Book Club Post

The Doctrine of High Magic: Chapter 13

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 for free from Archive.org. 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.

Reading:

“Chapter 13: Necromancy” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 124-131).

Commentary:

This chapter, with its deliberately spooky title and its focus on the apparitions of the dead, has to be understood in the context of a cascade of events that was busy shaking the popular beliefs of the western world right down to their core while Lévi wrote.  In 1848, three young girls living with their parents in a village in upstate New York heard knocking sounds coming from under the floor of their farmhouse. The girls decided to try to communicate with the sounds, using codes of the “one for yes, two for no” variety, and promptly received a classic ghost story: a man murdered and secretly buried under the farmhouse by an earlier tenant.

Ghost stories along these lines were standard bits of frontier folklore at the time, and have parallels dating back to ancient times in every corner of the world. The reaction, however, was anything but standard. The burgeoning mass media of the United States picked up the story of the Fox sisters and their conversations with a ghost and ran with it. In the months that followed, other reports of communication with the dead began to appear, and people who had learned the methods made famous half a century before by Franz Anton Mesmer found that they could make the communication a much simpler and more public experience by putting themselves into trance and allowing spirits to speak through them. Astounding events were reported: objects moving by themselves, visions taking shape in the darkness, ghosts passing on secrets no one else could have known. The Spiritualist phenomenon was born.

The nineteenth-century form…

It deserves to be noted here that a great many of these amazing events were the result of nothing more spiritual than stage magic and deliberate fraud. Accusations of fakery swirled around the phenomenon from the very beginning, and some of them were very well founded. There was also no shortage of well-meaning mediums who were tapping into nothing more profound than the shallow end of contemporary pop culture, filtered through their subconscious minds. At the same time, not all Spiritualist mediums were fakes or fools, and “psychical researchers,” as they called themselves, who set out to investigate Spiritualism with open minds documented a certain number of really remarkable paranormal events.  The resulting tangle of fraud, folly, and genuine high strangeness has defined Spiritualism from its beginnings right up to the present.

By the time Lévi started writing The Doctrine of High Magic, in other words, the phenomenon that started in the Fox family cellar had to be taken into account by anyone who hoped to talk  about occultism. Spiritualism had long since leapt the Atlantic, successful Spiritualist mediums from America were doing European tours, and European mediums were beginning to compete with them for large and lucrative audiences. Occultists on both sides of the Atlantic were fascinated by the new phenomenon and set out to make sense of it in the light of traditional occult teaching. Lévi was neither the first nor the most famous of those who put their occult interpretation of Spiritualism into print, but his analysis influenced many later writers and is worth studying on its own account as a thoughtful response to a pop-culture frenzy.

He made four points in his discussion. The most basic is that there really was something going on.  He was doubtless aware of the fake end of the Spiritualist scene but does not mention this in the chapter we are discussing. His starting point was that in at least some cases, something genuinely uncanny was happening, and he backed this up with references to his own experiences evoking the spirits of the dead, using a more traditional method than the one that had become popular among mediums and their audiences.

The second point, which follows from the first, is that there was nothing new about Spiritualism except for the method that mediums were using to give voice to the dead. If Lévi had lived a little later and had access to information about the magical practices of other cultures, he could have drawn an even firmer line, for the only thing unique about Spiritualist mediums in 1848 was that trance mediumship hadn’t been common in the western world for a while. To cite only one example, mediums in Japan have been going into trance and giving voice to spirits variously human and unhuman as far back as written records go; Carmen Blacker’s fine book The Catalpa Bow, which should be required reading for anyone interested in the cross-cultural dimensions of magic, documents this among other elements of Japanese occultism.

Go back a couple of centuries, in fact, and Spiritualism had another name, the one Lévi used: necromancy. This literally means “divination by the dead,” from the Greek words nekro-, “dead,” + manteia, “divination.” Some branches of western magical literature are well stocked with rituals for conjuring the spirits of the dead into visible manifestation in order to receive information no living person knows. The art of necromancy had a dubious reputation at best in earlier times, for reasons we’ll discuss shortly, but it was certainly known.

…of this.

The third point Lévi made was more challenging to the received wisdom or folly of popular culture. This point holds that the methods of necromancy, or its modern equivalent Spiritualism, don’t actually make contact with the souls of the dead. It is the astral light, he points out, “that makes tables speak and gives answers by knocking on walls.” Spiritualist mediums and ancient necromancers alike make contact with images in the astral light, some of which are simply reflections of the person made while still living, and some of which have a grimmer origin.

As our text notes, in the process of death the soul leaves behind two cadavers, not one: a physical corpse, which is buried, and an astral corpse, which remains in existence for a certain period and then dissolves. It is these astral corpses which are the source of the more dramatic Spiritualist manifestations. Even after the soul finally leaves the astral corpse, which can take some time, the astral shell retains echoes of the passions and motives that drove its occupant during life, and sometimes a ghostly remnant of personality. These details of occult philosophy explain the phenomena of the seance-room far better than the claim that the dead are really present.

It’s a common finding of Spiritualist research that the ghosts who speak through mediums can feel and remember but can’t think. Mediums who claim to be in touch with great philosophers and mystics routinely embarrass themselves by being unable to give voice to anything other than vacuous platitudes.  Lévi’s interpretation explains this neatly.  Yes, he says, necromancy can conjure up genuine visions, which are honestly experienced by the witnesses; yes, it can be possible to get accurate information from the phantoms thus evoked; no, the person in question isn’t actually there. He or she has risen to a plane beyond the reach of conjurations.

Lévi’s fourth point is edgier than any of the previous three points. He argues that necromancy is dangerous to practice, and causes harm to the physical and mental health of the person who practices it.  He was far from the only occultist who came to this conclusion. The kind of evocation he describes in this chapter seems to be particularly dangerous to the practitioner, but trance mediumship of the Spiritualist variety can be just as toxic if it’s not surrounded by appropriate protections and invocations of benevolent spiritual entities.

Our text’s comments about the elderly woman who provided Lévi with the material for his evocations will ring true to any of my readers who has spent time in the occult community. The pointless outbursts of irrational anger and the sudden lapses in reason are common enough among occultists of a certain stripe. It’s true, of course, that every spiritual tradition has its potential problems and its besetting sins; the pervasive troubles with sexual abuse roiling the Southern Baptist movement as I write this, which of course has done the same thing for plenty of other Christian churches already, is one example of many, and it’s by no means the worst.

The problem with mental imbalance seems to be specific to dealings with the dead, or with malefic spirits; Lévi includes goetia—that is, the art of summoning demons—in his discussion of the dangers of ceremonial magic. By contrast, trance possession by deities and other superhuman beings has been an important part of many spiritual traditions around the world for a very long time, and for that matter can be seen in any old-fashioned Pentecostalist church.  From any perspective but theirs, after all, possession by the Holy Ghost is simply one more example of possession by a nonhuman spiritual entity. People can apparently do this under certain conditions without ill effect, so long as the entity in question is far enough above the human level.

Lévi is making a somewhat broader point here, however, and it’s one that he will develop in much more detail as we proceed. Grant that will and imagination have the power to influence the astral light, grant that the human mind can put itself into a condition  where it can perceive the astral light directly, and grant that these are the secrets behind the traditions of ceremonial magic: is it really necessary to go through the elaborate forms of medieval ritual in order to get the effects in question?  Lévi’s implication is that this isn’t necessary at all. While he faithfully sets out a classically ornate system of ceremonial magic in the second half of his book, one of the core themes of his entire teaching is that this is only one way to do the work, and not necessarily the most useful of the available options.

That theme became a significant fault line across the occult community for more than a century after Lévi’s time. Among the occult schools of that era, a minority enthusiastically embraced ceremonial magic—the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is of course the most widely known example—while a substantial majority turned aside from the full-blown ceremonial path and worked with will, imagination, and the astral light using other means: meditation, visualization, affirmations, and more. Both of these are valid approaches. Both have their downsides and their difficulties, both also have their strengths and distinct benefits.  Lévi was subtle enough to leave both options open to his readers.

In addition to the explicit discussion of ceremonial magic and the implicit discussion of Spiritualism that take up most of this chapter, Lévi inserts a few other details of Cabalistic lore regarding the beginning and end of incarnation. He seems to have drawn all of this from one Hebrew tractate, Shaar ha-Gilgulim or Treatise on the Revolutions of Souls, by the sixteenth-century Jewish Cabalist Isaac Luria. Luria was hugely influential in the development of Jewish Cabalistic thought, but his ideas were also idiosycratic and expressed in an intricate symbolism far from easy to decipher and by no means always to be taken literally.

The ideas that souls are born from the intercourse of angels, that souls fleeing from the astral phase of the afterlife can take on an “embryonic” status in the living bodies of other people, and that souls can go on into the afterlife while their former bodies are still alive—these are, as far as I know, not part of the teachings of any later occult school. (You’ll have to talk to a well-informed Jewish Cabalist to find out what their status is in the Jewish Cabalistic scene; the gap between occult and Jewish ends of the tradition, here as in most things, is considerable.) Treat them as symbolic statements, explore them in meditation, and see what they teach you

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 XIII, the traditionally nameless card of Death.  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 מ (Mem) or the Latin letter N. 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 titles Lévi gives for the card: Ex Ipsis and Mors. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does Ex Ipsis, “out of itself,” relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen?  That’s one session.  How about Mors, “death”?  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 Chapter 13 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 14:  Transmutations” on July 13, 2022. See you then!

77 Comments

  1. One of the few hard lines in our family tradition: no conjuring the dead. (And no conjuring demons, but that seems fairly self-explanatory.)

    Intriguing post. Thank you.

  2. I doubt it was a coincidence, that in the novel I’m listening to at work (Moon Over Manifest, a Newberry winner by Clare Vanderpool) I paused it in the middle of a seance scene to read your latest essay. I had no idea when I started the book, that it would have a “diviner” as she is called as one of the characters.

    I saw on your other blog that it was birthday yesterday. I hope you had a great day John!

  3. It’s interesting how Levi’s style of writing has changed as we move from the more philosophical chapters so far, to a slightly less ornate and more descriptive tone, with a long report of his own personal experiences.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the difference between scrying and a ceremony such as that which Levi described, or trance mediumship, the difference between exploring the astral plane to see what comes to visit, versus targeting a specific astral corpse?

    It strikes me that, because all these things have in common that they contact entities on the astral, that the same mental imbalances could occur with too-frequent scrying, and the difference seems to be that targeting a specific entity requires a great deal more effort on the part of the practitioner versus simply opening a door, stepping through it, and witnessing what happens.

    Then again, if contacting deities doesn’t result in the same mental imbalances, nor does it require the same amount of effort, then perhaps it’s due to density of the layers of the astral plane. I think I remember you writing on Magic Monday some time ago that malevolent beings in the astral occupy a higher density part of the overall astral plane, whereas deities apparently tend to exist on the divine plane.

    Although I guess all of these beings have some form of body on multiple planes, and perhaps it is a question of which plane a given being predominately exists in.

  4. The Knapp-Hall card uses the triangle in the square for its shield on this card. I think the square is the material world and the part of the triangle inside of the square relates to the truncated pyramid that we see on the dollar bill. Perhaps the triangle can only be completed when we include the life beyond this one.

    The handle that the skeleton is using seems to be divided, at least the two portions from the very top, in the golden ratio. That might imply that life goes on beyond death.

    Also, the skeleton is harvesting heads and hands–thoughts and deeds? Is that what goes on in the form of karma?

  5. Fra’ Lupo, your family tradition seems very sensible.

    Justin, thank you. A nice synchronicity, too.

    Jbucks, that’s an important part of the distinction. Another difference between scrying and evocation is that it’s roughly like the difference between calling someone on the telephone and inviting them into your living room — the latter involves much more actual proximity, and the risk of harm is rather higher. That said, yes, scrying has its own set of mental dysfunctions if it’s done too often, too cluelessly — the beings encountered in scrying are not always accurate or honest, and if you place blind faith in what you see in scryings, you can end up with a fine case of giddy delusion.

    Jon, excellent! Yes in all three cases.

  6. “They can feel and remember, but they cannot think.”

    That sentence could describe a great number of supposedly “living” people these days.

    I’m reminded of a story that Liu Ming once told, of a Taoist adept from Taiwan who, upon being brought to America to lecture, was shocked the find that the entire country was full of ghosts.

  7. I was not aware that the Fox sisters (1848) jump-started European Spiritualism; I was under the impression that the French had already been doing séances. But no, these seem to have started in 1853. Allan Kardec’s “Book of the Spirits” was 1857. I must have been thinking of the Mesmerists. (There is a terminological issue involved, since “Spiritualisme” was the name given to an unrelated philosophical movement, while “Spiritisme” was assigned to Kardec and the table-turners)

    On the assertion that Necromancers and Spiritualists “don’t actually make contact with the souls of the dead,” but rather “make contact with images in the astral light, some of which are simply reflections of the person made while still living, and some of which have a grimmer origin” (!) (I assume this means demons or something?). I first heard this sentiment via Mme Blavatsky, who had been a Spiritualist medium in America before upgrading to the Masters, who I suppose were just a slightly different form of spirit. Anyway, I guess she took this distinction from Lévi.

    The concept of the “astral light” continues to fascinate me. It is tempting to psychologize it, perhaps along the lines of Henry Corbin’s imaginal world. Wikipedia’s informs us that Lévi’s astral light took its name from “Saint-Martin and the French mystics of the eighteenth century,” while the concept itself is “neither more nor less than the odylic force of Baron Carl Reichenbach” (thus A.E. Waite), and also indebted to Mesmer’s “animal magnetism.” That is, the astral light is conceived as a “subtle” substance, a kind of ether which takes (ephemeral) shape–like smoke, perhaps. In other words, not psychology!

    This gives us at least three different classes of substance–the physical world, the astral light, and whatever it is that our souls are made of (i.e. the part of us that *doesn’t* hang around to become ghosts, but goes on to Summerland, or gets reincarnated, or whatever)–of which, only the first is ordinarily detectable. And yet they interact somehow, both in the ordinary course of human life (our souls inhabit bodies) and in the context of spirit mediumship. Theosophy would later posit seven such planes, perhaps because the number seven was popular in Western (and Isma’ili) occult circles. Or perhaps we should think of it as a spectrum, a gradient. (The rainbow doesn’t really have seven colors; Newton just liked that number as well.)

    Mention of (good and evil) spirits suggests that these inhabit either the astral plane, or whatever the higher one is called. I am not sure if good and evil spirits ought to be situated on two different planes, since one is more dangerous than the other, or the same plane, since they are the same type of being.

    When Elizabeth Clare Prophet fell sick with like, three different neurological diseases, I remember thinking “Okay, maybe she *wasn’t* faking it all these years!” The idea being that channeling has some kind of energy basis, which in turn has medical effects.

    “People can apparently do this [be possessed] under certain conditions without ill effect, so long as the entity in question is far enough above the human level.” Far enough above in what way? Ethics? Power? “Frequency?” (to use the spectrum metaphor again)

  8. JMG, is necromancy and conjuring demons what the Bible is talking about when it prohibits “witchcraft “ so strongly, as opposed to, say, folk magic? It seems so to me. Getting people to stop the universal practices of folk magic seems like an awfully hard row to hoe, whereas getting people to stop the other two practices would not only be an easier project to handle, but (it seems to me) what a responsible leader would do.

    This would also explain those otherwise puzzling passages that talk about the household divination idols and such that perfectly respectable Biblical characters own and apparently use.

    Please note, folks, I ain’t a theologian! But the birthday boy is, and he knows his Scripture, so I am sure he can explain this to us.

  9. Steve, I forget which American Buddhist pointed out once that this country acts as though it’s mostly populated by pretas aka “hungry ghosts,” those miserable creatures from Buddhist legend with vast swollen bellies and necks as thin as straws, who are driven solely by incessant hunger and thirst. I suspect he could have had an interesting conversation with the Taoist adept.

    Bei, a lot of European spiritualists tried to distance themselves as far as possible from the American phenomenon, with its carnival-sideshow atmosphere. Blavatsky was indeed quoting Lévi — she drew a great deal of her earlier teachings from his books. As for the material vs. psychological basis of the astral light, er, has it occured to you that so rigid a distinction between mind and matter may be unhelpful here, and that maybe a substance that embodies thought — something that bridges the gap between psychology and physics — might solve a lot of contemporary intellectual problems?

    Your Kittenship, the Hebrew word translated “witch” in the KJV’s famous “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” is mekhashepha, and scholars are not sure what it originally meant. Some scholars trace it to a verb meaning “to cut,” others to a verb meaning “to mutter;” it might have meant “herb-cutter” and thus “poisoner,” or it might have meant “spell-mutterer.” The other prohibited forms of magic are easier to translate: yidde’oni is a spirit-summoner, an ob is a medium (i.e, “one who has a familiar spirit”), and a doresh el ha-metim is a necromancer; all those are clearly forbidden in the Old Testament, and nobody has the least doubt about what they mean.

  10. Greetings all!
    I have a lot of catching up to do with the Doctrine of High Magic but this post is very intriguing as it seems to wrap up much about the occult.

    Now for a question you wrote “worked with will, imagination, and the astral light using other means: meditation, visualization, affirmations, and more.”

    Can we know what is meant by “and more” in the above line?
    Many thanks
    Regards

  11. @Jon Goddard,

    Thank you very much for sharing your insights on the Knapp-Hall card. When I first looked at the card, I thought the triangle on the shield (sticking out above the square) represented the heads of the people sticking out of the Earth. But I researched to see what I could find out about the dollar bill triangle you referenced and learned about the Eye of Providence (the eye of God watching over humanity). Either way, though (the triangle representing the heads of man or the eye of God), the colors confused me. The square for earth, but why yellow? It is usually green.

    There are three colors on the shield. If the shield in toto represents Man, then the colors could represent body, mind, and spirit. In our current state, Man is in a physical body, which is led by passion (so fire/red). The mind is in this body (so “in” the square) (so air/yellow). The triangle is the spirit (white). (And as a sage/mage awakens, his spirit slowly rises above his body, toward the Divine?)

    Or the triangle could be the Eye of Providence, the triangle above the square representing the Divine Trinity and the part of the triangle within the square representing the Divinity within each of the Divine’s creations. We are in the Mind of the Creator (yellow), given form (the earth/square) and force (the red/fire).

    (And then I decided it could be both, as above, so below.)

    So then what is Death? The CosDoc explained several types of Death (seven, I think? I will have to do some rereading today…) The ‘as below’ version of the shield could represent Death as the Soul leaving the physical body. The ‘as above’ version of the shield could represent Death as changing planes (the bodies are still on Malkuth, but the heads are on a higher plane) (or at least trying to get to a higher plane).

    I’m going to reread that bit from CosDoc and see if I can find representations of the other types of Death on the card. I am intrigued by the golden ratio you noticed on the scythe. I am thinking there is more to the skeleton (Saturn/Kronos?) than I see right now.

  12. Book alert: A book of possible interest to the book club, and ecosophian readers in general. I’m certainly going to add it to my list. It’s nice to see some contemporary scholarship on these subjects. There is a chapter devoted to Baudelaire and Levi, so yeah, I’m in. The other chapters also look excellent.

    The Religious Revolution: The Birth of Modern Spirituality 1848-1898 by Dominic Green.

    “The late nineteenth century was an age of grand ideas and great expectations fueled by rapid scientific and technological innovation. In Europe, the ancient authority of church and crown was overthrown for the volatile gambles of democracy and the capitalist market. If it was an age that claimed to liberate women, slaves, and serfs, it also harnessed children to its factories and subjected entire peoples to its empires. Amid this tumult, another sea change was underway: the religious revolution. In The Religious Revolution, Dominic Green charts this shift, taking us on a whirlwind journey through the lives and ideas of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman; of Éliphas Levi and Helena Blavatsky; of Wagner and Nietzsche; of Marx, Darwin, and Gandhi. Challenged by the industrialization, globalization, and political unrest of their times, these figures found themselves connecting with the religious impulse in surprising new ways, inspiring others to move away from the strictures of religion and toward the thrill and intimacy of spirituality. We often link the modern era with a rise in secularism, but in this trenchant new work, Green demonstrates how the foundations of our society were laid as much by spirituality as by science or reason. The Religious Revolution is a narrative tour de force that sweeps across several continents and five of the most turbulent and formative decades in history. Threading together seemingly disparate intellectual trajectories, Green illuminates how philosophers, grifters, artists, scientists, and yogis shared in a global cultural moment, borrowing one another’s beliefs and making the world we know today.”

    Table of contents:

    Prologue: 1848: great expectations — Part I: the development hypothesis: 1848-1871 — The new Prometheus: socialism and spiritualists in the age of the machine — The stones of Venice: Ruskin and Thoreau against the juggernaut — The French revelation : Baudelaire, Levi, and the romantic occult — The descent of man: Darwin, Gobineau, and the meaning of life — The new chronology: Whitman, Huxley, and the war for the soul — The origin of the world: Wagner, Jesus, and the racial spirit — Part II: the new age: 1871-1898 Passage to India: Madame Blavatsky’s empire of theosophy — The revolt of Zarathustra: Nietzshe in Urania — the eternal return: Colonel Olcott and the modern Buddha — The will to power: Afghani’s Islamic science and other conspiracies — Culture and anarchy: The new-age education of Mohandas Gandhi — The perspectivists: Vivekananda and Herzl among the Aryans — Epilogue: 1989: the psychopathology of everyday life.

  13. ” in the process of death the soul leaves behind two cadavers, not one: a physical corpse, which is buried, and an astral corpse, which remains in existence for a certain period and then dissolves.”

    I find this idea very plausible, and what you go on to say about is far more helpful than Conan Doyle’s attempt in “The Land of Mist” to explain away the inanity of “messages from the dead” by saying (I’m paraphrasing) that being dead isn’t immediately all that much of an education.

  14. Why is Death usually symbolized as a skeleton, at least in the West? It makes me wonder whether other cultures symbolize Death in the same way.

    I guess the easy explanation is that if one stumbled across a long dead corpse, it would likely be a skeleton, and it’s probably the clearest type of corpse to draw in order to communicate death.

    A skeleton is the last thing to decompose, the barest traces of the person, with basically all its individual features long gone. I wonder what the equivalent of a skeleton is in the astral corpse? Skeletons are structural… I’m reminded of some history books: So and so lived from 1840 to 1912 in This Valley, and sold shoes for a living. Are “facts” like that about this person, as I read them, kinds of astral bones? With none of the flesh of individual details or any sense of this person’s personality and being?

  15. Karim, any book of magical training will teach you some of the “and more.” There are hundreds of different methods for working with will, imagination, and the astral light.

    Justin, interesting! I’ll see if the local library system can cough up a copy.

    Robert, the thing Doyle desperately didn’t want to admit is that being dead apparently makes people really stupid!

    Jbucks, that’s a fascinating question to which I have no answer. Anyone else?

  16. Hi JMG – some time ago I quizzed you about why the USA seemed (to me anyway) to be a kinder, gentler version of Naz! Germany (insert sarc tag). Carl Jung wrote – No, the demons are not banished; that is a difficult task that still lies ahead. Now that the angel of history has abandoned the Germans, the demons will seek a new victim. And that won’t be difficult. Every man who loses his shadow, every nation that falls into self-righteousness is their prey. We should not forget that exactly the same fatal tendency to collectivization is present in the victorious nations as in the Germans, that they can just as suddenly become a victim of the demonic powers. C.G. Jung Speaking, p. 154. My idea is that the USA brought the demons here with the German scientists and technology that they took from the defeated foe. The US certainly has the self-righteousness, we call ourselves “the indispensable nation”.

  17. @Justin Patrick Moore,

    Ooo! Thanks for the book recommendation. My library had it available as an eBook. 🙂

    @ jbucks,

    Re: skeletons, I found your question intriguing. I found this article (http://e-jsst.org/upload/jsst-6-1-1.pdf), which discusses skeleton symbolism (mostly in the context of Korean folk tales, but also some Chinese and Mexican, and a goodly dose of Jung).

    “When life, symbolized by people, encounters death, symbolized by the skeleton, there is a manifestation of the consciousness that unites the opposites. The skeleton has the symbolic power to lead to rebirth through a change in consciousness… The skeleton is spirit that has broken away from the body; it is a medium that connects life and death, and the conscious and the unconscious. The objective of confronting the unconscious is to undergo transformation, and without it the unconscious will continue to wield the same amount of influence. As “the shelter for the intellectual psyche” and the medium between death and life, the skeleton contains the symbolism of transformation.”

    @Jon Goddard,

    I reread some CosDoc at lunch today. I cannot say that I found any other representations of the seven Deaths in the card than what I already saw, but I can say that I understand what I reread much better than I did when I read it the first time. 🙂

  18. Regarding Mem: Mem is associated with water. In the context of the Death card, it could imply returning to the Marah, the Great Sea (Binah).

    The Path of Mem on the Tree of Life crosses the Veil of Paroketh. To reach Tiphareth, the sage/mage must cross that Veil. Perhaps on the card, the surface of the ground represents the Veil and some sages/mages have pierced it. And when they have sufficiently ‘grown’, Kronos will ‘harvest’ them, allowing the physical body to disperse and the Individuality to exist on a higher plane.

  19. @jbucks That is an insightful question. I don’t have the answer but it is something I will meditate on and I find your concept fascinating.

    No doubt, dinosaur bones on display are impressive but cannot convey to us the actual reality that was that beast. Even so, we ascertain facts from the bones and by thinking about them, we stimulate the astral light in some way.

    Same with the historical bones you thought of. View a gravestone and read the inscription and by thinking about the person, we stimulate the astral light in some way. These historical bones don’t flow with the astral light until they are “discovered” and are like deposits of energy. Once discovered and “mined” or thought upon, the astral light is stimulated.

  20. Danaone, please ask this on the open post in two weeks. As I noted in the post, I’m asking commenters on this comment thread to focus on the book we’re reading.

  21. This chapter reads more like a letter to a friend, than his first cryptic chapters. I appreciate the commentary you provide for context to it so I don’t miss anything in the process of thinking “its easy.”

    The last page on vampires overlaps with the discussion on the covid dreamwidth on death. Is Levi’s theory of death representative of yours? He mentions a few believe it in his time and not sure how its evolved.

    And lastly the card…I counted 3 hands and one foot, and then saw it looked like the skeleton chopped off his own foot. Thought of the saying “chopping off your nose to spite your face.” Does that help in understanding it?

    Sorry for any typos. Sometime when I put in a comment a box pops up about the gravatar picture and it covers the comment box. I can’t make it go away and so I type undercover of the pop-up box.

  22. Hi John Michael,

    Where’s everyone gotten to? 😉 Hehe!

    The dead are with us, even today. I’ve just enjoyed a Jack London story ‘The Call of the Wild’ written in 1906, and our society is a long connected continuum. And the dead exert a pressure, in a good way, in that regard at least.

    But where else does sudden insight, intuition, forewarnings, and unlooked for assistance come from? 😉

    Mate, is it just me or did I get an involuntary shiver when Lévi describes the after effect of people as a vast echo chamber? And surely there are some parallels in our current society, perhaps of similar origins? Super creepy.

    Dude, if you hang out with as$%^&*s, then it’s only a matter of time until any person, no matter how virtuous, absorbs their world-view. It is also indicative that the golden rule of do unto others, has far wider applicability.

    In relation to the card, is it just me, or is the shield depicting the rise of the undead? And unfortunately I’ve personally been to the Killing Fields of Cambodia many long years ago when that country was quiet, and the rest of the imagery of the card took an all too real meaning.

    Cheers

    Chris

  23. This entry gives me a chance to ask a question I have held for some time. I have seen you make reference to the Canadian occultist Donald Tyson before, and it was on an old blog of his that I encountered a startling assertion: not only are ghosts not the spirits of the dead, but that we know they are imposters because death is final, and no form of consciousness survives. I have never heard any sort of occultist or mystic assert this before, only materialists. The blog is long-gone, and I am now wondering whether Tyson was referring to the phenomena covered here, and that I somehow misread. Or could it be that his doctrines really did see death as oblivion, similar to 20th century materialists?

  24. Greetings!

    I felt a draw this month to break out the scythe instead of weed whacking. Syncretic to see the scythe in the tarot image!

  25. Denis, this chapter is definitely more personal! My views about death and Lévi’s certainly have some common ground, but they’re by no means identical; certainly the Cabalistic theories he uses to begin and end the discussions are not things I can agree with.

    Chris, one of the many virtues of these book club posts is that they give me one easy week a month. 😉 I think Lévi’s mistaken to think that all appearances of the dead are astral corpses or images in the astral light, though those certainly exist.

    Pingvin, Tyson was an odd duck. As far as I know he did in fact believe that death is the end of everything and no form of consciousness survives; he had a weirdly negative view of occultism — his writings on John Dee’s Enochian magic, for example, argue that the whole point of the Enochian system is to unleash evil angels who will destroy the world, and he wrote about that in distinctly gloating terms. I know a few chaos magicians who are into the same sort of quasi-materialist belief system, but that’s all — most occultists who have much experience know that they were alive before their births and will be around after their deaths.

    Matt, a fine synchronicity!

  26. JMG; I agree with Fra’ Lupo’s family tradition, not conjuring the dead sounds like eminent good sense and the same with demons.

    I wonder why every living thing fights tooth and nail to stay that way. Is it just evolutionary programming or is it something else that accounts for it? It’s like Neander Wallace said in 2049, the clay fights to preserve itself even before it understands what it is.

    Is it just fear of non-existence? Or is it what awaits on the other side? Because maybe what awaits is really nasty. But how would we know enough to fear it? No clue.

    I had two female relatives (sisters) in the old country, both now deceased. When the mother-in-law of one of them fell extremely ill, the other went to fetch her sibling. As they returned to the house, they saw a black, cat-like creature on the roof with a very long tail, with its mouth wide open and a long, red tongue. When they got inside the house, the mother in law had expired, her mouth gaping. What did they see on the roof? Beats me but they both saw it.

    My old-country grandfather was a practical man who had no patience for the preachings and predations of the Church. He made fun of my grandmother and other village women that went to mass every Sunday and who fervently believed what the priest told them.

    But my grandfather recounted to me that he heard his dead father’s voice when he was working in the barn. It told him that Hell is a very bad place where people suffer so be good in this life.

    After my dad died I went to visit my mother in the house that they’d lived in for a long time. I was sitting alone one night in the living room when I saw my father wearing his favourite, zip-up sweater coming into my field of view. When I turned my head towards him, the moving image disappeared like a soap bubble popping. Did it scare me? No.

    A couple months later I was alone in the basement where my dad had his workshop when an overpowering, bone-shaking, teeth-rattling dread came over me. I looked around and saw nothing but the usual items. And I skeedaddled out as fast as I could. A very unpleasant experience. So what on earth was that all about?

    Very odd happenings in other words but things that the greatly learned in the sciences would wearily dismiss as coming from stress and grief etc. They can say what they like. They don’t know everything.

    As for me I trust my own eyes and my own gut. Did I see my dad? I saw something but it sure wasn’t my dad. As for that momentary deep freeze in the basement I have no idea whatever about that. Maybe someone else can explain it.

  27. JMG,

    I’m wondering, if our goal is to master (or at least to use) the astral light, the reason it is corrosive to view aerial corpses? I say view, vice contact, since what remains from the deceased in the astral light are only images.

    My question is even if someone only views images and is lucky enough not to come into contact with the “man that lived in crime” whose astral corpse continues to “search for objects of his passion” why is it still corrosive?

    I can understand that the “criminal” corpses are “the larvae of dead or dying substances” but my thought was that an image shouldn’t be so harmful? ***

    Also as someone that has a pretty solid case of tinnitus, I’m wondering about Levi’s statement: “..ordinarily they cannot communicate except through the ringing in our ears produced by the nervous trembling which I have spoken of…”(nervous trembling I can’t find his reference).

    I’m pretty certain that any tinnitus I’m suffering from is due to a misspent youth smoking bowls and blasting Sabbath’s Killing Yourself to Live but wondering if those that have tinnitus have something to think about?

    *** FYI, I have no desire to practice necromancy in any form.

  28. JMG

    And I missed your reply to Chris before I posted:

    “I think Lévi’s mistaken to think that all appearances of the dead are astral corpses or images in the astral light, though those certainly exist.”

    Maybe the answer to my question I just asked is that practicing necromancy puts one in touch to more than just images….

  29. Hungry American ghosts reminded me of verses:
    “Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding
    Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind…”

    Ever since I read McCarthy’s Blood Meridian I’ve felt that that is the true, hidden history – and thus foundation – of America. Wild West forever. I wonder how far does that influence really reach… and how to reconcile in the end.

  30. Hi John Michael,

    To be honest, after reading your reply, I am scratching my head wondering how the dissolving of an astral corpse fits into reincarnation? It all seems a bit final, and candidly, the process of reincarnation better fits the facts on the ground, but maybe I’m missing something here. Anyway, I’m out of my depth in this discussion.

    Tell ya a funny story though. Just before the craziness with the health subject which dares not be named, two 12 week old puppies came into my life. What became immediately obvious was that even at 12 weeks, and that is very young for a dog to be weaned, their personalities were hard wired – they stood out to me. And what has interested me about the dogs journey over the past two and a bit years, is that they’ve built upon what was already there in terms of their personalities and skills. Where will they go next time around? A good Shaman would read what was there and then work upon that. Is that healing, or is it development, or maybe a mixture of both? Dunno.

    Cheers

    Chris

  31. AI = artificial astral corpse?

    Bear with me as I retrace the connection, summarizing of a series of meditations. I noticed that the symptoms Levi describes afflicting necromancers appear identical to what, I speculated a few years back, seems to happen to almost all individuals whose images in print or video are replicated by the tens of millions or more. I connected that to First Nations (among others’) beliefs that photographs can “steal your soul” but speculated that nowadays a single or even few hundred thousand images aren’t enough to have much effect. (Apparently I’m not the only one to suggest something like this.) What I couldn’t figure out was how the causality actually connects, though that link suggests one possible factor.

    Just last week I became aware of the career a very popular YouTube performer. Until I watched one of his videos, not only his channel but his entire genre, consisting of very widely popular young YouTube stars undertaking weird creative stunts and challenges (sometimes for themselves, sometimes for others in the manner of reality TV show hosts), had been entirely off my radar. It was obvious that the single less-than-20-minute video I was watching must have had a production budget in the millions of dollars. Curious about the economics of this, I read about the channel’s background and watched a sampling of the channel’s videos over the years.

    Here’s what it looks like to me: over the course of the performer’s later teens and early 20s, as the popularity and the budget of the channel steadily increased, the productions and stunts became more elaborate but also have taken on a vaguely disturbing quality that’s hard to put my finger on. (My wife is more sensitive to it; she won’t watch them at all.) At the same time, along with increasing popular acclaim and increasingly showy random acts of philanthropy, there have been perhaps-not-so-surprising reports of behind-the-scenes stressed atmosphere and mistreatment of staff at the channel.

    Becoming a top YouTube channel depends more than anything else on one thing: being agreeable to The Algorithm that chooses which videos to suggest to viewers who visit the channel. The Algorithm is an intractably complex AI that is not designed by or fully understood by any human; it evolves via competition between incrementally varied alternate versions, selected for survival based on whose suggestions result in more views. Similarly to how biological evolution gathers and embodies information from the environment, The Algorithm gathers and reflects information from its users, meaning it exists and operates very close to the human level. Unlike the classic malign wish-granting demon or genie, it doesn’t you what you asked for instead of what you want. It’s trick is different: it gives you what your actions and choices say you want instead of what you ask for.

    So, to have gotten where he is and have his image replicated billions of times, our initially creative charismatic teen influencer has to have constantly interacted with The Algorithm and, by choice or accident, given it what it wanted. Is this an analogy for goetia, or could it be the thing itself?

    In different milieux and earlier times, there’s no AI algorithm, but no one became (for instance) a dictator or a mega-celebrity by chance or hard work alone. There’s always been a “system” of one form or another, originating very close to the human level, that demands the sacrifices and allocates the rewards. That could explain the hazard they appear to all have in common.

  32. @RandomActsOfKarma:

    Thanks for the reply and for the link to that paper about the skeleton symbolism! I can see the connections with the Death Tarot as in this chapter, here the skeleton is engaging in that act of transformation. Perhaps there is that alchemical connection – the skeleton is dissolving / separating with the scythe. I still need to think on it.

    @Scotty:

    That makes sense! And the dinosaur bones is a great example in terms of the amount of imaginative activity that those bones have inspired in scientists and children alike. I need to think about this more, too.

  33. Delightfully spooky post, JMG. One of my favourite genres to read when I was growing up was “true Canadian ghost stories”: I’ll tell you, there were a LOT of such books in my local public library! Of course, my interest was stimulated by the fact that literally every second house in my old Celtic-stock town was haunted and that my ‘fey’ mother had a lot of personal ghost experiences living in my town (looking back, I can honestly say that she was my town’s informal ghost-hunter [who did not dispatch her ‘prey’]). So, you can say that the subject has been a life-long interest of mine – though one which I have kept at arms-length. (And, yes, I have quite a lot of personal true ghost stories, though I never sought out the spooks; I guess there’s some truth to the folk-belief about those who are born with a cowl)

    Mediumship is one thing which I was never attracted to. When I was 13, one of my sisters bought “Seth Speaks”; I read it and judged the phenomenon to be dubious. Then later, in the mid-late ‘80s there was some American woman with the last name “Knight” who was channelling some Great Soul (I don’t recall the details): hearing about the drivel she was channelling I thought, “meh”, and when I found out that she was buying race horses with the vast wealth that she was amassing through her fame and I though, “good Gods, this is going to end badly”.

    After several years of near-isolation in my own strict spiritual practices, I ended up befriending three latter-day hippies in the mid-80s and hung around them to find out about the whole ‘new age thing’ (to satisfy my curiosity). The leader of the hippy-trio was a student of some Massachusetts-based trance medium of some repute. I listened to some declarations of this ‘guru’ and had a hearty inward laugh (I’m still waiting for the very young star Sirius to go supernova, as per the prediction that it would do so in 1990). Then, in ’87, the hippy-leader decided to get into the trance-medium biz, as the three of them were practically living hand-to-mouth. In no time, he developed quite the clientele and was rolling in the dough. Out of curiosity, I asked his ‘guide’ a few questions and was not impressed by the answers. But I did not get a “whoa, this dude is channeling demons – get the hell out of here” feeling; rather it was a feeling of “this dude doesn’t really know what he is doing even though he’s been into this stuff for 20 years; I hope this does not spell his downfall”. Within two years, he had died of a truly horrible affliction.

    This is a long way of saying that I agree 100% with your sentences, “Mediums who claim to be in touch with great philosophers and mystics routinely embarrass themselves by being unable to give voice to anything other than vacuous platitudes” and “Spiritualist mediums and ancient necromancers alike make contact with images in the astral light, some of which are simply reflections of the person made while still living, and some of which have a grimmer origin”. These are rock-solid statements.

    Though New Age has pretty much crashed and burned, I strongly suspect that in coming decades – especially as the Religion of Progress loses its adherents – people in search of spiritual truths, the meaning of life, etc., will wade into the ‘kiddie pool’ of spiritual mediumship. I do hope that it doesn’t catch on like wildfire, but given the spiritual ignorance and superficiality of North American society as a whole (I hope this does not sound arrogant; I am simply comparing them to other cultures that I know well), I am not all that confident that such a situation will not manifest.

    Your thoughts on the future of trance-mediumship, JMG?

  34. Mister, well, to begin with, every living thing doesn’t fight tooth and nail to stay that way. Lots of male spiders and praying mantises eagerly have sex, even though it’s going to end with their being eaten by their partners. Lots of young men run crazy risks in the same spirit. (I had a friend years ago who worked in a facility that treated head injuries; the number of late teen-early twentysomething guys brought in with their brains mashed through some astoundingly stupid act was impressive.) As for your ghost stories, yep — something like a third of the population have witnessed things like that. They’re normal. I discuss all this in quite a bit of detail in my book Monsters.

    Scotty, exactly. Practicing necromancy involves encounters with things that aren’t just images, and they’re not healthy to be around.

    Goran, my gut feeling for years is that we’ll resolve that after the current inhabitants of the continent go through the same kind of horror that was inflicted on the native peoples. Not pleasant to contemplate, I know.

    Chris, the astral corpse isn’t the soul, it’s just another of the soul’s bodies. Part of the process of coming into incarnation is constructing a new astral body as a vessel for the soul. As for the puppies, of course. Mozart didn’t suddenly pick up a violin for the first time ever and become a concert player by the age of seven; he was building on skills and talents he’d spent many previous lives developing. The puppies did the same. (Though I’d be impressed if they can play the violin.)

    Walt, sounds like goetia to me!

    Ron, ghosts are extremely common. The research I did for my book Monsters showed that something like a quarter of all people have seen at least one — though some people, and some ethnicities, are more sensitive than others. As for channeled entities, well, yes; I’m convinced they appeal to a mass market precisely because they simply rehash familiar platitudes in a slightly woo-woo vein. I expect to see trance mediumship become popular at intervals for quite some time, though each of those intervals will wind up promptly in the usual way once too many people figure out that the spirits most mediums contact don’t offer good advice.

  35. Ron, and Sirius isn’t even massive enough to become supernova; at the end of his life he will balloon to a red giant, shed his outer layers and end as a white dwarf, like his partner, Sirius B.

  36. RandomActsofKarma,

    I didn’t even think of the colors. Thanks for adding your thoughts. I’m still very confused on colors. Several sources have different opinions. Do you have a good source on colors?

    I go to this website for tarot interpretation, too. She’s quite good and her interpretations resemble Eden Gray’s. She has a section on color and maybe it’s good?

    https://www.buildingbeautifulsouls.com/symbols-meanings/color-psychology-symbolism-meanings/

  37. I wonder what he means when he says, “When a man renounces from early childhood his love for women, he renders the wife who was destined for him a slave to the demons of debauchery.”

    This sounds very similar to what Jung would say about anima possession (or animus possession for the case of a woman.) If a man doesn’t find a woman to project his anima onto, then he cannot integrate it? I don’t think this is completely true. I’ve met some pretty well-integrated gay people.’

    But maybe, regardless of projection, refusal to integrate the opposite within you will result in difficulties. And those difficulties will cause problems, especially if you start working with magic?

  38. I am very interested in the discussion about what exactly the astral light is, how it is a substance (for some reason I think of a play-doh-like substance but transparent and without form) and and how both we and the dead “imprint” on this substance and how long it might take for an astral body to dissolve.

    If I may tell you a somewhat long tale that relates to this, I can explain why this interests me.

    My mother died 4 years ago at home by taking her life through starvation. She was a full narcissist who imagined herself a holy saint, and she enacted a theatrical production of a holy martyrdom death, possibly because she thought it might speed up her canonization. Believe me, no one is pushing for her canonization.

    For months after her death, my father burned stuff, part of the endless hoard my mother had accumulated, and he never did get to the end. About 7 months later, he had a collapse and moved in with my sister, who lives next door.

    The old farmhouse stood empty, still cluttered with stuff, and eventually, desperate for space, I began using it as a warehouse for my book business. No one else in the family had any use for it. As I went about my affairs in the house, I sensed the tormented being who was my mother when she was alive still there. I remembered what you (JMG) said about people who took their lives lingering on until the time they would have died had they not taken their lives.

    I learned when very young to disengage from her, block her and never let my guard down, and continued this after she died. If I felt her presence, I firmly shut down any possible contact. I simply refused to play the game.

    What matters here is that the house itself was imprinted with almost 50 years of her being here. Absolutely everything in and part of the house was permeated with something of her character, probably the result of the total control she insisted on having over everything and everyone. Since the house exists on the astral plane, I believe all her thoughts, emotions, words and actions in this house were still imprinted there, and I could not be in the house without being acutely aware of it. I knew it was partly what I was projecting onto it from my own memories, but I think most of it was coming from the other side. I think she continued to imprint on the astral house.

    This continued for two years, and then something shifted. The ghosts went away, the past meanings attached to everything let go, whatever had been hanging over this house dissipated. What had been, came to an end. Now it’s just an old house that needs a gutting and renovation. The stuff is just stuff to be dealt with. But more than that, I now feel here a deep peace that springs from a much older time, from deep in the soil, in the trees, the fields, the air. I find myself so completely relaxed I’m sometimes peacefully drowsy.

    This place is simply beautiful, despite the derelict buildings. The black locust trees that line the laneway had an incredible bloom this year. There is a loud hum coming from them, where thousands of bees of all sizes, from bumblebees down to the tiny ground bees, drunk on the lovely scent, glut on nectar. The deer sleep on the lawn in the nests they make in the long grass. The birds and squirrels are everywhere, as are snakes and frogs, bugs and visiting cats.

    My dad has sold me the house and 29 acres and I am tasked with the renovations needed so I can move in. I imagine that what I do here will leave on the astral house its own imprint and I hope it will be a legacy of peace, healing, and welcome. I hope that the astral light, like play-doh, can be reshaped.

  39. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for the explanation. Also for the warning. I’ve always had an inner distaste and discomfort for things such as seances. The act of such practices gives me the creeps. But, if other people want to give it a go, that’s there issue, but I’ve felt that the state is too open and vulnerable. Even the strongest will would have trouble fighting against that which they let in, after all it was an act of will to go there in the first place. And stronger wills may possibly attract a stronger consequence – that’s a wild guess and I’d be curious as to your thoughts in this matter?

    As to the future population decline, which was sort of discussed above, as far as I understand matters, that’s a done deal, sorry to say. Basic literacy and understanding of the very things which support our civilisation are not well understood – despite them being relatively simple concepts – and when they do get discussed the pervasive lies makes me scratch my head and wonder as to how such a dishonest response could even come to be. But my understanding of that perspective really plays no difference in the outcome, which will be the same. Of course, understanding is only but the first step and I hold the belief that many will not even bother going that far.

    Cheers

    Chris

  40. Ron, I probably saw a ghost once, though it could have been something else disguised as an elderly black lady in a blue house dress. I think she was likely to be a ghost because there were a couple of old folks homes in the area, so lots of people dying. In the daytime, I was coming down the service road and she was walking alongside it, facing me. I was looking right at her, getting ready to wave, when she vanished. Even if an elderly lady were agile, there were no signs, buildings, trees, ir bushes for her to duck behind.

  41. Each month when it’s time for a new High Magic chapter, I sit down and make a list of words that start with the letter associated with the card being studied. I write down the first words that come to mind, then sit quietly until more words start to bubble up. Sometimes I’m stuck, but later I’ll come across a word while reading or a new word just pops into my head. I’m often surprised by the connections and meditation topics that come from this list.

    This month two of the more interesting words that came up were “naked” and “nightingale.”

    Naked: in ancient mystery cult rituals, a special garment was sometimes put on. This garment could symbolize the astral body.

    “In the ancient mysteries, the festive garment plays an important role, as the celestial garment of the glorified celestial body, which the mystic puts on. It signified the glorified resurrection after death, the state of full enlightenment through the Gnosis and of becoming one with the Deity; at the same time, it meant a metasomatosis, a complete transformation. Therefore, in order for the mystic in this initiation to receive the glorified celestial garment of light, he must first remove and tear up his garment of earthly materialness ….” Marie Louise Von Franz, Niklaus von Flue and Saint Perpetua: A Psychological Interpretation of Their Visions.

    Nightingale: I found a hardcover copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories last week at a thrift store ($1). In “The Nightingale,” the nightingale’s song represents natural beauty and the power of the natural world to awaken authentic human feeling, which can transcend death (like reflections in the astral light). The bird’s song and his tender feeling for the king, who is restored to life and sheds tears when he hears the nightingale sing, contrasts with the apparent perfection of the artificial mechanical bird, who despite its gold and jewels, eventually breaks and cannot sing. The feeling quality of the relationship between the king and the natural bird hints at the mystery of the union between spirit and nature, which is the fruit of conscious life.

    Speaking of artificial mechanical things,

    WALT: thanks for your interesting comment about AI and your example of YouTube algorithms. My observation is that both YouTube “suggestions” and Google search results seem to operate on the principle of engineered distraction. Not what I want, but what it thinks I might be even a tiny bit curious about. Thus the algorithm determines the choices that are offered to my attention, shaping my focus (or lack of it). This is happening on a massive collective scale. I think of it as a version of “the ghost in the machine.”

    MYRIAM: Thank you for that beautiful and inspiring story.

  42. @Jon Goddard,

    For the colors for the elements, I use the colors that AODA uses in the Sphere of Protection. In JMG’s Paths of Wisdom, he lists the colors of each Sphere in each World.

    As far as a source for color correspondences, I have Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences (by Sandra Kynes) (https://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738732534). I haven’t read the entire book, but the parts I have read, I like. (And JMG’s “Natural Magic” book is in her references/bibliography. 🙂 ) IIRC, she doesn’t have a section just on colors (though she might); rather, she has the color correspondences within categories (like colors of elements, colors of chakras, etc.)

    I am not familiar with the buildingbeautifulsouls website; I shall enjoy exploring it. Thanks!

  43. On Ghosts.
    I don’t think I have experienced any ghosts, except perhaps for the footsteps of my cat who, for several days after his death, retraced his usual path to sleep on my bed.
    I work for a company which does ghost tours in Providence. Many of my colleagues in the PMC scoff at the existence of ghosts, at least in the company of others. But when they’re alone with me, and they realize I’m not going to laugh at their experiences, the tales come out.
    My favorite was at a barbecue several years ago, where the ghost tour business was mocked, until another guest spoke up about the many hauntings he had experienced in one former home. Marco was respected, and had climbed high in the PMC in various businesses. He told of slamming chests, doors opening and closing on their own, and one particular room they used for a guest bedroom, which several friends had felt a presence which scared them witless. Marco generally did not get repeat requests to host these people… As long as it was those people, it was safe to mock them for their superstitions. Once a member of the PMC spoke up in public, time to hold your tongue until he’s safely not in the room (or yard, in my case).

  44. @Goldenhawk, that’s a good characterization.

    If it’s not too ironic to link to a YouTube video on the subject, there’s a three-minute comedy sketch by Viva La Dirt League that amusingly but accurately illustrates exactly that behavior, in this case about the TikTok algorithm. It can be found here.

    For those who don’t watch video (or who don’t follow links), an actor seated at a desk in an otherwise empty white room portrays a representative of the TikTok video selection algorithm. Another actor representing a typical user arrives and tries to convince the service to stop showing him videos of “sexy dancing ladies” all the time. The representative keeps pointing out, “but the algorithm says you DO look at them when it shows them to you!” At first it seems that the representative just doesn’t understand the request but by the end he’s laughing demonically (really), while the room fills with actual sexy dancing ladies.

    Many of the comments acknowledge both the humor of the portrayals and the seriousness of the issue being illustrated.

  45. @Princess Cutekitten: thanks for the ghost story! Looks like you very well may have seen one.

    I strongly suspect that a lot of people have seen a ghost or two in their lives and either never realize it or only realize it later because the experience was so ordinary (excepting, perhaps, one small detail). My first ghost experience – which was purely auditory (musical) on a remote, uninhabited island – was like that. I’ll never forget the smile my dad gave me when a week after the incident I ‘figured it out’ (he had deliberately neglected to tell me the legend of the island’s “flute playing ghost”).

  46. @Mister #26: regarding your dreadful basement story, I’m not sure if JMG classifies this as a ‘ghost’ experience but I, for one, do not. They feel so different from the usual ghost experience. The occasional ‘basement’ experience that both I and one of my sisters have had (independently) felt distinctly non-human and triggered instinctual feelings of fear and vulnerability. These creepy basement feelings can come out of the blue and last only a minute or two and perhaps never happens again in the same basement. (The haunted basement that I once, briefly, lived in did not have the same feeling.) I suspect that from time to time earth-spirits briefly enter some basements for reasons that are known only to them. I make no claim to be an expert on such matters but am relying on my own family’s experiences and impressions.

  47. On the colors thing, this may or may not be related, but this book

    https://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Body-History-Western-Blavatsky/dp/0892542195

    traces the history of Western chakra systems, including the point where the chakras got assigned colors (via Alice Bailey, I think). Realizing that ritual magic and post-Theosophical traditions have mostly diverged, there must be some cross-pollination by way of New Age bookstores and such, or possibly common ancestors in the Western esoteric tradition.

    ————–

    Jon Goddard (no. 37), I would resist the notion that each of us has exactly one man / woman whom God or fate has intended to be our partner.

    ————–

    Goldenhawk (no, 41), are you aware of the Persian “nightingale and the rose” themed poems / stories?

    https://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/gol-o-bolbol

    No relation to the Oscar Wilde short story:

    http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/NigRos.shtml

  48. Jon, that’s a traditional Jewish Cabalistic belief. Traditional Judaism, if I understand correctly, considers celibacy to be a sin; every human being is destined to marry somebody, and if you don’t, you’re leaving your destined spouse a playground for the class of demons that like to play games with people’s unused sexual energy. That said, you could doubtless read the same thing in a Jungian sense as well.

    Myriam, that’s a fascinating story, and it makes perfect sense in magical terms. Yes, the astral light can certainly be reshaped; that’s the whole reason for practicing magic, and of course there are many other ways to do the same thing as well. As far as exactly what the astral light is, that’s a very good question that I don’t think anyone can answer yet. Try getting a grant to do the research!

    Chris, exactly. If you invite something in, getting it out again can be a real problem! As for population decline, no question, we’re headed that way in a hurry; the only question is the mechanism. I’ve got my own suspicions, but we’ll see.

    Goldenhawk, hmm! I like that; it strikes me as a very useful help to meditation. Thank you.

    Great Khan, the funny thing is that surveys have repeatedly found that your chance of having experienced a ghost or other nonphysical being goes up, not down, with increasing education. People with advanced degrees reliably see them more often than people who stopped after high school…

    Bei, interesting. Thanks for this.

  49. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for confirming my suspicions, but I have always had an ook factor with, I guess you’d call such things as seances, necromancy. And I’d wondered about the origins of my internal warnings too. Hmm. Anyway, it seems a bit risky to me, open to whatever, and with no protections or training. But if people want to do such things, it is no business of mine.

    As to the other discussion, well you know my thoughts as to the mechanism, and I have a vague idea as to yours, and time will sort it all out. Dude, it was never going to work any which way because of the faulty basis for the underpinnings, which was fossil fuels.

    Just for your interest, it’s been the cloudiest run of two weeks here that I can recall. Twice now I have had to run the petrol generator to put a bit of charge into the batteries. I keep daily records about this stuff, and have done so for a dozen years, and yeah unusual. In the past, generally there have been about three or maybe four cloudy days, and then the sun will reappear, but not this year. Ook! Oh well.

    Cheers

    Chris

  50. “if I understand correctly, considers celibacy to be a sin; every human being is destined to marry somebody, and if you don’t, you’re leaving your destined spouse a playground for the class of demons that like to play games with people’s unused sexual energy.”

    –Papa G: WOW!nan interesting thing to say now in this world where the people who hate and are afraid of romance vulnerability and sex with others are collectively curled inward and doting on their mucous excretions!!!

    x

    erika

  51. Thanks, JMG, regarding the Jewish Cabalism. Since Levi was also a Catholic, where celibacy is no problem, I’ll have to think about why he added that part to the chapter.

    It also adds another dimension to the Jesus/Mary Magdalene relationship. Was she tormented by demons until she met Jesus? Is this a reference somehow to a marriage between the two? Mind blown.

  52. Great Khan, what are the duties of an architect at a ghost-tour company? Is it a fun place to work?

    JMG, did the ghost survey include autodidacts, and, if so, where’d we fall? I’d guess we’d be about halfway between the high school graduates and the college graduates.

  53. Bei Dawei

    Thank you for calling my attention to the nightingale/rose theme in Persian literature and art!

    Here’s something that came up in connection:

    https://rumiscircle.com/2014/02/16/keats-ode-to-a-nightingale-in-light-of-rumi/

    “…the visionary world the poet has glimpsed is not the world of fantasy which we all experience through the daydreams of our egos, but an objective world the Sufis call alami mithal, ‘the world of the image’. In the West, it is what medieval mystics referred to as the mundus imaginalis, and shamans from various traditional societies seem to refer to it when they speak of travelling in the dream world. …Henry Corbin called this higher reality the ‘imaginal realm’ and it has also been called the ‘active imagination’.

    Mevlevi shaikh, Kabir Helminski, describes it as:

    “…a level of reality in which “meanings” are embodied as images which have a kind of autonomous existence. The imaginal world is an “interworld” in which visions, which are simultaneously meanings, are experienced by a psycho-spiritual faculty, the active imagination, or what Sufis would simply call the “heart.”

    Seems like the astral light fits in here somewhere.

  54. The idea that a life “lived in crime” can trap you in your Astral corpse is somewhat genius in terms of negative reinforcement. Searching out alcohol vapors, spilled blood and such until these vices become monsters that devour you and kill you forever is certainly an idea more horrifying than picturing old beezlebus prodding you into the fire lake.

    In regards to Levi’s experience with Appolonious;
    Appollonious appeared in form as sad and sickly. Levi was not consciously aware Applonious ever existed in this state until after the ritual. Levi also notes the personage of Appolonious he experienced was partially a result of intoxication of the imagination.
    It reads as though Levi opened up a wide door to what westerners understand as the subconscious. The realm of the subconscious potentially includes it seems the echoes of the Astral corpses that may even speak of memories of the souls life. So we can harvest from this deep ocean of information if we want to put our lives at risk.
    I guess a reason to do this might be to recover source material from old spiritual traditions, but then Levi notes that the Astral corpses of humans close to divine simply burn away like incense and those that aren’t entirely purified will eventually be burned by the Astral light. So really the Mage does not seem to have an option to call on souls that would have the greatest resources, like trying to meet Hermes for example, unless the experience really was entirely imaginative. We could never actually meet Hermes perhaps.. These folks that claim they are channeling Arch Angel Michael, past masters ect.are chanelling what really? Perhaps this is just a device to sell and teach a tradition to the public.

  55. @ Walt F

    That skit reminds me of the Temptation of Christ with Big Tech in the role of Satan.

    By the way, the same techniques are used in fields as diverse as web site design, computer game design, K-Pop and air freshener scents. Capitalism has been hijacking the subconscious for decades now.

  56. I usually only comment on the Economic/Environment/Geo-Politcal biweekly blogs.... but this is worth noting says:

    Ummm JMG when you answered Jon’s question…. “that’s a traditional Jewish Cabalistic belief. Traditional Judaism, if I understand correctly, considers celibacy to be a sin; every human being is destined to marry somebody, and if you don’t, you’re leaving your destined spouse a playground for the class of demons that like to play games with people’s unused sexual energy. That said, you could doubtless read the same thing in a Jungian sense as well.”

    I’m still a virgin at 30 and I’ve definitely got some of those demons kicking around. The thought has crossed my mind that the transsexual phenomenon and “reaching for the dick saw.” as Bill Maher said in his talk show last week, is a result of all these young men never having had any sexual experience. I run. I’m in damn good shape. There is no reason for it.

    I’ve been saying for a while you need to start a dating service here. Problem is you invite above male demons in…. And it’s been pretty much proven 10% of men are having 95% the sex today. See collapse of civilization.

  57. Trying to fall asleep now and can’t stop thinking about this comment.

    “Jon, that’s a traditional Jewish Cabalistic belief. Traditional Judaism, if I understand correctly, considers celibacy to be a sin; every human being is destined to marry somebody, and if you don’t, you’re leaving your destined spouse a playground for the class of demons that like to play games with people’s unused sexual energy. That said, you could doubtless read the same thing in a Jungian sense as well.”

    The problem is women have unrealistic expectations. 6 foot tall guy, six inch hammer, six figure income. The problem is society treats all women today like princesses. And the concept of being a diary maid, or touching reality never enters into women’s minds.

  58. JMG, just wanted to let you know that I can’t get on to your dreamwidth blog. It’s ecosophia.dreamwidth.org, right?

  59. Chris, ook indeed. Well, if the rainfall’s picking up, future residents of your end of Australia might be able to do quite a bit more with hydroelectric power…

    Erika, keep in mind I didn’t say I agreed with that!

    Jon, Lévi’s use of Jewish Cabalistic ideas is complex, and so is his relationship to celibacy — remember that he bowed out of a promising career in the Catholic clergy because he realized he wasn’t cut out for a celibate life.

    Your Kittenship, good question. The surveys I’ve seen didn’t ask about that.

    Ian, those people who claim to be channeling archangels, ascended masters, and the like generally produce the most vacuous sort of pablum, so whatever they’re channeling, I think it’s a safe bet that it’s not even on the upper end of the human scale! The thing to keep in mind is that we don’t need to spend time with the souls of the recently human dead; the universe of occultism is full of beings, including many who are far wiser and more powerful than human beings, and many of those are available for a chat…

    Usually, yes, I’m aware of the miserable time many young men are having these days when it comes to relationships; I wish I had a solution in mind, but unfortunately the gospel of entitlement has been especially popular among women in recent years — “What do you mean I can’t have everything I want??? I deserve it!!!” is embarrassingly common, and many of ’em don’t figure out until late in life that that’s just another sales pitch for the status quo.

    Lydia, hmm. Yes, that’s the correct address, and I just cut-and-pasted it into my browser and had the site come up. Not sure what to say, other than try again in a couple of hours.

  60. Bei,

    Thanks for the color info. Also, with regards to the one man/one woman notion, I am only seeing it through the Jungian lens, but there is much to think about in terms of polarities.

  61. @ Princess Cutekitten #53: The duties of an architect at a ghost tour company are to drive the boat, of course. It’s a delightful place to work. I have a second career as a tour boat Captain & guide, and we do joint tours with a local Ghost Tour company.
    As to your question to JMG about autodidacts, I have a college degree, but I consider myself an autodidact, since I have spent most of my adult life learning lots of things my formal education never touched on. I suspect most autodidacts are more willing to accept the reality of ghosts, since we are trying to learn for ourselves rather than accept what we’re told. This community is a prime example.

  62. Thanks, JMG for taking the time out for this book club! I was listening to a lecture by Steve Bass, who studies Sacred Geometry. He mentioned that the Golden Ratio is the multiplicity returning to the one. That would seem to make sense with the handle of the scythe being divided with the Golden Ratio. We return for a short time to the one?

    I started to think about the material plane and how we move upwards through different planes as we grow wiser. I just had the assumption that we give up this plane completely. But that can’t be true. If the Sun is a being of tremendous power and wisdom, then it should be beyond the material plane. But yet, here it is. Does the Sun make a sacrifice by returning to this plane?

  63. @Thinking (#59):

    You wrote:

    “The problem is women have unrealistic expectations. 6 foot tall guy, six inch hammer, six figure income. The problem is society treats all women today like princesses. And the concept of being a diary maid, or touching reality never enters into women’s minds.”

    This certainly is not true of the women I know, young or old. Most of them are quite willing to work at less-than-ideal jobs if that’s what it takes to support themselves, and work quite hard to make their life better and more rewarding.

    What they are not willing to do, very often, is to put up with any bull-shale whatever in any area of their private lives, and especially in their relationships.

    The young women I talked to during the last two decades of my undergraduate teaching at Brown University generally described the great majority of their contemporary college-age men as not real grown-ups at all–not even close to being real grown-ups. They seem to the young women to be aging adolescents who are disinclined to take much responsibility for their own lives and actions, let alone the lives of their hypothetical wives and children. In the past, women might have been willing (they say) to settle for such unsatisfactory men for the sake of having sex and children in their lives, but nowadays children are not the best source of satisfaction a woman can find. And–to be quite blunt–a few of the more outspoken, candid young women I have talked with over the years have said with considerable emphasis that sex with their own sex toys is usually more exciting and enjoyable than sex with such a young man. So why settle, they ask?

    Indeed, why settle? strikes me to be a very good question for any young person to ask about anything in their private lives.

  64. no, i wasn’t saying (or caring) if you agreed with that belief about repressed sexuality– i was seeing the extreme self absorption and all the ancillary effects, as an equivalent to all this repressed sexuality that seems to eternally lope lurk and limp alongside the liberal elite existential caterwaul.

    i haven’t anything much more to say on it, just that Anna Freud being a life-long virgin and thinking she has anything to teach us or how to FIX us… to today: there’s a profound sexlessness with all the overt and even i’d readily admit– “inappropriate”–SEX today.

    all the obsessions with bodily functions and fluids seem to be RELATED to inverted sexual desire and left people children fascinated with their #2s in the potty.

    erika

  65. re John Michael Greer “Papa G” starting a dating service! i smiled. yes. that’s why i want so much to START something in the real that’s local and also travels or tours, to get us to meet each other and have that village of support it takes to simply MEET EACH OTHER that no longer exists.

    Papa G- so true – didn’t realize the princess “be what’s on my LIST!” was another pitch for the status quo! women have been taught it’s more than enough to have the soft warm squishy thing and whenever they come to me for tips on how to break through to a man, they end up using it to manipulate and never do the task of opening up themselves to be vulnerable so realized i was accumulating bad karma and telling them secrets based on my own NEED and desire to be a maternal crazy auntie mame type to SOMEONE.

    but yes. this isn’t a small problem because i am also surrounded by amazing men who’re broken hearted and getting more cold by the years. it’ll take some work to counter this but it’s part of my job in this new world, new era. it’s part of the reason i want to start a “thing” with real people because that’s how it oughta’ be done: through play and invention and talk and arguments and helping each other stay through difficult times because relationships are a lot of work and we’re not supported in how to hash things out. we’re encouraged to pitch a fit have an attitude and leave with the most searing exit lines (hard to come back from well without getting abusive or twisted).

    it’s what i’m trying to court on the dreamwidth. make zines with commenters involved so they feel vested in whatever “this” is we’re doing making creating building. we’re not JUST commenters. we’re MAGES!

    (huge smile)

    so yes. that’s my specialty and my JOB: trying to connect us eventually. but i’ve gotta do our oxygen mask first. but this is what i’m working in the BACKGROUND: Ecosophia LOVE!

    x

    erika

  66. i also have a theory regarding those 10% of men who’re having sex and how HORRIBLE it is in reality, and how just CUDDLING a woman platonically and getting to know her would blow her MIND. / young women are confused and will lurch into having casual then rage against the guy for it being casual but she just MET him and the man is confused and SHE is hella confused.

    part of what i’ve gotta do as an artist is show women, young women, IT’S OKAY TO BE VULNERABLE AND JUST BE FRIENDLY AND AWKWARD WITH A MAN AND NOT KNOW ANYTHING.

    the young women i’ve been around think bitch face is sexy and all they’ve gotta do is stand still and WAIT. it’s still very passive. way MORE passive than the so-called restrictive 1940s.

    before i’m outta here i’m trying to pitch a different kind of romantic WOMAN who loves men even if she’s a life-long LESBIAN. truth is most of the real lesbians (not the late-in-life ‘changed my mind now that i’ve got kids’ ones) the real lesbians LOVE MEN. they understand men and enjoy them and don’t have any baggage or axes to grind against ’em.

    erika

  67. …also to the poster guy who’s 30 and a virgin- you mention that the guys who get all the sex, if they come to our ecosophia events they’ll take over. no! that’s the THING… when you have a counter-culture of any sort, the regular people suddenly look awkward because their regular reindeer games seem tinsel and fake next to what’s going on HERE.

    i’ve seen it just at my own readings and events especially at colleges. the formerly dead and bored ones forced to sit through me are surprised and wake up and all the sudden the entire CLASS the ROOM the VIBE is entirely FLIPPED and the dead come ALIVE.

    i’ve seen it. you just have to give permission and make the room FUN and OPEN and DARING and the ones who’re mosquitoes skating on small talk end up on the FRINGES! no lie.

    it’s why i’m so horribly confident and make James roll his eyes. he’s like “where’s MY girl?” not yet. i’m not THAT amazing. i dance with the world as it IS and i’ve been asked to slow dance soon…

    erika

  68. also i think that society has turned women into lesbians. even and especially when they’re straight. the more in shape and muscular you are, the more afraid they are likely to be. i’ve heard this from younger men at the gym all gorgeous but CONFUSED. saying women like 140 pound men.

    i’m hella confused.

    gotta go. James needs his computer back! (i sneak onto here to write on this eco site)

    erika

  69. And yet – women who aren’t fashion models are having the same problem, or why all this fiction based on 30-something women still looking for Mister Right? The diary maid is losing out as much as the boys the princesses won’t look at twice, I think.

  70. If I ever get a YouTube channel, I think I’ll start channeling God. I can use a little sock and some ventriloquism. (“Hi there God, what have you got for us today?” [voice changes] “Buy low, sell high.”)

  71. (JMG, I realize this is slightly off topic, so if it isn’t appropriate to post, I can submit during the next Open Post.)

    To those who have mentioned it is hard to find potential romantic partners who are tolerant of people involved in the occult:

    May I suggest attending a local gaming convention? Not a national one… those draw people in far a wide geographic area. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to play games; many game manufacturers ‘hire’ people to attend the conventions and teach their games (in hopes that people will then buy their games). I would suggest not doing miniatures (like 40K); those tend to be predominantly male. And I really wouldn’t recommend RPGs to start, as those sessions tend to run 4 to 6 hours (maybe more), which limits the time you have for potential interactions. Instead, try board games. Many conventions have a library that allow you to check out a game. It is quite common for someone (or a couple of someones) to walk around, asking people if they’d like to join a game. If someone isn’t interested, they can gracefully decline saying that they are scheduled for a session that starts soon. But if they are interested, they can either join or, if they really are scheduled for another session, make plans to meet up later. And then you get an opportunity to get to know someone while playing a game. If you hit it off, yippee! If not, thank them for playing, go get another game, and go ask other people to play.

    I was involved with a local gaming convention for over ten years. During that time, I know of many people who initiated romances with people they met at the con. Many of them led to marriages.

    There is a wide swath of humanity that attends gaming conventions… Christians, witches (not all Wiccan), heathens, pagans, you name it. Overall, I have found that those attending tend to be more tolerant of different religions than the ‘normal’ population.

  72. Hello JMG:
    I’ve been offline some weeks because of personal trouble (not really serious); I was anxious for reading you all again, John and the kommentariat…
    Maybe a lucky coincidence, but at my town there is going to be held a performance-circus-play event named “Festribal Tarot”, which is obviously based in tarot decks for the show. It will be an underground event that will be celebrated this weekend in an old deserted school at the historical centre of my town. I think it is going to be exciting see the live action tarot cards…

  73. @jbucks #14 re: skeletons as symbols of death – I don’t have a direct source on the history of the symbolism, but a few potentially interesting leads:

    1) Many ancient cultures practiced a two-stage burial process. First, bodies were left somewhere (either exposed to animals and elements, or else in a cave or crypt) until all of the flesh had been eaten/decomposed. Once reduced to bones, these were placed in their permanent resting place (often the family home). I believe Catal Huyuk (a neolithic site that rivals Jericho for claims to “oldest proto-city”) was one such place.

    2) In the circumpolar nomadic cultures that practice similar forms of shamanism, a very common motif of the “shamanic initiation illness” is for the coming-to-be shaman to have a vision of his body being reduced to a skeleton by various figures (sometimes horrific, sometimes later spiritual allies, sometimes both) before being reconstituted in a “new”, reborn body. I’m not sure what the most common funerary practices are in these cultures, but it wouldn’t surprise me if exposure was common in a place where the ground is frozen much of the year and firewood is scarce.

  74. @JMG re: astral corpse vs afterlife astral body

    If I’m too late to the party here, I can post in an upcoming Magic Monday, but I thought I’d try here with the relevant commentary.

    If I’m remembering correctly, you’ve characterized much (most?) of what occurs between incarnations as astral in nature, which implies some kind of (semi?)persistent astral vehicle for the individuality. Here, though, it seems that some/all of our astral “body” is associated with the personality of a given incarnation and is left behind and no longer inhabited by the individuality/soul behind it.

    So, I suppose my question is: what’s happening here, as far as we know? Does the astral “body” split into that which is left behind and that which stays with us? As we better reach the higher (mental, spiritual) planes, does less of our astral vehicle persist between incarnations?

    Thanks very much for any clarification you can offer,
    Jeff

  75. @Jon Goddard,

    re: Golden Ratio is the multiplicity returning to the One

    Oooooo… I know my next meditation!

    re: the Sun on this plane

    This is worthy of some meditation, too. Some initial thoughts, though… IIRC from CosDoc, once a swarm (or a Divine Spark) has traveled down and back up all the planes, it can then go where it needs to in order to do what in needs (if Lord of Flame or Form) or wants (if Lord of Mind) to do. And also to consider is “the Sun” one being? I am still a little fuzzy understanding the differences between the planes and the Spheres, but a Sphere includes all the Spheres “below” it. So the Sun in Atziluth includes the Sun in Briah and the Sun in Yetzirah and the Sun in Assiah (and I think all the other Spheres in those Worlds, too). Any maybe all of those parts make up “one” Sun, but our little brains perceive them as different things… kind of like Gaia and Rhea and Demeter and Persephone all represent aspects of Nature. Or another way of looking at it would be that if the Sun wants to bring something up a plane, it also has to send something down a plane. Sending some power and wisdom down to the material plane so he can bring something (someone?) up a higher plane seems a rather magnanimous gesture. 🙂

    I will be pondering this some more. 🙂

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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