Book Club Post

The Doctrine of High Magic: Chapter 2

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

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


“Chapter 2:  The Columns of the Temple” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 39-47).


The tarot card Eliphas Lévi assigns to this chapter is Trump II, La Papesse.  Most English tarot decks translate that “The High Priestess” but that’s not what the traditional name means. Papesse is Popess, female pope, and the card in its original form is a reference to the old and scandalous story of Pope Joan:  a woman who, according to medieval legend, disguised herself as a man and entered a monastery in order to be with her lover.  She proved to have so much talent for the outward forms of religion that she ended up getting a reputation for holiness and being elected pope. The story claims that her secret was revealed when she went into labor in the middle of a papal procession.

Some French-style decks replace the Papess with the Greek goddess Juno, and Lévi includes this option in his symbolism; he mentions Juno pointing to heaven and earth, in much the same way as the figure on the previous trump does, revealing the secret doctrine of all magic, the reflection of the invisible in the visible.  So Trump II is about secrets, and it’s also about polarity—the polarity between man and woman, among other things—which is symbolized by Juno’s gesture, or by the two pillars or columns of the symbolic temple.

Those pillars play a very extensive role in Lévi’s writing, in the tarot, and occult symbolism generally, so a few details will be worth summarizing here.  Out in front of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem were two big ornamental brass pillars, one on either side of the main door. Their names were Jachin, which means “strength,” and Boaz, “to establish.”  Since the imagery and symbolism of the Temple have been constant themes of Western occult teaching for a very long time, those two pillars have seen a lot of use in occult writings. They have roughly the same meanings as the yang and yin of Chinese philosophy—Jachin is the active, dynamic, masculine energy, Boaz the receptive, stable, feminine energy—and they are also respectively the Pillars of Force and Form of the Cabalistic Tree of Life.

Our work in this chapter is to stand between those pillars as we prepare, in the words of a certain ritual, “to enter the immeasurable region.” Before we do that, however, we need to grapple with one of the basic concepts of occultism:  the concept of gnosis.

The word “gnosis” comes from Greek.  By people who don’t know Greek and aren’t wary of the booby traps of casual translation, it’s treated as a word for “knowledge,” or in a more restricted sense, a sort of special, spiritual knowledge.  Bentley Layton, a leading scholar of Gnosticism, has pointed out that it’s much more accurate to translate it as “acquaintance.” Gnosis is the kind of knowledge you get by meeting someone and getting to know them.  It’s not a knowledge of facts, it’s a familiarity with character.

Imagine, to help home in on the distinction, that you met and had a passionate year-long romance with someone who was in the witness protection program and had been given a false identity. Every single supposed fact you learned about that person was false; nevertheless, you would end up knowing that person very well.  You would have gnosis concerning that person. What you would not have is what the Greeks called episteme and Lévi calls science.

The French word science means both science in the modern English sense, and knowledge more generally. By saying that the sages backed away from using the word “science” for what they knew, and preferred the word “gnosis” instead, Lévi is pointing out a crucial issue. If knowledge is, as he says, “the complete and absolute possession of the truth,” no human being has it, or can possibly have it. Anyone who claims to have that kind of access to absolute truth is either lying or deluded. What we can achieve is gnosis, personal acquaintance. In Lévi’s words, we know nothing, but we are called to become acquainted with everything.

As we begin to become acquainted with the world, what do we encounter?  Duality. To begin with, there’s the duality between subject and object, the knower and the known. Descartes’ insight that the fact that he doubts proves that there’s someone who is doubting belongs here, in the second place rather than at the beginning where he tried to put it, and that insight is an expression of gnosis rather than science:  we are all of us well acquainted with the difference between subject and object, between ourselves and the universe of our experience.  But the dualities don’t stop there, of course.

All our experiences, after all, are rooted in contrasts.  We know light only by contrast with shadow, warmth only by contrast with cold, love only by contrast with indifference, and so on. By the time we get to adulthood most of us have learned to distinguish between a vast number of things, but if we chase those distinctions all the way down to their origins, we find that they are rooted in dualities; this color is lighter than that one, the meaning of this word is different from the meaning of that one. We always identify the yang by its difference from yin, Jachin by its difference from Boaz—and vice versa.

But there’s a twist to all this, and Lévi draws our attention to it. Duality is itself one side of a polarity, and the other side is unity.  “United” and “divided” are opposites, as are “one” and “many.” Consider the yin-yang symbol: you can look at it in two ways: as a single variegated circle or as two curving fish-shapes of different colors that happen to be touching. You can see Jachin and Boaz as a single decorative arrangement or as two pillars.  When unity divides to create duality, unity reappears as one half of the duality:  dubious mathematics, at least in a practical sense, but very effective symbolism. One of the many emblems Lévi uses for this pattern is Adam and Eve:  the original human, androgynous according to some versions of the legend, is divided in half, and then turns into one half of the resulting pair.

Here our text brings in the Tetragrammaton, the four-lettered name of the god of Israel, which is spelled יהוה , YHVH. Ancient tradition, backed up by voluminous discussion in the Talmud, has it that the correct pronunciation of this word was known only to the high priests of Israel, and has been lost for many centuries. (Observant Jews replace it with the Hebrew word Adonai, “Lord,” when reading the scriptures aloud, and refer to it obliquely as ha-Shem, “the Name,” in other contexts.)  There are accordingly at least a dozen different ways of pronouncing this name to be found in occult literature, and Lévi offers one of them:  Yodheva. What’s behind this pronunciation is that the last three letters of the name, הוה or HVH, are the Hebrew spelling of the name of Eve, Havah or Hevah in Hebrew.

The first letter, י or Y, symbolizes the phallus or masculine energy in general. Note that the name HVH consists of two letters, one of which is repeated; the letters Y is unity, yang, Jachin, and the letters הו or HV form duality, yin, Boaz. Yod is the spirit; Havah, which literally means “life” in Hebrew, is the embodied form—and of course these are also the male and female energies and, among many other things, the penis and the vagina. (As Jung pointed out, sometimes the penis is just another phallic symbol.)

All this leads us back to the riddle of the Sphinx, which occupied our attention earlier in this sequence of posts.  What walks on four legs at morning, two legs at noon, and three legs at evening?  What is fourfold on one level, twofold on the next, and threefold on the highest level? What is fourfold on the material plane, twofold on the astral plane, and threefold on the mental plane?  In this chapter Lévi is talking about the middle term, the twofold pattern, and hints in various ways at its relation to the fourfold and threefold patterns—but we will be getting to each of those other patterns in the chapters immediately ahead.

Keep the riddle in mind, because our text will drop hints about it as we go. This chapter has several of them, but the most important is tucked away unobtrusively in the midst of the discussion:  “This is why the material elements which are analogous to the divine elements are thought of as four, are explained by two, and only exist in the end as three.”  The material elements are fire, air, water, and earth; the divine elements are the letters of the Tetragrammaton.  Remember the unique doctrine of magic—“the visible is the manifestation of the invisible”—and apply this to the play of the four elements in the world of our experience: it’s a hint worth following up on.

For the time being, however, Lévi’s focus in this chapter is on duality and polarity.  He discusses this in a giddy assortment of ways, and the sexual polarity between man and woman is of course one of these. Because he was a man of his own time and place, writing for an audience of his own time and place, he uses the standard structuring of sexual relationships between men and women as it existed in his time and culture as a framework for this part of his symbolism.  Doubtless that will offend some readers today, just as his use of sexual symbolism in a religious and magical context offended some readers in his own time.  It is pleasant to think that he may have anticipated the change, for like most occult writers, he lays traps for the clueless.  Giving readers something to get irate about so they don’t pay attention to the teachings is one of the most common and effective of those traps.

The point of setting out all these dualities, however, is to point to the possibility of a balance between them:  the teaching of the yin-yang symbol and also of those two mystical pillars. Later on we will explore other ways of reconciling the opposites, but the one Lévi wants to discuss in this chapter—the one relevant to the symbolism of the second trump of the tarot, of the number 2, and of all other emblems of duality—is a balance between equal and opposite forces. Go to one or the other extreme and the teeter-totter of creation flips over on you and down you go.  Find equilibrium, with equal weight on the two sides of the balance, and you avoid that awkward outcome. Stand between the pillars and the immeasurable region lies open to you.

This has practical applications, which our text communicates in hints.  Take any opposition, in nature, in society, or in the spiritual realm—Lévi sets out these three categories more than once, and never unthinkingly—and consider the two opposed forces. The opposition is always founded on a series of covert agreements.  To begin with, opposites agree in belonging to the same category of things: “orange” is not the opposite of “boom,”  nor is magic the opposite of architecture.  Second, opposites in conflict agree to enter into conflict:  the t’ai chi master who simply isn’t where the punch lands refuses that agreement.  Finally, opposites in conflict always adapt to the conflict by coming to resemble each other: as George Orwell pointed out in Animal Farm, sooner or later it’s very hard to tell the farmers from the pigs. Understand these three hidden unities and you can choose to enter into opposition when it’s to your advantage, refuse it when it’s not, and work with existing oppositions as your will and imagination direct.

There is also, however, a more specific magical meaning in this concept of the unity of dualities, and Lévi is as explicit about it as he dares to be.  The middle term in the Great Arcanum is the astral light, the secret power behind magic, and it is always dual: when it flows, it moves in both directions and it manifests itself in a twofold fashion.  The astral light is the belt of Isis that loops around both pillars of the temple and unites at the center in a symmetrical knot.  This is what a certain high degree of Freemasonry calls the Royal Secret, and its name is equilibrium.  Those who meditate on it and understand it have earned the right and the power to use it.  Those who do not are better off not knowing it because, as Lévi says, it can only be misunderstood by them.

Intelligence is the power that surmounts the currents of blind force.  There are always two such currents and they flow in opposite directions.  They are the pillars between which the Papess sits, guarding her secret, and intelligence is the scroll and the two keys (another duality) that give her mastery over the pillars.  What else lies between and beyond the pillars is veiled in this card.  In the cards to come, that veil will be pulled aside

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 will be 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 II, La Papesse, “The Female Pope” or, if you happen to be Discordian, “The Mome.” 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 ב (Beth) or the Latin letter B. Choose one alphabet and stick with it. The sound values aren’t of any importance here, nor is there a “right” choice. You’re choosing labels for 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, fourth, and fifth sessions are devoted to the three titles Lévi gives for the card: Chokmah, Domus, Gnosis. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does Chokmah, wisdom, relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen?  That’s one session.  How about the concept of a house?  Or gnosis, the kind of knowledge that comes from personal acquaintance?  Those are the next two.

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 2 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.

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 3:  The Triangle of Solomon” on August 11, 2021. See you then!


  1. I did give Chapter 2 a first pass before today, and there’s a lot in there. I also read Oedipus the King and Antigone along with Plato’s Timaeus and Critias. I’m waiting for Seven against Thebes to arrive.

    Reflecting on it all, as well as the Introduction and Chapter 1 of Doctrine and Ritual, a few things jump out:

    “The square, by spinning around itself, produces a circle equal to itself…”. The last phase of the SOP, the Circulation of Light, involves spinning a sphere into infinity. You’ve invoked and banished the elements in the six directions, so you’re standing in the center of an octahedron, then you send it spinning, which means each point traces out a sphere as you send it spinning into infinity. If each point is spinning in this way, then each element represented by that point is also infinite…

    – Reading Timaeus was truly great, reading some of the earlier passages especially gave me almost an electrical feeling of enjoyment. Those triangles that form the base unit that Plato describes, and the discussion of geometry in the middle of the dialogue, seem relevant to Lévi, not entirely sure yet how but I’m stewing on it. In section 20 of Timaeus, Plato writes: “There are and were also before heaven came into being three distinct items: being, space and becoming.” In sentences after that he seems to describe nwyfre, gwyar, and calas. Wow! In light of Chapter 2, it makes me wonder whether the three represent different ways of duality being resolved: being is something becoming within space, space is being starting to become, and becoming is what happens to being in space. On the other hand, maybe I’m taking this too far and this is linguistic trickery on my part.

    – Lévi drops a hint somewhere about the importance of the Theban plays as an initiatory sequence. I have read through the Dolmen Arch, but I haven’t yet done the course, and it struck me that this book by Lévi is almost like the chapters in the DA about occult philosophy, but the Theban plays function in a similar role as the Mabinogion – that is, literature intended to be meditated upon.

    – Following from that, the Sphinx’s riddle may be tied to the rest of those Theban plays in another sense. It’s quite telling that Antigone, in the play of the same name, is trying to bury one of her brothers, who died fighting the other brother. So she’s the third factor who is trying to bury (to resolve) the opposites (symbolized by the brothers). I still have much to think on (what role does Creon play, for example). This also seems to be another way of getting at resolving a duality, as you’ve written about in this post.

    This has all been really great, and if we’re already getting this much out of the book club after two chapters, I can only imagine all the fun to come!

    I now need to re-read Chapter 2 much more closely in light of all this and what you’ve written about in this instalment.

  2. The first thing that jumps out is the previous tarot card had some really weird perspective with the table and the magician’s legs. This one looks to be doing perspective perfectly.

  3. Hi everyone! If you are having trouble finding a Tarot de Marseille deck, there is a fabulous option available for free download. Yoav Ben-Dov made his CBD Tarot (based on the Conver deck) available to everyone for free when he died (RIP, a tarot luminary and generous soul). You can download the cards in a smaller size for viewing and posting online or a larger size for printing and using. Find all the options here: Enjoy! — Joy Vernon

  4. After feeling lost and overwhelmed by the introduction, and struggling a bit through the first chapter and it’s exercises, I have to say that when I read the second chapter yesterday to prepare for today it didn’t feel as intimidating. No, I don’t understand it and I still need to follow though with the exercises, but this chapter seemed far clearer from the offset. Maybe the gods threw me a bone to keep me from leaving the study early?

    Which brings me to the quote from today that jumped out like a light – “…we know nothing, but we are called to become acquainted with everything.”

    An added bonus to the SOP has been imagining a merkaba from last month’s discussion – thanks to Randomactsofkarma for that image.

    And thanks to you, JMG, for challenging us on so many levels all these years!

  5. Thank you for this one; I am particularly excited after reading it. So much I want to say but I’ll start with that the formula of the Great Arcanum maps to the natal chart of astrology, specifically the way Jung understood it with ascendent-descendent as a father-son polarity and midheaven-nadir as a mother daughter polarity. On the physical world these have their 4 physical representations (the pieces of the family unit). On the astral these manifest as dualities (persona/shadow) (anima-animus/self <- still need to hash this one out more in my head). I know at least on the mental the dualities exist as a synthesis of persona/shadow (and this applies to anima-self too). These two synthesizations (sp?) add up to 6, 3 + 3 = 6; which maps to Tiphareth on the ToL (not a coincidence! Now I gotta figure out what the heck 5 represents in this context). And then you can play the whole game over again with the ToL because all of the Jungian elements map to Sephiroth. Lon Milo Duquette unpacks this in his book on Thoth tarot. There's also several different combos of 4', 2's, and 3's on the ToL that I haven't even touched on ripe for meditation here.

    This train of thought will keep me busy for awhile…

  6. Jbucks, I’m very glad to see that you’re taking the work this seriously; thank you.

    Yorkshire, many of the Marseille decks have the curtain behind the Papess floating in mid-air, so that may be the visual puzzle for this card. 😉

    Joy, thanks for this! The CBD deck is very well suited for this work, so this is highly useful.

    Shewhoholdstensions, you’re most welcome. Alternatively, you may be getting the hang of making sense of Lévi, in which case it’s going to become clearer as we go.

    Youngelephant, good. You might also consider the way Jung’s fundamental archetypes map onto the astrological chart: the ego is the ascendant, the shadow the nadir, the anima or animus the descendant, and the Self the zenith…

    Nick (offlist), er, please read the paragraph above the comment box. This is not a place to try to find readers for your poetry.

  7. I think “sapere” and “conoscere” capture the same kind of distinction in Italian.

    If I recall right, Iamblichus touches on this type of knowledge in “On the Mysteries,” when he distinguishes the “knowledge” of the gods as something internally understood in the soul vs. our regular epistemic understanding of the material world.


  8. If the two pillars represent such different things, why are they both made of the same material – brass? On the tarot card the pillars are different colours, and in relation to dreams and sleep there are the gates of horn and ivory. Were there other features of Jachin and Boaz that made them distinct from each other?

  9. @JMG I actually saved a comment of yours from somewhere from awhile ago where you said that so that piece of info has fueled much of my thought for the last month or two

    @JMG et al

    One more follow up to my first comment and then I’ll try to shut up 🙂 So a couple posts back some commentators were talking about drawing something, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I sat down to try it, realized I had no idea what was being talked about, and started doodling my own thing (unless I’m twice wrong and this is what was talked about). I started with a point. Then turned it into a line. Then turned it into a triangle. And then turned it into a square by drawing a line from the “top”/apex of the triangle to the base and then straight out the same length as the top was from the base. Then I turned it into a square. Then repeated in some fashion I can’t quite remember creating a latticework of these squares. Well I just realized this maps perfectly to the four fundamental Jungian archetypes on the natal chart and their unfoldment over an evolution.

  10. JMG, jbucks:

    My attention was also drawn immediately to the part about the square spinning around itself.

    In the comments to the June 30 Ecosophia post, (“Whispers from Antiquity”) there was some discussion of thaumatropes and a brief mention of bull-roarers and the role of sound in magic. I was inspired to make a spinner out of a deer antler button and a piece of wool yarn — magic, of a playful sort, hinting also at the ancient art of spinning thread, and spell-weaving. I’m sensing a connection between this humming, spinning toy and the idea of a spinning square that creates a circle.

    Thank you JMG for offering this group study.

  11. I have been “Dunning-Krueger effecting” my way through the Dogme in French. I figure I know Spanish, and I don’t know what I don’t know in French. I am slowly getting better. Still, I feel recognized in your description of Waite’s translation- is mine “riddled with errors and burdened with (my) seething intellectual jealousy”? Something to meditate on as I take on chapter 2, which I am finding a little easier.
    I’m familiar with Pope Joan from the play Top Girls, by Caryl Churchill, which I read back in my English major days. I may have to dig it out again. The church denies she existed, of course. What is the line about myths being things that never happened, but always are?

  12. Okay one last comment for the purposes of correction because I made an error in the first. The polarities are ego-anima, shadow-self. Thank you for repeating that statement about the fundamental archetypes because I’ve been walking around the last couple months with anima and shadow flip flopped in natal chart position…And I won’t correct the previous comment but this new arrangement changes the method of drawing this out and results in different interpretations and meaning…Sorry for the confusion

  13. Hi JMG,

    Thanks again for doing this.

    I did not know the story about the female pope, I imagine that went down like a leg balloon.

    As for Gnosis, yes, relationship is a good way of putting it. I’ve always found the idea that a finite human persona, or even a singular theory, could comprehend the majesty of the divine rather incongruent. I can see how science fell into that trap.

    I wonder though, going back to the idea of gnosis, if you could answer this? if magic is about coming to terms with or being in relationship with other “beings”, and given each individual has their own ways and means of doing so, does that imply a near infinite list of “beings.” That being said, “The visible being the manifestation of the invisible,” would imply that we are the created beings of other beings.


  14. From the post itself “Bentley Layton, a leading scholar of Gnosticism, has pointed out that it’s much more accurate to translate it as “acquaintance.” Gnosis is the kind of knowledge you get by meeting someone and getting to know them. It’s not a knowledge of facts, it’s a familiarity with character.”

    Having wrestled with the difference between the Romance Languages’ two verbs for “to know,” I promptly thought “Aha! It’s “conocer” rather than “saber.” Saber, the root from which we English-speaking vocabulary thieves get the term “savvy,” is know-how. Conocer is know-who. Or whom, for the grammar purists. And of course, a lot more. “Conozco” usted y esto “blog.” No se todos los conceptos therein.

  15. Ye gods. The very first thing I noted was the double crown in the shield. In the Knapp-Hall deck, there is the gold crown. Now this card has a dark crown below the gold one. All I could think of was, “blowback.” I see why this stuff is dangerous. Perhaps we could throw some raspberry jam between the two crowns!

  16. Do you, or does anyone have any inkling about what Levi’s wry comment about the virgin of the sea and her humid feet refers to? Something in the Zohar, maybe?

  17. I am reading and memorizing Borges according to Peladan’s recommendation, one sentence per day in two languages. In a bit of synchronicity, here are today’s and ysterday’s:

    Speaking of the cult called the Histrioni,

    Contaminated perhaps by the Monotoni, they imagined that every man is two men, and that the real one is the other one, the one in heaven. They also imagined that our acts cast an inverted reflection, so that if we are awake, the other man is asleep; if we fornicate, the other man is chaste; if we steal, the other man is generous.

    This is a rich chapter, even after a cursory first read. Thank you for guiding us through it!

  18. Fra’ Lupo, the Romance languages generally are clear on that distinction, but most English speakers aren’t. I’ll have to look up the reference in Iamblichus, but I’m sure you’re right — it was a well-understood distinction in ancient times as well.

    Yorkshire, what a fine theme for meditation! I recommend in particular the theme of unity within duality in relation to that set of symbols.

    Youngelephant, you don’t have to shut up. This is interesting.

    Goldenhawk, hmm! That’s an interesting connection and, I think, worth following up. Getting a thaumatrope has gone up a notch on my list of projects. 😉

    Katsmama, fair enough! I doubt Pope Joan ever existed, but she makes a great legend — yes, Sallust’s comment about myths is relevant.

    Youngelephant, good. Keep working on it.

    Adrian, good. What parts of you are visible, and what parts are not visible?

    Patricia, yep. If more Americans knew at least one Romance language I’d just have referred to that.

    Jon, that’s one interpretation. How many more can you think of?

    Phutatorius, I’ve never been sure. Anyone else?

    Kyle, excellent. That’s a fine synchronicity!

  19. “When unity divides to create duality, unity reappears as one half of the duality”

    Is unity the same as the unmanifest? And if so, doesn’t that imply that the unity that is one half of duality has to be some kind of projected image of the unmanifest, since when there’s duality we have some kind of manifestation? On the other hand, if the unmanifest encompasses everything and nothing, it surely is part of itself. Infinite regress… seems only fair considering the size of our brains… bouncing my head on the table!


  20. I’m trying to understand the characters in the double triangle diagram…

    The alpha – omega polarity makes sense (beginning and end) with tau in the middle (mentioned earlier in the text). I recognize aleph in the upper right, but can only guess at the other characters and what they might represent.

    Would you be willing to elucidate what the other characters are, and what they signify? I am not very familiar with the Hebrew alphabet (assuming these are Hebrew characters) so apologies if this is a newbie / too basic question.

  21. I’m gonna self correct for my “to be silent” paranoia that I still haven’t figured out and finish this line of thought since I started. I’m also realizing that most occult “secrets” are quite literally sitting in plain sight waiting to be noticed – I’ve seen 3 Youtubers give away the Great Arcanum now, including one famous occultist.

    Okay the steps of the Hero’s Journey (can be found online) are geometrically encoded in the natal chart. The steps number either 8, 10, or 12; this explanation accounts for the 8/10 models. Jung also talks about this in Symbols of Transformation but he doesn’t spell it out. Keep the four fundamental archetypes of Jung in mind which JMG mapped in a comment. Each point in the shape I’m going to describe is a step (some overlap). You draw the shape without picking up your writing utensil. 1. Make a point on the ego/ascendent (or just in space). 2. Draw line to the descendent (anima) and make a point. 3. Draw a line to the nadir (shadow) and make a point. 4. Draw a line to the center (represents the Abyss in the Hero’s journey, but I’m pretty sure its the Veil in JMG’s occult philosophy) and make a point. 5. Draw a line to the zenith (Self) and make a point. 6. Draw a line to ascendent/ego and make a point.

    At this point we’ve got a diagonal lemniscate which adorned our magicians hat. There’s a duality in the two halves, and triplicity’s in the triangles. 5=tiphareth on the ascending arc and 6=Tiphareth on the descending arc (of the Tree of Life). My intuition tells me tiphareth represents the 3 (I need to figure out what’s going on with 3’s and 6’s still besides the obvious) and JMG has said crossing veil & integrating shadow=mental plane, which we can assume means Tiphareth. Tiphareth as 3 makes more sense if you unpack it via Tetragrammation mapped on ToL.

    7. Line from ascendent to nadir/shadow; notice point. 8. Line from shadow to descendent/anima. Back into mother/collective unconscious/the abyss/Da’ath 9. Line to zenith/Self (on a higher level). Great Work. 10. Line back to ego/ascendent. Notice point. Great Arcanum. Notice the square/4/beginning where we started. If you actually drew all this within a natal chart it’s more like a square within the circle rather than squaring the circle.

    I’ll be meditating on how the 4 fixed signs of the Zodiac are a part of this. I have a hunch they fit in somehow; particularly in mythology. Also this model explains much of what I’m reading in Symbols of Transformation by Jung; for instance the 2 births (entrance into anima) of the hero.

  22. I haven’t read the second chapter yet, but I wanted to mention that as I kept looking at the card for Chapter 1, the Juggler/Magician, he grew. At first I saw him as an average-sized human, but then something changed and I started seeing him as a giant, as if he is Einigen the Giant from Revival Druidry’s creation myth. Which, now that I think about it, has some correspondences with the imagery on the card. Because he is the first of all beings, the letter A corresponds. In my mind Ain Soph corresponds to Annwn, the possibility out of which Einigen will make manifest the letters that he carves on the rowan staves. The crown represents the mental act that manifests the letters out of possibility, so it has a correspondence to Awen. Then the three table legs correspond to the Awen symbol and the three staves on which Einigen carves the letters. Someone upthread mentioned that the three of the sphinx’s riddle can correspond to nwyfre, gwyar, and calas, which had also occurred to me. Following on from that, I thought of a couple of things you wrote about these three elements in the Druidry Handbook: that they also represent what a thing is, what it does, and what it means. And we can apply them to an action we are contemplating by asking what will stay the same, what will change, and what will respond to change with changes of its own if we perform that action. Each of these sets of three is relevant to the discipline of a juggler or a magician, so there is another correspondence. I’m keeping this in mind as I begin working with the second chapter. Thanks for acting as tour guide on this magical tour!

  23. I’m pretty sure the ‘virgin of the sea’ refers to the Virgin Mary. There is an artistic / religious theme of her ‘crushing the serpent’ (some great examples here It is interesting that the text here mentions the serpent / dragon being crushed vs it ‘ falls asleep from delight’ – an interesting duality. Another interesting duality her is Virgin Mary vs. Eve (also mentioned in this chapter). A lot to think about…

  24. @JMG, I had read this chapter more than once in anticipation of your post today and I actually thought I had some things figured out. But your comment about fourfold on the material plane, twofold on the astral plane, and threefold on the mental plane was one of those ‘oh, SNAP!’ moments and some things that I thought made sense make much more sense now, but some things don’t. So I will work on getting my thoughts more cohesive before I post them. (And half the comments by the commentariat are worthy of their own meditations, too! It’s so exciting!)

    @shewhoholdstensions, thank you so much for this. I still feel like such a newbie on the forum and I’m definitely a newbie to this kind of reading and in real life, I’m very much an introvert. I am trying to take ‘to dare’ to heart, but I worry about posting too much. To know that my posts helped someone makes me very happy.

    @ Joy Vernon, thank you for the link! I’ve decided there is no such thing as having too many Marseille decks. 🙂

    @jbucks, your visualization of the spinning square makes so much more sense than when I tried to visualize it 3D. I was imagining the square spinning around an axis, not each point individually, so it didn’t make a circle. (What I did imagine was a square with a radii drawn to each corner, and then spinning that 2D and you end up with a solar cross. That worked with the rest of the reading to some degree… I will go back and try it your way and see how that changes things.)

    @Phutatorius, re: the virgin of the sea and her humid feet. This is a stretch, but this is what I came up with: the woman who must crush the head of the serpent is Eve. “Intelligence” is close to “wisdom”, so I thought it aligned with Heh (the first H of YHVH), which means Eve would be the Unity of Receptive Force. The Virgin of the Sea, according to, is the Goddess Mother (which that author considers to be Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ). (And that could work with it being the second H of YHVH, but Levi writes it as though the woman who must crush the serpent *is* the Virgin of the Sea, so I’m taking it as the first H.) For the dragon, I’ve read about two versions of dragons. I don’t know which is right. One says that dragons contain all four elements (and that dragon’s blood is the Universal Solvent). Another says that dragons are really Lords of Flame (ie, the angels). I’ve also read that angels are composed of two elements, Fire and Air. But since Levi specifically states that the dragon is licking her feet with *tongues of fire*, I am going with dragons being Lords of Flame. Eve has humid feet because her element is Water. The dragon is Yod (the Y of YHVH); his element is Fire. When the Y and the H combine to form Vau (the V of YHVH, which in my interpretation is the element Air), the Y and H are destroyed to make the balance of V. (And fire and water make steam/air.) Falling asleep in one of the deaths that Fortune mentioned in CosDoc; the dragon ‘dies’ because his Fire plus Eve’s Water are destroyed when they make Air. (But he’s delighted, because he’s now in equilibrium with Water.) (And the death is only ‘sleep’ because creation is a cycle and the second H comes after V and then it is Y’s turn again…)

    (And now another ‘oh, SNAP!’ moment. I was just rereading to make sure I didn’t have any typos and thought *who is the woman on the World card? is that Eve? is the dragon the ouroboros?* Another topic to ponder…)

    @Darkest Yorkshire, re: pillars of brass. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. There is not a set ratio of the metals… they actually use different ratios to create brass with different properties. And some brass ends up looking very gold colored and some looks very silver colored. I haven’t given it much more thought that that, but I’ve added it to my list of things to meditate on. 🙂

    @Nachtgurke, I equate the Unity with the Solar Logos, rather than the Unmanifest.

  25. I think it’s fascinating how much we need vivid metaphors such as “intelligence has two such currents which flow…”, as if intelligence was a river of sorts, in order to begin to understand what’s being taught.

  26. Phutatorius, I’ll have to meditate on it to unpack it fully but I think humid feet refers to standing on the border of unconsciousness and consciousness/veil-abyss (model dependent)/underworld-heaven. Virgin of the sea probably refers to the hero/magician before (s)he has entered the underworld or reentered the devouring mother/abyss (hero’s have two births from the anima). These are insights I’ve gleaned from Jung, who JMG has said was an occultist masquerading as a psychologist.

    Everyone, As a kind of continuation my last comment that simplifies all that line drawing stuff. Duality could be seen as consciousness vs unconsciousness and the trinity could be seen as their synthesis which is “superconsciousness”, which I think Jung call the “Self” although I’m still early in my Jung studies. I think this is kind of an analogue of what JMG was saying about unity being a part of duality. Also, JMG did his best effort at giving away the riddle with his quote of Levi’s hint, imo. It brings to mind the alchemical saying readers of Learning Ritual Magic are told to mediate on, something like: “The one becomes the two becomes the three which becomes the fourth, as the 1”.

  27. Nachtgurke, an excellent theme for meditation! That’s certainly one very useful way to approach this.

    Your Kittenship, as Vogon poetry, I’m sorry to say it falls short. The rhymes actually work, and so does the scansion. You won’t win a McGonagall Prize that way!

    Paul, those are indeed Hebrew letters. א is Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and ת is Tau, the last letter — those are the equivalents of Alpha and Omega. י is Yod, the symbol of masculine energies, and ה is Heh, the symbol of feminine energies.

    Youngelephant, good. All the secrets of the universe are right out there in the open — the reason most of us don’t know them is that we haven’t yet developed the ability to understand.

    Slclaire, hmm! Fascinating, Yes, I can see that.

    Random, good — you’ve done the preliminary work and now you can really go to town with it.

    Bruno, all our ideas are colorful metaphors. We just get so used to them that we stop noticing that fact.

  28. Hi JMG,

    Reading through this, I’m encountering a lot of ideas very similar to the ones I encountered when reading Paul Foster Case’s Secret Doctrine of the Tarot. I’ve already meditated my way through a lot of that work, and I’m seeing a lot of linkages and shared ideas. Is it worthwhile trying to compartmentalise a lot of the information I’ve gleaned and processed from his work when going through this one?

  29. JMG – just wanted to thank you for again for this blog and book club. My penmanship has improved from journaling so much, and that’s only one of many benefits of taking this material seriously.

  30. Is the Rider Waite Tarot Deck acceptable in your view? I’m drawn (no pun intended) to their illustrations.

  31. Tangential, but on the topic of the Virgin Mary treading upon the serpent…here’s Guanyin (Jp. Kannon, Skt. Avalokiteshvara; bodhisattva of compassion / protectress of seafarers) riding a dragon:

    I’ve never heard an actual story connected with this image (or another famous one where she rides a fish), which seems broadly connected with her activities around Mt. Putuo, an island in the East China Sea. There is another story in which she and her disciple rescue the son of the dragon king who, in the guise of a fish, has been caught by a fisherman and sold at auction. Guanyin doesn’t ride him in the story, but carries him home in a fish-basket. Oh, and as a reward her disciple is given the dragon king’s daughter (Longnu, “dragon girl”) as a bride.

  32. I was thinking about the motivations of the characters of the tarot. In the case of Le Bateleur, if someone is doing a magic show at a fair or carnival (which I imagine is what would be behind you), they’re not doing it out of the kindness of their heart. It’s a job. There are discussions of what crime a person does says about their personality. Armed robbers are adrenaline junkies, pimps want someone else to do all the work then give them all the money, con artists have to be the smartest one in the room. There’s a distinct streak of narcissism in it.

    About the best depiction of con artists you get in popular culture is when they target bad people, such as in the tv series Leverage. But there’s still the thrill of getting one over on the mark. I can’t think of an instance where someone used the skills of the con for the target’s benefit, with similar ethics to a therapist. The target may have benefited in the film Inception, but that was only a side effect.

    Which makes me wonder why so many people are enthusiastic about trickster gods. From the little I know of the mythology, their motives seem equally muddy. Especially when the alternative of telling it straight is clearly detailed in A Christmas Carol.

  33. I have a different problem than the one explained in your post. I’m having trouble understanding the English term Knowledge, because in my native language (Slovenian) the difference between Episteme and Gnosis is only slight. Both terms in my language are leaning heavily towards gnosis, personal acquaintance, at least as they are usually translated. Znanje-vedenje and Spoznanje-spoznavanje are both rooted in Spoznavanje …getting to know someone/something
    Let me make some comparisons:

    Greek: Episteme
    English: Knowledge/Science … Know-How (as per Patricia Mathews )
    German: Wissen/wissen
    French: Savoir
    Spanish: Saber
    Slovenian: Znanje/Vedenje-Vedeti

    Greek: Gnosis
    English: Knowledge/Acquaintance … Know-Who (as per Patricia Mathews )
    German: Erkenntnis/Erkennen
    French: Connaisance/Connaitre
    Spanish: Conocer
    Slovenian: Spoznanje/Spoznavanje

    French: 1. Science as in English Science
    2. Science as in English Knowledge…use gnosis instead as per Levi and sages

    Where does the equation Knowledge=”the complete and absolute possession of the truth,” come from? Is that always implied in the use of the word Knowledge?

    In my native language…truth and truthfulness are not as linked to knowledge/learning as in English. To know something and to be knowledgeable is not the same as being in possession of truth…Certainly not absolute truth. I Guess i’m just trying to understand the subtlety here.

  34. 1. How come the image of La Papesse looks so different from the one I’m used to seeing on Marseilles decks (CBD for instance)?

    2. A small correction: Eve’s name is spelled חוה in Hebrew, not הוה. I don’t know if the mistake is yours or Levi’s.

    The root חוה indeed means ‘life’ in Hebrew (it also means ‘snake’ in Aramaic!)
    The root הוה means ‘being’ (I am that I am)

  35. I was pretty sick for the last couple weeks and stopped doing the 5 minutes a day. Feels similar to skipping yoga and losing flexibility for the next class. Honestly the Sphinx riddle really frustrated me but now it is starting to make a sliver of sense. Is it okay to keep going with Bet and revisit Aleph later?

  36. On p45 – ‘Indeed, a great wrongdoer is more alive than a cowardly and apathetic man, and his return to virtue will be due to the energy of his wanderings’.

    I haven’t read Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund yet, but is that based on a similar idea?

    Is it also the attitude of Ancient Greeks to their heroes? I remember one story of an athlete who was defeated at the Olympics. He went into such a rage he pulled out the support column of a school building, collapsing it on top of himself and killing many children. When they dug out the bodies the athlete couldn’t be found. An oracle said the gods had rewarded his passion and he was now exalted.

    Now I think about it that’s kind of an element in the plot of Breaking Bad. Gus Fring (not cowardly or apathetic but very quiet and careful) has built a massive drug empire that operates completely under the radar. However Walter White wants power and glory more than a secure income, no matter how massive. Mike Ehrmantraut sums it up:

  37. Many thanks to everyone who has been offering comments regarding “the virgin of the sea.” I’m impressed — and in general the comments this week just keep getting more and more interesting.

  38. Cupitors, I don’t know that you need to compartmentalize, but Case was on his own trip — though he read Lévi, and learned a great deal thereby — and you’ll want to be careful about importing his ideas too freely.

    Your Kittenship, the ghosts of William McGonagall and Julia Moore will be cheering you on!

    Monster, you’re most welcome.

    Jeff, nope. There’s a reason I name a specific set of decks in the second paragraph of each and every post and, ahem, the Rider-Waite is not one of them. The symbolism and structure are different.

    Bei Dawei, that’s an intriguing painting — Chinese theme but Western artistic style.

    Yorkshire, I admit to a similar reaction to trickster gods. I honor them when appropriate but I prefer to deal with deities that I can trust.

    Boštjan, that’s a tough one! In English, “knowledge” has an implication of truthfulness; if you know something, the idea is that it’s correct, whereas if you believe or think something, it might be true or it might be false. French science, the word Lévi is using, goes even further in the same direction of implying correct knowledge.

    Omer, (1) because it was painted by a different artist, of course. (2) The mistake is Lévi’s, and he got it from Renaissance Cabalists who read things the same way. Admittedly printed works in Hebrew in those days were even more prone to typos than works in Western languages!

    Aloysius, just pick up and keep going. This is the kind of book you want to go over many times.

    Jasper, good. That’s certainly one way to read the image.

    Yorkshire, Hesse is more complex than that, but it’s an element. As for the Greek legend, yes, and that’s a fine example of the difference between the religions of the Arian and Piscean ages.

    Travis (offlist), er, this is not a forum for questions about occultism in general. If you want to ask those, please post them on an open post (there’ll be one here in two weeks) or on my weekly Magic Monday open thread on my Dreamwidth journal.

  39. I have two quick thoughts.

    The number 22 can be mapped onto the square within the circle I was talking about. And I think the Papesse is holding a copy of the Cosmic Doctrine with her finger holding open the pages on sublimation and impactation.

  40. Good to know about truth and knowledge. Makes one appreciate what a difficult job it is translating complex ideas into different languages. Even if one is comparing such closely linked languages as French and English. So many minefields to traverse, so many misunderstandings…

  41. What makes certain tarot decks suitable to use here? The Knapp-Hall card pictured first has multiple difference to the Marsailles version, and the Juno card is radically different from both. How are they compatible but other decks like Rider Waite not?

  42. Hello JMG:
    First time I heard about Popesse Joan I was 11 years old; when I was studying at a Catholic school. Popesse Joan is a strange and scandalous legend, yeah.
    There is a German movie from 2009 about that story, I don’t know is good or bad film because I haven’t seen it.

  43. I speak only Spanish to my parents. My mom says that I “conozco” someone when I had only just met them and that would drive me mad. Having gone through the American education system, almost all of it in English, I assumed that she was using the wrong word but I couldn’t come up with a good replacement.

    Just goes to show how little Spanish I actually know.

  44. Kudos to Joy for posting the CBD Tarot. Like Darkest Yorkshire, my comment on the Magician: minor: his sleeves are not mirror images of each other, I’m trying to remember the line “Putting on the raiment (garments) of . . . ? Solomon? God? I’ll look it up on Google.

    Second, his table. Yes, it’s drawn at an odd angle and doesn’t have mathematical “disappearing into the distance” or “vanishing point.” It’s odd to me his table is outside. Is he a transient? Does he carry that table on his back when he moves? What’s the contrast between his table and nature behind it? If all of his implements are fully visible on the table, what is “magic” about them? They’re in plain view. When we get to Le Mat, I’ll have another comment on vanishing point.

  45. The Clues:
    • “The secret of duality leads to the quaternary, or, more precisely, it proceeds from and is resolved by the ternary, which contains the word of the enigma of the sphinx.” Levi
    • “The reproduction of the unity by the duality inevitably leads to the notion and doctrine of the ternary, and we arrive finally to that great number, which is the fulfillment and the perfect Verb of unity.” Levi
    • “The middle term in the Great Arcanum is the astral light, the secret power behind magic, and it is always dual: when it flows, it moves in both directions and it manifests itself in a twofold fashion.” JMG
    • “What is fourfold on the material plane, twofold on the astral plane, and threefold on the mental plane?” JMG

    The Overview:
    • The Unity (the Spiritual Plane) is represented by the divine element of Yod, the material element of Fire, and Adam (the human tetragram). The Unity is in Atziluth.
    • The Duality (the Astral Plane) is represented by the divine element of Heh, the material element of Water, and Eve (the first creation). The Duality is in Briah.
    • The Ternary (the Mental Plane) is represented by the divine element of Vau, the material element of Air, and the Son. The Ternary is in Yetzirah.
    • The Quaternary (the Material Plane) is represented by the divine element of Heh, the material element of Earth, and the Daughter. The Quaternary is in Assiah.

    The original duality is the Creative Principle (the equality of Above and Below, Yod). This resulted in the First Creation (Heh). The Duality of the Astral Light (Yod and Heh) proceeds from the ternary, the Supernal Triad (Kether, Chokmah, and Binah: the Supreme Unity, the Unity of Creative Force, and the Unity of Receptive Force) and is resolved by the ternary by producing Vau. (Yod and Heh are “destroyed” in this process). The Vau, though, is unbalanced, so a second Heh is created to balance the Vau. This duality is resolved by a ternary by producing Yod (and so the cycle continues).

    The crossing of the duality of the vertical phallus (Yod) and the horizontal cteis (Heh) forms the stauros, a quaternary, the Material Elements (Yod is Fire, first Heh is Water, Vau is Air, second Heh is Earth). So, after the initial cycle of creation, Fire, Water, Air, and Earth exist and the Astral Light moves in two directions (from the Spiritual toward the Material and from the Material toward the Spiritual) and manifests itself in a twofold fashion (“All verbs are twofold and suppose two.”) (two verbs–think and act, each with a subject–the Macroprosopus and the Microprosopus, and two objects–the creation of the Macroprosopus and the creation of the Microprosopus).

    Man’s body is made of Earth. He is only alive when the Divine Breath (inspiration, Awen) is breathed into him. Breath is composed of Fire, Water, and Air. So the quaternary (Fire, Water, Air, and Earth) in Man is a duality (the Divine Breath and Earth) which is resolved as a reflection of the Unity (as above, so below).

    When deciding how to assign the Material Elements, it seemed obvious that the first element was Fire (because of all the times and ways ‘lightning’ has been mentioned during the process of creation). Lightning and water to make steam was obvious, but how to get steam to make earth during the initial cycle of creation was not obvious (so my metaphor had the black box labeled ‘magic happens here’). In other readings, though, a diagram of that secret (well, of what happens after the initial cycle of creation, using elements in our world of experience) was in plain sight on the Internet. It wasn’t something that I figured out on my own, though, so I’ll leave it for someone else to post. 🙂

    Now, after all that, I still didn’t have what I thought would be an appropriate answer to the Sphinx. I read the Chapter again, to see if I saw anything differently now.

    Ha. Secrets in plain sight, indeed.

    What answer did Oedipus give, which technically was correct, but with incorrect reasoning? Man. And “What is man? He is the initiator, he who fractures, who plows and who sows.” (Levi) The Initiator, the Solar Logos, who fractures (creates duality) and sows (digs the cteis).

    And then, when proof-reading, another ah-ha, secret in plain sight…

    “The secret of duality leads to the quaternary, or, more precisely, it proceeds from and is resolved by the ternary, which contains the word of the enigma of the sphinx.” (Levi)

    Or, more appropriately,

    “The secret of duality leads to the quaternary, or, more precisely, it proceeds from and is resolved by the ternary, which contains the Word of the enigma of the sphinx.” (Levi)

    The Word, the Logos, the spoken Verb of Creation.

  46. One more tangent, this time on the subject of the Second Temple. My old professor argues that the veil at the outer entrance–in between the two pillars, I suppose–which Mark says was torn at Jesus’s death, was embroidered with patterns depicting the starry sky:

  47. @Phutatorius, & all re: “virgin of the sea”. There is some lore within Mariology of Mary as the Star of the Sea. This is interesting to turn up in this chapter because the Belt of Isis is also mentioned (and visible in the Knapp-Hall deck). There are also connections found between Mary and Isis in the Western mysteries. I’ve just read through the chapter once today and did my first meditation on the card, but Im thinking of the Belt of Isis as also relating to the stars. I’ll have to read that a few more times of course… and I may have picked up some other lore about the belt/ cord in some other works and traditions. In any case Mary as the Star of the Sea and connections to Isis may be worth following up on.

  48. To Phutatorious: re “humid feet” I suggest page 48:”What is woman? She who forms, unites, irrigates and harvests.”

    In pages 48 and forward, it’s interesting to me that Levi almost but not quite gets close to the Western literary and psychological concepts of Woman (womb, concave) and Man (phallus, convex).

  49. To Phutatorious: Here is the one word that’s different in the online, free, not recommended translation: P 52: “The Kabalists call her the virgin of the sea, whose dripping feet the infernal dragon crawls forward to lick with his fiery tongues, and they fall asleep in delight.” Apologies for the double post; I didn’t realize the chapter is as short as it is.

  50. Just entering the fray of commentary in this chapter. With regard to the virgin with moist feet, my mind turned to the “dark sterile mother” which is one of the aspects, if I recall correctly, of imagery associated with the 3rd sephirah, Binah. Binah roughly connoting understanding rather than wisdom (which goes with Chockmah). Also replete with sea imagery, too. Knowledge (as in certainty) being a property of the hidden sephirah Daath.

    JMG, you said “Yorkshire, I admit to a similar reaction to trickster gods. I honor them when appropriate but I prefer to deal with deities that I can trust.” Which I find either awe-inspiring or amusing. All the gods/goddesses (Gods?) I have ever met, or all the divinities if you will, are sufficiently removed from everyday humanity that all of their dealings with me have been deeply paradoxical and trickster-ish. Mostly, they find me amusing, the one thing I can be quite sure of about our interactions. Indeed, in folklore we are advised to be very careful of our words when dealing with the fey, as they will invariably find a meaning you didn’t intend and trip you up with it. There are a few deities, I must admit, who have been more “haimish” or approachable for me emotionally. I was particularly taken with the aspect of Thor I met, who was completely without fear and was consequently very benevolent in relating with me…a palpable warmth and all that. But how that would play out in other circumstances I couldn’t say.

    Of course, my 4th house is tenanted with Uranus in Gemini, so everything in my shadow world is colored with energies that are powerful, not very human, and changeable — perhaps that explains my encounters with divinity being tricksterish. Even the tetragrammaton deigns the occasional gnomic communication (or so I persuade myself) which I am at pains to distinguish from my own illusions and wishful thinking. One does grow familiar with overtones that are their own rather than oneself, but it takes time to gain that familiarity and understanding is always a chancy business. All part of the adept’s job, of course (gnothi se auton). We tread on the Tree and meet the denizens thereof constantly, and as you say, we just don’t recognize it, says me, speaking ex-cathedra from my bellybutton.

  51. On Joachin and Boaz, there is a wonderful description of the building of Solomon’s Temple in the Book of Kings:

    Interestingly, this passage refers to the temple as Solomon’s “house.”

    The two pillars are described in great detail, cast in brass and decorated with “checker work,” “chain work” and “lily work” as well as several hundred pomegranates.

    It’s notable that according to Wikipedia,”Scholars doubt the veracity of the Biblical account as no evidence for the existence of Solomon’s Temple has been found and the Temple is not mentioned in extra-Biblical accounts.”

    Be that as it may, the esoteric and spiritual legacy of Solomon’s Temple is quite real, a prime example of an archetypal image that has been imbued for millennia with human imagination, emotion and spiritual contemplation.

    This connects to the idea of levels of meaning, and the duality of spiritual/invisible reality versus material/scientific reality.

    It seems to me that gnosis may refer to a living psychological process of becoming acquainted with different levels of meaning and opposing definitions of reality, ultimately to transcend such dualities.

  52. 4 on the physical plane: breasts, vagina, penis
    2 on astral plane: force and form of eros/desire/astral light
    3 on mental plane: The synthesis of force and form which is equilibrium

  53. Ever-inquisitive and energetic Archdruid, there’s been something tickling me about the mention of the duality of Light and Shadow. I think this is perhaps a clever trap. To illustrate: imagine you are outside on a moonless night staring up at the zenith. Light from the sun is streaming through the space above you, yet is not visible. Or alternatively, look out the window of an Apollo spacecraft on its way to the Moon. Unless you look out a window where either Moon, Earth, or the Sun are visible you will be looking at the star-studded blackness of space. Yet that space is filled with light. To see the light, you need either to point your eye towards the Sun (source of the light) or towards something that intercepts and reflects the light, like Luna or Earth or a part of your spacecraft on the side towards the sun. Shadow is a consequence of an object being illuminated; Shadow otherwise does not exist. Shadow indicates “something is there” but of itself there is no “suchness.”

    A literal translation of Levi’s phrase “Pour rendre la lumiere visible, Dieu a seulement suppose l’ombre” comes out in English as “To make the light visible, God only supposes the shadow.” And that to my literal mind is a better fit: God gazes at the light source, but the shadow is behind him, an absence of light not visible without turning to see some other object that the shadow can be cast upon. “I see light, so I suppose there is a shadow behind me.” “I see the illuminated Earth; there must be a shadow behind the lit side.”

    So the duality not spoken of is that light without something to shine upon (a planet, an eye) is invisible, and Shadow is the consequence of objects intercepting light, but not really a thing unto itself. Light and Objects; the Shadow is inextricably present IF you have those two, but it has no existence otherwise.

    Many shadows are in the robe of La Papesse, yet none of those shadows have existence without the unseen source of illumination and the folds in her robe. Something is there: a source of light, and objects intercepting it.

    ‘Meditate on Light and Shadow’: hah hah, clever trick, Éliphas.

  54. Noted Archdruid and multi-talented Commentariat, I’m going to, with some blushing, wade into the discussion on the “vierge de la mer” (virgin of the sea.) I have a suspicion that Lévi is being naughty. “Head of the serpent” and “blind forces” are, ahem, suggestive of what the French call the “little head.” Phallic imagery. I am perhaps crazily imagining, too, that when Lévi says “humid feet” (pieds humide) there’s an English-based pun slipped in there: what alternative measurement is there of feet? Inches, of course. Humid INCHES? (pouces.) And the (male, of course) dragon is licking said inches, and then there is a falling asleep with pleasure? (S’endorment de volupté.) Gee, sounds like “le petit mort” to me. Perhaps by both participants?

    Well, like I said, it’s embarrassing for me to share. But I’m getting the impression that Lévi is quite the rascal!

  55. I meditated on the material of the two pillars and decided if you wanted to set up a circuit beween them, they’d have to be compatible conductors – so made of similar material. It’s spiritual energy so would be different to electrical conductivity – maybe similar types of rock would work too. That also explains why standing between them is so powerful – you’re in the flow of something very potent.

    The Cosmic Doctrine has one set of forces is coming down, another heading back up. The pillars could be lightning rods for that process. Just thought now, looking back at the original post, the time spent in manifestation could consist of flowing back and forth or in a loop between the pillars, explaining why the flow goes in both directions.

    In alchemy one could represent niter and the other salt. On p12 of Mark Stavish’s The Path of Alchemy a drawing shows pillars representing the left and right sides of the Tree of Life and the alchemist’s path is a zigzag up between them. On p21 of the same book is a diagram of Prime Materia and the process of alchemy which has a 1-2-4-3-1 structure, reminiscent of the riddle of the sphinx.

    I also thought of the chemistry experiment with electrified carbon rods in water, with hydrogen and oxygen bubbling off each. Then I had the idea of a gas denser than water so the bubbles went downwards and the water ended up sat on top of a big bubble. Not sure about the significance of that last part. 🙂

  56. Also maybe the brass of the pillars is more related to material world physics. It’s made of copper and zinc – metals that are used to make a basic type of battery.

  57. Hi Ray,

    English is my native language, but there are a lot of Mexicans around here and they seem to use “conocer” for “meet a person “ or “know who he is,” so I guess they agree with your mom. Maybe it varies regionally? I ain’t got a dog in that fight. I’m doing well to stay fluent enough that I don’t reply to “Can you tell me how to get to the mall?” with “Thank you, I would like to marry your lawnmower.” 😳

  58. Having brief meditations and passing associations with a tarot key sometimes feels like trying to attach a garden soaker hose to a fire hydrant. But since my garden does need watering…

    Looking first at the shape of the numeral 2, I see a semicircle surmounting and joined to a flat horizontal surface by a diagonal line — the still water of a pond or lake reflecting moonlight, which in turn is reflecting the light of the sun. As above, so below.

    The same correspondence plays out in the shape of the the second Hebrew letter, Bet. In this case it appears to be a pair of the Hebrew letter Yod, the one below reflecting or mirroring the one above. This time the two are connected by a vertical rather than a diagonal line.

    This theme is also portrayed in the shield shown in the Knapp-Hall deck. Two crowns, the one below again reflecting, as though in the mirrored surface of quiet water, the one above. A thin diagonal line cuts across the shield, bringing to mind the Tree of Life with its lightning flash descent of essence from above into the swirling world of names and forms below.

    Each of the two crowns (Kethers) have a trinity of visible points, with a fourth point implied. The one above seems to be made of gold. Perhaps for whoever wears it, it becomes a conduit for radiance. The reflected one below almost seems like a stool or strong foundation upon which one may sit, just as La Papesse sits upon her curvilinear throne.

    In closing, I’m aware that I can, as a man, more easily relate to or back into Key 1 than I can into Key 2; just as I can more easily walk around our homestead at 3 PM than I can at 3 AM. But assuming the form and feelings of a woman, or walking alone through the night-darkened woods, are profitable challenges.

  59. II La Papesse
    Flowing colors – Red, blood, birth. Flowing across between the columns, flowing down hiding the white of the columns. The male white covered, receded. The female prominent, in the foreground.

    She is beautiful in my card. Modestly clutching her light blue cloak flowing down from her covered breast. Her eyes are black. A void. Depth. A small part of the opposite white/male sclera visible to one side.

    Her lips are red. Closed. I want to relate it to the book she holds. Also closed. You would read/voice words. The cover blue, red, trimmed in gold (not yellow as I’ve been calling it). Divided into 4 quadrants with a red heart in the center. Not only closed but latched on my card. Locked.

    Modesty, closed, secrets, protecting/guarding.

    She wears, sits under, a 3 level golden crown. Each ring with more detail. Increasing complexity of subtle creation. Thought.

    Her pelvis is covered in a purple robe. Royalty. Sacred. Her womb is sacred, precious.

    The bottom of the purple robe is ringed with gold. As is her head. She is ringed in gold. Again precious.From under the purple robe is more light blue. Water. She overflows with the waters of creation spilling out from her onto the floor/ground.

    Her hair is black….

  60. @Justin Patrick Moore, interesting connection there, and seems like there ought to be (Mary-Isis). Any more references for that?

    Not to add to the obvious, but the peacock in the initial image lends itself to Juno, as JMG noted originally.

    Tomberg had a book, “Meditations on the Tarot” (I have not read it entirely), that goes card by card in a Christian context. How much of that work is indebted to Levi here, I wonder?

    Somewhat humorously, the PDF of that book you can get online bears the message: “Complacency serves the old gods.” I don’t know whether to be offended at the smear or touched at a Christian acknowledging the existence of the gods…


  61. I admit to a similar reaction to trickster gods. I honor them when appropriate but I prefer to deal with deities that I can trust.

    JMG – what is your sense of the trustworthiness of Mercury? I’ve always had the impression that he is quite a bit more than a mere trickster.

  62. @RandomActsOfKarma I like your take. It made me realize there’s several ways to think about the details of this, but all the variations of meaningful relationships to each other.

    One question – why do you say Yod and Heh are destroyed in the creation process? And is it part of qabalistic lore? This seems like a key angle I might be missing

  63. I’m finding JMG’s statement that Trump 2 is about secrets, the imagery of Pope Joan, and the surface level description of Chokmah very interesting. I’m pretty sure I’ve got the answer but haven’t formed meaningful relationships between the particulars which is half the puzzle. The answer, once again, is quite literally hidden in plain sight, if I’m right.

  64. @JMG: It’s a pleasure to do the work, and thank you for hosting this book club!

    @Goldenhawk: I had forgotten about the thaumatropes, thanks for the reminder, that bears further thought.

    @RandomActsOfKarma: I had started by imagining the circle spinning of its axes, each in turn, but then I realized that if you imagine the points spinning rather than the circle, each point eventually traces a sphere if it simultaneously (because it is spinning at infinite speed) is everywhere within the bounds set by the points’ distance from the center.

    Thanks, by the way, for your thoughts later on in the comment thread, I need to start my first slow pass through the chapter, so you’ve already given me a few things to keep in mind.

    @youngelephant: And thanks for your comments as well, I am going to try out what you suggest.

  65. @Goldenhawk, when I was doing some reading on Divine Breath, I came across something about King Solomon’s Breathing Exercise. I didn’t save the URL of the page, because I didn’t think it would be relevant, but apparently there are some who think that Solomon’s Temple was built in his mind. I will try to find the page again; if I do, I will post the link for you.

    @youngelephant, Ha! I like the idea that the Papesse is holding the Cosmic Doctrine! On my card, it is her index finger that is marking her place in the book. Her third finger and ring finger are together (2 as 1?).
    Re: Yod and Heh destroying themselves, I had asked JMG to recommend a primer on Cabala. He recommended “Paths of Wisdom” (by JMG). I have done a quick read of the first 6 chapters and have done a good slow read on Chapter 1 and feel pretty good about it. I am still working on Chapters 2 and 3; I think it will take me a few more months before I feel good about understanding everything in those chapters. In Chapter 2, he goes through a several page explanation of YHVH and, in explaining Vau, he says “In the course of this phase, the energy of Yod is completely absorbed by Heh, and the environment of Heh is completely transformed by Yod. The first two letters, in a sense, destroy each other, leaving the third to carry on the process of creation.” If you are able to get a copy of Paths of Wisdom, I highly recommend it. For me, it is by no means a Cliff Notes or cheat sheet of High Magic, but it definitely saves me some online searching. (Plus I trust the author… you can’t always trust what you find on the Internet.)

    @jbucks, the spinning points are much easier to visualize. When I first tried to visualize it in 3D, I was getting a very messy gyroscope… 😉

    @Robert F, I love the imagery you describe for the numeral 2. The semicircle (symbolic of receptive, like Isis’ horns) and the line, connected by a diagonal. I will have to meditate on that some more. Thank you!

    @Darkest Yorkshire, the idea of the pillars being electrodes is intriguing. Some electrolysis produces gas, as you described. There are some that create precipitates, which could sink to the bottom. Since the Astral Light travels in both directions, perhaps the alchemical electrolysis produces gas and precipitates?

    @bryanlallen, thank you for ‘daring’ to post your thoughts of the virgin of the sea. I had originally wondered, why humid? Why not just wet? (And then realized why not…) Interesting, too, some of the imagery someone had linked to earlier had Mary stepping on the snake, but not Eve. Eve succumbed to the temptation and created children with Adam. Mary remained a virgin, so she created a child with God. And your post about the shadow is quite profound. I will spend some more time with that, too.

    @JMG, so when I first responded to the virgin of the sea post, I had a thought that the World card might relate. The Ouroboros being the dragon or serpent, not hard to figure out. But who was the woman? I will admit, I took the easy way out and just asked the Internet. The first answer on my list was “Sophia, meaning Prudence or Wisdom”. Jiminy… I had already gone down the rabbit hole a while back on the Demiurge (and Lucifer and Sophia), but I didn’t realize that Sophia *was* Wisdom. And if that wasn’t enough to process, the Internet offered me this sentence: “Another alternative title for the Demiuge is ‘Saklas’, Aramaic for ‘fool’.” Oh, the implications…

    Commentariat, thank you for your willingness and daringness to share your thoughts and knowledge. I have so much to meditate on… 🙂

  66. @Logan:

    Since the symbol of Hermes/Mercury is featured prominently on this card, I have some general observations.

    I agree with you that this deity is far more than a mere trickster. Divine messenger, soul guide in the afterlife, divine champion of the Greeks against the Trojans, loaner of winged sandals to Gorgon-slayer Perseus….a powerful ally if (s)he finds you worthy. (Androgyny = union of opposites)

    Still, Jung points out that “As a spiritus familiaris …Mercurius is a rather unreliable companion, as the testimony of the alchemists agrees.”

    I don’t think one “works with” Hermes. I think Hermes works with you.

  67. This is a bit of a lame comment. Before I even get to the actual text I find myself having to read and re-read your extremely useful notes, they are that dense. Maybe I’m just slow, but I it takes reading and re-reading even to scratch the surface of what I’m being instructed in here.

    Nil desperandum, I shall plod on regardless and thank you so much for doing this!

  68. Youngelephant, good.

    Boštjan, I ain’t arguing! There’s an Italian phrase,”Traduttore, traditore,” which means loosely that every translator is a traitor, that to translate is to betray. We do our best not to make that true, with limited success at best.

    Yorkshire, there are specific symbolic patterns in the decks I recommend that are not in the decks I don’t recommend. I don’t propose to argue about the subject.

    Chuaquin, it sounds like something that would make a great movie!

    Ray the Second, isn’t “conozco” a rough equivalent of English “acquainted?”

    Karma, good. Keep going.

    Bei Dawei, hmm! Interesting.

    Clarke, different people resonate with different types of deities!

    Goldenhawk, the thing I note about the temple of Solomon is that it was small — ninety feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet high. That is, it was exactly the sort of little local temple that every small kingdom in that corner of the Middle East had; the temples at ‘Ain Dara and Tell Motza are good examples. The second temple, as built after the Babylonian exile, was the same size and much more cheaply built; only after the rebuilding of the whole Temple Mount by Herod did it reach any substantial size — and of course everything on the Temple Mount was leveled by the Romans after the Bar Kokhba revolt. So it’s not surprising there’s no trace — and of course there are no documentary traces of other temples in the region in the same period. That said, the temple of Solomon has indeed had a huge presence in the esoteric tradition, and for a variety of good reasons…

    Youngelephant, good. Keep going.

    Bryan, two very good insights. Of course Lévi was including sexual polarity in his discussion of polarity in general, and double entendre — well, consider which nation invented that phrase!

    Yorkshire, excellent! Keep going.

    Robert, a good solid meditation.

    Dennis, likewise.

    Logan, I’ve never found him especially tricky, but then I invoke him as the Thrice-great.

    Karma, excellent! Yes, the name Sophia literally means “wisdom” in Greek, thus “theosophy” is “divine wisdom.”

    Hereward, you’re welcome and thank you. I wish there was an easier way to communicate these things. Since the point of this work is to learn a new way of thinking, it’s always a stretch!

  69. Been thinking more the short associations to 4, 2, and 3 I gave in the context of a stereotypical physical plane marriage (keep in mind the map is not the territory). So in the morning man and woman wake up refreshed for their nights sleep, and for the sake of the map let’s assume they’re in a hurry to get to work and don’t have sex (4 separate sexual organs). Noon represents them at work where each is exuding a current of desire to be with their spouse (2 on the astral plane, feminine=form, masculine=force). 3 at night represents them united – sexually (love/sublimated desire/the next level up from astral plane). The phallus and cteis have become 1 and now there are only 3 sexual organs. The process of child bearing can be applied to this as well as the tree of life if we take into the account of the labels of father/mother, son/daughter, bridegroom. I’m also pretty sure we can apply this formula to every plane as well as the mixing of planes JMG talked about in the post. The secret of Chokmah fits in somehow here too. I think it has something to do with Malkuth as an other level of existence’s Kether and that there’s some androgyny going on that is hard to pin down besides in mental number games. I’m conceptualizing the numbers as giving birth to each other.

    A lot of this is giving me a notion of God being the Universal equivalent of sex, which makes perfect sense in light of sexual attributions of Chokmah and Binah. Frank Yang on Youtube, who claims the highest level of Buddhist attainment, always talks about the “universe *******[having sex with] itself”.

    Also I apologize if I’m posting to much..this blog post made a lot of things click

  70. @Lady Cutekitten of Lolcat. My family is Mexican and no, I do not believe it’s meaning varies locally. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the correct use of the verb throughout the Spanish-speaking world. As a young boy I noticed that “to know” and “conocer” came from the same word of some ancient language (probably Latin), so I simply assumed that they should have the exact same meaning in English and Spanish.

    I actually know better than to make such assumptions since I’m aware of many other similar instances between English and Spanish, but for some reason I didn’t think the meaning of words like “know” and “conocer” would diverge at all. Somehow I thought these two words were above that. Lol

    @ Mr. Greer. Yes, or… that’s exactly how my mom uses it.

  71. JMG – Is this a bad idea? Is it OK to combine the letter and terms in one mental image? It seems from the variety of decks out there that this should be OK.

    I took a phone pic of the card I’m working on to glance at at during the day as at the beginning of the month the image is not as detailed in my mind and I like the idea of having the image percolating in the background. I think writing the assigned letter on a small piece of paper and placing it on the bottom of the image for the pic will help me remember the letter assignments as they accumulate. Also the study terms. Maybe separate, maybe together?

    Thanks. Den

  72. The idea of gnosis as personal acquaintance. Not a cold knowledge. It suggest a dynamic give and take. Interaction. Subtlety. A period of time. A dance?

    Young can acquire knowledge but wisdom is born of experience which takes time interacting with the object of knowledge. Not just facts. Knowing deeply. Personally.

    My approach to Le Bateleur was cerebral (don’t laugh!). He faces me squarely, open, holding his caduceus like a sword and his hand on his hip ready to challenge me. There’s a damn knife on the table:). Accepting a challenge I try to pry the information from the card as I mentally dissected it. My attitude and activity was direct. I want to work to earn or take knowledge from him. And he dares me to do it.

    Not so with La Papesse. It is partly JMG and Levi’s presentation. The tone and narrative of Ch 2 is Relationship. But it is also her. In my card she is young but not a child. Unlike Le Bateleur she is turned sideways. Her body is turned inward. Her hands placed toward her body’s centerline. She is not unconfident of herself but unsure of me. I don’t know if I want her or the book. But I know I can’t take it. This must be given. Grace?

  73. @Fra Lupo #66: I am re-reading each chapter in “Meditations on the Tarot” along with each chapter in Levi. I don’t bring it up much here because JMG has already said that he is no fan of anthroposophy, and I don’t want to make a tiresome ass of myself. It’s interesting that both Tomberg’s book and the new translation of Levi are published by Tarcher/Penguin and share the same “form factor” almost as if they are intended to be companion volumes. I should weigh each of them and see if one outweighs the other. 🙂 and if the weight changes as one gains understanding of the material. I’ve read Tomberg’s book more than once (and the chapter on Death quite a number of times). He mentions Levi here and there, but his take on the Tarot is his own.

  74. I did not have to go to work today, so after reading everyone’s scintillating posts, I went outside to do some yardwork and pondered… Hats off and thank you to @Darkest Yorkshire, @youngelephant, and @Robert F for the groundwork of these metaphors.

    · opposites in conflict always adapt to the conflict by coming to resemble each other (from JMG)

    To extend @Darkest Yorkshire’s battery metaphor, the columns are not part of a dry cell battery. They are part of a wet cell battery, which requires a solution for the ions to travel through to get from one electrode to another. What could we use that would allow copper and zinc to dissolve into ions? The Universal Solvent, the Azoth, whose symbol the Papesse is wearing on her chest. Now, did the columns start off as brass? I propose they did not. Rather, one started as copper (the feminine) and the other started as zinc (the masculine). And, as JMG pointed out, opposites in conflict adapt by coming to resemble each other. By uniting to form the alloy brass, the columns both became gold-colored as copper joined the zinc column and zinc joined the copper column and they both became a reflection of the gold Solar Logos which created the duality of the columns.

    (Disclaimer: I am not saying this is how brass alloy is really made. It is just a metaphor. But trying to figure out if the ‘science’ could work, I started trying to think how to make the science work with @Robert F’s shadow metaphor. And the ah-ha! moment came when I looked at the shadow metaphor on a cosmic (doctrine) scale, thanks to @youngelephant’s comment about the Papesse holding the Cosmic Doctrine book.)

    @Robert F’s metaphor implies that light appears first, then objects, and then shadow. But woman is the first creation (man being the first principle). So how to have the shadow before the first object is created? A Hybrid Metaphor: The Cosmic Big Bang…

    What became our Solar Logos started as a Travelling Atom of the Cosmos. Its primary activity was movement, traveling around the Cosmos after the Big Bang, collecting hydrogen. As it collected more hydrogen, it became more dense. With its increased gravity, more hydrogen was attracted, until the gravity was so great that the hydrogen atoms in the core began to fuse into helium, releasing energy in the form of the second activity, light, Yod. For a time, Yod was stable as the gravity pulling into the core was balanced by the force of the light being emanated by the core. Eventually, though, the atomic fuel was used up and the star collapsed in on itself. There was no more fusion and no more light, until the third activity, sound in the form of a shock wave (Heh). The shock wave traveled inward, compressing the core (which produced a flash of light as the star starts fusion again), and outward, blowing the outer shell of the star to a gassy (‘airy’) cloud known as a nebula (Vau). Over time, the orbiting nebula coalesced into orbiting bodies called planets (second Heh).

    (Is this how ‘science’ thinks our solar system was formed? Not quite. It is just a metaphor.)

    (How would there be hydrogen before the Solar Logos created anything? Because our Solar Logos is on the first sub-plane of the seventh Cosmic Plane and who knows what is going on on those other planes and, besides, it is just a metaphor. But it was fun to try to figure out a way to have no-light (not quite the same as a shadow) after light but before ‘matter’.) 🙂

  75. Dear Mr Greer,

    Thank you for your efforts. I am enjoying this course very much.

    The comments on the Papesse card this week lead me to down the following path about the truth, phophets and leaders:

    By complete coincidence I watch the movie “Network” this week. It was the first time I have seen. I know you don’t watch movies but as an exploration of our times it is both prophetic and moving. The mad prophet Beale is both a true prophet and a false prophet.

    Earlier participants in this group were talking about the limitations of the word “knowledge” in the English language.In the movie Beale trys to explain to his viewers different types of knowledge. Maybe trying to find a way to describe gnosis using the word knowledge?

    “Beale hears a voice telling him, “We’re not talking about eternal truth or absolute truth or ultimate truth. We’re talking about impermanent, transient human truth.” And so it’s a limited truth.”

    He believed he had found the Truth but is also at a loss as to what to do with his Knowledge. His only emotion was rage. His Knowledge of the Truth did not set him free, it became an inescapable prison. The more certain he became that he KNEW THE TRUTH, the more easily he was manipulated and exploited into KNOWING and prophesing A TRUTH.

    “I want you to get mad,” Beale tells his devoted audience, while simultaneously admitting he doesn’t know what they should do beyond that. There is no direction, no hope, just unchanneled, unfocused rage. As such it’s exploitable …, by other media outlets, by corporations, and by politicians”

  76. Hi Ray

    I guess we saber that conocer means conocer! 😄

    Sorry about mixing languages, everyone, I know it’s annoying but I wanted to make sure as many as possible understood,

    There was an Ask The Mexican column some years ago whose author had the infuriating habit of having every sentence 50/50 Spanish/English. It was such a chore to read that I rarely bothered.

  77. I’ve been on vacation this week. Back to work tomorrow. Between the rain and the heat I’ve had to much time to read and contemplate.

    Reading from Jaideva Singh’s ‘Pratyabhijnahrdayam’ emergence of Sakti from Siva. ‘Seeing’ the back cover dust jacket for the first time. A tree with a blue trunk on one side. A red trunk on the other. Framing the consorting white male and red female. A snake in the foreground of course. But the tarot fools bag hanging from his tree?:)

    Flipping through my copy of JMG ‘Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth. Curled snakes breaking page subjects throughout the book. Holding the serpentine cover in my mind I turn and for a moment compare the image of Para Devi, Creation, her upper body exposed, open, smiling, facing me, with the image of La Papesse – guarded, careful. A bolt of energy rises in me and fills my eyes with sadness. I let out a 1/2 breath, and I think, “we are ****ing it up”. “We are ****ing it all up.”

    I get your meditation time limits now JMG. This was very open ended. Can’t imaging this response to the Juno card. Will steer it back to your mediation directions. Thanks. Den

  78. @RandomActs Thanks for the description. I actually hav PoW and am almost done so I forgot about chapter 2 and will have to do a reread. Your Cosmic Big Bang metaphor is intriguing but I’m a bit rusty on my physical sciences so will have to come back to it.

    @everyone, This is a useful map for what I’m going to hint at The image of Pope Joan clearly suggests Chokmah is female pretending to be male. At Kether there is a choice of what path to take. I looked at the images of the tarot cards on each path and decided which looked like the best option. Keep in mind one path is titled the Fool, the Mad Man, and the Juggler (who a lot of people thought was a trickster). The flow of energy into the spheres on your chosen route (hopefully you chose correctly!) explains the gender imagery.

  79. Youngelephant, good. Now see where the rest of the ideas in this chapter take you.

    Dennis, experiment with it and see what results you get. As for your second post, a good meditation.

    Karma, good! This book and our previous text inform each other in interesting ways. (When we proceed to Yeats’ A Vision, the same will be true…)

    Sue, a fine meditation! And yes, when someone says “I want you to get mad,” what that means in practice is “I want you to get stupid” — and manipulation always follows.

    Dennis, exactly. Please do avoid profanity, though — I edited it out this time, but I generally delete posts with swear words in them.

  80. Greetings Mr Greer,

    For almost 10 years I’ve enjoyed reading a number of your books and online material.

    Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge
    and giving your views on so many topics.

    Having been a passive reader for so long I decided to get involved
    and learn more about magic and spirituality with this project.

    The reading of your blogs and responses to comments over
    the years has given me a bit of an idea of what to expect,
    and am hoping to find something although I’m not exactly sure what.

    I did wonder if a sense of curiosity was the right motivation
    for taking this path, but was encouraged by Levi’s comment on
    the last page of chapter 1:
    “But can I believe anything, and without reason? Certainly not! Blind and bold
    belief is superstition and folly. One must believe in causes which reason forces us to
    admit the existence of after witnessing effects known and appreciated by science.”

    So, I’ve been meditating with the tarot cards and trying to make
    sense of the Sphinx’s riddle.
    I can’t yet see what the square spinning to form a circle
    has to do with the four elements, or the letters in the tetragrammaton, etc.

    Thinking on unity and duality, studying the text and your notes,
    it seemed to me that your definitions of Boaz and Jachin were the other
    way around from how Levi described them – “The unity is Boaz; the duality is Jachin”.
    Reading online, the definitions I found describe Boaz as meaning ‘strength’ and Jachin ‘to establish’.

    Then I wonder if this is one of those traps you warn us about.
    Taking things to literally perhaps?

    I find many of the concepts straight forward enough reading them through.
    But when meditating and studying on it deeper the ideas get tricky and move about a bit.
    Kind of just out of reach.
    Also these ‘secrets’ that keep getting mentioned, feels like I should be
    able to figure these out, but no insights yet.
    Somewhat perplexing.
    I assume that’s par for the course?

    Will keep meditating on it all, in bits, as per the instructions and many hints.

    Am enjoying this way of thinking and the exploration.
    Thanks again,



  81. @youngelephant, is a concise summary of what is generally accepted as how our solar system formed. Our heavier elements came from a supernova explosion somewhere, but our Sun is not the remains of a previous super giant (if we assume the episteme knowledge of ‘the scientists’ is correct). In a way, that makes better sense in terms of YHVH… the Yod was somewhere else, the first Heh started there, too, but traveled to the Vau nebula and started it condensing (to form into our Sun and ring of planets). And the original Yod and Heh are nothing like what they were before…

    @Adrian Matthews had questioned about “the visible being the manifestation of the invisible” and @JMG had responded “What parts of you are visible, and what parts are not visible?” The obvious parts that are visible are my physical/material body. But my words (spoken and written) and actions are also visible. What is not visible are my thoughts. And one of the things I’ve been working on for the past few weeks is interrupting my internal dialogue when it turns to negative or non-productive thinking by repeating an affirmation recommended by JMG (“I am one with the one Life of the Universe…”). Since I’ve been doing that, I have noticed not only how often my brain turned toward grumbly thoughts, but how often other people verbalized their grumbly thoughts. So I might be reading more importance into what parts are visible and not, but that is where I am at the moment.

  82. From JMG: This is what a certain high degree of Freemasonry calls the Royal Secret, and its name is equilibrium

    From Levi: The universe is balanced by two forces which maintain its equilibrium: the force which attracts and the force which repels… The ancients represented this mystery in the battle between Eros and Anteros, in the combat between Jacob and the angel, by the mountain of gold held in equilibrium, using the symbolic serpent of India, by the gods on one side and the demons on the other. It is symbolized by the caduceus of Hermanubis, by the cherubim of the Ark, by the two sphinxes on Osiris’s chariot, and by the two Seraphim, the black and the white.

    These images described by Levi greatly impacted what I saw on the Papesse card.

    · Anteros strengthened Eros by opposing him… he provided a thrust block. Until Eros has a thrust block of a brother, he does not grow.
    · Jacob battled with the angel, symbolic of the struggle of man wrestling with his ‘dark side’ (the combat lasted all night).
    · The mountain of gold in India let me to Mt. Sumeru, the sacred five-peaked mountain in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist cosmology. It is “One Small Universe” (physical, metaphysical, and spiritual)–reminds me of our Solar System, which in CosDoc was the Universe, even though there are other Universes. Not surprisingly, the mountain has four faces. The representations of Mt. Sumeru seemed (to me) reminiscent of the temples of Phnom Bok, which is what the Papesse’s crown reminded me of. The symbol of receptive energy (the Horns of Isis) are on top of the third level of the crown and her throne is on the fourth level (the floor being the first level, then three steps), so she is in Atziluth, the fourth (or first?) World of the Cabala.
    · The caduceus was discussed plenty in the preceding chapter…
    · There are two cherubim of the Ark, so people would not think they were created in the image of God. One was female (Yael), the other was male (Zarall). Apparently, God communicated with a flame that appeared between the cherubim. And the angels, according to Maimonidies, are the laws of nature. So the Papesse is between columns (one male, one female), with two keys (gold and silver, Heaven and Earth?) and a book (the Cosmic Doctrine or Divine Law?).
    · The imagery of the two sphinxes on Osiris’ chariot is a whole card unto itself, but in terms of equilibrium, the two sphinxes need a Will to make a stable triad.
    · The black Seraphim and the white Seraphim are reflected on the floor in the Papesse’s throne room… Malkuth. I could not find any specific reference to a black or white Seraphim, but immediately preceding Levi’s quote about maintaining equilibrium, he refers to Michael and Satan as being necessary to each other (thrust block!). Researching Satan (or Lucifer, the light-bearer or the morning star) led me to the concept of the Demiurge, the Creator. (There is a LOT of conflicting stuff on the Internet about the Demiurge… I am looking forward to JMG’s blog post on the Devil card.) That led me back to Levi’s image at the start of Part I. I found a color version online here ( which was easier for me to see detail on. Fire, represented by a red triangle, at the bottom, then blue Water, then yellow Air, surrounded by an Ouroboros. The God (above) with his three-tiered crown, topped with a solar cross. The Demiurge (below), who does not have a solar cross at the top of his crown (perhaps the symbol of Earth? I cannot tell.) Lots of other fun symbolism, but specific to this card, the three braids in his beard. And there is the ah-ha, secret in plain sight of the day.

    There are three ways (that I know of) to represent the Spheres of the Cabala: as a wheel, as a man, and as (Not one! Not two! But THREE) columns.

    So the Papesse represents the third column, the Column of Balance.

    (Maybe. I could be mistaken. It will be a yard and garden work day, so we shall see what Apollo inspires…)

  83. I’m using the Marseille deck, but have pulled up the Wirth and Knapp-Hall decks online for comparison (using as many of the comments refer to these decks. After reading the comments containing detailed descriptions and connections made to different arcane arts (of which I only know a smattering of) I can’t help but think “Yes, but is it that complex?” I look at the Wirth and Knapp-Hall cards, and I see much detail, with sphinxes, keys, pillars, wise owls, the checkerboard (Masonic?) floor…all ripe with esoteric meaning to be discovered and connected to the Kabala, Sacred Geometry, etc. Then I look at my Marseilles card of La Papesse and see simplicity. Robed, crowned, her book on her lap, a veil or curtain behind her, an inkling of a throne to her left….and that is all. One cannot even see her feet, and whether they are bare like Knapp-Hall or shod like the Wirth card. I note the Marseilles Papesse holds her book wide open, while the others are nearly shut but for a finger as place holder. She exudes wisdom and power, but not in a flashy way to gain attention or to signal “Here I am, holder of the great secret of the ages!” She is more modest with her display of power and authority, and does not show all to everyone.

    Is the Marseilles Papesse practicing the fourth magical virtue, silence?

    Yet, why then is the book open?

    Simplicity and complexity. One could not exist without the other. Another duality.

    A phrase comes to mind: you can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Joy Marie

  84. Thanks for that JMG. Made an interesting mediation session. Lot’s of “threads” to pull on, if you get my drift.

    @youngelephant: Maybe the card represents that which lies out of “wanted sight.” I remember a doctor who episode where this entity, Patient Zero, had employed a perception filter. The skinny was as follows: you could only see it when you looked for it through the corner of your eye, because consciously you did not want to see it “You know it’s there, but you don’t want to know it’s there,” to quote the Doctor.” That’s my hot take anyway

  85. When I looked at the Knapp-Hall version of La Papesse and meditated on all of the ways the letter B could relate to the card, the first one I thought of was Buddha. This is probably because I practiced Zen for over a decade. That crown of hers reminds me of imagery of the awakened/enlightened Buddha, who has a knot or extra brain on top of his head. The way that La Papesse’s eyes are veiled, the way that she sits in the throne (she isn’t slumping), and the throne being upon a three-stepped platform also suggest an association with awakening, or at least meditating.

    Another association with B that came to mind is bravery. It took a lot of bravery for a woman to masquerade as a man to become a popesse. It also takes bravery to meditate and to pursue awakening through meditation.

    I notice that there is plenty of red and blue, and some yellow (if you stretch gold a little to become yellow) but no green in the image. That suggests no earth and nothing of the things associated with the earth element.

  86. 4 legs: material incarnation, being tethered by the four elements as soon as the embryo splits from two cells into four

    2 legs: the binary of death and not-death, when we die, some of the bodies die and the others do not

    3 legs: the real state that was there all along, a ternary, the after-death between-lives balancing act

  87. Apologies if I state some things that others already have. The comments and observations are overwhelming in a very good way. So much to chew on.

    What I’ve noticed in the Knapp-Hall deck:

    Like the Bateleur, the ternary supports the quaternary. There are three steps. The throne I guess has four legs, but they are all hidden. Maybe there are only two supporting legs that run the entire side of the throne. Maybe we have to guess if the throne has two or four legs.

    The throne is also a human-made device. In the Bateleur, the elements were scattered on the table. But now they are brought together into the throne and pillars.

    I looked up the origin of the word throne at, and I get its root, ”dher” “to hold firmly, support” (source also of Latin firmus “firm, steadfast, strong, stable,” Sanskrit dharma “statute, law”). From late 14c. as a symbol of royal power.

    Young Elephant prodded me into thinking about astrology, and I remembered that the ascendent is where you find your dharma in Hellenistic astrology. In other words, we find our dharma in this life from the first house. The ascendent also is a border that divides the day from the night. It’s the horizon at the time of our birth. Mercury has its joy in the first house because it is the god that can go from day to night. The Papess has the symbol of Mercury on her chest.

    Mercury is made of three symbols: the sun, the moon and the cross.

    The Papess also wears the crown of the Pope, which is three-tiered. On the top is the moon, however. And unlike the Waite deck, she holds the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Maybe they aren’t silver and gold, but zinc and copper as Random Acts pointed out.

    The book she holds is closed, and from what I understand, that means the knowledge is esoteric. And her eyes are also covered in a veil. More signs that indicate the knowledge is hidden. Don’t owls also imply wisdom?

  88. Joy Marie’s comment gave me much to think about. I wonder if we should avoid the poles of simplicity (1) and complexity (10) and marry the middle (5 and 6) for equilibrium’s sake. The myth of Icarus has come to mind. I’m worried I’m committing blasphemy here. I think the answer might reveal itself as the months go on

  89. I found it interesting that Lévi contrasts Satan not with God (as people would intuitively) but with Michael. My first thought on reading the passage was that God represented the unity and Michael/Satan the duality, though perhaps I’m reading too much into the text.

  90. Today I started meditating on secrets. Behind the Papesse is a red curtain, that blocks us from seeing what is behind her. Red, for Fire. It is blocking us from Kether, because we cannot view Kether.

    In front of the Papesse’s face is a veil partially hiding her face. I think this represents the Veil of the Abyss. The Papesse’s sees through the veil; we do not and therefore cannot see how and what the Papesse sees.

    I wondered what other secrets might be hidden in the card and noticed the symbol for Azoth, which I had also noticed previously on the Devil card. I mentioned in a previous post that I had read several conflicting stories of the Demiurge, but one of the stories provided an explanation of why the Devil would have the symbol for Azoth. The short version: Sophia wanted to make something by herself, so she created something and hid it in a cloud. This ‘something’ turned out to be the Demiurge, who grew up without knowing his mother or his father. He wanted to create something and created Man. His father found out and was not happy about it. And here the story gets muddled in variations.

    In the stories, the names Satan and Lucifer and the Devil all get used pretty interchangeably. I decided to try to fit the creation of Satan/Lucifer/the Devil in the YHVH process and came upon a startling (to me) conclusion. (Those of you with a stronger background in Christianity might already know this, but it was new to me.) I now think that Satan and Lucifer are two different entities.

    Satan (the Adversary) is a Seraphim, an angel, a Lord of the Flame, a Yod. (And, being a Lord of the Flame, he had no free will. He could only do what he was to do. He was evil in the sense of a thrust block evil.)

    Sophia (Wisdom) is a Lord of Form, a first Heh. (And, being a Lord of Form, she had no free will. She could only do what she was to do. And she created something.)

    Lucifer (Light Bringer) was what Sophia created and hid in a cloud (AIR!). So Lucifer was a Vau. A Lord of Mind, with free will. And with his free will, he created Man (made of Earth).

    And when Man ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he understood duality (and, in that respect, became like God).

    This made me think of Prometheus. Prometheus formed man out of water and earth. And Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to man. Man now had light (and, in that respect, became like the Gods).

    And Prometheus, in the stories I have read, is a “good guy”. Lucifer, not so much. Something to ponder.

    And I also thought perhaps Prometheus and Lucifer are versions of the same entity (like Diana and Artemis or Jupiter and Zeus are sometimes depicted). But Prometheus is a Titan and in my CosDoc notes, Titans were Lords of Form and I’m thinking Lucifer was a Lord of Mind, so that doesn’t work.

    If any of you are more well-versed in this area and wouldn’t mind sharing what you know (and JMG doesn’t consider it too off-topic), I would love to know what you think. The Demiurge is on Levi’s Seal of Solomon, so I think it is going to be important eventually (and it keeps popping up in my reading and I want to understand it now!).

  91. Another astrological correspondence that sort of relates:

    In astrology, a cardinal sign is followed by a fixed sign, and then by a mutable or double-bodied sign. Cardinal and fixed suggest force and form. There is not a one-to-one relationships between the entire zodiac, but the signs seem to follow the lightning path. Cardinal to fixed would be going horizontally from the pillar of force to the pillar of form. But to get back from form to force, you need to go through the middle pillar, which could correspond to the mutable signs.

    I don’t see how one could rectify the tree of life with ten sephiroth to a zodiac of twelve signs. We could include Da’ath but that’s about it.

    The Papesse is between the pillars of force and form. That would make her the middle pillar.

  92. I’ve been mulling over duality, ternary, quaternary, and unity. Drawing on my Christian past, it brings to mind the two natures of Christ, the Trinity, and the unity of the Godhead. But I pondered on what was the quaternary; the four Gospels? The four Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, whose symbols seem to grace another Tarot card (but I won’t get ahead of things here)? But the Gospels and Evangelists aren’t in the same category as Christ, the Trinity, and the Godhead. Or is it the four Archangels? I didn’t realize that my former Protestantism was getting in the way until I gave in and did a search for Christianity and the quaternary and found “Marriages Made in Heaven : Trinity Finally Becomes a Quaternity” which points to Mary as fulfilling the quaternary. Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Mary. Fire, Air, Earth, Water. Spirit, Material, Good, Evil. Fittingly, it’s from a Jungian point of view.

    This may tie in with earlier discussions on the Virgin Mary

    Will reread chapter two tonight for more insight, plus I need to work on connecting the letter B with La Papesse.

    Joy Marie

  93. Regarding the pillars, there is serious discussion amoung the Jewish sages as to whether Binah (Wisdom) is male or female (and Chochmah – inspiration – by extension), and good arguments were made for Binah as the female – the supernal mother, per Sepher Yetzirah iirc. But the majority of modern-ish mages preferred the idea of the columns. Because most schematics leave out Da’at (Knowledge) which is in the position of the human head, you get an incomplete picture. Just because you know or think you know something, doesn’t make it true. Knowledge can be contaminated with falsehood, therefore Da’at is only a half-sephirah of sorts (and is subsequently left off many images).

    But the point for this discussion is that the polarity of the energy switches sides at Da’at. On the physical plane, that is reflected in the fact that the left side of your brain controls the right side of your body (and vice versa). Binah, female energy, sits atop the masculine column. Chochmah, masculine energy (the lighting bolt of inspiration) sits atop the feminine column. I had a diagram but I can’t figure out how to post it on here, lol. Guess my knowledge is inadequate…

    Anyway, perhaps that doesn’t matter for Levi’s purposes, but I though some of you might find it interesting. Someone above said Chochmah was pretending to be male, and my first thought was: it’s pretending to be female!

  94. Adrian, good! Now to weave them back together… 😉

    SLClaire, fascinating. Yes, that works.

    Kimberly, good!

    Jon, a fine symbolic meditation; thank you.

    David BTL, it’s actually quite common in European Christianity to see Michael and Satan as adversaries, since they’re on the same level of being — both started out as archangels, though only Michael retains that status. You find the pairing in art all the time:

    Karma, fascinating! Thanks for this.

    Jon, the relation between the sephiroth and the zodiacal signs isn’t one-to-one. In a certain sense, the sephiroth are along the vertical dimension (uniting spirit and matter) while the zodiacal signs are along the horizontal dimension (all equally blending spirit and matter). Meanwhile 10 + 12 = 22, the number of tarot trumps.

    Joy Marie, good. Lévi’s going to be covering several of these themes as we proceed.

    Leah, thanks for this. I wasn’t aware of that discussion at all.

  95. Hi John Michael,

    As is above, is below, sow reap and all that stuff – That struck me hard when I first saw the tarot cards yesterday as well as the feminine forms they both took. I do wonder if many understand the implications of that? Maybe, you can only hope so anyway! Oh well.

    I’ve said it to you before that this particular field of knowledge is not allowed for myself, but I’m enjoying the ride as well as the many comments.

    It’s super crazy taken to eleven on the dial down here as we are in lock down yet again. The fifth to be precise. It has been remarked upon before that to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different outcome is a sign of madness. Oh well… Madness and regret it must be then.



  96. Now I know electrodes can produce precipitates I’m imagining a rain of crystals and gemstones. Condensing solids out of a liquid is a very different image. Not just the technical definition of crystalisation, but also the metaphor of making something tangible.

    Which leads to the question of where ideas come from during meditation. I didn’t know about precipitates, but my mind still came up with a heavy gas that sinks – the closest I could imagine with what I knew. Stuff like that happens a lot in remote viewing. Your mind doesn’t really know what it’s looking at so gives you the closest thing it can recognise. It only makes sense when you look at the feedback photo. This suggests in meditation you tap into something that exists beyond your own thoughts.

    La Papesse has a lot of symbols of regal authority – throne, crown, robes, book of law or forbidden knowledge, and the Keys to the Kingdom / Keys of Heaven. The latter were given to St Peter alone and symbolised the authority of the Church on earth. But because they are all being held by Pope Joan they represent massive defiance, at least of mortal authority. It’s not quite equivalent of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods, because the gods could be fine with this. It does suggest the path to all knowledge is open to all, although they may need to do a bit of skullduggery against existing powers to walk it. The mysteries of the universe are also behind a curtain, suggesting it wouldn’t be that hard to pull aside.

    I also read the theories of what the two keys symbolise and thought it would be funny if they were like nuclear launch keys that had to be turned simultaneously. 🙂

  97. Hello all. I’m quite new to all this, and I hope I’m not too far amiss with posting this, nor that I say too much. I am lurking along with this course, but I had an explosion of meditative productivity recently that has left me rather amazed and simultaneously further confused and I wanted to bounce some of this off all of you to ensure that I’m going in a productive direction. I write this because I am not terribly familiar with symbolic thinking — to be precise I am not terribly familiar with taking symbolic thinking and making it practical in any way — and I hope that with gentle correction I may be able to draw more out of the symbols here than perhaps I am doing with my current approach.

    (Each of the following lists is likely non-exhaustive, I’ve listed the ones that stood out to me, feel free to point out any additional ones that are perhaps more important if I have overlooked them!)

    Ok, so we have several analogous sets of four:
    * The traditional elements: air, fire, water, earth, or the symbols of material existence
    * The Tetragrammaton: YHVH and it’s analogue in Adam (interestingly, both of these are four letters of which one repeats, making three unique letters, of which the word Eve is also analogous, an interesting twist of language and orthography) – the symbol of the creator, which symbolizes in its unity the duality of the yod and the cteis and the material elements represented in the four letters
    * The “cross” of the yod and the cteis (which, incidentally, in the gnostic version is a T, and thus has three points instead of four, and in Levi’s illustration is shown separated into an upward and downward facing T – which, like the divided star of David on the left, would clearly combine into a solar cross) – another symbol of the creative
    * The quaternity of material, etherial, astral, and mental, of which are the four aspects of man.

    We have a host of dualities:
    * A sort of universal cosmic duality which represents, among other things, the ultimate act of creation (the separation of light from darkness, or the cabalic yod and the cteis of shadow, or the imagined shadow of god from the light, etc.) which in a sense stands for all “opposed” dualities (I note, here, however, that not all of these dualities are necessarily opposed, though Levi seems to make a point of it – male and female are as complementary as they are opposed, and as JMG pointed out, opposition requires agreement of opposition and if they choose not to oppose, then they may well be complimentary – if the receptive party accepts with grace rather than receives with force, for instance, there is no longer opposition) – this duality is “productive” or “creative” in the sense that it is ultimately necessary for creation to occur – for manifestation of the Unity principle to happen – for existence, in other words, to… exist.
    * The classical dualities of male and female, which are again a “productive” or “creative” duality
    * All of the oppositional dualities which form various thrust blocks or provide necessity of equilibrium
    * The dual flow of the astral light, which simultaneously moves in opposite directions (I read this to mean that when it flows apart, both flow apart, when they flow together, both come together – this permits the idea of the lemniscate belt, among other things, and requires a symmetric knot – in fact it requires perfect symmetry in all that the astral light does)
    * The two “currents of blind force”
    * The visible and invisible/manifest and unmanifest/above and below of the Doctrine itself

    We have identified a few potential trinities:
    * The three rays of Awen
    * Intelligence, Will, and Action (or knowledge/will/action)
    * Any opposed “universal” duality + an equilibrating influence (sophia)
    * The creative product of a productive duality (male, female, child/children, god->not-god=>creation, etc)
    * The summation of the enclosing Unity and it’s resulting split duality, of which it returns as part
    * The three hidden unities in the oppositional duality: agreement in kind, agreement in opposition, agreement in nature
    * Intelligence which unites the two blind forces and it itself a trinity composed of a unity and a duality (the two keys, interestingly, representing the solar and lunar elements of gold and silver)
    * Mercury, sulphur, and salt in alchemy -> the passive principle as symbolized by the pendant on the chest of the Pappess, yet symbolizing within it the four into one (that makes two parties) which create a third.


    A few notes on the dualities:

    When god “imagines” shadow into existing… there’s this strong link implied here between imagination, speaking/the Verb, and creation. I’m definitely picking up on that, but I’m a bit lost in all the symbols as to what exactly Levi is trying to communicate with it. There’s also a sense that once you are able to “cloak” something with a word/Word, you have already in a sense created it. And of course as I’ll get to below, creation implies/requires/is predicated on separation from a previously undifferentiated state.

    Steiner’s writings have suggested to me something interesting. He says in his agricultural Lecture #3 that “the Spiritual must always have physical carriers”. And I was pondering how this is so, and it occurred to me that there is another aspect of the material corresponding to the immaterial, or the visible corresponding to the invisible, and that is the notion of charge or force, which is immaterial yet both observable and effectual – it permits the invisible to act on the visible. For matter to exist, “nothing” (or, equally, “everything” … a duality hidden in a unity) had to split, otherwise it would not have created anything. And when it split, all that immense energy created a field, or a differential between the two “opposites” or complements. This field, which both seeks to unify them and is likewise the powering energy of the entire creation, both requires them to remain opposed AND is what enables them to act on their creation. So, just as there is a powerful set of fields in the nucleus of atoms which give rise to the notion of charge (or, you could say, exactly the opposite: the notion of charge, that is to say, “differentiation”, gives rise to the fields), the cabalistic yod/light and the cabalistic cteis/shadow themselves must have a field of attraction – and what then compels them to stay apart, or to remain separate once they have done their creative interaction? There arises (or is required) a third element here, which both holds them opposed and causes them to draw together in creative congress. (Steiner also goes on to discuss the physical elements themselves such as sulphur and carbon and their relationship to the interaction with the spiritual, but that’s another story – though it does tie in with the precipitates comment Yorkshire made.)

    Naturally, the “positive” and “negative” forces are equal and perfectly opposite… Levi again: “… equal to the dimension determined by his creative desire and attributed to him by the ideal yod of the radiant light”. And from electrical theory, there is no absolute voltage – there are only relative voltages. Fields have no absolute value, only relative ones – the differential is what matters, and it is in a sense always relatable (that is to say, able to be brought to a new relative basis) to any reference held in common => connecting two ground planes causes two system’s differentials to become relative to each other – affecting one then affects the other.

    I also see something in the duality of the astral light worth commenting on: if it *always* flows in a dual direction, and you can influence (or perceive) one of the flows, you are indirectly yet absolutely influencing (or perceiving) the other (and exposing yourself to influence by it, through the principle as noted above of the relative nature of fields). This is analogous to the doctrine of magic, as well as Hamner’s law of the universal “as you give, so shall you receive”.

    Anyways, while I still have no clue yet what the actual answer is for the Sphinx, there is definitely a deeply nested, multiply-analogous pattern of related fours, expressed in/by/arising out of related twos, which themselves are resolved by or produce threes (and so forth, etc.).


    Everyone seems to be discussing the spinning of the square – and I can see how that creates a circle (unity) but I don’t see why it’s important, exactly? You can spin any shape into a circle… and thus into a sphere. When you spin any polygon into a circle you get actually two circles – the inner circle traced by the minimum radius of the polygon and the outer circle traced by the outer. The lines of the polygon blur the space in between with a probability gradient, sort of like an electron’s orbit.


    One thing I still struggle with is that initial raised yod – if it was “raised” in a field of unity, and the cteis “dug” to separate it or provide a receptive alternate, then you already have three entities: the field of unity from which the yod was raised (or in which it is raised – how can it be “raised” if there is not yet a direction – which implies a field, which implies already polarity, or am I taking this all far too literally already?); the yod itself; and the cteis which was dug for it proportionally. Not to mention what gets created by this pair of new polarities.


    Related to Levi’s image posted by the demiurge occupies the location identified as the microprosopus… which Levi has pointed out a correspondence to already.

    A final note, which is probably obvious to everyone else but I just realized it during this chapter: the Orobouros must always be moving, be in motion. It’s a dynamic symbol – a dynamo, an energetic wheel. It cannot stay still – the head is always desirous of the tail, but any advance pulls the tail away from it. So it’s an active, powerful expression. I’m still quite conflicted about the “morality” of the symbol (I mean, how sustainable is it to try to eat yourself), and part of me is a little worried that the snake will go hungry, but maybe that’s not a bad thing! I see it a bit like a dog chasing it’s own tail, energetic, playful, perhaps even a game, but maybe a game whereby the entire universe is powered? I also see a lot of correspondences with the idea that some of the Lords have no free will and the Orobouros may be one of them – set in motion specifically to provide a gyroscopic frame of reference for creation. There is, obviously, a planetary orbit association here too.


    Thank you for hosting my thoughts, and for your patient critique thereof. Naturally there are an abundance of questions / meditation subjects here. Are any of these potential directions for thought likely to be more fruitful than others?

  98. Your Kittenship, okay, that’s really funny.

    Chris, I heard about the endlessly repeating Australian lockdowns. Here in the US, Los Angeles tried to do that and the county sheriff informed the media that he wouldn’t enforce it. Since it’s been shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that lockdowns do nothing to slow the spread — among many other data points, when Texas lifted its lockdown orders, the rate of viral transmission went down — it’s an interesting question why your government’s so frantic about it all.

    Yorkshire, our minds are not shut up inside those curious lumps of meat called human brains. There is a continuum of consciousness, and thoughts can flow from mind to mind — that’s what drives fads, for instance. Learning to tap into the flow, while not having your mental clarity overwhelmed by the images, is an important part of occult training.

    Groundhog, excellent. Keep going.

  99. i’ve read this chapter a few times, and still i’m struggling to even articulate in the most remedial way, my thoughts on this chapter without being crude. i think in flashes of images and phrases so i’ll give linking them up a formal try. i preface so you’ll appreciate the sweat stains you cannot see but may feel:

    maybe because i’m actually an artist IN PLAY right now, meaning i may discuss these concepts with James or think about them in the tub, i tend to see how these concepts play in The Real World.

    so i’ve been thinking of Violet’s thoughts on Bloody Mary, and what spooked me about the story was how RIGHT and accurate it all seemed. it is correct that the mother of Jesus has not only forsaken them, but is preying upon them.

    because that IS what’s happened with Woman. i remembered watching the Jordan Peterson and Camille Paglia interview everyone was talking about, saying how evil he was, and it was the first thing i saw on him and i didn’t get what the hub bub was all about.

    they were talking about the over-feminization of society and then that was that.

    but then Bloody Mary made me remember that. the devouring mother. and that’s what i thought about, what i wanted an answer to as the child of a 2nd wave feminist and a mixed girl and i AM “this intersection” incarnate and thus fit nowhere, agree with no one particular party.

    so i am a living embodiment of seemingly contradictory ideas and totally understand and feel and have lived (and still do live) this: “Indeed a great wrongdoer is more alive than a cowardly and apathetic man, and his return to virtue will be due to the energy of his wanderings.”


    that was in the front of this book somewhere and what electrified me so. because how do you do that NOW when we’re ..where we’re at now?

    –i get spotty here:

    and i feel like industrialism made a friend of feminism. Paglia suggested in one of her essays that capitalism wants an androgynous workforce to keep the workers from being distracted.

    but we’re not efficient borg members, so we’ve gone wonky.

    to me, this is what feminism did: it wanted to be like a caricature of a free powerful man without the secret INNER LIFE, costs, responsibilities and consequences of BEING a man.

    this is where i can’t even fake threading thoughts together seamlessly:

    because why has it been only gay men who’ve said to me how holy and sacred it is to RECEIVE another man? women don’t “think” that and have never said it. not because they don’t. in fact i think we do. i think we’re taught NOT to. to tinder one night stands, to have casual amounts of abortions like smacking mosquitoes, or to eradicate menstrual periods because they’re INCONVENIENT.


    i tried it all. i crawled back to myself in horror of what they were saying were such “great ideas.”

    i’m not weaker being receptive–hardly!—but there’s a way i SEE and MOVE in the world that’s different from men, and if i try to see men through MY eyes, they are …uninteresting.

    but when i hush up and pay attention, men have a whole other inner world they may or may not let you into.

    i’m not saying don’t be gay don’t be another gender. i’m saying it can be presumptuous and colonizing when you assume there’s one way of being ANYTHING.

    so the Bloody Mary and feminizing female devouring type is real and true now. women aren’t happy with how things are. we were told we wanted what the guys had but really???

    so i’m confused about this lack of balance when women are going around trying to act and look like forceful “phalluses” or in lieu of that, really actually trying to emasculate anyone else.

    it’s hard to write because even i wince at my own words. i’m gonna need y’all to act like you’re NOT on the internet for a minute and let me struggle to find my MEANING because that’s what this is all about. we’re all stammering with new ways of seeing without trying to deny anyone their right to EXIST.

    that’s not what i’m wanting. i’m wanting INSIGHTS from others like me, who straddle BOTH WORLDS happily.

    but the emasculating and feminizing everyone to feel equal (“equity”! ugh) and the same, is killing EVERYTHING in the name of being “good” and “saving” everyone so we can be “comfortable.”

    if you watch pigeons court, you realize the women resisting is REAL. it’s real NOW among humans. so how can a woman feel inclined to resist but expect a man to read her mind, rape her when she so feels, and still open the door for her?

    what’s going on in HIS MIND???

    he is not a puppet. and he is his own creation.

    i’m confused but there’s something here. in fact i think this chapter is key for ME understanding myself and how to finally come to peace with all the contradictions i supposedly am…. that WE are.

    i can’t but help but feel i’m dreaming.

    but when you see such concepts in print and that are old, i feel HOPE that it’s not so small.

    i don’t know how to RESIST the proper game. they’re giving me the game they WANT me to resist.

    but i’m precisely here because i want to find out the REAL GAME to resist. that’s my JOB as artist. and i’ve been punching air. i get what he writes about stabbing a shield or the force will destroy you. it’s a bad dream punch times a zillion.

    and we women are so damn CUTE. that’s the real puzzle for me. screw the squares making circles as meditations. it’s: how do i make it in this new San Francisco of NO FREAKS and NO FLAGS. and they’re cheering for Cuba’s government saying The People have got it twisted.

    it’s upside down world, people!

    resisting that is like resisting marshmallow fluff. give me something grown up!
    (oh…that’s all there is???”

    i’m lost.


  100. This morning’s meditation on Domus and Pope Joan got me thinking about the blue (or indigo) box in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.” Opening the blue (or indigo) box seems to turn the world inside out: the imaginary becomes real and the real becomes imaginary. For what it’s worth.

  101. @Groundhog,

    Thank you for your post. You mentioned that there had been lots of chatter about ‘spinning the square’. You gave me my “HA!” moment of the day. We aren’t ‘spinning the square’, we are ‘circling the square’. What that means, I don’t know yet. But I know in the past, JMG has explained the concept of ‘squaring the circle’ and, since we are talking about duality and the two paths of the astral light, it seems obvious if the circle gets squared, then the square should also get circled.

    Apologies for posting an unmeditated thought, but I know tomorrow most of us will be distracted by Magic Monday (myself included). If I do figure something out, I will definitely post.

    And thanks to everyone who has posted… really great comments and meditation fodder. 🙂

  102. I’m still thinking about the first trump. Levi says that the visible is a manifestation of the invisible.
    An example in science is that geneticists had worked out that every person had two copies of a gene, and that the dominant version of the gene would be expressed; only when both copies were were recessive, would the recessive version be expressed. This was the visible.
    When DNA was discovered, the invisible cause was found; each person had two copies of the DNA of a gene, one from each parent. Geneticists immediately understood that DNA has to be the chemical version of a gene. The visible was a manifestation of the invisible.

  103. Meditation on Domus:

    1. house – shelter for earthly body
    2. pyramid/tomb – house for soul in afterlife
    3. temple – house for gods; place of connection with spiritual forces

    Four planes:

    Archetypal – pure ideas: shelter, stability, endurance, protection

    Creative – mental patterns: foundation, roof, pillars or walls, doors, locks, keys

    Formative – astral plane. Behind the veil, patterns are brought forth. Architects envision forms in their minds and create plans

    Material – actual things and visible material structures are created

    Esoteric secrets belonging to the building trades, knowledge and skills of how to make a house, tomb or temple, were highly valued and, at certain times in history, closely guarded secrets (stonemasons for example); such plans require knowledge of mathematics and geometry, suitable materials, skilled labor

    A book is a little house that shelters and preserves ideas, individual and collective memories, knowledge and (sometimes) wisdom. Written language and the creation of books were also, once upon a time, esoteric secrets.

    La Papesse offers to initiate us into these mysteries.

    The blood-red veil behind her hides mysterious depths. Her watery blue gown flows around her like a river. Her veiled eyes look inward. She is the queen of this realm. The two owls have four eyes that see in the shadowy moonlit night.

    What sort of house will we choose to build?

  104. The Knapp-Hall deck version might also refer to The Papess as The Virgin Mary. The Papess is wearing a sky blue dress. In the Catholic tradition Mary wore that color because, I’m told, it was the most expensive paint and so they reserved it for her. Mary is also seen wearing a veil, and this could be the same one covering the Papess’ eyes. Mary is also the Queen of Heaven and has a crown.

    Then Levi refers to crushing the head of the serpent, which Mary is known for. Licking her humid feet might refer to the force being tamed.

    What I don’t get is that a virgin would seem to refer to Binah and not Chokmah. This difference might refer to Pope Joan?

  105. JMG,

    Sorry, forgot to thank you for that clarification on the zodiac as a horizontal dimension that blends spirit and matter. That’s quite the meditation topic.

  106. This remark in the post, and its surrounding paragraph:

    The opposition is always founded on a series of covert agreements.

    Looks like my topic for meditation this week. Thanks!

  107. @Groundhog:

    Thanks a ton for these thoughts, they have helped me to think on this chapter. I also quite appreciate how you catalogued the concepts in the book so far by sorting them into quaternaries, ternaries and binaries.

    Your passage below provoked some thoughts as well:

    “One thing I still struggle with is that initial raised yod – if it was “raised” in a field of unity, and the cteis “dug” to separate it or provide a receptive alternate, then you already have three entities: the field of unity from which the yod was raised (or in which it is raised – how can it be “raised” if there is not yet a direction – which implies a field, which implies already polarity, or am I taking this all far too literally already?); the yod itself; and the cteis which was dug for it proportionally. Not to mention what gets created by this pair of new polarities.”

    I’m going to try and puzzle this out below, please call me out if the below is fuzzy logic, and I certainly hope I’m not telling you something you already know.

    Earlier in the book, Lévi writes that Being is Being, which I take to mean that the fact that things exist are evidence enough of existence.

    Because there are divisions between things within the existence we experience, there must have been a point earlier on in the universe in which the unity has divided for the very first time, and this seems to me is what Lévi is talking about in this chapter.

    Lévi writes early on in Chapter 2: “What is above, said Hermes, is equal to what is below: that is the duality which serves to measure the unity; and the relation of equality between above and below is the creative principle, it is the ideal phallus, and the principle having been created, is the formal cteis.”

    So it appears, if I’ve got this right and all this isn’t a bunch of bullsparkles, that the principle of duality is contained within the unity. Assuming for a few moments that we can use logic to properly explore something infinite and unknowable, it seems that the only place for the duality to exist is within the unity, otherwise, the unity would no longer be a unity. Which is what I believe your question was about.

    Lévi writes that this principle is the ideal phallus, so this principle itself is the yod, and the rest of the unity, except for this principle, is the cteis. The principle of division is itself what causes division. Furthermore, Lévi, by using the word ‘ideal’, is perhaps referencing Plato and the Platonic forms – and that this principle exists as an ideal, and because this principle exists as an ideal, then it trickles down through the planes into reality. Unity divides itself from this recursively throughout reality via the yod.

    So I guess to sum up, because divisions exist within our existence, and assuming that there is a unity, then the concept of division has to exist within the unity, if we can assume that the unity itself is infinite (the idea of a unity seems to imply the infinite).

    However, then we run back into the problem contained in your question: if the duality is what measures the unity and the unity can only be measured from outside itself, then there must be a greater unity. Maybe it’s just that we’re caught somewhere farther down this recursive chain of divisions, only able to surmise at a unity without divisions… hmmm.

    It strikes me that the Ouroboros symbolically represents all this logical entanglement.

  108. After all i wrote, i re-read and re-grounded myself in the text and tasks laid out by Papa G. / now i can admit that i see sexual imagery everywhere: the domed crown seems to pierce the veil, which reads as “hymen” for me, and the two “pillars” of cloth curving inward seem like labia, which makes me think of not only coitus, but going back through the birth canal? or other way around? i don’t know.

    but the “tongues” licking out at the bottom of the edges of the veil are drawn/cut just a little too lovingly, sensually, where other such “opportunities” to draw other shapes that way aren’t done that way.

    BUT why is no one mentioning anywhere that it seems as if the Papesse has a disembodied penis across her chest? at first i thought it was a rod or metal dowel. but in my interest in fashion history, i don’t remember a metal dowel. doesn’t mean that’s not what it is. but as an artist, i followed the lines and all i can read is “why does the papesse have a castrated phallus on her chest???” –with veins and all.

    as an artist you cannot convince me they didn’t know what they were drawing. it’s cartoonish but i’m thrown off by it seeming to be uncircumcised, so is this more Jewish? because wasn’t EVERYONE else uncut back in The Day???

    and her folds in the bottom red of her robe seem too angular for the artist, in comparison to his other fold work, so i wonder if that’s anything. is there a letter hidden in the folds?

    and speaking of folds, i wonder why the veil behind her is uneven on purpose on either side. i’m trying to think as a cartoonist, the choices i myself have made. the secrets and jokes or hidden meanings.

    anyhow, i couldn’t think of the word “castration” yesterday, but that’s where we’re quite LITERALLY at nowadays. literally and figuratively, and you don’t have to have a vagina to FEEL it as i do.


  109. oh yeah, i forgot to say that i’m reading “gnosis” in the Papesse card now as to know in the “biblical sense.” union, communion with man beyond the veil (hymen). that sacred stuff we forget about or forgot about.

    but hers is the only bloodless face in the deck. maybe that’s why i see that as a severed penis across her chest.

    i’m back to Bloody Mary.


  110. and in my deck, the Papesse’s face is paper-white, while her fabric around her head is the color of everyone else’s skin–along with this castrated phallus that is also that same skin color but the head is yellow, like her helmet head dress crown.

    and only she and Le Pape are the only ones whose phallus-shaped crowns just touch the edge of the card with a round bead. that’s an awkward artist decision for no reason (the others have space at the top or are cut off). so why the tension of the tangential line? that’s GOT to mean something as it’s an unusual choice.

    but why is the penis across her chest??? is it keeping her in place? or is she keeping it in its place?

    still lost but enjoying this kind of confusion.


  111. The switch in polarities along the columns (pillars) is also in Annick de Souzenelle’s The Body and Its Symbolism: A Kabbalistic Approach; c.f., e.g., the diagrams on pp. 56 and 177 in the English translation.

  112. Last night I was looking at this card and this what I got out of it.

    I have a Marseilles deck. In the center of gown there is a criss crossing of folds and what could be a representation of a symmetrical knot. She represents the equilibrium between masculine and feminine as she dares to secretly occupies a ‘holy’ position designated only for men on the strictest terms, and she wills herself to stay silent about this until her water breaks. The equilibrium lives inside her so to speak, or she holds the power of the pillars;astral light? inside of her. She is androgynous by nature of her sex and position and so can sit between the two pillars and represent the knot. In my card her gowns are flowing off card and I might imagine them encircling the pillars. Also her headpiece holds little characters; blue phallus symbol,red flower, blue phallus symbol, in that order and I assumed it continues around her head. This also speaks to her ability to know both the feminine energies and the masculine energies in equilibrium above her, she has dominion over them. Her cloak is outwardly blue, if I follow Druidry and gods assigned to elements, I would assign this as a masculine outwards appearance. Her interior cloak is red and so I associate with Sul in the same thread and would assign this to her occulted femininity. So continuing along this line I guess then she is then the third half born of the duality of the pillars. Someone who can wield the power of their polar opposite is then the third power and works on the mental plane. She has achieved a position in her life that essentially recreates her as the first human, androgynous, and strangely powerful.

  113. so the Papesse is looking left (receding regressive past backwards reticent) and the penis is poking right (active forward future aggressive), but it’s about halfway BETWEEN her cold dead pale face (cold intellect? death? disconnection? unborn yet?)… where her hands are alive, skin color… actually her HANDS are the “legend” of this map that it wasn’t a mistake that her face is paper white because she’s paper white.

    i first thought the paper white face was a printing error, til i looked at another deck or two. and this deck has her own veil on her head, the color of her hands. any casual artist wouldn’t likely color in the veil AND her face the same, so it was that way on purpose and not a mis-printing of her face.

    so if the half-fleshed skeleton emerging from the fertile black soil of hell has some skin and color left himself, it’s been done before in this desk. thus, her hands also verify what is alive and thus the penis is alive, skin colored with VEINS. tell me different. i cannot unsee a long, proud uncircumcised staff with a holy yellow (golden) head.

    [on my own personally-illuminated deck, i’m now feeling free to color in the head GOLDEN; her own helmet crown is too detailed for solid gold but i’ll strategically stipple it in, like i did with the devil card i had fun with making his semen or urine that i added in gold because i love the devil and he waters the earth to me with his mess or he’s leaking and he makes me pregnant with new adventures and possibly new sins to later atone for in the mess and slaughter aftermath.]

    i cannot unsee that her alive hands are alive… (from?)… SPREADING apart this book (of knowledge back to..Eve?…apples… serpents??? the vertigo’s back!), booked cracked in the middle of the spine, spread eagled wide open… tilting down to the left? (opposite direction of hard phallus pointing right)

    i’m still vexed by the veil appearing as 3 EQUAL folds on the right of the veil BEHIND her. i’ve looked at how the artist handled background chairs and drapery and he was not “naive” enough to disrupt the continuity of the drapery on the other (left) side of her.

    there are a few cards where the continuity of a chair back or wing is in question, and i’ll look closer at those later in this study when we get to them. but i’m trying to learn this artist’s rules and what he (or series of artists and thinkers) did on purpose, out of character to make us know him as in VIBE with him.. intuition… back to that kinda “gnosis.”

    but now i see the devil’s tongues of sensuality (and in RED), pointing right to the rod staff wand phallus PENIS across her chest like “LOOK HERE! ACT NOW!”

    then from there the top part of the blue “X” with the cross on it, across her (virginal? barren? off-limits?) midriff POINTS RIGHT TO THE SPLIT OPEN SPREAD EAGLED BOOK…. with her alive skin color hands..

    which then brings me to the odd right angled folds in her red skirt. again, i think the artist wasn’t naive enough for that to be a mistake.

    these are questions and decisions i myself make when planning a poster or piece of work i want or need or intend to actually COMMUNICATE (instead of the self-indulgence of personal sketches, ideas, or private art), and to be read quickly and leave an impression on many levels of the viewer’s mind.

    they’re not EXPECTED to be lingered over like epic paintings or films you get lost in. this is selling vodka and hiding the word “sex” in the ice cubes, or making the camel pregnant so you feel virile. they’re subliminal in a hurry.

    this is fun stuff. hiding in plain sight! my favorite thing as an at-least 5X leo! (no lie)


  114. Hi John Michael,

    It’s an interesting question that’s for sure. For some reason it reminds me that yesterday I spent cleaning up the farm from all of the fallen timber due to a very serious wind storm (which arrived by way of the SE, which almost never happens and the forests were basically not prepared for the buffeting). The job is done now except for one very large 40m long tree trunk. At the end of the day, and as dusk fell, I sat in a hot bath and looked out the window into the forest and well over the valley and way off to the horizon. By sheer chance I happened to observe a falling star which was quite bright and landed off to the SW about maybe 2km away. Here’s the thing, was it human space junk which fell, or a chunk of rock, which fell to the ground? And does it even matter? Something fell out of the sky.

    Down here we’re almost entirely dependent on oil imports. That’s not good. I suspect that we’re broke, we just don’t know it yet.

    Have you been wondering about the goings on? I’m pretty resilient, but even so, I’m limiting my exposure to the news to a minimum it has a spell of despair to it and um yeah blow back – good luck with that. A mate of mine died late last year not due to the health subject which dare not be named, but apparently due to an ordinary heart attack. The level of focus on the one health subject just seems odd to me. My old mates appointments had apparently been cancelled due to fear.



  115. Fascinating discussion of dualities and balance, JMG – I find it central to my own mystical path.

    Although I am strictly an ‘observer’ in this book club, I have been pursuing Tarot on my own since March this year (I use the Universal Waite deck, which felt as natural to me from Day 1 as the geomancy figures did to me 11 years back: a very good sign!). By chance, this week my public library hold for A.E. Waite’s “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot” arrived. My, oh my, the man certainly was agonizingly jealous of Levi! Regardless of his dismissal of Levi’s interpretation of many of the Major Arcana cards (I haven’t got to the Minor Arcana yet), I found that I strongly agree with Waite’s final word on the 2nd Trump: “There are some respects in which this card is the highest and holiest of the Greater Arcana.”

  116. Me, meditating previously but not directly on the initial yod being raised from the unity (paraphrased from the vague question floating around in my head that felt basically unanswerable): “but if it was all undifferentiated unity, how did something exist to raise it?”…

    JMG, in today’s MM: “consciousness is the substance from which all things are made”.

    … *kaboom*

    That’s going to be a fat, full, meditation all by itself. Thanks for that hint, JMG! I’d been circling around that point, but really struggling with whether it made any sense to just out and out assume, and I’m still not sure exactly what that means, but having it said so bluntly helped crystallize a lot.

    RandomActsOfKarma: thanks for your comment there. I’m still not so sure how to make use of this image, but it’s certainly another perspective on it!

    Jbucks, I’ve been thinking about your answer too, but I’ll have to take a little more time before I come back with something useful on it… I’m digging into an aspect that ErikaLopez brought up about the womb -> after the yod and cteis, there’s a birth; some thoughts about the fact that the pappess herself is literally blocking the space between the two columns as if she’s the gate or it’s guardian or both — yes, the Yog Sototh reference comes to my mind as well; and I had a most unusual mental image of the columns being the legs of a woman and the temple entrance between them matches so well with all the other imagery, so.. I’ll get back to you… soon? I hope! 🙂

  117. Bet, the Hebrew letter-name assigned to Key 2 in the Knapp-Hall deck, means house. Domus is house in Latin. A temple is said to be a house of God. In one of his letters to the Corinthians, Paul asks, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?” And Psalm 127 opens by saying that “unless the Lord [JHVH] builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” (JHVH most likely refers here to a creative process rather than to a personage.)

    Then there’s the phrase, a house of cards. Children who attempt to build houses with a deck of playing cards soon discover that their structures are flimsy, insubstantial, and precarious. But a house slowly built of assimilating the doctrines and practices embodied in the tarot keys would be a different house of cards indeed — sturdy enough to withstand the vagaries of bad weather and unforeseen circumstances. Or as Bob Dylan once sang, “may you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift.”

    Yet Key 2 suggests that each coin has two sides. So there’s something to be said for a flimsy (i.e. fluid and diaphanous) house or veil between myself and the seemingly outside world. The thin, pliant walls of the small tent that Joyce and I lived in for two years before we could afford to build a cabin kept us surprisingly close to the elements and to the other creatures with whom we shared this land. Much of that closeness was lost when we moved into our stolid cabin with its protective wooden walls.

    How much protection do I truly need? And protection from what? When is protection appropriate and when has it simply become habitual? What’s implied by the biblical saying that “the foxes have holes and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”?

  118. Just thought I should say I’m not quite so confident in the details of the the square within the circle anymore (I do suspect steps 1-11 might be right). I am pretty confident in the association with the 22 tarot trumps to it and there being some way to draw it that maps the journey of the tarot. I also learned that integrating the shadow comes before integrating the anima on the path of individuation so that confuses things.

  119. As soon as I read “the virgin of the sea” I thought Miriam Magdalena, who’s name relates to the sea, and using “virgin” in it’s meaning of woman who has not given birth. Miriam Magdalena is often referred to as the disciple Jesus loved best, one he taught the greater secrets to, especially enraging Peter, who was not taught those mysteries. She also relates to Venus/Aphrodite. Going along the Aphrodite path, long with the Orthodox view of The Magdalene The dragon licking her humid feet relates to removing a mist, a veil from the part of the body that touches the earth. It also is sexual, as relating anything below the waist to genitals was a way of getting by the various censors. Aphrodite is considered to be an ancient Levantine Sea Goddess.
    @ericalokez I’m using the Knapp- Hall deck, also have the Wirth deck. Neither of them have anything remotely resembling penis on her chest, so we may not be mentioning it, cause in the decks we are using, it’s not there ? Just a thought

  120. erikalopez:

    I’m really liking your artist’s perspective.

    About the spinning squares that turn into circles…yeah, screw them!…an apt metaphor. 😉

    Some thoughts on squares and circles, light and shadow, time and timelessness, being and becoming, existence and non-existence:

    We, as creatures dwelling in time, perceive the integration of these polarities, or think about this process, as happening over a span of time. But if we were not limited in this way, we would realize that the shadow and the light are always actually integrated, here and now, instant by instant.

    This can be imagined as two currents going in opposite directions simultaneously, moving faster than the eye can perceive.

    The world comes into being and winks out of being, like the square spinning into the circle, like the different images on the front and back sides of a thaumatrope, two currents spinning into unity in the twinkling of an eye.

    As you say: “they’re subliminal in a hurry…to be read quickly and leave an impression on many levels of the viewer’s mind. ”

    Thank you all for your insights, perspectives and visions.

  121. Before I launch into anything more specific, I’d like to say that I’m very impressed by the way that so many people have jumped on this project and are busy letting it inform their thoughts and imaginations. I think Eliphas Lévi would be delighted to see this! I won’t be responding to those comments that are meditations and reflections on the themes from the chapter, simply because I get tired of typing “what a fine meditation!” or words to that effect over and over again, but I’ve read everyone’s comments, mulled over them, and been struck by the amount of imagination and enthusiasm that’s pouring into this. Thank you, all of you, for taking the work this seriously.

    Erika, wow. “To me, this is what feminism did: it wanted to be like a caricature of a free powerful man without the secret INNER LIFE, costs, responsibilities and consequences of BEING a man.” That — among other comments you made — struck me very powerfully. There’s a philosophical movement called Situationism that suggests that the way contemporary industrial works is that it gets you to give up your own human realities in order to sell you imitations of those realities: “don’t have a life, watch one on TV” is one example out of many. If I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting that once feminism sold out to corporate marketing, it talked women into giving up their own identities so they could be sold fake identities as imitation men. That makes enormous sense.

    Jon, the gender attributions of the spheres of the Tree of Life are more complex than they’re sometimes made out to be!

    Erika, you know, I hadn’t noticed the penis, but in some decks, yeah, I can see it. Fascinating.

    Chris, I’ve been wondering about the goings on a great deal. A very great deal.

    Groundhog, you’re most welcome. It’s not something you’ll hear discussed a lot in occult literature, because it’s so easy to misunderstand. It wasn’t until I studied Schopenhauer that it really, finally made sense to me.

    Youngelephant, good. Follow it as far as it will go!

  122. Super glad I tuned back into this conversation. Big thanks to Erika’s muse. I have spent far too much time getting upset with people who have everything backwards. This is going to save me a lot of wasted energy.

    How about a NRN at the end of our posts to indicate No Reply Needed

    That can save you some response typing


  123. youse guys actually made me CRY! i had to take an hour to settle down because i’d make out with every last one of you on here if i could. is there any way we can all live together as roommates or something? because when i first got here to san francisco in ’94, i was the CONSERVATIVE BORING ONE, now you’d think i’m a deranged freak left here in the midst of these people who won’t leave their apartments after the covids and only wanna double down on only working on things alone in their bedrooms on the computers.

    and i was soooo so afraid to post even MORE of me with that real name of mine, never daring to hide behind an adorably anonymous moniker. so i didn’t expect anyone would or even COULD appreciate me. i expected a side email from Papa G asking, “can you please just slither away and leave us to think in PEACE?”

    oh, and i re-read my comments because i’d kinda forgotten what made it to the page after all these days of reading/thinking/despairing, and i didn’t mean to say “UNcircumcised” for circumcised twice, and when i said “desk” i meant DECK as in deck of cards.

    and to whomever suggested this #2 card was most important, i’m feeling that, too. like if you can blend the seemingly un-blendable, embrace and frolic in the ugly so that the pretty is truly pretty, that we’ll have something we’ve not played with en masse before in this extreme pendulum swinging binary world.

    i love this place. thanks Papa G for making this place even possible. where we can be messy and wrong and stammering and struggling online without fears of eradication. i swear i had it. i’m getting used to being clipped.

    and i’m despairing because i’m not seeing any impetus from anyone here to ever ever go outside and play with others EVER again.

    thanks you all for existing. thanks Goldenhawk for riffing with me./really.

    this place gives me hope because my haggard worn and leathery optimism is really taking a beating these moments.


  124. Mulling the 3 shades of blue covering, concealing Papesse and the Book and I find.

    From ‘The All Seeing Eye’ Vol 1 No 1 May 1923. . pg 8 – ‘The Blue Krishna’.

    All below is paraphrased – Spiritual workers are protected by the blue cape of the Father. The wall of the spirit which spiritually divides the living from the dead. A blue veil of concealment and protection of the holy living from the living dead.

    Another article on the Master Mason weaving a seamless garment of blue and gold with the soul. Do what we will we can not stop the nimble fingers that twist the threads but we can take the thread and use it as we will.

    Blessed are they that know not and know they know not, for they can be instructed. Check!:)

    Wisdom to me is right use of knowledge that includes compassionate consideration of the object of knowledge.
    Domain, house, body of knowledge. Walls > veils > blue veils > sacred spaces, house of worship, my soul.
    Gnosis – this process we’ve enter into. A slow intimate dance. Not an end.

    Beautiful. Dense. Loaded. What a ride. Thanks JMG

  125. Hi John Michael,

    Hope you are still there. 🙂 Yeah, I believe that it is worth considering – deeply and I’m also plugging away and peering behind the murk to see what there is to be seen.

    Saw something this morning which is a genuine first – A middle aged man and his daughter living rough down by the local creek. It was 35’F here last night and would have been colder down there in the valley where the cool air pools. They looked like they were living out of their car, and to be honest, they looked miserable.

    Never seen homelessness around here before, and things must have been bad indeed to have chosen to set up camp there – most people consider that this part of the state is way too cold.

    It’s the little things I see – the changes here and there about our civilisation.

    “Once a jolly homeless man and his daughter,
    camped by Barringo Creek,
    under the shade of the manna gum trees.
    And he sang as he watched and waited til’ his fingers thawed,
    Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me?”

    Everything old is new again.



  126. Finally getting to reading this today and thank you for breaking it down into small pieces to do daily. I traveled last week, disrupted my magical practice, and felt the shame of being out of the routine. Realized this morning that I’m choosing to wallow in shame and of course I’m going to do things I consider to be mistakes along the way here, so here I am.

    I was surprised by how deep Levi went in Chapter 2. I didn’t expect it and perhaps it frightened me a bit when I read it thru two weeks ago before my trip. Looking forward to seeing what get revealed this month of daily meditation.

  127. I’m still reflecting quite a bit on the thoughtful comments by everyone, so far pondering the comments and Lévi’s text has been like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle (which will take 4 years of this book club to play).

    For me, there are a few pieces starting to group together on one side of the board that relate to the geometric considerations some people have raised, there is another group of pieces coming together about the La Papesse card, and on the other side of the board, there are some pieces about dualities and binaries (still pondering erikalopez’s thoughts on this). Joy Marie’s comments about simplicity and complexity as a binary are also floating around my jigsaw puzzle board as well. Thanks for all these comments!

    For anyone following the Oedipus / Theban plays ‘jigsaw pieces’, there are further clues there: for example, Oedipus and his wife/mother Jacosta (there’s a duality there, too) have four children: Eteocles, Polyneices, Antigone, and Ismene. Two are female, two are male.

    @Groundhog: ” I’ve been thinking about your answer too, but I’ll have to take a little more time before I come back with something useful on it…”

    It may take me a while before I come back with something useful on my answer, too. 🙂 I keep rethinking it…

  128. I’m on a trip to my wife’s family in Italy. Since I have long since passed the mid point of the road of my life, I realized that it was time I read the Divine Comedy by Dante. I have descended to the lowest depths of Hell, climbed back up through Purgatory shedding burdens as I go, and have rejoined Beatrice, and am currently at Canto VIII of Paradise. I am reading the Charles Eliot Norton prose translation, 1920 edition, which has as much footnoting as text.
    I also brought Levi, so I could keep pace with the book club.
    Reading both, and the comments here, have opened me to the symbolism that is always there, if I had the wit to see it. Reading from Dante shows a different view of many of the same ideas as Levi, and yhe commentariat here.
    Lots to ruminate on.

  129. “Wolfgang loves Mabel,” that’s what is written on the first tarot card in your text. Not crucial to the discussion but a fun fact which I noticed when I was studying the image. You can see it near her feet, in white letters.

    (Feel free to delete if other readers noticed it as well, I didn’t read all the comments.)

  130. This book and journey are really bringing me to great places. Gnosis and science, the idea of dualities and there being a connection was very logical, but I didn’t see how useful that knowledge was. Sitting down and meditating on the idea of domus, now that has ironically brought me many places. The word has so many abstractions and emotions placed upon it. Something as simple as a house. But really, is it that simple? A house can have so many ties to family and ties to place. It can bring back memories, both good and bad. It can bring you back a road of memories that fork out into multitudes of other directions. So yeah, the idea of house has a concrete foundation as an abode which one lives in, but the experience of a house brings you on a journey.

  131. Greetings, everyone! I feel like I’ve been MIA. @erikalopez had commented to the effect that she doesn’t want to go play with ‘others’, that she’d rather be here with you guys (I hope I am interpreting you correctly, Erika). I feel the same way and don’t like that I’ve disappeared without an explanation. I had an health issue… I’ve been bed-ridden and mostly unconscious this week. I am healing and beginning to feel better, but still have a ways to go.

    So many interesting things have been posted and so many things to think about. Most will have to wait, but I wanted to respond to some of the ideas Erika posted. You mentioned about how someone said that capitalism wanted workers to be androgynous, so there would be no distractions. I take it a bit further. Many posts back, JMG did a blog post about sexuality. Someone had the idea that “they” wanted to do away with masculinity, because they didn’t want people to create… they wanted us to have to buy everything they made for us. Now it seems they are trying to do away with femininity. I don’t think they want us to be androgynous… they want us to be nothing. They don’t want us to be able to create. JMG has posted that magic is power, and it is. If they can keep people so busy trying to decide “what” they are, people won’t have time to figure out that “what” you are isn’t nearly as important as what you can DO.

    Other thought about the gold-tipped penis (on your card… mine had the another symbol on her chest)… gold, in alchemy, can represent enlightenment. One veil represented the hymen. Behind the hymen, the womb (the crescent moon). Perhaps the other veil is the foreskin. Behind the foreskin, the generative force (the symbol for the Sun… the circle with a center dot).

    And this image is leading me somewhere, but I’m not quite sure where yet.

  132. As I meditate on the first two Tarot cards, I am seeing them as together representing the polarities we are discussing. In the first card we have a man (a giant, as I see him) outside in nature, with three legs of a table showing. He is active in his pose. He has four limbs. In the second card we have a woman indoors who also has four limbs and whose throne sits atop three steps. She is receptive in her pose. Four limbs, the polar opposites represented by the two cards and the various images on them, and the three legs/steps. Our first card is the unity, our second the duality that it creates with it, the unity, being part of the duality, and that is itself reflected in the second card as the book (unity) and the keys (duality). All clues to the sphinx’s riddle.

  133. In his blog post, JMG gave a not-so-subtle hint about a suggested meditation topic:

    “The astral light is the belt of Isis that loops around both pillars of the temple and unites at the center in a symmetrical knot. This is what a certain high degree of Freemasonry calls the Royal Secret, and its name is equilibrium.”

    Referring to the astral light as the “belt of Isis” seemed significant, but I struggled to find information about it online. It appeared to be a slightly modified Ankh hieroglyphic, also referred to as the Buckle of Isis, the Girdle of Isis, or the Tyet. Wikipedia mentioned that it might resemble a bandage used to absorb menstruation.

    The Tyet looked like a type of knot, so I explored knot images, to see if I could find a knot that seemed similar. The closest I could find was a Spanish Bowline (, but that only had two loops instead of three. In the description, though, it stated that this type of know could be used for rescue work, by placing one loop around each leg. @Groundhog had mentioned that he imagined the pillars (Jachin and Boaz) being legs; JMG had mentioned that the belt of Isis looped around both pillars. And here was a knot that could do that, but it wasn’t quite the Belt of Isis.

    So then I searched for variations of ‘how to tie the Belt of Isis’ and happened upon a video “How to Tie the Isis Knot” ( At the end of the video, the narrator wants to show how the knot resembles a person (a loop for the head, a loop for each arm, two ‘tails’ of the cord for the legs). What struck me, though, was three loops and two tails: a duality and a trinity.

    I made a Tyet out of yarn (picture posted here: Looping around the columns seemed right; looping around the Papesse, not so much. But I found a clue here (, which stated that the knotted cloth was inserted to stanch bleeding. (And that page also has a picture of Mary Magdalene wearing the knot, and @Marlena13 had mentioned she thought the Virgin of the Sea might be Mary Magdalene…) And in my notes from Chapter One, I had a definition from JMG of azoth (whose image is on the Papesse’s chest) as “the solvent or, as alchemists call it, the menstruum in which the First Matter is dissolved…”

    So the cord loops around both pillars, meets in a knot in the middle and that knot goes into the Papesse. The polarity of unity/duality being resolved by a ternary. But how?

    An earlier comment to the blog, by @tomriverwriter, discussed DNA and genes as an example of the invisible being made visible. When I first read that, I thought of chromosomes and had an idea about cell division, but couldn’t make it work, so I just left it in the back of my brain percolating.

    Then I had my ah-ha moment.

    In “Paths of Wisdom”, the top three Spheres are the Supernal Triad, all versions of the Unity: the Unity, the Unity of Force, and the Unity of Form. The Unity of Force is masculine; the Unity of Form is feminine. And that was my mental block. I can say they are all aspects of the same Unity, but I didn’t really understand it. One was the principle, the idea; the other was the form or embodiment of the principle. But I didn’t really see how they were the same because I tend to take my metaphors too literally and I saw the Papesse as female. And I also see “Mother Nature” as female. But they really aren’t. They’re androgynous, too, just like the Logos.

    Consider the chromosomes associated with human biological femaleness and maleness, XX and XY. If we don’t overthink it, we can say X is female and Y is male. But if we do, then a ‘male’ cell of XY is really androgynous, because it has X and Y.

    When a cell is going to create a gamete (sperm or egg), it undergoes a process called meiosis. Typically, the cell duplicates all of its chromosomes, splits in half, and then each half splits again. That’s what I couldn’t make work (when I first read @tomriverwriter’s comment) because I thought the Unity of Force should be male and the Unity of Form should be female. But if they are both androgynous, it does work.

    If Unity starts as one cell, it can duplicate its chromosome and still be one cell. Then, it divides into two cells, each with a full complement of chromosomes, so each half is what the Unity started as. (“When unity divides to create duality, unity reappears as one half of the duality” (from JMG).)

    Then, each half divides again (because gametes only have one set of chromosomes), so we end up with a total of four cells (X, X, Y, and Y). And this is the Papesse (or Isis or Mother Nature), who is androgynous because she has four elements (Fire and Air, which are considered masculine; Earth and Water, which are considered feminine).

    The polarity of unity/duality is resolved by equilibrium (spirit, body, and mind). How? I think that relates to squaring the circle and circling the square… more pondering to do. 🙂

  134. From Levi: The square, by spinning around itself, produces a circle equal to itself, and that is the quadrature of the circle, where the circular movement of the four equal angles rotate around a single point.

    From JMG: The quadrature of the circle normally refers to one of two things: the first is the division of a circle into four parts, a simple geometrical operation; the second is the construction of a square and a circle with exactly equal areas of perimeters… What Levi is suggesting is something quite different, which may be understood by meditating on the image he describes and those that follow in the next few paragraphs.

    The simple geometrical operation:
    “Thus the crossing of the two produces four, which when moving determines the circle with all its degrees.”
    | and – combine to make +, which can be the symbol for Earth (,
    the Elements (,
    or the Sun (

    Construction of a square and a circle with equal areas or perimeters: to draw a circle, one would use a compass; to draw a square, one would use a square. The compass and the square are symbols of the Freemasons.

    Squaring the circle refers to the Great Work, the Magnum Opus, of the Alchemist. It is symbolized by a circle inside of a square inside of a triangle inside of another circle. Sometimes the circle, square, triangle, and larger circle all share the same origin (center), such as here ( and here ( Sometimes the shapes are not all centered, such as here (

    Levi mentions the “first marvelous symbol in Hermes’s Emerald Tablet”, but I don’t think the ‘symbol’ is an actual image from the Tablet ( Rather, it refers to the first image that the Tablet describes (as above, so below). The image Levi uses in High Magic for ‘as above, so below’ is this ( He also includes an image in Chapter Two of overlapping triangles, with Alpha opposite Omega, Aleph opposite Tau, and Yod opposite Heh, stating “the unity of the macrocosm is revealed by the two opposing points of the two triangles.” Levi also states that the “spirit and the forms are attracted and repelled by one another”, so squaring the circle refers to merging the physical (forms) and spiritual realms.

    In the geometric design of squaring the circle, the smaller circle represents the polarity (of unity and duality, Jachin and Boaz). The square represents the material (the four elements, the Papesse). The triangle represents the ternary, the equilibrium between spirit, body, and mind. And the outer circle represents the Logos.

    If you like geometry, there are people who have found much more hidden meaning in the design of squaring the circle. shows that the Great Pyramid (which is half of an octohedron) squares the circle (if you are wondering if somehow the Merkaba might be involved 😊 ) incorporates the Earth, the Moon, and Mercury. squares the circle of the Vitruvian Man.

  135. When I was researching the Belt of Isis, I came across this webpage that has some information about Isis being the World Virgin and having ‘lunar humidity’ which is purified by coming into contact with fire. Seemed to be a good fit for the Virgin of the Sea having her feet licked by the fiery tongue of a dragon… “Isis holds in her right hand a small sailing ship with the spindle of a spinning wheel for its mast. From the top of the mast projects a water jug, its handle shaped like a serpent swelled with venom. This indicates that Isis steers the bark of life, full of troubles and miseries, on the stormy ocean of Time. The spindle symbolizes the fact that she spins and cuts the thread of Life. These emblems further signify that Isis abounds in humidity, by means of which she nourishes all natural bodies, preserving them from the heat of the sun by humidifying them with nutritious moisture from the atmosphere. Moisture supports vegetation, but this subtle humidity (life ether) is always more or less infected by some venom proceeding from corruption or decay. It must be purified by being brought into contact with the invisible cleansing fire of Nature. This fire digests, perfects, and revitalizes this substance, in order that the humidity may become a universal medicine to heal and renew all the bodies in Nature.”

  136. Levi writes, “Supreme intelligence requires doctrine in communicating with lesser intelligences.” We are clearly the lesser intelligences. Does Levi believe that there is a Supreme Intelligence? Is this an aspect of his Christian mysticism, or does he believe that God is Mind? Or is this something I shouldn’t worry about, because it’s beyond human ability to understand?


    you wrote: ‘I don’t think they want us to be androgynous… they want us to be nothing. They don’t want us to be able to create. JMG has posted that magic is power, and it is. If they can keep people so busy trying to decide “what” they are, people won’t have time to figure out that “what” you are isn’t nearly as important as what you can DO.’

    fascinating because i’ve been noticing the innerwebs and everything being online regarding art or what’s left of any culture is about look at me, story steps to nowhere anymore, and not actually DOING anything. i’m reading Jodorowsky’s books on psychomagic to see how i might be more gentle about how i try to incite people to do things again.

    for the past decade i figured any new culture in real life will be started by older people because we still remember what it was like to go outside and play and get hurt in gravel or by life in general. 50-ish on up, who instigate actual things, events, and culture in the real again. hopefully to teach the young so they can take over.

    i can dream.

    but yeah… i dig all you wrote. much to read and re-read. glad you didn’t abandon this comment section after the week was up. i didn’t know if that would happen because i’m not READY. these are all ongoing thoughts and i’m going to re-visit the prior chapter posts as well because over time i understand more.

    as for the ART, i’ve found that all that Papa G wrote about Levi’s florid prose obscuring or pointing to his points, forcing you to find them, to go into his space to understand, i see the art is the SAME in these cards.

    i see why Jodorowsky (et al?) try to go back to the original decks because whoever originated these images was smarter than any of us artists today. for example, the movement of this #2 card is downright cinematic in how it also leads you. it’s hella sophisticated and i wasn’t expecting that because i’m an arrogant modern nitwit. (smile)

    you think you’re looking at something static but turn your head an angle and it’s a whole other image like Escher or any optical illusion.

    it’s all hurting my head and changing how i see LIFE and DEATH and just humanity. i feel despair that it’s always been a struggle, but then i guess that’s also the point.



  138. @RandomActsOfKarma I’m always reluctant to explain myself, because I usually confuse people even more. If I confuse you again, please just go on.

    I love Levi’s image that the shadow is proportional to the thing casting the shadow. Another metaphor is that the scabbard is the same length as the sword that it conceals. The idea I get is that everything has a cause, hidden or not, and that the hidden cause is like its effect. It’s not the same as, put similar to, proportional to.

    Until 1950, we could see the effect in the world of genes — that every person had two copies of the same gene, For example, a gene might cause either blue or brown eyes. If either of a person’s copies is the dominant copy, then a person had the dominant trait. For example, brown eyes dominates blue eyes. If a person got a brown copy from their father and a blue copy from their mother, they would have brown (dominant) eyes. Blue-eyed people got blue (recessive) copies from both parents. A monk named Mendel figured this out, and by 1950 every scientist knew this.

    DNA was the invisible cause of the visible manifestation. DNA splits in half, and a child receives one half from the father and the other half from the mother. That is how it gets two copies of a gene. As soon as Crick and Watson figured out the chemical structure of DNA, they knew it had to be the carrier of geners — that it was the invisible cause of the visible.

    Hope this helps. I didn’t really follow your explanation buecause i don’t know that doctrine about Unities.

  139. I noticed that her left hand on the book in the Knapp-Hall deck seems to be making the sign for the Hebrew letter “shin” 🙂

  140. @tomriverwriter,

    Thank you for more details about your ideas. I think I understand your ideas. You said you didn’t follow my explanation because you didn’t know ‘that doctrine’ about Unities. If the doctrine you are referring to is the idea that the Spheres of Kether, Binah, and Chokmah express Unity in different aspects, that came from JMG’s book Paths of Wisdom. If you want me to try to explain it more, I will try (but I’m still very much a newbie and am no where near done working my way through the book). If ‘that doctrine’ is any other part of my idea about using chromosomes to explain the androgynous-ness of Mother Nature or the Papesse, *please* don’t think that is doctrine. That is just me trying to make a metaphor that makes things understandable to me. 🙂

    You also posted a question about communication between Supreme Intelligence and lesser intelligences. What Levi thought and if it is an aspect of Christian mysticism, I cannot address. I think this might be one of those cases where Levi has multiple meanings hidden in a sentence. The rest of the sentence you quotes talks about speaking “successively or at once, either to the spirit or to the flesh”.

    “Supreme reason requires doctrine in communicating to finite intelligences, and the doctrine, in passing through the domain of ideas and forms, participates in two worlds and necessarily has two meaning, which speak successively or at once, either to the spirit or to the flesh.”

    Previously, Levi had equated ‘speaking’ with ‘creating’:

    “What is the intellectual light? It is the word. What is revelation? It is the word; being is the principle, the word is the means, and plenitude, or development and the perfection of being, is the end; to speak is to create.”

    So if something is being created, is passes through the domain of ideas (Jachin, the spirit) and the domain of forms (Boaz, embodied forms).

  141. @erikalopez,

    I love the image of looking at something static and then turning your head to see a whole other image. It reminds me of some old TV shows where, late at night, someone had fallen asleep on the sofa with the TV on and the broadcasts were done and there was just static, and then suddenly an image would slowly coalesce from the static. (Yup, I’m in the 50-ish and up crowd you mentioned.) I feel that way when re-reading chapters… I think I understood everything in the chapter, but when I go back and re-read, I find things I completely missed and don’t see how I could possibly have missed them?

    I had posted previously about Satan and Lucifer possibly not being the same entity, and how there were similarities between Lucifer and Prometheus. I re-read the Intro last night and not only was that there in the book (I swear I read the chapter and that didn’t even *click* the first time), but last night I read that Prometheus’ sacred fire *is* Lucifer’s burning scepter and *IS THE HOLY CROSS OF THE REDEEMER*. (But it is *also* Eve’s apple. So are they all the same entity?!?!?! ARGH.)

    So, please, keep posting. I do not abandon the comments after a week. It took me all of last month to ‘finish’ Chapter 1 and now I realize I’m not even done with the Introduction.

    And, as you illuminate your deck, I wanted to share something with you that I learned in my Isis research: Isis’s brother/husband Osiris was murdered and cut up into 14 pieces, that were scattered all over the desert (or world, depending what source you read). She retrieved 13 pieces and put them back together. The fourteenth piece was gone, eaten by fish in the Nile. So she made that piece out of gold and then resurrected Osiris long enough to get pregnant (child’s name was Horus), and then Osiris went to go be Lord of their Underworld. I bet you can guess which part she made out of gold…

  142. @ RandomActsOfKarma #144

    I have seen the “Knot Of Isis” described as a representation of the female reproductive organs..ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix and vagina. Just more info.

  143. @marlena #153, Thank you! I’ve added that to my notes! I was intrigued with your comment #150 about the hand of the Papesse looking like Shin and did some rereading to see what I could find…

    Earlier in “High Magic”, Levi had listed the privileges and powers of those who hold the key of Solomon. For Shin, “to have the secret to riches, to always be the master over them and never the slave. To know how to take pleasure even from poverty and to never fall into abjection or misery.”

    JMG said that Trump II was all about secrets!

    I reviewed previous chapters, paying attention to references to secrets.

    Levi mentions “a book which speaks by making us think” (‘speaking’ being frequently used to mean ‘creating’). Later, he identifies the Cabala alone as devoting “itself to the alliance of universal reason and the divine Verb; it establishes, though the counterweight of two apparently opposing forces, the eternal balance of being; it alone reconciles reason with faith, power with liberty, science with mystery: it has the keys to the present, the past and the future!”

    So the book being held by the Papesse is that which creates a ternary so there can be balance and equilibrium.

    Originally I thought the book would be providing the balance for the two pillars, but the pillars are not the only duality on the Papesse’s card… she also holds two keys. And Levi refers to two Cabalistic Keys: the Prophecy of Ezekiel and the Book of Revelation. The Prophecy of Ezekiel describes the *descent* of the Solar Logos in the Chariot (the Merkaba). I am less familiar with the Book of Revelation, but a quick search on the Internet revealed that it references the seven churches of Asia, the seven Seals of Solomon, seven trumpets, seven spiritual figures, and seven bowls. If all those sevens refer to the seven Spheres below the Supernal Triad, it would be quite possible that the Book of Revelations is describing the *ascent* from Malkuth toward Kether. So the keys are also a duality/polarity of the Astral Light traveling in both directions.

    (And apparently the Greek word ‘apokalypsis’ means ‘revelation’ or ‘unveiling’, so perhaps when we use the Cabala and obtain equilibrium, the Papesse will remove her veil…)

    In ‘Paths of Wisdom’, Shin is defined as ‘tooth’ in Hebrew, so the Papesse is holding the book with her ‘teeth’. And Levi said in Chapter One, if we are wicked, this book will be “like the steel file in the fable was to the serpent who tried to bite it, and who ended up wearing down all its teeth.”

    Also, ‘Paths of Wisdom’ identifies the path between the Sphere HOD and the Sphere MALKUTH as being Shin. HOD is “the roof of all those forces that divide and distinguish between things” (and its polarity is water). MALKUTH is the Sphere of the material; its polarity is earth. So the Papesse’s hand is connecting the forces that divide (the pillars, the keys, the dualities and polarities) with material manifestation.

    After all that, I thought I should look at the Magician again. I believe his right hand, which is pointing to the Earth, is in the shape of Yod…

    Thank you so much for sharing your observation about her hand. I don’t think I would have ever noticed that!

  144. I have been painfully working through Wirth’s commentary on his tarot with my rusty high school French + kindle dictionary. I’m surely missing many nuances but doing so has been both enlightening and sometimes funny (the bateleur is described as holding a baguette and the papesse as wearing a croissant – enough to make you hungry!).

    In the French descriptions, the sexual imagery Erika mentions is much more obvious. For example, the French word describing the sacred chamber behind the veil (enceinte) is also used to describe pregnancy (and presumably the womb). I’m not sure if I’m up to reading Levi himself in French, but I’m thinking about it – the native language adds a different flavor to these ideas for sure.

  145. @ Paul #156 – the more I look at the Knapp-Hall image of La Papesse, the more I see it as symbolizing female sexual parts. It explains the way the red cloth is hung and the shape of the chair, among other things. And Le Bateleur is taking on a distinct symbolism of the male sexual organ. I think that was intentional on the part of Knapp and Hall, based on your reading of the original French text.

    @ Erika – thanks for your artist’s perspective on the images and for your meditations on feminism. I used to consider myself a feminist back in the free-to-be-you-and-me days, but I think you hit on why I don’t feel comfortable with it now.

  146. whoa! coooool! i came back to tell RANDOM KARMA that i was still picking up brain splatters from his comment on Osiris/Isis and all this takes time to think and there were MORE people posting! it’s like a secret!

    i’ll be back. that’s all i wanted to say. i’m gonna revisit ALL these old chapters as we move on now that i know they’re more alive than the original week!

    and now i have to read the new comments and will think and get back.
    i like the timeline in this here Underground. i have time to THINK…

    with much affection and gratitude to you all and Papa G for doing this/being here still…


  147. and SLCLAIRE:

    “free to be you and me” is it! that’s the KEY! James and i ask if any movement is “free to be you and me” and none of ’em are. that and the freak flag –they’re long gone and forgotten as IDEAS or even THINGS.

    that’s why i’m out all of ’em now.


  148. Ha… I’ve never been in an Underground before. 🙂

    Something I found, but haven’t all the way figured out:

    In the Introduction and Chapter One, I spent a lot of time researching Azoth. I had saved this quote from Manly P. Hall, which ties in nicely with the Virgin of the Sea and her humid feet…

    “The universe is surrounded by the sphere of light or stars. Beyond that sphere is Schamayim, the Hebrew word for ‘heaven’, who is the Divine Fiery Water, the first outflow of the Word of God, the flaming river pouring from the presence of the eternal mind. Schamayim, who is this fiery Androgyne, divides. His Fire becomes Solar fire and his Water becomes Lunar water in our universe. Schamayim is the Universal Mercury or Azoth—the measureless spirit of life. That original spiritual fiery water comes through Edem (‘vapor’ in Hebrew) and pours itself into the four main rivers of the four Elements. This comprises the River of Living Water—the Azoth—or fiery mercurial essence, that flows out from the throne of God and Lamb. In this Edem (vaporous essence or mist) is the first or spiritual Earth, the incomprehensible and intangible dust out of which God formed Adam Kadmon, the spiritual body of man, which must become fully revealed through time.”

    So, Schamayim is the Azoth or the Astral Light. It is androgynous and divides into Solar Fire and Lunar Water (the Yod and the first Heh). It travels through Edem; vapor would make humid feet! After that, I’m not sure what happens… if Adam Kadmon is a form, that would be the second Heh and I’m not sure what the Vau would be (the Demiurge? Prometheus?)

  149. @tomriverwriter, it makes me happy to know that my comments might help someone build their own metaphor. 🙂 But I hope that the way I’m writing my comments doesn’t make anyone think that I think my interpretations are ‘right’. Levi is sneaky. I think he hides layers and layers of meaning in every sentence. The layer that I see is based on where I am on the Path and what I understand as of *now*. Every time I reread a chapter, I see different things.

    So keep posting whatever you see, too!

  150. In reviewing JMG’s blog post, he states

    “Take any opposition, in nature, in society, or in the spiritual realm—Lévi sets out these three categories more than once, and never unthinkingly—and consider the two opposed forces.”

    If Levi doesn’t use these categories unthinkingly, it would make sense that the categories deserve thinking about.

    One of the first ternaries that Levi points out is the three mages; he refers to them as ‘hieratic ambassadors from the three parts of the known world and three analogical worlds of occult’. JMG’s comment about that was “He [Levi] liked to use the image of the three mages (“wise men” in English Bibles, but the word in the original text is μαγοι, magoi, that is, mages) kneeling before the Christ Child to represent the original and potential harmony between magic and Christian faith.”

    Magic and Christian faith are a duality. To have harmony or balance requires a ternary. The ternary of world categories (nature, society, and spirit) and the ternary of occult categories (physical, intellectual, and spiritual) were represented by the gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Frankincense is an incense (so the spiritual). Myrrh was used as an embalming fluid (so the physical). Gold could represent the intellectual.

    But how do these comprise a ternary that balances magic and Christian faith?

    First, the Philosopher’s Stone… the three components needed are gold, antimony, and flux/menstruum. Gold is gold (the intellectual). The flux/menstruum would be Azoth (the Universal Solvent, the Elixir of Life, the animating spirit/ spiritus animates, the spiritual, represented by frankincense). But why antimony?

    I came upon a quote from Johannes de Monte Snyder (1625-1670 AD) (Commentaire Sur la Médecine Universalle (Alchimie)): The universal medicine which cures all human and metallic diseases is concealed in gold and its magnet (antimony).” Apparently antimony was frequently found in gold ore and it is also found in myrrh. So antimony represents the physical.

    So gold, frankincense, and myrrh represent the mind, the body, and the spirit, the same triad being reflected in the Papesse card.

    And how would this triad bring harmony to magic and Christian faith (or any faith)? From JMG, “Consciousness is the universal solvent; by bringing these emotions into full consciousness and letting yourself deal with them and accept them, they release the energy locked up inside them, and stop being an issue.”

    And how do you find your personal Azoth? I’m thinking that’s the Spiritual Alchemy lessons JMG is offering.

    JMG, thank you so very much for all that you do.

    For those of you who celebrate it, Happy Lughnasadh! (Or Imbolc, if you are in that part of the world.)

  151. @RandomActsOfKarma This is a difficult thing we’re trying to do, and each of us will find our own way to understand them, and will discuss them with each other to expand our own understanding.

    JMG says “Jachin is the active, dynamic, masculine energy, Boaz the receptive, stable, feminine energy.”

    I think that idea and form are different than that. To it’s the difference between the two feminine and the two masculine elements. Earth is still, and moving water carves it. Earth is the form, and water is the idea.

    In the masculine elements, fire is a creative idea that is eventually is codified in a form that can easily be taught. Fire is inspiration and air is writing the book. A vision of the divine is the flame, which is eventually codified in a religion. The religion may eventually lose the vision, and its form may eventually no longer lead to a vision of the divine.

    The duality of idea/form is different from the duality of male/female; idea/form works with both feminine and masculine energies, and that’s how we get the four elements.

  152. @tomriverwriter,

    Oooooo… I like what you came up with. I will have to ponder on that! Thank you so much for sharing!

    I don’t know if this relates or not… I came across it in reading this weekend and I haven’t quite wrapped my head around it yet. I’ve been thinking of the Tetragrammaton (and the elements) being very ‘close’ to each other. But one view is to categorize the Cabala Worlds with them, rather than individual Spheres. (I found an online image here:, not the exact same as in the book I was reading, but enough to give you an idea.)

    In ‘science’, air and water are both fluids. That fits with your idea of them both being ideas, rather than form. Hmmm…

  153. @RandomActsOfKarma Yet fire moves too. It burns upward, and it moves from burned wood to unburned wood.

    Fire is actually a plasma, a fourth state of matter. I think of it as extremely fluid.

  154. Levi left some fun bread crumbs in the Introduction, but he put them out of sequence (at least, they are out of sequence to how my brain processes).

    Re-sequenced (with my thoughts in brackets):

    “Religion [faith] and philosophy [reason] still battle in our times and must finally end up in agreement.”

    “The temple for us has two columns, upon one of which Christianity [religion/faith] wrote its name.” [So the other column must be philosophy/reason.]

    “The Cabala alone devotes itself to the alliance of universal reason [philosophy] and the divine Verb [religion]; it establishes, through the counterweight of two apparently opposing forces, the eternal balance of being; it alone reconciles reason with faith, power with liberty, science with mystery.”

    In other parts of the Introduction, Levi associates the Cabala with magic. JMG said that ‘imagination’ resolves the binary of faith and reason. (And Cabalists use the imagination/diaphane to do magic.)

    So perhaps the Papesse represents magic/imagination as well as equilibrium/balance, since she is between the two columns.

    JMG also said that imagination resolves the binary of intelligence and will. Levi said that Christianity’s goal was to immobilize intelligence with faith. Does that mean religion equates with ‘will’ and philosophy equates with ‘intelligence’? And which column did Christianity write its name on? My initial thought is Jachin, but it merits more pondering…

  155. @Marlena13, in reading some other sources, I found another interesting tidbit about Shin. Since Shin has three ‘spikes’, it is sometimes used to signify the Supernal Trinity (Kether, Chokmah, and Binah). And if you put the letter Shin in the middle of YHVH, it spells the word ‘Jehoshua’ (or ‘Jesus’).

    Things that make you go hmm…

  156. @RandomActsOfKarma There are many binaries — male/female, idea/form, faith/reason, religion/philosophy.
    I think Chapter 2 of Levi introduces the idea of dualities, and will be showing how a duality resolves into a trilogy. (I think it because whenever there are two things, there is also a third thing, which is the relationship between the two things.)

    JMG talked eloquently in his blog about the faith/reason duality. He said that some things belong to faith and other things belong to reason. To confuse what belongs to which category is a very common but very perplexing error.

    For example, a literal interpretation of the Bible shows that God created the earth in 4004 BC. But science says something different. The confusion is that the material world is part of science; science only investigates matter. For Christianity to say something about the material world of the earth is a confusion; its speaking in an area in which it doesn’t have the knowledge to speak. The fundamental error in this case is thinking that the Bible is literally true, in every word and sentence.

    When Christianity says that God will return at the end of the world, judge the sinners and establish the kingdom of God, it is speaking myth, but we know in our bones and heart what it means. Myth is the language of faith.

    Levi is also saying that everything is the world exists for a reason; that there is Reason everywhere, even if we can’t see it. I think this is an item of faith, because it leads to many, many consequences.

  157. I know I’m still at beginner basics here but want to keep the tarot work flow going – I’m the fool but with human capacities to learn and reason among others, aspiring to become the magician/priest with knowledge, skill, mastery, and agency. His card showed us the materials we will be working with along with hints to their relationships. The priestess/nature contains the knowledge we must learn and master. This knowledge can do good or harm. For this reason she is willing to reveal but guarded. Her card continues the hints of clues to the nature of this knowledge. I’m still seeing mostly duality at this point. No flashes of energy or understanding. I do know the importance of wisdom which to me is the compassionate use of knowledge. I would say mercy is the compassionate use of victory or dominance and also of judgement. Thanks. Dennis G

  158. Pingback: Homepage
  159. @RandomActsOfKarma Here are some meditation points that I’m confused on:
    The Papess, the second Tarot, represents the feminine. Levi says directly the aleph and the first Tarot and Boaz iare man; while beth and thePapess and Binah are woman.

    Yet he also says the second Tarot is Chokmah, which is the male principle in the Tree of Life.

    I think I shouldn’t focus too much on gender, but on the more abstract idea: unity becoming duality, and duality becoming trinity.

    What do you think?

  160. *don’t post if this is a repeat… my browser fritzed and I cannot tell if my first attempt went through*


    I will tell you what my thinking is currently, but I have found that what I think evolves as I read and learn. (So if you ask me again in a month, you’ll probably get a different answer!) 🙂

    I think the word ‘gender’ has a lot of baggage associated with it, and I think many religions have a lot of baggage associated with gender, too. (And I think Levi has some of the baggage that Christianity associates with the feminine.) For me, I keep reminding myself that one gender is not better than the other; both are necessary for creation/manifestation. (And when I read ‘masculine’, I think ‘generative force’ and when I read ‘feminine’, I think ‘creative force’.)

    So, for me:

    Kether is the Unity, which is androgynous.
    The Path from Kether to Chokmah is Aleph (which is masculine, Unity of Creative Force).
    The Path from Kether to Binah is Beth (which is feminine, Unity of Receptive Force).

    The Tarot for the Path Beth is the Magician (per JMG’s book Paths of Wisdom), the Microprosopus. The Microprosopus is a reflection of the Macroprosopus. The Macroprosopus is androgynous, so the Magician is androgynous. (Even though Levi says “Aleph represents a man who is raising a hand towards the sky…”, I think he might be using ‘man’ in the generic sense of ‘human’. Or maybe he thinks mages cannot be women; he is from a different time and that is fine for him. I disagree, though, and think mages can definitely be women. 🙂 )

    The Papesse might represent the Heh of YHVH, but I don’t think she necessarily represents feminine. She is between Boaz and Jachin, representing equilibrium. (And she is a female pope, and popes are only male, so a female pope is sort of androgynous, too.) In Paths of Wisdom, she is assigned the Path from Kether to Tipharoth, which is the middle column, the Column of Balance (so, again, in between male and female).

    Regarding Boaz and Jachin… Levi says Boaz is Unity (and all the other masculine stuff). In his blog post, JMG says Boaz is Duality (and all the other feminine stuff). One of the commentariat (@Kurt) commented on it; JMG’s response was rather noncommittal about whether it was a mistake or not. I do not know much about Jachin and Boaz, but based on their placement (Boaz on the left and Jachin on the right) and their initial letters (Jachin is J or Y or Yod, masculine; Boaz is B or Beth, feminine), I am going with JMG’s description of Jachin/male and Boaz/female.

    Now whether you should focus on the abstract ideas of unity to duality to trinity or more concrete metaphors (such as gender), you have to figure out what works best for you. I do better starting off with something a little more concrete and slowly working to the abstract. (I actually do best with trying to synthesize lots of metaphors to get to the abstract.) But you know how there are “see the forest” people and “see the trees” people? I’m a “see the twig” person. If you are a forest person, start with the abstract and see if you can build metaphors to explain the abstract, which works you toward the concrete. (And then share them for people like me, who really struggle with seeing the abstract initially!) There are benefits to both ways of seeing and that is why I so appreciate the commentariat (like you!) who share. 🙂

    And if you disagree with any of this, let me know. Every comment helps me refine my metaphors to be better. 🙂

  161. Random AofK – Oh my – Thank you that’s a big complement! Be warned I suspect I have yet to have an original thought in this life though I am very proficient at confabulating and confusing other peoples ideas and forgetting the sources:) Dennis G

  162. In the Tree, the masculine or feminine quality of a particular sephirot is not absolute, but depends on the active relationship being explored. In terms of the “Lightening Flash,” each sephirot is masculine in relation to the ones further down in the path of emanation, and feminine in relation to the ones above it. Before you ask me for a reference, I will have to tell you I’ve read too many books on Kabbalah to remember which one gave me which piece of information. I believe concept is available in Greer’s books as well as Dion Fortune and Gareth Knight’s works. I also have studied Zev Shimon ben Halevi’s books. I think you will find it in any of them. So masculine or feminine is an entirely relative concept in terms of position and activity for the Tree, despite the Pillars having their own polarities. I hope that’s useful. I’m guessing that datum affects the relationships between the Arcana on the paths, but haven’t done a specific study of that question lately.

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