Book Club Post

The Doctrine of High Magic: Chapter 11

With this post we continue a monthly chapter-by-chapter discussion of The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic by Eliphas Lévi, the book that launched the modern magical revival.  Here and in the months ahead we’re plunging into the white-hot fires of creation where modern magic was born. If you’re just joining us now, I recommend reading the earlier posts in this sequence first; you can find them here.  Either way, grab your tarot cards and hang on tight.

If you can read French, I strongly encourage you to get a copy of Lévi’s book in the original and follow along with that; it’s readily available for sale in Francophone countries, and can also be downloaded from If not, the English translation by me and Mark Mikituk is recommended; A.E. Waite’s translation, unhelpfully retitled Transcendental Magic, is second-rate at best—riddled with errors and burdened with Waite’s seething intellectual jealousy of Lévi—though you can use it after a fashion if it’s what you can get. Also recommended is a tarot deck using the French pattern:  the Knapp-Hall deck (unfortunately out of print at the moment), the Wirth deck (available in several versions), or any of the Marseilles decks are suitable.


“Chapter 11: The Magical Chain” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 110-118).


The first ten chapters of our text have covered the foundations of magical practice, from the importance of will in the first chapter to the closely linked symbolic patterns of the Cabala in the tenth. In the course of those chapters we have finished our journey down the Tree of Life from Kether the Crown, the highest sphere, to Malkuth the Kingdom, the lowest. Though Lévi doesn’t mention this, the remaining chapters can be correlated to the twelve signs of the zodiac, though the collections are a little forced here and there; more obviously, they complete the sequence of the tarot trumps.

In this chapter, which corresponds to Aries and Trump 11, Strength, Lévi reveals the central secret of magical power. I mean that in all seriousness. Grasp what he has to say in these nine pages, reflect on it until you understand it, apply it skillfully, and the power of the ages is yours. It really is as simple as that. It bears remembering, however, that simple is not the same thing as easy; knowing the secret of magical power is one thing, but applying it—we’ll get to that.

The secret of magical power is the control of the astral light, the great magical agent which has been discussed at such length in previous chapters. The art of controlling the astral light requires mastery of two skills. The first is setting the astral light in motion and dispersing it.  The second is concentrating and stabilizing it. In the Latin of the old alchemists, these are solve and coagula, “dissolve” and “coagulate,” and the results are discussed constantly in alchemical texts as the volatile and the fixed, the winged and wingless dragons, the bird and the snake, and so on through the whole bestiary of alchemical emblems. The same paired processes can be found in countless guises all through the literature of occultism, and in some contexts that seem wholly unrelated to occultism. Look for them and see what you can find.

The simplest form of these two processes happens in your body every time you take a breath. When you breathe out, expelling the astral light as well as carbon dioxide, that’s solve; when you breathe in, bringing the astral light into your body along with fresh oxygen, that’s coagula. Yes, this is why breathing exercises play a role in so many occult and spiritual disciplines, and it’s also why breathing on something can be used as a way of working with magical forces. You can blow on something, with a sudden sharp breath, to dispell energies from it:  that’s called “exsufflation” in old books. You can breathe gently on something, to charge it with energies:  in these same books, that’s called “insufflation.”  Again, solve and coagula. These are very simple examples, but that makes them useful for the sake of understanding.

Yet there’s more going on here than a simple breathing in and breathing out of power. Here, instead of spending paragraphs brandishing around various symbolic expressions of the point he’s trying to make, Lévi passes on a crucial detail in a single crisp sentence:  “We gather [the astral light] in isolation, and we disperse [it] through the magical chain.”

We’ll take these two stages in order, as our text does. To accomplish the coagula phase, it’s necessary to isolate oneself from the collective, mentally, astrally, and physically. Mental isolation is the ability to think your own thoughts even, or especially, when they conflict with the collective consciousness of your community and your age. Astral isolation is complete freedom from involuntary emotional ties, so that nobody can “push your buttons” or evoke an emotional reaction in you that you do not want to feel. Physical isolation is habitual self-control over bodily cravings, taken to such a point that asceticism becomes natural. You cannot commands anything in human experience if that thing commands you:  that is the essential concept that has to be grasped in order to be able to attract and gather the astral light.

Lévi recognizes, of course, that this is exactly what many students of occultism are utterly unwilling to learn. The fantasy of having magical powers so that you can impress your friends, feed your ego, and wallow in whatever more or less dubious cravings appeal to you most, is very deeply rooted in the human imagination, and even more so in Western cultures, in which the craving for infinite expansion of the ego is generally cultivated.  His sly response—“Does not one need to be a little more than just an ordinary man if one hopes to become godlike?”—is valid, but there’s another point. Spend the time in reflection you need in order to get to the bottom of your cravings on the mental, astral, and physical planes, and it will become clear that what you think you want won’t actually satisfy you—that’s why human beings so often spend their lives running after an assortment of absurdities, after all. Isolation of mind, heart, and body is among other things a good way to sort out what you actually want to accomplish in life.

There’s an important distinction to be made here, however. The more intense forms of isolation are only necessary if you want to accomplish the more potent kinds of collective change. The habits of absolute renunciation are only necessary if you want to change the world.  You can accomplish smaller works with much less drastic means. You can also simply study the art of magic without attempting it into practice; as our text suggests, beyond the enjoyments of satisfied curiosity, this knowledge has practical benefits:  it protects against the paired stupidities of unthinking belief and unthinking disbelief.  Many follies in human society are driven by one of these, and even more are driven by both acting in conjunction.

It’s when we move from coagula to solve, from concentrating the astral light to putting it in motion, that these possibilities can be understood. The magical chain, to use Lévi’s term, is a group of people whose wills are aligned in the same direction, so that they transmit a current of the astral light toward a common goal, amplifying it all the while.  The more people can be induced to join the chain, the stronger the current becomes and the more it can accomplish. Those religious and occult organizations that have had a significant impact on the world are, or at least were, magical chains.  So are many smaller organizations that use the currents of the astral light to sustain themselves and have potent effects on the lives of their members.  Some of them are benevolent and some are quite the opposite; the Quakers in their era of greatest strength were a potent magical chain, and so was Charles Manson’s murderous “Family.”  The astral light is not a moral force; it can be used equally well for good or ill. Like Mercury in the legend, it runs around the world, enjoying alike the company of the evil and the good.

The power of the astral light to shape human consciousness is one of the crucial lessons our text has to teach. In every society there are a great many people who are impressionable, passive, and uncritical, and whose minds are therefore wide open to the vagaries of the astral light. As Lévi points out, public opinion can shape the astral light just as effectively as the concentrated will of a mage or a circle of mages—which is why, as he says, the astral light “reproduces in its revelations all the luciditty of the most marvelous daydreams or all the strangeness and all the lies of the most incoherent and vaguest of dreams.”  Those who followed after Lévi didn’t always remember this, which is why quite a bit of strangeness and no shortage of high-grade nonsense got taken at face value by would-be visionaries who should have known better.

We are all subject to the vagaries of the astral light at every moment, until and unless we learn one of the core lessons of this chapter, and isolate ourselves from its currents.  Once we do that, we stop being affected by the currents and start affecting them.  An isolated hermit in a cave, given enough intensity of focus, can set currents in motion that will shape the lives of millions. When you stop thinking and feeling and acting out the predigested notions of the mass mind, you begin to influence the mass mind. That’s what Lévi is talking about when he discusses eccentric individuals:  they are literally outside the center or, as we would now say, off on the fringes; their goal, knowingly or otherwise, is to establish a magical chain that will sustain them against the established currents; their destiny, as our text notes, is to be broken by the conflict, or to triumph.

The astral light always has a twofold movement. Sometimes that expresses itself as a pendulum swing, first this way, then the other way:  watch trends in politics, society, and religion and you can see that clearly enough. That’s the natural result of unbalanced astral action. The higher and more effective approach is the one hinted at in the symbolism of the Great Arcanum, the double current that moves in both directions in a balanced fashion, but that’s not easy to manage—and of course when you are dealing with a current that’s already in motion, you generally don’t have that option. As our text says, once a current is under way, to oppose it while it’s still strong is to court disaster for no good reason; wait until it has expended its force and push the other way, and you can accomplish much more.

Lévi understood that, though he was clever enough to conceal his intention behind his labored plea for some rich and famous person to take up the cause of charity and social betterment. His real intention, as shown clearly enough in his writings, was the revival of the traditions of magic; he followed his own advice precisely, isolating himself mentally, emotionally, and to some degree physically from his society, and then setting a current of intention going by way of his books; he gathered a circle of students and enthusiasts, formed them into a magical chain, and earned his success. That success depended on the fact that he didn’t divert the energies he had awakened to his own practical advantage; he remained a figure of the fringes, unnoticed by most people in the worlds of scholarship and public affairs; he never became rich and never made himself the center of a cult of personality.  The dramatic revival of occultism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was his reward.

(No doubt he would have been delighted if some rich and famous person had taken him up on his challenge, but I tend to think that he knew better. People become rich and famous because they want wealth and fame more than anything else. That in itself is a magical act; to isolate oneself from the influences of mediocre surroundings in order to get rich and famous will gather the astral light just as surely as doing the same thing for some less crass purpose, and a magical chain assembled out of employees and consumers can be as effective at launching currents in the astral light as one assembled out of readers and students.  It’s just that, as the guy from Nazareth said, “they have their reward.”  No one can really will two incompatible things at once, though it’s quite common to will one thing and to convince yourself in a halfhearted way that you really do want another, and would do something about it if only you had the time, or some other circumstance was different.)

Every human being capable of willing one thing strongly and intensely thus stirs the astral light into motion. As our text points out, however, not all currents in the astral light come into being because human individuals made them happen. The astral light responds to intentions from outside humanity—I’ll leave it to individual readers to decide, on the basis of their own beliefs, the most likely sources of these other-than-human currents. One of the things they drive, however, are the great transformations in the realm of human spiritiual experience.

The Western world in Lévi’s time was in the middle of two of those, and he mentions both of them toward the end of this chapter. On the one hand, the anarchic upsurge of Spiritualism burst into being in the United States in 1848, seven years before Lévi’s book first saw print; in its early days, it was accompanied by astonishing bursts of what psychic researchers these days call poltergeist phenomena.  On the other, a major revival of European Catholicism had been kicked off in 1846 by the visions at La Salette, and continued to gain ground in intensity and strangeness until the First World War.

Both these, in Lévi’s view, were created by movements in the astral light, attempting to reestablish magical chains like those of the great religions and initiatory mysteries of the past in order to bring the world back into balance.  It’s an intriguing analysis, and by no means as hostile to the beliefs of the religions in question as it might seem at first glance. (Grant that the astral light exists and has the properties our text claims for it; if the Virgin Mary, say, wanted to help lead humanity away from an unwelcome future, what better way for her to do it than to make use of the currents of the astral light?) Lévi’s own efforts had a similar purpose in mind. How well he succeeded—well, that’s a complex matter, and may not be clear until long after our time.

Notes for Study and Practice:

It’s quite possible to get a great deal out of The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic by the simple expedient of reading each chapter several times and thinking at length about the ideas and imagery that Lévi presents. For those who want to push things a little further, however, meditation is a classic tool for doing so.

The method of meditation I am teaching as we read Lévi is one that is implicit in his text, and was developed in various ways by later occultists following in his footsteps.  It is a simple and very safe method, suitable for complete beginners but not without benefits for more experienced practitioners.  It will take you five minutes a day.  Its requirements are a comfortable chair, your copy of Lévi’s book, and a tarot deck of one of the varieties discussed earlier.

For your work on this chapter, take Trump XI, La Force, “Strength.”  Your first task is to study it and get familiar with the imagery. Sit down, get out the card, and study it.  Spend five minutes doing this on the first day you devote to this practice.

Your second task is to associate a letter with it. Lévi gives you two options, the Hebrew letter כ (Kaph) or the Latin letter L. (The Greer & Mikituk translation has a typo here, and gives the Hebrew letter Yod instead of Kaph.)  As noted earlier, you should choose one alphabet and stick to it. The sound values aren’t of any importance here, nor is there a “right” choice. You’re assigning labels to a mental filing cabinet.  Most people can make the necessary association quite promptly, but spend a session exploring it. Sit down, get out the card, and study it.  Relate it to the letter in any way that comes to mind.

The third and fourth sessions are devoted to the three titles Lévi gives for the card: Manus and Strength. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does Manus, Hand, relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen?  That’s one session.  How about the concept of strength?  That’s the next one.  Then choose a third word that sums up, for you, the lessons of this chapter, and use it for the next meditation. Approach these in the same way as the concepts you explored in earlier meditations.

Don’t worry about getting the wrong answer.  There are no wrong answers in meditation.  Your goal is to learn how to work with certain capacities of will and imagination most people never develop.  Stray thoughts, strange fancies, and whimsical notions do this as well as anything.

Sessions six through the end of the month are done exactly the same way, except that you take the concepts from the chapter. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. Then open the book to Chapter11 of the Doctrine and find something in it that interests you.  Spend five minutes figuring out how it relates to the imagery on the card, the letter, and the three titles. Do the same thing with a different passage the next day, and the day after, and so on. If you run out of material for meditation in this chapter, you can certainly go back to the previous chapters and review what they have to say.

Don’t worry about where this is going. Unless you’ve already done this kind of practice, the goal won’t make any kind of sense to you. Just do the practice.  You’ll find, if you stick with it, that over time the card you’re working on takes on a curious quality I can only call conceptual three-dimensionality:  a depth is present that was not there before, a depth of meaning and ideation.  It can be very subtle or very loud, or anything in between. Don’t sense it?  Don’t worry.  Sit down, get out the card, and study it. Do the practice and see where it takes you.

We’ll be going on to “Chapter 12:  The Great Work” on May 11, 2022. See you then!


  1. Great post. Glad to see Levi employing the image of the chain, which hearkens back to Bruno and the “vinculis” in his great works on magic.

    It also calls to mind, for me anyway, the Golden Chain of Homer…


  2. Great commentary. Thank you. I actually got to reading this chapter ahead of time, this time around (a first reading anyway).

    In reading your comment about Manson, I was struck by something I just read. Over on your dreamwidth blog a number of weeks ago, you recommended the books of Joan North to another reader/commenter. I’m often on the lookout for similar things and so got the two my library has and took them home. I read “The Cloud Forest” just under a month ago. It was an excellent novel (even if the end was a little hurried) and magic abounded. One of the plot points hinted at how one of the antagonists used the energy from a new age cult to gain more power for himself. Another related to isolation, and how the influence of a magic object protected the protagonist.

    The fourth power of the Sphinx is all about this isolation. Idle chatter disperses and diffuses what might otherwise be gathered and concentrated to insufflate with strength. In this respect it is also interesting you mention the Quakers. Perhaps they got much of their power through being in a chain-together, while also in the isolation of silence (except when the incoming astral current of the holy spirit moved them to speak).

    These past 6 or 7 years have seen the rise in strength of the populist current, and those in power who oppose it have to work against that tide. On the other hand those who ride with it can pack more in their punch, while many others are just swept along in the undertow. (Not that there isn’t considerable complexity and nuance at a more zoomed in level of politics.)

    Thanks for clarifying about the eccentric in your commentary. That gave me a little trouble when I read it first, but when I go back for a slower second read, and granular third, I’ll pay closer attention. This makes a lot of sense. The eccentric (and many an artist or writer whose work is to tap into the astral on some level, even if unknowing) can be made or broken (by a variety of impinging factors, I suppose, but Will and the ability to continue to Dare among them). I’ll be thinking on this in terms of “Johnny Appleseed’s America” and the American Iconoclast’s I was researching and writing about last year.

    These chains also bring to mind egregores and their constructive use. It’s got me wandering about the utility of joining clubs and other societies, that may not be occult, but whose collective energy could be drawn on by the members to achieve certain ends. The Grange, Mystery Writers of America, or the ARRL come to mind in this category.

    Also, I reread your article “The Death of God: A Speculation” yesterday, ( ) linked as it was in another thread on your Magic Monday Q&A. This see-saw between Oedipus & Christ, Heaven & Earth, Solar & Telluric, got me thinking in terms of the flow of the astral current from this chapter. How that might relate to the Age of Aquarius, and how to go with that flow will make a fine theme for meditation.
    & in terms of this book club it was nice to revisit & think on Oedipus.

    Lastly for a musical recommendation for this discussion, I offer the song by the group Earth, The Bees Made Honey in the Lions Skull, from their 2008 album of the same name.

    With thanks to our net control and all others who check in to this net.

  3. Hello JMG. After seeing your Strength card I admit that your deck is more beautiful than mine…Thank you for the post!

  4. “To accomplish the coagula phase, it’s necessary to isolate oneself from the collective, mentally, astrally, and physically. Mental isolation is the ability to think your own thoughts even, or especially, when they conflict with the collective consciousness of your community and your age. Astral isolation is complete freedom from involuntary emotional ties, so that nobody can “push your buttons” or evoke an emotional reaction in you that you do not want to feel. Physical isolation is habitual self-control over bodily cravings, taken to such a point that asceticism becomes natural.”

    I think this is more difficult and necesary than ever before, in this age of psychological warfare (evil evily Putinnn, COVIDian cult etcaetera). I suppose this irritating bottom noise was less invasive in Levi’s time…

  5. With regards to Solve et Coagula, I hope it’s okay to add another set of English names to these words using the alchemy of Bob. Can we say Slack for Solve and Hustle for Coagula? It sure makes a lot of sense, at least to me.

  6. Fra’ Lupo, I’m quite sure that Lévi read Bruno; whether he read Kirchweger’s Aurea Catena Homeri is a good question, but Homer himself, certainly.

    Justin, excellent! North’s novels for children are very much worth reading by adults, and make a good commentary on some bits of Lévi. As for the rest, a fine meditation.

    Chuaquin, I’ve also got a Wirth deck and a couple of Marseilles decks, for whatever that might mean. 😉 As for isolation from the background noise, no, not at all — in Lévi’s time people in France were shrieking about the evilly evil Tsar, the evilly evil English prime minister du jour, and a cascade of religious quarrels about which only trad Catholics have even heard nowadays, to say nothing of Napoleon III’s impressively corrupt rule over the country. The media have changed, the noise not so much, and the need to step back from the yelling to become an individual and think your own thoughts? That’s as it ever was.

    Jon, I like that! I’m imagining an alchemist laboring over a giant pipe…

  7. The Astral Light as a flowing/fluid medium makes me think of fluid dynamics and in particular of turbidity vs laminar flow.
    It seems to me that the objective of not stepping on your own will or of not misdirecting it or having two objectives at once etc. Is similar to a removal of turbidity. We’re looking for a sheet/laminar flow. A flow that goes smoothly in one direction as opposed to one that loops back on itself and causes issue after issue from struggling towards what you want…This is perhaps a strange tie in but as someone who works with flowing mediums I can understand that better.

  8. The idea of a “magical chain” evokes one of the possible etymological roots for “religion” – ie “religare” – to re-link or re-bind. I shall be meditating on this.

    On another note, it strikes me that “self-isolation” is different from imposed isolation. It has been speculated by many that the lockdowns we’ve experienced, and their imposed isolation of people – not to be free to explore their own thoughts, but instead to shut out any voice except the voice of media/authority – were deliberately fostered in order to induce suggestibility in people and make them more amenable to external controls.

    Isolation of individuals is too well known to be an effective method of torture and a potent technique for behavioural modification. To turn it into an effective way of standing outside the social mind of one’s time AND discovering one’s own mind obviously requires that it be personally chosen and that with clarity of purpose.

  9. Solve et coagula I breathe out, I breathe in. I began practicing the fourfold breath as the opening to my meditation practice, based on a post on the other blog several years ago. At first, I waited for something to happen, but nothing did. I kept breathing. Nothing happened. I kept breathing, 5 minutes at a time, most mornings. IT never happened, but now I find myself in a calmer space, a place of meditation, every time I practice the fourfold breath. Now it’s only eight repetitions, 2 minutes, and my brain has switched over. Solve et coagula

  10. What a tremendous, wonderful job you do, sir. I’ve landed in the perfect conditions to follow Levi’s advice – isolation. I have profound moments, many recognisable in your text; but I have only sensed, not realised, the potential inherent in those moments for a greater purpose. This teaching opens enormous vistas. I gotta get myself a tarot deck!

  11. Imagine a magic so potent that it could make thousands, no millions, of humans get up every day and climb into a metal box, and travel to larger-sized boxes, where they would settle into somewhat smaller boxes, to stare for hours and hours on end at boxes that emit light* and sounds…

    I’d be tempted to call those who forged that chain powerful magicians indeed, but I suspect that, as with all such things, as we groped our way back along those binds into mystery we might find that the first and foremost links thereof were forged by the gods…

    * Light that resolves into symbols, of course. Not for nothing is written language so powerful a medium, for Hermes’s sake, as is the divine one who imparted it to humankind…

  12. @Scotlyn, #8

    Your thoughts on self-isolation vs imposed isolation mirror my own reflection upon Christian Churches emphasis on “mortification”, literally, the death of the self. My observation of individuals that put themselves under the thumb of doctrine and clergy are always anxious, and their supposed virtue is a thin layer under which savage passions remain half sedated. But on the contrary, practice of the mysteries leads to a natural loss of interest on those so important things that we should be battling at all times. It reminds me of the Cosmic Doctrine’s chapter on negative evil and how to deal with it.

    Considering the particulars of the last few years, it seems to me that TPTB are mostly ignorant of these realities. Events like the Great Resignation and the Canadian Truck Driver protests are a direct result of people being forced to isolate themselves from their normal lives, but then they took a step further and self isolated from their daily dose of mass and social media. All things considered, this is a net negative from the point of view of said Powers. What goal is served by getting a firmer hold of half of the (already controlled and indoctrinated) population at the cost of letting the other half break free?

  13. John–

    Could you speak a bit more on how “[a]n isolated hermit in a cave, given enough intensity of focus, can set currents in motion that will shape the lives of millions”?

  14. What I noticed in this chapter was the subject of martyrdom surfacing yet again in Levi’s examples. I imagine we’ll get deeper into this topic in the next chapter, but the idea of the mage making of his life’s work a living sacrifice, culminating in his own sacrificial death that gives the final ‘push’ to set his work in motion beyond his own limited lifetime, is a potent one. It almost seems that Levi is hinting that this level of self-sacrifice is not incidental but necessary to the most potent and world-changing magic. Those who ended up murdered by the ignorant masses (Jesus, Socrates) not only knew what they were heading toward, but welcomed and worked toward it as the seal of victory on their life’s work.

    I watched an interesting discussion recently between Peter McCullough, Mattias Desmet, and Robert Malone. Malone talked about the difficulties of the role he’s found himself in as someone trying to speak the truth in a dishonest time, and he speculated openly that the road he is on may well lead to his own destruction. Desmet, the psychologist, spoke about the mysterious ways that mass formation occurs- seemingly breaking out everywhere at once, without visible means of transmission. (Ah, but if one could only theorize INVISIBLE means of transmission, one might advance the science of our times considerably! As Levi has done so succinctly here).

  15. Drakonus, hmm! I know very little about fluid dynamics, but to the extent I understand it, the metaphor does seem to work.

    Scotlyn, yes, with reservations. People throughout history have taken imposed isolation and put it to work as though they chose it for themselves. I know people who did that with the Covid shutdowns — in fact, I did it to a real extent, using the extra solitude to ramp up my practices. So you can take lemons and make a lemon pie out of them if you will.

    Great Khan of Potlucks, a good practical application of the theory!

    Brazzart, when you get that tarot deck, you can put Eliphas Lévi’s advice into practice: “An imprisoned person with no other book than the Tarot, if he knew how to use it, could in a few years acquire universal knowledge, and would be able to speak on all subjects with unequalled learning and inexhaustible eloquence.” We’ll be discussing the method in due time.

    Fra’ Lupo, yep. As I’ve noted before, magic is all around us all the time, and everything that happens, happens by magic. We are far more powerful than we know — it’s just that we use our powers so clumsily!

    David BTL, it’s quite simple. Our minds are not cooped up inside our skulls; they are part of a continuum, and thoughts spread through that continuum. What limits their power is the conscious intensity with which they’re developed, reflected on, and understood. Most of the ideas that have revolutionized the world started out as the obsessive notions of a few eccentrics, and spread because those eccentrics focused on them so intently that their ideas overwhelmed the pale shadowy presence of an overaged conventional wisdom.

    Dylan, good. You’re paying attention. Martyrdom in the strict sense of the word isn’t essential, but it’s one of the ways such things get a good strong shove.

  16. Hello JMG,

    Thank you for this post. It cuts to the heart of an issue I haven’t been able to resolve, despite very long meditation on the subject. I’m grateful to add the ideas here into the mix of further meditations.

    The issue is the question of purpose behind will and mastery. The more you teach, the more similarities I see between magic and martial arts, which also have a deeply entangled history. What I’ve come to notice is, if you really want to reach the heights of power, you must strip away as much of yourself and your ego as possible. Perhaps to the point that the ancient forms move you, and the magical currents move you, and there is no longer a “you” to move them. Which raises the conundrum: why are “you” starting on the path in the first place? If egotists, either sociopath or altruist (and everyone in between), hit a glass ceiling as it were, and you must become selfless to reach the loftiest heights, then why does one put in the endless hours and strenuous effort to master either? Do selfless people have a will to express?

    I don’t mean this in a “why bother with anything”, Nietzschean nihilistic sense. It’s more of the Taoist master, moving with the current, flowing with the breeze, going where the day takes them sense. Or perhaps the cliche’ story of the fisherman and the businessman debating how to spend ones time is a more apt analogy. The fisherman spends the day in the hammock, fishes when necessary, and enjoys life. The businessman works all day to build an empire so he has time at the end of his life to fish. Matthew 6:26, and all that.

    In an entirely cynical view, it would seem the ideal state is to resist total mastery, get 95% of the way there, and allow your ego to enjoy the fruits of your efforts. I know in my soul this is the wrong and dishonorable answer, but years of meditation won’t tell me why. I can’t crack that nut. The ripples of the teachings of Jesus, of love, for example, are profound. That was some powerful magic. But even that had a touch of ego to it. “I” want to change the world. “I” want people to love one another.

    Why spend ones life striving for the heights in martial arts or magic, if what you learn over time is that to master it, your desires must be purged. In the same way that some people learn martial arts to fight others, some people learn to fight themselves, the masters on the mountaintop sidestep the fight altogether. Did they really need to learn martial arts in the first place? What good does it do them?

    Is the answer that, at some level, like a cheetah chasing down a gazelle, we just have will, and it has desires, and there is no squaring that circle?


  17. @ Drakonis – thank you for your comment on laminar flow and turbidity, which is very helpful in visualising the qi flows I work with in acupuncture.

  18. @ CR Patiño – I thank you for reminding me that: “Events like the Great Resignation and the Canadian Truck Driver protests are a direct result of people being forced to isolate themselves from their normal lives, but then they took a step further and self isolated from their daily dose of mass and social media.” Yes! And I cannot but agree that: “All things considered, this is a net negative from the point of view of said Powers. What goal is served by getting a firmer hold of half of the (already controlled and indoctrinated) population at the cost of letting the other half break free?”

  19. @JMG – re lemons and lemon pie… I suppose everyone, no matter where or when, gets to start HERE and NOW to do anything at all that is worth doing. There really is nowhere else and nowhen else. 🙂

  20. It seems likely that the dynamics described here by Levi regarding the ordeal of the “sinner”‘s astral corpse gave rise to the concepts surrounding the Christian hell.

    “After a time, a man’s astral corpse evaporates like pure incense by
    rising towards the upper regions, but if that man lived in crime, his astral
    corpse, which holds him prisoner, continues to search for the objects of his
    passion and wishes to live again. He torments the dreams of young girls,
    bathes in the vapors of spilt blood, and loiters around places where the
    pleasures of life have flowed; he still watches over the treasures he had
    possessed and hoarded; he exhausts himself with painful efforts, in order
    to make himself material organs so as to live again. But the celestial bodies
    suck him up and drink him; they feel his intellect weaken, his memory
    slowly fading, his entire being dissolving. . . . His old vices appear to him
    as monstrous figures and chase him; they attack and devour him. . . . The
    poor devil thus gradually loses all the members of his body which had
    served him in his iniquity; and then he dies for a second time and forever,
    because he then loses his personality and his memory. Souls which must
    live but are not yet entirely purified stay captive in their astral corpse for
    more or less time, where they are burnt by the odic light which wishes to
    assimilate and dissolve him. It is in order to escape their astral corpse that
    souls sometimes enter into the living, and live within them in a state
    Cabalists call embryonate.”

  21. “Mental isolation is the ability to think your own thoughts even, or especially, when they conflict with the collective consciousness of your community and your age.” I have my own ways of doing this, but I wonder if there are any particular ways you can recommend. Sometimes I’m surprised by the mesmeric effect that the (group) thinking of others has, so I wonder if there is a particular kind of mental talismanics you might recommend, other than discursive meditation.

  22. Murmuration, it sounds as though you’re confusing the ego and the self. The ego is a product of misplaced imagination — it’s the image of the self that is brought into being and maintained by thinking, and it becomes toxic to the extent that it’s an inaccurate reflection of the self, as of course it usually is. Think of the egotists you know; those I know, certainly, have no clue about who they are, and spend all their time in the frantic defense of a wholly false notion of who they are. This implies, of course, that they are someone — that there is a self in there that they can misunderstand.

    The self is not the ego. The self is not cut off from the rest of the universe, the way people under the influence of their egos sometimes think they are, but it’s differentiated; it exists in the same sense that a branch exists as part of a tree, or a wave exists as part of the ocean. The point of putting in the endless hours of practice is to get past the ego so you can experience who you actually are — “the face you had before your mother and father were born,” as Zen masters put it. The point of letting the ancient forms — martial or magical — move you is precisely that they help you get past the ego so you can glimpse the self.

    As for will, each of us has a true will, which is the basic dynamic orientation of the self. We also have a lot of misplaced desires, cravings, and emotional reactions which masquerade as will. To know your true self, to awaken to the fact that your true self is who you have actually been all the time, is to understand your true will, and then you can act accordingly. It’s not a quick process or an easy one, but it’s immensely rewarding, because each step toward a knowledge of your true self and your true will frees you from the burdens of misunderstanding and confusion and brings with it happiness and peace.

    Scotlyn, exactly. As Ernest Thompson Seton liked to say, “Where you are, with what you have, right now.”

    Brazzart, yes, exactly. According to occult philosophy, conventional beliefs in hell and heaven are based on misunderstood realities in the after-death state; the misunderstanding is simply that they’re not eternal, and they’re not inflicted by a wrathful god — they’re the direct consequence of your state of consciousness.

    Random, that’s an immense and complex issue. Human beings are social primates, and so our minds are never entirely separate from those of other people. To force a separation is always challenging. I may do a post on this at some point; in the meantime, the things that have always worked best for me are, first, to limit my exposure to those things that reinforce the collective trance, with mass media at the top of that list; second, to feed my mind with ideas that don’t belong to today’s conventional wisdom, using fringe thinkers and books by dead people as important resources; third, to use basic magical practices such as banishing rituals to keep my energy as clean as possible; fourth, to spend time regularly in natural environments, so I pick up on the consciousness of nonhuman nature instead of the endless monkey-chatter of humanity; and of course, lots of meditation! I’ll reflect on this, and see if anything else comes to mind.

  23. @brazzart about the souls who lived “in crime” trying to hang around, reminded me of the old Irish joke – or is it a parable? – about the dying drunk’s last wish for his next life, “to lie back be able to do nothing, with friendly women to take care of my every need, and always have a bottle at hand.” Of course, he woke up as a newborn baby in an orphanage run by nuns.

  24. JMG, thank you for such an instructive reply to my comment. I will have to meditate on this. The interplay of ego and self is a hard concept to embed firmly for some reason. What you say makes sense, and on some days I understand it deeply, in a gnostic sense. But other days it slips through my fingers and I have to reintegrate it all over again. Some ideas are very easy to keep hold of, once learned. For me, this one just lands and flits away like a butterfly, on a regular basis.

    A tangentially related question if I might. As will is involved in magical workings, and I assume as many magical workings are focused outward as inward, is the moral obligation of a person practicing outward facing magic to simply lay tracks in space? I’ve taken your notion to heart that it’s not ideal to will even good things for others, without their consent. If, however, your will is to change the world in a given way, that more or less means altering, or coming into conflict with, the will of potentially many others. Combined with the idea that it’s best to not blurt out your will or working to keep it potent, it would seem that the best one could do is lead by example, lay some tracks, and hope they are interesting to others. How does one lay tracks that lead, instead of trap unsuspecting people into your rut, say as advertising does? This seems like a very fine line.

  25. When I read about the idea of the magical chain, it struck me that this bears a strong resemblance to the online communities that have coalesced here and at your Dreamwidth site.

    I have to ask the question, though I don’t expect an answer: Is this intentional, or just a happy (?) byproduct of your practices?

  26. Could you share your updated definition of magic? I think you said it on one of the podcasts you’ve been on in the last few months. I want to think on that along with this post/chapter. Thank you.

  27. @RandomActsOfKarma While studying your document, I also started reading portions of Dion Fortune’s Mystical Qabalah. I think you would find it interesting. It links Qabalah, her cosmology and Levi’s astral light.

  28. “The fantasy of having magical powers so that you can impress your friends, feed your ego, and wallow in whatever more or less dubious cravings appeal to you most, is very deeply rooted in the human imagination, and even more so in Western cultures, in which the craving for infinite expansion of the ego is generally cultivated.”

    I’m currently contemplating writing an essay about superheroes are a shoddy replacement for the traditions and role of magic and self-realization in Western culture. I plan on asserting the American superhero is a product of the failure of imagination. The superhero is a tool used to placate and brainwash the person watching into believing he or she is powerful, virtuous, unique, and special. The most superficial analysis would reveal the audience member as a compliant, conformist drone who is easily hypnotized away from living a meaningful life. I am already in danger of coming off as too harsh, but at this point I lack the skills to be able to put it more gently. I enjoy superhero movies and it’s not like I completely avoid watching them… hypocrite alert!

  29. One thing I wasn’t clear on was the relationship of chains to circles:

    My understanding is that chains tend to form circles, and only once the circle is completed does it become possible for a counter-current to be established. However I’m trying to understand the mechanics of this.

    Is the circle complete when the chain has exhausted itself having enthralled all available hosts / people? Or is there something else going on?

    Additionally, does this relate to the concept of a person being the center of a circle that extends infinitely in all directions (mentioned in one of the earlier chapters).

  30. This chapter leads me to ask, at what point does coagulation turn into congestion? I note that Levi embroidered a little upon what the Book of Acts has to say about Paul on the road to Damascus.

  31. Murmuration, it’s a fine line indeed, and that’s why it’s important to do divination before pursuing any kind of practical magic, so you know that what you have in mind is in harmony with the patterns of the cosmos.

    Cliff, if it was intentional, would I tell you?

    Denis, the only definition of magic I recall using on a podcast any time recently is Dion Fortune’s — “Magic is the art and science of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will.” (Always keeping in mind that this doesn’t specify whose consciousness, or whose will…)

    Kimberly, I think that’s one side of the superhero as cultural icon, but it’s not the only side. Not all superheroes are special. My favorite from childhood on, Batman, is a good example. Beneath the mask and the iron-hard expression, he’s still the terrified child who just watched his father and mother gunned down in front of him.

    His lunatic campaign for justice — I mean, come on; dressing up like a giant bat? — is his desperate attempt to make sense of that senseless moment by desperate, driven, obsessive action, and by that action he achieves greatness. There are others — Green Arrow, another fave of mine from back in the day, is a less tortured version of the same thing. Those are the superheroes I admired back then, and still admire now, because they didn’t get handed their abilities by some accident of birth or what have you. They created themselves anew, in a sustained, overwhelming, and magnificent act of will.

    Anyone can do that. Most people never will — but every single one of us contains the capacity for greatness in at least one field of human achievement. Every single one of us can become more than a random assemblage of heredity and environment. I have no idea if the current crop of superhero exploitation flicks reference that, but the comics of the Golden Age did, and I think that needs to be included in any assessment of the genre.

    (And yes, this is kind of a pet subject of mine. Can you tell?)

    Paul, good. You’re asking the questions that Lévi wants you to ask. The circular nature of the chain is very closely connected to the middle term of the Great Arcanum — and so I’m going to smile and nod and shut up, and leave the solution of your very important riddle as a theme for meditation.

    Phutatorius, when it gets in the way of free action. Yes, Lévi does a lot of embroidering.

  32. “he followed his own advice precisely, isolating himself mentally, emotionally, and to some degree physically from his society, and then setting a current of intention going by way of his books; he gathered a circle of students and enthusiasts, formed them into a magical chain, and earned his success. ”

    That sounds like a pretty good description of what you’re doing, JMG. Are you sure you’re not a reincarnation of Eliphas Lévi? 😉

    Like him, you want to bring about magic revival, but you also want to revive a society with healthier human relationships and better relationships between humans and the non-human world of nature. In your words, a society “that sucks less.” Those are compatible and mutually reinforcing goals.

  33. Superheroes are not just one thing, any more than heroes are just one thing.

    Many can be read as a boys’ power / wish-fulfillment fantasy. Superman started out as that (Lois Lane had some roots in a girl one of the creators had a crush on in grade school), but he also became a symbol of American ideals and the immigrant experience. By now the comics are read mainly by middle-aged males for whom nostalgia is a stronger pull.

    Wonder Woman started out as a bondage fantasy, written by a psychologist who believed that feminism–understood as male submission to women–was healthy for everybody, good for society, and ought to be taught to youth. The comics always struggled to find an audience, but the campy 1970s TV show and 2017 action / adventure movie have been embraced as rousing feminist expressions.

    Most of the Silver Age Marvel superheroes followed a formula in which the hero has some tragic flaw: Iron Man has heart problems, Thor is lame in his secret identity; Daredevil is blind; Spider-Man is a teenager with lots of personal problems. The comics took on a kind of soap opera quality over the years.

    A number of comics focus on big-city crime, drugs, war, racial conflict, and other social problems. Sometimes the struggle is heroic (as with Batman), sometimes the heroes falter.

    Since the late 1980s, both Marvel and DC have published “event” books, series which promise permanent changes (including deaths) in their fictional universes. The emphasis on spectacle, and the rise of blockbuster superhero movies, seemed to reinforce one another.

    The last couple of decades have seen a trend toward funny characters who are self-aware (a few even know they are in a comic or movie)–Deadpool, Harley Quinn, Squirrel Girl, Peacemaker, Guardians of the Galaxy–and also toward acceptance of multiple iterations (across multiple media) of the same character (campy Batman, dark Batman), whose universes sometimes cross over. Parodies or deconstructions of the superhero genre have become quite common (Watchmen, Kick-Ass, the Boys).

    Probably the most significant representative of magic in superhero comics would be Dr. Strange. His origin story (by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) fits the “Mighty Whitey” trope (foreigner goes to some faraway locale and becomes better than the natives) as well as the Stan Lee formula (a surgeon injures his hands in a car accident, and travels to Tibet in search of a magical cure), but there is an almost Buddhist message behind it, as the hero learns to overcome his selfishness. Fans of magic ought to also appreciate the “Promethea” series by Alan Moore, who is an actual magician (not stage magic, the other kind).

  34. @ Kimberly, re superheroes… “The superhero is a tool used to placate and brainwash the person watching into believing he or she is powerful, virtuous, unique, and special.”

    There is another possible outcome of being steeped in superhero lore from a young age, which is that the person who likes to watch superhero lore may conclude not that “he or she is powerful, virtuous, unique, and special”, but that, as *someone* is, and as that *someone* was obviously born “super” or became “super” due to some rare accident, there is no need for this person to aspire to cultivating these qualities in themselves.

    This is not unrelated to a thought I had as a child, which was that when people (at least, so it seemed to me of some of the people that I knew then) venerate saints, it is not out of desire to cultivate those qualities in themselves, but instead to be somewhat relieved that such qualities are so rare (so “super”) that no ordinary person need aspire to attain them, but simply be glad that *someone* did.

  35. Hi John Michael,

    “We gather [the astral light] in isolation, and we disperse [it] through the magical chain.” – does this not suggest that it is the stronger position to give, rather than, to receive? 🙂

    Talk about blurting out truths! Holy carp, Mr Greer, you’ve hit the nail on the head, but of course you know your own counsel.

    It interests me that in rural areas relationships are often of a chain type arrangement which you would not see in a city ever extended as far. That interests me, and I much prefer the rural arrangements.

    My thinking too: “wait until it has expended its force and push the other way, and you can accomplish much more.” Like an excellently timed martial arts defensive manoeuvre, it’s a well tested successful strategy. I tell ya what though, the strength of the push is lessening (from what I’m observing). What will come afterwards? What a fascinating question. 😉

    Thanks for taking the time to write about these matters as I would never have come across this book.

    Incidentally, who said something about rich men and camel / eye of needle stuff? Bizarrely, I over heard a conversation a long time ago from people who were quite well off, where they were debating what that story was about. It amused me greatly to hear them so earnestly in their denial.



  36. @Kimberly Steele,

    I actually drafted a response to your comment, but I think it would be off-topic, so I will have to wait for your blog post. 🙂


    Thank you for the commentary on this chapter. I read the chapter in preparation for this week… it reminded me of my early days with Levi. I understood all the words, but what it all meant escaped me. I’ll be spending some quality time reading it again this weekend (after rereading your commentary) and hopefully will have something to contribute after that.

  37. Wer here
    Well if it weren’t for the dishonesty and lunacy of the “Be safe get vaccinated by untested vaccines” cult many people including myself would have still be watching the tv tube. In my opinion the “Covid will kill you if you don’t obey cult” that arose in Western nations and simillar insanity including Ukraine will be a great factor in destruction of the Faustian civilisation.
    The signs are everywhere in Poland the great resignation is speeding up, people are shutting down tv sets (You can go insane by watching, hysterical calls for US to do something or to get rid of Le Pen if she is choosen)
    Even people who constantly repeat what the talking heads are ranting about are scratching their heads
    (Surely Putin should have been defeated long ago – we whinned so loudly on Twitter)
    Even mainstream economists are afraid because the Polish Central Bank declared that the official (heavlily doctored) inflation numbers are three times bad scenario estimates.
    People are making a rucus about trying to feed you familly (Poland is not a rich country- we have a lot of poor people) and keeping millions of reffugees happy at the same time. Polish charities in Poznań have problems with delivering food to the soup kitchens there.
    JMG in your writinngs you mentioned the Thule Society and how nazis used it’s occult traditions to influence the public- divert the astral light. But in the end the couldn’t win the war because it is one thing to influence the crowd and another to win a war agains an industrial superpower. This is starting to be true in European nations, like how to you rearm your country when the inflation and debts are going to explode (even optymistic economists are talking about this), like you can make a campaign of misinformation in the media but you can’t change the reality of the situation. This will end badly and in the end it might be more than just french nationalists who will hold power.
    I don’t know if it is true but someone from the conservative movement is talking about making T shirt with the sign on them like “We are all Russian agents now” (A reference how the patriots in different nations and anti eu people had been constantly claimed the be Russian paid trolls by the MSM)

  38. I thought trump 11, La Force, has more to do with the coagula side of the equation then solve. The young initiate, cloaked in her will, is controlling her wild beast of physical cravings. She is wearing the same lemniscate hat that the Magician of trump 1 is wearing to isolate her mental processes from the crowd. Finally, the young woman as the swan is floating serenely on the watery emotions observing itself to master her emotions.

    She seems to have become very practice in these isolation practices and perhaps that is all she really wanted as there doesn’t seem to be a chain ready to her use yet.

  39. That definition of magic is one I think I understand, and then something like this chapter comes along and I have to start at the beginning with it again. I’ll see if I can recall which podcast it was. The host read out the Dion definition to you and you said something like “Actually I’ve been working on updating my definition of magic.” and then said something completely different. I might have pulled up an old podcast you were on too and it was recent to me but said a year or more ago.

    The effect of this chapter is now I see magical chains everywhere. Before I used to call it “influences” but the metaphor of the chain works better. Chains aren’t easy to break though, so how did that turkey curse work so well at it? And does recognizing and talking about a magical chain reinforce it even if our attempt is to break it or weaken it? I’ve noticed the kinds of things you don’t talk about it and figured that was the reason. Another layer of the fourth admonition “to keep silent.”

    It hit me like a lightening bolt Tuesday at the Alchemical Writers meeting that your whole blog here is part of your occult practice, but that was before I read this chapter. In that space those of us that were there did make progress in our studies and created a connection. So I guess Zoom is the astral light in physical form. Kidding, kidding…though I do think if Levi were alive today he’d be using Twitter as an example magnetic current “to enchant and often overly stimulate impressionable and weak persons, excitable constitutions, and temperament disposed to hysteria or hallucinations.”

    It’s probably useful to identify which magical chains we are knowingly and unknowingly a part of. I’m thinking something like an OSA style list exercise of where I put my attention during the day?

    Last question – the animal on the tarot card doesn’t look like a lion to me, but more like a wolf or a dog. It looks so annoyed at having its mouth pried open, much like my cat before he gets a pill. Is the animal supposed to be a lion and I’m not getting the artwork? I don’t come from a cultured background. I couldn’t get past the 10 card looking like a cross between the flying monkeys of Wizard of Oz and the kind of monkey a street organ grinder would have to entertain people. I didn’t think the tarot artist was going to either effect, so I just thought I’d ask about this one.

  40. @JMG – Thank you for that part about breathing and the astral light. It’s helped me get control of a long-standing tic. Every time I’m tempted to suck air, I remember this, and breathe deeply, consciously thinking I’m breathing the astral light in, and out again, and think “Salve – et – coagula.”

    This week’s column has been very understandable, even though my limitations keep me from trying the higher magics. Thanks again.

  41. Yes. Wonder Woman was one such character. She is, or was before the latest script writers got hold of her, an ordinary human being, not a demigoddess, but one thoroughly trained as as Amazon; she has certain tools to help her, that’s all. And that’s just technology, if of an unfamiliar sort. She is, or was, also very convincing as Lt. Diana Prince, since it’s just another role to play; no need to hide X-ray vision or super-strength. [See also Larry Niven’s article “Man of Steel, woman of Kleenex,” about Clark Kent’s practical difficulties in being a human man, or boy. Very frank by the standards of an earlier period. :))

    Side note: Gal Gadot is the most convincing Wonder Woman I’ve seen on screen in the past several decades. Some of the others didn’t seem in the least athletic or with any sort of training.

  42. JMG, you mention not knowing about the current crop of superhero flicks. They are a mixed bag. The DC movies, as a whole (there are exceptions), are pretty bad. The Dark Knight series was one exception, and The Joker was as well. The Joker really surprised me at it’s depth and message. The Marvel ones are hit and miss. But what they did with the 10 year arc of Captain America is pretty special. I may be biased though, being the fan of liberty that I am.

    He does achieve his superpowers (as in the comics) by dint of many vials of goo and radiation, but then he earns his greatness over a half dozen movies. Iron Man is intended to be the center of the story, but for my money Cap is where the action is. He starts out quite idealistic, and his idealism is slowly beaten down by events and betrayals. His tagline as he is wrestling with challenges, which becomes sort of a running joke, is “I can do this all day”. He usually says this as he rises from being pummeled into a heap on the floor. Focused will is really his specialty.

    All that said, one of the great moments in film history is Caps at the end of the most recent story arc. I know, I know. In a dumb Marvel flick. But it’s true. This may be sacrilege, but I’d put it right up there with “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” or “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” or “I am your father.” I’m a visual guy, as much as you say you aren’t, and boy did they get this moment right. It gets me every time I see it; it doesn’t lose any power. I won’t spoil it, but for those who’ve seen it, Thor’s hammer and “on your left” should suffice.

    I’ve thought a lot on why this moment is so powerful, and I think it comes down to the desire for America to live up to it’s potential, to hold ideals even when the world tries to beat them out and almost wins. To hold those ideals even when everyone else has quit. To pass through the dark night of the soul and to have the strength of will to face adversity, even if it appears to be a lost cause, for the simple reason that it’s just the right thing to do.

    Whoever was in charge of his arc, behind the scenes, they did an amazing job. I’ve always been a sucker for comic books. I was a Spider-Man guy as a kid, but after the story this set of movies told, I might be a Cap guy now.

  43. JMG wrote:

    “The higher and more effective approach is the one hinted at in the symbolism of the Great Arcanum, the double current that moves in both directions in a balanced fashion…” and “The simplest form of these two processes happens in your body every time you take a breath. When you breathe out, expelling the astral light as well as carbon dioxide, that’s solve; when you breathe in, bringing the astral light into your body along with fresh oxygen, that’s coagula. “

    Paul wrote:

    “Is the circle complete when the chain has exhausted itself having enthralled all available hosts / people? Or is there something else going on?

    Additionally, does this relate to the concept of a person being the center of a circle that extends infinitely in all directions (mentioned in one of the earlier chapters).”

    Some semi-formed thoughts from this chapter and the quotes above. I’m currently doing an online course in basic anatomy and physiology, and a recent lecture had a few points about the human heart and the circulatory system which I found pretty amazing and which seems to relate to all this. But I anticipate a collective ‘no, d’uh!’ from those well versed in these very basic things. 🙂

    The circulatory system seems to be a type of magical chain. The heart pumps blood through your body, but apparently blood vessels aid the process through the working of the smooth muscle in the walls of your blood vessels. They ripple in a way that acts as a kind of culvert, which sends blood onwards in a double helix pattern.

    Scientists used some sort of imaging technology to discover this in living bodies, back when they dissected corpses they assumed it was just like a flow of liquid through pipes. But no, the rest of the living body helps the heart move blood through the system.

    The heart itself seems like a kind of quarternary; it has four chambers, on one axis, there are two for blood intake and two for blood outflow, on another axis, there are two for deoxygenated blood and two for oxygenated blood. The heart pumps and pumps for your whole life and doesn’t get tired, and generates an electromagnetic sphere (stronger than the brain’s) which extends presumably into infinity but which apparently we can only measure to a distance of 16 feet.

    According to the lecturer, within the heart itself, blood flows in a triple helix stream. So we have a lot of the basic numbers Levi has been discussing at work within the body. Every human seems to have within them a moebius strip like chain where blood moves around the body in a rhythm separate from, but related to, the rhythm of the breath and the rhythm of the heart, and the heart sits at the middle of this strip between the rest of the body and the lungs.

    At both edges of this wheel, the boundaries become porous with another system (the lungs interface with air, and the blood interfaces with the body via the capillaries).

    The whole thing has me wondering why the heart pumps? If each of our hearts powers an electromagnetic sphere, could this be considered as a contributing part of the astral light? Or is the causation the other way around, and the heart needs the astral light just as it needs the energy from our digested food?

    I know this is a lot of speculation about things I don’t really know much about yet, but I can’t marvelling at the possible connections. Total anatomy newbie moment, but it appears we have, within our own bodies, something incredibly complex and fascinating where many of the numeric interplays that Levi has been discussing are at work.

    I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, but there’s no way that my own brain could ever architect and build the body in which that same brain is contained in.

    But here Levi is talking about something different. The physical world has harder boundaries between things than perhaps the astral light does, being on a different plane which is less dense. If the Earth and the other planets are like “hearts” with their own rhythms and the astral light includes their own electromagnetic spheres, then we are like cells within those organisms, and these sorts of fluid dynamics (like Drakonus wrote upthread) are still at play, but less bounded perhaps by astral blood vessel walls. More to think on as I keep going.

  44. Many thanks to all for the insights, nourishment, encouragement and inspiration flowing here!

    Pondering which Zodiac sign to connect with this image, I choose Leo. Maybe I’m blinded by the obvious lion, along with the solar swan on the yellow shield. (As for martial Aries, I would connect him with The Chariot.)

    The Sun (ruler of Leo), is our closest star, the fiery source of the Solar Logos, an astral current in which we are bathed, whose warmth and light we reveal and reflect — like the swan’s reflection as she floats on the water; a transcendent creature linking air, fire, water and earth.

    Strength represents the superpower (virtue) created through mastery of the “seven devils:” pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Could those bones scattered on the ground in front of the lion be the remains of those conquered passions?

    On an alchemical note: “The old masters were wont to call this work their white swan, their albification, or making white, their sublimation, their distillation, their circulation, their purification, their separation, their sanctification, and their resurrection, because the Tincture is made white like a shining silver.” Jung, The Symbolic Life (Collected Works vol. 18).

  45. Mid-April and I’ve seen 3 or 4 dead Japanese beetles already, simultaneous with the normal weather clock for bumble bees doing their dance around a rose that hasn’t even set buds yet. Strange times: has this simultaneous occurrence happened previously in history?

  46. Ecosophian, ssshhhh! 😉

    Goldenhawk, hmm! You’d think I’d remember the off-the-cuff things I write, but alas…

    Bei, thanks for this. I wasn’t a great fan of Promethea, for what it’s worth, but Dr. Strange is fun.

    Chris, okay, that’s funny. I wonder what would have happened if you reminded them of “Give all you have to the poor, and follow me…”

    Karma, Lévi’s heavy going, certainly. If you have questions once you’ve spent a while mulling over the chapter, why, you know who to ask.

    David BTL, it certainly should. Probably not coincidentally, I’ve been reading George Adams and Olive Whicher quite a bit of late, and will be talking about them in an upcoming post.

    Wer, fascinating. That’s the downside of treating control over the narrative as though it equaled control over the realities — you can be left in the dust when the realities decide to ignore your narrative.

    Kay, it can be both. In some versions of the card, the woman is forcing the lion’s jaws open, and in some she’s forcing them shut — and the lion, of course, can be lots of things, not just physical cravings.

    Denis, that’s wild. I honestly have no recollection of the revised definition of magic I apparently offered. Chains are strong in some contexts but they always have their weak link, and the turkey curse aims at one of the consistent weak links of aneristic (constipatedly linear and rational) chains. Yes, you could do worse than explore the chains in which you participate; and a lot of tarot artists don’t really know what a lion looks like, do they? Maybe Strength is going to give him a pill…

    Patricia M, you’re most welcome.

    Murmuration, interesting. I’ll probably never see the movies in question, though — visual media really doesn’t do much for me.

    Jbucks, a fine meditation! That seems like a good solid metaphor to me.

    Goldenhawk, and another fine meditation.

    Jenxyz, good question. I don’t happen to know.

  47. I had an important realisation (important in a very subjective way) about this lesson. It was somehow familiar. And then I remembered the part of the Book of Job where the biblical Lord appears out of the whirlwind to ask job this, among other things: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades?”, and then “Canst thou loose the bands of Orion?” solve, coagula.

  48. @ jbucks – this is not strictly topical, but since you ask “The whole thing has me wondering why the heart pumps?” I would suggest searching for videos and/or articles written by Thomas Cowan with the theme “The Heart is not a Pump”. I understand Dr Cowan is a cardiologist who has been influenced by a confluence of some ideas he gained from Rudolf Steiner, together with his own considered clinical experience, to develop a decidedly non-conventional perspective. Which you may find of great interest.

  49. JMG,

    I also remember a revised definition of magic, I think on this very blog. It was something to the effect of participation in the forces that create and sustain the universe, but I’m paraphrasing.

  50. “magic is the art and science of participation in the spiritual forces of the cosmos.”

    I, too, remember this definition of magic. It was a pretty big thing since it has been a long time since Dion Fortune gave her definition. I proposed my take on it – “magic is the art and science of participation in the spiritual REALITIES of the cosmos,” and you said, JMG, that a case could be made for such a definition.
    It certainly didn’t feel like an off-the-cuff thing.

  51. Thanks JMG, she could be either. It isn’t really clear if she is opening the lions mouth or closing it. She could be acting with the aid of a magical chain and is the solve of some earlier coagula. I will give it some more thought. The two way currant is kind of tricky. Based on some of the other comments, this is a rather symbolically rich card.

  52. Hi John Michael,

    🙂 Yes, the sparks sure would fly! I suggest that you go first with the cheeky reminder, I’ll just quietly stand over here, keeping well out of harms way! For your continued amusement, the argument centred around whether the intention of the parable was a needle as they are generally understood to be, or the words referred to some ancient and difficult to cross mountain pass.

    Thanks for laughs.

    Last evening I had a very quiet night – which I rather enjoyed. I decided to watch a film, and a little nagging chunk of intuition suggested that I re-watch an older film. So I re-watched The Big Short (I have read the excellent book and the film mostly follows that narrative). There’s something about that narrative which is enjoyable – a bunch of finance outsiders bet against the prevailing sentiment and win, but by winning the bet, they glean an insight, which peers beyond the facade.

    Of course you already know that it is the chain which lends strength, force and power to the Golden Rule of do unto others (and let’s not forget the, whatever you do unto the least of me, stuff), but your readers may not.

    It applies to a lot of areas of peoples lives, and years ago you wrote about the problem with the “double-bind” matter (please correct me if I’ve called it by the wrong name). The flip side is that to employ a reductionist mindset to seek advantage, people diminish the very thing that they are after. That is most certainly what is going on in the world of finance, but it’s happening elsewhere too, such as like the how our species is treating the very ecosystem in which we are inseparable from.

    Fortunately, negative feedback loops ensure that we can’t take things too far, although we can take them a long long way. When economists pronounce that it doesn’t matter, they may be right, although they probably know not what they say. I’m sure they’re thinking of something else! 😉

    Hey, the Easter weather has finally produced some warmer sunny days. We had a shocker of a growing season, with very few growing days due to cloud cover and rain. Oh well, a good year to improve upon the infrastructure, and continue to clean up. Hope your growing season is better.



  53. Brazzart, hmm! Fascinating.

    Kyle, so noted.

    Ecosophian, okay, gotcha. I presented that definition in the course of challenging Paul Kingsnorth’s rehashing of old misstatements about magic.

    Kay, it’s definitely a complicated one!

    Chris, a double bind indeed — that was Gregory Bateson’s term for it. As for growing seasons, we’ll see, but so far the spring is turning out very nice. Mind you, out west the drought is tightening its grip again, but here on the Atlantic coast we have plenty of rain.

  54. JMG and Bei Dawei, thank you for illuminating a more nuanced approach to thinking about superheroes. My opinions are based on the handful of mostly bad superhero movies I have seen in the last few years. Scotlyn, I look forward to your thoughts once I write that blog post. I have quite a few posts cooking though so I don’t know when I’ll get to it.

    The idea of magical chains got me thinking about how people become popular. When a person becomes the It Girl or It Guy, their approval goes viral much like a disease. A few people start worshipping the It Person and the chain spirals outward, and their gawkiness and awkwardness is suddenly endearing, their egomania comes off as otherworldliness, and their flaws get fetishized as “cute” or unique. The track in space is created and the masses fall into the groove.

  55. @Scotlyn: Thanks for the suggestion about Dr. Thomas Cowan! I just looked and he has a book out called Human Heart, Cosmic Heart which discusses in part the idea that the heart isn’t a pump. I will look for the book in the library. Thanks again!

  56. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for the confirmation as to the term. There is something inherently unsettling about folks pursuing goals which undermine the very support needed to enjoy the goals. I can’t say that I relate to such peoples desires.

    Your local climate sounds ideal, and let’s not forget the chowder. Yum! Years ago I used to know some guys who’d regularly serve up a very tasty seafood chowder with corn bread. It was good, but they eventually closed their business. Such is the way of things.

    The far west of your country has a lot of similarities climate wise to this part of the world, although I suspect that where the farm is located is a bit ‘wet and getting wetter’ than that part of the world. Far out, too much rain is as difficult a situation as too little rain and I get to experience great climate variability which produces an outcome much like honing a knife blade. With these present cold conditions in mind, we’re constructing a much larger site specific greenhouse which will hopefully work with the climate here. It’s an interesting project and I’ve run a test building for a couple of years based on avoiding what I have observed going wrong with such buildings in this part of the world. Dunno how it will work out, but it is worth doing – just in case. Most such buildings down here have been transported from designs used in the northern hemisphere – but there is no reason why that should be.

    Mate, out of sheer curiosity, how many of your students ever ‘get’ this stuff? What interests me about it all is that it reflects what is, rather than what is wanted, and to my mind that makes little sense.



  57. @jmg Thank you for your mention of the middle term of the great arcanum, that is an interesting connection I’m still pondering.

    On a related note, I’ve been doing a thought experiment.. imagine a society where everyone practiced ‘isolation of thought’ as a matter of basic hygiene, not just a few eccentrics. Presumably chains would still form between sympathetic persons, however would it still be possible for large chains to form?

    It would seem to me the difference between a forest with large amounts of deadwood waiting for a match, vs one that consisted of greater variety of growth, being more resilient and healthy. In the later, fires may occur but spread and scope of devastation would be limited. Does this seem a fair analogy?

    Thanks to everyone commenting so far this month… I’ve found the comments on this chapter to be particularly thought-provoking.

  58. Delighted at your delight, Goldenhawk, and encouraged by your fascination, JMG. The whole series of questions from the whirlwind are amazing, and I love the mention of unicorns in Job 39:

    9 Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
    10 Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
    11 Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?
    12 Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?

    But the most intriguing are some of those asked in Job 38.

    This first sequence brought to mind material from The Cosmic Doctrine:

    Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
    2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
    3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
    4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
    5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
    6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
    7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

    But these are the questions that set my pulse racing. Also Job 38:

    31 Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
    32 Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
    33 Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?

    And it is this last question that my soul wrestles with, because without knowing what is truly required I question my judgement, and that’s probably why I’ve only now chosen to delve in magic. Still … I absolutely need to answer that #32 before I feel comfortable and assured enough to let it rip. 😉

  59. “The astral light responds to intentions from outside humanity—I’ll leave it to individual readers to decide, on the basis of their own beliefs, the most likely sources of these other-than-human currents. One of the things they drive, however, are the great transformations in the realm of human spiritual experience.”

    For example, Jupiter conjunct Neptune in Pisces, now playing at a theater near you!

  60. One implication of this chapter is that anyone who practices high magic acts as a talisman that filters the astral light from negative influences and pulls positive influences from the higher planes. So the more people practice high magic, the more it benefits society at large. But then some people practice evil magic and fling curses left and right; they are the exact opposite.

  61. jbucks – I started working on (coloring) the Physiology Coloring Book, and had to put it down in bewilderment when I started to grasp the complexity of the generic living cell. DNA and RNA synthesize proteins, structures form, drift around in the cytoplasm; membranes open and close to various molecules. Order comes from chaos, and returns to chaos again. I, too, consider myself a reasonably intelligent adult, but trying to imagine how this happens now, and how it could have evolved to happen in the first time, just leaves me awestruck.

  62. Ecosophian, I myself had quite a time ago the idea that some of the practices of ceremonial magic essentially consist in turning the magician himself into a talisman which radiates desired qualities into the outer world.

    About the chapter 11 by Eliphas Levi, this cannot arrive at a better time! This is the kind of advice which is essential in circumstances like presently in the Western world. Currently, this advice is easier to follow, because the hysteria about the Russo-Ukrainian war doesn’t currently have an equivalent of vaxx mandates, except maybe some virtue signaling in certain circles. So it is easier to disengage without being shut out of public venues and the like.

  63. Kimberly, that’s a good example of a magic chain in action! (Also a useful reminder of the omnipresence of magic in everyday life.)

    Chris, one of the reasons I no longer take personal students is that none of them got it. Maybe I’m just not a very effective teacher in person, but I find that writing seems to do a better job of getting people to grasp this stuff.

    Paul, the only magical chains you could establish in such a society would be voluntary. You’d let people know, “I want to try to organize a magic chain to accomplish this purpose, talk to me if you’re interested” — very much the way that Dion Fortune organized the occult resistance to the Nazis. If the cause was appealing enough, you could get quite a large chain organized, but the people who joined it would all do so deliberately. In your forest metaphor, it’s as though there wasn’t any fuel for fire lying around at all — there were foresters, let’s say, who gathered it all up in safe places, and if you wanted fire to spread from place to place you’d have to talk them into building a chain of well-controlled bonfires, each one an easy walk from the next.

    Brazzart, I’ve read that the word translated “unicorn” in the KJV is re’em in Hebrew, the aurochs or wild bull of ancient times, which was the size of a small elephant and was terrifyingly fierce. They’re extinct, but there’s a project under way now to revive them using genetics from descendant breeds. Here’s a small and placid example:

    As for those fine questions, the one in verse 33 — “Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?” — is a good definition of the subject matter of magical astrology, for whatever that’s worth.

    Goldenhawk, true enough.

    Ecosophian, exactly. Exactly.

    Booklover, magic tends to stir up plenty of hysteria all by itself. That’s one of the reasons why that fourth magical virtue is so important.

  64. JMG, thanks for mentioning the aurochs project! They never went extinct in Reality and I’d enjoy seeing some here in Unreality, so I hope the would-be aurochs breeders succeed.

    We get un-realer every day. Now we live in a society where a prospective Supreme Court justice has to treat “What’s a woman?” as a gotcha question and respond accordingly. 😳. To even be considered for the position she’d have to already have plenty of money; I wouldn’t have blamed her a bit if she’d said (in ringing judicial tones) “Oh, I do NOT need this absurd [unDruidly word]” and stomped out.

    End of digression. I’m going to go look up the aurochs breeders. 🐂

  65. Thank you Goldenhawk for quoting the definition and others for noting that JMG did mention it. I was thinking maybe I imagined it. JMG I still haven’t figured out which podcast it was, but I think I was raking leaves last fall while I listened to it.

    Here’s my question about the definition – By “art and science” does that mean that some things in magic are well defined and others are not? What’s the percentage each way – 50/50 or more like 80% art and 20% science? Or am I asking something that doesn’t matter and you are referencing more the application of the knowledge in both creative and known ways?

    A second question about removal of one’s self from mental, physical, and emotional influences – You host this active space plus the two Dreamwidth active weekly postings, so I wouldn’t call you isolated, but would you call you isolated? How do you manage the task switching between being out here with us vs. your work?

  66. Your Kittenship, I wonder if it would help to let an irate aurochs loose in the Senate chambers someday. I’m also delighted that they’ve returned to this world of appearances, though I’m holding out for mammoths.

    Denis, I think of magic the way I think of cooking. You can do it in an artistic, seat-of-the-pants style, or you can do it in a precise, look-it-up-in-the-cookbook style; good results can be gotten either way, but the best cooks generally combine the two in varying proportions. As for isolation, that’s one of the advantages to having Aspergers syndrome — it’s easy for me to deal with people through the medium of print, and any time I need some extra space, I just leave the internet computer and go do something else. (My work computer isn’t connected to the internet, for example.)

  67. The first sentence of this chapter bothered me. Some call the astral light the world soul? Has Levi said this before and I missed it? Which world’s soul is it? And which kind of soul, Plato’s tripartite kind or the one that is used as a synonym for psyche (or are those two the same)?

    Psyche means ‘breath’, which (to me) is what the Divine emanates (the astral light). But Levi didn’t call it the world’s ‘breath’, he said the world’s ‘soul’ (and he is precise with his vocabulary, so referring to it as a soul must mean something). If the world is Atziluth, there are three more worlds and since the astral light flows through all of them, maybe each of the other worlds align to a part of Plato’s kind of soul. Briah (wisdom!) would be the Rational; Yetzirah would be the Spirited (emotions); Assiah would be the Appetite (desires). And, when doing Kaph research ( I found a Kaph explanation involving intellect, desire, and pleasure. These sort of align with the Rational, the Spirited, and the Appetite.

    But then Levi mentions Khunrath’s hermaphrodite (I found a good version here If you look at the inner triangle, the edges are labeled anima, spiritus, and corpus (so body, breath/mind, and soul) (so breath and soul are *not* the same). (And if anyone can figure out what word is under the central YAH, please let me know.)

    And then, in Paths of Wisdom, I found the Kaph connects Netzach and Chesed. On some drawings of the Tree, the Veil of Paroketh is drawn so that it is intersected by the path of Kaph. But what I’ve read says that the Veil of Paroketh is between Yesod and Tiphareth (so I’m not sure if Kaph really crosses the Veil or not). In looking for that, I came across an article ( that equated Hod to thoughts, Netzach to emotions, and Malkuth to sensory perceptions (of the body). That seems to support the idea of the tripartite soul, but using Spheres instead of Worlds. (The article also said that the Spheres below the Veil represent the Ego or the Personality, which seems to relate to @Murmuration’s question and JMG’s response, so it seems relevant.)

    My brain is still in a muddle about this, so if anyone has any insights to share on how the astral light is the world’s soul, please share.

    The description of the magnetic current as a circle reminds me of a Ring Cosmos. IIRC, JMG said each of us has our own Ring Cosmos. Does every act of creation have a Ring Cosmos? (Or at least the beginnings of one?) Levi describes the eccentric as one who “fights against the central forces of attraction of magical chains and established currents” and the man of genius as one “who has discovered a real law”. “Central forces of attraction” sounds suspiciously like “the law of attraction of the center” (from CosDoc), which I associate with Netzach. “A real law” is a track in space, which I associate with Chesed. And JMG in his commentary describes the astral light as having a twofold movement, like a pendulum. That sounds suspiciously like “the law of action and reaction”, which I associate with Chesed. And Levi says the “movement is always dual and multiplies itself in the opposite direction” (which sounds more like a Ring Cosmos and a Ring Chaos, rather than Chesed…) Overall, this all seems to support this chapter being about the Path between Netzach and Chesed.

    Levi says “we materialized the spirit, we must now spiritualize matter.” The first ten chapters described how the astral light traveled down the Tree to manifest in Malkuth, so now we are going back up the Tree (so from Netzach to Chesed). In researching Kaph, I found an interesting tidbit (from “the two letters of the word ‘kaf’ are the initial letters of two Hebrew words ‘koach’ (potential) and ‘poel’ (actual), suggesting that Kaf enables the latent power of the spiritual (the potential) to be made actual in the physical.” It would seem that is Kaph suggests the spiritual being made actual, it could also suggest the actual being made spiritual. (The same page also states that Kaph is the first letter for kavvanah, which means spiritual focus and concentration, which relates to Levi’s talk of isolation. So far, my words-of-the-chapter have always started with the same letter as the letter-of-the-chapter, and I haven’t thought of a good English word that starts with K and kavvanah seems to tie lots of good ideas into one word, so my word-of-the-chapter this month is kavvanah.) (which is probably properly pronounced with the same syllable emphasis as cabala, but my inside-the-head voice likes to rhyme it with Sha-Na-Na, but that is probably because my brain is tired and trying to distract me.)

    JMG, you said I could ask questions…

    Does the Path of Kaph intersect the Veil of Paroketh, or is that Veil just between Yesod and Tiphareth?

    Can you read (or do you know) the word under Yah on Kunrath’s hermaphrodite?

    Does every act of creation have a Ring Cosmos? Is the chain ‘completed’ when the astral light has been manifested in Malkuth?

    And I don’t expect a straight answer about which world/what kind of soul, but any breadcrumbs you want to throw out there would be appreciated.

  68. By the way, one of my readers commented privately that the first paragraph of the commentary didn’t seem to make sense — and she was quite correct. A phrase got left out. I’ve corrected that now. Thanks for your patience!

  69. Regarding the card: In my old (non-Marseille) Tarot deck, Strength was considered one of the four ‘virtue’ cards. Did a little research on that and learned (from that some think there are only *three* virtue cards; these people omit Prudence as a virtue, so they have the three virtues of the Pythagorean system (hmm!). And then the article went on to say that Temperance governs Appetites, Fortitude (Strength) governs Emotions, and Justice governs the Rational that seeks wisdom (double hmm!). That seems to support the tripartite soul idea of the astral light.

    On my non-Marseille deck, Strength is depicted as Heracles battling the Nemean Lion, the Lion representing the egocentric beginnings of a unique individuality. Heracles’ conquest of the Lion isn’t considering a killing, but rather a transformation (so that ties in with the alchemical ideas of this chapter, letting go of the ego so you can get to your Individuality). The Nemean Lion possessed a magical skin. JMG said this card represented Aries, which is the first astrological sign of the zodiac. Aries is based on Chrysomallus (the ram with the Golden Fleece (more magical skin!) that Jason quested for).

    On the Knapp-Hall deck, Strength is depicted as a woman (with a blue lemniscate hat and red cloak) holding a lion’s mouth open. (But JMG said on other decks, she is forcing the lion’s mouth shut.) I think the lion’s mouth being open or closed represents solve and coagula; the mage can do both.

    The swan (on the badge) is floating on water, but the water isn’t blue. I think the water isn’t representing the element of water, but rather the Great Sea of Binah (which is the astral light). The swan is the mage who has learned how to use the astral light to accomplish what he wants to. (The mage uses the currents as thrust-blocks…

    The swan is also a symbol of Aphrodite. When the mage has the strength to control his desires (Netzach), he can use natural laws (Chesed) to achieve what he wills.

  70. My meditation on Manus (Hand):

    Kaph means Palm (an ‘open’ hand).
    Yod means Fist (a ‘closed’ hand).

    Solve and coagula.

  71. @jbucks,

    I very much enjoyed your description of the circulatory system. It has been several decades since my one semester of anatomy and physiology, but the way you describe it, it makes me think of a Ring Cosmos. And that would make the lymphatic system a Ring Chaos…


    Thank you for the Jung/white swan quote. That has been added to my notes. 🙂

  72. @jbucks #46 – If you’re finding the esoteric implications and significances of anatomy fruitful, you might check out Manly P. Hall’s “Man: Grand Symbol of the Mysteries”. Each chapter is devoted to a particular anatomical system or biological process and collects occult lore about that system from an *extremely* wide range of sources. Lots and lots of raw material for meditation there.

  73. JMG, I’d like to see our rulers dealing with huge piles of real, physical bullshale. It’s a fair exchange for the mountains of metaphorical bullshale they’ve inflicted on Us The People over the last 50 years. Release the aurochs! Grumpy bulls with magnificent horns preferred.

  74. @RandomActsofKarma, #74

    I thought about your post, and then remembered that JMG had quoted The Golden Chain of Homer in his Celtic Golden Dawn, Fourth Knowledge Lecture:
    “Nature comprehends the visible and invisible creatures of the whole universe. What we call nature especially, is the universal fire, or anima mundi (soul of the world), filling the whole system of the universe, and therefore is a universal agent, omnipresent, and endowed with an unerring instinct, and manifests itself in fire and light. It is the first creature of Divine Omnipotence.”

    …and references this again Knowledge Lecture Five, discussing the genesis of the classical four elements:
    “Fire is the first creation and the Soul of the World. In its original and universal state, invisible and immaterial, it pervades the whole of existence. When agitated by motion it becomes light…”

    Swinging back around to Levi, in chapter 4 pg. 58 Levi mentions “the soul of the Earth” as an alias for “the great magical agent”. TGMA is called the “fourth emanation of the life principle” a little later, which could be considered a tie-in to Chesed, as you said.

  75. It absolutely had to be this week and this chapter for this insight to come to me! I realised one of the ways how discursive meditations works and why the process of pondering is more important than the information it results in. After a few years of daily exercises of disassembling a topic, an image, or a symbol into its constituent parts and desperately trying to make any sense at all, certain habits have developed. Habits that are slowly becoming a knee-jerk reaction when encountering any information at all.

    For example, reading a phrase “vaccines are safe and effective against covid” brings up a barrage of questions:
    What are vaccines? What do we call a vaccine and why? What do they mean by calling it a vaccine? What end are they trying to achieve?
    What does ‘safe’ mean? How do we know that something is safe and something isn’t?
    What does ‘effective’ mean? Effective in what way? Can it be effective in one way and ineffective in another? How do we know it’s still effective after a while?
    Why ‘against’? Do we even know what ‘covid’ is?
    Etc etc etc…
    And then the ultimate question: Why did I even decide to waste my time reading this article at all? :}

    I imagine that absolutely anyone who managed to spend several years doing daily discursive meditation on almost any selection of topics at all will arrive to the habits of mind that automatically extract them from the ‘crowd’ so to speak. Of course, it’s better so select topics that have a proven track record of good results – being extracted into a mental asylum doesn’t sound particularly inviting. Learning to be content with not arriving to the end result is also important, otherwise asking too many questions may get one paralysed.

    Still with all the possible pitfalls, an occasional and sometimes lasting lessening of the involvement into the collective trance feels nicer than taking a shower. Quite honestly, while I’m still mostly sleepwalking through my life, an occasional glimpse of clarity makes it more than worth it to continue the practices.

  76. Murmurations, I liked your post (#16). It brought a few things to mind. The first is that I’ve never ‘meditated’ except perhaps by accident because for most of my life my mind has been occupied by things to do and problems and predicaments.

    The first time that I can remember coming close to a state that I would call ‘meditative’ was when I was a little kid at the Buffalo Museum where they had a Foucault pendulum, a device that does what it does due to the rotation of the Earth. I stood there open-mouthed. It was enlightening and chilling at the same time to contemplate as implacable a force as the Earth moving on its axis. It puts you in your place.

    The second time was in university while I was writing an essay on Martin Buber’s work ‘I and Thou’ and I was thinking about the nature of time in trying to put in concrete terms some of Buber’s ideas. And so I used the notion that if space is the distance between objects, then time is the distance between events, an event just a change in the configuration of objects. And so you locate an object in time by locating it in a particular arrangement of other objects. I know, this wasn’t exactly high-level cosmology. No matter, it got me thinking about what a vast array of objects the universe is. Which again, put me in my place.

    The next time was in the Rockies on the banks of the Athabaska River and the idea of geologic time-spans really sunk in. Seemed to me that, in comparison, human time and life expectancies were akin to those of a moth in a bonfire.

    The next time occurred while reading a popular book by a physicist that pretty much said that every object in the universe travels through space and time at a combined speed of the speed of light. Given that we move through space maybe at a speed of a few hundred miles per second, we’re traveling through time roughly at the speed of light. It’s as if our component particles were shot out of a cosmic cannon at the moment of creation and there’s not one bloody thing we can do about it. Slow it down? How?

    I suppose I spent my life trying to avoid becoming bug-splat on the windshield of onrushing events. If the nature of time and space is what the big thinkers say it is, then I guess we’re all in a hurricane of things and happenings, the whole mess barreling along through time at nearly 186,000 miles per second and no matter what, no matter the struggling and grappling and pondering and contemplating, we all end up as bug-splat anyway.

  77. Aurochs have 2 horns – dumb translation from Hebrew. Oh well … I’m still after by first unicorn 😉 Thanks for the suggestion to look into magical astrology. Would you be so kind as to point me toward a relevant source? For the moment however, Levi will keep me busy for a while …

  78. @Kimberly Steele:

    I wonder if it isn’t so much that superheroes are the problem, rather superhero movies. The Lord of the Rings movies for example, while roughly corresponding to events in the books, left out so much material from the books that explained the actions of characters, provided history, fleshed out the world, etc, that I can imagine that the movies would have felt superficial for those watching who hadn’t read the books.

    Although I remember watching the first couple of Iron Man movies years ago, and these movies in particular involved the myth of technology being able to deal with any problem. In those movies in particular, there is always some armor able to withstand any attack, always some energy source able to power a wingless suit of heavy armor through the sky, etc. I didn’t read Iron Man comics when I was younger, so I don’t know if this came from the comics or not.


    “One implication of this chapter is that anyone who practices high magic acts as a talisman that filters the astral light from negative influences and pulls positive influences from the higher planes.”

    Thank you for stating this so clearly and inspirationally!


    I share your awe, and I’m looking forward to reading more about how cells work. I was listening to the Plant Cunning podcast which had an interview with Matthew Wood, the herbalist, who was talking about the extracellular matrix and his book about it, and that sounds like something I want to know more about, too.


    We are about to get to the lymphatic system in the course, so I will keep your thoughts in mind as we get there!

    @Jeff Russell:

    Oh, thanks for that recommendation! That looks really interesting, and I will see if I can get it through my library.

  79. @RandomActsOfKarma

    I’m glad you liked Jung’s alchemical swan quote. I liked your take on the swan, floating in the fluid astral light.

    You asked about the word under Yah on Kunrath’s astonishing diagram: EXTRA___ something. It might be extrahe, Latin “to draw out”…an alchemical extraction process?

    Which ties in nicely with @Ganesh Ubuntu’s “I imagine that absolutely anyone who managed to spend several years doing daily discursive meditation on almost any selection of topics at all will arrive to the habits of mind that automatically extract them from the ‘crowd’ so to speak.”

    @Scotlyn, jbucks

    Thanks for the mention of Cowan’s work. I borrowed an audio copy of the cosmic heart book and Chapter 2 was quite a revelation. Spiral flow, the fourth state of matter (jello!), electrical charges on cell surfaces, the rising column of light in the waterfall, fish resting in quiet streams, sap rising in trees, levity/gravity…whew!

  80. Happy Easter to all who celebrate! And if not, imagine some bunnies and chicks instead.

    JMG another two questions – Levi mentions the circle of people supporting one’s work, and I’m assuming he means living and dead people? I know “we are the company we keep” and “the average of the five people you spend the most time with”, but if one is spending more time alone than with other people, then I would think the company and the people would be those long dead in the pages of books?

    And with the magical chains and not going against a once when it is in process of being constructed….I’m confused by that. I get not wanting to confront something full of power and energy – your advice to step away from the crazy people last year who were ready to round up those that didn’t conform – but isn’t there a way to step in before things go so far to the extreme? My dad always talked about the social and political pendulums, but even he at 78 said things now are further out than before. We seem to have lost our center or ability to move towards it and is this magic out of balance?

    I’m working on the 9th Aspect of the OSA work and it is overlapping with this chapter a bit. I’ve been working on restructuring my time the past few months and things feel synchronous. I ended my memberships in professional organizations in December (got tired of Trump!! Russia!! Covid!! Vaccine!! rather than actual work) and I have one long course that wraps in June and then my calendar is free. It’s so weird to look ahead and see so much open space. I feel like the less the attachments I have the more I can express myself without constraints.

  81. Karma, good! The term Lévi has in mind is Latin rather than Greek: anima mundi. Mundus, world, was used back in the day to mean the universe, not just this one planet! “The soul of the universe” would be perhaps a better translation, and the division here is not Plato’s — he’s using the standard medieval European tripartite division into anima, spiritus, and corpus, or in English soul, spirit (= life force), and body. So what he’s saying is that the astral light is the consciousness of the universe.

    With regard to your questions, (1) yes, the Path of Kaph encounters the Veil Paroketh — all the Paths at that level of the Tree (the Paths of Kaph, Mem, Nun, Samech, and Ayin) have to contend with the Veil. (2) It appears to be extrahe, the imperative of extrahere: “draw out” or “extract”. (3), Yes, every creation has all three Rings, and no, the chain isn’t completed when it descends to Malkuth — that’s the halfway point. It has to rise back up to its origin to finish the circle.

    In general, these are excellent meditations. Keep going!

    Your Kittenship, I think that’s an excellent idea. They can start by cleaning out the Augean stables they’ve created, and doing it by hand.

    Ganesh, excellent. Excellent! Yes, one of the core points of discursive meditation is that it teaches you to think, instead of just letting words trudge unexamined through your mind. The result is wisdom, which will keep you out of any number of avoidable disasters and bring you the occasional good thing over and above those luminous moments of clarity you mention.

    Brazzart, I recommend a perusal of Chris Warnock’s site as a good first look at magical astrology. I’d love to see actual unicorns, too! But aurochs (auroxen?) are also cool.

    Your Kittenship, “overdue” isn’t really a useful term here, since cluelessness doesn’t come with a pull date. If you want to cause change in consciousness in accordance with your will, now’s the time to start figuring out how to set a magical chain in motion…

    Denis, the chain can definitely include the dead, and it can also include disembodied beings. As for when to step in, that depends on how strong the chain is and how far it can run before it starts running out of steam. Anyone who attempted to interfere with the chain of the Soviet Union before it started losing momentum, for example, ended up in an unmarked mass grave. Choosing timing is an art, and it requires the kind of sensitivity best learned through the practice of divination. I’m delighted to hear the OSA work is leading you into bright new places! That’s quite a feeling…

  82. @Jeffrey P.,

    Thank you very much for the quotes… I have not studied the Celtic Golden Dawn. I will need to meditate on the sentences some more, but even my initial reading of them has clarified things in my head some.

    I especially like “When agitated by motion it becomes light…” I instantly thought of bioluminescent algae swirling in waves in the ocean.

    And I will have to ponder the Levi quote some more. If the anima mundi is the first creation, how is it the fourth emanation? (Because the first three are the supernal triad and a unity, so not really a separate creation? I know what my meditation for this evening will be…)


    Thank you for the word under Yah. Extrahe (to draw out) fits very well. In CosDoc, the Law of Action/Reaction (Chesed) explains how force becomes form (two balanced forces set up a vortex, a primal atom, which neutralize each other and create a center of stability). And the Attraction of the Center (Netzach) refers to unification. But since we are moving up the tree, we are not unifying, we are separating, trying to change a form to a force. In the diagram, Yah is drawn out/extracted/divided into the triangle of anima/spiritus/corpus. Yah ( is a contraction of YHVH, so they are dividing a creation (the alchemist?) into its three parts. And Yah could really be YAH, Yod-Aleph-Heh—Yod and Heh from YHVH, but the VH is now Aleph, the Magician, the alchemist. Fun. Thank you for this.


    If you celebrate Easter, Happy Easter! And if not, sure, bunnies and chicks are fun. But why not a duck? 😊


    Thank you for the answers. I am almost good with anima mundi… I just have to figure out the Levi quote that Jeffrey P gave me. I’m not going to pretend I understand the Veil, but at least I understand where it is at. I think Khunrath’s hermaphrodite will probably provide more insights in later chapters.

    And your answer about the chain spawned more questions. But I’ll ponder them a bit before I ask them.

  83. OK, to anyone who read my comment about why is the anima mundi the fourth emanation… my comment was wrong, wrong, oh so wrong. I reread Chapter 4 and my notes and JMG had provided a nice explanation. (Briefly, first is the One (the Absolute). The second emanation is the Mind (the Supreme Being). Third is the Solar Logos and fourth is Azoth.)

    But something fun for anyone who is intrigued by Khunrath’s hermaphrodite… One of the phrases on the picture is ‘etiam mundus renovabitur igne’. An online translator told me that meant “even the world will be renewed by fire”. In Chapter 4, Levi spent a bit of time on INRI, one version being ‘ignis natura renovatur integra’, which translates to ‘the fire renews nature incessantly’.

  84. Hi John Michael,

    That’s possible, but I have found that your words are clear. And the subject makes sense and matches what I observe of the world around me.

    You know, it’s equally possible that understanding involves loss, and that might be a step too far for many people. People come seeking power, and you offer them instead purpose, perspective and insight. Yes, what could possibly go wrong? 🙂

    I had an odd time writing yesterday. I began with a photo and an incident, and let the words write themselves. A difficult subject.



  85. Patricia M, this is an equal opportunity blog, so library computers are also welcome. 😉

    Jonathan, we’ll get there in October.

    Karma, you’re most welcome, and by all means ponder. I’ll be here.

    Chris, maybe so, but the problem’s been pretty consistent, and I gather that some other teachers don’t have the same difficulty!

  86. Hi John Michael,

    Do I detect frustration in your words? Time is of course something that is always in short supply and I’m impressed with your depth of knowledge and reach of audience.

    Mate, teaching is a skill like any other. Have you thought about taking a deep dive into the subject and then putting the knowledge to the test? And then there is always the ‘poop test’ for students which you know the Buddhists employ for good reasons and as was also shown in the book Fight Club. It seems like a lot of work to me, but then that ain’t one of my goals – way too early for such stuff.

    One of the core points of The Big Short book, was that sometimes it is not easy to be early! I’m of the impression that people are not yet hungry enough, but between you and I, I reckon they’ll get there. The news in the world of oil is super weird right now.



  87. Ah, I can see by your answer I misunderstood the chapter. On pp 113 and 114 when Levi is talking of a circle of relations, I thought this to be allies and mentors a person is surrounded with when doing their work. So it’s magical chains all the way around then 🙂

    I did snicker at Levi commenting on the unlimited liberty of speech producing a lot of argument. So the 1840’s not any more subdued than the 2020’s?

  88. I was thinking about means of separation from popular passions, apart from the ones you listed in your reply to Random (in #22). In some cases it might be difficult to distinguish cause from effect, but I’d guess that solitary jobs (rare nowadays) and solitary pursuits could contribute. Monogamy could help, if your partner is like-minded rather than inclined to pull you toward the inferno. Or celibacy, though even that’s no guarantee. Any unusual taste (not just in e.g. literature) or characteristic can set one apart, but with present technology it can also lead you into some “identity community” whether benign or otherwise.

    More subtly, even direct face to face interactions between people vary in their “coagulative” force. A teacher, coach, healer, or tabletop game master, just to mention a few, can maintain a little distance. On the darker side, so can cops, bullies, bosses, and elites. Looking toward the extremes, we find that the hermit in the woods and the emperor on a throne share a comparable mirror-image isolation. Of course; the malefic magic coming from our billionaire class has to have its wellsprings too.

  89. I wondered why Chapter 11 started with Netzach and Chesed, rather than Malkuth and Yesod. I had thought that Malkuth represented the nadir of the evolution of a Divine Spark, but in rereading the chapter on the Law of the Attraction to the Center in Cosmic Doctrine, Fortune states that “this marks the transition through the nadir of the Evolutionary Arc.” That would make Netzach the nadir, which at first didn’t make sense to me. But if Netzach represents our Spirit (and Hod our Mind) (and Malkuth our Body) (and Yesod is our subconscious), then the lower four Spheres are our Divine Spark, so Netzach could be seen as the nadir.

  90. Chris at Fernglade Farm (no. 94), “And then there is always the ‘poop test’ for students which you know the Buddhists employ for good reasons and as was also shown in the book Fight Club.”

    As a Buddhist I’ve never heard of this. Googling was no help either.

  91. Just following up on the spirit vs soul distinction. If anima mundis is the “consciousness of the universe”, is there, following Jung, an associated “unconsciousness of the universe”?

    Also, if spirit is “life force” does that imply manifestation and is there an associated concept for the Unmanifest?

    (I hope these questions aren’t too muddled. I’m reading Jung, Vedanta interpretation and Levi at the same time and trying to translate between them which is probably not a good idea.)

  92. Speaking of Kunrath’s hermaphrodite; trump XV of my Wirth deck depicts “solve” and “coagula” written on the arms of Le Diable __self! (The figure’s gender seems indeterminate, quite appropriate for a hermaphrodite. So I’m at a loss for the proper pronoun.)

  93. I just noticed that the image on the Knapp-Hall deck is only showing three of the lion’s legs. Just as the Magician, with the lemniscate, was working with the ternary (a table), now the woman, with a lemniscate is working with the ternary.

    So much to unpack here. We went from a fabricated table to a living animal. Is the lion a fusion of the four elements that can now be used for a higher purpose? Are the bones on the ground formed into the Roman numerals 20, Judgement?

    Can Solve et Coagula be broken into a male/female binary? I often wondered if the Magician had a corresponding complement, just like cards 2 and 5 or 3 and 4. Perhaps Strength is the complement to the Magician.

    So much to meditate on!

  94. @Jon Goddard,

    Kaph’s gematria number is 20. (Not saying that it isn’t related to Judgment.) I shall have to spend more time looking at the bones…


    Ooooo! My Diable doesn’t have words written on him, but he is holding different kinds of flames in each hand (the left hand is held high, with a bowl (oil lamp?), the right hand is held low, with a very long taper candle.)

    @Simon S,

    Somewhere in my notes, I have something about consciousness, subconsciousness, and another (un?) consciousness. I will look for that this evening and see if I can find it and share.

  95. Hi Bei Dawei,

    Thank you for the polite query.

    Are you seriously suggesting to me that you have never read the book Fight Club by the author Chuck Palahniuk? My friend, get thee to a library! Or at the very least if you’re feeling slack, you can watch the film of the same name which is close enough to the book.

    You can see the same principle in practice in the book Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire by the author, Colleen Morton Busch.

    I’ll bet you haven’t read that book either? 😉



  96. @99 Re the “poop test: I have heard of it in Zen circles, but I never heard it called that. It involved keeping an aspirant waiting outside the gate for three days to ensure the candidate’s seriousness. I’ve heard of something similar in Judaism regarding goyim who want to convert; make them ask three times before agreeing to allow it.

  97. JMG – thank you very much for the link to Christopher Warnock’s website. I found myself in total agreement with his philosophical stand on fate vs free-will, and their combined interplay, as well as his leaning toward a devotional, rather than a manipulative/power approach to the spirit world. For me that is a major litmus test that opens my trust gate. Perfect!

  98. @RandomActsofKarma I can’t believe I left out the ducklings. Now I will have to defend myself as not being anti-duck.

    @JMG I’ve meditated on this card, and I no longer see an animal, but more like a woman’s body part that is usually under layers and I’m blushing just thinking about it. But we were talking about male and female in the early chapters and now I can’t unsee it. I took poorly drawn animals and went X rated. Dr. Freud would appreciate it.

  99. Chris, I figure I’ve found an effective way to pass on what I want to teach, and since there are many other things I want to study, I’ll stick with that. Mind you, I’d like to have the chance to do magical lodge work again one of these days, but we’ll see what the gods have in mind.

    Patricia M, thanks for this.

    Denis, things really, truly, haven’t changed much. Unlimited liberty of speech caused just as much argument in Athens in the fifth century BC!

    Walt, excellent. Yes, those are — or can be — among the tools.

    Karma, another good theme for meditation!

    Simon, excellent! According to the Neoplatonists, matter is the unconsciousness of the universe. Yes, spirit is part of manifestation; if you can name it, it’s not the Unmanifest. (There are no “parts of the Unmanifest.”)

    Phutatorius, these days somebody has probably come up with a pronoun for hermaphroditic devils. 😉 As for the words on the arms, Wirth got that from Lévi:

    Jon, excellent! That won’t be accidental, of course.

    Brazzart, you’re most welcome. Chris is good at this stuff.

    Denis, I think it was Jung who said that sometimes, a penis is just another phallic symbol. 😉 Yes, the image is probably quite deliberate — but what does it mean? Freud lost his way when he decided that sex is where everything stops; au contraire, sex is also a symbol…

  100. I guess I’d forgotten about that Levi image you posted. It is odd, however, that the alchemical “hermaphrodites” (with two heads) are really more like siamese twins, while the devilish hermaphrodites are androgynous, as befits true hermaphrodites. I wonder why the apparent confusion, if it is at all significant…

  101. Chris at Fernglade Farm (no 104), I saw the movie like, 20 years ago, but as you suspect, have never read the book. Or the other book. I do remember reading and liking a couple of Palahniuk’s other books, and will never forget what his anonymous correspondent fed to Margaret Thatcher four times.

    Phutatorius (no. 105), oh, so *that’s* what this is. I read that story somewhere, but have never heard of it actually being done.

    Okay, I did some more googling–this time under a less minced / Bowdlerized version of the term–and think I understand now. Interestingly, most of the Google results are from Incel websites.

  102. @Jon Goddard,

    I stared at the bones today. After a long while of trying to see Hebrew letters in their shape and things like that (to no avail), I put the card away. And then, after reading @Denis’ post, I went back to the card again. (I have a different deck and didn’t see what he sees…) Here’s my take now… the magician who can open and close the lion’s mouth is a kind of unity (she can solve *and* coagula). On the bottom right, two bones. On the bottom left, three bones. Kinda like a supernal triad, maybe?

    FWIW, I think Solve et Coagula is a male/female binary. Solve (motion) being masculine; Coagula (being restrictive) being feminine. I had not seen the Strength card as corresponding to the Magician card before you pointed it out. Thank you!


    I forgive you for your duck omission. I do not know if or what planetary charity would be appropriate to make amends to the ducks in the higher planes, but perhaps some day old bread the next time you visit a local pond would suffice. 🙂

    @Simon S,

    I had told you I would look up my notes about the consciousnesses. My notes were from a different source and considered the three consciousnesses (conscious, subconscious, and unconscious) to be part of the mind, which didn’t quite fit with the anima/spiritus/corpus trinity we’ve been working with, so I would definitely stick with JMG’s response.


    I do not know if you are familiar with any of The Original Series Star Trek’s storylines, but I’ve decided that good meditation themes are like tribbles.

  103. @ RandomActsOfKarma

    No worries. That bit about the world soul struck me as strange on first reading too but I hadn’t had the time to think it through properly so your posts here have been a big help for me already.

  104. Fra’ Lupo, we don’t talk about Bruno.

    ““[T]he concept of a person being the center of a circle that extends infinitely in all directions ” to me brings to mind the problem in architecture. That is, all things are 6×3 because that’s the root size of a human. So doors, windows, beds, rooms, cabinets. But this isn’t only true of the physical. I feel like there is a correlation to the physical and spiritual, and although “size” in the spirit is somewhat relative, the same concept applies.

    Why can’t you be 500 feet wide? “You” would dilute yourself too much. What does this mean for Spirit? There is a certain native concentration or size for human spirits, and no doubt different size and concentrations for The Great Old Ones. Isn’t that interesting?

    At the moment you may be part of an infinite circle, but for you, the circle isn’t very “infinite” at all, but about 6 feet in diameter. And what does this narrow area of concentration have to do with Solve and coagula? With concentrating yourself, or expelling? If you’re influencing “the world” that’s a very large place and you’d be diluted to a shadow. See?

    The idea of superheroes is what you DO with it. Your will. And importantly, supervillains too. That’s why it doesn’t mostly matter if they are created or born, either way there is a “responsibility” in the expression of that “great power.” We merely highlight it by being a “super” amount of power. Question being: what would you (the audience) do? Good or bad? Selfish or selfless?

    Aurochs are great but have two horns. The “One-horn” is a Rhino. That’s why he asks if you think you can hook it up to a plow. Save the chubby unicorns!

  105. If white is the color of wisdom, the magician is not yet wise, because his white undergarment is only visible in the cuffs. He is covered with the red coat of desire. But when we get to strength, her garment is fully revealed, and the red cloak of desire only partially covers her garment of wisdom.

    The swan is also white, but its meaning here is perplexing, and I decided to see what was said about Cygnus, the Swan. Wiki (ok, sorry) says this:

    The Greeks also associated this constellation with the tragic story of Phaethon, the son of Helios the sun god, who demanded to ride his father’s sun chariot for a day. Phaethon, however, was unable to control the reins, forcing Zeus to destroy the chariot (and Phaethon) with a thunderbolt, causing it to plummet to the earth into the river Eridanus. According to the myth, Phaethon’s close friend or lover, Cygnus, grieved bitterly and spent many days diving into the river to collect Phaethon’s bones to give him a proper burial. The gods were so touched by Cygnus’s devotion that they turned him into a swan and placed him among the stars.

    I found that interesting because of the bones on the card. Are they the bones of Cygnus? Cygnus forms a cross, and the two sets of bones also make crosses.

    My gut is telling me that the Magician is Solve, and Strength is Coagula.


    The masculine solve and feminine coagula makes a lot of sense!

  106. Hi Bei Dawei,

    The second book reference describes the practice in some detail and how it worked at that monastery. Your homework… I suspect much about you given that you disregarded the reference…

    Good detective work though. Dunno about the incel communities use of the term, but the PUA (Pick Up Artists) co-opted the term (which I couldn’t use the correct pronunciation of at risk of breaching our hosts code) and then bent the original meaning by giving it a purely feminine negative angle. Both of those communities practice a dark form of magic which negatively reflects back upon them. However, an alert person should be aware that such things go on, and surprisingly such techniques get employed in day to day encounters and social interactions.

    You may think that you are safe and immune from such dark magical acts, but then again, who is?



  107. Fight Club, the book, is the author’s experience after doing the Landmark Forum. The Forum is the modern version of est training. It can be effective but it also makes people dependent on it for their next insight about themselves and they get addicted to insights.

    The original Matrix movie is another Hollywood portrayal of The Forum by graduates. The original sequels were the courses after the Forum but those were muddled and confused, much like people are after they continue on after the first course.

  108. I have been meditating on the cards in relation to the initial words of the Chapter (Manus and Strength), and I realized that the cards were in several groups: the position they occupy (Papesse, Empress, Emperor, Pope, Chariot, Justice); the path they have chosen (Mage, Hermit, Strength) or an inflection in the path (Lovers, Wheel of Fortune). Those with true strength have achieved by the path they have chosen, not by the position they hold. If we are fortunate and continue our path, we too may enjoy true strength.
    Looking forward, that may be the strength of the Fool.

  109. Jon Goddard: thank you for retelling the Phaethon/Cygnus story — another myth added to my list of death/rebirth myths involving the Solar archetype.

    Recalling another swan myth:

    Zeus changed into a swan and impregnated Leda, who gave birth to Helen of Troy — and therein lies a tale (or thousands!)

    W. B Yeats’ Leda and the Swan:

  110. @Phutatorius,

    Perhaps since Hod and Netzach are both part of the ‘lower self’, the mage has a decent chance of actually unifying them (or perhaps they signify a unified will… hmm… will have to reread some mythology). But the Moon is part of the Lower Self and the Sun is part of the Higher Self, so the mage doesn’t have them completely unified yet.

    @Jon Goddard,

    I like your interpretation of the white clothing and of Cygnus on the card!


    And Zeus+Leda also created half of the Gemini, IIRC. I haven’t looked to see what Zodiac is Chapter 12, but I’m curious to see if it is Gemini.

  111. I learned today that one of Hera’s sacred animals was the lion. If Zeus is Vau, then Hera is second Heh. So the lion on the card can represent the mage’s control of the second Heh (so not quite the Azoth, but the Azoth in the world of Yetzirah).

  112. Today, I meditated on the passage where Levi states that “to oppose a current which has run the entire circle of its action is to take the head of the opposing current”. La Force is not resisting the lion closing its mouth, she is assisting it in opening its mouth. Her strength lies in knowing which way the wheel is turning.

  113. @Peter Van Erp, I like that! The mage needs to recognize how things are moving and then use that to his/her advantage.

    I have been reading some Manly P. Hall. Re: the Orphic Mysteries, he had this to say about swans: “The swan is the symbol of the initiates of the Mysteries; it is a symbol also of the divine power which is the progenitor of the world.”

  114. I’ve gotten to a point where I have to disagree with Levi. His magical agent starts as thought, and ends up as a physical force. This means that he incorrectly attributes physical phenomenon to the magical agent. On page 116, he attributes the Irish potato blight and the French grape blight to currents in the magical agent. We know now that potato blight was cause by a water mold, Phytophthora infestans, and that the grape blight was caused by an aphid, grape phylloxera.
    I can’t believe that his magical agent has physical manifestations, but only that the magical agent affects human minds. I can see that there is something that affects minds in the way that he describes, but I don’t think his metaphor of a universal fluid is the right one.
    Other religions has posited other metaphors. Christian science talks of the Divine Mind, of which we are a part. Some physicists talk about consciousness being a fundamental property of matter. My pet image is from Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, of a planet covered with an ocean that occasionally raises objects out of it that reflect the observers’ thoughts.
    I’ll continue to look as the magical agent as a form of the permeability of minds, and our minds’ tendency to be fluidly in contact with other minds. Coagula is our individual decisions to separate ourselves from the group mind, to become hermits for a period, so that we can think our own thoughts.

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