Book Club Post

The Doctrine of High Magic: Chapter 20

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

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


“Chapter 20: The Universal Medicine” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 173-176).


You, dear reader, are going to die. So am I. So is everyone else who is currently alive, and so is everybody who ever will live.  That’s one of the fundamental realities of incarnate existence. Thoughtful people and practical philosophies deal with that fact; they do so in various ways, but they deal with it. On the whole—there have been embarrassing exceptions—the modern occult movement that took its impetus from Eliphas Lévi’s writings has dealt with it.  That’s one of the major distinctions between occultism and the many pop culture movements that refuse to do so.

I recall chuckling a good many years ago, while reading Alan Harrington’s 1969 book The Immortalist, when I encountered this proclamation of his: “Death is an unacceptable imposition upon the human race.”  Harrington was the very model of a mid-twentieth century American avant-garde intellectual; he dropped acid with Timothy Leary, hung out with the Beat poets, and appears under a pseudonym in Kerouac’s On The Road. His book talked a lot about advanced medical technology on the one hand, and mind over matter on the other.  None of those things kept Harrington from his encounter with the common fate; he died in 1997.

He was one of the more recent entries in a long, long list. I wonder how many people have heard of Joseph Rutherford these days. He was one of the founders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a firm believer in the imminence of the Second Coming, and his signature line was “Millions now living will never die!” He wasn’t one of those millions—he died in 1942—and neither were the enthusiastic crowds who listened to him preach back in the day. (There may be some people who dimly remember him from their childhoods, but they’re very, very old.) Go back further in time and you can find plenty of hucksters marketing that same snake oil, back at least as far as the serpent who features in the first chapters of the Book of Genesis.

It’s necessary to make this point, and make it firmly, before we turn to this month’s chapter of our text. The reason this is necessary is that Lévi is talking about ways to avoid dying, or to return to life after apparent death. Too often this has been taken by those who aren’t paying attention as a blanket claim that death can always be avoided or that everyone who appears to be dead can be revived. This isn’t what Lévi is saying, and in fact it stands in flat contradiction to the point of this chapter, but the common human desire to wriggle out of unpleasant experiences applies to the experience of dying above all, and wishful thinking—always a potent source of misunderstandings—is even more so than usual in this context.

It’s not the only source of misunderstandings, and another of them pops up promptly when anyone who’s used to the modern English language reads the first sentence of this chapter:  “Most physical maladies derive from moral maladies, according to the unique and universal magical doctrine and due to the law of analogies.”  The trap set for the unwary reader in this passage is the word “moral.” The dangers of translation show themselves with unusual force here; there’s no English word that comes closer to the meaning of its French cognate morale, but the meanings of the two words are emphatically not the same.

The English speaker thinks of the adjective “moral” as referring solely to one’s conformity, or lack of same, to some set of rules of good behavior handed down by a god, sage or philosopher. The French word covers a much broader area:  the entire realm of human motivations, in fact. Consider the English word “morale,” which comes a little more directly from the French language, and mostly applies these days to the collective spirit of a group of people, such as a military unit.  It’s not the same as morality—keeping your army well supplied with whiskey and harlots, for example, is bad for morals but good for morale. Yet both these things are part of the realm that Lévi wants to discuss in this passage.

To abandon oneself to unreasoning passion, our text suggests, is to set the stage for a physical illness; to fixate on the pursuit of absurd and self-defeating goals is to shorten life considerably. Whether or not this is a universal rule, it’s reliable enough that all of the world’s wisdom traditions affirm it. To that extent, common notions of morality have useful lessons to teach. Yet there’s another side to the question, of course. The passions that drive self-righteousness and moral bullying are just as unreasoning, absurd, and self-defeating as those that drive gluttony and lust, and just as likely to foreshorten one’s existence.

It’s just as easy to stray from wisdom in the direction of excessive harshness as in that of excessive slackness. Lévi’s prescription for a long and happy life—“temperance, peacefulness of the soul, simplicty of character, the calm and reason of the will”—provides no encouragement to the notion that morality consists of angrily insisting that everyone else ought to do what you think they should do. The world’s wisdom traditions have quite a bit to say about this, too:  cough, cough, let him who is without sin cast the first stone and all that, just for starters. But human cravings are as ineradicable as human stupidity, and the craving that leads people to puff up their egos by denouncing somebody else as the evilest evil that ever eviled is right up there at the front of the yelling pack.

It’s here, however, that Lévi heads off in a direction that can prompt the misunderstandings I noted toward the beginning of this essay. “It is by becoming reasonable and good,” our text says, “that man becomes immortal.” Lévi is not talking about biological immortality. He makes that very clear in the paragraphs that follow.  Since this is a book of occult teaching and magical practice, not a catechism of a church or a manual of theology, he avoids getting too specific about the nature of the immortality he is discussing, but it is clearly intended to take place outside the material body. The fine metaphor he borrows from the old Stoics—“Let us then be afraid of dirtying and tearing our clothes, but let us not fear leaving them when the hour of rest arrives”—is testimony to that. Beyond that, and a certain amount of discussion in an earlier chapter of Hermetic and Gnostic ideas of the afterlife, he does not venture.

(It’s only fair to say that occult traditions nowadays have quite a bit more to say about what happens to the human soul after death, and there’s a reason for that. These days most mainstream churches have stopped saying anything useful about the subject, abandoning any sort of coherent theology of the afterlife in favor of empty platitudes that offer little in the way of meaning or comfort to people who are coping with the end of their own lives or the lives of the people they love, or dealing with such ordinary human experiences as near-death visions, encounters with ghosts, and the like. If the churches, synagogues, and other religious establishments would do their job and give people some useful pointers about dying well and dealing with the afterlife, occultists would field far fewer questions about the afterlife, and we could get back to our proper business of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will.)

The last part of our present chapter deals with what was, pardon the pun, a live issue in Lévi’s time. Back before modern medical instrumentation was developed, it was surprisingly difficult to be sure that someone was actually dead. The custom of the wake, in which friends and family sat up with the supposed corpse for a period of a couple of days until actual decomposition set in, had its roots in this fact:  it happened often enough to matter that after a while, an apparently dead person might show faint signs of life, and could be revived fully given prompt attention.

Fans of Irish music, for example, will recall the lively traditional song “Finnegan’s Wake,” the inspiration for James Joyce’s novel of the same name.  In the song, Finnegan gets hit on the head by a falling brick and is declared dead; his wake degenerates into a drunken party and the party into a brawl, and some whiskey accidentally gets spilled on the face of the dear (allegedly) departed.  This is enough to jolt Finnegan out of his coma and restore him to life. The song had the popularity it did because such things happened now and again.  The near-death visions reported by people who came through experiences like Finnegan’s have, I suspect, a great deal to do with the all but universal human conviction that the death of the material body is a relatively minor event in the longer life of the soul.

Lévi has an interesting comment to make with regard to the resurrection of the almost-dead. He notes that this does not happen to those who have the moral (in both senses) force to overcome the astral attraction of physical incarnation.  He suggests that only elementary souls—that is, those souls that have not yet proceeded very far from the purely animal levels of existence—return spontaneously to their material bodies.  Whether souls of a higher grade can be called back into their bodies by spiritual or magical means is quite another matter, and one that our text discusses in some detail in a later chapter.

One other detail is covered in this chapter: the role of anesthesia.  In Lévi’s time anesthetics had just begun to find their way into medical and surgical practice, and many people asked reasonable questions about whether this was in fact a good idea—whether pain was a necessary part of the healing process. The anesthetics then in common use, ether and chloroform, had a fairly high death rate all by themselves, which didn’t do much to convince the skeptical that using them was a good idea. Lévi’s comments about the use of chemical anesthetics and animal magnetism to eliminate pain need to be placed in the context of that public discussion. Whether Lévi was right in his skepticism toward anesthetics is a question I don’t propose to get into here. Readers may come to their own conclusions about the subject.

Notes for Study and Practice:

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

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

For your work on this chapter, take Trump XX, “Le Jugement.”  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 ר (Resh) or the Latin letter U. As noted earlier, you should choose one alphabet and stick to it. The sound values aren’t of any importance here, nor is there a “right” choice. You’re assigning labels to a mental filing cabinet.  Most people can make the necessary association quite promptly, but spend a session exploring it. Sit down, get out the card, and study it.  Relate it to the letter in any way that comes to mind.

The third through fifth sessions are devoted to the titles Lévi gives for the card: Caput, Resurrectio, and Circulus. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does Caput, “head, beginning,” relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen?  That’s one session.  How about Resurrectio, “resurrection”?  How about Circulus, “circle”?   Approach these in the same way as the concepts you explored in earlier meditations.

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

Sessions six through the end of the month are done exactly the same way, except that you take the concepts from the chapter. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. Then open the book to Chapter 20 of the Doctrine and find something in it that interests you.  Spend five minutes figuring out how it relates to the imagery on the card, the letter, and the three titles. Do the same thing with a different passage the next day, and the day after, and so on. If you run out of material for meditation in this chapter, you can certainly go back to the previous chapters and review what they have to say.

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

We’ll be going on to Chapter 21, “Divination,” on February 8, 2023. See you then!


  1. “Nothing in excess,” I reckon, would fit in well here.

    I find it somewhat humorous that, these days, modern materialists are eager to equate death with the total-lack-of-consciousness experience of anesthesia. I can’t recall anyone coding and reviving only to say: “You know what? That was just like my last colonoscopy.” In fact, as you note, I suspect most people who have a peek across the divide (I’ve known at least one) witness something very different…


  2. …Searches with futility through earlier Levi chapters…

    Didn’t Levi mention that you need to fall asleep before you die? Was that a metaphorical sleep where you are living in a fantasy world that the transhumanists are currently pursuing?

    Also, with what you and Levi are saying, it’s the mad quest for the unnecessary goal of immortality, especially through mRNA technology, that is causing serious blowback with vaccine deaths.

  3. An anecdote: From 1997 to 2005, I lived in Paris, 7th district, 3, rue Augereau. One of the mail boxes in the 19th century building I was living in carried the inscription “[First name Last name], dit Papus”, as name of the occupant of the corresponding apartment. After a few years, the inscription was replaced by another name. Only later I heard about the occultist Papus, unfortunately I don’t remember if the inscription said Gérard Encausse – the name Papus had stuck in my memory. I kept wondering if he was some kind of immortal…

  4. My elderly parents have been Jehovah’s Witnesses for most of their lives, and they absolutely know about the pronouncement that “millions now living will never die.” I no longer follow the dogma of the JWs closely, but it would seem that attention isn’t drawn to that saying anymore, though it was repeated fairly often even into the 1980s when they still focused quite heavily on their version of the history of Russell and Rutherford in founding and directing the Watchtower Society. My grandparents, born in the early 1910s, got the family into the ‘religion’ in the 1950s. They have since died without seeing the fulfillment of that promise, and I notice a certain desperation for Armageddon (in which Jehovah, Jesus, and his angels will kill billions of ‘wicked’ humans to make way for Paradise on Earth) so that they can avoid dying…

    I got out of the religion and became an atheist for a while. Being raised in a caricature of spirituality might have had something to do with that.

    The bait of “everlasting life” is quite tempting, and there will always be those who are attracted to any particular narrative given a sufficiently plausible presentation. There are enough scriptures in the Bible that seem to support the concept of eternal [physical plane] life, but then the scriptures that appear to support an afterlife in some ‘spirit’ realm have to be explained away somehow. Personally, I have no love for the dogma of Christianity, though I recognize now an ancestral link to it. The Devil that you know and all that…

  5. I meant to say, “I notice a certain desperation for Armageddon from my now elderly parents so that they can avoid dying… the implication being that those who survive this time of God’s wrath have passed the test and will subsequently no longer be subject to physical death.”

  6. You said a couple of things in this essay that i think i should print out and keep handy.

    ” The passions that drive self-righteousness and moral bullying are just as unreasoning, absurd, and self-defeating as those that drive gluttony and lust, and just as likely to foreshorten one’s existence.”

    ” But human cravings are as ineradicable as human stupidity, and the craving that leads people to puff up their egos by denouncing somebody else as the evilest evil that ever eviled is right up there at the front of the yelling pack.”

    With all the covid, vax , and Ukrainian war stuff, i keep catching myself being really angry at the people who did gain-of-function, and the vaccine approvers and mandate pushers along with the supporters of the war in Ukraine. After catching myself in a state of fury, i ask myself “what am I for?” not what do I oppose (hate?) and that helps a lot.

    So thanks John that is due to your influence on me.

  7. Regarding Levi’s discussion of ‘moral maladies’, I interpreted this in the same sense as the Modern Essenes concept of all maladies ultimately having root as sickness in relationship to the Divine. Am I correct that the same point is being made in both writings?

  8. Interesting to hear about Finnegan! On a different note: I’d recommend Clifford Simak’s haunting story “The Autumn Land” for a unique treatment of the afterlife theme, if indeed that’s the right term for it.

  9. Fra’ Lupo, that’s an excellent point. Funny — but also an excellent point.

    Jon, hmm. I don’t recall Lévi saying that, and it would be a bit out of character, since he knew perfectly well that people who die of, e.g., having their heads lopped off by a guillotine don’t fall asleep…

    Njura, hmm! The original Papus, Gérard Anaclet Vincent Encausse, died in 1916 while serving as a military physician in the First World War, and is buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery, where occultists very often visit to leave flowers. If he’s currently residing in the VIIe arrondissement, I’m wondering if Charles Dexter Ward was involved… 😉

    Keno, it’s a tempting bait, if you don’t have the common sense to realize just how often it’s turned out to be a false promise.

    Jim, excellent. That’s an important thing to keep in mind, especially now, when — as you point out — there’s a lot of nastiness around.

    Paul, good! Yes, it’s the same point.

    Robert, I’ll have to track that one down — I don’t think I’ve read it yet. Thank you!

  10. My experience with anesthesia is just a blank. Maybe something happens but I don’t remember it. Also I was told that opioids slow down the healing process and it’s better to get off them as soon as possible. Obviously there are lots of ways that trying to escape pain leads to disaster, but if you can’t sleep then you can’t heal. My current hypothesis is that some middle ground exists.

  11. “Most physical maladies derive from moral maladies ….”

    When she was about 40, my ex-wife was diagnosed with systemic lupus, a condition where the body’s immune system overreacts to routine stimuli and ends up attacking healthy tissue. From time to time I found myself wondering whether there was any connection with the way she regularly (daily) overreacted to minor disappointments or random bad luck with outrage and fury? I used to shake my head and muse, “Gosh, if we could just document this correlation she could go down in medical history by having the syndrome named after her.” (It was an unkind thought, but there were days it was hard to be better.)

    So I guess I’m not surprised to hear that Lévi had the idea long before I did. Thanks for this.

  12. Some of the best scientific work on the nature of consciousness has come from anaesthetists. Those of them with an open mind I think have realised, perhaps from their own experiences and from their patients, that death isn’t anaesthesia. Waking from anaesthesia the first time is particularly scary, you just emerge out of oblivion and I can see why people equated that with death. It’s after an experience like that that I got on the path, because it terrified me.

    Of course, we now know that all anaesthesia does is significantly reduce the expression of consciousness in the body. It’s not death, it’s a temporary limbo, and limbo is frightening. It has its uses, I rate it up there with the best of inventions of humanity, but like so much in science, it’s blind and terrifying in the absence of any guidance as to the experience.

  13. Recently I started a ketogenic diet in order to get rid of extra weight, arthritis, and inflammation. It worked really well and now I can see the comparison with self destructive self righteousness. Rage really is like sugar; a socially acceptable indulgence that does an incredible amount of damage to our collective health. I’m practicing not reacting to the things that used to set me off before and, like keto, the results are recognizable within the first couple days. On the other hand there is a symptom known as the “keto flu” where the poison stored up in the fat cells gets released the body all at once. Hopefully that’s not part of the rage detox, because in the keto version after the first few days of euphoria came two weeks of suffering.

  14. To those who are interested, here are all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared across the Ecosophia community. Please feel free to add any or all of them to your prayers.

    I’d like to highlight the four prayer recipients this week who are in the hospital: Trevor, Jay, and Lloyd; and Open Space’s great aunt. Trevor is going in for surgery today and Lloyd has his tomorrow. Jay and Open Space’s aunt are both in stable condition but prayer would still surely be worthwhile.

    If I missed anybody on the full list, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom you hold power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below and/or at the prayer list page. I should add that recently I have received several prayer requests directly to my page; this is gratifying, of course, but I also don’t want to discourage anyone from continuing to post their requests for prayer in the normal places they would have before!

    Finally, if there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological Hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. (Explanation here: If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  15. KVD, that seems reasonable to me.

    Hosea, that wouldn’t surprise me at all. Back before I got published, I spent four years working in nursing homes as an aide, and got used to the fact that most chronic illnesses have specific personality flaws — for example, every person I knew who had multiple sclerosis also had that peculiar kind of personality that’s constantly trying to get ego gratification by making other people do things for them. (That one was so consistent that when word went around the home that a new MS patient had arrived, all the aides groaned, because they knew it meant an endless flurry of calls that amounted to “make me feel important.”)

    Peter, interesting. That makes a lot of sense.

    Laura, thanks for this!

    Aloysius, that sounds uncannily like karmic culmination — that’s the technical term for the flurry of unfinished business and old karma that so reliably comes boiling up right after someone begins serious spiritual or occult work for the first time.

    Quin, many thanks for this.

  16. @Jon

    Was this it? Chapter 6 – Magical Equilibrium

    “We shall demonstrate later that death is always preceded by a lethargic sleep and only operates by degrees; that resurrection in certain cases is possible, that the lethargy is a real death, but uncompleted, and that many deaths are only completed after burial.”

    Lévi, Eliphas. The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic (p. 77). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

  17. La médecine universalle: High spirits.

    Lévi is surprisingly explicit here and still, he can be misunderstood. Keep your morale high, keep your will to live, keep your discipline for good habits and they’ll give you better body defenses, better health overall, less risk for mental issues and more attention to potential threats. That’s it.
    A literature teacher we had in school told us the same story, just in another shape. She said most poets that were optimists by nature enjoyed a long and lovely life, in sharp contrast to dark poets who sunk easily into depression and suicide. Not a hard rule, but a trend. Morale of the story: always look on the bright side of life.

    Years ago I was an habitual at a blog which was very skeptical towards spirituality, to the point of being offensive towards people with weird beliefs. One post was about a woman who pointed to another person that illnesses come to those with moral faults, so the cancer that person had, had arrived because of self-wrongness. I think this is not only wrong, but a very offensive thing to say to someone who has been recently diagnosed with cancer, implying that the person is ill because he or she didn’t behave as God mandates.
    Now that you say it’s probably a problem in translation, that makes it even worse. People hurting people because they didn’t translate properly.

    The adept knows about the universal medicine. Well, it seems to be working. My kids are bringing home all kind of respiratory viruses from school every week, and I’m keeping myself at good health, with only mild symptoms now and then. The only week I became ill, it was for indulging myself with an excessive meal. That caused digestive issues, defenses lowered, and next week I had a thankfully short flue.

    This is so basic and reasonable that it’s hard to understand why it isn’t common knowledge.

  18. “You, dear reader, are going to die.”

    Starting on a cheerful note, aren’t we? 😛

    also, the “Millions now living will never die!” line is echoed in the transhumanist movement’s “The First Person to Live to 1,000 Has Already Been Born”, which proves to me it was always just a Christian heresy. e.g.

    I have to mention I finally read “Corpus Hermeticum”, the founding texts for much of western occultism. Unsurprisingly there is no mention of physical immortality, but a lot of talk of freeing yourself from the material world altogether.

  19. @Jon G, perhaps you are remembering from Cosmic Doctrine that sleep is the Fourth Death?

    @Fra’ Lupo, thank you for the laugh!

    Regarding the card (Knapp-Hall deck), I see the angel in front of the cloud and Sun all together as the Supernal Triad… the Sun is Fire, the cloud is Air, the angel in blue is Water. The angel is blowing the Divine Breath to animate (reanimate?) the people who are standing in a shallow grave (being resurrected). Since she is blowing through a horn, it makes me think of music (which leads to harmony, which is beauty, which is Tiphareth).

    What I haven’t figured out yet is the flag. The cross makes me think of Tau (resurrection), but I don’t understand the color. The best I have come up with is that it was red, but has blackened (because of putrefaction). (And in alchemy, the whitening comes after the blackening…)

    And I think the colors of robes that the people are wearing must mean more than I have figured out… the man is wearing yellow, the woman is wearing red, and the child (who seems deliberately drawn to not identify the gender) is wearing blue. More to ponder…

    (So far, I haven’t found any Merkabah references in this card. There is, however, a tangential relation to Herakles. 🙂 In the shield, a rose is growing from a skull. There is a window in a cathedral in France that is described as a “Rose Window”… “The twelve pillars, or radii, are the signs of the Zodiac, and are issuant out of the glorified centre, or opening “rose,”–the sun, or “beginning of all things.” ( The article also points out that King Arthur’s Round Table has a ‘crucified’ Rose at its center.)

  20. Noteworthy and wise Archdruid, I think there’s a small typo in the third-to-last paragraph where you specify “Chapter 19” but it should read “Chapter 20”?

    KVD @#10, my father was a medical corpsman in WWII, serving in New Guinea. I remember him saying that there were three states of corporeal existence: Alive, Anesthetized, and Dead.

    Hosea @#11: curiously, my former spouse also developed SLE with an initial diagnosis of Antiphospholipid Syndrome, and developed the same unfortunate characteristic that you describe, being continually upset about what I felt to be relatively small things on an hourly or daily basis. Her MRIs showed lots of “sparkles” in her brain, where autoimmune events (hundreds) had caused the equivalent of tiny strokes in the white matter. Sigh. Her difficulties were minor enough that she was still mostly capable, though her job history showed a slow decline over time. My condolences to you. I concluded during those many years that the tendency of media to catastrophize about mental illness by illustrating/describing extreme cases does a great dis-service to those having to deal with much less dramatic declines and dysfunctions.

    All: so what’s with the flag on the bell of the horn of the winged being on the card? On my Marseille deck it’s white with a yellow centered-cross, though I note JMG’s example shows a dark flag (reddish-brown?) with a white centered-cross. Ideas?

  21. Abraham, you’d think it would be common knowledge, since people have been trumpeting it from every corner since the days of the New Thought movement! Somehow, though, it doesn’t sink in.

    Ecosophian, the most fascinating thing about the transhumanist movement is how unoriginal it is. I’m still waiting for them to come up with a single idea that wasn’t already tired and old when I was a kid.

    Bryan, there is indeed. More to the point, there was — so thank you.

  22. The story of my stay in rue Augereau is weird indeed. One day I found a puddle of blood and tissue, about a meter wide, in the dimly-lit hallway while going out. I ran up to ring the bell of the first apartment, belonging to the woman who owned the gallery on ground floor and her husband, a Bulgarian painter with a tall figure and Herman Munster-like face. It was him who opened the door, having a large stain of blood on his white shirt. “Monsieur!” I screamed, but he slammed the door shut, gasping “Laissez-moi!” I ran out on the street and met a neighbor who assured that the puddle of blood was a puddle of artist paint. “Yes, the gallery owner said so!” I wondered when they had talked about that and if I was in my right mind. On returning, I saw the tall painter being taken away by an ambulance. He survived the incident, seemed to be in good spirits again when I saw him the next time.

  23. On so-called Transhumanists…
    First, who thinks of these names? “Trans” means to go from one to the other, but they might not be up to speed on neuroscience at this point: without an interoceptive system providing emotional feedback, and the inherently non-computational aspect of conciousness as described by Roger Penrose, what would be transferred if their muddy dreams were real would be a seriously severed autistic version of themselves, stuck screaming silently forever, locked on a circuit board.

    Also, currently wading through Hermeneutical Death by Chad Haag where he talks about the Soma, as he calls it, of oil being the foundation of our thought. Oil = infinite growth, effortless power and no death. So their ideas are just iterations of this, like current economic policy, etc, which Real Stuff like geology will batter into dust at some point.

    On a side note, was Dion Fortune making stuff up? Reading Psychic Self Defense and apart from accurately describing advertising executives (vampires), I am struggling to believe the rest.

  24. “You, dear reader, are going to die. So am I. So is everyone else who is currently alive, and so is everybody who ever will live.”
    Yeah, it’s a hard truth, but usually people is living their life like they were immortals, unless they have to go to a funeral or have an accident or severe illness. It’s surprising.

  25. ‘Lévi’s prescription for a long and happy life – “temperance, peacefulness of the soul, simplicty of character, the calm and reason of the will”’ – and I’m thinking why am I supposed to want this? It’s like how they say calorie restiction can extend your life. I don’t care if it works, I don’t want to be cold and hungry for 150 years.

  26. Since anaesthesia has been raised as a topic, I can say that I have always hated the thought of it. Even as a child I asked the dentist to do the work, but “no injections”. I preferred the brief pain to the prolonged numbness. I’ve opted for local anaesthesia in the few surgeries that gave the option, and the only general anaesthesia I’ve had was during a childhood tonsil removal. And I still have clear memories of the doctors and nurses around me talking, so it probably wasn’t that effective.

    I also hated the “unconsciousness” of drinking too much and “losing” or forgetting a period of time, which happened to me once early in my twenties, following which I took great care never to drink that much.

    And yet…

    When I had a bicycle accident a few years back, I lost a whole day of conscious experience/memory. I was not unconscious for more than a couple of minutes (I’m told) and I was able to find texts and messages by me that indicated I had been communicating (after a fashion) with people during that period, but the entire day that followed falling off of my bike while going downhill at speed, breaking a rib, bruising quite a few other parts of me, and getting scanned every which way in the casualty department has never re-appeared in memory. I’ve wondered if there is some being who was showing me the mercy of instant forgetting of any pain or fear during those moments.

    I still HATE that I cannot remember the experience, and I have interviewed everyone involved to get as much external detail as I can to replace my own memories.

    On the other hand, I have made a practice of blessing and thanking the spirit of a roadside well very close to where the accident happened, as a way of thanking it for its protection that day.

    I do not have a fear of dying. I have a feeling I have done it before, though I do not remember it. And maybe memories live at many other levels than the conscious one.

  27. In a discussion with a friend emotional about the very possibility of getting covid and dying from it in fall 2022 (yes, she carried this worry all through 2020, 2021, and 2022), I responded “It’s OK to die. Everyone dies from something.” and she just stared back at me, mouth hung open. It’s like I told her there was no Santa Claus and no gifts would be under the tree.

    In terms of the various Protestant denominations and their support of people at the end of life, I’ve come to the conclusion looking at their behavior over the last 150 years that they exists solely to move forward the political agenda of the day. The political agenda regarding death is “modern medicine is a miracle and can do wonders” so church attendees focus on hospitals and doctors and supporting them. The Catholic church too has recently fallen into this “medicine will save us” as I was banned from Ash Wednesday services in 2022 for not being vaccinated.

    I’ve got to ask, if someone is put to death by another, no matter how humane their Canadian reasoning, how does that affects one soul moving to the afterlife? (Sorry to be yet another asking an occultist this!) I’ve seen Canadians doctors talking in the media about euthanizing hundreds of patients so far in the last few months and the idea of this makes me so nauseous.

    In the Rider Waite deck when I pull Judgement, I usually read it as something I need to let go of and move on. But this card design hits different. I’m interpreting it as there is something that stays after death and continues on and the people in the card recognize it and the Divine.

  28. @bryanlallen, re: the flag

    In the alchemy texts I’ve been studying, the phases are nigredo (blackening) (associated with Saturn), albedo (whitening) (associated with Moon), citrinita (yellowing) (associated with Sun), and rubedo (reddening) (Mars). (Some texts only have three colors.) So one card has blackened background with white cross and the other has a white background with a yellow cross, so both show a progression along the path of alchemy, just differing in which phase.

    I looked back at the last card we just did in Knapp-Hall; the shield was red with a white Tau. So that shield has blackened in this card. Does your Marseille deck have shields or something that the flag could have morphed from?

  29. I just got an email from the local symphony, and they are playing the short percussion piece with harp & celesta, Homunculus C.F. by Julia Perry at one of their next concerts as an opener. It was great to see all the lab equipment in their promotional email. We’ll see if I can get to the concert, as they are also playing Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3, and I always really like Prokofiev. But who knows, this month is busy already and I’m not sure how much more I want to squeeze in.

    Here is a nice recording of Homunculus C.F., as my first musical contribution for the week.

    and some info on it…

    I suppose I think the Homunculus relates in the sense of bringing something to life. And of course the alchemy.

    @Keno, et al: My wife and I are rather close to a man who is a JW. He is the father of her late best friend and has no other family in town, so we do some things with him, and help as we can now that he is in his 80s. It’s gotten harder to be around him recently because as he gets older, he preaches at us more and more. I have sympathy, as I was raised in a kind of kissing cousin to JW religion, the World Wide Church of God… whose several end time dates had come and gone before I was even born. They also believe(d) in the physical resurrection interpretation as do the JWs, & didn’t celebrate the pagan derived holidays, but differed in other respects. (They are also a second cousin to Seventh Day Adventists). He is really hoping that Armageddon comes now, so he can live through it and become a teacher. Reading this article and thinking of how all of it relates to this idea of being physically immortal, makes a lot more sense now to me.

    My dad and step-mom are still in one of the splinter groups, the one that kind of became your basic mainstream protestant. It’s funny though, because I’ve looked in Christian oriented books about cults and what became the Grace Communion International from the ashes of Worldwide is still considered suspect by some Christians because they now lean heavily towards Universalism (which is one of the things I appreciate about the new version of their church -though I still haven’t gone back except for a handful of times since I was a teen, when it went through the change).

    The main thing however that irked me growing up, and that irks me now when our friend starts preaching at us (he does have many other good qualities), is how they think there is only one truth, and only one valid interpretation of the bible, one true religion, etc. I could never, and still can’t stand by that.

    Some who read this might wonder why we bother with dealing with someone who imposes their will of what is true on us. I’ve come to the conclusion that part of what I need to do in this life is be of service to others. Sometimes this conflicts with my own will. But if the palmistry is right, and the tells of my own experiences, I have to give and do for others as part of my work/karma/fate pattern. This person was one of the ones in our path, and their are others too. It’s been a pattern, so I’m trying to accept it more and do my part.

    On another note, speaking of death, there was a death in my family on Jan. 2. We had just seen my aunt the day before, at a family gathering for Xmas, that got delayed due to the winter storm around the holidays. In any case, she had some health problems. Her funeral was on the 9th, and though many of us cried, it was the only funeral where I was laughing at the end of the service. It was because of the last song they played. A rather famous tune called Another One Bites the Dust by Queen:

    Her and my cousin, her daughter, had apparently talked about what music to play at her funeral (a common topic in our family)… and my aunt, who had a great sense of humor, said she wanted this played. The whole place was in stitches. The only thing that could have been better, is if we’d all gotten up and started dancing.

    On that note, I hope everyone here has a good week, and pay your respects to the vultures.

  30. Piggybacking on @Goldenhawk’s, #17…
    >> “that resurrection in certain cases is possible, that the lethargy is a real death, but uncompleted…”

    I think this should be no surprise to anyone who knows defibrillators are a thing. What is shocking to the modern mind is that ancients had their own “unscientific” ways to arrest the process (with some degree of success), and that those ways did work.

    Most of us have little or no experience of this in the industrialized world, but if we go with the medical TV shows… what’s the fixation with calling the “time of death” precisely to the minute? I have come to think that the sharp state transition is a polite fiction and a legal spell for the relatives of the patient. What “time of death: xxxx” really means, more often than not, is “sorry. what we tried, failed; we don’t know what else to do, so we might as well give up”.

    Which is not to say we should never let go. Rather, if we as a society would choose to be mature grownups in this matter, professionals would not need to sugarcoat the situation.

  31. @Random

    For me, this card evokes the words of the gospel song, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” According to Wikipedia, “the text refers to the Old Testament account of the Prophet Elijah’s ascent into Heaven by chariot….The melody is pentatonic.”

    Chariot = in my mind this is the primary symbolic connection with the Merkabah figure (realizing that this is only one of a myriad of associations one can draw)

    Penta = five, the fifth element, the quintessence or spirit of matter, the goal of the alchemical magnum opus

  32. I was thinking about disease and its correlation to weakness on subtler planes last night thanks to this post. I read the chapter a little while ago and I appreciate the way you’ve illuminated it, JMG.

    Herpes is obviously a disease of the oversexed, but sadly I have known of many people who caught it from their cheating spouses and/or from their first sexual experience. What’s gross about herpes is that it causes genital inflammation and burning pee, which means you cannot stop thinking about your crotch during a flare up. Just as the sex addict cannot stop thinking about his or her crotch for their waking and sleeping hours.

    Heart disease is a disease of broken hearts. I don’t think it is a coincidence that most sufferers of heart disease tend to eat animal flesh and secretions. They put aside their heartbreak in order to eat more animals, and the animals’ hearts and their heart energies are broken in order to be consumed.

    Type two diabetes, as far as I can tell, is etheric starvation brought on by certain forms of laziness, especially laziness when it comes to household etheric labor such as cooking. I have yet to have known a diabetic who regularly crafts nutritious meals for him or herself every single day. I have also notice that sleeping well into the afternoon and the inability/reluctance to hold down a job is common among diabetics.

    Cancer seems to be a disease of manufactured helplessness and conformity. Once it becomes established, fighting it seems to make it worse. The best cure by far is prevention.

    The other auto-immune diseases (MS, lupus, RA) seem to be related to martyrdom. The sufferers believe their suffering to be worse than any kind of suffering in the world, whether or not this is true, and many of them want that suffering to be recognized and registered in the minds of other people, especially family and friends.

    Of course one size emphatically does not fit all, and I am not trying to blame victims here for their own diseases. When I look at my own or anyone else’s physical and metabolic problems, I do see some culpability there but there are also genetics and just plain bad luck to consider. This is just food for thought.

  33. I have been mediating on the difference between fighting injustice and acting in a just way.

    For me, acting justly includes mercy and has to include the potential for forgiveness. I have enough self-awareness that strict, retributive justice isn’t what i want for me or others. I think that mercy has to be part of justice for it to be just.

    As far as the potential for forgiveness, that is part of my relationship with Jesus. I know that i should forgive those who have trespassed against me AFTER they have truly repented for their trespass. I know that will be hard for me with regard’s the gain of function researchers, pharma fraudsters, and mandate pushers, but i will pray for help.

    If i focus on Fighting Injustice i get really caught up in the desire to see malefactors punished and that is not the same as Justice.

  34. @ Goldenhawk Yes! That’s it. I was re-reading chapter six because of the cube hinting at the Great Arcanum. Thank you. It seems to apply here but it is beyond my understanding.

  35. @Random Acts of Karma Thanks for that. I haven’t read the Cosmic Doctrine yet, although I intend to do so. Since you brought it up, do you think that the Fourth Death would apply here?

  36. Does anyone know anything about a drug called “midazolam” and the notion of “ante-post-retrograde amnesia”? (That notion seems sort of mind-boggling; before-after amnesia?). I think I have those terms in quotations right but I’m working from memory. The drug “midazolam” is administered along with the general anesthetic so that if you happen to wake up during the procedure you won’t remember it later. This might help prevent psychological trauma and also lawsuits. Any physicians following along with this discussion? I remember waking up once during a throat endoscopy and seeing the image of my throat on the TV screen as I began to gag on the large “funnel” that was shoved down my throat. They quickly put me under again, but I remember that brief awakening.

    I guess this is getting a bit away from the chapter we’re discussing. If anyone is interested, my Wirth deck has the flag in red-yellow-gold and the three people are wearing their birthday suits, which are uniformly pink in color.

  37. I forgot to mention that the midazolam might also prevent memory of any near-death or out of body experiences.

  38. Do you have any affirmation suggestions for when we find ourselves reaching in the white box for a rage donut?

    I was thinking “Temperance brings me contentment.”

  39. RandomActsOfKarma @29, regarding the flag: huh, got me, I have no idea about shields and their progression from card to card in my deck.

    For illustration, the following web site features a small photo like my card at the top of the following page:

    Scroll down a bit on the page and you’ll see a Marseille deck card-by-card; interestingly, the “Le Jugement” card in that listing has certain differences with the card shown at the top of the page, chief being the flag which is dark green with a yellow cross! For bonus points, embedded in the (French) text is yet another XX card where the flag background is alternating white and yellow with a blue cross. Yikes.

    Hah. I suspect that all these variations are communicating “the map is not the territory” and also “don’t get attached to the details.”

  40. Njura, that story is très Parisien!

    Benn, two fine points, and I’ll have to read Haag’s book at some point. As for Fortune, she insisted otherwise. I’ve never encountered the more highly colored things she talks about, but energy vampirism and magical attacks? You bet.

    Chuaquin, surprising, yes, but utterly normal. Sages and spiritual teachers since the dawn of history have been tearing their hair out over humanity’s serene disregard for the utterly temporary nature of incarnate life.

    Yorkshire, if you don’t want it, by all means do something else! Just please don’t complain if you don’t like the results when you get there.

    Denis, victims of homicide have the same sort of afterlife they’d have if they died by accident or disease — it’s just another cause of death. The perps, whether or not they’re in white lab coats, are piling up nasty karma for themselves, and are going to have to expiate it the usual way — that is to say, through pain. Been there, done that, though it was in a nonmedical context; you do not want to go there.

    Justin, I hope you enjoy the symphony. I loved the story about your aunt!

    Kimberly, interesting. Most of the type 2 diabetics I’ve known, for what it’s worth, weren’t lazy so much as self-indulgent, and weirdly so when it came to their illness. I’m thinking here especially of a lodge I joined many years ago that consisted, other than me, of five very old men, all of whom had worked hard all their lives and three of whom still kept very busy with hobbies, and of course the lodge.. All five of them had diabetes, and the after-lodge snack invariably consisted of a half-gallon brick of cheap ice cream cut into as many slices as there were people present…

    Jim, good. Your god had some valuable things to say about the mote in your brother’s eye and the beam in your own, and I tend to think that was precisely to try to stave off the delusion that punishing the unjust is more important than behaving justly.

    Phutatorius, hmm! No, I hadn’t heard of that.

    Aloysius, that’s a good one! I tend to use “I let go of my anger” on the inbreath and “and direct the energy to more useful things” on the outbreath, but there are many other affirmations that work well for that purpose.

  41. It’s just hit me that there’s another reason for the weird draw of the Nazis of late: the Nazis form the archetypal dictatorship in the Western Mind, so anytime any dictatorship forms in the Western World, it will naturally be drawn to the form of the Nazis; anytime anyone wants to implement a dictatorship, likewise, they too will be drawn by that form; complete with brownshirts, extensive propaganda with an almost absurd disregard to truth, extensive and gradually legalized racism, antisemitism, hostility to religious practices in general, militarization of the police, a merger of government and corporate structures, an intensely aggressive and insane foreign policy and on through the long list of weird ways that the current elite is copying the Nazi playbook.

    The other truly interesting thing it helps explain is why the opposition to this is so much weaker than I’d have expected, and why so many of the people who prior to the serious rollout of the Nazi playbook (starting out in the later 2010s) were opposed to all of this and should have fought it are now among its most ardent supporters: the embrace of the Nazis by the opposition is part of the archetypal pattern! It’ll be interesting, in the sense of that curse, to see just how much further down this path we go in the months and years ahead…

  42. JMG, Kimberly Steele, and others: interesting comments about the connection between illness and personality traits. I think a lot of illness and pain is a symptom of underlying emotional pain or childhood abuse, often from incidents that the sufferer may not even consciously remember. A nurse once told me “Our biographies become our biology,” and I once heard someone quote Freud as saying that “the body remembers what the mind forgets.”

  43. Pondering death this week brings me to a question. My mom, a lifelong narcissist focused solely on meeting her own needs and addictions, attempted suicide 5 years ago. I realized what was happening and got her to the icu in time to save her. She is now living in my mother in law apt and she feels like a parasite I have allowed in. She is one of the major sources of my stress with her endless needs. I am wondering if she was perhaps meant to pass on then, and I intervened, and now continue to keep her alive with my constant flow of energy to her. I realize now there was always a hope that I could help her to be more balanced and therefore a more positive part of my life, but I have let that go. I have always thought you die when your time has come, but is it possible for others to intervene with their well intentioned energy inputs?

    I am now doing the Judsons exercise, followed by the SOP, followed by the Essene relaxation and I am adding in an image of cutting the flow of energy from me to her. I imagine this could be helpful?

    Thank you for all that you are teaching and sharing with us!

  44. JMG (no. 41) “…energy vampirism…”

    As a kid I found this concept in both “The Satanic Bible” and Richard Bach’s “Illusions,” and always wondered how that happened. I’m guessing a common origin in New Thought.

  45. @Goldenhawk, I just looked up the lyrics for “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. It is definitely apropos to this card. And I very much appreciate you finding a Merkabah symbol for me. 😉

    @Jon G, to me, the Fourth Death (Sleep) does seem appropriate to this card. In my notes, I have that the Individuality detaches from the body (as much as it is able). Depending on how much work the Individuality has done, it might rise to the astral plane, the mental plane, or the spiritual plane (and the different planes can cause different kinds of dreams, but we don’t always remember what the Individuality did while we were asleep).

    The Fifth Death (the soul awakening and recognizing itself as the Individuality) and the Seventh Death (the Individuality awakening while the physical body is still awake) are probably more appropriate, but I’m thinking the Fourth Death is probably more attainable for me in this incarnation. 🙂

    @bryanlallen, I think you are right… they are all different maps with something different to teach. Thank you for the link to your image. I don’t know if you have images of the Knapp-Hall cards I referenced.
    This is the Sun, with the shield of red with the white Tau in the upper right corner:
    This is Judgement, with the red flag with white cross:

  46. For what it’s worth, the Tibetan Buddhist view on euthanasia is that if the person really is going to die and the act is to alleviate pain and suffering, then the karmic effect on the person who killed them is lessened, and may even be positive.

  47. Anonymous, that’s a very plausible analysis.

    Lucie, that’s certainly what I was taught by John Gilbert, among others. Very often our illnesses are the externalization of psychological states, which in turn are powerfully shaped by childhood experiences we couldn’t or didn’t resolve at the time.

    Tamar, that’s one of those complicated karmic knots — very hard to unravel! By saving her life you took responsibility for her; awkward as that was and is, it gave you an opportunity to deal with some of the karma between the two of you. What you’re doing now is very sensible, and will likely help to resolve the matter.

    Bei, yes, and New Thought got it straight from occultism, where it’s been discussed for many years.

    Peter, intention always has an effect on karma, and the individual will has a greater one. If someone freely asks you for help bringing an end to unbearable suffering by letting them die, that’s one thing. If physicians and government bureaucrats are killing hundreds of people because it’s more convenient to kill them than to pay for their medical care — and the stories coming out of Canada right now sound very much like that — then it’s something quite different.

  48. Hi John Michael,

    I’ve only just read your essay, and haven’t had a chance to read the comments due to correcting serious battery issues. As an interesting side comment: my friends, don’t bet the civilisation on this technology. 🙂 Anyway, have fixed the batteries and now have to work out how to balance them whilst using them. Another challenge!

    Sorry, I digress. The most recent outbreak of crazy in our civilisation related to an inability to consider the ultimate fate of all humans. I really believe that was one of the factors at play: A desire to stay the same. Sameness incorporeal. Of course, that itself is a death. How could it not be?

    Mate, there’s still risks I believe associated with the use of anaesthetic. Few benefits are risk free.

    A person can set their own standards for sure.



  49. This comment goes back to a previous chapter where it was said that even a stone in the road could effect the destiny of nations. In my other parallel self-education in pulp fiction, I was reading the wikipedia entry on Robert Bloch and found this:

    “In 1939, Bloch was contacted by James Doolittle, who was managing the campaign for Mayor of Milwaukee of a little-known assistant city attorney named Carl Zeidler. He was asked to work on Zeidler’s speechwriting, advertising, and photo ops, in collaboration with his long-time friend Harold Gauer. They created elaborate campaign shows; in Bloch’s 1993 autobiography, Once Around the Bloch, he gives an inside account of the campaign, and the innovations he and Gauer came up with – for instance, the original releasing-balloons-from-the-ceiling schtick. He comments bitterly on how, after Zeidler’s victory, they were ignored and not even paid their promised salaries. He ends the story with a wryly philosophical point:

    If Carl Zeidler had not asked Jim Doolittle to manage his campaign, Doolittle would never have contacted me about it. And the only reason Doolittle knew me to begin with was because he read my yarn (“The Cloak”) in Unknown. Rattling this chain of circumstances, one may stretch it a bit further. If I had not written a little vampire story called “The Cloak”, Carl Zeidler might never have become mayor of Milwaukee. ”

    It just goes to show the strange ways fate, will and destiny play out.

    In this chapter the line that struck me was about “appropriate truth” -and how as occultist we often draw, and make as our own, materials from diverse sources and put them into our grab bag of tricks. With regards to moral and morale, I think this appropriation is relevant with regards to how what is appropriate for one person might not be appropriate for another. An area of struggle for one person might be an aspect of human behavior another has never even bothered thinking about. But I guess here we are getting into the nuance between morals and ethics. I like that French word covers broader terrritory.

    JMG, your line “keeping your army well supplied with whiskey and harlots, for example, is bad for morals but good for morale” was a real zinger BTW.

    My own sense of morality and ethics, I suppose comes from society of course, religions I was brought up in and wrestled with, my exposure to other religions, and readings of the same and philosophy. From these I will appropriate what works for me and let the rest settle. Hopefully into a peacefulness of soul, simplicity of character, and I would add a quiet mind. Not quiet in the sense of mindfulness, but not restless and agitated either.

    It seems to me simplicity of character will lead to a unified will. I’ve been contemplating lately too how I can make my life more boring so I can have more unity of will.

    @Kimberley: I think those are some interesting observations. I’ve observed similar similarities. It would seem like “doctors” would be in a good place to compare notes about such things, if they observed and took notes on such things. In the meantime, those called to the other healing arts could compare their data.

  50. I guess the “immortality” that Lévi talks about is similar to “drinking from the river of Mnemosyne (memory)” instead of “drinking from the river of Lethe (forgetfulness)” after their death, in Orphic tradition. So, if I understood correctly, the people who have “temperance, peacefulness of the soul, simplicty of character, the calm and reason of the will” in their current incarnation are more likely to keep their Individuality more intact in their next incarnation.

  51. Hi John Michael,

    Forgot to explain the final sentence on my previous comment. Me being tired last evening after a lot of complicated work, it all made more sense then, but not so much today.

    Here goes then: Setting one’s own goals and standards is part of exercising and flexing one’s will muscle. But I also believe that in some little way, honing that aspect can clear some obscurities whilst possibly setting in place one of those tracks you wrote about a year or two back. 🙂 That’s my fifty cents anyways!



  52. Speaking of MAID, I am seeing some very disturbing parallels between what is happening in Canada and Germany’s descent into madness in the 1930’s. We saw the Canadian government use totalitarian police state tactics to crush peaceful protests by truckers and their supporters, with the implication that similar tactics could be used against others who run afoul of the establishment in the future. But even more disturbing is that that crackdown was done with widespread support from the Canadian people and the same has been true of MAID. Indeed, MAID is very much reminiscent of the infamous Aktion T-4 program.

    So one question that arises is, could Canada and the Canadian people end up suffering the same sort of mass blowback and catastrophic consequences that Germany and the German people suffered as a result of Nazi crimes against humanity? And what can Canadians who oppose the increasingly insane policies of their own government but are powerless to do anything about them do to protect themselves from the karmic blowback that is almost certainly coming?

  53. @Kimberly Steele – I’ve sometimes wondered if Irritable Bowel Syndrome was connected to the obvious scatological description of what some people are full of. Since I have it, that’s relevant. Also relevant is my practitioner’s advice to keep things moving at all costs – it’s the body’s way of getting rid of toxins. One could do a lot of meditation on that.

  54. Chris, it interests me how obsessively our society is fixated on erasing the basic parameters of human existence. We want to make distance irrelevant and make our biological clocks stand still. Going to war against space and time — has any other society been quite so stupid?

    Justin, one of the things that the mage has in common with the philosopher and the saint is that they all take personal responsibility for their morals/morale, instead of just handing the whole business over to their society. A lot of work, sure, but the results are usually better.

    Minervaphilos, yes, that would follow.

    Chris, good! Yes, daily life is one great exercise machine for the will to use to gain strength, and setting personal goals and standards is a very good place to start.

    Worms, only one thing worked in Germany in the 1930s: leaving as fast as possible for some other part of the world. If you believe Canada is heading that way, you might consider that option.

    Patricia M, I’m surprised they didn’t call the exterminators!

  55. I almost posted a long, long meditation on temperance, based on philosophers’ definitions of temperance from Wikipedia, and Levi’s idea of the fixed and the volatile, and biases, but that would have been intemperate! 🙂 A couple points:

    – The virtues seem to be names for reason balancing some excess: courage as reason balancing an excess of fear, temperance as reason balancing an excess of pleasure, etc. All these excesses have gravitational force.

    – The definitions of temperance I read always imply an individual’s faculty of reason being the tempering factor, not society’s expectations of good behavior. This gets at the wider sense of morals – I choose, through reason, what that point of balance is.

    – Yet most people I know are temperate by default. But is that to do with their trained reason, or that many people have not yet encountered something that evokes the overwhelming passions? (Of course that line is blurry.)

    – Again getting at the wider sense of morals: Temperance doesn’t imply never indulging in passions, but being able to choose when to do so, and having the ability to withdraw at will. Someone believing in a particular political cause, rather than always vibrating with righteous passion, might be better served by patient waiting until reason discerns favorable currents, and then letting that passion out in a burst towards a focused end. And until that point is discerned, redirecting the energy into balancing their own life.

    A practical discovery: When I get fearful or angry about something in the news, a good habit I’m trying to cultivate is have Marcus Aurelius, the Nicomachean Ethics, Epictetus, Levi, etc on hand and flip open a page at random, and contemplate a passage. Might be good training to avoid getting swept up in excessive passions! That would also seem to solve the problem of emotional repression, the energy is not stifled, simply redirected.

  56. Hi John Michael,

    It’s pretty crazy isn’t it, and defies the lived experience of a beginning, a middle and an end – which themselves are all part of a much larger cycle.

    The desire for sameness unceasing requires an horrendous expenditure of effort, energy and resources, and even then it is an impossible goal. To pretend that such a goal is a possibility is something of an easier path to take. I dunno, the problem is that people are going loopy in the attempt. It’s not worth it, you know. 🙂

    Hey, I had to close the doors to the greenhouse an hour or two ago (after a hot day), and there was a huge bull grey kangaroo grazing on the grass near to the door. I had to shoo the roo away. I approached with respect for the roo could do some damage. Even my largest dog appeared small and was hesitant to approach. Old man roo had been trounced and pushed out of his mob by a young buck, and there’s space and feed for him here. Anyway, that’s all part of that cycle business.

    I’ve still never understood why the Gods (or an angel with a trumpet as in the card) would want to judge us, when our actions state who we are? It’s not like we don’t set the feet upon the path, where ever that may lead.



  57. @Minervaphilos, re: drinking from the river of Mnemosyne (memory) or drinking from the river of Lethe (forgetfulness)…

    I have been doing some reading of (and about) Greek mythology and happened upon this yesterday, when researching virtues (specifically the virtue of truthfulness):

    “First of all, we may point out that Pindar affirms a fundamental connection between poetry and truth. Good poets do not use poetry for their own sake or profit, but in order to discover the truth. But Pindar’s concept of “truth” is different from our modern understanding of the term. It represents, in the first place, as the etymology of the word indicates, the negation of “forgetfulness”. Consequently, as a manifestation of truth, poetry is also, in the last analysis, wisdom.” (and that page has the words ‘truth’ and ‘forgetfullness’ in Greek, which shows the similarity in spelling)

    Then I read your comment this morning, and I had a lovely flash of inspiration. Thank you!

  58. @Patricia Mathews,

    Hmm. You have inspired my meditation for today. I thought I had IBS for many decades (and yes, “just keep moving” was the best way of handling it for me, plus paying attention to my diet), but then my insurance company said it was time for a colonoscopy and the discovery was made that I did NOT have IBS, but rather a mild case of ulcerative colitis (an autoimmune disease). I manage it as I did my IBS, but it seems that UC might indicate a different aspect of my Personality needs working on (rather than what you figured out IBS might indicate).

    (And I’m not saying that the aspect of my Personality that needed working on earlier wasn’t what you suggested, but that perhaps I have worked on that enough and it was time for me to start working on something else.) (Or maybe I still need to work on the same thing, but with more clarity.)

    Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.

  59. Lévi’s prescription for a long and happy life reminds me of the Lynard Skynard song, ” Be a simple kind of man.” I won’t fill up space with the lyrics because they are easy to find. But like Levi’s version of Morals, the country rocs band’s version of “simple” is much broader and more nuanced than the word “simple” suggests and revolves around self-respect and temperance.

  60. @RandomActsOfKarma: Thanks a lot for that quote about poetry and truth and forgetfulness, and for the link to the paper! That is thought-provoking.

  61. Wow! I actually really understand this now!

    Just want to say that I finished the first draft of my first chapter of my book this morning. And have outlined the chapters. Thanks for all your encouragement. I have found my voice.

    I think you will like it.


  62. @jbucks,

    Thank you for your thoughts on temperance. I have been working on figuring which virtue (or vice) corresponds to each of Herakles’ labors and I am finding that slight differences in definitions (such as with truthfulness and temperance) really make a big difference.

    You mention that a virtue seems to balance an excess. I thought you might find this interesting: I don’t think it is perfect (it completely misses truthfulness as memory to wisdom), but I did like how it made the virtue the ternary of a binary of bad ideas. (And somewhere I read that the virtue isn’t in the middle of the two vices; rather, it is at the golden mean between them. I cannot find the reference for that right now, though.)

    Also, I like your idea of contemplating a passage when my emotions are getting the better of me.

  63. @RandomActsOfKarma: That table is very interesting, thanks for that! In my original comment I forgot about Aristotle’s idea of the virtue being the mean between two vices. I need to reflect on that!

    Your work with the labours of Heracles sounds really interesting, let us know what you find!

  64. In the Knapp-Hall deck, there are three cards with a man and a woman. In the Lovers, the man has to, perhaps, unite the inner and outer woman, and in a woman, it would be the opposite. With Cupid there, it might be a sensuous desire between love and lust?

    But then we get to the Sun, which has the outer man united with the outer woman and they are enclosed in a circle. I imagine that within each one there is the union with the opposite sex that was created in the Lovers.

    And in Judgement, the card for this chapter, the man and woman, are still within an enclosure, but this time the enclosure is square and it’s artificial. And they have a child.

    All three cards have an orange disk above them, perhaps reflecting the three stages of growth: sexuality, love and reproduction.

    Perhaps this is all metaphorical, too. There is really only one person here and the three cards reflect the process of the unity of the soul.

    It’s interesting that the three words for chapter 20 almost reflect the three cards. Circulus is the Sun and the circle the two young people are standing in. Resurrectio would be the Judgement card. That leaves Caput for the Lovers. Caput is close to Cupid and it might refer to losing your head when you first discover your sexual nature.

  65. “I forgot about Aristotle’s idea of the virtue being the mean between two vices. ”
    Virtue doesn’t have to be halfway between the two vices. It sometimes is, but other times virtue is closer to one vice or the opposite.

    I like to think of it as “you can overdo anything if you are willing to work at it.”

  66. @jbucks, I am truly enjoying my Herakles quest, though it seems half of the really interesting things I learn are only tangentially related to Herakles. And I would say it is uncanny how often those things end up being somehow relevant to things that come up in the Levi book club or to Dreamwidth posts of other commentariat I read, except it isn’t uncanny, because TSW. 🙂

  67. Hi JMG,
    It’s quite fascinating to read about the correlation between chronic illness and personality flaws. Beside MS & Type-2 diabetes, could you share other examples from your experience? Can you advice any existing literature about this ?

  68. An observation I had with my Wirth deck. Could the trumpet/horn actually be a vaccuum/straw for sucking the souls up? The flared ends resemble depictions of worm holes. I do not know much about them, but just realized they look similiar. One end connecting the material to whichever spirtual plane? There are also some egyptian heiroglyphs that have similiar funnel looking objects.

  69. On the subject of Judgment, here’s a rousing and timely alchemical rant by Paracelsus (aka Philippus Theophrastus Bombast):

    “O, you hypocrites, who despise the truths taught you by a true physician, who is himself instructed by Nature, and is a son of God himself! Come, then, and listen, impostors who prevail only by the authority of your high positions! After my death, my disciples will burst forth and drag you to the light, and shall expose your dirty drugs, wherewith up to this time you have compassed the death of princes, and the most invincible magnates of the Christian world. Woe for your necks in the day of judgment! I know that the monarchy will be mine. Mine, too, will be the honour and glory. Not that I praise myself: Nature praises me. Of her I am born; her I follow. She knows me, and I know her. The light which is in her I have beheld in her; outside, too, I have proved the same in the figure of the microcosm, and found it in that universe.”

  70. Jbucks, good. Thanks for this.

    Chris, so roos have the same social habits as deer! Good to know. As for the gods judging us, I figure that’s a metaphor for the masses. They let us judge ourselves, with the help of karma; it’s much more exact, if sometimes more brutal. Maybe the trumpet is simply saying “Wake the frack up!”

    Clay, hmm! The thought of Lévi tapping his toes while listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd is pleasant, and by no means out of character.

    Orion, glad to hear it.

    Jon, excellent!

    Foxhands, I’ve commented on a couple of other examples further up the comment thread. As for literature, there used to be quite a bit of it during the 1970s, before the whole issue got swept under the rug to make it easier to sell chemical drugs. I don’t recall titles offhand, but you might want to see if you can find references to Type A and Type C personalities.

    Dmekel, well, keep in mind that Egyptian trumpets looked like that:

    Orion, never having studied the subject, I have no idea. Congrats, and may the journey take you interesting places!

    Goldenhawk, there’s a reason we have the word “bombastic” in English, and yes, it comes from Paracelsus!

  71. More on Polynesian connections….

    So I’m taking my son to the dentist, where I’ve been dozens of times, and I notice the Jewelry store next door called Na Ohana. I look up Na Ohana and it means approximately “of the family” in Hawaiian.

    So I go inside and meet the owners. They are Asian, but from Hawaii, and while not true Hawaiians, we have a very interesting spiritual discussion… Also we spoke a lot about rocks and gems. (I have a large collection, specialized in fluorescent minerals.) Lot’s more, including connections to old neighbors where I grew up. Also connections to Hawaii…

  72. JMG, do you have any thoughts on why Eastern spiritualities have such an undercurrent of finding the fountain of youth? It seems like Taoist masters neatly divide into two camps: “Enjoy the moment while you are here, and by the way, isn’t life strange?” is one, the other being “I have discovered the secret form which, when practiced dutifully, brings eternal life! I shall live forever…”


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