your attention. Best of all would be not at all; but alas, he will not allow that. You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.

    I say that this year’s covid catastrophe is due, less to the rejection of death, than to the rejection of death’s reality – or reality in general. That’s part of the derangement that TDS Patient Zero spreads.

  36. In one of your first answers you mentioned.
    “A saint or sage can handle having physical relics preserved, and there’s good reason to do that”

    Why is it a good thing to preserve a saints, or a sages, remains?
    And who would qualify as a saint, or a sage, in this regard? Would an accomplished adept, or holy man, be enough, or would these have to be the remains of someone on his last incarnation?

    On a personal note. Although still fearful of death, I seem to have a somewhat different attitude towards the cult of youth. I admire the old. I like the idea of an old person who looks back on his life and says: ” I did well”. Either by building something, learning something, changing oneself, etc. They are somehow whole, like a fully realized personality/incarnation. (oh, I just learned why I like that :-)) I often see the youth as foolish and object to someone praising the youth, with “yes, but I was a fool who did more wrong then right, potential, but wasted”

  37. Hi JMG,

    A few questions and thoughts on the post.

    On scaring people into being good, what are the karmic implications of it? People’s intentions for being good would be linked to fear of death rather than a genuine one that reflects good character. Seems counter productive and prolonging the inevitable.

    I was thinking of how we could differentiate between dreams of human desires and abstract ideas. Could one way be contemplating on the dream itself? I’ve had a dream where I’ve woken up and thought, “Huh, must be about money” and a few that have taught me good ideas after meditating on it.

    As I read on sleep as death, a fun metaphor came to me. When I play computer games, I’ve wondered how it’d be nice for humans to respawn or set a checkpoint to correct mistakes in their current life, and realized a video game story fits so well. Everyone who plays has the same start and ending. As you complete each story (material death), you move to a new storyline where you explore other aspects of the game character (individuality). You get to set checkpoints (Sleep) during the game where you correct some gameplay. Eventually you complete all objectives by learning what is expected of you to accomplish them.

    The content of the post was well timed for me. I had a life event that threw me off and for a while I felt I’d reverted to a state before I was reading your blog (about an year back) even questioning why I did any of it. It was very discouraging but I got dragged back as quickly as I’d reverted. Something about knowing the truth is inescapable to me and sooner I realize the better.

  38. Morning John,
    Again, another CD analysis that not only resonates with me, but really gets the juices flow providing clarity of understanding that was hidden beneath the surface. I’m looking forward to your book when its done, and in time once I have completed the OBOD course I can get stuck in. Great stuff.

  39. Hi,
    I’ve yet to catch up, since I’m still stuck at the twelve rays chapter, but I wanted to chime in about a misconception of atheism and death.

    While it’s true that for atheists death is the end of the own story, there’s nothing particularly scary in death. (We fear the unknown, but if you believe you know what’s beyond, you stop fearing). For the atheists there’s no hell or heaven, nothing to be afraid of. Only the sadness for the foreseeable loss, but as we know, sadness is the emotion that helps us dealing with the loses. Only our self-preservation instincts that fight against even the idea of death, when living is still better than dying.
    If you see yourself as a part of the cycle of life, your atoms returning to the Nature to be used again in other new forms, your genes probably surviving on to the next generation (hopefully faring well) and your memes and past actions being of some use to the people you love, then you can accept the idea of stop being. With acceptance comes peace.

    Maybe it’s more colourful and enjoyable the occult belief, but that doesn’t make the atheist view on death a horrid one. It’s the Christian hell which does that.

  40. John,
    A question if I may. I am I right in concluding that working/communicating directly with ones chosen deity, for the purposes of learning wisdom, understanding etc, is a means by which one can potentially assist the waking of the individuality? And if it done a positive and constructive way, can make the process significantly more efficient, than say ‘going solo’?

  41. JMG,
    I woke up with a question. I lucid dream, but I do it in cycles because my induction technique involves a good deal of effort during the day time. Anyway, when I first started I would often remember 5 dreams a night. This was like 4 years ago and my “vibration” was much lower than it is now. Nowadays, I have never felt better, but I remember 1 or 2 dreams at most, and sometimes none! Could it be that I’m spending more time on a higher plane, but my personality isn’t ready to remember all of those adventures? Does that make sense in this model?

    Thanks for the generous amount of time you spend answering questions.

  42. “Does this imply that death is nothing to be afraid of? That’s exactly what it implies.”

    That made me chuckle for some reason.

    Regarding processing life experiences after death I often wonder how do animals (souls that inhabit animal bodies) do it since they don’t seem to have the intellectual tools for it.

    It seems like the divide between the animal and the human life is almost as big as the divide between the human and the luminous spirit life.

    Pets that are loved and cared for by humans get a huge boost to their development, it has been observed many times. I think it’s an example of the induction of vibrations principle you discussed here earlier.

    But what about wild animals? How do they become humans in the following incarnations?

  43. I had a very interesting synchronistic discussion with a friend yesterday about the “good death” before I got to the blog to read it or to read the assigned chapter in the Cos Doc. My friend is working on cultivating a Buddhist perspective about the self and death and I was presenting what I had learned about the self from the Cos Doc and both of us were having trouble coming up with words to say what we wanted to say in a meaningful manner. We both reffered to Stephen Jenkins ideas about a good death.

  44. “The prophetic religions made death terrifying by convincing people to imagine themselves frying in Hell;” That’s not strictly true: they generally convinced them they would live in an undefined but miraculous heaven. It just shows that none of the West believes a word that they themselves say that anyone was afraid to go to a wonderful eternal after. And even now. Back when Roman saints actually believed their own sales-pitch they were happy to die but soon and were therefore unstoppable. But nobody believes things mental people like Westerners say, not even themselves. And the more mental the are, like professors, reporters, and experts, the less we believe them.

    “How does one not make a smoking crater of one’s life? It would seem that most forms of desire would lead one down a path” Yes, and the LACK of desire, to do no work, take whatever comes manyana, would ALSO lead to a smoking crater.

    The joining of two forces into a standing particle looks just like the magnetic vortex we are now able to see using magnetic films and other tech using the new strong magnets. Like this:,h_986,c_fill,g_auto,q_auto/wikifactory-prod.uploads/3315/rodin-coil-2-marko-rodin-randy-powell-vortex-math-749×500-f3ac2.jpg (site not important, just picture.)

    So you have a standing vortex that essentially has “motion”. That “motion” creates current electricity in all modern processes. This is very probably exactly what sub-atomic ‘particles’ are as well and why GUT has gone nowhere in 50 years and is completely barking up the wrong tree. But if you want to visualize two non-physical energies welded together to create a standing event, this is what it looks like, and magnets, electrons, atoms, as well. Bonus question: what would you get if the two forces were not toroidal but straight-line form?

  45. Sleep like everything else has been industrialized. The eight hour sleep is based on the factory model. In the Middle Ages, people had waking times at night – two sleeps. And people slept whenever. I blame it on the proliferation of lights. Sometimes, I feel like at night, I am in the middle of a Thomas Edison Pagent. Blue light especially keeps my brain awake.

    To sleep well is a gift of the Gods. I look forward to sleep. It heals my brain and takes me places.

  46. If one understands death as a transformation, then Fortune is describing the occult path as a series of transformations, or of changes in consciousness. The self I think I am right now is not the self I have the possibility to eventually become. What that other self is, I can’t fully know or understand yet, but If I am to embark upon the occult path, I should be prepared to let go of the concepts I currently hold about myself – especially that this current self is already my ‘true’ self or final self. I need to be ready to accept that I don’t have all the answers, and that I don’t have everything all figured out.

    So much of life can become about building up our identity, becoming someone, defining ourselves, but if I understand Fortune here, she’s saying this self is only a mask – a shell covering the real self. As often happens for me, a passage from the Tao comes to mind:

    “The people make light of death because of too much emphasis on the quest for life. For this reason, they make light of death.”

    The false self needs to go through a process of transformation so that one can eventually let the mask go and be reborn as the real self.

  47. Steve T.,

    I appreciate your honesty. I vigorously disagree with Paradoctor — thank you for being willing to confront a topic that is usually considered verboten, especially as some of the examples you cited could have been cases of demonic obsession or possession.

    I’ve known many a human who refused to listen to what Nature was trying to tell them when end of life came. All of them suffered intensely for their fear and the hubris of the person/people intent on keeping them alive. The amount of terror the average person has concerning death cannot be understated, and is it any wonder? Whether you’re an atheist, a Muslim, an Orthodox Jew, or an Evangelical Christian, this culture frenetically insists we only live once.

    Look at horror as an entertainment genre… why is it so perennially popular? (I’m a horror fan.) Once I started my Druid studies, I realized what horror is: a great big dose of the telluric current for those who are starving for it. The epiphany struck me last summer when I was getting my hose out of the basement. My basement is damp, cobwebby, low-ceilinged, old, and grotty. It’s earthy. Lots of mildew smells and spiders. It’s very yin down there. Horror is the telluric current on overdrive — exactly what is missing from modern corporate subsistence. Horror plops a rotting, insect-eaten, severed head onto the lap of the obedient office slave, jerking attention away from their orderly, sanitized, biophobic rat mazes. Horror is a form of exposure therapy for those who have spent too much time being afraid of the shadow side: bugs, decay, death, blood, guts, pain.

  48. Regarding death and games,

    For a while I thought of the relationship between the individuality and the personality as being the same as a relationship between a D&D player and their character.

    A player creates the character who by necessity is some aspect of the player and with this character they adventure and gain experiences. The character levels up and the player learns something too.

    The character may die but the player remains.

    Maybe the whole world is just God playing roleplaying games.

  49. Paradoctor, regarding death, obviously I disagree. The callous disregard of life causes serious harm; so, in my view, does the callous disregard of death. It’s a running theme on this blog that the opposite of a bad idea is typically an equal and opposite bad idea. That is very much my perspective here, for the reasons that I have illustrated. In the second case in particular, keeping my friend’s mother alive for four years past a century benefited nobody but the bank accounts of the hospice in question– least of all the spirit of the woman herself, who, according to Dion Fortune’s point of view and mine, had much better things to do than cling to a body that was long past its expiration date.

    As for TDS, thank you for the invitation to a political argument, but as it isn’t relevant to this post or this discussion, I’m going to decline.

  50. Flybuzz Died, as with so many things in today’s world, there are probably people who are interested to make dating as difficult as possible, a bit like the effects of advertising. The conventional wisdom, like espoused by Paradoctor, has much to do with it.

    I don’t want to go too much out of topic, but one of the tricks of media articles, when it cpmes to the critics of current policies and attitudes about the Coronavirus, is concern trolling.

  51. JMG – I had a dream this morning where a small, old Russian woman resembling M. Blavatsky saw me going the wrong way. She jumped out of her big Dodge pickup and admonished me to “Get back on the path! You are going the wrong way! Get back on the path and walk until you see the bottle”. Me – “What bottle?” ” You will know it when you see it” says she. Is the spirit of Madame still out there somewhere?

  52. JMG:

    I came across this PhD thesis: “Sacred Reading as Magical Practice: A Theological Hermeneutic of Dion Fortune’s The Cosmic Doctrine” by a philosophy student at the University of Birmingham. I’m posting the link in case anyone is curious (apologies if this has already been mentioned):

    Trying to make sense of the author’s turgid academic prose gave me a headache and left me more confused than ever! There may be some pearls of wisdom in it, but with my limited attention span I couldn’t pry them out.

    It made me really appreciate your excellent study guide and the clear explanations of the material you’re providing here.

  53. Hi Kimberly,

    I’m still looking for that darn book!

    Who’s your favorite horror writer? The main reason I like horror is I learned to read at 3 and am now 60. After 57 years of reading I can mostly anticipate how the plot will come out—but horror writers still surprise me occasionally. God bless ‘em.

  54. I’m trying to grok the difference between Personality and Individuality. Maybe this applies. Years ago I had a “dream.” I use parentheses because it felt like so much more than a dream. In this dream I woke up to my full self (I don’t know what else to call it), and realized with wonderment that I had been asleep for 45 years. Below me was a long queue of lives I had lived, with Materia Indigo being only the latest in that queue.

    I wasn’t Materia, although I included her. When I felt myself slipping away back into the Dream (or waking up, depending how you look at it), I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay in that place, but couldn’t hold onto it. Then I was back in my bed in Minneapolis, and I was Materia again. Was that the Individuality I was experiencing?

  55. Greetings to all:

    @Alan and others trying to fathom dreams in which one lives other lives, and other intense experiences:

    Seems to me that some of the most important life experiences happened to me in dream-state. Just like ordeals in waking life, they can change orientation to waking reality. Although dreams “speak” in symbols, things actually HAPPEN in dreams, too.

    Keeping a dream journal has been an extremely rewarding activity, absolutely priceless. Just for one thing: you cannot know that a dream is a premonition until the event happens in waking time. But paying attention to dreams can build an ability to recognize them.

    Meditating deeply on the dreams that seem important, not requiring them always make immediate sense, recording them, going back into them once in awhile to reconsider, can be mind-blowing..

    Very meaningful to me just now is Dion Fortune’s reiteration of this practice:

    “for the Personality to start living one’s life with God for a background, measuring all one’s deeds by the Divine standard, against the span of Heaven, assessing them in relation to the Cosmos, and making such adjustments as are in its power”.

    To do that is to use the leverage we have to lift ourselves up. The fulcrum for this lever, it seems, though, has to be put in place from Elsewhere.

  56. @paradoctor:

    LIke Steve T, I have known very elderly people who were in abject misery or pain 24/7 and wanted badly to die, but remained alive, or were kept alive, despite themselves. As you say, whether they live or die is not my call. But it is, and should be, very much their call, and they are also entitled to ask for compassion and aid from those able to help.

    There is no idea or subject of discussion on this earth that cannot be used to justify “brutal abuse by power elites.” That is never sufficient reason, IMHO, to decry such discussion. Since the opposite of one bad idea is, as a rule, another idea equally bad or worse, wisdom lies in the middle.

    Thinking itself always offers temptations toward evil, and any temptation will always find many who are eager to yield to it. However, that is the worst possible reason to say, “Let’s just not go there in our discussions.”

  57. Your Kittenship, funny. Given that roughly one word in three in conversational Russian is an obscenity, a profanity, or both, I figure the Grawlixes just take it two steps further!

    Alan, I’ve always admired the commentary on that bit of the Daodejing attributed to Mark Twain: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

    Flybuzz, your talents are exactly what you take into your next incarnation. How do you think Mozart was able to start composing music as a small child? Use your musical talents, work with them, develop them, and you’ll have them in your next life. I’m learning to play keyboards with exactly that in mind — I don’t expect to be more than mediocre at best this time around, but in my next life there’s every reason to expect that I’ll be born into a place and time where I can get lessons and really work on that.

    As far as dating, when people are as freaked out as so many are these days, they’re not likely to want to add to their stress by engaging in that challenging an activity! That said, I get the impression sometimes that there ought to be a dating site for my readers and similarly eccentric people, as I hear from a lot of readers who are having trouble meeting anyone congenial.

    Youngelephant, I don’t know of any sources, and it’s not something that happens to everyone, or even to most. It’s just something I’ve encountered in other practitioners from time to time.

    Peter, it’s a purely human fear, and may well be rooted in some kind of childhood experience. The ultimate attainments you can achieve at the human level are quite literally beyond your imagination — and those, amazing as they are in terms of your current experience, are the tiniest of baby steps compared to what lies further on.

    Marko, a saint or sage is someone who is finishing his or her last human incarnation and is ready to rise to the levels beyond the human. Such a person, who no longer needs to reincarnate, can act through relics to radiate blessings on those still in incarnation. As for youth and age, I get that — I miss having the limitless energy of youth but not the cluelessness.

    Nomad, the whole notion of scaring people into being good is counterproductive in every conceivable way, the karmic dimension among them. Following a code of morals out of fear doesn’t build character, it just makes you a coward, and helps feed the mistaken notion that there’s something brave and noble about bad behavior. As for your dreams, yes, exactly.

    Averagejoe, thank you!

    Abraham, I beg to differ. I’ve known quite a few people who lived in terror of their own annihilation, as a result of the standard atheist misunderstandings of death. You may not be among them, but then there are also Christians who don’t fear hell, you know.

    Averagejoe, it’s one way to do that. There are many such ways, and as far as I know none of them are better than any of the others in general, though one may be best suited for a given person.

    Youngelephant, quite possibly your Individuality is spending a lot of your sleep time on planes you can’t yet experience. All in good time!

    Ecosophian, animals have their own challenges to meet. They have to build astral bodies at whatever level they’re currently at, and as they gain the capacity to build an astral body of increasing levels of complexity, they’re reborn in more complex animal forms. Finally they reach a level of development that puts them over the edge into the human sphere, and they’re reborn as human beings, and begin to tackle a completely different set of challenges. Given the number of animals that are pets on the one hand, or the kind of livestock that interacts with humans a lot on the other, there are plenty of opportunities for them to get help making that transition!

    Kay, English is very poorly supplied with useful vocabulary for talking about spiritual issues!

    Jasper, sit down sometime with a copy of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” The whole thrust of most Christian rhetoric about the afterlife for the last 1500 years or so has been to leave people unsure of their destiny after death, and the terror of Hell was a very effective way of bullying people into following, or pretending to follow, the rules handed down by their church. Yes, they lost the serene conviction of the early martyrs, but that’s what happens when a religion gains political power and starts trying to force people to behave instead of convincing them to believe.

    Neptunesdolphins, the taxonomy of the seven deaths doesn’t fit every experience human beings can have! Those are two that Fortune didn’t cover, since she was setting out a taxonomy to help people make sense of certain aspects of spiritual development.

    Stefania, yes, exactly. The personality is a gorilla suit covering the real self, the Individuality.

    Ecosophian, it’s not a bad metaphor!

    Danaone, I don’t know. She’s not in any of my lineages so I haven’t had any reason to check.

    Goldenhawk, thanks for this! Remember that academic prose has the primary function of excluding the rabble — its indecipherability is a way of signaling that writer and reader alike belong to the Smart People. It’s not a fetish I find interesting, but to each their own…

    Materia, it may well have been. That’s certainly the way the literature describes the experience.

  58. Kimberly, thank you for this, and especially for your comments regarding horror as the telluric current. Horror has always been one of my favorite genres of literature and film– only supernatural horror, though, I find slasher stories distasteful in the extreme. For a long time I thought of it as a way to make the supernatural real– because it’s hard to disbelieve in something that you’re afraid of. I stopped reading as much of it, and stopped watching it almost entirely, a while after I began practicing magic. I had originally ascribed this to becoming extra sensitive, but now I wonder if your take isn’t the right one.

    For what it’s worth, I’m fairly certain that a malign entity was involved in the one case I mentioned. The exorcism that I did was a slipshod affair, and nothing at all like I would do today– actually, today, I would consider it inappropriate to involve myself at all. Nevertheless, the woman, or her body, did die the next day. And that night I was again afflicted with night terrors and woke up screaming and in pain.

  59. RE: the comments on desire, perhaps revealing that, in some of the cosmogonies, desire (Eros/Phanes/Protogonus) is among the primordial beings. A bit like Vonnegut: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

    Hypnos, in many places in this modern culture, is underrated.


  60. JMG wrote: “I get the impression sometimes that there ought to be a dating site for my readers and similarly eccentric people, as I hear from a lot of readers who are having trouble meeting anyone congenial.”.

    JMG, think seriously about it! This site runs on WordPress. WordPress has plugins for dating. Your tech guy could probably get that up and running in short order.

    So, what’s a Druidic equivalent of ‘Tinder’? “Mayblossom”? ‘Nutgathering”?

  61. Fra Lupo, an excellent point. Desire is inescapable, but when it’s possible to choose among different objects of desire — and of course sometimes it isn’t, in which case you simply have to brace yourself and deal with the consequences — there are some that have more pleasant outcomes than others.

    Bogatyr, duly noted. Well, in that case let me ask the commentariat generally: how many of you would use an Ecosophian dating site? And, er, what’s the gender breakdown among those who would? As for the name, I’ll take the risk of borrowing a deliberately ambivalent metaphor from one of my novels and calling it Fireflower.

    Pixelated (offlist), please read the first word of the text above the comment box. That was well outside the boundaries of what I permit here. If you’d like to catch your breath, calm down, and repost something civil, I’ll be glad to put it through.

  62. @JMG re:Fireflower. I (male, straight) would potentially be interested. I’ve been thinking about jumping into the dating pool anyway. But, we do seem to be straying from discussion of the Cosmic Doctrine here. One for the other blog?

  63. @ Stefania, Goldenhawk, JMG

    Re the peeling away of self-conceptions, soul growth, and dense academic prose

    One of the tasks I obviously have in this particular incarnation is that of allowing the falling away of a desire to be among the Smart People and to accumulate knowledge for the sake of doing so. (Not that I’m at all proficient at such a thing, but the *desire* to be so is deeply-set.) Working through the death of that self perception is a great challenge. Who am I without that drive? Who am I if I’m not the guy who earned these degrees and who reads these books and who thinks these thoughts? It is an unsettling question.

  64. JMG,

    I remember when I first found out that the fear of death in western culture has moral roots in christianity it made a lot of sense to me. I had developed almost a guilty conscience on the subject as I have never had a fear of death and I figured I must be suppressing the fear or denying it out of weakness. But it turns out that fear is not a human universal.

    On the subject of choosing to die/being kept alive, there’s a fascinating scene in the old BBC series “The Ascent of Man” where Bronowski follows a tribe in Pakistan who survive by taking their goats to summer pastures at the top of the mountain then back down to the valley in winter. On their way to the winter pastures in late autumn, they must cross a swollen river which flows so fast that they lose about half their goats in the process of crossing. There is a scene where an old man has decided he cannot cross the river. He sits down on the bank and watches the others cross and they look back knowing that this is the end for him. Of course, the younger men of the tribe could certainly have helped the old man across if they wanted to, so in this sense it is a deliberate decision made by the old man to die.

    What’s interesting is that Bronowski’s tone is explicitly condescending. He can’t help but look down his nose at these people with their primitive technology.

    As the events of this year have unfolded, I have reflected on that scene as we frantically run around with our technology (PCR test) trying to stop the elderly from dying.

  65. This chapter gave me the impression DF is implying a unity here (perhaps, a bit slyly); the same phenomenon observed from seven different perspectives. “There are seven elephants; the first is a kind of snake, the second is a fan, the third is a wall…”

    Am I barking up the wrong leg? Um, I mean, tree?

  66. @Kimberly Steele, about “diving and rising through the planes” during sleep. Diagrams like this are routinely recorded from normal nights’ sleeps in labs and sleep clinics. Of course the layers in the graph aren’t planes, they’re contrasting patterns of electrical activity in the material brain during sleep. But if there’s any correspondence, the diving-and-rising pattern is pretty apparent.

  67. John—

    Re synchronicities and non-coincidences

    I’ve picked Barborka’s Divine Plan back up after some time off and what do I find? The next chapter up is Chapter X: The After-Death States.

    I’ll be interested to see how it relates to this month’s Cos Doc reading.

  68. Hi! I’m a lurker usually, but I did want to chime in that I would absolutely use an Ecosophian dating site- at first I was skeptical about something like that, but then realized that I had the pleasant surprise recently of realizing that someone with whom I’ve had great chemistry in the past was also a fan of yours. Don’t know how much you’d approve of this, but the term we settled upon wasn’t “Ecosophian”, but “GreerHead” – though we can certainly refrain from that if you prefer!

  69. Thanks for this John Michael.

    My way of understanding is that the self and the ‘gorilla suit’ aka ego (in my understanding) are inseparable when one is (physically) awake. The self can and does intervene in our unenlightened lives in indirect ways outside of our limited language-based materialist understanding. What it needs form the ego in order to ‘merge’ is to gain requisite strength, and mental and emotional resilience. It is not just spiritual processing that is necessary but maturing within the settings of the incarnation. This maturity is unlikely to conform to what is understood as successful adaption in the terms of the ‘gorilla suit’. Yet when successful it does allow for reasonable compromise where necessary – it just reaches a different kind of adaption.

    My intuition is that the self does not feel pain as the ego does and there is a tension between the ego and the self in the ego’s desire to avoid pain and the self’s need for it to endure it in order to experience and grow in the ways the self needs it to. So the self is most likely to intervene big-time to pull the ego out of avoidance of experience however it has managed to achieve this.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on this interpretation.

    I struggle with the idea of an indifferent universe. I believe there is love between different sparks of life, those sparks and the greater universe of which it is a fragment and between the spark within and the animal or ego consciousness that is struggling with the demands of a physical existence. In this last relationship, as with the others, there is also considerable and inevitable animosity at times. But the essential unity of all expresses itself in experience as love or compassion, (though not in the ‘sentimental’ meanings of these words).

  70. I’m too old for romance, but I wouldn’t mind a nice gentleman friend with whom I could attend the myriad Noah’s Ark events that pop up. I would not call the site Nutgathering, though. People might think you were pairing off Wokesters who wanted an escort to the evening’s statue-removal festivities.

  71. Steve T, Kimberley Steele, Robert Mathiesen:

    Few if any of the dead complain about being dead, but few of the living fail to complain about becoming dead. That’s one of Nature’s little jokes.

    I agree that it is expensive and pointless for the dying to resist, past a certain point, but that point is _their_ call, not ours. I call the right to die a “dark right”; one bad to forbid, and worse to insist on. Maybe any idea can be abused by the evil, but “die for me, it’s OK” has a proven track record.

    We are all sufficiently enlightened to be tranquil about the deaths of others.

    That said… my wife of 20 years, in her last week, rose from her deathbed to go to the theater, which she loved, rather than to the emergency room, which she hated. I reluctantly went along with this, for she insisted. Her body, her choice. It was a great show, a bedroom farce, with boffs to die for, which she did. I and our daughter have mourned and more-or-less moved on.

    In a way, grief is sweet. It has the virtue of removing illusions. I foresee a Great Grief coming to this country.

  72. Speaking of unconventional relationships (hey, synchronicity!)

    Bigoted as it may be, I want a live man, at least to start with. I understand he may have no choice but to predecease me.

    My father died and was revived. When we got to the hospital, his eyes were wide and his mouth was a round O. I’d never seen him look so surprised. So when he was able to speak, I asked him about what he’d seen. Nothing. No tunnel, no white light, no nothing. As far as he was concerned, he’d fainted. Now I wonder if he may have seen, and forgotten, this lady saying “Come a little bit closer, you’re my kind of man…”. 😳

    A week later he died permanently and we haven’t heard from him since.

  73. JMG, do you think Johnny Appleseed experienced the Fifth Death and maybe the Sixth? My guess is that he must have experienced No. 5 at least.

    Lady Cutekitten, I don’t really have favorite horror writers so much as I have favorite horror stories. Standouts for me include Adam Nevill’s Where Angels Come In, which just happens to be freely available as text here:
    I also loved The Shining by Stephen King, the book, not movies, and The Sixth Sense (the “I see dead people” film). Thanks for asking.

    Steve T, thanks for your reply. One of my oddball talents is being able to help dead people cross over. I did this from age 16 – 22 and took a break from it during my atheist stint. Once I started studying the occult again, it came back pretty fast. I have done ad hoc exorcisms like the one you describe and just like you, I wouldn’t do that nowadays because now I have the education to know not to intrude before several divinations, meditations, etc. However, only a week ago I was walking in the forest preserve and about 10 minutes into the woods I saw a guy sitting by the edge of the creek, plain as day. I was like “Oh crap, social distancing” and was going to detour but then I realized he was a ghost as I got closer. I have not been truly clairvoyant until this episode, so it was pretty odd. I wasn’t scared though because it takes a hell of a lot more than that to scare me. I’m like the boy in the fairytale who couldn’t shudder at this point. At any rate, the ghost followed me to my favorite spot in the forest preserve, a place where there’s somewhat of an open meadow and the sun shines brightly. I went to a young oak tree that I trimmed the parasitic vines off of earlier this year and did the Druid tree communion ritual. The ghost was freed somehow because of the tree ritual. The spirits told me it had to do with “finally seeing what was good about the forest”. They said the ghost was of a man who committed suicide in the forest preserve and was trapped there until I came along, or maybe it was just his time to get out of there. He looked about 40 years old. I went back to the preserve the next day and there was a hawk with a ground squirrel in his/her talons standing in the path where the ghost had been earlier. The hawk flew off; I took it as a sign. Then I saw another hawk flying above my meadow. I said the Druid Universal Prayer over the spot and went home.

  74. There’s a Grawlix on the cover of John’s book
    There’s a Grawlix on the cover of John’s book
    It is cute and it is furry
    But its &!!&?;,$! makes him worry
    There’s a Grawlix on the cover of John’s book

  75. Does desire exist as an abstract concept or meaning on the mental plane? Does it exist in that form on the spiritual plane?

    I (M) would be tempted to use an ecosophia dating site, but could see location being a problem for most people. And I just made my previously flexible living situation unflexible 🙁

  76. Thank you. Bruno makes a few points about desire and bonding in his essays on magic, which I imagine must be related, with the mage in the role of one who creates bonds by manipulating desire.

    As an aside, the “gorilla suit” analogy (excellent) reminds me of Alan Watts’s interpretations of Vedanta (Watts also had some stuff on Western esotericism, in particular pseudo-Dionysus.)


  77. There’s a library in Kimberly’s front yard
    There’s a library in Kimberly’s front yard
    People there need something to read
    So send her books, help plant the seed
    There’s a library in Kimberly’s front yard.


  78. Bogatyr, yes, that would probably be a good idea. I’ll put something up in a bit.

    David BTL, it is indeed an unsettling question, but essential. I imagine a Zen master asking, “Show me the face you had before upward mobility was born…”

    Simon, that’s a fine story! The old man knew perfectly well that death is simply the end of one stage of existence and the beginning of another, and was ready to make that transition. Bronowski was too ignorant to get that.

    Walt, it’s certainly a great theme for meditation. 😉

    Your Kittenship, it was one of the options at Highline High School, Burien, WA, when I was interned there, and I figured it would be more interesting than French, Spanish, or German.

    David BTL, Barborka’s book’s a fine summary of Theosophical teaching, so you should be on familiar ground.

    Matt, funny. So noted!

    Sarah, I’d agree with that, with one exception — the self and the ego can become distinct in waking life, under very specific circumstances. That’s what the experience of enlightenment is about — the self awakens to its own identity, as distinct from the ego, right there in front of everybody. As for indifference, of course individual beings needn’t be indifferent to one another; there are a lot of beings, and love is among the things that can link them. (Hatred is another, and it’s just as powerful.) But the cosmos itself notices you precisely as much as you notice the skin bacteria on your left kneecap.

    Your Kittenship, the phrase “nutgathering” had that implication to me also! Thus “Fireflower.” I think it would be a fine idea to restricts its membership to living human beings.

    Kimberly, if I had to guess, I’d say he’d reached the seventh. He was a profoundly holy person and lived his vision to the utmost, and he had many of the traits that saints and sages display — the fact that wild animals treated him as a friend is one of those.

    Youngelephant, desire has analogues on the mental and spiritual planes. On the mental plane, it’s abstract congruence; on the spiritual plane it’s something for which our language has no words.

    Fra’ Lupo, I saturated myself pretty thoroughly with Alan Watts books in my teen years, so the similarity is probably not an accident!

    Your Kittenship, that’s one end of the Heathen scene — the racialist end. Fortunately they’re not the only kind, or even the majority.

  79. JMG, how about opening up the dating site idea into (also) more of a general befriending opportunity amongst your commentariat? While many of us eclectic types be hermits–myself included–enhancing our ability to mingle and match up–say, according to interests such as branch of druidry, pantheon preference, etc.– is something I for one welcome heartily!

  80. @ Lady Cutekitten

    Ever seen the movie “The Ghost and Mrs Muir” where Gene Tierney has a relationship with the ghost of an old sailor played by Rex Harrison? It might change your mind about preferring a live man.

    Perhaps the ecosophia dating site could also include an option for dating ghosts.

  81. @Ecosophian

    That was a nice metaphor. Took me back to the first time I played DnD. The character I designed was a ranger/druid named Broli who speaks to the forests and an expert archer. Early signs that I would eventually end up a reader here!


    I read the post again to let things settle in and found some of thought processes being reoriented. Death doesn’t concern me as much as it did. I’m being less critical of myself since I know my path continues even after this lifetime and I don’t have a mountain to climb. I found myself embracing grace over holding minor grudges, not worth the effort when we have so much to learn and grow. I should meditate more on this..

    On the dating site, I (M) certainly wouldn’t mind. If the survey data were any indication of the commentariat here, it’d be an uphill task at my age. (more fun stats enroute!)

  82. @JMG my apologies, sarcasm doesn’t translate well on screen, still less the recounting of it deployed in argument. I’ll try again…

    I agree with Paradoctor on the “better off dead” trope not being the one that needs to be “revived”, for the simple reason that it is very much still alive and kicking, and is an essential ingredient of the very same dominant narrative that is being aggressively pushed by the leftist/environmental/woke brigade (though it used to, of course, be the other side).

    If you spend enough time with Climate Activists, and Woke people, you will see very enthusiastic discussions about how a truly ethical person would not have their own children, and would instead adopt from a poorer country if they wanted children, because a) first world footprints are too high and b) they’re just going to die a terrible death from climate change, anyway.

    There’s a lot of meat on the first part of that question that can successfully be pulled off and flung at them to get at their own pretty racist and sexist places, but taking b), it’s because they know, right, that unless everyone does what they tell them to, the future is going to be unlivable. All our ancestors who existed before fossil fuels: better off dead, life was misery. And so we can’t “go back” to that, and you can’t do anything to lower your footprint without being better off dead yourself (even though they’ll also wax on about how the poor people they touristed at were so happy without running water). I noticed, after a time, that the arguments they were using for why it was morally wrong to have children because the future was so horrible, looked exactly the same as the arguments that my friends in the disabilty advocacy communities still have to confront to justify their existence.

    And the one thing a Leftist can’t stand is to have it pointed out that their argument looks an awful lot like… an ‘ism, even if ableism isn’t usually at the top of their chant list. I pointed it out, and that conversation stopped in it’s tracks – no moderator required – after something like 500 comments on a thread of people bragging about either not having children because it was too cruel, or adopting “extra” ones from some poorer country.

    I’ve also had some super fun times with the black and Indigenous natalist movements. Arguments indistinguishable from Racist Grandma at Thanksgiving talking about Too Many Chinese. I actually got told to my face, by a black environmental activist, that he justified having kids because the world needed more black ones, their footprint was irrelevant, while I never should have had kids, because now they took up valuable resources that should be redistributed to the oppressed. And none of my white – ostensible – friends disagreed. Not even the Jewish one.

    Bonus marks for wading into a conversation about whether it’s a good or a bad thing that the majority of the opioid overdose deaths cluster in white, male, working class men doing construction, military or resource extraction jobs, or jobless in a rural area. The arguments there look remarkably like the ones used to justify Indigenous genocide to access those same mined-out resources not many decades ago; better just to erase those cultural values from history, and use the land in better ways, anyway.

    I’d much rather use the lessons from the Cosmic Doctrine to point out instead that we have had a tremendous problem imagining that some ways of living and treating our own selves other human beings are more impoverished states to exist in than being dead. That helps grandma die better without feeding the already white hot need our culture has to categorize people into Good and Bad People based on misguided and constantly changing definitions of what a worthy human life is.

  83. Hi John Michael. thanks for the input.

    I’m interested in your understanding of the self and ego becoming separated in enlightenment.

    I’m not enlightened, but have assumed that enlightenment is about consciousness coming under the correct new management; the the ego recognises itself as a small and limited part of the grand illusion and therefore is able to allow itself to be annexed by the higher or true self, finally in charge and running the show. In order for this to be an effective arrangement, the ego must have significantly gotten over itself and gotten itself into a cohesive order, aware of its biggest failings and developed sufficient robustness, humility and self control.

    This process is a kind of boot-camp in which the first minor awakening is the ego becoming aware of the higher self and increasingly trusting and finding ways to strengthen and broaden this awareness and connection in order to know what is required of it. And do it. (Protesting vehemently and demanding unforthcoming explanations at first, if my experience is anything to go by)

    I’ve assumed the true self is always aware of itself. Across many lifetimes it evolves, learns how to deal with a variety of different human egos with their strange needs desires and quirks, always with the aim of achieving this synthesis.

    I write this as if it is an intellectual exercise but only because the experience is impossible to put into words.

    As for the cosmos noticing its fragments, or individual sparks, I do believe that it can recognise (rather than notice) all its parts, unlike humans, and that the unifying force is benevolent and that this state(?) is evident in stillness. Not the best words but my vocabulary is inadequate.

  84. Thanks for your reply, Mr Greer.

    As usual, it makes me think. The first thing it was an immediate defense of my set of beliefs: are there no occult believers that are still terrified of death? If there are not, then that’s a great feat. But this ‘You more!’ talks leads nowhere. And then it strikes me that the real difference is that atheists usually don’t talk about death. It’s a cultural tabou.

    You know, we are in western societies, born around the traditions that calls for an afterlife, but then any educated people disregard those beliefs as superstitious, implying there’s only one life, this life, make it worth it, don’t think it twice. And here comes the problem: We don’t usually think of it twice. So we are left with our human instinct that naturally fears death and no philosophy to deal with it. And since this is a tabou theme, no friend to talk this with either.

    We fear what we know that we don’t know. It’s natural. If there can be a tiger hidden in some bushes and we don’t know for sure, we get this life saving feeling even when the tiger is not there. This allowed our species to survive longer.
    If this is a natural way, then what’s wrong about fearing death? It’s in our nature, so why to fight the terror? I see two reasons. One is to avoid the useless pain when life is about to end and there’s nothing we can do about it. The other one is to be able to make worthy things that might cost us our lives. We won’t do things that are worth to die for if we are too scared of death. A society that is able to do things that are worth to die for when need calls, is a society that has more chances of success.

    Any religious set of beliefs I know about includes death as a theme, so when a believer deals with death, he has something to refer to. Atheism really doesn’t care about it (it aims to explain reality, the material world in your words, and does not care about people feelings), and the death theme is to be avoided, so when a nonbeliever person deals with death he has to face it alone. Atheists don’t have masters or tutors that help initiates to deal with such things, either, we are left on our own. Well, we can talk to psychologists but they are not cheap.
    I think I was lucky enough to think sufficiently about my own death. A few years ago, I thought I might had a terminal illness and since the tests took too much time to discard the worst (it was nothing dangerous), I had that time to think about it. At the beginning it increased the angst, but then the more you think about death, the less scary it becomes, until you reach the point where acceptance comes and the thought no longer worries you. It is saying something that I can’t tell many people that I spent almost half a year imagining how it would be to be dead, the process itself and what would be of my beloved ones when I’m no longer with them. Even when some friends noticed what worried me, they just wanted me to stop thinking bad things.

    So I have to conclude that you are right. Atheism, such as it is conceived now, provides little help to deal with death fears. We don’t collect money to pay a psychologist to calm our collective fears in an atheist temple every sunday. Each person has to face their fears (or any other emotion) in his own.
    I think my point here is that there is nothing in atheism that positively makes you afraid of death. There’s no: ‘If you misbehave that will happen to you in the afterlife’. But also there’s no speeches to believers saying: ‘Fear death not, your conscience will be lost, but anything else will remain, reused and recycled like every other natural thing is, for you are just another natural thing, and this is happening for the greater scheme of things, which you are a part of’.

    You’ve provided me good material for meditation!

  85. I can say about myself this much, I screwed up quite a lot in this life, but have somehow gotten a second chance. The blowback gave an arrogant kid the chance to learn humillity, a new outlook on life and a work ethic. There must not have been much bad karma left from before, since I almost feel like there is something looking out for me. I have no talent for this magic stuff, I kind of get the feeling it is the deepest point I have been, nadir maybe. Assuming a regular daily practice of SOP, DIV and a 15 min MED per day (OK, 5-7 times per week seems like the average I manage).

    a. Enlightenment is out of reach for this life. What can I look up to achive in this incarnation? Realistically speaking.

    I will have to work on it further the next time, but my memories will be gone.

    b. How does one pick up again if one does not remember himself?

  86. Hi John Michael,

    Again there is a lot of meat in this continuing education. Maybe it is just me, but I smell a touch of moral judgement in the phrase: “A living death”, so mentioned towards the end of the essay. Dunno, but I’m a touch uncomfortable about that and it makes me squirm a bit. Hmm. Maybe that is just me, but free will is a hard state of being to achieve.

    Out of sheer curiosity, it has been said that Merlin suffered the seven deaths. I assume that we are discussing the same subject matter here?



  87. John,
    I find this particularly interesting;
    “When you sleep, your Individuality—the real you, the you that existed before your mother and father were born—detaches itself from its masks and bodies to the extent that it is able. Those Individualities that still have a lot of work ahead of them on the human level rise only to the astral planes, the planes of desire, and contemplate in subjective consciousness the images of human desires.”
    I have met on a number of occasions my deity in a dream state. The experience was very intense (not unpleasant), and unlike any dreams I’ve experienced before. I have also met with some of my other guardians/helper/angels on occasion, and whilst not as intense, its still feels ‘more’ than just regular dreaming. Am I right in assuming these are very important events to treasure in the journey?

  88. David BTL, re self-conceptions

    Thank you for contemplating these questions! I had similar ones circulating in my mind after reading this chapter. I’ll try to pass on my meditations on the subject, which are a bit difficult for me to put into words.

    As I understand it, the point of all of this questing and initiating is not so I can end up sitting blissfully but uselessly under a tree doing nothing, free of all ego and desire. Rather, it’s so I can become more fully myself, just with less irritating negative self-talk (or the flip side – pride) which interferes with me being me. I think the trick is that my understanding of that self changes quite a bit along the way; it…expands. All that I am doesn’t just go away, but my motivation for action changes along with my changed understanding. All the skills and talents and gifts I have (and you have!) are meant to be used in the world, but there’s a shift in my realization of the source of those skills, and hence the purpose for using them.

    Along this journey, what started out as only philosophy and concepts that I had to struggle to remember and put into practice gradually solidified and became part of this self that I currently am. This happened in part as a result of occult practices which led to real shifts in my understanding, which makes it all a little easier to put into practice. Pathworking on the Tree of Life comes to mind here, among other practices.

    A quote from the Tao comes to mind: “Love the people and enliven the state, can you do so without cunning?”

    And from the last bit of this chapter in the Cos Doc: “an Initiate is a dead man who manipulates his body so that he may thereby serve those who cannot otherwise be approached.”

    These two quotes to me echo the Biblical concept, perhaps overly-repeated but still relevant, of being ‘in the world but not of it.’ The initiate is still the same person as he or she started out as, but with the difference of an expanded understanding of that self as a result of his awareness of the higher planes, and thus motivations which are different from someone who is not on the path.

  89. Here is a synchronicity. In a recent exchange with some Christian friends on the subject of death (in which I was proffering some of Vine Deloria Jr’s insights into the differences between the Christian view of death as that which must be vanquished to make way for “eternal life” and the indignous view that life and death are parts of the same flow of processes) a commenter said: “I would suggest that humans have always considered death to be an unnatural surprise, and have been afraid of it from the beginning.” A contention which felt to me like gaslighting, since I know that I do not fear death, or find it “unnatural”, and nor have many, many of the people who have ever lived. Somewhere later in this conversation I said, “to fear death is to fear birth. I do not see how these fears can be disentangled.” And of course, I am almost immediately reading this week’s chapter of Cos Doc and finding the resonant phrase “The death of one thing is the birth of another.”

    Now, in my mind the connection was more a case of pondering how people can continue to countenance new births in a society which has “vanquished” death, because if no one leaves, sooner or later the room is simply too full to allow anyone new to come in.

    However it is very fruitful, and I find I am extremely receptive, to meditate on Fortune’s idea that a death and a birth are actually the *same event* depending on the point of view from which you view it. A friend of mine recently trained to be a “spiritual midwife” which, as I understand it, comprises practices aimed at assisting a person to approach their death in a wholesome way. This certainly accords with the idea that every death is also a birth.

    And, for the comical side, I had a sudden vision of the midwife at the “birth end” of the event sitting waiting for those at the “death end” (such as those who think it is the business of religion, or of medicine, to “vanquish” death) sitting in there in the womb holding on for dear life to that baby, saying, “you don’t have to be born (die), don’t do it” while the midwife at the birth end is waiting and trying to figure out the right methods to help the birth to progress. 😉

    So I find that my original statement about the entanglement of birth and death has many, many layers to unpack!


  90. About the Seven Deaths and spiritual development. Granted Near Deaths and comas are not that common, but they do have a spiritual element to them. The people that I spoke to about each have usually changed afterwards. Now is that because of the happening that brought them to death or something else – that I cannot tell.

    In my experience, two Gods who were trying to contact me before my accident came to me during both experiences. Hecate had inhabited my body at a seidr and used my body to speak. The seidrwoman told me afterwards that she was told to expect me as Hecate. Meanwhile, at the same seidr and another one later that evening with the same seidrwoman, Anubis showed up. To speak to me and another person.

    Then three months later, the building fell on me. I don’t believe for a second that either God caused the building to fall. But I do believe that They used the coma and the NDE to have me be one of their people to help souls cross over from life to death. So there is that.

  91. “Nutgathering” I associated that with squirrels. For some strange reason, everyone who knows me, think that I was a squirrel in my last life. Does the animal/human divide allow for back and forth in lives?

  92. Hi JMG,

    In what category of death would you place the experience of high-dose psychedelic use? My sense is that the advocates of those experiences would place it at the top (sixth or seventh), but my guess is that it’s more like a form of the fourth–which is to say, catapulting oneself into some type of lucid dream whilst still physically awake.

    Would love to hear your take on that–thanks!

  93. JMG,

    >>Fortune mentions that it takes a minimum of three lifetimes devoted to occult study and practice to achieve that condition—and it takes enormous perseverance and discipline to accomplish all the necessary work in just three lifetimes!<<

    I take it this would not preclude reaching the same goal by way of the mystic life or by simply living a life (lives) of the high-ethical, spiritually-intuitive sort, would it? Instead of an exhausting sprint across the last 100 yards to the finish line, an easy but persevering lope?

    I recall reading where in his thousands of life readings, Edgar Cayce came across a handful of people of whom he told that another earthly incarnation wouldn’t be necessary for them, unless they volunteered for one. I can’t be certain of the total reliability of Cayce’s insights here, but it did strike me that the people who he was addressing were, ostensibly, just ordinary, church-going, clean-living folk, doing their best to walk the walk of their gospels.


  94. I spent the last couple of hours reading Aristotle’s Nichomachaean Ethics in order to get a better handle on the issue of death.

    It seems to me that there are a number of different imbalances involved. We have, from certain quarters, an extreme callousness with regard to life. Here I am thinking of many in the abortion industry and its supporters and the more ghoulish of the euthanasia promoters, especially in Europe.

    At the same time, we have, in others among the large institutions that govern us, an insistence on forcing us to live, no matter the cost. This obviously includes the medical industry, but it has other appendages as well. Conservatives within the Catholic Church and other religious institutions now define not carrying out massively expensive technological interventions in order to force a person to remain alive as murder or suicide. (This is one of many ways in which our religious institutions have become mildly theistic handmaidens of Scientism, but that’s another story.) Of course, responding to a dangerous but relatively mild pandemic by imposing medicalized totalitarianism onto the whole society is the most salient example of this imbalance.

    These same imbalances are found at the individual level. Callousness with regard to life and death is usually directed at others. Here, and I’m aware of how unpopular this will be, but I’ll say it anyway– almost every abortion I’m personally aware of fit into this category. One former friend of mine became pregnant while cheating on her boyfriend. She decided she couldn’t carry the fetus to term, because she had big plans that summer– I think they involved working on an organic farm and backpacking through the rockies, or something similar. So she aborted the baby because– and these were the exact words she said to me– “Sometimes, Steve, s–t’s gotta die.”

    At the same time, most people I know live in absolute terror of their own deaths, and the deaths of their loved ones. Some years back, my grandfather died at the age of 75. I would have liked it if he had made it to 85, or 95, and I miss him terribly. That said, 75 years is roughly what we can expect from a human lifespan. One of my uncles became fairly militant in his atheism after this event– as though he had never been told that life had an ending. Or as though we had been promised a rose garden, rather than a vale of tears.

    Returning to the Nichomachaean Ethics, Aristotle says– as we’ve discussed here before– that a virtue is a mean between two opposite vices. Thus, courage is the mean between cowardice and rashness, temperance is the mean between gluttony and lifelessness. He also says that, in most cases, the virtue won’t be exactly between the two vices, but that one vice will be closer to the virtue than the other; this is the lesser of the two evils, and is to be preferred if the virtue itself is unattainable. How do we discover the lesser evil? Which ever vice we more naturally incline toward is the greater evil. It is easier to be a coward than to rush headlong into danger; if both are vicious, the latter is closer to courage than the former.

    So, how to apply this way of thinking with regard to these matters of life and death?

    It seems to me that the answer differs depending upon whether we are talking about institutions or individuals. For large institutions– meaning the state and its appendages– mass killing comes rather naturally. I don’t think I have to do much to demonstrate this point; history records it in detail, from Genghis Khan to Pol Pot. For the state, then, it is better to err on the side of forcing the citizens to live. In our case– the medical totalitarianism of the last year has been awful, but it’s certainly preferable to the killing fields. (For that matter, it’s better than the malign neglect of the rural, white working class that has caused untold thousands, if not millions, of deaths due to substance abuse and suicide over the last two and a half decades.)

    But with the individual, I think, the situation is reversed. Fear of death, of our own and others, seems to come naturally to us– whether this is a universal of human life, or whether it is rooted in our cultural heritage is beside the point– and to cause us to do evil, as in the examples I provided. Therefore, fear of death is the greater evil. Moreover, it seems clear to me that developing a health relationship with death is a subset of the larger virtue of Courage.

    This seems, though, to contradict what I said before, about callousness toward death being harmful. But that isn’t really the case. We should be stoic and accepting of death when it comes on its own to ourselves and others. But that isn’t the same as actively causing the death of others. This is wrong on almost all occasions, and we should avoid it as much as possible.

    Now, Aristotle also says that it is the duty of the state to help form virtuous habits in the citizenry. In our modern world, I think that the interlocking network of large institutions that govern us as much as our government does can be thought of as the “state” in Aristotle’s sense. In this case, our institutions are almost universally vicious. Recently, we were treated to the spectacle of our media roundly condemning President Trump for suggesting that we shouldn’t live our lives in fear of Covid. Our media, in other words, are actively trying to instill the vice of cowardice in the citizenry.

    Of course, this sort of thing is nothing new, and part of a much larger pattern. Our economy as a whole, after all, is based on the deliberate production of unfulfillable desires through the deliberate arousal of the passions. And we’ve seen how our ruling class reacts to attempts to teach people to control themselves. JMG posted a fine example on the Dreamwidth the other day of an op/ed writer at The Nation denouncing a guide to training the will, because training the will is “fascism.” And a while back there was the shrieking meltdown that certain members of the chattering class had in reaction to a boycott of pornography (not consuming porn is also “fascism.”) What comes out of all of this is that, by an Aristotelean standard, we are a vicious people, from top to bottom.

    Finally– and I know I’ve gone on too long– but it seems worth mentioning that the very word “ethics” is a translation of a word that means “habits.” So, JMG, that suggests that by teaching people to consciously control their wills and create habits, you are also teaching them ethics, in a roundabout way.

  95. It makes me wonder if these teachings could form the basis of something like seven rites of initiation, in which some are enacted as mysteries in symbolic form – seven deaths, seven rebirths, and seven grades of teaching for the mystae.

  96. Your Kittenship, it was indeed inevitable!

    eHu, suggestion duly noted.

    Nomad, good. As Dion Fortune points out in more than one of her books, once you realize that this life is just one of many, you can relax a little and use each incarnation more intelligently.

    Pixelated, fair enough! The sarcasm went right over my head — not the first time that’s happened, of course.

    Sarah J, by all accounts, the one thing that can be said about enlightenment is that nothing can be said about it! Thus descriptions are sure to end in confusion. My take, based on Western occult tradition, is that the Individuality or higher self is not conscious of itself — that’s why it passes through life after life, growing and developing, until it reaches the stage where reflective consciousness becomes possible and it becomes the object of its own perception. A lot of the confusion is caused by the presence of another entity, the Divine Spark in Fortune’s language or the Holy Guardian Angel in older magical works, which is an emanation of the Solar Logos (which you can translate as “God” if you wish) and has the task of guiding the Individuality through its long pilgrimage of lives. Still, that’s one way of thinking about things that are, strictly speaking, outside the reach of human thinking…

    Abraham, if I’ve provided you with meditation fodder, I’m glad to hear it! One of the reasons that I put an “Atheist Assembly” in my novel Retrotopia, complete with Sunday services and all the other elements of a church, is my sense that modern atheism will only survive if it starts offering its followers some of the services that churches do. Counseling about death is of course one of those services.

    Marko, (a) that depends on a vast number of factors. Enlightenment may not be out of reach — you don’t know how much time you’ve put into the work in previous lives — and you can certainly look forward to a more creative and interesting life in the meantime! (b) You don’t have your memories but you have your character and your talents, and the subtle guidance of the Divine Spark leading you toward the work you need to do.

    Chris, I’d heard of Merlin suffering three deaths, but seven? Interesting. If so, yes, it may have been the same seven.

    Averagejoe, very much so.

    Scotlyn, I’ve encountered that notion that death is something bizarre and unnatural; it’s always struck me as, well, bizarre and unnatural. I like the image of the quarreling midwives!

    Neptunesdolphins, fascinating. Thanks for this. As for squirrels, Druid teachings have it that a soul that was human can end up going back to an animal incarnation in much the same way that you’d go back to retake a class you failed.

    Balowulf, I think Fortune would classify it as a debased form of the Sixth Death, since it’s a chemically induced trance state. She didn’t think much of psychedelics, and of course there were plenty of people trying to use them as a shortcut to enlightenment then, as there are now. Her comment was that they “unloose the girders of the mind” but give you no way to tighten those girders up again, so unless you want to go through life rattling like a cheap motor-car, they’re best avoided!

    Will M, of course you can take it more slowly! Three is the minimum; you can take as many more as you need. As for Cayce’s people, that doesn’t surprise me at all; having already learned what they needed to learn from the human level, all they needed to do was keep from generating negative karma.

    Steve T, thanks for this meditation! As for ethics — ssshhh! 😉

    Joshua, they could indeed. The one thing you’d have to be careful about is to make sure that nobody went around claiming that since they had the 7th degree, they were illuminated. The Golden Dawn has had endless trouble along the same lines with people who’ve received the Adeptus Minor convincing themselves that they’re adepts…

  97. @Lady Cutekitten

    I had books I thought that Kimberly could use
    I had a book I thought that Kimberly could use
    I would send it on by snail
    But I don’t know where to mail (I asked)
    It, so the library downstairs now has the book.

  98. I am surprised that Dion Fortune omits ‘la petite mort’ in her list of seven. The ‘death’ associated with orgasm is commonly acknowledged and surely the sexually liberated Ms Fortune would have been well aware of this ‘death’. Do you think she has included it in one of the seven in veiled language? Any thoughts?

  99. To Abraham,

    Coincidentally, I wrote an essay about the atheist “Why won’t God heal amputees?” challenge approximately two weeks ago:

    I was atheist only five years ago. When I was atheist, I learned to reject the fear of death, but as I point out in my essay, atheists often employ several forms of thoughtstopper when the subject of death comes calling.

  100. Thanks, as always, JMG, for your exposition on Fortune’s densest work. Oh man, that gorilla suit metaphor for the Individuality and the Personality is absolutely precious (had your teacher been a Buddhist, I would have suggested that it be called The Gorilla Suit Sutra).

    For most of my life I have been baffled by the enormous fear that Western culture (in both its religious and secular variants) has over death in general. People talk about doctors “saving lives” but, in reality, they are simply “delaying deaths” (I am very careful about the company I keep when I verbalize that comment for fear of being misconstrued as being heartless). I consider myself to be supremely fortunate in that at the age of 11 I had to look Death straight in the face knowing that I was absolutely powerless in His hands. My father and I managed to get caught in a freak storm with hurricane force winds off the island of Spanish Wells in the Bahamas. I knew the situation was dicey when my father repeatedly unclipped my safety harness from the rail. When I asked him why, he replied cool as a cucumber, “if the boat goes down, I don’t want you to go down with it.” The storm had a waterspout, which we ended up sailing directly into. That was my meeting with Death. Our lives were spared, but ever since that day I have never had the illusion that a full “three score and ten” were guaranteed to me. Belonging to a family which had believers in reincarnation helped a great deal, as well as my later accepting the Hindu view of rebirth. And while my body does not relish the prospect of death (I am aware of that through a fear of heights under certain conditions), I sure don’t fret about death. It is a relief that I live in a family where my spouse and I, and our kids, can talk so casually about death as if it is the most natural thing in the world (because it really is).

    Before reading CosDoc I hadn’t come across the concept of seven deaths; now that I have, it is certainly worth several rounds of meditation!

  101. Thanks for the responses, JMG. There are so many great interpretive details you have packed into these posts and responses, it makes me curious about how you are going to format the book. I could see end notes, footnotes, margin notes, or all of the above.

    Is your goal to create an annotated edition, or are you going to just preface each chapter with an essay as you have in these posts?

  102. John, er, if you think Fortune was sexually liberated I’m going to guess that you haven’t read her books on the subject of sexuality…

    Ron, a face-to-face encounter with death is useful. I had mine at second hand, through working for some years in nursing homes. The experience of taking someone’s vital signs while those drop to zero, and then cleaning the body so that it will be ready for the morticians, definitely gets you acquainted with the guy with the scythe, especially when it happens repeatedly…

    Samurai, it’s going to be an independent book rather than an annotated edition — readers will be encouraged to have the Cos. Doc. handy while they read A Commentary on the Cosmic Doctrine.

  103. Hmmm. Interesting. Thanks for your reply. Toward the end of Moon Magic, especially on pge 211 she mentions Tantra and the pagan roots of Catholicism and says “The Latin countries do not have the same sex problems that we do” and Rupert replies “It seems to me that we are playing with fire”, and she responds ” Could that not be said of Watts when he stoked his steam engine”. I had always read into this and other instances that she was way ahead of the Victorian attitudes to sexuality she was surrounded by. Can you recommend any of her writings that may counter my assumptions? Thanks.

  104. I sometimes wonder if this pathological fear of death is really a fear of hell. The subconscious might take the idea of hell and worry about it, since even if the risk is incredibly small, small enough the conscious mind dismisses it entirely, an eternity is a very, very, very long time…..

  105. My snail mail address is Kimberly Steele Studio, 625 East Ogden Avenue, Naperville IL 60563. It’s a commercial space. My music studio will be at that location until Imbolc of the year 2022. Thank you in advance for the books. I have already had three generous donors from JMG’s blog readership.

  106. Abraham, jmg

    Are you familiar with “religion for atheists “ by Alain de Botton? It’s essentially a book describing how the more useful practices of religion could be incorporated in to a secular/ atheist culture.

  107. Well, I have my doubts as to myself.
    Have you had those moments of illumination? Even for an instant?
    An honest question as that is, in all humility, if my teacher, who is an accomplished occultist, autor, leader and founder of several lodges (yes, that would be a certain Arch Druid emeritus) sayes he is looking further to having at least one more reincarnation. Well…
    I want to build myself back up, do good by my family. And, on the side do some first steps towards the future.
    Divination is problematic ATM.

  108. After I die I’m donating everything – for transplant, and research and training. There’s probably not going to be much left by the time they’re done. 🙂 If the consent form had options for meat, leather, and render, I’d have ticked those boxes too. Over the years I’ve found myself getting more obsessed with how the body can be used after death. I’ve done a lot of research and thinking about it, and am now very familiar with the many options. One of the things I was considering was ‘saint preparation’, and after your comments on the subject, has now been definitively added to the list. 🙂

    Beyond practical and environmental reasons, and just wanting to be useful after death, it feels more important somehow. I’ve wondered why I feel such a powerful draw to the subject. There is a precedent – the old Bolshevik who left his body to a soap factory. That feels fairly tenuous though and the interest was developing before I knew that story. Then yesterday a possible explanation came to me. What if in a previous life I was an alchemist who progressed to the animal level. That could explain why the idea of having my body processed in a vat has such a hold on me.

  109. Dear JMG and fellow Cos.Doc. readers, I’ve recently encoutered this piece of astronomical discovery which I think may be interesting.

    The astronomers discovered that apart from ecliptic plane, our Solar System has another plane which they call “empty ecliptic”. At the formation of the Solar Syste this plane was empty, then during aeons of evolution, as Solar System interacted with surrounding environment of the Milky Way, the plane became populated by long-period comets.

    It looks like the plane is much more chaotic than normal ecliptic, but still quite definite. The plane is inclined by 60 degrees with respect to the plane of the Milky Way (the normal ecliptic is also inclined by 60 degrees but in the opposite direction).

  110. “The Seventh Death, finally, is illumination, the state that Eastern spiritual practices call enlightenment. In this experience the Individuality awakens to full objective consciousness while the physical body is still alive and wide awake. The personality is seen for what it is, a temporary mask that the real you uses to interact with the physical plane and the other beings incarnated there, and the Individuality can experience the reality of all the planes at once.”

    Thanks for this definition; a validation of the Eastern methods of meditation I practice. I had mistakenly taken your preference for discursive meditation as a negation of the usefulness of Eastern practices.

    Very much looking forward to your “A Commentary on the Cosmic Doctrine” in book form; this book club reading has been a mind-expanding experience that will be visited often in the years to come.

  111. JMG, You wrote: ‘But there’s no final goal. Sure, you can level up; there are six planes above this one, and other modes of growth and transformation beyond that — but it doesn’t involve a specific stopping place to which we’re all destined. Furthermore, it’s quite possible to refuse to level up. We’ll get to that in an upcoming chapter.’

    Absolutely, we all have choices, and I can certainly see a flat refusal is possible, but I was writing from the bigger picture of Humanities’ evolution here. I don’t want to throw a spoiler to the many going at a monthly pace, but the book does explicitly mention a goal, and it certainly isn’t separation. The only choice is if you follow it, or not – all else is (sometimes very entertaining, sometimes very painful) detail. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying having the detail explained (and living it), ’cause some of it is quite a challenge.

    Talking of challenge, remember I mentioned Darryl Reanney a while back (author of ‘Death of Forever’) – this is a link to him having quite a difficult discussion on Australian radio back in 1993, way before podcasts became a thing, but that’s essentially what this is. In it he discusses the main themes in his book while facing quite a lot of scepticism:
    He died a few months later of leukemia, which is, of course, how Dion Fortune died – both in their mid-fifties. I do find that slightly weird.

  112. Your Kittenship, thanks for this.

    John, you’ll want to read her books The Problem of Purity and The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage. Remember that there’s a long, long distance from mid-Victorian prudery to modern sexual attitudes, and it’s quite possible to leave behind the former without advancing all the way to the latter!

    Anonyn-mous, I’m pretty sure that’s a big chunk of it, thus my comments about the prophetic religions having a lot to answer for.

    J.L.Mc12, I am indeed, and that’s one of the sources I used to imagine the Atheist Assembly in my novel.

    Marko, you never know until you get there. If I have another incarnation, I want to be in a position to make the most of it, and if I don’t, I can use the same talents in a different (and by all accounts less recalcitrant) form of embodiment. As for my own spiritual experiences, I have a hard and fast rule not to discuss those.

    Yorkshire, maybe so. Alternatively, you could be remembering a life as a horse, which ended at the glue factory. 😉

    Oleg, good heavens. I wonder if that’s Fortune’s Ring-Chaos…

    JeffinWA, Eastern practices also work. I’ve simply found that many, perhaps most, Western people have better results with spiritual practices that are part of their own cultural background; you may of course be one of the exceptions.

    Jay, oh, from the perspective of humanity as a whole, there’s an arc we go through collectively, but I don’t use talk about “goals” to make sense of that; do you think of death as the goal of life?

  113. JMG
    Looking for options of what to do with bodies after death. The State of Washington passed legislation permitting composting as an alternative to cremation. The process takes about a month and you end up with a yard of dirt that can be disposed of in the same way ashes from cremation can be handled. Here is the website for the group working to build a facility and make it all happen.

    Tom A

  114. JMG, Of course not (not sure if that was rhetorical, but have an answer anyway). Do you not see our evolution, at least from a bigger picture or spiritual viewpoint, and through many incarnations, as having an aim or a direction of ‘bringing together’? That’s what I mean by a goal. Looking forward to the next few chapters. 🙂

  115. Hi, Mr. Greer. Unrelated to article. To my dismay, ricefarmer’s blog is gone. On archdruidreport, you once commented on the sites you use for news. Could you do that again? Much appreciated.



  116. Hi John Michael,

    Memory is a tough beast, and sometimes unyielding… 🙂 I believe the reference to Merlin and the seven deaths was in Nikolai Tolstoy’s excellent book: “The Search for Merlin”, and I perused the book last evening and came up empty handed.

    Unfortunately time is getting away from me and the growing season is kicking off, with all that entails.

    For your interest too, the book is showing its age and the paper has yellowed and is now slightly brittle. The scribes of the dark and middle ages did everyone a serious solid for their slow and continuing acts of cultural preservation, although few people consider the long shadows such efforts cast.

    And um, of further interest was that I replaced the large sealed gel lead acid house batteries yesterday which were over a decade old and had provided valiant service but were candidly showing their age. Larger lead acid batteries are no longer as readily available as they once were, and so I made the call to install large lithium iron phosphate batteries. First indications are that any increase in efficency, reduces resilience or can also narrow the margin for error. Yup, this stuff is good, but it ain’t anywhere near good enough to match peoples extraordinary and frankly unrealistic expectations of the technology. And I have no doubts that in another decade and half time I’ll have chuck them out and replace them. Yeah…



  117. Thanks, Kimberly! And if the VIllage library doesn’t want the Jefferson book, I’ll reclaim it and send it on.

  118. Is there anyway to poke the higher consciousness thing so it becomes self-aware? And not unconscious going from life to life.

  119. Do you think all the deaths have to occur while in body in order to ascend? Some souls seem to drift through their incarnations without too much hoo haa while others hit life like bulls in a china shop and gather up large karma to move through, for those on the gentler course I sort of wonder if they reach a point where they are settled and at peace, not going to muck things up any further and continue their path elsewhere. Meanwhile those who have perhaps hit a few more pieces of china than usual may need to delve into deeper territory to ascend their consciousness and thus have to do it while incarnated.

  120. @JMG well, if sarcasm goes over your head, that’s probably for the best. They say it is the lowest form of humour, and probably only suitable to deal with friends in low places 😉

    @Steve T thanks for that meditation on the different virtue balance points for individuals vs governments. It’s something I’ve been thinking of too.

    @Darkest Yorkshire have you read Stiff by Mary Roach? Personally my favourite thing to do with a dead body she researched was the composting techniques developed in Sweden. They have a facility in Seattle now. I thought it would have caught on better, but I’m told most people don’t find one of the most upsetting things about the modern death industry the conversion of their nutrients into pollution and loss from the soil cycle 🤔

  121. Tom, many thanks for this! That’s a very appropriate way to handle a body.

    Jay, the expansion into diversity and individuality is just as significant as the contraction into unity. Assigning one of those as the “aim” or “direction” of existence seems to me to be on a par with saying that your heart exists for the purpose of contracting, not of expanding — or vice versa. More generally, one of the things I appreciate about some strains of Hindu philosophy is the idea that existence is lila — dance, play, unforced activity. It doesn’t have an aim or direction, it just is.

    Brian, hmm! It’s been a while since I followed him, but that’s sad to hear. These days I mostly get my news from an assortment of international sources.

    Chris, I’ve got a copy in comparable condition, so I’ll go look for the seven deaths.

    Patricia, oops! My apologies.

    Pokes Bear, what do you think meditation is all about?

    Rose, the people whose incarnations look quiet may be catching their breaths after an incarnation full of crisis and struggle, while the ones who are stumbling from one mess to another are often clearing away a lot of karma in a hurry. According to the traditional take on things, yes, you have to go through the whole process by way of repeated births, lives, and deaths right here on the material plane; that’s what Fortune is talking about in her metaphor of a sailing race, in which every boat has to round the buoy out there in the ocean before it can turn back toward port.

    Pixelated, maybe so, but I’d still rather get the joke. 😉

  122. In the Merlin book by Tolstoy, there is mentioned the Threefold Death, a kind of death which may go back to ancient forms of human sacrifice. I don’t remember a sevenfold death being mentioned there.

  123. JMG,

    Once more thank you for this and Cosmic Doctrine is truly very heavy going. I have dozen of various thoughts on each part of this chapter and in all probability I missed great deal.

    I was thinking, following comments, of the desires and the gap between the “fruits of fantasy and fruits of actuality”. So my meditation for this month book club (hope it’s not too rambling):

    If the state in death is akin to dreams (and with will, to lucid dreams – considering 4th Death I think consistent lucid dreaming is probably very good skill to develop), we would just wished for what we want and the dream-death part of reality would be reshaped to our likes and fancies. The “maelstrom of life” is full of polarities and the interplay between desire and obtaining that desire is probably one of the most accessible and universally experienced among the living. Provide great polarity: the the gap between fantasy and actuality is useful manifestation of ring-chaos, thrust-block to explore facets of experience simly unavailable in the dream-fields of Heaven.

    “Fly pleasures and they’ll follow you” Benjamin Franklin once said. Thinking about the greatest possible polaritybetween desires and the kinds of habits (virtues as well-formed habits) and goals that are most worth pursuing, I immediately think of Miyamoto Musashi (of Book of Five Rings) and the fact that his quest for mastery of sword-fighting lead him to both century-spanning fame and extraordinary artistic feats as a by-product.

    To use metaphor of that I don’t know make full sense, but I found quite vivid – it’s difference between just hand-throwing an arrow (or not throwing at all, just weaving it around) and figuring the best way to draw and maximum tensions on arc of a bow to shoot an arrow of desire toward a goal and hit.

    There are probably quite a lot more of “psychic” tensions to explore – imprint of birth chart of zodiac provide a whole set, so the karma of society one is born into. And working out how to best use them to “propel” oneself toward this or that goal across unsteady seas in a best is interesting way to look at.. pretty much every thing in human field of consciousness.

    This obviously gets to the “dinergy” concept that was introduced here on Ecosophia and I think there is uncanny note of thinking of lower “mask” personality between second and third death as an art project of Greater Self, exploring dinergy between a fractal node of Spirit against medium of intractably polarized reality.

    Each personality an art project of Individuality. This is also why Individuality don’t have the same “end-point”. As above, so below: no Artist worth that name wish in their heart to be un-imaginative imitator of someone else and their art-work to be nothing more than copies. And that way it take several life-times and incarnations to get handle on human experience – it’s a new art form that require few tries to get handle on it. Few humans can look back on their life and see the shape of Michael Angelo’ statue emerging from the block of uncut marble – the “artist hand” it is just not very skilled at human souls. This obviously get to the thinking about personality as having its own will – Art that have certain range of possibilities of re-shaping itself; self-awareness to make the process easier or smoother or states between pettiness and malice to make something truly ugly of any given incarnation.


  124. @Kimberly.
    Many thanks. Since the thoughts that provoked your text are not closely related to the theme of this post, I’ve preferred to comment in your blog. It’s delightful to not be faced to dogmatism.

    No, I wasn’t. Thanks for pointing it out.

    I did not expect to think about atheist churches, it sounds like an oxymoron to me. So pondering about the issue was somewhat worthy. I figure that most if not all of the material services religions provided are now in care of States, at least here in Europe. Even a few of the immaterial ones.
    We still don’t have a weekly psychological public session to help us to keep going with our lives. The spiritual life is left to corporate religions, and the link is so strong that it is difficult to dissociate both words. If you asked me five years ago what was spiritual I would have answer that it is something religious, superstitious, souls, ghosts and the like. But if you asked me how to deal with feelings, desires and thoughts, I would have answered with philosophy and psychology.
    It’s a pity that the neoliberalism religion permeates our institutions so heavily that a municipal public philosophic or psychologic service is not foreseeable in the near future. Not only that, Philosophy has been recently removed from the high school curricula. They say students don’t need it in the modern world, they better learn to speak English fluently (Spanish people are awful at learning languages).

  125. Pixelated, Stiffis great – so many options! 🙂 Two that particularly stick in the mind are the mellified man and the pool of Dungeness crabs. One thing I like about the idea of being consumed by fish or crabs is how you could get in the water. You could be lowered from a boat and it be quiet, beautiful, and dignified. Or if you were an adrenaline junkie you could go for one last ride and be launched into the pool by a trebuchet. 🙂

    There’s actually two kinds of human composting. The Swedish promession system uses liquid nitrogen and hasn’t worked yet. Een though it would use ‘waste’ liquid nitrogen from oxygen production, it seemed unnecessarily technical to me. The centre in Seattle uses recomposition, which is more ordinary composting. According to their website, they’ll start taking bodies next month. It seems like the best of the currently available options by a long way. My only quibble is with their design aesthetic – it looks like they got their body composting facility from Ikea. Out of all possible designs they went with Scandi?? 🙂

    A few other good books are The Red Market by Scott Carney (in which this article became the best chapter), and Tissue Economies by Catherine Waldby and Robert Mitchell. On the same theme is a multi-part Reuters investigation: There’s also Perspectives on Civil Religion by Gerald Parsons, which was part of an Open University course I did. The first half is about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Vietnam Memeorial. It had perspectives on memorialisation I’d never heard before, including that when there is no body, a name on a wall is just as good for the friends and relatives. The second half is about the Siena Palio, a citywide festival and rituals centred around different districts in the city competing in a horse race. It’s interesting for a whole number of reasons, and also includes some details how the Palio relates to funeral traditions in the city.

  126. Hi John Michael and Booklover,

    It is possible my memory has failed me, but if the journey prompted a delve into Nikolai’s most excellent book, well this is a possibly good thing.

    I have an unshakable memory that Merlin suffered the fate of seven deaths, and that was such odd notion when encountered that it stuck in my mind. But exactly where I read that is now lost in the depths of time.



  127. I get the idea of ‘The Dance’, and of course, from the highest, biggest viewpoint it’s that, it’s always that. But coming down to a slightly lower orbit, we, humanity, seem, as you agree, to be sailing into that return around the bouy (great metaphor) – and there is, surely, an inbuilt ‘destination’ even while you enjoy the journey back – the choice is whether you get there consciously or not – the ocean entering the drop or just a drop in the ocean.

  128. @JMG

    Are plants also subject to the seven deaths that you have discussed above? I ask because they apparently have a less complex inner life than we do, but then plant ESP and their reaction to music is a reality, so I’m not sure.

  129. Re: human composting – the methods described seem to involve some sort of technology, which I find to be the same sort of thing as wearing sunscreen, and then taking Vitamin D pills. I intend to buy a plot in the local conservation cemetery and be buried in a cotton shroud, and let The Great Mother handle the rest.

  130. Meditation seems slow though…. anyway to just hook the thing up to a 10,000 volt electric battery and shout Hallelujah? (I hope you get a little laugh out of that.) I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate here. For those people who like to take short cuts and need a good reason not to…..

  131. @Darkest Yorkshire thanks for the info! Scandi, lol. At least they have Caitlin Doughty on staff! I used to watch her Youtube, she’s great. I find the idea of returning our rather polluted human bodies and all the resources of the earth we’ve currently locked up in them back into clean soil to be used in land and wetland reclamation extremely compelling.

  132. If someone does magic for a long time and gets really good at it, can they safely donate organs and tissue? Or would their body parts have so much energy running through them they could damage the recipient?

  133. My friend Mike died after a two year battle with cancer in 2018 and he was buried in accordance with his wishes at this sanctuary: It is in Kentucky. He was composted, meaning no chemicals were put into his body. I’m not even sure if they used a pine box for it. They planted a tree in the mound on his grave.

    To David BTL and Will O., thank you for the books!!

    To Abraham, thanks for the great comments! You used profanity in the latest one and I forgot to mention in the original blog post that I don’t allow it. I sent you an email including the text of your comment at Dreamwidth asking you to edit the one word out and then re-submit.

    To JMG, the ancient world seemed to be running amok with enlightened saints, prophets, and seers. Do you think we have less of them now or that they’re around and just incognito? I tend to think there aren’t as many Johnny Appleseeds or Hildegards of Bingen nowadays.

  134. Changeling, a fine meditation! Thank you for this.

    Chris, duly noted! I’ll keep an eye out for references to that; it could be an intriguing clue.

    Jay, sure, you can think of it that way if you want to. Why is it so important to you that there be a destination?

    Viduraawakened, you’d probably have to ask a plant!

    Patricia, too funny.

    Pokes Bear, nope. The only reason not to take a short cut in this case is that there isn’t one. If a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, trying to find an even shorter route isn’t going to get you far…

    Yorkshire, as far as I know, the experiment hasn’t been tried, so we don’t know.

    Kimberly, we have fewer of them now in the Western industrial countries because the disciplines that produce them are loaded with social taboos and not easy to find. India, where that’s not the case, still has plenty of ’em.

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