Book Club Post

The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic: Preliminaries

Last month we wrapped up three years of monthly discussions of The Cosmic Doctrine by Dion Fortune, arguably the twentieth century’s most important work of occult philosophy.  I think it was time well spent.  I enjoyed the discussions, and I gather from reader comments that at least a few other people have had the same reaction to them. The inevitable question is what book to tackle next. There are plenty of good choices, and I was in a fine quandary about that until last week, when the obvious option suggested itself.

Given the “retro” approach this blog has applied to so many other things, what’s the best sequel to the most important work of occult philosophy of the twentieth century?  Why, the most important work of occult philosophy of the nineteenth century, of course!  That simplified matters considerably, because there is one and only one book that qualifies for that title:  The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic by Eliphas Lévi.

Lévi in 1848.

Lévi’s real name was Alphonse Louis Constant. He was born in humble circumstances in Paris in 1810, and when he showed intellectual gifts, his devout parents and their parish priest arranged for young Alphonse to get the appropriate education for a career in the Catholic church.  All was well until, not long after he was ordained as a deacon, he was assigned to teach the catechism classes in a girl’s school and fell in love with one of his students. Though he didn’t act on the attraction, the experience convinced him that he was not cut out for a celibate life, and he left the church and started a career as a writer instead.

He wrote for newspapers and magazines, and won a certain amount of notoriety for himself by a tract entitled The Bible of Liberty which was confiscated by the Paris police an hour after it went on sale—France was going through one of its periodic bursts of repressive politics, and Constant spent a short time in prison as a result.  The Romantic movement was in full roaring spate just then, and some people on the fringes of that movement had begun to glance at the forgotten literature of magic and alchemy as a source for lurid local color for Gothic romances.  Some Romantic writers and poets began to take a more serious interest in those dusty old tomes. One of them, the novelist Adolphe Esquiros, was a friend of Constant’s, and it may well have been as a result of conversations with Esquiros that Constant began thumbing through the strange old manuscripts in the Bibliothèque Nationale.

Joseph-Marie Hoëné-Wronski

Old books on occultism like to say that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Whether that’s generally true or not, it was true for Constant. In 1853, after half a dozen years of growing interest in occultism, he met an old man named Joseph-Marie Hoëné-Wronski.  Wronski was Polish; like a great many Polish intellectuals at that time, he was living in exile in Paris, since his homeland had been conquered and partitioned by the Germans and Russians; his studies included mathematics (he was the inventor of Wronskian determinants) and engineering (the caterpillar tracks used today for tanks and bulldozers are another of his inventions), but toward the end of his life he became fascinated with the Cabala.

We probably need to pause here to say something about the Cabala, if only to head off a certain mode of self-righteous posturing that’s very chic these days. The Cabala got into the Western occult tradition by way of Jewish mystics, who adopted it starting in the twelth century and then taught it freely to gentile students starting in the fifteenth. It was not, however, originally Jewish, and most of its core elements can be found in gentile sources many centuries before they first appeared in Judaism. For example, the Tree of Life, the core diagram of the Cabala, is referenced as a Gnostic diagram in the writings of the Roman writers Celsus and Origen, who wrote in the third and fourth centuries CE respectively—that is, seven and six centuries before the Tree first appeas in Jewish writings.

The Tree of Life.

Many other elements of Cabalistic theory and practice can be found set out in detail in the writings of the Middle Platonists, a school of Greek philosophers active around the beginning of the Common Era, and there’s good reason to think the core of the tradition comes from the Greek Neopythagorean movement a century or two before that—I’ll be discussing this in a future book. There is even a version of the Tree of Life, the Wujitu, which appears in Chinese sources a century before the first Jewish documents reference it. (A lot of Greek mystical thought traveled east via the Silk Road; this is an example.) This is why Gerschom Scholem in his magisterial book The Origins of the Kabbalah stated categorically that the tradition came into Judaism from Gnostic sources and was not originally Jewish. Anyone who wades in here to make a fuss about cultural appropriation is therefore welcome to go shinny up a stump.

(One other note: Cabala, Kabbalah, and Qabalah are all the same thing. Semitic languages are notoriously difficult to transliterate accurately into the Latin alphabet, which is why the last name of the Libyan leader who was assassinated on Hillary Clinton’s orders appears in Western media as Gaddafi, Qadhafi, Khadaffy, and so on.  The spelling “Cabala” was the first commonly used transliteration of the Hebrew word קבלה in Latin and English alike, and it’s a good deal less cumbersome than any of the others, which is why it’s the one I use. Thank you, and we now return to your regularly scheduled weekly post.)

Wronski, as I was saying, devoted much of the latter part of his life to the study of the Cabala, and he seems to have been influenced by the distinctive version of the Cabala which reached Polish intellectual circles by way of the Frankist movement. The Frankists?  They were a heretical movement in Eastern European Judaism that converted en masse to Catholicism in the eighteenth century, and brought their Cabala with them.  There’s a lot of Frankist influence in European occult traditions; I was amused to discover a few years ago, for example, that one of the invitational Masonic degrees I’ve received started out as a ritual worked by a Frankist order in Germany. (Plenty of Masonic high degrees have equally odd origins.)

So Alphonse Constant met Wronski, studied with him for the last year or so of the old mystic’s life, and was bowled over by the experience. Plenty of people who’ve studied occultism on their own and then encountered a teacher have had the experience of having everything suddenly fall into place around some concept the teacher mentions. Constant seems to have had some such experience. After Wronski’s death, Constant set out to write a book that would communicate to the rest of the world what Wronski had communicated to him.  The first half, Dogme de la Haute Magie (The Doctrine of High Magic), saw print in 1854, and the second half, Rituel de la Haute Magie (The Ritual of High Magic), appeared the next year, along with a single-volume edition of both—and that, my children, is what kickstarted the occult revival of the late nineteenth century and turned magic into something that plenty of educated people practice today.

Lévi in 1872.

I mean that in all seriousness. Before Lévi, as we may as well call him from here on, wrote The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic, occultism in the Western world was largely restricted to folk practitioners in rural areas and a handful of dissident intellectuals on the fringes of society. After Lévi’s first and best book appeared, occultism became a massive cultural force across the Western world. France in 1855 was the cultural and intellectual center of Europe and the European diaspora, and so copies of Lévi’s book found their way promptly to interested readers all over Europe, both American continents, and Australasia, as well as to European colonies elsewhere in the world.  An extraordinary range of men and women read Lévi, commented on his writings, borrowed his ideas, and were inspired by his example to take the occult teachings of the past seriously by making sense of them in terms of the thought of their own era.

That, you see, was Lévi’s great innovation.  Other writers on magic before his time were content to repeat the teachings of the old occult philosophers, as though the Renaissance or the Middle Ages or the late Roman world had never gone away. That’s a useful thing to do, since one of the keys to understanding ancient magical traditions is to understand the philosophies and ways of thinking about the world that structured them, but it places sharp limits on the number of people who will be able to make use of them. It’s not just that only a few people have the time and opportunity to pick up, let’s say, a thorough knowledge of medieval Neoplatonist philosophy. Even fewer people have the peculiar mental gift that makes it possible to shake off the influences of their own epoch and think like a person of a different time.

So the work of earlier nineteenth-century occultists such as Francis Barrett only appealed to a small audience. Lévi’s gift was that he was able to make occultism make sense to the modern, up-to-date, cutting-edge thinkers of the high-tech, rapidly changing world of 1855.

Paris in 1855.

Does that sound like a joke?  It’s nothing of the kind. One of the bits of historical amnesia that’s necessary to maintain today’s mythology of progress is the systematic erasure of the dizzying pace of change in the nineteenth-century world. In 1800, it’s no exaggeration to say that most of France (and indeed most of Europe) was not far out of the Middle Ages; in 1900, the whole continent had been transformed by the explosive spread of factories, mass media, and a galaxy of brand-new technologies. By most measures, the changes in everyday life in Europe and the European diaspora between 1800 and 1900 were much more dramatic than those between 1900 and 2000.  Riding the crest of that wave of convulsive change, Lévi offered literate people a way to understand occultism that made sense to them.

How he did that, and what kind of sense resulted from his analysis, will be a central concern of ours in the months to come. Three themes, however, are worth introducing at the outset.

The first is the source of magic. Until Lévi wrote, magical philosophy took it for granted that magical powers came from outside the self, and the most the operative mage could do was to figure out some way to control some energy or entity who had magical powers. The Picatrix and a few other sources dropped hints about the role of faith in magic, but by and large the magical literature of the pre-Lévi era assumed that if you wanted to wield strange powers, either you had to tap into the natural flow of power from the heavens via a mastery of practical astrology, or you had to get some supernatural being to do what you wanted.  This latter option had an approved form, which was practiced by the devout and involved prayer and austerities to get help from God and the angels, and a forbidden form, which was practiced by the highly undevout and involved wheedling and bullying evil spirits into obeying you.

Lévi rejected this entire approach to magic root and branch. He argued that magic is present everywhere and in all things, and human beings thus had ample access to magical powers. The reason most humans didn’t practice magic, he suggested, is that magic requires certain capacities of consciousness that human beings can develop, but most of us never do. The two capacities he had in mind were will and imagination.  Develop a strong, clear, and focused will and a rich and vivid imagination, he proposed, and it becomes possible to shape the medium through which magical effects take place in the cosmos.

Lévi was there a long time before, in a Paris far, far away.

That medium is the second theme of his work. He held, as mystics, occultists, and operative mages of every age and country have held, that there is a certain subtle force on the borderline between matter and consciousness, which surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together. (If you think there was a single original idea in that lucrative and heavily hyped science fiction movie, in other words, I have a bridge on Tatooine to sell you.)  Lévi called it the astral light, and understood it as the foundation for all magical phenomena. Much of his book is devoted to explaining how the phenomena of the astral light accounts for various aspects of the traditional lore and legendry of magic.

Of course there’s a mismatch between this way of thinking about magic and the way that, as mentioned above, was standard in medieval, Renaissance, and early modern occult literature. Lévi’s response to that mismatch leads into his third essential theme, which is symbolism. He argued that the priests and wizards of ancient times were in no hurry to disclose the foundations of their power, and that a great many of the emblems and narratives of the ancient world were intended to express the secrets of the astral light in a form that would instantly be clear to anyone who was already in the know, but would be utterly misleading to anyone who took those emblems and narratives literally.

Unfortunately, the keys to the secret knowledge had been lost in the collapse of the ancient world, and people who only knew the literal sense of the emblems and narratives decided that they had to be believed or rejected in that literal sense. To Lévi, therefore, the task facing him and other students of occultism was a vast salvage operation, seeking to rescue the secrets of the ages from the rubble and muck in which they had been entombed for centuries. He had, however, a tool perfectly designed for the task of excavation, and that tool was the tarot deck.

The wisdom of the ages — the ages in question being the Renaissance.

Lévi believed that the tarot deck had originated in ancient Egypt and preserved the secret lore of the ancient Egyptian temples. Of course he was entirely wrong. The tarot was invented in Renaissance Italy; its creator, Marziano da Tortona, was the private secretary to the Duke of Milan, and designed the first version of the tarot sometime between 1415 and 1425.  The tarot went through various changes before it settled into the standard 78-card deck we have today.  It didn’t have a thing to do with ancient Egypt—but Renaissance Italy, the setting where it did emerge, was saturated with Neoplatonist mysticism and occultism. Even though Lévi was wrong about its origins, in other words, he was right that the tarot made a fine template for the kind of work he wanted to do with it. What that work is—why, we’ll be getting to that in quite some detail in the posts to come.

Let’s talk briefly about practicalities. If you have a decent reading knowledge of French, you should certainly use a copy of Lévi’s original text to follow along with the posts to come; like most French authors, Lévi is best read in the original, and a translation is at best a pale substitute. (You can download volume 1 of the French edition here and volume 2 here.) If you don’t read French and do read English, there are two English translations. One of them is partly by me, and the other one sucks.

I know that sounds like deep-fried ego on a plate, but it’s not. The standard English translation of Lévi’s work for many years was by Arthur Edward Waite, who retitled it Transcendental Magic—Waite could never be satisfied with a good title if there was a dull one he could use instead. His translation is full of errors, he deliberately left out certain parts of the text, and he burdened it with scores of footnotes in which he argued with Lévi and insisted that the French mage didn’t know what he was talking about.

This wasn’t accidental. For all his lifelong interest in occultism, Waite was a devout and rather orthodox Christian, and his great motive in writing books on occult traditions was to convince people that Christian orthodoxy really was the one true path. Like too many other Christian intellectuals down through the years, he was not above falsifying data and engaging in character assassination if he thought such things would help him lead souls to Christ. (I’ll be documenting some examples of those bad habits of his in a forthcoming book.) Waite also suffered from another bad habit, more common among occultists than Christians, of thinking that if he didn’t know about something, there wasn’t anything there to know about, and a great many of his attempted critiques of Lévi’s work thus amount to “But that’s not in the limited range of teachings I’ve studied!”

While Lévi’s book has long been an essential text in occult schools and magical traditions throughout continental Europe and Latin America, it’s been largely ignored in the English-speaking world, and the main reason for this is because Waite’s maneuvers succeeded in their goal. That was why Mark Mikituk and I set out to do a new, accurate translation of Lévi’s work, which was published in 2017 to considerable acclaim. That’s the English translation I recommend using if you have to use an English translation; you can buy it here if you like.

That said, Waite’s version is long out of copyright and can quite legally be downloaded free of charge, while the translation by Mark and me will set you back S21.00 or so. If you don’t have the spare money to buy a copy of the latter, and you want to follow along, Waite’s translation is better than nothing, and you can get a copy here. Just remember, if you do this, that you’ll be dealing with Lévi filtered through a thick and sticky layer of hostile spin.

Manly P. Hall has some items for you to look at.

One other thing that may be useful in the work ahead is a tarot deck. No, you won’t be using it to practice divination, but that wasn’t what Lévi did with it either. (Did you know there are things you can do with a tarot deck other than telling fortunes?  An embarrassing number of people don’t.)  You’ll need a deck in the French tradition, not one of the many that riffs off the Rider-Waite deck—yes, there’s Waite again.  The decks I recommend in particular are the Knapp-Hall deck (recently reprinted as the New Art Tarot, its original title), created by the great American occultist Manly P. Hall using French models; the Wirth deck, created by French occultist Oswald Wirth; or any of the various Marseille decks.

On May 12 we’ll begin in earnest with “Introduction to the Doctrine of High Magic,” and proceed one chapter a month thereafter for the next four years or so.  I expect it to be a long strange trip, but a worthwhile one. Welcome to the journey!


  1. Yay! I just finished a preliminary read through of the new translation last month, and this will be a great way to go back through for a closer reading!

    When reading it, I saw a lot that was later in Dion Fortune’s work, and also some of the underpinnings of that whole milieu.

    Also, btw, this is one book that Richard Rose encouraged his students to read back in the day.

  2. I’ve recently started looking into how daily life looked in the past, and have had what I find to be an amusing realization: in English speaking North America, between 1960 and today less changed than did between 1930 and 1960, despite there only being half the length of time. Meanwhile, the pace of change is so high that daily life changed in the 1920s at least as much, and arguably more, than either period. So it’s not just the erasure of the pace of change of the 19th century, since even in the 20th century the pace of change was faster the earlier you look.

  3. The book is on the way and I am checking out the tarot decks. Excited to get started.

    Feels also like there might be a few opportunities for me to fill some gaps and expand horizons studying this book.

    Though I am thinking I might shift my language learning project from French to Latin. Or learn them in parallel. Something about reading the original sounds like fun.

  4. Thinking of the Renaissance and Early Modern era, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall has Thomas Cromwell learn the Art of Memory in Italy. You see how it affects his perception and how he uses it to manage his business and his rise to power. It’s funny how some people in past ages could do certain things that seem so difficult now. For example in Michael Baxandall’s Painting and Experience in 15th Century Italy, normal mathematical education or just maths puzzles for fun, make your head hurt. Or when Helen Langdon’s Carravaggio: A Life describes Cardinal Del Monte and his circle of polymaths, it’s difficult to believe people like that ever existed. Even people we’d consider odious, like slave ship captains, had a very impressive range of skills.

  5. Sweet! I already have the Knapp-Hall deck. I tried reading Waite’s translation many years ago, and couldn’t get through it, so I just ordered your translation now. I’m looking forward to this.

    I wish I’d followed along with the Cosmic Doctrine series, but will look forward to this one, and also to your commentary book on the Cosmic Doctrine whenever that comes out. (The other projects you mentioned working on in this post also piqued my interest.)

    Thank you!

  6. Well I’m feeling slightly bitter at my poor retention of my 5 years of school French! I’m excited for this series since I had to play catch up on Cos.Doc. the whole time; book ordered.

    Your years long book club series serve as an inspiring example of will training.

    Anyone who complains of cultural appropriation of the tarot should be punished or rewarded (depending on your perspective) with a plate of rice and beans.

  7. Didn’t see that one coming. I was hoping for Yeats, but I’m happy with Levi all the same– I’ve been working through the Doctrine and Ritual in meditation since October of last year, going as slowly as I can. As of today, I’ve finished Chapter 2 of the Ritual. It’s changed my view of magic and of life in general in a way that’s been really remarkable. I’ve also had questions about it that I’ve been forgetting to ask about on Magic Monday.

    22 x 2 chapters + introductions means we’re going to be at this one for a few years…

    BTW, other than the reversal of the Justice and Strength cards, are there any other major differences between French and English/Waite-style tarot decks?

  8. I’m very much looking forward to the study of this book with you and the commentariat here!

    I tried to order the book using the link you provided. I am French and can read it in the original language, which I intend to do, but would like an English copy for the monastery library I am gathering. However, perhaps because I am in Canada, the program insists on sending the book to Arizona instead of Ontario.

    Is there another platform I can order the book from that would provide you with the most revenue? Also, I am willing to spend extra for a hardcover printed on acid-free paper if that is available. It will last longer going into the future.

  9. This sounds fascianating. I tried to participate in the previous round, but for some reason or another excuse, only got a few chapters done. This time might be different (really!). Apparently you can also purchase an ebook version of your translation, which is cheaper than the paper version. Would it work?

    My only concern is that I have just recently gotten back to “Learning Ritual Magic”. I am soon three weeks into the course, which means I am currently focusing on Israel Regardies “The Tree of Life”, doing the weekly readings and assigning sentences for each day. It seems to be working. A lot has changed since my previous attempt.

    Would entering this study conflict with “Learning Ritual Magic”?

  10. Thanks JMG

    I will order your book and the Wirth Tarot has been rereleased this year so I will get that. I had a look at reviews for your book and I had to laugh at this one.

    “Comically dated gender roles. Some useful traces of information to use as starting points. Not a place to find a definitive guide. Heavy on opinion.”

  11. Yay! A guided tour through this complex book will be appreciated. Also, thank you for the heads-up on the reprint of the Knapp-Hall Tarot.

  12. Great, I’ve been humming and hahing about reading Lévi and now that decision is easily made! For me, seeing where I am with my magical education, this fits perfectly with the idea of the teacher appearing when the student is ready.

    I do read French, and I’ll probably give it a go in that language, but I expect there’ll be a lot of old-fashioned words and turns of phrase, so I’ll likely relent and buy the Greer one also because the reader comments will likely refer to that text.

    BTW you’ve got a typo with Constant being born a century too late.

    Looking forward to this!

  13. How wonderful! I am looking forward to the deep dive into Doctrine & Ritual. Cosmic Doctrine was transformative in the best of ways.

    Also seems like a great time to revisit my studies of French…

  14. JMG:

    Thanks for doing another book. By the time I got interested in Dion Fortune (last fall) it seemed a bit late to jump in. (I’m another “came for the peak oil, but now interested in the occult” reader.) I am glad I get to jump in from the beginning this time. I have ordered my copy of your group’s translation.

    I also just started reading your book on magical lodges . Now I want to join one if I can find one.

  15. ‘not long after he was ordained as a deacon, he was assigned to teach the catechism classes in a girl’s school and fell in love with one of his students. ‘

    A forbidden love, that man was full of romanticism…not good to become a Catholic priest. There is some Eliphas Levi’s books in my local Library (some of them in French!), I’d like to learn some (high) magic from him…

  16. I’m hoping that’s 1810, not 1910, in the third paragraph. Otherwise, Levi was way more proficient at magic than anyone knew! A bit of the Merlin about him, was there?

  17. Isaac, yes, you’re going to encounter a lot of Fortune’s basic concepts in this volume, and some of those won’t be obvious at all. Pay very close attention when Lévi starts talking about the Great Arcanum…

    Mollari, excellent. One of the things I find endlessly amusing is the way that believers in progress keep on assuming that the rate of change in the near future is going to be what it was in the early 20th century, even though the rate of change in the recent past has been slowing quite dramatically.

    Eric, Latin and French have enough deep similarities that after three years of classical Latin, I was able to pick up a good reading knowledge of French in a matter of months. Of course you can use the method Péladan recommended, and study the English and French versions of Lévi simultaneously.

    RMS, welcome aboard!

    Yorkshire, that’s an important insight. Most people these days are stunningly undereducated — that’s partly the fault of schools that teach children to hate and fear the learning process, of course, but it’s also the fault of mass media filling people’s heads with empty chatter. One practice I highly recommend for people recovering from schooling is to choose a subject you know nothing about, and use the library and other non-electronic resources to learn as much as you can about it. That can be a very liberating experience!

    Justin, thanks for this. The Cos.Doc. commentary is at the publisher, and I’m delighted to say that the current head of Dion Fortune’s magical order thinks well of it and will be recommending it. I think it’ll be out in the autumn. The others? A little longer…

    Youngelephant, get a copy of Lévi’s book in French and another in English, and read through them together. You’ll find that your high school French comes back far more quickly than you expect. As for rice and beans, hah! Still, I’d rather not reward them. Make ’em eat generic corporate fast food for the rest of their life instead.

    Steve, glad to hear it. As for the cards, there are a lot of symbolic differences — for example, Trump I, le Bateleur, in the French deck, is a mountebank, not a magus!

    Myriam, sorry about that — I’m not sure when Bookshop will get that sorted out and begin delivering to Canada. As for where to order it, why, anywhere at all other than the Big Slimy River is fine.

    Oskari, you can certainly use an e-book edition if that works for you. You can certainly follow along with the text as we go and do the exercises I’ll be recommending, but you should stick with your current meditations for now; this will be coming out in book form eventually, and so you can meditate your way through Lévi later.

    Bridge, too funny.

    Joy, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Reloaded, Lévi’s French is a little old-fashioned but any decent dictionary should take care of the vocabulary issues; he’s a capable writer and was a pleasure to translate.

    Kimberly, glad to hear it.

    Chris, magical lodges are hard to find; you may need to start one — which is what that book is about.

    Chuaquin, the first half of his life was very colorful and romantic; ironically, once he started writing about magic, his life became very quiet, orderly, and uneventful!

    Christophe, well, P.D.Q Bach was born in 1807 and died in 1742, so there’s a precedent! 😉

  18. Came in too late for cosmic doctrine but this looks like a great one to journey. I was thinking about getting this book, def going to now. How does the hermetic tarot deck fair?

  19. Wronski! Now there’s a name I haven’t heard since my heady days as a mathematics undergrad student. Of course, they never told us he was such an influential occultist…

    I’ll be excited to participate in this conversation the next few years. JMG, I missed out on the discussion of Fortune’s book… would it be advisable to go back and catch up, or can the complete beginner hop right into this book study?

    All the best,
    Ryan M.

  20. JMG,

    Thanks for the setting and introduction to the work we’ll be studying next month. While reading your essay I noted one of the things that has attracted me to your writing has been your ability to make the past come alive. I always admired historical fiction because the style immersed the reader in the setting and you manage that quite well.

    Your explanation of Levi’s metaphor of how magic works really left an impression with the importance of imagination and our creative works in this world. In effect, I was left with the impression that magic is a tool, similar to a paintbrush, the world is our canvas, and our imagination is the paint, with which we can construct anything we imagine within the realities of the medium we use. Studying Levi’s work will likely leave some deep impressions. I’m tempted to try studying both the English and French versions side by side in order to learn some French. Is the version you helped translate a good recommendation to study together with the original French?

    Thank you for the wide variety of doors to life and reality you’ve made more clear.

  21. Despite having read and reread our translation quite a few times, I am very much looking forward to this, John!

  22. I will follow your advice on the dual books as I was thinking this might be a motivating opportunity to relearn French, similar to Eric. Is there a book for learning French you recommend; a Wheelock’s Latin equivalent perhaps? I was only a good French student some of the time, and don’t quite trust my past education to be enough.

  23. With regards to the Mythos of Progress and the pace of change:

    There was a study that was published in Scientific American of all places, which concluded that the rate of scientific discovery, technological innovation and social change actually peaked in the late 19th century and has been gradually winding down ever since. I also recall reading an interesting observation by the American military historian Archer Jones in his book The Art of War in the Western World, where he noted that the 50 year period between 1885 and 1935 saw far greater changes (social, technological and otherwise) than the succeeding period of 1935 through 1985.

  24. Thank you, this is just what I needed!! I just bought another copy of your translation like two days ago…

    I opened the book and a quote that seems appropriate:

    “Another book also exists; but that one, even though it is in a way popular and can be found everywhere, is the most occult and the most unknown of all, because it contains the key to all the others; it is amongst the public without being known by the public; we do not think of finding it where it is, and we would lose our time multiplied by a thousand looking for it where it is not if we suspected its existence. This book, perhaps more ancient than Enoch’s, was never translated, and it is still written in primitive characters on detached pages like the tablets of the ancients.”

  25. JMG,

    So glad to hear this! I was wanting to do another deep dive of Levi! I first read Waite’s translation years ago, and then yours soon after it came out (thanks for that!). I couldn’t follow along with Cos Doc because of other literary study commitments, but now I’m wide open for a good deep dive. Conductor may I come aboard?


  26. Well, I’ve been meaning to refresh my French reading beyond family chatter . . . I suppose this’ll be good reason!

  27. I see that both required items are available through Canadian resellers… I think I might just take the plunge…

  28. I think I might come along on this one. Like others I’m sorry I didn’t join in the CosDoc seminars. I currently practice daily SOP from the DMH, but am postponing the later lessons as there’s an infant in the house. Would this material be directly useful for the DMH programme, or would its relevance be more just as background philosophy? I’ve read bits of Regardie (and Crowley), but this would be my first systematic study of occult philosophy.


  29. My tarot deck is the Norbert Losche “Cosmic Tarot.” Do you know anything about it; is it derived from Rider-Waite or some other source?


    Antoinetta III

  30. If we, and by we I mean I, did not complete the Cosmic Doctrine reading, can we participate in this four year journey?

    And looking at the tarot decks, there’s no advantage of one over the other of the ones you mentioned?

    It looks like has a few choices in the decks and your book!

  31. Hah ! Monday I said to myself – “Eliphas Levi; he’ll do Levi next”
    (pats self on back).
    I’m on board but will be a bit behind. I started the book 2 years ago but had to stop reading it (and any book) due to my longstanding visual problems getting much worse. But – good news – unexpected good news has come my way and if all goes well I’ll be back in the book reading world this summer; so only a month or 2 behind.
    Fingers tightly crossed !

  32. You can play games with the Tarot. I even have a card-game book with the rules, although all the games look pretty complicated.

    I have a non-Waite Tarot , the Ukiyoe Tarot (really pretty!) , but it is packed away. Is it possible to follow along if I just sort of mentally translate Waite to non-Waite?

  33. Does anyone know where (or even if) I can get a copy of the Knapp-Hall deck without paying a small fortune? The cheapest I’ve found it is $57 and most are over $100. I’ve ordered the Wirth deck, but I’d really like the Knapp-Hall, if I can find it at a descent price. Thanks.

  34. Exciting news! Your English edition is on the post… Regarding Tarot decks, you mentioned the Oswald Wirth: it looks like the original deck had only the Major Arcana, though a modern edition has added new designs for the Minor: Do we need a full deck or just the Big 22? Also, what about the Papus Tarot, would this be suitable as well?

    Many thanks!

  35. Hey first time commenting here,
    For once I’m not late to the party! I have been meaning to this work and I already have the French and Your translation. I may even have waite’s version lying around. I might read all three and contrast. Looking forward to this.

  36. The picture where ‘Manly P. Hall has some items for you to look at’ reminded me of the childrens’ TV game show Knightmare. Scenes like that happened a lot. With divination being sold as parlour games and Levi popularising occultism I wonder how weird you could go with that. Imagine a book of occult philosophy and instruction in the form of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. 🙂 I once dreamed about a society where the highest form of art, and the way to communicate the greatest political and philosophical ideals, was the diorama.

  37. Thank you for your comments about the origins of Cabala. I’d been studying the “orthodox” Jewish Kabbalah (with a good smattering of Hebrew) AFTER having spend many years studying the magical one, and found it slow going and rather “woody,” not to mention very religious (not in a good way, btw). I look forward to your further writings on that topic. It’s always good to have a genuinely serious scholar’s input on the topic. I tried reading Scholem and found him too dry and academic for me. Even 60 years ago, the general education I got in school was weak on teaching how to actually study anything. The one thing I’ve gotten in the past few years from my Jewish friends has been they’ve given me a good set of clues how to study texts (know your vocabulary, context, implications, move slowly, ask every obvious question about the text, and don’t ever forget the suggested timeframe for further questions).

  38. Dear John Michael Greer,
    Thank you, I am very much looking forward to this series of posts.

  39. Also, where does Origen discuss Cabala? Googling ‘Origen Cabala’ returns long lists of Spanish texts (‘origen’ in Spanish apparently = ‘origin’ in English) that have nothing to do with Clement of Alexandria’s august pupil. Thanks!

  40. So the Rider-Waite deck is not the tool for this adventure, but it’s still a useful (one of the best?) tool for divination?

  41. This is going to be an adventure for the mind.. thank you, JMG.

    Let me just get my old and rusty schoolboy french up to speed; and get some Marseille cards. Even if I just get grip on Tarot after 3-4 years (I never studied it previously) it will be worth the time.


  42. D. Mekel, glad to hear it. The Hermetic Tarot is English pattern, alas.

    Ryan, you don’t need to know The Cosmic Doctrine to understand what Lévi had to say — quite the contrary. Welcome aboard.

    Prizm, you’re welcome and thank you. The version Mark and I translated was about as literal as we could make it without becoming unreadable, so yes, it’s well suited to side-by-side reading — a lot better than Waite’s, certainly.

    Singleton, welcome aboard.

    Mark, glad to hear it! Please correct me when I make grammar mistakes. 😉

    Youngelephant, I wish there was a Wheelock-equivalent for French! Alas, the French language isn’t dead yet, so language books have a bad habit of becoming outdated.

    Galen, I’ve seen either that study or another like it, which used patent application (a very good quantitative measure) to gauge the rate of innovation. As I recall, it peaked in 1885.

    Augusto, good. I hope you know which book Lévi means…

    Dean, all aboard!

    BoysMom, welcome to the journey.

    Casey, glad to hear it.

    Morfran, this is background philosophy, though you can apply it very directly to the DMH work.

    Antoinetta, it’s a very attractive deck, but it’s derived from the English tradition as is the Rider-Waite.

    Denis, you don’t have to know a thing about Fortune’s ideas to follow along. As for the decks, whichever of the French pattern decks appeals to you most is the right one.

    Lurksalong, glad to hear it.

    Your Kittenship, yes, tarot is also a game. It’s still much played in some parts of central Europe, I believe. As for the Ukiyo-e deck, attractive as it is, it’s basically the Rider-Waite in Japanese clothing. Sorry.

    Chronojourner, did you click on the link I included in the post? It’s the Knapp-Hall deck in a new and larger printing, for US$46. You can get it here.

    Hwistle, Papus himself went off on his own tangent, and there’s another deck called the “Papus tarot” which goes even further. You only need the major arcana for the work I have in mind, for what it’s worth.

    Thomas, glad to hear it.

    Yorkshire, do you by any chance remember the Ka-Bala game? I still regret not having one during my insufficiently misspent childhood…

    Clarke, the Jewish tradition of the Cabala is great stuff if you happen to be an observant orthodox Jew, which of course makes perfect sense; for those of us that aren’t, something more like the 19th century reconstruction of the older Gnostic and Neopythagorean tradition is probably more suitable. (That’s spelled “Golden Dawn,” by the way.) I’m glad to hear that your Jewish friends have helped you learn the study of texts — that’s a very rare skill these days.

    William, I’ve never seen one that wasn’t basically identical to Lévi’s original text, so any of them ought to do.

  43. “While Lévi’s book has long been an essential text in occult schools and magical traditions throughout continental Europe and Latin America, it’s been largely ignored in the English-speaking world, and the main reason for this is because Waite’s maneuvers succeeded in their goal. ”

    In spite of this, many of the fragments of Lévi’s concepts indirectly diffused into English-speaking world via (ahem, improper citations in) Blavatsky’s popular books.

  44. As one of those old-style folk occultists whose practices seem quaint even by Picatrix standards, this should be an interesting read…will have to brush up on my terrible French.

    For what it’s worth, in Bruno’s essays on magic, he goes on pretty extensively about the need for belief (“…all practitioners of magic, medicine, and prophecy produce no results without a pregiven faith…”).

    And I think they still play Tarocco as a proper game in some places in the old country…


  45. John–

    Two questions:

    1) What is your opinion of Waite’s _The Holy Kabbalah_?

    2) How would you rate Waite on a scale from Aleister Crowley to Dion Fortune?

  46. JMG: Since you mentioned the Frankists, I wonder if you have read Gershom Sholem’s Sabbatai Zevi? If you haven’t, it is that rarest of rare birds — a 1,000+ page book that is worth reading and wasn’t written by a Russian. I enjoyed it thoroughly and I suspect you would as well if you haven’t already seen it.

    I’ve gathered there is a fair bit of Frankist literature, but since my French is rudimentary and my Polish non-existent I haven’t been able to peruse it yet. I know that Jakob Frank’s influence on 19th and 20th century occultism was enormous, yet has received little attention outside of Scholem so far as I can tell.

  47. We had Ka-Bala, JMG, but it was when we lived out in the country and neither my brother, 10 years my senior, nor my parents liked the game, so I only got to play it a few times. We moved to town later on, but it was the middle of the school year, I became a pariah, so no kid would have risked being seen coming to my house, for Ka-Bala or any other reason, so I STILL didn’t get to play it much. If I ever find the game at a yard sale or thrift store I’ll buy it and maybe we can start an annual Ka-Bala Festival.

    Might any of your publishers be interested in reviving Ka-Bala if the copyright holder can be found?

  48. @Darkest Yorkshire, given the amount of emphasis that my teachers put on diorama-making assignments through the first eight grades of my own U.S. public school education in the 60s and early 70s, you’d expect dioramas to be the basis of our economy and the foundation of a sizable percentage of available careers. (I made some awesome ones depicting the action scenes from the paperback covers of a number of Alistair MacLean novels, which I also did get around to reading, eventually.) Or at least, as in your dream, the best way to communicate political and philosophical ideals. Alas, it appears the deeper mysteries of the diorama are destined, for the present age, to remain a closed shoe box.

  49. Goodness, I am excited about this new series. It gives me a good reason to brush up on my French.
    Your translation has been ordered and the cards will take some consideration, but I am leaning toward the Oswald Wirth deck. I’m very glad you didn’t say the Rider-Waite tarot! Frankly, I am repulsed by that set for reasons I cannot put into words. Either way it is very different than the tarot that I use.
    I do have a quick question though. You stated, “there is a certain subtle force on the borderline between matter and consciousness, which surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” I have been coming across discussions about aether. Is this another terms for that subtle force?

  50. Millicently, you’re welcome and thank you.

    William, I’ll have to go digging for the reference. It’s in Against Celsus, where he quotes Celsus ripping into Christianity on the basis of a diagram, and insists that it’s not really a Christian diagram. (The two of them were working with slightly different versions of the diagram — evidence that the Gnostic proto-Cabala was already a very lively and creative scene.)

    Alex, the Rider-Waite is a fine deck for all purposes if you’re working within the Golden Dawn system of occultism or any of its offshoots, and it’s a fine divinatory deck generally. It doesn’t have the specific structure and symbolism that Lévi is using, though.

    Changeling, welcome aboard!

    Minervaphilos, yes, and also equally unattributed quotations in Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma of the Scottish Rite.

    Fra’ Lupo, I’m pretty sure Bruno got that from the Picatrix, which makes exactly the same comment. As for Tarocco, I’m glad to hear that!

    David BTL, The Holy Kabbalah is classic Waite — that is to say, very erudite, very dry, and not especially useful unless you happen to be a Christian mystic of Waite’s own rather cerebral style. As for where he fits, that’s an odd scale — Crowley is far from the bottom of the scale of English occultists, and Fortune is not at the top, though she’s close. I consider Waite and Crowley to be two peas from the same pod: pompous, egotistical, unscrupulous, far less erudite than they thought they were, but at the same time — and within the limits of the foregoing — deeply committed to occultism, and following their own personal vision of occult spirituality out as far as they could, and never mind the consequences. In my sourer moods I think of them as the right and left buttocks of the Grand Man of the Mysteries.

    Kenaz, I have indeed — when I decided to go into business as a teacher of esoteric spirituality I made a point of reading a bunch of good bios of other people who went that route and crashed and burned disastrously, in the hope of learning from their mistakes. Sabbatai Zevi was definitely an object lesson, though L. Ron Hubbard was even more so. As for the Frankists, that’s a vast can of worms I haven’t even begun to open yet.

    Your Kittenship, I have no idea how copyright laws interact with the world of games — and of course it’s not just a matter of printing something, because the Ka-Bala has various plastic parts including the Eye of Zohar, and the publisher would have to contract with somebody who can manufacture things out of glow-in-the-dark plastic!

    Aubrey, different occultists use terms like “aether” differently; to some, it’s the same as Lévi’s “astral light,” while others differentiate the aetheric or etheric plane from the astral plane. We’ll get into that in detail as we proceed.

  51. @Kenaz,

    There are plenty of excellent books on Sabbateans in Turkish language, but only a few of them have English versions. I can recommend the book “The Burden of Silence: Sabbatai Sevi and the Evolution of the Ottoman-Turkish Dönmes” by Cengiz Şişman as a solid scholarly example.

  52. John, thanks for your reply. Guess it wasn’t such a simple question after all. I look forward to learning more.

  53. Re my two questions

    Thanks, John. I’ve seen Waite in a number of contexts and was unsure of where to place him. There are so many threads to follow in this journey and I’m trying to allocate my limited time effectively.

    The oddness of the scale is a direct result of my limited knowledge of occultism, of course!

  54. Important announcement: Sonkitten took a trash bag out to the bin and a fly flew in (well, since it was a fly, I guess we couldn’t expect it to dance in), so it’s officially, no-doubt-about-it, spring! 🦋. Let the wild rumpus start! Frolic about! Lower the car windows! Wear shorts too early in the season and catch a cold! Spring is here, spring is here, life is skittles and life is beer…

    The fly has gone to that Great Cowflop In The Sky. I regret to announce that Sonkitten has mostly phased out the Ball of Doom in favor of the common, ordinary flyswatter. (Spellcheck wanted to substitute “fly swat terrorist.” 😄🤪. Moments like this are why I leave it on.). He is having a bad speech day so was unable to explain why he’s been doing this; it’s probably because the flyswatter requires much less stealth than the large Ball of Doom. I’ll try to get him to make more kills with the Ball, because it’s great fun to watch, whereas anybody can swat flies.

    Young folks, take note. You know all those medicine commercials showing ecstatic geezers dancing, cruising, chopping wood, tossing horseshoes, climbing Mount Everest? Well, forget it. In real life, entertainment in the golden years is more likely to involve watching a guy sneak up on a fly and roll a basketball over it. Which is more fun anyway.

  55. JMG, there are LOADS of factories in China that would be happy to manufacture Eyes of Zohar for the publisher!

  56. This should be fun. I was first referred to study the tarot by a god, when he showed me a number of tarot images, principally myself as a hermit figure. I got the Rider-Waite deck, and never made sense of the minor difference that I was very clearly shown a hermit with a shepherd’s crook rather than a straight staff as in the tarot deck.

    I just looked up an image of the Knapp-Hall hermit, et voila! A shepherd’s crook.

  57. Ordered the book, ordered the cards, I’m in. I may even download the French text and read them side by side, to shore up what little of the French I learned in school may still be accessible.

  58. P.S. I’ve lost 55 lb in the last six months—one of the things that seems to fade away in old age is appetite—so I’ve had to dig out old clothes that I never got around to donating (a darn good thing, as it turns out), and going through them is like going back in time. It’s fascinating. Fabrics are thick and sturdy. Colors remain true. Patterns and plaids are thread-dyed or at the very least, yarn-dyed. Seams are sewn straight. There ARE seams, instead of thread barely catching the edge of the fabric. And we ain’t talking haute couture here. These are clothes that came from K-mart, Meijer’s, Sears or Penney’s if there was a good sale, even Walmart. I have a 35-year-old brown velvet top from Walmart that I still wear. It has barely faded and the seams have never come apart.

    And now, so says Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism, and I have no reason to doubt her, very expensive office clothes fall apart the first time they are washed or dry-cleaned.

    Why did We the People allow this to happen?

    End of disgruntled rant.

  59. Hmmm! Going by the order of book club entries, does that make “Mystery Teachings From the Living Earth” the most important occult text of the 21st century? 😉

  60. The book is already on backorder on Bookshop – I purchased mine directly from Penguin Random House for $23 + tax.

  61. Of course I do, my tablets of the ancients are sitting in front of me right now. I was surprised to not see a footnote that would amount to “have you meditated on it?”!) Luckily enough, The Quest Bookshop kindly ordered the re-print of the Knapp-Hall deck for me a while I go, now I have an excuse for having purchased yet another deck. 🙂 That comment by Levi is what turned the Tarot for me from something rather silly to the first thing I turn to for advice. Oh has it saved me from much pain! Can’t wait to see the possibilities as I am ignorant about its other uses.

    Levi seems to have had integrated the fourth virtue deeply within himself as to me the man speaks in nested riddles, without restraint ironically, effortlessly and in so much color. That makes for a fascinating read, though I haven’t even gotten past half of the first half in three years. Having an occultist that has studied him set a pace and a discussion group will be a truly invaluable resource as I approach a point where it will become mandatory reading. I have a feeling it will be quite strange, something like this:

    I didn’t know Levi was a big thing in magical schools in Latin America. Do you have some pointers? Now that I think about it however I remember when I went to a retrospective exhibit of the fantastic british-mexican painter Leonora Carrington to see a beaten up copy of Levi’s book on display. Judging by her paintings, she was deep into it, and apparently she was an occultist herself going by people that got influenced by her. Picture for reference:

    Re: buttocks: That Grand Man of the Mysteries seems a little pompous to me. Appropriate for a backside though!

  62. Whooee, Book Club in long forgotten French! I’m in. Even better than thrashing my way through romans, um, trashy novels which would bore me if I understood the language.

  63. Well this looks really fun. I have never studied French but I have studied Latin and Spanish so I think I will give French a go.

    JMG I know you were not sure which book to cover next. What was that process like.


  64. Hi JMG,

    This was definitely a curveball, since I was expecting more Fortune or Yeats. I’m looking forward to it though, and I am very curious to try out the Knapp-Hall tarot deck! Thanks for leading us on this journey.

  65. Synchronicity!

    I ordered yours and Mikituk’s translation and it just arrived last week. From a slow read up to the 3rd chapter I find a lot to unpack that I don’t fully understand, would appreciate having a commentary on it!

    I actually rejected learning Cabala in detail for a long time because I simply don’t identify at all with the Abrahamic religions (I did read books like “The Greek Kabbalah” on the Hellenistic origins of the Cabala though), but just recently, I discovered that at least according to some cabalists, the Bible was never meant to be understood as literal history at all.

    I had been listening to recorded talks by New Thought author Neville Goddard as well as reading his publications. He claims to have learnt Cabala from an Ethiopian Rabbi in the 1920s and 30s and actually does use Cabalistic techniques in his lectures. Anyway, his core thesis, that the Bible was written by ancient sages in metaphor to teach the evolution of one’s own consciousness rather than literal history, actually inspired me to read up more on it.

  66. Aubrey, I wish there were more simple questions in this field! Alas, no such luck.

    Davidjones, Greek philosophy drew very heavily on late Egyptian spirituality, and Pythagoras is indeed the key figure there, though far from the only Greek thinker involved in the transition. You might enjoy Anaximander and the Architects by Robert Hahn — it provides a very useful glimpse into the way that Egyptian thought shaped Greek architecture and philosophy.

    David BTL, gotcha. You’re most welcome, of course.

    Randomacts, welcome aboard.

    Your Kittenship, we also had an omen of spring here: the first ice cream truck of the season. No, we didn’t swat it. 😉

    Kyle, well, there you are. As I recall, a fair number of French pattern decks give the hermit a shepherd’s crook.

    SLClaire, glad to hear it.

    Your Kittenship, that’s a good example of something I’ll be talking about in an upcoming post: the increasingly desperate attempt to camouflage the reality of decline.

    Quin, funny. I hope not — it’s not even my best book.

    Jon, it’s great if you’re working with Case’s system, but not really otherwise, and I’m not a follower of his.

    Shewhoholdstensions, hmm! They must have been low in stock. I’m sure they’ll have more in a few days.

    Augusto, delighted to hear it. Yes, Lévi was very good at phrasing things so that only those who are paying attention will get the point. As for Lévi in Latin America, I’ve read references to that but it was a long time ago — sorry!

    Raphanus, oh, trashy novels also have their value. I’m at work in off hours translating Péladan’s The Supreme Vice, which is a fine example of the species Frenchnovelus highlytrashius, but is also the book that got Stanislaus de Guaita interested in magic!

    Will, the process consisted of letting it circle in my mind at odd moments until clarity arrived. I do that fairly often.

    Samurai, it was a bit of a surprise to me, too, but I’m quite sure at this point it’s the right choice. Welcome to the adventure!

    Alvin, that’s very much Lévi’s attitude toward the Bible as well. He sees it as a magnificent treasury of symbolic wisdom that only becomes idiotic if you take it literally. As for Ethiopian Cabalists, that would not surprise me at all; Ethiopia has ancient connections to Jewish traditions and a very old and well-established tradition of religious scholarship. Someday someone who is fluent in Ge’ez will translate enough old Ethiopic documents into one of the main languages of scholarship to rock the foundations of the Abrahamic traditions…

  67. Excellent! I recently read this over the course of several months. It really got the wheels turning as it coincided with the latter part of the CosDoc. There is so much to unpack that a second read will be a pleasure with your commentary and the wonderful discussions after each chapter. Perhaps reading it in French alongside your book will drag my rusty French out of the bodega and polish it up 🙂 Thank you very much for the time and consideration you put into our monthly book club. Something to look forward to every month 🤓

  68. Dear JMG,

    I’m looking forward to this! And what a great introduction.
    I’m hoping Levi’s French isn’t as “creative”as Peladan’s or as full of academic jargon as Corbin’s. But even if it is, I’m on for the ride!

  69. Very much looking forward to this! Levi seems to belong to the list of classics everybody interested in occultism has heard of, but few have actually read. Am curious to see what he had to say, and the discussion here promises to be a helpful accompaniment.

    Also the left & right buttocks comment made me literally laugh out loud. Thank you for that.

  70. Hi JMG,

    I had your translation sitting on a shelf and waiting for the right moment for a few years now. I’m certainly in for the ride!

    There is also a kindle edition of this same book that is much cheaper than the paper copy. It may be a workable alternative if budget is an issue. It also is a good way to avoid destroying the physical book through too much reading.

    Is there a chance of it being printed again in a more durable edition? I would love to get a copy in a quality similar to Dolmen Arch and On the Shadow of the Ideas if there is a slightest chance for it to be printed this way.

  71. Lady Cutekitten of Lolcat wrote, “Young folks, take note. You know all those medicine commercials showing ecstatic geezers dancing, cruising, chopping wood, tossing horseshoes, climbing Mount Everest? Well, forget it.”

    Milady, I do beg to differ. I can watch ecstatic geezers cruising and tossing with abandon in the Rambles and North Woods of Central Park any night of the year. More so now that spring has sprung and their fluids are rising. As for climbing Mount Everest, some of them are lucky they can even climb the trails in the Rambles, so I think that must be a blue-screen effect.

    How I miss last year’s lockdown, when I could wander with impunity after dark in Central Park totally unmolested. I did some of my best meditations in the darkest depths of the forest listening to the harmonies of the crickets and frogs round the witching hour, with very little traffic noise to interrupt. But now, alas, Central Park has gone back to being a decidedly uncomfortable place to listen to the sounds in the forest after dark. Ewww!

  72. Remember the Harper ‘s Magazine article on the dangers of meditation? You can now get right into it through .

    Aaaaannd there’s a big red flag mentioned in the first few sentences, a flag that the late meditator profiled tragically missed. One of the rules of the retreat she attended was “no praying.” I don’t know how such a rule could be enforced, but its existence should tell you to leave immediately. Me, if I was forced to go to something with a no-praying rule,
    I’d nod and smile and pray silently. but the lady profiled in the article chose to observe the rule , with tragic results.

  73. Thank you. Now regarding the deck to work with, what sort of practical manipulation of the cards is expected? Is it sufficient to have an image of the card to meditate on, or shall we be shuffling them, laying out spreads and the like? There are images of the cards online that I suppose I could watch on the screen or even print out at a rather low quality, if it came to that.

    Also, if a physical set of the cards is required, at which point should I have a set ready? I am asking as it might take some time for me for various reasons to get my hands on the physical cards.

  74. Hi JMG,

    Thanks – and sorry for the slightly redundant question! Book ordered. Very much looking forward to this.


  75. If Dion Fortune isn’t the top occultist of her time, who would that be?

    Also will you be covering L Ron Hubbard in your series on American occultism?

  76. Hi.

    You said Levi updated occultism to modern age, which is to say, that he used symbols and references that could be grasped by the modern world man. For example, if I used the images of a very well known TV commercial, everyone who has watched the commercial would know that I was talking about such product, and would miss the point otherwise. In this regard, isn’t Fortune’s work more up to date, using cultural references that are more clear to us, people of the XXI century? I still don’t get half of what I read in CosDoc, but I came to a passage that had clear references to how a modern democratic State is organised, so a text like this would not make any sense in the previous eras.
    Reading french is only slightly more difficult to me than reading english, so not a problem here. However, I am afraid that if I started studying ‘dogme de la haute magie’ now, I would not finish CosDoc ever (I’m not even half through it). Unless it’s OK to study both at the same time.

    Another question, maybe unrelated, is about the real necessity of occult texts. You see, I’m quite a literal person, when I say something I usually mean it. I was never good with riddles. When I want something, I usually ask for it; I don’t give hints in the hope the other person gets that I am asking something without asking, lest that person think of me that I’m too bossy or rude. Although I understand that there are times when you really can’t say things directly. For example, here in Spain you could not say anything bad about the dictator, during the dictatorship, so for anyone who wished to critizise him, only covert metaphores were allowed. Sometimes not even that, if the metaphores were way too clear. Secret services, police covert operations, all that kind of things need encrypted talk. I see also the need for indirect talk in some cases, where sensibilities are too high to speak clearly, like announcing someone deared’s death or talking with people on their nerves.
    But here, with occult texts, I don’t really get the need to use encrypted codes, not yet. None of what I’ve decyphered so far really needs to be kept secret. I’m still trying to train the mind, not to inform it, and that’s being painfully hard for someone used to just inform it.
    So I would like to ask, are there really worthy abilities to gain by practicising occultism, other than being able to pass hidden messages? Is this just a sharper mind thanks to training or is there something else?

  77. JMG and DBTL@48
    Re: the scale of English occultists
    So who comes in at the top? – I’m intrigued – maybe William Blake?

    I will be following from a distance on this one but all sounds interesting.

  78. @Lady Cutekitten – I’ve about decided that April is the adolescence of the year (and October is its menopause.) Being more or less on the mend from what seemed like just a cold that peaked Monday (probably started Saturday) but from which recovery seems to be taking forever. Oh, yes, the medicine commercials are trying to sell you on something they promise to deliver – like the little red sports car is supposed to deliver pretty girls to the side of the middle-aged guy, huh?

    While the real pleasure flit by unnoticed, like the little red and brown cardinals who occasionally fly by slowly, some of them even wearing an invisible “student pilot” warning.

  79. This is exciting. Lucky for me, I got your and Mike’s translation last year. I was too late for Dion Fortune but look forward to joining in this read. From the first chapter I gather it will be a very symbolic ride, much like (I presume without any knowledge) the tarot.

  80. I’m getting into it, too! The class prerequisites are low enough for me 😉 (checking in my French privilege). And another synchronicity to boot, I played tarot this week-end with friends, I taught them the game basically for which I found 2 ou 3 complete set of cards at my late mother’s house and a set of Marseille’s trumps.

    For those of you who are interested in knowing the difference is that Marseille’s Tarot contains 22 trumps with fancy names and four suits that are not spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs but came from traditional italian cards that still exist today (to play scopa for instance) : batons, swords, coins and cups. Regular french cards to play Tarot are 22 trumps with no name (except for Le Mat/0 which is called “Excuse”) and not-so-fancy pictures of XIXth century bourgeois-life, the four suits are those you’re familiar with.

    For those of you who’d like to read Levi in French, the text is not that difficult, on par with Hugo or de Nerval for that matter. The symbolism seems to be high, as obviously expected.

    I’ll order my copy as soon as possible, probably the second augmented edition if I can find one.

  81. Well, I missed the boat on the CosDoc book club, but I do believe I’ll sign on for this one. I already have a copy of your and Mr. Mikituk’s translation as well as two versions of the Marseille deck, so should be good to go.

  82. FYI, regarding obtaining book in Canada: is out of stock, delivery mid-late May, Indigo Chapters out of stock, delivery late May, early June. However, Abebooks Canada has ‘very good’ used copies in their canadian warehouse, from Russell Books in Victoria BC. This book seller has excellent reputation and books I have received from them have been in excellent condition. I’m on east coast and the few independent retailers in my area do not stock.

    Looking forward to this adventure….

  83. @Kenaz:

    Frater Acher wrote a free downloadable ebook / series of online essays “On the Order of the Asiatic Brethern” a couple years ago which digs into the Frankists and Sabbateans. It was an excellent series of articles. It is a available here:

    I’ll have to re-read it myself!

    I have a used copy of his Jewish Mysticism book that I hope to dig into. Also, from work I got an advanced reader copy of “Stranger in a strange land :searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem” by George Prochnik. I might dig into those for some parallel reading as the current investigation proceeds. That, and the essays of Walter Benjamin which I’ll be getting into anyway for some projects I have in mind.

  84. John,
    I’m very much looking forward to this. Can we assume you are going to produce another companion book on the back of this series? Secondly, the Knapp-Hall Tarot deck seems to be ‘unobtainium’ outside the US. The original sets seems to command eye water prices. Is a set required, or just desirable?
    Regards Averagejoe

  85. @Alvin & JMG:
    Serious synchronicities… (or is that Sirius synchronicities?), re Ethiopian rabbi’s & Ethiopia…

    I had a dream this past week that I was at an Ethiopian Coptic church and took part in an interesting magico-mystic ritual there.

    My research into it shows some connections between it and the Armenian church, which I’d also been reading on late last year, following other dreams…

    I have a lot to unpack from these dreams & experiences, not least of which is a study of the mythology and bards of Armenia & the life and work of Komitas.

    This recent dream of the Ethiopian Coptic church and subsequent research shows some parallels. I also found there are two Eritrean Orthodox Churchs of Tewahado in my area, (one I knew nothing about in walking distance). I’m not sure that I’ll actually go, as I prefer to go to the Invisible Church, but I am intrigued.

    & speaking of Church & Waite… I have been reading a chapter here and a chapter there of Waite’s tranlsation of Karl von Eckartshausen’s “Cloud Upon the Sanctuary”. I suspect that since this is a work of esoteric Christian mysticism, Waite’s biases as a translator would be less since it is in line with his Christianity. Do you have an opinion there John?

    Book alert:
    Slightly off topic, but I saw a very intriguing title yesterday, good for research into “Johnny Appleseed’s America” that other people here would probably enjoy reading.

    “Take back what the devil stole :an African American prophet’s encounters in the spirit world” by Onaje X. O. Woodbine.

    “Ms. Donna Haskins is an African American woman who wrestles with structural inequity in the streets of Boston by inhabiting an alternate dimension she refers to as the ‘spirit realm.’ In this other place, she is prepared by the Holy Spirit to challenge the restrictions placed upon Black female bodies in the United States. Growing into her spiritual gifts of astral flight and time travel, Donna meets the spirits of enslaved Africans, conducts spiritual warfare against sexual predators, and tends to the souls of murdered Black children whose ghosts haunt the inner city. Take Back What the Devil Stole centers Donna’s encounters with the supernatural to offer a powerful narrative of how one woman seeks to reclaim her power from a lifetime of social violence. Both ethnographic and personal, Onaje X. O. Woodbine’s portrait of her spiritual life sheds new light on the complexities of Black women’s religious participation and the lived religion of the dispossessed. Woodbine explores Donna’s religious creativity and her sense of multireligious belonging as she blends together Catholic, Afro-Caribbean, and Black Baptist traditions. Through the gripping story of one local prophet, this book offers a deeply original account of the religious experiences of Black women in contemporary America: their bodies, their haunted landscapes, and their spiritual worlds.”–Inside dust jacket.

    What I like about this book is the folk religion aspect of poor people in the United States, and just learning her story and specific practices. The author is a professor of philosophy and religious studies and I like that he takes the supernatural aspect for real and doesn’t dismiss it (as far as what I gleaned).

  86. Lady Cutekitten–

    I attended one of the retreats discussed in the article. It is every bit as bad as you might think, and the experience was one of the worst of my life; I’ve done my best to warn people away from them since then. I regard the Goenka organization which puts them on as a fairly nasty cult.

  87. Regarding the Ethiopians… I have an idea that you can date the antiquity of any Christian church founded prior to 1800 by the number of canonical books in their Bible. It’s like a reversed version of carbon dating, which looks at how much carbon 14 a specimen contains– more carbon 14 means a more recent date. In canon dating, it’s the opposite– the more books, the older the church. By that standard, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the oldest in Christendom, as its canon contains more books than anyone else.

  88. @augusto, although I can’t talk by Latin American magical traditions, I can tell to find copies of “Dogma y ritual de la alta magia” is fairly easy and almost every mage I’ve met here has it.

  89. Well, what a surprise, JMG! I was really looking forward to an in-depth exploration of Fortune’s take on the Cabala (I had read it a few years back and got a lot out of it but am painfully aware that I had but scratched the surface). I read your translation of The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic and although I appreciated your writing style, the book was not at all my ‘cup of tea’ (being a mystic, Renaissance magical philosophy is much more to my taste). I’ll still tag along as an observer, though. Glad to see that there is such an enthusiastic response from the commentariat – with JMG at the helm, it’s guaranteed to be quite an adventure!

  90. Oh excitement! I was seeing a new Tarot deck… and here it comes lol

    JMG, explains why (25 years ago), I wasn’t enamoured by the RW deck and did not resonate at all. Very much looking forward to receiving Wirth’s deck – thank you!

    Book ordered and looking forward to some clarity – at lonnnnng last.

    Interestingly, a year ago, I was trying to correspond how Wuji and Taiji related to the Tree of Life, so it looks like things are going to fall into place nicely now 🙂

    Looking forward to this journey – a real honor and pleasure!


    Tanya x

  91. Well I’ll be darned…

    I have just recently been thinking that I should 1) really start reclaiming some of my French (I made it all the way through a few college lit classes in the language) and 2) get back to meditating regularly.

    I found the JMG translation second-hand for a bit below the linked price, and plan to download the French version.

  92. Sundara, you’re welcome and thank you.

    KKA, I found Lévi’s French much less obscure than Péladan — the Sâr was very self-consciously striking a decadent and antiquarian pose — but of course your mileage may vary. (I’ve never tried reading Corbin in the original; thanks for the warning.)

    Korellyn, you’re most welcome. 😉 Waite’s bad translation has done a good job of keeping people from reading Lévi, but of course there’s also the simple fact that Lévi was writing in a different time, and most people these days have been systematically steered away from the skills needed to make sense of a writer who doesn’t share their specific cultural frame. It’s a great way to keep the masses from getting unauthorized ideas!

    Ganesh, you’ll have to pester the publisher about that. Authors (and translators) have no control over production values.

    Your Kittenship, I couldn’t find it on the home page, just a lot of woke jabber, and there doesn’t seem to be a search function. Fortunately, it’s available on Harpers’ site. As for “no praying” — good gods. Yes, that’s a great big klaxon warning you to run, not walk, to the nearest exit, and keep running. Thanks for the heads up — I’ll be posting something on this in the near future.

    Oskari, the exercises I have in mind don’t involve shuffling or laying out spreads. Having a complete set of images is quite adequate. Most people will find it easier to work with physical cards, but that’s not necessary.

    Morfran, you’re most welcome!

    Bridge, I tend to put William Wynn Westcott and W.E. Butler at the top of the scale. For my tastes — and of course your mileage may vary — Fortune was a little too quick to treat the prejudices of her own time as cosmic truths. As for Hubbard, that depends on whether I want to take flack from the Scientologists.

    Abraham, no, that’s not what I said. What Lévi brought to occultism was not a set of clichés from contemporary advertising! Yes, there are worthy abilities that come from systematic occult training, but you and only you can decide whether you want to pursue them.

    Jay, as noted above, Westcott and Butler are at the top of my personal list.

    Piglet, symbolic indeed. Lévi loves to use symbols to communicate what he has to say.

    Sébastien, excellent! French privilege is welcome here. 😉 If you’ve got the Marseille trumps and a copy of Lévi, you’re good to go. I’m fascinated to hear that the trumps have mutated in current French tarots — I didn’t know that. I wonder when and how it happened.

    James, welcome to the adventure.

    dMay, good heavens. I can’t have caused that big of a run on the market!

    Averagejoe, quite probably there’ll be a book out of this. As for the Knapp-Hall deck, er, as I noted in the post, the Oswald Wirth tarot or any of the Marseilles tarots will do equally well.

    Justin, fascinating. As for Eckartshausen, I haven’t read Waite’s translation — I’ve always used Isabel de Steiger’s translation, which has been standard in Rosicrucian circles for more than a century.

    Ron, circumstances permitting, we’ll be doing the Mystical Q in due time.

    Tanya, welcome to the adventure! As for the relation between wuji, taiji, and the Tree of Life, have you by any chance encountered this diagram?

    That’s the Chinese version of the Tree of Life, which shows up in Taoist sources about a century before the Tree’s first appearance in Jewish writings. There was a lot of trading of esoteric materials back and forth along the Silk Road!

    El, welcome aboard. It should be a fun journey.

  93. “One of them is partly by me, and the other one sucks”.

    Thank you for the hearty chuckle this afternoon.

  94. I had planned to follow the study of The Cosmic Doctrine, but became bogged down by time restraints (stupid overtime at work!), and it fell by the wayside, though I do plan to pick that back up. I haven’t had as much overtime lately and hopefully it will stay that way, so my plan is to order Doctrine and Ritual along with the recommended Tarot deck and stay on track with this study series.

    As for Ka-bala; that’s not a game I remember, however I did have the Mystic Skull! (This one has a good description of how to play)

    I have memories of chanting “Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble” while stirring the cauldron with a bone. You also had to stick pins in plastic dolls. (Interesting mix of Voodoo and Shakespeare, there.) Why in the world my fundamentalist mother allowed me this game I’ll never know, but hey, the woman was full of contradictions. She had a Ouija board tucked away in the basement, and had her share of ghost stories (though she claimed not to believe in ghosts).

    Joy Marie

  95. One response to this post is that I’m now thinking through the metaphors we use to structure our thought, and I’ve realized there’s a good reason why so few cultures approach food with the cluelessness which we do: other cultures use different metaphors, and nearly any metaphor is better suited to the topic of food than our main one, that of the body as machine.

    If the human body is a machine, then as long as it gets what it needs, it should function fine. Thus the obsession with vitamins and minerals, often to the detriment of the quality of food, and the taste of it. This also shows up in the inability a lot of people have to grasp that if its not given what it needs the human body will react. Whether it be in dreams or other ways, the human body is not passive if it’s not given what it needs, but we tend to ignore most attempts our bodies make to tell us what they need, because machines cannot tell us what’s wrong, nor what they need.

    So dietary choices in other cultures are opaque to us because our metaphors are different, and so we lack the tools to understand why they choose how they do, unless we are one of the few who is able to shake off the conditioning of our time and place. Meanwhile our choices apparently look absolutely insane to most other cultures.

  96. JMG,

    You remark to Korellyn above that “most people these days have been systematically steered away from the skills needed to make sense of a writer who doesn’t share their specific cultural frame. It’s a great way to keep the masses from getting unauthorized ideas!”

    I hope this means that as we proceed—whether in the book club posts, or in free-standing posts—you’ll be discussing what these skills are, and how to learn them. As your comment to Korellyn indicates, some explicit and overt discussion of this topic would be a very valuable service!

    As I recall, you had made some preliminary steps toward this back in 2018, but I’d very much welcome a continuation!

  97. Lady Cutekitten,

    Thank you for sharing the Harper’s piece (and thank you, JMG, for the direct link). One of the tragic suicides associated with these video-recorded retreats received lengthy coverage as a local news item near my parents’ home a few years back, so this has been on my radar for a while. It’s good to see that the word is getting out more widely… though I’m concerned that a backlash against “meditation” or “(intense) spiritual practice” more generally, will end up taking quite a lot of beautiful babies out with this toxic bathwater.

    JMG and the commentariat,

    Why on earth does the possibility of harmful consequences come as a such a surprise to people? It seems axiomatic to me that “whatever has the power to heal, must also have the power to harm.”

  98. @JMG: Okay, my mistake about the Cloud Upon the Sanctuary. The translation by Steiger is the one I’m reading. Waite just wrote the introduction, hence my confusion. I’m reading it on the Sacred Texts website.

    Again, thank you for hosting this space and all your work here.

  99. JMG,

    Going to try and follow along.

    Got ‘Inside a Magical Lodge’ in today’s mail. I’d pre-ordered it April 11, 2020 from Aeon. The shipping date was March 21, 2021.

    John – Coop Janitor

  100. Ahaha!

    Well, I’ll be out of this book club, because if I bought another with the stack I have unread, my husband would mulch me for the radishes and potatoes.

    But I mean this in the nicest possible way: I hope many of you have absolutely abominable accents!

  101. JMG,

    This book club is amazing! My book isn’t even here yet and I have some puzzle pieces falling into place. The Chinese Tree of Life you posted gave me a clear aha.

    Can an incarnation be a journey up (or down) the Tree of Life?

    I have this distinct feeling that would explain a lot of my life to date. Ironic, as I have avoided the Cabala and Tree of Life because of a lack of interest in the Abrahamic traditions. Which of course would have made guiding me along such a path much easier.

    Tricky Higher Self.


  102. JMG, Longreads has taken the meditation article down for some reason. You were probably looking at the babble about Disney Cartoon movies.

  103. I read your translation of the Doctrine and Ritual a while back and enjoyed it. I still have it and will read along. Thank you JMG!

    So just to jump in on the Cabalistic reading of the Bible. It was what got me to take Christianity seriously again. Unfortunately as I did so and started to connect with other Christians I noticed that there is a rising traditionalism movement as a backlash against the enforced progressivism of the era that is also very stifling. So while I do not like hearing that I am a bigot for believing gender exists I also don’t like hearing that if I step out of Gods role for me as a woman I am going to help….one bad idea is usually countered by another. It makes me wonder how Levi felt working for the church especially since you remarked that there was a more traditionalist period the larger culture went through In reaction to the Romantic movement. It also makes me think about what you said that practicing magic is a lonely path and not in a negative way. I guess the more you become yourself the less you can rely on group identities to bind you to other people

  104. IVN, you’re welcome. The irony — a familiar one, to those of us with Asperger’s syndrome — is that I didn’t mean that as a joke.

    Joy Marie, I hope it works out. As for Mystic Skull, I’d never even heard of that one. Oof! I can just imagine what kind of reaction that would get these days…

    Mollari, excellent. The whole point of thinking of the body as a machine — and thinking of the cosmos as a machine, by the way — is precisely because it enables people to embrace the pretense that their bodies, and the cosmos, can’t talk back to us and will just respond passively to whatever we choose to do.

    Barefootwisdom, I’ll certainly consider that. May I offer, as a teaser, the most important first step in that direction? Stories that don’t conform to the current cultural frame. I recommend children’s stories to begin with; the Brothers Grimm are a great place to start.

    As for why people assume that meditation must not have any negative consequences, it’s the same mentality Mollari discussed a couple of comments up the thread: the delusion that the cosmos and everything in it must be passive and compliant to the human will. “Negative consequences? That’s not what I ordered!” Since a great many people who use the commercialized versions of mindfulness meditation are doing it to club their own psyches into silence, the blowback is particularly common there.

    Justin, okay — I assumed that Waite had done one of his own, which I could then avoid.

    Janitor, yep. It only just finished its way through the printing process — a lot of things were massively delayed by problems set in motion by the virus panic.

    Pixelated, well, I certainly do. 😉

    Eric, yes, that’s one of the many things you can map onto the Tree of Life. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that the Tree belongs to the Abrahamic traditions; not so. Its roots are in Greek classical philosophy, and thus in Greek pagan thought.

    Your Kittenship, that among other things.

    Anonymous, sure, though you may not want to do the daily meditations on Lévi’s concepts until later on. There will be plenty of conceptual work, too.

    Danielle, I get the impression there’s a very large number of people who would be delighted to attend churches that offered sacramental worship without requiring a rigidly literal interpretation of the Bible on the one hand, or groveling before pseudoprogressive ideologies on the other. I hope somebody realizes this and starts appealing to that audience! As for Lévi, when he started his writing career he stopped working for the Catholic church, and while he still attended services I’m sure he quietly avoided talking to the priest about his interpretation of them…

  105. Although I know nothing about vipassana I am fairly sure these practices were never intended for clueless Americans and I think it’s reckless in the extreme to sell vipassana to clueless Americans. I hope these greedy gurus get sued and lose big-time.

  106. @Pixilated #108 About French accents.
    I actually sound half decent, due to misspending part of my childhood in an exurb of Paris. Unfortunately, I often don’t know what I just read aloud.
    Ah, those romans.. “Monsieur, please remove your hand from my bodice..”

  107. @Edu – cool! My Spanish being somewhat better than my French, I just might take a look.

  108. Speaking of the Greek origins of Qabalah and its different pronunciations, I guess it’s no coincidence that William Walker Atkinson named his book as “The Kybalion” which sounds like a Hellenic version of the same word 🙂

  109. Speaking of literal and other interpretations of the Bible, I remember (with no details) a medieval Schoolman getting an “Awww” from a room full of eager students, when he announced that this study of Scripture, although we all want to rush ahead to the allegorical meanings, would begin with the necessary foundation of carefully considering the literal meaning of the text.

  110. Hello John,
    I have had an interest in art and drawing my whole long life and have been curious about what I can find out about the human condition in the tarot and how that might be translated in a visual way. I am a retired architect and would see symbols carved in older buildings and wonder what they really meant to the builders and people of that time.

    The various images of humanity in the cards seem enticing and in my naïve thinking the deck appears similar in intent to the I Ching in that it is up to the individual to shape it to their situation. I think of tarot is a tool for moving beyond a stuck place in thinking. At this point this is all conjecture on my part.
    I have never been concerned with having my future forecast, but my hunch is that is not really what tarot is about anyway.
    Despite my curiosity I have so far not approached the subject yet except in the very superficial way of looking at various images in the decks. Are they somehow related to Jung’s Archetypes? It will be interesting a year or two later to compare my more developed concept of what tarot is all about with my ideas now.

  111. JMG, you should be able to come up with a pretty good article about meditation problems; Upon reading the article I went wandering down the rabbit hole, as I almost always do (you know how inquisitive we kittens are) and the big-name expert on meditation problems mentioned in the article, Willoughby Britton, runs a sort of body shop for meditation-damaged brains, Cheetah House, at Brown University. So you ought to be able to ply the good doctor with bacon cheeseburgers and ask all sorts of interesting questions.

  112. @barefootwisdom, JMG if I may, to pair with the Brothers Grimm stories, Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (there’s an accent aigu on that e my phone won’t do).

    I know-it is classic 70’s women’s empowerment, and her discussion after the stories I found sometimes tedious for that reason (or merely resent anyone who outdoes me in bloviation 😉) But!
    Her Jungian and curadera take on how the Grimms likely got Christianized versions – either their own reworking, or sanitized during collection – was really interesting to me.

    Without her version of Bluebeard, I would never in a million years have realized Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey were how our era tells that story (bring a bucket, may cause waves of nausea for many days afterwards).

  113. Wow, this is more-or-less a free course or curriculum (for that matter) that you are offering. I am genuinely excited. I am going to grab my deck and fish my old, torn copy of the book from my bookcase.

  114. “just a lot of woke jabber” put me in mind of the following.

    “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

  115. @Mark Mikituk:
    You most likely know this, but just to be sure, look for “The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek”.

  116. JMG,

    Now that you say that yes I believe there is a large audience. I have talked to many people who fit the “deplorable” stereotype who say that the churches have become too rigid and moralistic. When I talk from a Cabalistic standpoint I always get good feedback from others who call themselves Christian so I think the basic understanding and interest is much more widespread though calling it occult would turn off a great number of those same people.

    Also as an aside. I did not get the chance to make Dr. Eeman’s machine and it wasn’t out of lack of interest. My dog passed away and then a week later I lost a loved one so my attention has been focused on grief and fear.

  117. I have a little bit of reading left on my first go of this book. I purchased an online copy on my Kobo app last year. It is an exhilarating text that holds a deep and strange world to say the least! Quite excited to go through it more carefully and perhaps brush up on my French in the process.

    Looking at my hybrid Tarot Lenomand deck by E.Fitzpatrick and I think it won’t work. It’s a difficult set and gives me readings that are too acute. Perhaps I will purchase a more standard deck for this adventure.

    I thought about the biblical and mythological connections Cabala would have to Egypt and The lost books of Hermes after reading about the ancient history of it on today’s article. This small list of connections I found searching duck duck go is interesting.

  118. Hi JMG, can you do a post on the rise of mysticism in the decline of civilizations? It seems like the elite especially are drawn to it as a coping strategy, but I also wonder about the experience of oneness/non-duality, is it something that is just a jedi-mind trick, or do the practitioners reach something real and essential, a “higher” state of consciousness? And how is non-duality related to the Tree of Life?

  119. Re: French Tarot Nouveau (aka Bourgeois Tarot).

    The French Tarot Nouveau style of tarot cards was introduced in France circa 1865 (and was an instant hit that was copied by other manufacturers). Card players like modern variations of this deck because unlike most esoteric tarot decks it has modern playing card features like corner indices so you can easily tell what all your cards are when holding a hand of cards. Especially since tarot card games are usually trick-taking games that require holding large number of cards (early tarot playing cards were invented by adding a new set of trump cards to earlier decks of playing cards).

    Secondary reasons why it is popular among card players is tradition (what their (grand)parents/friends used to play tarot games), market availability, and perhaps because it is (relatively) non-esoteric and hence less likely to be banned/frowned upon by certain individuals/institutions like churches/schools/parents.

  120. Greetings, All.

    Thought I had a copy of the book all salted away… Got an email from Indigo saying they were, in fact, sold out. Handy. Tracked it down through a local independent book seller, which I guess is where I should have gone first anyway. Hopefully Indigo actually sends the deck…

    Re: Vipassana meditation retreats. I tried one of those about five years back… I lasted four days before my knees and ankles gave up, and before the culti-ness of it all, combined with the disconcerting reverence for the long-deceased Mr Goenka, and the lack of human interaction while surrounded by humans, suggested to me that I should bail out.

    Nonetheless it was a worthwhile experience. I learned my concentration could snap back to the object with impressive quickness. I also learned that four days of having one’s routine drastically altered will induce amazing changes in one’s own capacity to experience one’s own physicality. I suspect there was some deliberate ‘entrainment’ going on as well (there was a very loudly ticking clock out in the corridor just outside the door of my room — my heartbeat synched up to that like white on rice, and so did my breathing).

    So now I have an understanding of how Brainwashing can be so effective: Sensory deprivation, the breaking of cultural norms and the imposition of new rules… The desire to find the holy… It’s a recipe, for sure… but for what? I’m not certain. Sometimes I wish I’d hung in there and done the whole 10 days, other times I’m glad I flew the coop. I definitely learned something about the nervous system and the body, I’ve learned why retreats can be so potent… but again, for what? There really is a power in this life, which I cannot explain. Like many of you, I’ve had experiences that indicate most of us spend our lives beneath a shroud of ignorance while a greater world lives and moves all around us… But deprived of some kind of context, some satisfying mythological framework, some kind of guidance worthy of trust, it’s a road to ruin. (The altered physical sensations alone were amazing—and terrifying: no heartbeat should feel like that while one is sitting at rest for nearly and hour— Boom-boom, Boom-boom.)

    Pardon my ramble. Hopefully I contributed a bit of ‘insight’ (that’s a Vipassana joke).

  121. Oh, excellent! I already have a copy of your edition of High Magic, and I’d been wanting the Knapp-Hall deck for some time–since the last time you mentioned it, probably–so I’m glad to see it’s finally available again. I’ve always worked with Rider-Smith-Waite variants, so that’ll be interesting no matter what.

    Lady Cutekitten, I know just what you mean. I dug out a t-shirt I originally bought in the late 1980s this week, which fits again after my surgery (getting rid of 10 lbs of cyst and 10 liters of fluid does wonders for the figure!). I swear it’s twice the thickness of contemporary tees (and 100% cotton, none of these poly blends), and as you say, has actual seams rather than serging. It’s only a bit faded, though it’s been much worn, the silkscreen is still in good shape, and no holes. Every tee I’ve bought in the last decade came down with holes in just a few months. And people wonder why my roommate and I love thrift and vintage shops…

  122. Looking forward to this. I learned a lot I didn’t know from your series on Fortune, and I’m sure I will from this series. I do seem to recall Levi’s big secret was sexual polarity magic though, which isn’t something I expect I’ll personally use much, if at all. 😉

  123. #54 Minervaphilos — many thanks for that link! That was an excellent and very enlightening read. The Sabbateans and Frankists were an … interesting… bunch.

  124. Joy Marie (if I may), generally I’m not a fan of the various cutesy tarot decks, but I’ve just inspected the Marseilles cat tarot online, and it does appear to have the appropriate imagery.

    Your Kittenship, exactly. That kind of intensive practice of meditation should only be done by people who have ample experience and training, and under the kind of expert supervision that very clearly was not available at the retreat discussed in the article. Doing that to people who have no preparation is very serious spiritual malpractice, and yes, the people who are doing it can and should be sued for damages until they have to pawn their underwear.

    Minervaphilos, true enough. Atkinson had a longtime interest in Greek philosophy — his early correspondence course The Arcane Teachings includes various references to Greek thought.

    John, of course the literal meaning of the text should be understood. That doesn’t mean that it should be taken as a statement of absolute truth.

    Daniel, good. Lévi certainly agreed with you that the point of tarot cards has nothing to do with telling the future, and plenty of people — Carl Jung apparently among them — have identified the images on the trumps with archetypes. We’ll get fairly deep into what Lévi had to say about them as we proceed.

    Chronojourner, no prob.

    Your Kittenship, thanks for this! I’ll check him out.

    Pixelated, so noted. I wasn’t a great fan of that book — or of Iron John, its equivalent on the other side of the gender line — but of course your mileage may vary.

    Dana, that’s correct. I’ve long thought that the level of knowledge in the occult scene was painfully low, and this is one of the ways I’m trying to fix that.

    Never Mind, I like it. “Beware the Jabberwoke, my son!”

    Danielle, I’m very sorry to hear about your bereavements! Don’t worry about the Eeman screens, for heaven’s sake — you can return to that when you’ve finished dealing with your grief.

    Ian, a deep and strange world indeed. It should make for an interesting journey.

    Iuval, I’ll consider it. As for the experience of nonduality, it’s an experience — neither a trick nor a truth, simply a way in which it’s possible to encounter the world. Franklin Merrell-Wolff, the American mystic, liked to point out that from the point of view of the highest transcendent consciousness, the universe is neither dual nor nondual. Both duality and nonduality are modes of experience, ways of encountering the universe; neither is more true than the other.

    Trevor, many thanks for this. That’s all new information for me.

    Casey, and many thanks for this also. I’m glad you were able to score a copy of the book.

    Sister Crow, welcome aboard.

    Ian, the secret to polarity working is that it’s not limited to interactions between two human beings erotically attracted to each other. It exists whenever there is a polarity — including the polarity between subject and object. More on this as we proceed!

  125. Hello Mr. Greer,

    I’m not a regular member of the commentariat since I’ve posted 2 or 3 times since you moved to this site from the Ye Olde Archdruid site where I did more reading than commenting. You have educated me on a range of topics like no other on the blogosphere and I’m grateful to you for that.

    Donald Tyson’s remarkable 2006 Portable Magic: Tarot is the Only Tool You Need is a serious example of non-divinatory use of the tarot. The 3 mother cards, 0 Fool Air, 12 Hanged Man Water, and 20 Last Judgment Fire, form the triangle of art, the 7 double cards, 1 Magician Mercury, 2 High Priestess Moon, 3 Empress Venus, etc. form planetary modifiers of the zodiacal (magical) circle of single cards, 4 Emperor Aries, 5 Hierophant Taurus, 6 Lovers Gemini, etc. and can be disposed in 6 aspects around the magical circle to modify the emphasis of the ritual intent. The aspects possible are Opposition, Trine, Square, Sextile, Semi-sextile, and Conjunction. Within the magical circle is situated an altar composed of the aces of the four suits upon which is placed the card representing the magician/operator chosen from the 16 court cards, called by Tyson “the significator,” A novel feature of working this system is that the magician must manipulate the physical cards while simultaneously conducting the ritual on the astral plane where she inhabits the court card chosen to represent her, and views the ritual space out of its eyes. Tyson likens it to the working of Tibetan Buddhists when they visualize themselves inhabiting their mandalas of sand that thereby appear to them as a geography they can roam around in.

    His book has been recently reissued by Llewellyn’s under the title: Tarot Magic: Ceremonial Magic Using Golden Dawn Correspondences, but I’ve discovered that it is exactly the same text as the 2006 edition and even repeats the same error in chapter 9: The Sixteen Significators in which the descriptions of the Knight and King of all 4 suits are interchanged! The error is very systematic and I could imagine easy to make if one were tired because it was probably induced by the order of the court card descriptions in Book T of Regardie’s Golden Dawn. (I’ve checked the Black Brick edition and yours as well). I’m puzzled what the effect of the error might be on some hapless magician using this system. Maybe no effect at all! The fire of faith will probably trump the precision of scholarship, although I make no claim to be a scholar.

    I look forward to this adventure in high magical philosophy and apologize for the lengthy comment. I suppose I’m making up for my usual silence.

  126. John Evans, as someone who was never part of an Abrahamic religion, to be frank I find many stories in the Bible repugnant if taken in a literal sense. Basically filling the same role for Israel that Livy and Virgil did for Rome in providing founding narratives, but less wonderful and more preachy.

    E.g. Jacob and Esau. At face value, the story is about usurping your sibling’s inheritance at your mother’s encouragement.

    I like Neville Goddard’s reading of the story as emphasising the primacy of one’s inner senses over the external five senses instead, although I don’t know how far it’s based on Cabala.

    Of course Abrahamic religions are under no obligation to appeal to outsiders but I have to say, the esoteric reading makes me much more open to studying the Bible.

    Considering that it was codified around the Hellenistic era, where these influences (Neoplatonism, isopsephy etc) were percolating through the Near East, I also find it very plausible according to the available scholarship.

  127. Just FYI, the link to Bookstore/MyMustReads seems not to allow purchases for those of us living outside the US.
    Do you have a preferred provider for your non-US customers? I would like to stay out of the Big River if possible.
    Looking forward to another great exposition!

  128. Dear JMG,
    Being aware of a pervasive practice of occult authors to link their findings to the oldest tradition possible do you recommend reading the book ” The History of Magic” by Lévi?

  129. In the interests of dissensus, let me point out that I’ve been on retreat three times with the Goenka organisation, and I very much disagree with the way they are being portrayed by some of the comments. The first retreat I went on had a major, transformative, impact on my life and self-perception – in a very positive way. It was one of, if not the, most important spiritual experiences I’ve ever had.

    The technique they use is extremely powerful, and extremely effective. It’s certainly true that, as Barefoot Wisdom said, “whatever has the power to heal, must also have the power to harm.”

    This is precisely the reason that participants are asked not to use other systems while they’re on the retreat. It’s not because it’s a cult: it’s because they don’t want participants trying to second-guess the process, or to swap things out. If you’re going to use the system, they want you to do it exactly the way they tell you to do it. That way it’s safe. That no more makes them a cult than a welding instructor telling you that no, prayer is not a substitute for safety goggles makes the instructor a cult guru. It’s done for a very good reason, and all of this is explained at the beginning. Unfortunately, some people don’t listen, or don’t take it seriously.

    The trouble is, perhaps, that Goenkaji made the retreats free, because he didn’t want income to be a barrier to access to an incredibly liberating spiritual tool. He was right to do so, imho (and contra Lady Cutekitten, nobody’s getting rich in the Goenka tradition) but I think it has become a problem to some extent because it attracts some people (read: Westerners) who are basically spiritual tourists, and who don’t take the process seriously – and it does need to be taken very seriously.

    I have discussed these issues at more length in a past blog post.

  130. This sounds great! I ordered the Knapp-Hall deck and a copy of your translation of Levi. I’m currently doing the DMH practices (scrying the fews and meditating my way through the cycle) and I’m devoting my daily meditations to them, so I don’t know how much meditation I will do about Levi, but at the very least I will be giving each chapter multiple close readings to take part as best I can.

    It does indeed look like the book is selling out in Canada, glad I was able to source a copy!

  131. I must say this is a book club I won’t be missing. For those wanting to read the French and English simultaneously on screen (I find this easier than wrangling to physical books) you can buy the ebook version of the JMG translation for under £5 (in the UK)

  132. John, I agree. I think I was one of the lucky ones, because my first mentor made sure that I had a grasp on occult philosophy for several years before I was permitted to do anything remotely operative. Nowadays, most people go to the races after skimming through a few books — not even particularly good books at that.

  133. I’m definitely in! Lately during my daily Tarot divinations I’ve been thinking that I’ve got tools for transformation right in my hands in the major arcana, but not enough knowledge to access them. I’ve only taken a cursory look at what I could do about that, so the timing could not be better for me.


  134. Hi John Michael,

    Years ago I began reading the collected stories by the Brothers Grimm. Through many of the stories I sensed a very heavy handed series of corrections, deletions and outright amendments to the original stories which they had of course collected. Honestly, I did not enjoy the read because of the sense that just out of sight, something was missing or deeply skewed.

    Thinking your own thoughts and imagining a different path – utterly shocking! Whatever is the world coming too? 🙂

    I’m looking forward to diving into this text and being swept along by the journey.



  135. JMG, praises and gratitude for your dedicated work and blog… Beyond words, so I will let the “astral light of us” communicate in a telepathic now-here way.
    Thanks, Merci for all your thinking and writing and teaching!

  136. Dear John Michael Greer,

    You write: “Danielle, I get the impression there’s a very large number of people who would be delighted to attend churches that offered sacramental worship without requiring a rigidly literal interpretation of the Bible on the one hand, or groveling before pseudoprogressive ideologies on the other. I hope somebody realizes this and starts appealing to that audience!”

    That is exactly my impression as well.

    And by the way, I am beginning to lose the will to count the number of professional associations I am giving up this year now that membership renewal requires ticking the box to consent to all new “core values” or some such “mission statement” that turn out to be so much Gleichschaltung-oid “Jabberwokey.” I took to heart your counsel, as best I recall it, from a few posts back, to “back away carefully and slowly.”

    Looking forward to your future posts, both on Levi and whatthehoodlyhooaisgoingon.


  137. Hey JMG, your other blog on Dreamwidth has about disappeared from google search results. Had to punch the address in manually.

  138. I’m typically a lurker, but wanted to join in this class, so will have to overcome my aversion to Internet posting. I read Levi when I was too young to get anything from it, so it will be nice to revisit, and I’ll use any excuse to buy more Tarot cards. For all those years of card shopping (i.e., this one’s shiny! this one is a local artist! Ooh! Egyptian cards!) I didn’t seem to collect a Marseille version, so I ordered the Knapp reprint. For those having trouble, the PRS site is not optimized for some browsers, but I did get it to work.

  139. Kelvin, that doesn’t surprise me at all. Don Tyson and I have had our disagreements — including some blistering ones! — but he’s a capable mage.

    Emmanuel, I don’t. Your local full service bookstore can certainly order you a copy, however.

    Mieczysław, Lévi was a competent mage but he wasn’t a very good historian. I didn’t find that book very useful.

    Bogatyr, so noted and thank you for this. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that nobody can benefit from the intensives run by the Goenka organization; clearly you did. The facts remain that they have a fairly high psychiatric casualty rate, and that they don’t provide anything like adequate screening and care to minimize or repair the damage. There’s also a broader problem with mindfulness meditation when it’s taken out of context, but that’s a discussion for another time.

    Jbucks, that’s a fine way to approach Lévi too. Welcome aboard.

    Mr. O, a good point. I don’t like e-books myself but I’m glad that my publishers provide them for readers who do.

    Dana, I got into it the wrong way around at first — I was practicing basic Golden Dawn rituals when I had no clue what I was doing — but I blundered across some decent books, and then later had a couple of very good teachers. Thus my conviction that somebody needs to help raise the general level of education in the occult community…and I didn’t see anyone else stepping up to the plate.

    Maria, welcome to the adventure.

    Chris, interesting. I wonder whether those deletions are specific to the English translations or if they’re also present in the German original.

    Gabrielseagull, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Millicently, I’m glad to hear that. It occurs to me that there’s a huge new market for professional associations, as well as churches, that don’t engage in that sort of silliness.

    Your Kittenship, Miss April is certainly welcome to listen in, and use her preferred cat-themed tarot to follow along.

    Drunk Tree, doesn’t surprise me at all. Bookmark it; once my new book The King in Orange hits the shelves I confidently expect Google, Twitter, and Facebook to declare me a nonperson in the best Stalinist style. I don’t use any of them, for what it’s worth. (You might consider switching search engines; DuckDuckGo isn’t into censorship.)

    M Carole, welcome aboard! I quite understand an aversion to internet posting, but everyone here is housebroken. 😉

  140. JMG: well, once upon a time, that was spelled “assuming people are adults and capable of making their own decisions”, but I guess times have changed. Anyway, as you say, it’s for another time. I agree with you on decontextualised mindfulness, for what it’s worth.

  141. Drunk tree: Gee, what a surprise. That’s the one where JMG enradished the knowledge and techniques of the guy who was trying to hex Trump.

  142. JMG — clejaniuval’s question about non-duality and your reply reminded me of this morning’s reading. I don’t recall whether _The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous by Joseph Henrich has been discussed here, or if it was a member of my New Yorker discussion group who recommended it. For those who don’t know–WEIRD is an acronym for Western-educated-industrialized-rich-democratic. In other words, most of us. The author is a firm materialist—“Of course, the best available science says that our minds are produced entirely by our bodies and brains, so they can’t have an independent existence.” I think it is interesting that he says “bodies and brains” as though the brain were not part of the body–dualism sneaking in by the back door? He notes that our sophisticated mentalizing abilities “allow us to represent the goals, beliefs, and desires of other minds; but–here’s the back door–they also allow us to represent the minds of nonexistent beings, like gods, aliens and spirits, as well as Santa Claus and the tooth fairy”. This also led us to think of minds and bodies as separable. Henrich regards this as a cognitive glitch–a mistake on the part of natural selection.

    Unfortunately I won’t be able to finish reading this book right away because it is due at the library and there is a waiting list. Later. I also noticed, while entering it in my Library Thing account, that someone has written and published a 28 page summary of this 680 page doorstop, although to be fair, about 200 or those pages are notes, bibliography and index.

    I also attended a Vipassana meditation retreat about a dozen years ago. I lasted 7 days. I wasn’t unhappy, or on edge or anything like that. I was just bored and tired of the struggle to stay awake during the sessions. Once we had gotten to the point o sending our awareness around our bodies there didn’t seem to be any more to the technique and there are only so many times I can wander mentally from the top of my scalp to the tips of my toes and back before I wonder what the point is. I just looked at the current website and notice that it has warnings that meditation is not a treatment for physical or mental disease and that those who have a mental disorder should probably not participate in the retreat since the volunteers are not trained to deal with it. I really don’t recall how much of that text has been added since I participated. Of course that doesn’t help the people like the young woman in the Harper’s article, who don’t realize that they have the potential for a breakdown. Several things I have read led me to the conclusion that I don’t have the temperament for Buddhism. Passages in Tom Robbins _Jitterbug Perfume_ and a book called _What Makes you Not a Buddhist_ by Dzongsar Jamyang Dkyentse convinced me that I am indeed, not a Buddhist. Attachment causes suffering–true–but I’m not convinced that calm acceptance is a decent substitute for joy and occasional ecstasy. Different strokes, I guess

    JMG–are you familiar with a book called _Life in the World Unseen_ by Anthony Borgia? It was originally published by the Theosophical Society.


  143. @John Michael – exciting!

    @averagejoe – i had the knapp-hall deck reprint sent to Australia a couple of years ago. I just sent an email to the publisher requesting a quote for shipping to Australia.


  144. Before I even read the majority of the post, I looked up the book so that I could get on board. Immediately see your name attached to it. Enjoy another book sale from me! More than happy to do it. 😀

  145. Hi Rita!

    You know, now that I think about it, who among us DOESN’T have the potential for a breakdown? Everyone has a breaking point. Also, consider a PMC like the late lady in the article. She’s spent her life being overstimulated and constantly busy. Now all of a sudden she’s spending a week alone with herself. That’s a drastic change. I maintain that Americans, at least the PMC variety, ought to approach Eastern meditation techniques with extreme caution. They were not designed for WEIRDos. The Western techniques seem much safer for WEIRDos; if anyone has ever become psychotic from meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary, for example, I have not read of it. (Of course the problem here is your average PMC won’t touch Christian meditation with a ten-foot pole.)

    I note in passing that the article says Eastern meditation has observable benefits if you do it up to 20 minutes a day, so we may have here the familiar situation of a little curing what ails you ,but a lot making you worse off.

    And whaddaya know? Reciting a decade of the Rosary takes…just about 20 minutes. (Except for the lady who was in a perpetual novena with me; as another participant noted with amusement, Margaret went like a house afire!) So maybe what we’ve learned is meditation ‘s ‘benefits, regardless of the type of meditation, come from short sessions.

  146. JMG, little Miss April looks like I did trying to follow Dion Fortune and the Ring-Pass-Not. 😳❓. The concept of pass-not is simple enough, it was where she took it that lost me.

  147. Bogatyr, people can make their own decisions, sure, when they’re adequately informed of the risks. I’m far from sure that’s happened in the present case. But we can discuss that down the road a bit.

    Rita, I don’t recall it being discussed here. I doubt the author talks about the way that Europe, and then the United States, stripped most of the world to the bare walls — that being the source of much of the prosperity of the west, but it’s not something polite people talk about. As for the book by Borgia, no, I haven’t — the Theosophists put out a lot of books back in the day.

    Jez, glad to hear it.

    Michael, thank you!

    Your Kittenship, Fortune liked to take things way out into interstellar space. Where there are cats, of course.

  148. My notion of philosophy between Aristoteles and Plotinus is very hazy, so I looked up some names for the Neopythagoreans and Middle Platonists. Wikipedia is not a very reliable source – would you consider Antiochus of Ascalon the starting point for a renewed religious sensibility in Greek philosophy? Or would you point out Neopythagoreans that flourished even earlier?

    You have often written about the moment when complete scepticism about getting nearer the truth using our senses and our reason gives way to a second religiosity, so this is an interesting time point on the time line of a civilization.

    By the way, this Hellenistic-Egyptian-Chaldean philosophical and religious mixing pot of the first centuries AD is something Spengler couldn’t see at all. I must say I find it (from the little I know) quite confusing, and it is usually valued much lower than Sophocles’, Plato’s or Augustine’s time, but you seem to consider it a worthy fount of inspiration. Would I be wrong in assuming that you cherish the same somewhat anarchical and hodgepodge religious innovation both in Hellenistic Egypt and in the late 19th century USA?

  149. @Augusto

    “I didn’t know Levi was a big thing in magical schools in Latin America. Do you have some pointers?”

    I found this in Exu & the Quimbanda of Night and Fire by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold published by Scarlet Imprint in 2012:

    “The division [between low and high magic] most likely came through grammars of Solomonic magic brought by Italian and French immigrants and in particular the writings of Eliphas Levi. It is here that we find the distinction between high and low magic. In The Keys to the Mysteries, Levi comments that high magic is the art that leads man back to the original moral laws. This is the core principle in the theology of Umbanda (p. 3).”

    I did a “find” on my electronic “Bibliotheque Rouge” edition of this book using “Levi” as my search string and found that it was peppered with references to Levi including a reference to Transcendental Magic, Waite’s title for the book we will be reading. Although the quotation is referencing a path of cultural diffusion from Europe to Afro-Brazilian religion and magic, he weakens this claim by saying “most likely.” Out of all the references in the book to Levi, this one is the only one that is talking about diffusion. The rest of the references is the author comparing elements in the Brazilian magical system, Exu, to Levi’s analogous concepts. But that’s great! It demonstrates that Frisvold, who is an initiate, is himself a concrete example of the influence of Levi in 21st-century Latin America.

  150. JMG, as an aside, thank you for these comments, which have given me a lightbulb moment:

    The whole point of thinking of the body as a machine — and thinking of the cosmos as a machine, by the way — is precisely because it enables people to embrace the pretense that their bodies, and the cosmos, can’t talk back to us and will just respond passively to whatever we choose to do.


    the delusion that the cosmos and everything in it must be passive and compliant to the human will.

    Aha! If you don’t mind, I might be quoting you a lot on these.

    Also to add: I enjoyed browsing the posts and comments about the Cosmic Doctrine, but it’s not where my headspace has been over the last few years so I didn’t join in the study of the book. Levi seems far more relevant to where I’m thinking these days, so I anticipate lots of inspiration. I’ve just ordered the Wirth deck, on the basis that I already have a Marseille deck, and one day I’ll remember where it is. Book to be ordered soon….

  151. JMG,

    Brilliant! Thank you for that – that makes so much sense. I hadn’t thought of the 5 elements in that way before – yes! Completely correspond.

    I’m feeling that a potential source of mystical teachings could have been Bon (Dzogchen also comes to mind).

    I’m seeing how the 5 lights filter down more fully to the 5 elements in the subtle realms and then as actual substantial elements on the physical plane.

    My heart is at peace.

    Thank you a thousand-fold x

  152. I don’t know if this is off topic, but…JMG, I’ve read sometimes you wrote about mindfulness dangers. What are these dangers? Is mindfulness a pseudomeditation? (anticipated thanks for answers, I am a bit worried).

  153. “In 1800, it’s no exaggeration to say that most of France (and indeed most of Europe) was not far out of the Middle Ages; in 1900, the whole continent had been transformed by the explosive spread of factories, mass media, and a galaxy of brand-new technologies. By most measures, the changes in everyday life in Europe and the European diaspora between 1800 and 1900 were much more dramatic than those between 1900 and 2000.”

    I always wondered where the notion, so popular ever since the 19th century, that people in the past didn’t know anything and lacked the technical knowledge to do anything. It’s just occurred to me that the elite classes of the 19th century would invent that theory merely by extrapolating their own experiences backward: given the pace of change was fast enough individuals could see it first hand, then it would take on a reality which mere stories could not; so the idea that go far enough back in time and no one would know how to do anything would be an obvious, commonsense idea to the elite classes.

  154. Oh my…has it really been three years?
    JMG I feel that you have just served us a giant beef cow of cosmic dimensions…in the cosmic doctrine. Enough to chew on for a lifetime, and more.
    And now you are ringing the dinner bell again?!
    Ewwwie…all right! I’ll get my bib and high chair!
    Maybe this is not another beef cow? Maybe it will be a dessert to The cosmic doctrine?

    Just ordered The doctrine and ritual of high magic!
    Let’s goooo

    Looking for info on Kabbalah, I came across the Kybalion by three initiates. Wowie! Definitely( to me) fits in very well with the occult themes you are weaving here. I’ll assume you are familiar with the work? Or at least aware of the work.

    P.s. I also like desserts with different coconut and cream combinations.

  155. Chris and JMG,

    Re: Grimms’ Fairy Tales and edits, Chris, you are exactly right. It did indeed undergo quite a few edits and deletions over time, and JMG, it wasn’t just the English.

    The so-called definitive 1857 edition which is the most commonly available had been through forty years of edits, changes, deletions, and additions. At the time of the original 1812 edition, the Brothers Grimm had no idea of the success their books would become. It was a straightforward collection of tales they collected from a wide variety of sources, both oral and written, resulting in stories having a wide variety of tone, and a much greater emphasis on oral storytelling style, as well as a greater feeling of mysterious elements.

    From the 1819 second edition onward, their editorial policy shifted, on the one hand toward being more suitable for “family” and acceptable for those of a puritan Christian leaning (and often deleting tales with an anti-authoritarian bent entirely); and on the other hand, toward their explicit goal of finding the “gem” of each tale, comparing all of the many versions of each tale they had compiled and painstakingly writing and polishing their own best effort at a perfect amalgamation, often updating the polishing job of the same stories between each successive edition.

    Of course I am no expert, and I am getting all of this information from my 2014 edition edited and translated by Jack Zipes, which purports to be the first complete English translation of the Grimms’ first edition. I found it quite agreeable though, and I wonder, Chris, if you might get more out of it than the version you were reading before.

  156. Thank you for your wisdom, wit, and generosity with both, JMG.

    I certainly benefited from reading your posts on the Cos Doc, and the back-and-forth with the ever-insightful Commentariat. Wasn’t up for the deep dive, but…

    Bought both book and cards from PRS last night. Don’t want to miss this!


  157. Count me among those interested in the nature of the risks of meditation. What seems to be happening, in cases such as in the Harper’s article, is a bypassing of the cognitive and emotional defenses against destructive ideation. If a random stranger shouts “the universe hates you and you should be dead!” at you in the street, your reaction will be “that person’s crazy” or something similar. But if you encounter that same assertion in hitherto inaccessible layers of your own thoughts, like unwise dwarves delving too deep and releasing a Balrog, it could be a lot more dangerous. Especially if you’re unequipped with narratives about the entities that dwell in such places, and how to contend with them.

    One question is whether there’s any relationship between that risk, and present times in which it seems most people’s mental defenses against anything at all that challenges their current world-view are constantly running on maximum alert. For example, calling things hate speech just to avoid even thinking about whether they might be true. Are people who live in ideological plastic bubbles the ones more vulnerable to hazards of intensive reflexive meditation?

  158. Matthias, that’s a complicated issue, in that the Neopythagorean movement was more or less on the fringe when it got started — it wasn’t until later that it was absorbed into Neoplatonism and became part of the late classical Neoplatonic synthesis. In terms of contemporary thought, Antiochus is a good starting point. As for the bubbling cauldron of syncretism that gave rise to that synthesis, why, yes — as a syncretic thinker myself, I tend to be much more sympathetic to that mode of creativity, and Hellenistic Egypt, late Renaissance Europe, and the Anglophone nations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are great examples.

    Bogatyr, I’m not sure I’ve finished excavating all the way down along that pattern of thought, but it’s crucial — line up the mistakes being made by the managerial class in the overdeveloped countries these days, and every one of them is rooted in an insistence that some target of manipulation is supposed to respond in a wholly automatic, predictable, mechanical manner…and it doesn’t. Our medical industry makes that mistake with bodies, our domestic policies make that mistake with the working classes and the poor, our foreign policies make that mistake with other countries, our idiotic mismanagement of the environment is founded on making that mistake with nature — I could go on for a week. I think there’s something deeper underlying that, though.

    Tanya, you’re most welcome! I know very little about Bon and even less about Dzogchen, but by all means follow those leads if they work for you.

    Chuaquin, vipassana meditation — the tradition from which mindfulness meditation derives — is a valid and effective mode of meditation, and it’s been used to good effect by Buddhist monks and nuns for a good many centuries. The problems with the modern heavily marketed version, “mindfulness meditation,” is that it’s been pulled out of its traditional context and stripped of the other practices that balance its potential downsides, and people are encouraged to do way too much of it without appropriate preparation. (Meditation is like athletics — try to run a marathon without working up to that level of effort and you risk serious health problems.) If you practice mindfulness meditation, that’s not a problem in itself, but you might consider adding the habit of daily readings from spiritual text — Buddhist monks do this with their scriptures — and don’t use meditation to try to run away from any problems you might have. Half an hour a day of meditation, fifteen minutes or so of reading in the scriptures or inspirational literature of your choice, and an ordinary balanced and healthy lifestyle — that’s a good combination that will help you a great deal.

    Mollari, maybe so. Nowadays, though, I think it’s part of a frantic attempt to insist that the present really is better than the past, especially when it’s not.

    Travis, if you can chew on an entire cow for dinner, your appetite is better than mine. 😉 Yes, I’m very familiar with the Kybalion — one of the occult orders in which I’ve been initiated uses it as a central text, and assigns each chapter to a tarot card in a particular sequence.

    Quin, thanks for this. I’m glad to hear that Zipes’ translation is good.

    Ottergirl, welcome aboard. It should be a fun, strange trip.

    Walt, that collapse of mental defenses is a specific problem that cuts in with too much of certain kinds of meditation. Other kinds of meditation have their own problems — check out the literature on “Zen sickness” sometime. For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s living in ideological bubbles that makes people more vulnerable than usual to the destructive effects of excessive meditation; my guess is that it’s too much suppressed cognitive dissonance. But that’s just a first guess, and it’s a subject that deserves careful study.

  159. Hello, I read Lady CK’s comment above about her weight loss recently and it worried me. Sudden loss of appetite can be a symptom of serious illness sometimes, and I hope that you (as a caretaker yourself) are able to care for your health as you do for your son. I do not want to be a Debby Downer, so to speak, but I enjoy your comments hugely and this one set off alarm bells for me based on my own experience and that of others dear to me. Thinking of you and wishing you well from Florida, where spring sprung two months ago and is already giving way to summer – and mosquitoes!

  160. Thank you, Just Me!

    JMG ‘s pretty tolerant of off topic as long as you keep it to a minimum, you don’t hijack the thread, and it’s interesting in itself. Or if you’re a geezer[ette] who finds something really interesting on the first of the month and won’t remember to post it at the end of the month [ask me how I know this]. I think he’s found the right balance. A good discussion will wander off into some interesting byways but will find its way back to the main road, and spend most of its time there.

    👏, JMG!

    Also, he’s graciously allowed me one kitten a month regardless. I try to save that one for the end of the month. Any other TACKs I fire off are so cute no one should have to miss them because of a geezerette’s faulty memory, or they illustrate some point relevant to the topic.

  161. I dropped out of the Cosmic Doctrine, but i hope to make it through Levi. Book ordered from the publisher and a set of Wirth cards from US games. Now just to make it through Francis Yates
    Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition
    before we start on this….

  162. JMG wrote:

    “Sabbatai Zevi was definitely an object lesson, though L. Ron Hubbard was even more so.”

    I have yet to see anything on Hubbard that indicates he was anything other than a first-rate fraud, and that his “teachings” have any other purpose besides getting clueless Hollywood celebrities to fork over lots of dough. Would you say that’s accurate?

  163. JMG states:

    “For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s living in ideological bubbles that makes people more vulnerable than usual to the destructive effects of excessive meditation; my guess is that it’s too much suppressed cognitive dissonance. But that’s just a first guess, and it’s a subject that deserves careful study.”

    But maybe this sums it all up. The ideology is so far divorced from reality that this in and of itself causes the cognitive dissonance.

    Antoinetta III

  164. Hi John Michael,

    I had a vague sense at the time of reading the Brothers Grimm collected stories, that cultural values such as allegiance to the crown and undisguised middle class values were layered over the top of the much older tales.

    Take the Rumpelstiltskin story for example: You’ve got a foolish father; a faithless daughter; a greedy king; and a mischievous imp. At the core of the story, the imp rescues the daughter for an agreed price, gets the foolish father out of his foolishness and all the while satisfying the greed of the king – not once, but three times. In the real world, the imp would have turned the faithless daughter into a newt, but no, daughter goes on a brief and hardly difficult journey and somehow by sheer dumb luck tricks the imp. In the real world where there are consequences, this outcome would not be! And the larger original lesson which is still there in plain sight, was lost in satisfying the cultural values fashionable at the time of the compilation of the books. I guess the authors had to pay the bills whilst not getting lynched!

    Unfortunately, I have little skill with other written and spoken languages. Nature recounts stories too, if we but care to take the time to look. 🙂

    Hi Quin,

    Thanks for the history regarding the collected stories, and it confirms my darkest suspicions. That’s a good suggestion, but my ‘to-read’ list is groaning under the sheer weight of books all calling for attention. Books are like the Siren songs: Come read us! Come read us! Tis perilous. 😉



  165. To the discussion of (mindfulness) meditation:

    I think Walt (#176) really expresses one of the core issues very well: “if you encounter that same assertion in hitherto inaccessible layers of your own thoughts, like unwise dwarves delving too deep and releasing a Balrog, it could be a lot more dangerous. Especially if you’re unequipped with narratives about the entities that dwell in such places, and how to contend with them.

    The Harper’s article seems to miss this point, with his (to my ear) derisive stance toward the Dalai Lama’s remark to which he refers: “He said that these meditators needed to read more books, analyze what they’d read, develop firm convictions, and only then try to meditate. If they followed this course, he didn’t think there was any danger.”

    In other words: to avoid these dangers, only take up the practice after you’ve equipped yourself with the appropriate conceptual tools to make sense of what you’re likely to encounter!

  166. Peter, the Cos.Doc. is hard going; I hope you gained something from the encounter. Lévi is easier to read — he’s writing for a more general audience.

    Tolkienguy, my take on Hubbard is that he was a fine example of that classic type, the huckster who starts by convincing himself. He was a complicated person, and one of the things his various bios taught me was some of the downsides of ceremonial magic pursued without the balancing force of religious devotion.

    Antoinetta, that makes sense — but I wonder if there’s more to it than that.

    Chris, fair enough. I’ll want to check the original version and see if it’s any different.

    Barefootwisdom, the Harper’s article has a lot of problems, and its dismissal of the Dalai Lama’s advice is certainly one of them.

  167. Thanks, Erika! You’re sweet! Not to worry, though; they put me on thyroid pills and my appetite’s returning. Unfortunately. I still have nifty souvenir T-shirts that are too tight.

  168. Hi Chris,

    No sweat. This came up because of JMG’s suggestion was reading children’s stories that exist outside one’s current cultural frame; of course, Grimm’s Fairy Tales are hardly the only example of such.

    Re: Rumpelstiltskin, this seems to be a good example of such a story. I’m curious as to what “larger original lesson” there is which is still there in plain sight for you, as it’s not so clear to me. And saying “in the real world this would not be!” seems to me to be missing the point when it comes to fairy tales! The whole point of their existence is that they are explicitly *not* the real world– at least not on their surface level.

    As for differences from the first 1812 Grimm edition, the first matches closely with the current Wikipedia entry on the tale, with the notable exception that it is not the queen/daughter herself who comes across the imp in the forest. Rather, for the first two nights she spent all night trying desperately to think of a name and simply becomes completely depressed. Meanwhile, her husband the king has been out on a hunting trip during this time. He returns home on the third day, and tells her (not knowing of any of her deals with the imp) of how when he went into the dark forest, he spied a strange little man singing a gloating rhyme, which he recites to her.

    The last line, after she states his name, is: “‘The devil told you that!’ the little man screamed, and he ran off full of anger and he never returned.”

    It seems to me there are a number of ways to take this story. First is that it is interesting that there are no innocents in this story, unless one counts the baby, who never appears directly in the tale. The miller who exaggerates about his daughter, the king who threatens the life of a peasant girl for crass material gain, the imp who offers a devil’s bargain to a victim clearly in the deepest distress, and the daughter who tries to get out of a deal made under duress. Who is the one at fault in this situation? There is no clear answer and this is what makes the situation interesting.

    It is also interesting to consider the symbolic meanings of the story. For instance one might meditates on what it might mean for a miller’s daughter, in particular, to turn straw into gold. It is also interesting to consider that the miller may not have been lying about his daughter: “Now one day he happened to talk to the king and said, ‘I have a daughter who knows the art of transforming straw into gold’.” And indeed, in short order, this is essentially what she does.

    It is also possible that the tale offers some kind of folkloric caution as to how one deals with certain kinds of malevolent spirits; or on a metaphoric level, certain kinds of malevolent people. The imp accepts personal trifles in return for helping the girl– a ring, a necklace– before demanding her first born. He never did anything for free, not even in the beginning. And speaking his true name is what causes him to flee. Again, this may hold metaphorical meaning for dealing with malevolent people.

    It also seems to me that the daughter/queen’s two nights spent trying to think of the little man’s name may be a metaphor for meditation; after all, at least in the first edition, she doesn’t directly access the information, but rather it comes to her after she has put in the effort and then let it go.

    There may of course be more to consider. These are just what occur to me after a short moment of thought. It seems to me, at the very least, that these stories may indeed hold much of the value that JMG is suggesting. Of course, they may not float your boat, and that’s certainly fine– but don’t make it out to be the story’s fault!

    “Nature recounts stories too, if we but care to take the time to look.” <– Wise words, and I think the whole point of any of this is learning how to read the Book of Nature. Both kinds of stories can help us in this, it seems to me.

  169. JMG,

    The book has already arrived and already found some gems in just the first few pages. “Yet the multitudes never conspire against the real powers; they do not have the science of what is true, but only the instinct for what is strong,” is already one of my favorite quotes, and explains so succinctly why things like the rescue game are so successful.

    What I hope to get out of this is better control and understanding over what I’m doing. I did a lot of dabbling in various energy work (Reiki, Qi Gong), meditation, crystal usage, invoking spirits (angels) and affirmations for about 25 years now (since I was 13), and I’ve gotten really good at manifesting, recognizing synchronicities and following them, and using magic to achieve goals, but I don’t have the best control, and sometimes I seem to accidentally use magic when I don’t mean to.

    As an example, I was annoyed at my family dog for pulling me every which way during our walk, and fantasized about how much better it would be if I could just take walks on my own, and I felt, instinctively, something get “locked in.” Within the month, my father, who seems to be easily influenced magically, decided to pull out random piping from the old dock at the lake at our family’s cottage and, instead of throwing it out, piled it up. My dog ended up getting its leg caught in one, thrashed around, and injured her back to the point where she couldn’t walk and required surgery. It was awful, and I’m pretty sure I caused it and similar incidents.

    More recently, I noticed that playing too much online chess was impacting other goals, and I cursed myself to lose so I would stop playing on the spur moment and it’s been quite effective. I have no idea how to undo it. I’ve been thinking I should join a group, find a teacher, or do something to get things under control for awhile now, especially since I have a baby daughter and I’m worried about her.

  170. JMG:

    I’m not sure I’ve finished excavating all the way down along that pattern of thought, but it’s crucial
    I think there’s something deeper underlying that, though

    It seems to be connected with the sense of and we shall be as gods: the conviction that having created a narrative, the world is compelled to change to fit. See also: the rituals used in politics lately, the assertion that certain human features are social constructs, and so on and so on. As seen from the outside, this conviction that ‘my word and my will make it so’ pervades every aspect of the American psyche at this point.

  171. Hi John Michael,

    The source documents would be well worth comparing to the latter versions but is an act that is beyond my purview. For your interest, I was merely going with my intuition with that opinion. And I could be wrong in this regard, intuition is not infallible.

    When first I encountered your writing, my intuition told me that you were to be trusted, but if like me – not always correct, but usually mostly correct. Mate, I’ve made some blunders that’s for sure! 🙂 But I just sort of knew that you had the readers best interests at heart.

    So, you’re now taking us all on a journey which will provide a working knowledge of the tarot (a particular tarot deck at that). OK. Is it really getting on that late in the game? I guess spent time has a bad habit of being in the past.



  172. > Levi is easier to read

    I plan to revisit Cos Doc, but it got put aside for Jung’s Synchronicity which really was hard going. I have high hopes that this one will be easier than either.

    OT but discussed in comments, I took up mantra meditation almost 3 years ago to the day. It was in response to almost intolerable levels of responsibility at work that exacerbated a long term insomnia problem. I was lucky enough to access a TM teacher. TM is now gloriously unfashionable but I was aware of it from when it was part of the pop culture of my childhood. Apart from a thorough screening interview at the beginning it has a very strict rule – no more than 2 twenty minute sessions a day. Given the growing awareness of all the potential downsides to these practices, that seems like a sensible precaution.

  173. Book (your translation of course) and cards (New Art Tarot) ordered. Salivating at the prospect of the bounteous banquet served at your table and the incredible conversation of your guests. Sincerely appreciate the invitation.
    Just following along with the Cosmic Doctrine opened so many doors and lit so many lamps. My understanding and love for my own faith was enriched so much by all that was shared the last three years; how quickly the time passes.
    I toast a bon voyage with a large glass of Guinness our captain and companions

  174. @JMG

    Thank you.


    I have been doing the same. It’s hard to believe the amount of infantilization and moral lecturing the modern adult is expected to go along with now

  175. Patricia O, which “they” were you talking about?

    Dennis, that’s a fairly common problem among people who start dabbling in this stuff when they’re young. Reading Lévi will help, but the control of the mind is also crucial, and discursive meditation can help with that.

    Bogatyr, thanks for this! A view from outside the American psyche is highly useful at this point. (BTW, thank you for the offlist comment, but none of that relates to my specific criticism, you know.)

    Chris, the tarot is the 78-blade Swiss army knife of the operative occultist, and Lévi only discusses a few of its uses. It would take a lifetime to get a complete working knowledge of the deck! We’ll be putting it to use in some ways that are unfamiliar to most people, however.

    Adwelly, mantra meditation can be very useful in quite a range of situations, and it can also be problematic — especially when overused. I’m very glad the TM people are taking the potential risks seriously! That’s good to hear, and speaks well of them.

    JeffinWA, welcome aboard!

    Danielle, you’re most welcome.

  176. Thank you for this! I’ve purchased your e-book (great for highlighting and searching.) Your translation looks to be quite a bit more useful than the Waite version. I’m looking forward to a deep dive into Tarot symbolism and expanding my familiarity with its magical uses.

  177. Ideological bubbles and cognitive dissonance are pretty close together in my conceptual space, as Antoinetta III also suggested. But yeah, Zen sickness does seem rather different or at least has additional dimensions. There could still be an aspect of ongoing cognitive dissonance with Zen sickness (analogous to what happens to characters, in Jack Vance’s Eyes of the Overworld, who wear only one of the titular lenses) but it could be something else completely. I note that the Dalai Lama’s advice for avoiding bad consequences of mindfulness meditation is very different in nature from Master Hakuyu’s prescription for treating Zen sickness.

    I’ve experienced my world-view and self-image shattering due to an introspective experience—but not as a result of any formal meditation practice. It was a sudden triggered day-long fit of introspection, that happened in my late childhood. I regard it as an initiatory experience with a very positive outcome, though I hardly felt secure in my sanity at the time. It’s pretty clear that cognitive dissonance (between the world-view I’d built, heavily influenced by others, and one I could actually live by) was the impetus. I don’t know if that’s even relevant to the question, but I imagine the consequences if the same realizations had come a decade or two later instead, with so many more commitments made and damage already done, could have been quite destructive.

    If I might attempt a connection with a different line of discussion here, the repercussions of “thinking of the body (etc.) as a machine”—there’s also thinking of the unconscious layers of the mind as machines as well, or even less, as inert galleries of old influences and half-forgotten experiences waiting for some archaeologist/psychoanalyst (or meditator?) to delve into and explore, rather than as living entities that think and react and strive.

  178. Patricia, can you have a friend or relative in the States buy it & send it to you?

    Adwelly, there’s that 20-minute limit again! I am pretty sure that’s a good limit for amateurs to observe.

  179. @Eliphas Levi readers

    JMG said:

    Chuaquin, vipassana meditation — the tradition from which mindfulness meditation derives — is a valid and effective mode of meditation, and it’s been used to good effect by Buddhist monks and nuns for a good many centuries. The problems with the modern heavily marketed version, “mindfulness meditation,” is that it’s been pulled out of its traditional context and stripped of the other practices that balance its potential downsides, and people are encouraged to do way too much of it without appropriate preparation. (Meditation is like athletics — try to run a marathon without working up to that level of effort and you risk serious health problems.) If you practice mindfulness meditation, that’s not a problem in itself, but you might consider adding the habit of daily readings from spiritual text — Buddhist monks do this with their scriptures — and don’t use meditation to try to run away from any problems you might have. Half an hour a day of meditation, fifteen minutes or so of reading in the scriptures or inspirational literature of your choice, and an ordinary balanced and healthy lifestyle — that’s a good combination that will help you a great deal.

    Agree 100%

    Rita Rippetoe said:
    Attachment causes suffering–true–but I’m not convinced that calm acceptance is a decent substitute for joy and occasional ecstasy. Different strokes, I guess

    This is what’s so mixed up about current faddish meditation techniques uprooted from their original setting. If you do the right kind of actions for one’s personal stack of sheaths then calm and bliss is the result, not the cause. That’s why for a lot of people mindfulness meditation may not necessarily be a good choice. I mean, it might be because some DIYers do have success with it but it’s a shot in the dark.

    Buddhism is a very dry path because Gautama deliberately designed it for people who have the samskaras that make them great candidates for being monks or nuns as their day job. Sadhguru says anyone who doesn’t have those specific kind of samskaras – if they then try to do Buddha’s original program which, btw is completely non-ritual. (NOT Tibetan Buddhism which is ALL about ceremonial magic) Such people will either quit in frustration or boredom or else have a psychotic break like the lady in the article did. Or you get ego inflation which can be just as bad. In both cases the Ahamkara part of Mind is destabilized so Intellect in turn gets distorted and destabilized. It wasn’t until I heard Sadhguru’s lecture about this, along with several other Yogis on this same topic that I understood why many Buddhist lineages around the world these days don’t adhere strictly to Buddha’s original program anymore.

    It’s likely that if one finds oneself enthused about the kind of practices JMG teaches that’s probably a decent clue one doesn’t have the samskaras for being a monk or nun. Well, Tibetan Buddhism is the exception because they are, like JMG, very into ceremonial magic.

    Other interesting tidbits I learned – the next is from Yogiraj Satgurunath. The word Vipassana is Pali. Written in Sanskrit it’s Vai-Upasana. It means to “sit near in reverence”. Specifically to sit still “near to” the Great Silence and Stillness – i.e. – the Dao. That’s why it’s a great practice some lineages use to have disciples enter Samadhi.

    From Sadhguru:

    Sama – ‘equanimous’, dhi – comes from ‘Buddhi’, the Intellect part of Mind. When Intellect has calmed its discriminatory-ness and and Mind becomes equinanimous, pure perception only – no thoughts arising – no conclusions on what’s happening – solely pure perception. Thus, ‘sama-dhi’.

    My musings:

    I could see how pairing it with Discursive Meditation, as some Buddhist linneages still do with the Tripitaka, might be a fine set of complimentary practices. I rather doubt many DIYers or 3 Week-Retreaters would do so though.

    I suppose if I just had to do Vipassana DIY I’d also pair it with Discursive Meditation and pair it with reading Sutras and some kind of weekly or even daily volunteer charitable activity where any credit, if it’s given at all, is given over to somebody or something else, never oneself. Like maybe volunteer to clean toilets weekly or pick up trash at a local sports park.

    Vipassana can bring up a lot of subconscious gunk. Sometimes instead of psychotic breaks like the lady in the article, instead you go the Nithyananda route and get massive overbearing ego-inflation convinced you’re an Avatar of THE GOD of all Gods and you got special insight into “the way things truly are” (because mindfulness meditation is an Insight practice). No joke. That’s a real problem even in ashrams and monasteries to this day. It’s the reason Nithyananda was expelled from the ashram he was in by his guru. He then proceeded to set himself up as Avatar-Guru of his own ashram but it didn’t fix his overbearing ego. It just made it worse.

    What’s worse, I found out from Sri Rohit Arya (he has a talk about this on Youtube) about how though the immediate benefits of such adulation are fantastic the blowback can be very nasty. Ego-inflated people like it because whomever gets the adulation and hero-worship gets a massive boost to their own Force-Jedi occult superpowers (to use a pop-culture reference -trying to stay away from specific religious tradition terminology sometimes because this problem is not specific to any one tradition, it’s part of being human). Imagine Obi-Wan cranked to 11 because of hero-worship.

    Sri Arya says you will pay for it dearly in future lives filled with woe. The very least woeful outcome of it, if you are lucky, is that you will lose every superpower you ever gained and have to start over from scratch. And that’s if you’re lucky. Master Nan said when he was in his 20s he knew a monk in a monastery who kept flouting the precepts on not using superpowers and the result was that the monk lost both of his arms AND was driven out of the monastery to boot. I’m guessing that monk was using his superpowers on people or animals that did not give prior, fully-informed consent and the universe duly supplied the result – loss of both arms. Maybe Force-Superpowers are cool but I don’t think I’d like losing both of my arms because of them!

    I do other, much more beginner level yoga practices than mindfulness partly because I want to avoid such problems. And I’m very happy with them because I’m finally seeing some great results. 🙂

  180. It was a few quotes from Levi that got me interested in magic in the first place, so I’m looking forward to this!

    Interestingly, one of the most beloved Chaotes around these days, Bluefluke, was recently discussing some similar uses for the tarot. He’s been writing/drawing a Psychonaut Field Manual for a while–he tends to disappear for a few months or years and then suddenly pop back up with new pages of the Manual and new cards for his “Atom Bomb Tarot” (the deck was finished years ago, he just keeps scrapping and redrawing the cards . . .).

    The most recent announcement included the following:

    “Besides covering the Eight Circuits of Consciousness, the Kabbalah and
    other illumination systems, a major topic in Chapter 5 will be using the
    Tarot properly as intended, i.e. a decryption key for a myriad of magical
    systems that could be hidden in plain sight.

    In fact, I honestly don’t see tackling something like the Kabbalah without
    such a key. You will either spend years tearing through Crowley’s 777 until
    both you and the book are worn as thin as the Velveteen Rabbit or just be
    confused as to how the [redacted for Ecosophia] thing works.

    The Tarot is simple, efficient and an absolute blast to work with
    given the proper instructions.

    Here I show the first part of Minor Arcana placement, after which
    will be explained how to place the Major Arcana, then swapping out
    the Minor Suits/Elements in each Circuit/Sephirot to fit with your personality
    type and realign them to “unlock the doors” to properly utilize your
    illumination system of choice. It’s going to be great fun.”

    I’ll be interested to see how the two systems compare.

  181. @Antoinetta III

    But maybe this sums it all up. The ideology is so far divorced from reality that this in and of itself causes the cognitive dissonance.

    For what it’s worth, I posted a transcript recently of a talk Sadhguru gave. From a yogic tradition perspective it’s become a worldwide problem because much of humanity doesn’t know how to wield their Intellect (Buddhi) with ease. Ahamkara is the part of mind that identifies. Whatever one’s Mind identifies with Ahamkara’s job will then start to defend it. Notice how Identity Politics has become a big deal in western countries? A sign imo of too many Ahamkaras at work searching for a way to stabilize Intellects devoid of exuberance.

    The problem he said comes out of history. Too much importance was given to thought by European nations but without corresponding life-enhancing experiences. It’s why the PMC venerate anything that has to do with knowledge acquisition – universities, libraries, books, conferences, certifications, etc. Which are not bad things in themselves but there’s a lopsided reliance upon these things to confer status and convenience as proxies for well-being.

    Sadhguru says the downside to this is that it leads to generations of kids with all kinds of psychological and emotional problems. Who grow up to be adults with the same or even worse problems. Too much knowledge without exuberant living leads to the following:


    Today, you will see this happening to children. For the first time, this generation you see – 10, 11 year-old or 12 year-old children, they look bored. (Looks at Vida – who looks to be in her late 50s or early 60s) When you were 10-11, you did not (know) what is boredom, it was not possible. It was too exciting to be alive and looking around. You will see 10, 12 year-old children, all looking bored because they’ve seen the cosmos through their phone screen.

    They know it all and especially in the western countries, you will see this happening at 8-10, they are really bored. You will see in the school buses, they are all sitting like this.

    (Sadhguru gets bored look on face)

    Bored, because by the time you are 12, you already had one love affair, you know what is a break, you know how to …all this recover from that, you tasted alcohol, you’ve seen this, probably you’ve gone into all kinds of physical things and you know the cosmos. What more?

    By the time you’re 15, there’s really no purpose for you to exist, for many of them.

    You should not be surprised, if this culture continues. I’m not saying this as a prediction, it is something that I see beginning to happen – in another 50 or 100 years’ time, if 25% to 50% of the people commit suicide, you should not be surprised. Because life needs some exuberance.

    If too much information happens to you without experience, that exuberance will be gone and a sense of…(pauses)…false sense of knowing becomes so strong in you. This is the danger of intellect because intellect wants to dissect everything.

    ****cut a bit of the transcript*****

    So the next dimension of the mind. The first one is called as Buddhi, which is Intellect.

    The 2nd is called as Ahankara. Ahankara does not mean ego, this, that – it means the identity. Whatever you’re identified with, your intellect (Buddhi) functions only around that. Simple, if you just identify with a nation. If you say, “I’m an Indian.”, everything Indian looks beautiful. If you cross the border and you say you are something else, all that looks beautiful. So, whatever you’re identified with (Ahankara), it’s only with that the intellect (Buddhi) functions.

    So Ahankara is the identity. How consciously and how steadily your Ahankara has been created will determine the effectiveness of your intellect. Just because it’s sharp, it does not mean it’ll be effective because sharp intellect or a sharp knife can cause any amount of damage to you. If you have a sharp knife and you don’t have a steady hand, you will cut yourself all over the place. That’s all that’s happening.

    Human suffering is just this – you don’t know how to hold this intellect in your hand properly. Every day you’re cutting yourself. All suffering is on self-help because you’re own mind is causing this to you all the time. No matter what happens, people suffer, whichever way, they suffer, because they don’t know how to hold this intellect. If you had the mind of an earthworm, you would be quite peaceful. Yes? You’re trying to do it in so many ways to reduce the sharpness of the intellect – by drink, by drug, by overeating, by doing all kinds of things – somehow to take away the sharpness because the damn thing hurts. It hurts not because that’s its nature, it hurts because you do not know how to hold it.

    Elevate knowledge acquisition too much without pairing it with life-exuberant enhancing activities leads to a lot of mental and emotional problems. This is the problem with most westernized public schools and I’d submit a lot of lifeless, mindless, office-cubicle corporate jobs too. Even the PMC are no longer escaping these neurosis, psychosis, and emotional problems.

    Here’s the original video the full transcript is from. My blog contains the full transcript for those whom don’t like watching video.

  182. JMG, you wrote

    “Line up the mistakes being made by the managerial class in the overdeveloped countries these days, and every one of them is rooted in an insistence that some target of manipulation is supposed to respond in a wholly automatic, predictable, mechanical manner…and it doesn’t.”

    I guess this is what late stage industrialisation plus narcissistic entitlement leads to. It also explains the 4 years of meltdowns we witnessed by the PMC when Trump got elected. I believe that the PMC then decided to make sure the deplorable electorate couldn’t disobey them again by rigging the 2020 US election. I have just ordered this book on the topic.

    The PMC response to their failure to manipulate successfully seems to be, manipulate harder, faster and more. Looking forward to The King in Orange too.

  183. JMG,

    Thanks for the advice! I ordered “The Celtic Golden Dawn.” I definitely need help controlling the mind so I don’t accidentally manifest things on whims.

  184. RE Buddhism/Vippassana:

    Last fall we had a big discussion on the end goal of Buddhism. Since we’re talking about the dangers of Vipassana in this post I’d like to throw in my up to date two cents on that. I suspect the Nirvana of Buddhism might be the Unmanifest in the Cos.Doc. And the goal of Cos.Doc. occultism to merge with the Solar Logos, not the Unmanifest. I’ve decided this partly based on the fact the Vipassana is all about deconstruction of sensations, and I think you ultimately may deconstruct your soul. So the end goals of different meditative traditions are quite different, IMO. Although in the pragmatic dharma community, it’s pretty much accepted that no one in modern times has attained 4th Path/Arhat in the traditional sense, which would be the union with the Unmanifest in my mind. People seem to get stuck after attaining second path. The only people attaining Arhat/4th Path are redefining the Paths, which they admit (look into Daniel Ingram if curious). So there may be some built in protection from joining up with the Unmanifest in modern times. YMMV since this is basically just a hunch I have that came to me after reading the Cos.Doc.

  185. Thank you JMG…I am glad that you are doing this.

    I tried (really I did) to work on the “Cosmic Doctrine” with you but for some reason the book just left me cold.

    I am reading your translation now and I am already hooked. It is a slog though. Looking forward to this.


  186. Goldenhawk, welcome aboard!

    Walt, one of the conclusions I’ve reached after studying a variety of different spiritual paths is that the people who think that all spiritual paths have the same goal are shoveling smoke. Even within Buddhism, I’m fairly sure that the different schools have decidedly different endpoints — certainly they describe those endpoints in sharply different terms — and the means are also different, which is why it doesn’t surprise me that the problems the Dalai Lama is used to seeing aren’t the same as the ones that Master Hakuyu got to deal with. Your point about the unconscious is very good — that’s one of the things that Jung stressed, pointing out that the archetypes don’t just sit there passively waiting for us to wake them up — they’re awake, and as long as we’re asleep to their functioning, they run our lives.

    Panda, that makes a lot of sense to me. As I see it, no two souls are identical and thus no two souls can benefit from exactly the same process of spiritual development; that’s why there are different religions and different systems of self-unfoldment. As for Buddhism, the creativity with which different schools have reworked the original program, often to the extent of standing it completely on its head, is one of the delights of the history of religions!

    Yucca, glad to hear it. It’ll be interesting to see if what he unpacks from the tarot is what Lévi unpacked from it — or more to the point, what I unpack from Lévi’s unpacking…

    Bridge, no argument there. Since I dabble in philosophy a great deal, though, I like to take the sort of florid delusion the US elite class currently labors under, and trace it down to the misunderstandings at its root.

    Dennis, glad to hear it. That’s one of the things that traditional occult disciplines are for!

    Anonymous, no can do. Google is as usual wildly out of date; they still think I blog on The Archdruid Report, and I’d have to sign in via that extinct blog!

    Youngelephant, interesting. My guess, for what it’s worth, is that “Nirvana” means a whole flurry of different things depending on which Buddhist denomination we’re talking about. just as “Jesus” these days refers to a a great many spiritual entities of varying character.

    Degringolade, the Cos.Doc. is really hard going. Welcome aboard!

  187. Youngelephant said:

    Although in the pragmatic dharma community, it’s pretty much accepted that no one in modern times has attained 4th Path/Arhat in the traditional sense, which would be the union with the Unmanifest in my mind. People seem to get stuck after attaining second path. The only people attaining Arhat/4th Path are redefining the Paths, which they admit (look into Daniel Ingram if curious).

    You are not the only one to bring this up. Quite a few of the teachers I’ve followed mentioned this. Some Buddhist, some not. But all of them either “pro-level” Yogis or Monks. Master Nan in his book Working Toward Enlightenment said that in earlier times, right around the time Shakyamuni Buddha was alive people could make it all the way to the final goal of Nirvana by strictly relying upon their own self-power. Their own discipline and perseverance with the practices with no outside higher Plane help was good enough. But Master Nan (and other teachers too) says that if one’s samadhi power is good enough you will quickly discover this hasn’t been the case for a long time. At least according to Master Nan and some other Chinese and Tibetan Buddhists I learned from I think this is what they mean by the phrase Dharma-Ending Age.

    According to Master Nan himself and a few Tibetan Buddhist teachers something like only 5 people have realized all 5 kayas (kaya = bodies – including the astounding Nirmanakaya) most Buddhist traditions teach about since Shakyamuni Buddha’s passing 2500 years ago and even then these teachers all maintained it was only the Realization of such, not yet the manifestation. In a Dharma Ending Age manifestation won’t come back around again for a very long time.

    I have sometimes wondered if this may also be one of the reasons JMG says occult writers in former ages have said occult powers have also waxed and waned in different eras. It’s possible I suppose. According to Master Nan we are right now in a Dharma Ending Age of which the Age of Aquarius is a part (Sri Aurobindo agreed with that according to Yogiraj Satgurunath!) so you won’t see high level Arhats like were around in Shakyamuni’s day. Or at least not like that due to solely their own self-efforts. If they are higher than that then Grace came via a higher Plane being.

    Sounds like Daniel Ingram has advanced far enough in samadhi he’s discovered that to be the case too. (I did like Ingram’s book and his forum though I haven’t been there in a long time).

    Anyway, that’s one big reason the whole tradition of Pure Land Buddhism comes from. Reliance upon Amitabha Buddha’s 48 vows to get past the stalling out of self-efforts since Amitabha is an exalted being and has made grand vows to aid people who call upon him for further ascent to higher realms of wisdom, bliss and power.

  188. Speaking of standing the original program on its head—when I worked at Ancient Ways occult store in Oakland CA back in 1989 I discovered that small sitting images of the Buddha were used by some members of the Black community as good luck charms in gambling. Ironic considering that the Buddha forbade his monks to gamble. You just never know where you will end up if you get into the god business.

    JMG– in reference to your point about religions not being the same at the root I will mention a book I read in 2010.
    _God is not One: the Eight Rival Religions that Run the World and Why Their Differences Matter_
    by Stephen Prothero,
    Author examines Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba religion, Judaism, Daoism, and atheism. He concludes that they are not, in words of some metaphors, not paths up same mountain. Prothero is a professor of religious studies at Boston University. His most recent book is _Religion Matters_. I haven’t read it yet. He has also written _American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon_ which sounds interesting.


  189. A bit off-topic, but….

    Over at the Dreamwidth blog on the Magic Monday posts, you state that all questions asked before 12:00 Midnight Monday will be answered.

    My question is that since any day has two Midnights, are you referring to the Midnight that links Sunday to Monday, or the Midnight that links Monday to Tuesday?


    Antoinetta III

  190. Late to the party.
    On meditation and silly people. When I was in brain therapy, we had a piddletwat who self-styled herself all things brain recovery. What she was was a self-taught speech therapist who enjoyed a captive audience. Anyway, she was deep into the New Age stuff up beyond her arm pits. The people at Brain Injury Services were snowed by her even after I complained about the dangers of her methods.

    Guess who did meditation to stop the racing brain? Piddletwat who would go on silent retreats with monks from time to time. She decided that she knew all about meditation so she inflicted her ideas on a captive population of brain injury people. I nearly got kicked out of her sessions for telling her that she was full of piddletwat for inflicting such a dangerous practice on people. She was of the mindless meditation group as described in the Huffington Post.

  191. @JMG:
    Oh, I vaguely remember you commenting about your access problems on ADR long ago. Maybe it is not worth the effort.

  192. JMG and Bogatyr and Bridges –

    I don’t comment here very often, but your various comments about the nature of the particular bad ideas afflicting America’s governing classes sparked what I’d like to imagine is an insight. To lay it out simply:

    * The governing classes are systematically dismantling anything that might even be construed as negative feedback to their policies.
    * In fact, negative feedback about their policies – even in the form of simple cybernetic correction from cold numbers – gets an intense emotional reaction from them.
    * They have in their background a progressive ideology that holds that, as Bogatyr neatly phrased it, ‘we shall become as gods.’
    * They also have in their background, though more unconsciously, a great deal of material from the dogmatic end of the Abrahamic religions.
    * In the dogmatic end of the Abrahamic religions, what do you call negative feedback to the plan of God? Why, blasphemy, of course.

    And that seems to explain their emotional reaction quite precisely: our governing classes respond to negative feedback towards their policies exactly as though they were the God of Jonathan Edwards being blasphemed against.

    Does this make any sense to you all, or am I overthinking things?

  193. Addendum:

    I read back over one of my posts and I noticed I got one thing backwards as well as a misspelling.

    Whatever one’s Mind identifies with Ahamkara’s job will then start to defend it.

    1. I now see I kept misspelling it. It’s Ahankara. It’s function is Identity.

    So really the above statement should be:

    Whatever one’s mind identifies (Ahankara) with Intellect (Buddhi) will then start to defend.

    So here we are in many westernized countries – celebrating Identity Politics as the solution for non-exuberant Intellects everywhere. Oh well.

  194. @ Mark–

    You’re not only not overthinking things, but many others are thinking the same thing as you. Here is an excellent analysis of Wokeness As Protestantism from the (Protestant) Theopolis Institute:


    “In a world which was shaped by a Protestantism that, up until recently, provided a unifying moral framework for our nation, Wokeness fills a void and has a certain appeal to Protestants themselves and their fellow citizens. As Tom Holland has persuasively argued, we cannot shake Christian categories and conceptions in the West, but their meanings can shift. Wokeness meets a religious need by mimicking a Protestantism that our society has largely left behind. The religious energy and concern is narrowed to this-worldly realities, and thus can be identified as neopagan.”

    He doesn’t say this, but this idea is found in so many words in the work of Oswald Spengler. Read the chapter in Decline of the West entitled “Buddhism, Stoicism, Socialism.”

    I realized this for myself some months ago, when I came across a Woke Book at a bookstore entitled “Sermon to White America.” I thought, “Holy s—, it’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God!”

  195. Hi JMG,

    I’ve started reading the introduction and noticed that Levi mentions “science” a few times. As he’s writing in the mid-nineteenth century, just on the cusp of when that word changed meanings from “an organized body of knowledge” to its current meaning, I wanted confirmation that he’s using it in the traditional sense. That seems to be the case most of the time, but there were one or two instances where I’m not sure. Can you please enlighten me as to how he generally uses the word and if there are occasions when, perhaps, he uses the other meaning?


  196. Hey Happypanda,

    Thanks for that line of thought. It opened up some doors in my mind. FWIW, Ingram seems to have been evolving since attaining “technical 4th path/his version of Arhat” so I don’t know exactly what he would say to this, but if I distilled the group mind of the pragmatic dharma community as a whole to a comment on the attainment of Arhat in modern times w/o higher guidance, I think they’d state that “full Arhat” is religious dogma and always impossible. Most of that community are staunch materialists, or at least materially acting agnostics. Now that I’m removed from that community I can recognize that despite calling themselves “pragmatic” they are rather dogmatic. Ingram practices magic though, which I find highly entertaining.

    If I’m doing a halfway decent job of mapping – the “manomakaya” is the mental body in some schools of Buddhism, and seems to be a relatively “low” level of attainment in Buddhism. Maybe somewhere like 1/2 – 3/4th of the way to arhat (this is pure conjecture). This is part of what informs my notion of ultimate attainment in Buddhism.

  197. I just did a short Discursive Meditation practice and 2 things occurred to me.

    1. If we are indeed in a Dharma Ending Age as several teachers I follow maintain that may be why higher level magic manifestation and higher spiritual bodies is not possible in such ages as ours (or at least not without the descent of Grace). Higher levels of seeing more subtle-bodied beings may not be as available to ordinary humans as it once was either. So it would have knock-on effects regarding myths and legends too in various cultures too. One reason dogmatic insistence on Materialism in western cultures is that such perceptions were already on their way out.

    2. Following on from that this may also be one source of the dispute between various spiritual traditions as to whether it is possible for spiritual aspirants to “merge” or attain to the Dao or not. Those traditions that say it’s not possible might be doing so because in Dharma Ending Ages the supports and clear pathways to higher Planes is not available. But those who do say it can be done are also recalling back to a time when it was – and see it will someday be again – possible.


    I’ve found that the pdf JMG recommended for download (the 1861 Baillière edition) has the left edge of the text clipped sometimes and the text is hard to make out here and there. So I ordered the edition from and so far I’m really impressed. It’s not a facsimile — they’ve completely re-typeset it. It’s not OCR — it’s been very carefully done and the result is superbly readable. I’ve been comparing the Baillière scan vs. the Unicursal edition, and so far it’s the Unicursal edition that helps me make out strangeness (and clipped text) in the scanned Baillière edition. Similar care has been given to the images — indistinguishable from those in the Baillière except the Unicursal ones are sharp and clean. I’m only about 20 pages into it so far (my French needs brushing up) so I can’t vouch for it 100%, but so far this looks like a winner!

  199. Hi everyone, not sure if this is related to this post, but it’s certainly related to the overarching project of this blog…
    Lately I see quite a few pieces of news about this or that monument being victim of a fire. Overall the damage is fortunately not a severe drastic loss of Historical knowledge, but still some little piece of History that is destroyed forever.
    Nowadays we are very well informed, so perhaps this kind of event has always happened and is normal in the life of civilizations? Are we really worse nowadays than we used to be, at preserving our historical world heritage?
    And when the nation or the people decide to restore what has been lost, or a fac simile of it, will come the question of where to find the skills to achieve the production of religious or art-like craft. Isn’t this going to shift our focus as societies, towards what will be the wave of the future, a more artisanal world ? At least I understand what you are aiming at: focus a small community on producing value. This is how each era produces a bit of heritage to the next one as well.

    On a rather decidedly unrelated note, there is a lot of psychic angst running amok in the rich world. And a growing sense that disrespecting public authority doesn’t necessarily lead to punishment. Too much idle time I guess… That, and geopolitical conflicts over who is allied to whom (Ukraine, Taiwan) as an opposite bloc of power is taking shape against the Western world. Isn’t this a bit reminiscent of the years leading to WW1? At some point war becomes an effective way to run an industrial industry. I really hope I am wrong…

    We could soon be heading back into an era of warmongering and craftsmanship. The future is a strange and uncomfortable place to go to…

  200. I think that Arthur Edward Waite has received a bad rap. I’m beginning to revise my view of him because of two books that I have partially read but have put aside because of a groaning bookshelf, a familiar plight to many of you on this blog, no doubt. Here they are:

    Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot: The True Story of the World’s Most Popular Tarot by Marcus Katz

    Describes the relationship between the stiff, formal Waite and the bohemian artist Pamela Colman Smith. Katz, who is an occultist with a special interest in Tarot, offers more than an account of the creation of this particular deck, but expounds its secrets as well.

    A. E. Waite: Magician of Many Parts by R. A. Gilbert

    R. A. Gilbert, a familiar name in occult scholarship, has written a sympathetic biography of Waite and makes a case for revising his bad reputation by understanding what he in fact accomplished in his life’s work.

    I attribute the beginning of my changing opinion of Waite to a more positive one to the late Joseph Lisiewski who once remarked that the practical doer of magic could get the most out of Waite by isolating what he most excoriates and then taking the opposite meaning.

  201. Oh and forgot to say, JMG, that your take on Nirvana seems more likely. I’m already flip flopping, so I hope no one took too much stock in my first post on the subject! I just saw a post on dharmaoverground earlier that made me think that Buddhism seeks to merge with the Solar Logos after all. I wish some expert in Buddhism and occultism would make a mapping. Alan Chapman, a chaos magician did up to the point of “streamentry”, but he didn’t include Cos.Doc. terms. Maybe one day I will make sense of all this…

  202. In regards to Arhatship, Dharma Ending Age and the ultimate destinies of individuals.

    I have a friend who studied with and knew Ingram personally, he had already been a rather serious seeker and then somewhat serendipitously met Ingram who turned out to live very close by. So he did some retreats in his attic, worked the technique very intensely, followed his own inner guidance, and had a deep awakening. I’m don’t think he went as far as some other friends from the group where I met him, who had realizations along the lines of Franklin Merrell-Wolf, but when it comes down to it, how can anybody else really know the internal experience of anybody else? I do have friends who have said they experienced deep rapport with other people to the extent they shared one mind, but those were brief. This is a potential problem with mapping these higher experiences. How do you know what “Nirvana” or “Enlightenment” or “Self-Realization” is unless you experience it for yourself? And how can you know that what you experience corresponds to what anybody else labels as such? How do you know if in the end there is only One entity or if you are One of Many? How can you know if all paths lead to the same mountain or to different peaks? In the end, what does it matter if you aren’t satisfied? All you can really know is your own experience. That is why I think refined intuition is so important, and direct, personal contact with your higher self. But again, I can only walk my path. In a way, arguing about these labels are just distractions, and believing that you are in a “Dharma ending age” may just be an excuse, and limit one from actually going for the highest possible. But who knows!

  203. Rita, I’ve read it! I thought it was a fine dose of common sense.

    Antoinetta, Magic Monday each week includes all of Monday, so it begins at midnight Eastern time as Sunday becomes Monday, and ends at midnight Eastern time when Monday becomes Tuesday.

    Neptunesdolphins, one of the things that set off alarm bells for me a long time ago around mindfulness meditation was that so many devotees insisted that it’s the best possible thing for everyone. One of the others is that so many devotees, when you bring up the rate of psychiatric casualties, change the subject and keep on changing it.

    Anonymous, I’m not going to worry about it. Thanks for bringing it up, though!

    Mark, I don’t think you’re overthinking it at all. Elite classes in a post-Christian culture have responded by claiming divine status for themselves — yeah, that works.

    Panda, the interesting thing is that I’ve seen ahankara spelled in half a dozen ways, and ahamkara is one of them!

    Chronojourner, yes, he’s using it in the old sense throughout; in 1854 the new sense hadn’t been invented yet.

    William, thanks for this!

    Jean-Vivien, this seems rather likely to me. In particular, the moment the US loses the ability to maintain the current international order — and we may not be far from that — a lot of borders are going to change in a hurry, at gunpoint.

    Kelvin, I’ve read pretty much everything Waite ever published, including some of his (dreadful) poetry. I’m aware of his strengths, but he had some very problematic habits.

    Youngelephant, maybe you can do that someday.

  204. Bogatyr (offlist) enough. I’ve banned people for systematically avoiding the point of a discussion and stooping to ad hominem arguments to try to discredit opposing views, you know. I’m not going to ban you, because you’ve been a thoughtful commenter on every other issue, but I won’t be putting through anything else you try to post about mindfulness meditation, and I’m also going to ask you to sit out the discussion of tomorrow’s post, which is on the same subject. You’ve had your say, and since you’re not willing to discuss the specific point at issue, you can let others talk for a while.

  205. @William Zeitner #221
    Now there’s a brilliant idea. The online version is a challenge to read.
    Looking at the unicursal website, is the book in question “Le Live des Sages?” I am not seeing the exact title, and other works by Levi are different texts.

  206. Hi John, what’s your take on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s approach to the tarot(in his book “The Way of The Tarot”) and his student Yoav Ben-Dov (his book “Tarot – the Open Reading”)? I have a feeling Alejandro Jodorowsky could have as much impact on the tarot as Eliphas Levi had on magic, but I might be biased on this.

    Finally, have you checked Paul Huson latest book on the tarot and his deck Dame Fortune’s Wheel? It’s not Marseille exactly, but close.

  207. Tarot Nerd Alert!

    If anyone would like to see what the original (and very collectible) 1929 Knapp-Hall New Art Tarot deck looks like, there’s a video on YouTube where the ecstatic fellow who won it on eBay shows closeups of each card. Pretty cool:

  208. Re Ahamkara / Ahamkara, etc. If I recall, both of these transliterations are equally valid approximations in the English alphabet.

    Strictly speaking it should be transliterated as Ahaṃkāra (अहंकार). It is a single word made up of two words Ahaṃ meaning “I” and kāra which is any created thing or action. When these words are joined together the Sanskrit grammar rules of sandhi (joining) change the ‘m’ at the end of Aham to a sound that does not exist in English (a nasal sound like ‘n’ where the contact is at the back of the mouth where you would pronounce ‘g’ instead of touching the teeth)

    The word gets translated often as ‘ego’ but what I understand from some amateur study is that it describes the mechanism by which the ‘I’ of existence is associated with a thing or action – i.e. what we might call the process of identification. It is one of four faculties that comprise the inner world.


  209. Mark,
    I am not so sure that God actually sees negative feedback as blasphemy. There are many instances of his people standing up to him and saying, “You can’t say/do that God or what will everyone around us say about you?” Maybe he regards differences as a conversation.

  210. Dear Mr. Greer,

    I concede that your opinion of Waite is based on vastly more experience than mine. Dreadful poetry is the lot of most people because poetry is more difficult than prose. Even among poets, their best poetry came in the vigor of youth, like the discoveries of great mathematicians and scientists, for the most part. Okay, Schrodinger created the brilliant wave theory of quantum mechanics in his fifties. But, as they say, the exception proves the rule.

    In spite of Waite’s dreadful poetry, I will continue my revisionist view of him. I know it isn’t relevant to the present focus of this book club, but I’d be interested in a rehearsal of your problems with Waite based on your extensive knowledge of his work. I believe the time is ripe for you to share your informed estimation of the man with the world in the form of a book! I think it will find an eager market.

  211. I am hoping your book translation has a pdf or an ePub format because I’m recovering from surgery and prefer to study texts that way. My wife got
    me the Oswald Worth cards. I am looking forward to this new study! Please post a link to the version if it is available? I have been reading Decline And Fall and Dark Age America. Thanks for publishing those books.

  212. JMG, on the site that you linked to to order your book, I tried to enter my address in Japan, but could not. The field that said, “United States,” could not be altered, though it appeared they may have been thinking of offering it as a future possibility.

    @Lady Cute Kitten, thank you for your suggestion. There is no one in the States I would be able to pester to accomplish that.

  213. The early Gnostic version of the Cabalistic Tree of Life is indeed in Origen’s _Contra Celsum_, chapter 6. Speaking of Origen (184-253), in addition to being one of the profound scholars and thinkers of very early Christianity, Origen also has the marvelous distinction that The Church can’t seem to decide if he’s a Pillar of Orthodoxy and should almost be venerated, or if he’s an arch-heretic and everything he wrote should be burnt! (Much was burnt, as you know.)

  214. Hi JMG – On page 6 of your translation Levi references “the unfortunate Swedenborg.” What was it about Swedenborg that he considered unfortunate?

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