Book Club Post

The Doctrine of High Magic: Chapter 19

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 20: The Stone of the Philosophers, Elagabalus” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 168-172).

Commentary:

The Stone of the Philosophers!  Even before it was borrowed by J.K. Rowling for the first of her  bestselling Harry Potter novels, that phrase had plenty of cachet.  Most people who have learned anything at all about alchemy know that creating the philosopher’s stone, lapis philosophorum in Latin, was the crucial step in the alchemical process.

To judge by eyewitness accounts of this “stone”—there are, curiously enough, quite a few of these from the Renaissance and early modern era, written down by people who didn’t practice alchemy and had nothing to gain from making up stories about the subject—it was not a stone at all.  It was a red powder, slightly transparent like crushed glass, very dense and heavy.  A tiny pinch added to heated mercury turned the entire mass to gold in a few seconds.  Alchemical literature back in the day claimed that if the stone was properly made, the gold produced by it could be used to turn more base metal into gold, and so on, until one ounce of the stone had produced ten thousand ounces of pure gold.

Was this a factual account of a literally real process?  Distinguished scientists dismiss the idea with scorn—though of course it has to be remembered that not much more than half a century ago, distinguished scientists dismissed the idea of continental drift with scorn, and not much more than a century ago distinguished scientists dismissed the idea of space travel with scorn. Distinguished scientists are quite often wrong.  It is certainly true that all the currently known physical processes that can transform mercury into gold require much more energy than you can get from heating up the mercury and tossing a pinch of red powder into it. If the old metallic alchemy is a reality, it depends on a physical process that today’s scientists haven’t yet discovered—that much is certain. Beyond that, all is guesswork.

Yet it’s not at all safe to assume that the alchemists were talking about literal descriptions of physically real processes. In fact, it’s quite clear that some of them were doing no such thing. There is an entire literature of religious mysticism that uses the language of alchemy to talk about purely spiritual transformations. Much of it is Muslim, Jewish, or Christian, and the alchemy it has in mind is the salvation of the human soul.  There is also an entire literature of alchemical medicine in which the body is the alchemical vessel and healing from illness is the transmutation the alchemist seeks.  Carl Jung became famous a century ago for reinterpreting alchemy as a covert science of depth psychology; from an alchemist’s point of view, he simply created a new alchemy—call it psychotherapeutic alchemy—in which the psyche is the substance to be transmuted and psychological health is the transmutation sought.

Too many students of alchemy make the mistake of insisting that one kind of alchemy—one of those just listed, or one of the many others—is the one true alchemy, and everything else is a concealment or a mistake. This is a category error. Alchemy is not a single branch of knowledge, like chemistry or psychology.  It is a method of knowledge, like science. Just as science has a scientific method, which can be applied to different subjects of inquiry to produce different sciences, alchemy has an alchemical method, which can be applied to different subjects of transmutation to produce different alchemies.  If we’d had an Alchemical Revolution in the seventeenth century instead of a Scientific Revolution, there would be hundreds of these alchemies right now, and the little fringe groups interested in science would be convulsed by bickering about whether science is properly about astronomy, or chemistry, or biology.

All of this is a necessary foreword to the current chapter of Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic. Several times already in our text, Lévi has discussed how magic offers a solution to the endless, pointless, and clueless squabbles between science and religion, reason and faith, and in this chapter he returns to this theme. He has his own alchemy to offer his readers, an alchemy of thought meant to convert the exceptionally base metal of the ongoing squabble between science and religion into a distinctive kind of gold.

Reason is the philosopher’s stone he proposes to use here, but he does the thing that rationalists in his time and ours never do, and turns reason back on itself. There are things we human beings are capable of knowing through the application of reasoning to the evidence of the senses:  this much is obvious.  But it is just as obvious that there are things of very great importance to human existence that we cannot know that way.  These two realms, one rationally knowable, the other beyond the reach of rational knowledge, have to be clearly distinguished in practice as well as in theory. It is just as idiotic for scientific authorities to hand down pronouncements about the proper subject matter of religion as it is for religious authorities to hand down pronouncements about the proper subject matter of science.  Notes Lévi:

“Thus we must free our certitudes from our beliefs and render distinct the respective domains of science and of faith; we must understand that we do not know the things that we believe in, and that we no longer believe in the things which we are able to know, and that it is the essence of matters of faith that they are unknown and indefinite, while it is the complete contrary for matters of science. We would conclude that science is based on reason and experience, while faith is based on sentiment and reason.”

It’s an intriguing concept. It’s also the normal compromise that every civilization reaches in the latter part of its history, once its Age of Faith has given way to an Age of Reason and its Age of Reason has run aground on the usual rocks of anthropocentric cluelessness and arrogance. It is the boast of every Age of Reason that human beings can know everything worth knowing about the world. In due time, that boast disproves itself, and the rueful intellectuals of a later age draw the same distinction Lévi does, separating the things we can know from the things we can’t, and recognizing when the things we can’t know still matter a very great deal.

The key to finding the point of balance between faith and reason—or, to use one of Lévi’s own metaphors, the door to the temple midway between the two great pillars of Jachin and Boaz—is one that Lévi has also discussed before. He says:  “And the absolute is that which admits of no error, it is the fixed in the volatile, it is the rule of the imagination, it is the necessity of being itself, it is the immutable law of reason and truth:  the absolute is what is.” Here we return to the first sentences of our text, where Lévi challenges Descartes’ basic principle “I think therefore I am” and offers his own alternative, derived ultimately from the Cabala:  “I am, therefore something is.” Each of us experiences ourselves and the world; whether or not these things are what they appear to be or not, it remains true that the experiences themselves take place.

Jean-Paul Sartre sent shockwaves through the twentieth century philosophical world by arguing that existence precedes essence:  that is, we do not encounter a world of meaning, purpose and value, but rather a world of bare meaningless existences into which meaning, purpose, and value must be inserted by our own efforts. That was the basic formula of existentialism, and it helped clear away a great deal of arbitrary handwaving by thinkers who wanted to insist that their own personal notions of meaning, purpose, and value were hardwired into the structure of reality. Long before Sartre was born, however, Lévi went a step further and pointed out that experience precedes existence:  experience, not matter, is the raw material from which our world is made.

That’s a dizzying shift for most modern people. We’re raised to think of material things as the basic building blocks of existence, and our experiences of material things as a sort of dim reflection of the real world of matter. Yet the material world is simply a way of talking about the fact that we experience something that to us, looks, feels, sounds, tastes, and smells like various kinds of matter. We have no access to the world except through our experiences of it—and those experiences, as philosophers and physicists alike have been pointing out for a very long time, needn’t have  anything in common with the hypothetical whatever-it-is that lies behind them.

The basis of reality, then, is experience itself:  that which is.  Everything else is an extrapolation from that. We experience things that appear, to us, to be made of something we can call “matter.” From our experiences of these things, we can come up with various rules that seem to explain how this stuff called “matter” seems to behave. This is the basis for science.  Yet this is not the only kind of knowledge we can have. Our experiences also include experiences of meaning, value, and purpose. Those have their own order and structure, which we cannot grasp directly under most circumstances but can sense in part by reflecting on our experiences, and also in part by reading or listening to the accounts of people—call them saints, sages, prophets, or what have you—who have come a little closer than most of us to the unseen core around which our experiences gather.

Those two forms of knowledge are not our only options.  We can also explore experience as such, reflecting on it and playing with it, and discover the roles that will and imagination play in shaping and reshaping experience. This is the way of high magic.  If we do this, we become aware that all the various forms of experience are shapes taken by an underlying something-or-other, which Lévi calls the astral light, and other traditions of mysticism and magic call by other names—God, Brahman, the Absolute, the Unmanifest, the Void. We also become aware that we ourselves are also products of this same underlying reality. This is the alchemy at the heart of Lévi’s teaching: the transmutation of all things into the astral light, the One Thing of the alchemists, the one reality at the heart of all things which is also the reason why all things exist.

This reality can be intellectualized, of course, and though mystics tend to bristle at the thought, there’s a point to that exercise. Even though Lao Tsu started off the Tao Te Ching with the useful warning, “A process as described is not the same as the process as it exists,” he didn’t just say this and shut up.  He went on to write another five thousand characters or so about tao, process, and te, the excellence achieved by moving in harmony with it. In the same way, Lévi has written at length about the astral light, and about reflecting on experience as a key to understanding it. Reading his words is not a substitute for encountering the world first hand and beginning to sense the One Thing, but it can point the mind in some semblance of the right direction.

In the classic manner, however, Lévi also provides a more enigmatic and therefore more practically useful way of approaching the same experience. He asks us to imagine a cube. On one face is the name of Solomon, legendarily the wisest of mortals, and on the opposite face the name of God; on another face the name of Adam, and on the face opposite to that the name of Eve; and on the other two sides, the word Azoth and the acronym INRI, the traditional contraction of the sign nailed on the cross where Jesus was crucified:  Iesus Nazareus Rex Iudeorum, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

Each of these names, in the spelling Lévi uses, is a Tetragrammaton, a name of four letters. Each therefore represents one way of looking at, and thinking about, the Great Arcanum, the supreme secret of practical magic. Imagine this clearly, and then take the image as what Zen teachers call a kōan, a puzzle that cannot be solved through ordinary thinking but only by making the leap to a new level of mental functioning. Here Lévi is being as clear about the nature of the Great Arcanum and the means of its attainment as he possibly can. Take his symbol as a theme for meditation, and see how much you can learn from it.

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 XIX, “Le Soleil.”  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 ק (Qoph) or the Latin letter T. 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 through fifth sessions are devoted to the titles Lévi gives for the card: Vocatio, Sol, and Aurum. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does Vocatio, “vocation, calling,” relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen?  That’s one session.  How about Sol, “sun”?  How about Aurum, “gold”?   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 19 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 20, “The Universal Medicine,” on January 11, 2023. See you then!

76 Comments

  1. Distinguished scientists seem to reach a point where they’re so distinguished they can stop investigating and just collect the government and corporate cash that rolls in. Meanwhile, everyone else is thinking “Ger, that’s interesting—I wonder what was in our ancestors’s red powder?”

    What WAS in it?

  2. Hi JMG,

    Usually I just skim your discussions of “high magic,’ but I found this one really fascinating–distinguished scientists are often wrong; alchemy as not merely literal but metaphorical/mystical/ medicinal; and your insightful comments on Jung, Lao Tsu, and Sartre.

    You’ve often warned us about the ever recycling stories about breakthroughs in fusion research. This week we read about the latest one that, for the blink of an eye, they produced 1.5 times more energy than they used–now we only need to figure out how to sustainably “scale up.” A modern attempt at literal energy alchemy?

  3. Your Kittenship, nobody knows. That’s just the thing. The only people who’ve even tried to reconstruct the processes of laboratory alchemy are small circles of occultists funded by what they can spare from their own income, and with what equipment they can scrape together from lab supply companies. What makes this even more awkward is that the prima materia — the substance you use as raw material for the alchemy of metals — was the most secret of all the secrets of the old alchemists. Nowhere in the literature do they say in so many words exactly what it was.

    Downside Dan, thank you. Yes, I was highly amused by the latest bit of fusion puffery. As some of my readers pointed out last week, the total energy output from this very expensive and complex experiment was about what you can get by burning six ounces of dry hardwood in an ordinary fire…

  4. And I see the next chapter is on the Universal Medicine, which I thought was another aspect of the Philosopher’s Stone, as a panacea to heal. But I’ve gathered from more recent readings that the two are distinct things, though related by the alchemical quest?

    On another note in the first paragraph of Levi’s text, he refers to how the sun was viewed as a black stone. This recalled the controversial (because of its fascist associations) the black sun. Were these two ideas related at all, before the black sun became another symbol coopted by the Third Reich?

  5. Thanks Michael for your devoted teaching and insights… Beyond words!!
    Should I say “alchemical”?
    I “believe” so…
    My take on fusion-alchemy is very simple… and alchemical:
    when human specie has evolved enough in its “imagination and will”, we/it will be able to master fusion/the sun energy.
    That knowledge implies the balance/harmony of causal/astral/material…
    We cannot get it until we vibrate at the “oneness level”. It’s the AWARENESS pointed to by the stories of “the philosophical stone”.

    A little reality check about where humans are: well, we’ve lived/survived the knowledge of the atom and can master “fission”.
    We don’t know yet if we will destroy ourselves with it… listening to government officials ready to use tactical nuclear first strike as a deterent????
    HAVE THEY (they reflect the mass consciousness!) LOST THEIR MIND?

    Using fusion is going into Super Nova territory. We were scared of creating a black whole with the CERN/LARGE HADRON COLIDER in Switzerland….
    Fusion is sun energy…
    Blessings to ALL with LOVE and JOY,
    Gabriel…the seagull.

  6. I don’t recall the source from it, but I remember a Chinese story about a young dao-master-to-be who learned their version of alchemy (where the goal was to turn base metal to silver instead of gold). The highly born asks his master, after succeeding in the work, for how long would the silver remain to be silver. To this, the master responds 20 years, and the young master decides not to create any more silver, for the sake of whoever ends up holding the bag at that time.

    The way modern rationalists interpret this (as I did, when I first heard the story) was a confirmation that the alchemic process was indeed a form of counterfeiting which the proto-chemisyst of that time used to fund their real research. Upon further analysis, in the light of what I have learned about the working mechanisms of homeopathy, my conclusion is somewhat more nuanced.

    After all, a homeopathic remedy is the end product of the extraction of (some of the) essences from a species naturally found in the world, and the transference of said essences to a different material base. This essences are mostly etheric, though at higher potencies you may produce astral effects as well, so it is not that clearly cut. On the other hand, the material base is either water or lactose powder, which were chosen for being of “neutral” essence themselves, which I find not quite logic.

    Now, what if those material bases were “selected” (or maybe stumbled upon by chance?) because they make good conduits to bring the relevant parts of the etheric signature that help the health of human beings the most (e.g. water being the base of all living beings on Earth). Now, what if the material base was selected rather for their resemblance to the etheric form they are going to be a host of? Would a lead base make for a more complete transference of the essence of, say, gold? And would that make the resulting lead present itself to the rest of the world as “indistinguishable to gold”?

  7. Thank you so much for this discussion JMG. I’ve been thinking about the temple of Solomon over the years, wondering if it’s an actual historical temple, or if it’s metaphorical. Then I read this weeks summary of Levi and I wonder is it experience or matter?

  8. What a tarot image this time! It reminds me of “Blonde on Blonde” (a Bob Dylan album). Even the sun, with its feminine ruby-red lips, has blue eyes. That’s an odd brick wall behind them, and they appear to be dancing on a Christmas rug; very timely. I wonder if this card depicts the equinox. And their red and blue trunks; why so modest on this card?

    This card, although it’s the Rider-Waite version, appeared on every episode of “Mad Men” as an emblem of the production company or something. It also appeared on the tarot reading the protagonist “Don Draper” received during an episode near the end of the second season — as the plot veered suddenly from something very dark to something much brighter. (I know, you don’t do TV or videos.)

  9. Hi John Michael,

    Reason, it probably needs saying, ain’t necessarily so! Sometimes the people I’ve met who make claims as to their grasp of reason, are quite unreasonable folks. And didn’t the original implementation of the scientific method require the maintenance of a level of uncertainty so as to promote further thought and search into a topic? Dogma… Rhymes with dog. I like dogs. 🙂

    Lévi was very naughty indeed. Imagine challenging folks to dwell upon experience? What a thought to chuck out into the world. There is safety and simplicity to be had in not doing so, and people are rewarded richly by out-sourcing responsibility. How could it be otherwise, or am I wrong in this belief? To will is to strive, and that is an uncomfortable ends.

    Always you provide much feed for the mind, and maybe it’s just me, but the longer I’ve been travelling on this journey which you’ve taken us upon, the clearer some things have become. Other things remain incomprehensible, and that is how the world is. Acceptance is a wonderful thing don’t you reckon?

    Cheers

    Chris

  10. For most people today science IS a faith. I don’t here mean just the “religion of progress.” The average person accepts scientific “facts” exactly the same way as religious beliefs, that is, because someone they trust has told them the facts are true. There are some laws of science I verified in high schoool and college experiments, but the Higgs boson? That I have to take on faith.

  11. Hello GMG and everybody,
    Technically, this comment better fits into the discussion on another blog, but I would like to comment more generally on the age of the end of science.
    The study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that the unvaccinated people were 72% more likely to be involved in a severe traffic crash than those who were vaccinated. We truly live through the end of science as an honest pursuit of material truth. How did the scientists design this study? Were they able to replicate the results? Was the findings consistent across different segments of the population? There is nothing about it on Yahoo where this study was reported. How did a respectable journal publish this without being embarrassed? How did reporters report this research without flinching? Are they all on SSRI? The sad end of science. What’s next?

  12. When I first read the chapter, I remembered that Thales–or Anaxagoras–identified the Sun as a stone, the second emanation of the One Thing. Reading your introduction, I can see how this would tie in to Levi’s cube.


    The PRC is reissuing a limited reprint of the Knapp-Hall deck. It will be expensive, and they admit it won’t be ruggedized enough use as a working Tarot deck.

  13. But then again, you gotta start somewhere. I’m skeptical of fusion myself, seeing as how even I know energy cannot be created, but willing to watch the attempt and cheer it on—as long as I’m being not forced to finance it, which I probably am.

  14. Thanks for this. Much to chew on.
    This, as usual, is uncannily relevant to other areas of my current studies.
    One of my main studies now is everything hermetic. “Started” with coming across the kyballion. Then on to The divine pymander, The emerald tablets, etc.. A life times or more worth of study I tell you.
    My mind is being blown on the daily lately..

    Years ago I binged on Terence McKenna. Absorbing everything I could. I know he gets some criticism (not sure how many of his critics are worthy)

    This is new to me. Very good stuff. https://youtu.be/rzjrl24aHiQ

    Thanks again.
    God bless

  15. Greetings, erudite and accomplished Archdruid, and fellow book-club readers. After reading Levi and this posting, I got to reflecting on the nature of the times in which we live. I asked myself: what is the REVERSE of the philosopher’s stone, the antithesis as it were. (And yes, I know that dualities always are associated with at least one additional perhaps-orthogonal notion. But humor me.)

    Are the much-ballyhooed “mathmatical models” which seem to underpin many portions of public policy (Economics, Climate action, public health, just to name a few prominent ones) the antithesis of the Philosopher’s Stone? Hmmm…

    During my musings, along came a posting from an occasional source I subscribe to, the Irish writer John Waters. His latest posting is titled One Thousand Days of Lies. Nominally the article is discussing the C***d phenomenon, but I think it stretches far past just that. Here’s a sample: “It is not outlandish to suggest that they [what he calls the orchestrators of the public mood — politicians, scientists, medical experts] somehow managed to impose a trance, which transformed reality into a kind of dream world, in which, as with actual dreams, nonsense came to seem perfectly sensible and normal while it is happening.”

    So is what we see in our Woke Globalist Social Networks Virtue-Signalling panopticon a reversal of the Stone of the Philosophers? Unreality shrieking at the top of its lungs that No, IT Is The TRUE reality?

    Levi laments the “…cover[ing] in shadows the ancient discoveries of the human spirit, so that today we grope about attempting to rediscover the key to the phenomena of nature.” And John Waters in his posting describes the present as: “A world of lies… a world strung upon a false framework, a pseudo-reality passed off for the real thing.” Those both sound dismayingly similar, though spaced some eight score and eight years apart.

    URL to the (quite long) Waters article: https://johnwaters.substack.com/p/one-thousand-days-of-lies

    Best regards to all!

  16. Thank you for this! A comment and a question.

    The comment: Your whole description of how experience is more fundamental than existence, summarized by saying that “The basis of reality, then, is experience itself: that which is,” sounds just like the core metaphysical insight that Robert Pirsig discusses in his two books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Lila. I wonder if the Astral Light is another term for what Pirsig calls “Quality”? (I’m not expecting an answer to that, though if JMG or anyone else has some ideas I would love to hear them.)

    The question: You write that “Just as science has a scientific method, which can be applied to different subjects of inquiry to produce different sciences, alchemy has an alchemical method, which can be applied to different subjects of transmutation to produce different alchemies.” Now, the scientific method can be described in the abstract, at a simplistic level, apart from any examples: Notice something that you want to explain, Formulate a hypothesis, Conduct an experiment to test the hypothesis, Analyze the outcome of the experiment, and Try again. Repeat as needed. Is there the same kind of abstract, simplistic explanation of the alchemical method? How does it go? If you have written about this elsewhere, can I please ask for a reference?

    Thank you again!

  17. Levi’s discussion of the two pillars of Jachin and Boaz helped me during mediation as I thought about the two pillars of Mercy and Severity and how they connect through the path of Teth. (Not a coincidence, I’m sure!) The two pillars must be of equal strength but separate. If both of those pillars were to come together, everything would collapse. As both of those pillars are equal, they provide the space for the middle pillar to exist.

    This can also extend to the binary and the ternary. The binary must be resolved through the ternary, but the ternary cannot exist without the binary.

  18. Justin, the universal medicine is prepared from the Stone. As for the black sun, oh, very much so — the black stone as the secret Sun goes back a long ways.

    Gabriel, my take is that we won’t “master” fusion because the control-and-dominate consciousness implicit in that word “master” is exactly what stands in the way. We can enjoy and dance with fusion when we stop trying to master it — and the same is true of the rest of the cosmos, of course.

    CR, yes, and of course homeopathy is another alchemy…

    Tamar, good!

    Phutatorius, I have no idea why they’re wearing boxer shorts, either.

    Chris, I always figured that Australian religions would have dingomas rather than ordinary dogmas. Or perhaps bunyipmas. A religion with bunyipmas would be my kind of faith. 😉

    Roldy, agreed. The religion of progress is a more specialized form of the broader faith in authority that pervades most civilized cultures, and in ours, the authority figures whose word is taken on faith generally wear white lab coats.

    Kimberly, I like it. Cogito, ergo errare possum!

    Kirsten, it’s a great example of how confounding variables work. I’m sure it’s quite correct, since people who were frightened of the virus were both more likely to get vaccinated and more likely to stay home for fear of catching Covid, and people who stay home are rather less likely to get in car wrecks! Ignoring factors like this is a great way to do lousy science.

    Jeff, the idea that the Sun is really a black stone goes back a long ways. I’m sorry to hear that the PRC isn’t doing a deck that can be shuffled — that’s really irritating.

    Your Kittenship, you are indeed paying for it. The fusion business is almost entirely funded by government grants.

    Travis, glad to hear it. I’m not a great fan of McKenna — and of course he was quite wrong about 2012 — but I know people who’ve gotten a lot out of his writings.

    Bryan, I tend to think of Hollywood as the reverse philosopher’s stone — whatever it touches turns to crap, in a kind of backwards Midas touch — but your suggestion also works.

    Hosea, it’s been a good long time since I read Pirsig’s book, but it was a major influence on me when I was in my early twenties. I’m not sure that it’s quite accurate to say that quality is the same thing as the astral light, but attunement to the astral light is the source of quality. As for the alchemical method, that’s quite simple. In Latin, the phrase was solve et coagula; in English, that translates out as “take the thing apart, understand its individual components on their own, recombine them, and see what happens; repeat as necessary.”

    Jon, a solid meditation!

  19. Yes, he was incorrect about 2012. It’s hard to know what exactly he saw that he was trying to convey. His time wave theory was the idea of his that was the least appealing to me. But what do I know..
    However there are more skins to that onion.
    I would hope that you would give it at least a 20 minute listen ( it is over 4 hours) or don’t.
    I think you could be surprised with the parallels on his work on hermetic and alchemy subject matter with your own views and work.

    Cheers

  20. Pirsig is not consistent in his use of the word “Quality.” Sometimes he uses it to mean an experience; other times, it is the thing that causes the experience. In his book Lila (1991) he develops a metaphysical system in which Quality shows up in several levels: (1) substantively, as matter or energy; (2) biologically, as living beings; (3) socially, as groups or societies or cultures; (4) intellectually, as ideas; and (5) dynamically, as the living Quality impetus that is always pushing forward to the next good thing. Dynamic Quality generates or instantiates into each of the other four levels but is not contained by any of them. I think Dynamic Quality is something like what Plato meant by “the Good.”

    As for alchemy … that formula (“solve et coagula“) describes any kind of analysis. Cool! Only … does this mean that (say) Phenomenology is just Philosophical Alchemy, and Deconstructionism is just Literary Alchemy? (grin) The mind reels!

    Thanks again.

  21. Hello, JMG.

    An interesting view of this chapter. I have only read it superficially. The thing about separating belief from knowledge is rather clear, and it is rather clear that we don’t do it in our actual lifes. An useful lesson, indeed.
    The other aspect of this chapter, the black cube, I did not understand, so I guess it is there for further meditation.

    I cannot agree with Lévi in that experience comes first. This is the same as accepting that the subjective is the reality, and the objective emerges as a conflict with the subjective reality of other beings. If that were true, then people suffering metal illnesses could be changing the objective reality to the point of changing the laws of nature, which is not what we observe.
    It’s as if the idea of the red color could exist without the red wavelength of photons and our eyes. Or as if the red color could not exist before there were eyes ready to sense that wavelength. This is suggesting that the color, which is a property of some materials that reflect light, begun to exist when some being was able to see the color but not before, and that it will stop to exist once no being is able to see it anymore. Maybe no one could or will be able to see the color, but it is still there, ready to be discovered, since it is a property of that matter, not of the observer.

    From a subjective point of view, then yes, anything not able to be sensed or experienced just does not exist for the observer, just as the colors do not exist for the blind-born people. But they may exist for others, and influence the observer in some ways. Like, the blind person who writes a label with the color on the jacket, so he knows he is wearing a red jacket, even though he does not know how it looks like.

    I tend to think nowadays that matter, reality, consciousness and experience happen all together. Whenever a new form is created, it carries a set of properties, whether or not they are experienced yet. What I’ve acquired reading your proposed books, is that consciousness is a property of just any system, no matter how simple or small. As long as a system can be defined, a consciousness lies behind. But then, more complex systems have more complex consciousness and larger systems have stronger consciousness. Just the same as matter have a property called mass, systems have a property called consciousness, which records experiences and reacts to events. This reaction becomes, by the exclusion of the non viable models which just finish their existance, a willingness to continue to exist, the will to live, or simply a will. In other words, systems without a will to live just die, so all systems that are still existing have a will, be it inherited, shared or formed on its own.
    It is not a consciousness which creates a system around it, or the material system which builds a consciousness, but they rather exist together and cannot be separated.

    Thank you for clarifying what Alchemy is. If I am not too mistaken, Science seems more able to describe the objective world, while Alchemy is more able to describe the subjective world, so combining both scientific and alchemic knowledge might be the wisest choice for completeness. The same we need both knowledge and faith to cope with reality.

  22. There’s much to mull over in this chapter, but two first thoughts:

    ‘In Latin, the phrase was solve et coagula; in English, that translates out as “take the thing apart, understand its individual components on their own, recombine them, and see what happens; repeat as necessary.”’

    This made me realize that the alchemical method and the scientific method have one thing in common: they are both reductionist. Maybe this is one of the things Levi means, the limits of reason, as practiced by humans, is limited to reductionism, and we can only point at a whole system, but not truly understand it, and thus we need to take it on faith.

    Then again, I’m not up to date on holistic science so I could be totally off base here, but if I remember correctly, holism in science still involves looking at a system’s components, but analyzing them in context of that system’s other components, so at heart it still is the same reductionistic method.

    The second thought, which is actually a question:

    “…the Inquisitors for so many centuries made war on magic and managed to cover in shadows the ancient discoveries of the human spirit, so that today we grope about attempting to discover the key to the phenomenon of nature.”

    This might be a silly question, but what do Inquisitors, both historical and modern, have against magic? Why such efforts to ‘cover in shadows’ the past discoveries Levi alludes to? I don’t understand why they would do that, if these things are of benefit to humankind.

  23. @JMG: Thank you… I’ll have to do some more reading on the black sun and its history. Meditation on the cube this morning went well, but I can see a ton of meditation sessions deriving from it!

    @Kimberley: Well done! That is a good thought 😉

    To All: So on the black sun tip, here is my postindustrial musical offering of the month. The band is Coil. The song is Solar Lodge.

  24. The most curious thing about last month’s chapter was the discussion of the use and misuse of the Great Arcanum in the context of the French Revolution, followed by an abrupt evasive manoeuvre and a lengthy and self-consciously frivolous digression. And now the Arcanum crops up again, this time in talismanic form as a Tetragrammatic Cube.

    BUT WAIT. Anyone who reveals or causes another to discover the secret of the Arcanum is thereby sentenced to death. So why is Levi coming so close to spelling it out with his hints and puzzles? And why is JMG giving us even more hints? Aren’t these two mages bringing the death sentence upon themselves?

    It could be that the Arcanum is a super-secret but straightforward formula, like the answer to the question, ‘what is the Prima Materia, anyway?’

    Or it could be that the Arcanum cannot be spelled out in words; it is a state of mind or a posture of being which we arrive at by diligent study and self-transformation, following the clues laid down in occult texts.

    Or it could be that this state of mind CAN be spelled out in words, but the resulting formula is a piece of near-meaningless dogma to anyone who lacks the necessarily difficult-to-acquire posture of being: ‘All is One’, or ‘Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite’. The Arcanum thus becomes a dead superstition, leaving the masses ignorant of its true power and the initiates (somehow) unable to make use of it.

    This makes me think of one of those 3D optical puzzle books we used to look at as kids. It is a bit of a trick to stare at them long enough, just a little bit cross-eyed, until the hidden image ‘pops out’ at you. But if you pass the book to your kid brother and say, ‘hey look, it’s a horse!’, not only can he not see it, you’ve ruined the fun for him and for yourself.

    With those preliminaries in mind, let me take a crack at it. In the original French text, Levi gives French and modified Hebrew spellings for the names inscribed on the cube so that each has four letters; what difference does it make to see those four elements singly as letters or in combination as a word? That’s the quaternary leading to the binary. Now consider each fourfold name in relation to its binary on the opposing face of the cube. What relationship is suggested by those two names- what third term embraces them both? That’s the binary leading to the ternary. Now consider each of the three relational pairs as an axis in three-dimensional space. What domain of notional space is mapped by those axes? That’s the ternary leading to… the unity. Solve et coagula; take it all apart and put it all back together again, and see what you get.

    This brings me at last to contemplating the Sphere of Protection. It expresses the exact same symbol, but translated into the embodied language of ritual. To understand the meaning of that symbol, not merely to know it but to shape oneself according to its wisdom, is the beginning of power.

    To quote the closing line of last month’s post: “…for it is by unpacking the meanings in occult diagrams, pentacles, and talismans that the leaden weight of superstition is transmuted into the pure solar gold of wisdom.”

  25. @Hosea #21:

    I was just about to respond to your first comment when I saw your second comment and cheered. When I finally got around to reading Plato, years after enjoying Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, it was Pirsig’s idea of Quality that allowed me to puzzle over Plato’s description of the Good and finally say, ‘Oh…. THAT’S what he’s talking about!’ I really do think they are talking about the same thing.

    I have not read Lila, but judging by what you offer here, Pirsig is indeed consistent in his use of the term ‘Quality’. I hope others will correct me if I’m wrong, but your enumerated list seems to map quite well, and in proper order, onto the planes of being known to occultists as the physical, etheric, astral, mental, and spiritual. The Good, or Quality, is active on all levels of being, but looks quite different on each plane.

    (I seem to remember it being a point of some importance to the author that his ideas were radically new, and had the potential to mend the gaps and inconsistencies in philosophy. I think it is no slight to his work to suggest instead that in his own circuitous way he arrived at a fresh formulation of traditional occult philosophy, as understood by initiates from Plato to the present day).

    Our host indicates that attunement to the astral light is the source of Quality. I would suggest, by way of expanding that thought, that attunement to the action of the Good on the astral plane is the source of Quality on the planes below it: for humans, maintaining a healthy personal astral light is the key to good etheric and physical health.

    Similarly, attunement to the action of the Good on the mental plane (thinking the best possible thoughts, as clearly as possible) is the source of Quality on the plane immediately below, the astral, where our feelings and fantasies and collective symbolic identities swirl about.

    That is, we fix our attention on the highest Good we are capable of conceiving, and invite that Good, or that Quality, to flow down into our lives from there.

    As for Solve et Coagula, don’t forget that analysis is only half the equation. It corresponds to ‘solve’. Alchemy requires first analysis, then synthesis. Synthesis is the ‘coagula’ part of the equation.

  26. I remember a teacher mentioning that Lao Tzu was often called ” The Old Boy” and people weren’t sure if it was a term of endearment or derision. Then she said “Think of “Old Boy” to mean “Eternal Child” Puts an entire different perspective on him

  27. Travis, I’m quite familiar with McKenna’s work — one of my teachers was a friend of his, and can do a very, very funny Terry McKenna imitation. I’m still not a fan.

    Your Kittenship, now there’s a rule you can rely on. 😉

    Hosea, good. The mind ought to reel as often as possible; it’s good exercise!

    Abraham, that’s one way to parse what Lévi is saying about the relationship between experience and existence. Keep in mind, though, that “precedes” can refer to the way in which we encounter things. Since all we can know is what we experience, it’s clear that experience comes first in terms of our awareness, and only later do we piece together the clues that allow us to come up with a model for what’s behind the experience.

    Jbucks, good. All human thinking is inevitably reductionistic, whether it reduces experience to parts or to wholes. That’s inescapable, because the human mind is so much less complex than the universe that it tries to understand! As for inquisitors and their hostility to magic, as I see it, what motivates the inquisitorial mindset is a craving for uniformity. Everyone must think the same, believe the same, behave the same! But mages are always individuals — they think their own thoughts and go their own ways — and inquisitors, be they religious or scientific, can’t stand that.

    Justin, thanks for this.

    Dylan, a fine set of themes for meditation!

  28. “If we’d had an Alchemical Revolution in the seventeenth century instead of a Scientific Revolution, there would be hundreds of these alchemies right now, and the little fringe groups interested in science would be convulsed by bickering about whether science is properly about astronomy, or chemistry, or biology.”

    Ironically, all of the pioneers of the Scientific Revolution were also involved in occult disciplines (especially alchemy and astrology). I wonder if these pioneers had intended to create a kind of “division of labor” between the study of material plane (via scientific method) and the study of higher planes (via occult disciplines) in the first place, or the separation between science and occultism had happened independently of their intention.

  29. “If the old metallic alchemy is a reality, it depends on a physical process that today’s scientists haven’t yet discovered—that much is certain. Beyond that, all is guesswork.”

    Reality or legend the supposed alchemist gold-making was believed by their contemporaries. That’s a fact. Not only the uneducated, even the medieval elites believed in making gold with alchemy…I don’t remember it well, but there was a king in late-medieval Spain who hired an alchimist to make gold from another metals. I think it was Juan of Aragon in the XIV century (I’m not sure, I’m not a historian). Every people in medieval and Renaissance times believed in the Alchemy power. Reality or legend.

  30. Hi John Michael,

    A festival of the Bunyip, yeah that works for me too. 🙂 I’ve long thought that the legend of the Bunyip was a reference to the cultural memories of the marsupial mega-fauna. Encountering an annoyed three tonne wombat in a remote part of the forest would most certainly test a persons nerves, probably in a bad way. 🙂 There was also the Diprotodon, a fearsome beast of similar proportions. I reckon that lot all got eaten, although it is unfashionable to suggest that possibility. Then as penance to appease the now grumpy land spirits, the humans had to provide the services the mega-fauna only once did, but for free. Makes the sensitive person a touch nervous that our civilisation is likewise building up such a debt, which will have to be repaid for sure. Oh well.

    Speaking of grumpy land spirits, we actually ran out of dry firewood a couple of days ago. Far out man, not good. It’s meant to be summer, but then looking out the window this morning at the low thick clouds – and it rained this morning, can’t say it looks that way to me. When systems unexpectedly fail, the brain gets into gear and starts considering the future and plotting out a suitable response.

    So, I’m looking at the card and noticed that the two young lovers (who are in union) have one foot each in the greens, and one each on the barren soil, under the sun of wisdom (presumably?) Have to keep one foot in each world myself, so I get that. And interestingly, the very large polychrome brickwork looks in far better condition that the leaning towers of about to fall over and smoosh when connecting with the earth, of recent cards. I assume this card is a very positive card to pull from the deck? Looks that way to me.

    Cheers

    Chris

  31. Hey JMG

    This essay on the philosophers stone reminded me of a interesting consequence of the fashionable idea that it was all a hoax.
    Assuming that the “gold” was fake, a fancy alloy, it nonetheless displayed all the characteristics of gold to such perfection that all the standard assaying techniques such as streaking and weighing and acid-testing couldn’t detect any difference between it and real gold. Would not the existence of such an alloy be only slightly less disturbing and shocking to the sciences of chemistry and physics than the idea that the alchemists could transform lead into gold with a pinch of powder?

  32. Travis,
    Listening again to Terence McKenna’s talk about alchemy, after a long absence. Very meaningful for me. Stepping into the river, changed and ever changing. Thank you for the link.

    Dylan,
    You went to almost exactly the same place I did with the cube meditation (sphere of protection, locus in space, the implied center of the stone where the three axes cross.)

  33. Experience == astral plane, Existence == mental plane. I’m getting the feeling that the gist of what Levi is hinting at with things like the cube is “rise to the mental plane”. Thanks for the post.

  34. JMG,

    Levi mentions the frontispiece of Sieur de Nuysement. I found a copy here: https://imgs.search.brave.com/DcpdI2yI2w6kInyy10K1ak3ab8OiWhkdHWTM9nW_WIE/rs:fit:294:500:1/g:ce/aHR0cHM6Ly9waWN0/dXJlcy5hYmVib29r/cy5jb20vaW52ZW50/b3J5L21kL21kMjI4/MjgxOTM5MDMuanBn. On the cube, there is text ?TKINUS? et unus. Online translator said “et unus” means “and one”. But it cannot translate the first word (probably because I am reading it incorrectly). Would you please translate it for me?

    @Phutatorius,

    The card makes me think of Gemini. I’ve found some references to Gemini being Apollo and Dionysus or Apollo and Herakles (or Apollo and Artemis). Apollo is the diurnal aspect of the Sun; Dionysus is the nocturnal aspect of the Sun. But they are both solar. Herakles is also considered solar, but some references consider him to be ‘double-aspect’ (having masculine and feminine traits). Perhaps the modest boxer shorts is to imply they are more alike than different? (It seems to me that in my deck, the women on other cards tend to be more obviously buxom than on this card.) On the Knapp-Hall card, the boxer shorts are yellow and red (air and fire); the card that JMG posted has red and blue (fire and water) boxers (which make air, the yellow in the bricks in the wall, and eventually earth, which I think is the Christmas wreath on the ground). I hadn’t considered the equinox; I will have to meditate on that. The shield made me think of the unity (circle) on top of a Tau (so manifestation and ascension?).

    I have no ideas about the brick wall, unless it is a flashback to the curtains on some of the earlier cards that represented the Veil?

    @Justin Patrick Moore,

    The black sun is intriguing. Levi mentions that Jachin and Boaz are white and black. If it wasn’t for the ‘black stone’ comment at the beginning of the chapter and your comment about the black sun, I would have thought the sun would be the white column. (The sun is masculine and it seems that masculine is usually the good guy compared to the feminine…) But the sun is the certitude, the absolute, the truth, so that does seem to fit more with severity. Hmm. So maybe the Sun is reason and the Moon is faith?

    @Jon G,

    In other things I am reading, the Sun is Fire, the Moon is Water, and they create a body which is nurtured by the Earth. When that body is perfected, it is Salt. (So Sun=Sulphur, Moon=Mercury, Body=Salt.) But I am flummoxed about how Salt/Body can be the middle pillar, since, since Tiphareth and Yesod are in the middle pillar and the Sun and Moon are Jachin and Boaz. Does Teth have anything to do with Salt or Earth or Body? (Or maybe I am mixing too many metaphors.)

    @JMG,

    I had to look up what a bunyip was. Dingomas is just too funny. (I know you don’t do movies, but I cannot hear/read “dingo” without hearing Meryl Streep wailing “the dingo ate my baby!”)

    Related to reason (and related to poetry!), Esoterica had an interesting episode on William Blake’s “Urizen” (‘your reason’) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXN2CRpWAzU.

  35. Minervaphilos, it was a mixed bag. For every serious alchemist like Isaac Newton you had someone like Robert Boyle, who thought that alchemy could be reduced to chemical formulae and was trying to set up a company to profit off it. I think the division was inevitable — some people wanted it, some didn’t, but as European cultures pursued their destiny, a purely material science was unavoidable.

    Chuaquin, it was indeed, and there was apparently good reason for that belief — certainly there were many reports of succesful transmutations back in the day.

    Chris, you’re not the only one to think that the bunyip’s a folk memory of the old megafauna — Bernard Heuvelmans, who more or less created the science of cryptozoology with his book On the Track of Unknown Animals, made the same argument. I don’t suppose you could find a three-ton wombat to stand over your firewood and shelter it from the rain, though!

    J.L.Mc12, not quite so shocking, but you’re right that it would rattle some cages good and proper.

    Youngelephant, you can certainly interpret it that way.

    Random, let’s take a look at it.

    I believe that first word is TRINUS, not TKINUS, and so the whole means “three and one.” I’m glad you liked Dingomas!

  36. Zhu Sha or cinnabar (mercury sulfide) is a red powder used in Chinese medicine. Daoist tradition has internal alchemy (nei dan) and external alchemy (wai dan). Internal alchemy which involves meditation and breathing practices became more popular after people were poisoning themselves through the use of toxic materials like Zhu Sha in their decoctions used in external alchemy.

  37. @JMG, Thank you for the translation. 🙂

    @Dylan, to riff slightly off your cube meditation… the quaternary to the binary to the ternary to the unity took me back to the Sphinx riddle (in the Introduction? Chapter One? Seems so long ago…) Which also took me back to another construction with three axes… if the axes connected to vertices rather than faces, rather than a cube, you’d end up with an octohedron (two pyramids back-to-back, so to speak) (which is the internal structure of the octet struss, for those of you who have been missing my ‘it all leads back to a Merkabah somehow’ posts…)

    But, even more fun than a justified Merkabah reference is if you look at the binaries as Spheres (Chokmah and Binah, Chesed and Geburah, Netzach and Hod), the ternaries they lead to (Tiphareth, Yesod, and Malkuth) (or Sun, Moon, Earth) (or Sulphur, Mercury, and Salt), when unified, are the Azoth!

    Fun stuff! Thank you for sharing your meditation.

  38. Justin Patrick and others- About the Black Sun-I recommend The Black Sun: The Alchemy and Art of Darkness by Stanton Marlan. It’s a Jungian take, and not a history of the symbol. The language sometimes veers to the postmodernist, but the analysand artwork is awesome. Also, in downtown Pittsburgh we find many of these old manhole covers-my reading is that it was supposed to signify something like: “Power and Light 24 hours a day.” But it’s clearly a black sun:
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/42/Shocking_%2810484046863%29.jpg/250px-Shocking_%2810484046863%29.jpg
    -Berserker

  39. My meditation on the cube was interesting this morning. I followed the line of thought that there were three pairs of four. So this was 3 x 2 = 6. Six sides of the cube.
    This was also 6 x 4 for the tetragrammatons of the names. 6 x 4 = 24.
    In gematriac / numerological reduction 2+4 = 6. Then an image came to me of the hexagram with a black cube inside it.

    Of course 6 on the Tree of Life is Tiphareth, the Sun.

    I’m sure this warrants further exploration.


    Last night I got out a book by Nigel Pennick that I bought at the thrift store last year (score!) but hadn’t read yet, the Book of Primal Signs. I figured he might have something to say in it about the Black Sun. I found this passage to be interesting, in a chapter on the Sun.

    “The physical sun was seen to possess a spiritual dimension, the Intelligible Helios. In the third century CE, Elgabalus, a Syrian sun worshipper, became emperor and renamed himself Heliogabalus (reign 222-226 CE). He instituted the worship at Rome of the Syrian sol deity El Gabel.”

    He then goes on to talk about some other solar deities, but not much about the black sun, from the rest of the book I skimmed through. More research…

  40. More on Elagabalus, this is from the section “In Rome” on the Wikipedia page… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elagabalus_(deity) -which seems to be reasonably sourced. (Pennick also got into the merging with Sol Invictus)

    “The cult stone or baetyl was brought to Rome by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, who, before his accession, was the hereditary high priest at Emesa and was commonly called Elagabalus after the deity.[10] The Syrian deity was assimilated with the Roman sun god known as Sol and later Sol Invictus (“the unconquered Sun”).[11]

    A temple called the Elagabalium was built on the east face of the Palatine Hill to house the holy stone of the Emesa temple, a black conical meteorite.[12] Herodian writes of that stone:

    This stone is worshipped as though it were sent from heaven; on it there are some small projecting pieces and markings that are pointed out, which the people would like to believe are a rough picture of the sun, because this is how they see them.[13]”

    Roman aureus depicting Elagabalus. The reverse reads Sanct Deo Soli Elagabal (To the Holy Sun God Elagabal), and depicts a four-horse, gold chariot carrying the holy stone of the Emesa temple.
    Herodian also related that Elagabalus forced senators to watch while he danced around his deity’s altar to the sound of drums and cymbals,[12] and at each summer solstice celebrated a great festival, popular with the masses because of food distributions,[14] during which he placed the holy stone on a chariot adorned with gold and jewels, which he paraded through the city:

    A six horse chariot carried the divinity, the horses huge and flawlessly white, with expensive gold fittings and rich ornaments. No one held the reins, and no one rode in the chariot; the vehicle was escorted as if the god himself were the charioteer. Elagabalus ran backward in front of the chariot, facing the god and holding the horses’ reins. He made the whole journey in this reverse fashion, looking up into the face of his god.[14]

    Herodian’s description strongly suggests that the Emesene cult was inspired by the Babylonian Akitu-festival.[15]

    According to Cassius Dio, the Emperor also tried to bring about a union of Roman and Syrian religion under the supremacy of his deity, which he placed even above Jupiter,[16] and to which he assigned either Astarte, Minerva or Urania, or some combination of the three, as wife.[14] The most sacred relics from the Roman religion were transferred from their respective shrines to the Elagabalium, including “the emblem of the Great Mother, the fire of Vesta, the Palladium, the shields of the Salii, and all that the Romans held sacred”. He reportedly also declared that Jews, Samaritans and Christians must transfer their rites to his temple so that it “might include the mysteries of every form of worship”.[17]

    According to Herodian, after the emperor was killed in 222, his religious edicts were reversed and the cult of Elagabalus returned to Emesa.”

    —very interesting about that Baetyl stone, and the story that the emperor paraded it on a chariot pulled by 6 horses.

  41. @JMG #30: Thank you! I certainly enjoyed coming up with those meditations, though I can’t say I’ve dwelt on them long enough to unravel where they lead.

    In all seriousness though, what is with all the dark hints about death coming to those who reveal the secrets of magic? Your writing is straightforwardly informative, even if it’s sometimes deliberately obscure. You talk openly about occult topics and don’t seem to fear any such dark fate. So what is Levi talking about… or, I suppose, NOT talking about?

    @RandomActsofKarma #40: You’re welcome! I did indeed have the sphinx’s riddle in mind as our first clue to the Great Arcanum. The second big clue was when our host indicated that Chapter 6 came very close to spelling it out, but I’ve re-read that chapter a couple of times without making any further headway beyond ‘balance between opposing forces is essential’.

    I haven’t followed your Merkabah posts, but I am delighted by your introduction of the spheres into this mystery. I had never grouped the ternaries that way, as I always thought that Chokmah and Binah pointed to Kether as their third term. It helps my understanding of the alchemical terminology to think of Tiphareth, Yesod, and Malkuth as Sulphur, Mercury, and Salt… but where’s the Azoth in this picture?

  42. Hi John Michael,

    I’m not keen to put your theory to the test, the err, giant wombat might have other ideas! 🙂

    Mate, way off topic, the economic ill winds are blowing thick and fast down here. It astounds me that people have forgotten the basic principle of living within their means. They’re not more than they are, and this has come as something of a surprise to many, if the articles in the newspaper are anything to go by. The past couple of years with all the lockdowns has produced some awful self absorption in the community. It’s quite evil really.

    Cheers

    Chris

  43. @Clark, #40

    > after people were poisoning themselves through the use of toxic materials

    Or where they?

    It’s been discussed several times here that for souls to step aside from the cycle of reincarnation, they need a material vessel to “anchor” their subtle bodies in place. A necessary, though not sufficient, condition for the ego in particular to survive the death of the physical body would be some form of corpse preservation. This is where all the mummification rituals come from, after all.

    It is a documented fact that, up until the early 20th century, some Japanese monks would perform rituals at the end of their life that include the consumption of a mildly toxic herb infusion that slowly bio-accumulated in their tissues without killing them outright. At the very end, they would be buried alive and meditate until their human body collapsed of hunger and dehydration (IIRC, their grave was not airtight, so they would not suffocate).

    Maybe the “everlasting life” the old Daoist alchemists sought after did not include the survival of their physical body, in the common sense you and me understand.

  44. Speaking of Dingomas, Australian novelist gives us (to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight) “The dingoes did the Princess in….” I’ll look up her Corinna Chapman mysteries and get the entire set of words if you’d like. The reference is to the car crash that killed Diana, and the dingoes are the paparazzi who were hounding her. Her student choral singers had a lot of such filks, including a riddle song first published in a manuscript of Old English riddles.

  45. @Dylan,

    Chokmah and Binah are usually grouped with Kether in the drawings of the Tree I have seen, but Kether and Malkuth are closely related (the Malkuth of one World is the Kether of the next, plus they both share Metatron) and if you consider Chokmah and Binah as Yod and Heh, Malkuth is the second Heh of that Tetragrammaton. So I may have taken a little liberty to group Chokmah and Binah with Malkuth, but it made more sense to do that than to group them with Hod and Netzach.

    I got to Azoth from Levi and Herakles. In the 4th paragraph of this chapter, he said “This stone, say the masters of alchemy, is the true salt of the philosophers, which is one third of the composition of azoth.” I have been studying The Book of Lambspring and The Emerald Tablet trying to understand Herakles. My understanding of Lambspring is that one of the things the Alchemist needs to perfect the ‘body’ so it can unite with the spirit (body being fixed, spirit being volatile). An unperfected body is Earth; perfected Earth is Salt. When the Alchemist has done that, The Emerald Tablet says “By this means you will acquire the glory of the whole world…” Glory of the World, Glory of the Earth… Glory of Hera… Herakles.

    So the Stone is Salt, which is one of the ‘big three’ ingredients in Alchemy, Sulphur and Mercury (Quicksilver) being the other two. So by grouping Chokmah/Binah with Malkuth (Earth/Salt), and the others with Yesod and Tiphareth, everything but Kether is accounted for. My understanding from Cosmic Doctrine is that Ain Soph condensed to Kether, leaving Ain Soph Aur (also called the Divine Breath, the Abyss, and the Azoth) which reflects the Divine Light from Ain Soph/Kether. So (excluding Ain, which I still don’t really understand) Ain Soph Aur/Azoth is everything *except* for Kether. Chokmah/Binah resolve to Malkuth/Salt; Netzach/Hod resolve to Yesod/Mercury; Chesed/Geburah resolve to Tiphareth/Sulphur. Salt + Mercury + Sulphur = Azoth… everything but Kether (and Ain).

    I hope this makes sense. Your meditation led me to the Sphinx and the Merkabah and all of this and I still need to meditate some more on it.

    Regarding my Merkabah posts, ha! They are nothing to follow…yet. 🙂 Merkabah is one of those things that seems important but I haven’t figured out how yet, but whenever I see something that seems to relate to it, I make a note and maybe eventually someday I’ll have enough notes so I can figure out why it is important.

  46. @Goldenhawk #36:

    Thanks for that. Do convergent meditations indicate an objective reality behind the symbol? Kind of gives me goosebumps to think about it.

  47. @RandomActsOfKarma, @Dylan:

    Thanks for all your notes! I doubt I’m anywhere close to figuring out the Arcanum, but I have been finding that reviewing Chapter 4, and re-reading JMG’s post on that chapter, worthwhile. Particularly the diagram in that chapter.

    @RandomActsOfKarma:

    Thanks also for finding the frontispiece image, I also tried looking for it to no avail. Looks awfully like the Emperor tarot.

    I am glad to see mention of the Merkabah once again! 🙂

  48. Re Chris at Fernglade Farm,
    Agree about not living within our means. Have you noticed that in all the hoo ha about our green future nobody mentions living with less? I have also been amused by people saying how they are cutting back on their power consumption. It was called normal life till about the 70s.

  49. @jbucks,

    I just reread JMG’s commentary for Chapter 4. Gee. Methinks I need to reread everything again. Who knows how much I missed the first time? My meditation for tomorrow will be on Aleph and Tau… 😉

  50. @RandomActsOfKarma:

    Very interesting. I had never before heard the identification of Herakles, ‘Glory of Hera,’ with the Emerald Tablet’s ‘Glory of the whole world’. Let me now riff on this in a slightly different direction.

    Herakles is the archetypal hero, who is born mortal, but because of the divine nature within him, is able through his labours to ascend to divinity and dwell among the gods. He is born into Earth, but through his labours is able to transform his mortal body into Salt.

    The alchemist is also involved in transmuting physical substances through a corresponding spiritual transmutation. Steiner, much like our host, is inclined toward straightforward explanation instead of cryptic symbolic language, and he says explicitly that adepthood is reached when the lower components of the human being (the astral and the etheric) are transformed through the work of full integration with their corresponding higher components (what Steiner calls the consciousness soul and the life spirit) and are thus able to survive the death of the physical body. The adept is then able to begin a new physical incarnation with the integrated etheric and astral bodies he or she had in the previous physical incarnation, including conscious memories and abilities previously acquired. This is a form of immortality.

    True immortality is reached when the highest component of the human being, what Steiner calls the spirit body, is integrated with the lowest, the physical body. This represents a complete union of matter with spirit, and was exemplified in Christ while he was incarnated on earth.

    Here’s how it all points to a Merkabah: the six faces of the cube and the six directions of the Sphere of Protection all imply a seventh, central element. The cube represents the physical earth, and at the centre of the Sphere is one’s own physical body. Spiritual practice aims not to leave the physical body behind, but to raise it up toward the spirit, that is, to refine one’s earthly vehicle until it is capable of being charioteered by the highest of spiritual forces. This is why Card VII is the Chariot, the cube in motion under the direction of the perfected soul.

    I don’t understand the role of Mercury, Sulphur, and Azoth, but they must be important to the process. The Greek etymology of Herakles and the fact that our earliest Emerald Tablet texts are in Arabic make the connection there admittedly tenuous but imaginatively fruitful, as I hope I’ve demonstrated!

    Interestingly, Steiner gave his students a visual meditation for this time of year that involves the Virgin Mary enacting the Salt process within her body. It’s called the Christmas Imagination, and you can look it up if you want to follow that trail any farther.

    Happy to hear updates on your researches and musings as we roll forward 🙂

  51. @RandomActsofKarma

    I was using Levi’s explanation of Jachin and Boaz for my personal meditation on Teth, but I think there is a connection between Jachin/Boaz and Severity/Mercy. I don’t think it’s direct, so it doesn’t mean that Teth is related to Salt or Earth or Body. But I do think that every Binary creates a space of some kind for the Ternary to appear. So I wonder, with your example of Sun and Moon, what is the space created between them? It’s probably not a physical space, but it is something that can only exist because of the Two. In other words, Salt can only exist from the Sun and the Moon being in equal opposition to each other. I hope that made sense.

    And with the discussion on the Cube having three Binaries, I am starting to wonder if the space created by those three Binaries must interrelate somehow.

    This is all amazing.

  52. @Dylan,

    I don’t know about objective reality, but I think there’s a dimension where ideas and symbols exist as psychological realities, and we can access that dimension in meditation. I think we’re doing that here, sharing reports of our travels there.

  53. Re: alchemy

    ‘The Queen’s Conjurer’, Benjamin Wooley’s biography of John Dee, is a great example of modern doublethink about alchemy. First of all, he dismisses the entire discipline as entirely fraudulent. Then, a few pages later, he quotes multiple eye-witness accounts of successful transmutations, but without comment – he doesn’t say “of course, they were fraudulent”, or describe how the trickery might have taken place. He just leaves it there, and hopes we don’t notice.

    Another interesting anecdote is the staging of Peace by Aristophanes while Dee was studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, in which Dee designed a mechanical Pegasus that appeared to fly around the room – to this day, nobody knows how he actually did it, except some vague references to pneumatics, mirrors, and springs. Considering that audiences accustomed to 21st century technology were sufficiently impressed by War Horse, which features horse puppets that don’t fly around, I’m wondering what other technical marvels we have lost from that era.

  54. It seems like each side of the cube implies the same thing. YHVH/Solomon is Wisdom fixed into a human. Adam/Eve is Adam Kadmon, the ideal human fixed into a physical body, Eve. AZOTH can be the Alpha/Omega, beginning and end fixed into a human, Jesus, who said “I am the Alpha and the Omega.”

    JMG hinted that the Great Arcanum is a ternary where the one is resolved into two. It was also said that Vau is the second letter of the Ternary, and I think Vau might mean the nails of the cross. So perhaps the One, Wisdom, resolves into death and birth. We have the knowledge that all death leads back into life, and we have no need to fear death.

    Although the riddle of the Sphinx is “Four in the morning, two at noon and three in the evening.” Wouldn’t this be the Quaternary divides into the Binary and is resolved in a Ternary?

  55. If the World Cup Witches wouldn’t be a great name for a band, I don’t know what would be.

  56. “The basis of reality, then, is experience itself: that which is. Everything else is an extrapolation from that.”

    The most solidly grounded experiences are not of “things” themselves, but of patterns between other experiences. For instance, the experience of thirst can be partially modulated by will and imagination, and one can often drink water routinely without much conscious attention to the experience. But the relationship between the experience of drinking water and the experience of thirst seems to be inescapable. In some idealistic monism where the water and the thirst are both primarily ideas in the mind, any attempt to explain the consistency of the relationship we experience between them adds an additional element (which makes such idealisms less parsimonious than their advocates usually claim them to be). It could be a fixed idea in the mind of the divine; or part of the programming of the simulator we’re all living in; or if I’m the solipsist, an ingrained habit in a layer of my own mind that I nonetheless have no access to or control over. Whatever it is, it’s something that appears to exist apart from the experiences themselves. Or alternatively, I can be content for why I experience thirst at some times and not at other times to remain a mystery. But there’s so much more to it than that…

    “We can also explore experience as such, reflecting on it and playing with it, and discover the roles that will and imagination play in shaping and reshaping experience. This is the way of high magic.”

    Teasing apart separate layers of what I’d always assumed a simple monolithic experience, “being cold” during windy Boston winters, was the key to my first successful use of magic. Cold as a sensed fact about ones surroundings isn’t the same experience as cold as a form of pain or concern or urgent stressful need for corrective action, and by focusing on the first (not denying it as I’d often tried before) the others would recede and allow me to relax when waiting for the bus or trolley. But I didn’t think it had any outward effect, until a fellow waiting passenger at a trolley stop in terrible weather walked up to me as I was sitting on a bench reading a book, and asked, “How are you doing that?” One of the most memorable surprises of my life.

    For a long time I questioned (and once inquired at one of these blogs) whether that really had anything to do with magic, or was at best a marginal form of it. Subsequent practice, like the quote above, suggests it’s comfortably encompassed.

    I don’t think it’s any coincidence that many of the potentially distinguishable aspects of experiences—sensory, emotional, consequential, verbal, symbolic, and universal/sacred—correspond pretty well to the planes.

    Many spells either tangle or untangle different aspects or dimensions of experiences, for good or ill. Solve et coagula of course. “Your experience of companionship with friends and family must include your experience of our fizzy brown sugar water.”

  57. May I recommend the Song of Songs (KJV) in connection with ShLMH, the black sun, the chariot, the union of Logos and Eros, and more:

    1 The song of songs, which is Solomon’s.

    2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.

    3 Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.

    4 Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.

    5 I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.

    6 Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.

    7 Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?

    8 If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.

    9 I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.

    10 Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.

    11 We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.

    12 While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.

    13 A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.

    14 My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.

    15 Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes.

    16 Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.

    17 The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.

  58. @Jon G,

    I agree, this is all amazing.

    I think maybe the space between the Sun and Moon *is* physical. In the Emerald Tablet, it says “The father of it is the sun, the mother the moon. The wind bore it in the womb. Its nurse is the earth, the mother of all perfection.” So if the Sun (Fire) is Yod and the Moon (Water) is Heh, Vau (Air/wind) carries it to Earth (final Heh), where “it” (the Divine Spark in the process of being manifested) gets an imperfect body.

    I think you are right… somehow the binaries of the Cube fit into this. Hmm…

    I also think there might be some people who think there is a direct connection between Jachin/Boaz and Severity/Mercy. Look at this: https://imgs.search.brave.com/1sUzJs_5BNODzR1cQ2sBj4ussfSY01S5KmitL2328IY/rs:fit:293:420:1/g:ce/aHR0cDovLzMuYnAu/YmxvZ3Nwb3QuY29t/Ly03OGZLZVNuekJT/TS9UdVRldjhyaDRV/SS9BQUFBQUFBQUNC/US92WlZyZjEyUm1o/MC9zMTYwMC8xMS5q/cGc

    But the website is in French, and I don’t read French, but that is probably just as well. I shall ponder the Cube and the three columns and see where I end up.

    (But when I searched for Jachin Boaz and Tree of Life, I also got this: https://imgs.search.brave.com/t2_RezqTek7jP_4jVGQlK4lXhhc3QCfVX4MaOkWMoco/rs:fit:557:870:1/g:ce/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cu/bW9zdGhvbHlwbGFj/ZS5jb20vd3BpbWFn/ZXMvd3BmNTQ2NDIy/NV8wMV8xYS5qcGc

    It even has the sphere/cross thing that the Emperor holds!)

  59. @ Dylan,

    I do not know if the Emerald Tablet’s “Glory of the whole world” is intended to go with “Glory of Hera”. I’ve been working with the Herakles’ myth, trying to align the Labors to the Zodiac. I got stuck, so decided to see if I could align the Labors to the stages in the Book of Lambspring. I got stuck. Decided to go back to the beginning, and found this document with many many many translations of the Emerald Tablet: https://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/emerald.htm Some of them don’t use the phrase “glory of the whole world” (and some don’t even use the word “glory”), but when I read it, it clicked with what I was working on. But that doesn’t mean my interpretation is correct. (Ha! Take it with a grain of salt…)

    So does Steiner connect the astral with the soul and the etheric with the spirit? (I am not disagreeing, I just want to make sure I am understanding things right. When I read things by different authors, there doesn’t seem to be consistency between what is soul and what is spirit.) Do the soul and spirit unite and make the spirit body? (And then the spirit body unites with the perfected physical body?)

    (And again, the Cube. I must go meditate more on the Cube!)

    Regarding Herakles and Greek, it is possible that Herakles was not originally Greek. Murray provides an explanation (https://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/fsgr/fsgr06.htm) to explain how he could have been incorporated into the Greek mythos, but it is very possible he was originally Phoenician (from Tyre), so the Arabic connection may not be as tenuous. 😉

    The Christmas Imagination seems interesting… I will follow that trail later, though. At the moment, the universe seems to be pointing me to the Cube. (And dinner… 🙂 )

  60. Hi JillN,

    Yup, I absolutely 100% agree with you. It’s weird isn’t it?

    And I hear people talking about cutting back on all sorts of things, but I’m of the belief that their dirty little secret (which I’ve now let the cat out of the bag) is that they’re pining for the return of the recent past. I suspect that is what is meant when people talk of the return to normality. The stupid thing about that hankering, is that historically it is so far from the norm. Beats me. 🙂

    Cheers

    Chris

  61. @Dylan, @Jon G, and everyone else meditating on the Cube:

    Manly P Hall (Secret Teaching of All Ages) said that Solomon can be divided into three syllables: SOL (light), OM (glory), and ON (truth). The Temple of Solomon was actually THREE temples:
    First Temple, Grand House of the Universe: The Sun (SOL), surrounded by the zodiac and the Moon (so THREE lights… solar, stellar, and lunar).
    Second Temple, Human Body.
    Third Temple, Soular House, which is “concealed under the allegory of the Soma Psuchicon.” Soma Psuchicon is soul body (!!!) which, according to https://www.rosicrucianfellowship.org/rays_misc/the%20strong%20grip%20of%20the%20lions%20paw_may%201917.pdf, is made of light and reflecting ethers. (No, the Lion isn’t Herakles, though I admit that’s why I followed the link… 😉 ). The temple is built by Master Masons personifying Wisdom, Love, and Service (again, THREE).

    So the First Temple has three parts (solar, stellar, and lunar). The Third Temple has three parts (Wisdom, Love, and Service). I suspect the Second Temple also has three parts, but Hall gave no clues to that. So three temples with three parts is 9. If these somehow resolve into 1, we end up with 10 (Aristotle’s perfect number and the number of Spheres).

    Azoth and INRI…Wisdom, Love, and Service… Azoth is Wisdom. INRI, Jesus, Love. So the ternary is Service? This could relate to OM (glory), but that is because I have Herakles on the brain.

    YHVH and Solomon… it seems like this one would be SOL (light). I haven’t figured out what the Sun, the Zodiac, and the Moon represent specifically.

    Adam and Eve… So does that resolve into Knowledge (from the Tree of Knowledge)? So this one would be ON (truth).

    Way back in Chapter 3, JMG discussed the phrase “For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever, Amen.” but referring to Malkuth, Geburah, and Chesed. I was originally trying to figure out how to get to Tiphareth, Yesod, and Malkuth, but the Kingdom, Power, and Glory would give one Sphere from each column, which would make a better ternary, I think.

    But now I am befuddled. I can see Wisdom/Love/Service as Chokmah/Netzach/Chesed, but light and reflecting ethers are Tiphareth/Yesod. Binah is Zodiac. ARGH.

    I will meditate on this again tomorrow. Wanted to share, though, in case someone else has a flash of insight/inspiration. 🙂

  62. Clark, I don’t claim to be any kind of expert in Chinese alchemy, but I know that in Western alchemy the names used for substances were very often deliberately deceptive. It wouldn’t surprise me if “cinnabar” was a code word for something very different.

    Justin, most interesting indeed. Thanks for this.

    Dylan, I’ve wondered more than once if Lévi put those into the book purely as a way to keep people from pestering him about the Great Arcanum, a kind of “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you” bit of verbiage. Certainly I know of no other good reason why he might say that.

    Chris, hmm! That’s worrying to hear. People can get very crazy if they convince themselves that the universe has to cater to their notions of what they deserve.

    Patricia, I bet the dingoes were deeply hurt to be compared to paparazzi!

    JustMe and Joshua, thanks for both of these.

    Luke, that is indeed a fine example. I get the impression that everyone who writes about occultism these days, if they want to stay respectable, has to put in the “of course it was all nonsense” tripe. As for the flying Pegasus, yes — there could have been any number of ancient tricks still in circulation during the Renaissance that got lost during the dark ages of rationalism thereafter.

    Jon, good! Keep going.

    Walt, in point of fact that’s classic magic, and a fine example. Change your consciousness, change your experience of the world!

    …and more generally, I’m just going to sit back and grin. Thank you, all of you, for taking Lévi’s ideas and running with them.

  63. @Dylan, @Jon G, and all the other Cube enthusiasts:

    I think we have all been describing different aspects of the same elephant…

    I had a thought and did some research and found “The Key to Hebrew Egyptian Mystery (https://ia902308.us.archive.org/20/items/skinner-key1894a/skinner-key1894a.pdf) in the Source of Measures”. I have only skimmed it, but it explains the ansated cross (a cross with a circle on top) (like on the shield of the Sun card in the Knapp Hall deck) (Sometimes referred to an an ankh.)

    If you unfold the cube (solve!), you end up with a cross (three squares going across the top, four going down the middle, for a total of seven) (you count the square common to both twice). I have found some references that have the circle in the common square and some references have the circle on top (like the shield). The circle represents unity (I’m thinking the unity of the soul and the spirit). (And if you fold the cross back up, you get a cube, coagula!)

    I’m also thinking the intersection of the axes we’ve been searching for is also the same unity, the soul body, the Soma Psuchicon. I think Wisdom is half of the soul body (as Jon G pointed out), but Understanding is the other half. I think my alignment of Spheres with the different aspects of the Temple is on the right track, but now I wonder if Hermes’ caduceus isn’t a clue… maybe I shouldn’t be looking for Spheres in the same pillar or across three pillars, but I should figure out where the snakes are. Don’t have time to do that now… hopefully will have time to play with that tonight.

    One other fun thing… back to chapter four, the picture with the triangle (in yellow), the hexagram /star of two triangles (red and blue), and the green circle/square with lines. The yellow up-pointing triangle is air; the intersecting red/blue triangles are fire and water. But I never understood the weird green symbol, until now. A circle with a cross in it symbolizes Earth. But *perfected* Earth (salt) is a cube (or, in 2D, a square). So the square inside the Earth is our perfected body, our soul body.

    With all of this, I still don’t have a clue how any of it relates to Qoph (the Hebrew letter for the chapter). Latin T goes well with Tau, which goes with the cross, but I’ve been doing Hebrew letters all this time and JMG says we should stick with one alphabet. Anyone have any ideas about Qoph?

  64. Hope I’m not asking these two questions too late, and if so, I’ll repeat them next month earlier in the comment cycle.

    Levi said “Never will a biased man be the king of nature and the master of transmutations.” How does one assess level of bias? Or to know with certainty that one is bias free? It seems to be part of the human condition to have bias to some degree. Perhaps the ideal isn’t none as much as recognizing it and being able to drop it?

    In Levi’s discussion of two opposing forces required to balance the world, I wondered what happens when one force sets an intention to completely destroy and engulf the other? It feels like even the attempt of such a broad action there would a counter force which would naturally arise. Observing people, it seems like the push forward and getting the push back consumes their lives and oh my is the internet built to encourage it.

  65. @Random Acts of Karma

    Thanks for the contributions you’ve made. I just can’t respond to all of them, so I just wanted to say I appreciate them all and have much to ponder the next few weeks.

    That goes with everyone else, too!

  66. Forgive me if this was mentioned earlier in the conversation. My only contribution to the cube meditation is that Levi mentions science vs faith. Science = Adam and Eve meaning we know as a fact that men and women exist. Apologies to Christian’s and those of Abrihamic Faith’s but Solomon, God, Azoth and Jesus have to be taken on faith. Two out of six are science, two squared = the four I take on faith. Wish I could tell you the significance of this meditation path..

  67. Hey John. I’m looking to get back into my pagan faith. I used to follow you on your old blog. Could you pls give me advise on getting back into it.

  68. Denis, (1) by seeing how far you get in your quest to become a king of nature and master of transmutations. The less biased you are, the further you can go; it’s a step by step matter. (2) You let the two contending forces duke it out, walk away, and do something else. It’s very common for one or both forces in politics to want the total destruction of the other; very, very rarely does that produce anything but a bitter stalemate — and as you’ll remember from our work with Dion Fortune’s ideas, you can use that stalemate as a basis for other transformations, by not becoming involved in it, and doing something else that banks off it.

    Igart, why not just pick up where you left off?

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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