Book Club Post

The Doctrine of High Magic: Chapter 22

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 22: Summary and General Key to the Four Occult Sciences” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 183-187).


We have now reached the conclusion of the first half of our text, and a glance back along the route already traveled is in order.

In 1854, when Dogme de la Haute Magie was first published, magic and the occult sciences generally were at a very low ebb in western Europe. Were there still people who practiced magic?  Of course there were; there has never been a time or a place in all of recorded history without its own thriving magical scene. The social status of magic has varied up and down over the ages, though, and in Lévi’s time it was very, very low.

In mid-nineteenth century France, you could talk about magic all you wanted, so long as you didn’t try to suggest that it was real. Gothic novels—the 1850s equivalent of today’s fantasy fiction—were all the rage.  Sorcerers, alchemists, wizards, and witches were among the stock figures in that mostly forgotten literary movement, adding their quota of marvels to a literature that got its effects by getting people to imagine things they didn’t believe in.

All that was fine, but actually taking up the practice of occultism?  That had all the cachet of dropping a dead rat into the punchbowl.  Country folk who practiced traditional charms and spells were regarded the way urban sophisticates now think of the kind of Appalachian backwoods people who marry their kinfolk and handle live rattlesnakes at church. The few educated people who studied the occult sciences got the same sort of baffled pity directed today at people who spend their lives trying to prove that someone else wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

Alphonse Louis Constant set out to change that, when he took on the pen name Eliphas Lévi and started work on his book.  While he covered a great deal of ground, all of it focused on the two core arguments he wanted to offer the modern, up-to-date, skeptical readers of 1854.

The first of these arguments proposed that accepting the reality of magic didn’t require anyone to buy into the belief systems of the Middle Ages. Until Lévi’s time, that was the great stumbling block for would-be mages. Occultism was a preoccupation of the far end of the conservative scene in Lévi’s time, and it was fairly often presented in the context of full-blown Renaissance Christian Hermeticism, as though the scientific revolution had never happened and nobody had yet questioned that the sun went around the earth. That wasn’t a leap of the imagination that most people in 1854 could manage. Lévi argued instead that magic could be understood in terms of what were then the latest hot concepts in philosophy, psychology, and the natural sciences.

His borrowings from cutting-edge thought covered a great deal of ground. His concept of the will as the great motive force in existence came partly from the philosophical writings of the period—Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation was one obvious source—and partly from psychological literature. Psychology also taught him to replace representation with imagination, and to recognize the extraordinary power of faith to shape the world we experience. From the natural sciences of his time he borrowed the ether—the basis of light, heat, electricity, and magnetism, according to the leading physicists of his day—and showed that this could explain the effects of magic just as readily. It was a bravura performance.

That was the more obvious of Lévi’s two arguments.  The second was subtler but even more pervasive in our text, and the final chapter of this first half of the book—Lévi’s summary and overall assessment of the theory of occultism—is devoted to it. It can be summed up in a single word, and the word is one that Lévi uses repeatedly:  analogy.

This is more explosive than it may seem at first glance. The rationalist ideology of his time and ours depends on the pretense of a strict and artificial restriction of the activities of thought.  The claim at the center of rationalism is that the universe is ultimately rational in nature and so can be understood from top to bottom using the tools of logic.

Popular as this belief is, it rests on very dubious foundations. Logic, as its Greek root logos suggests, is a set of rules for the clear and precise use of human language.  It’s very useful for those activities in which clarity and precision of speech or writing are essential, but it’s not especially useful for anything else.  Since only a very small fraction of human experiences can be clearly expressed in language, the rationalist faith is the same sort of mistake as the one made by the proverbial small boy with a hammer, for which everything must be a nail.

You can see the results in action in the problems faced by today’s artificial-intelligence programs. Rationalists try, or pretend to try, to use nothing but logic; computers literally have nothing but logic, and so it’s not at all hard for illogical human beings to manipulate them in unhelpful ways. I’m thinking here of a recent news story about a detachment of US Marines who were instructed to approach an AI surveillance device without being detected. One of them succeeded in doing so by somersaulting all the way up to the AI. The machine had been programmed to detect human patterns of movement, but somersaulting didn’t fit any of the patterns it knew, and so it dismissed the Marine as irrelevant.

What the AI program lacked, of course, is the capacity to think in analogies. A human observer, even if limited to the same data set the AI used, would recognize that the somersaulting movement the sensors detected was analogous to walking, running, or other means of human locomotion, and sound the alarm. Analogical thinking—“A isn’t B, but in certain ways A is like B”—is a better fit to most of the world we actually experience than logical thinking is; that’s why rationalists use it all the time, even when claiming the strictest sort of logic for their beliefs.

Consider the concept of “natural laws.” Logically speaking, the word “law” can’t be applied to the observed regularities of nature in any but the most analogical sense; no legislature enacted the law of gravity, nor does anyone face a fine or imprisonment for violating it. Yet the observed regularities of nature are like laws in certain ways, and the analogy between the behavior of nature and the kinds of laws enacted by legislatures proved to be a fruitful metaphor for the flurry of inquiries into nature we call “science.”

Lévi argued that the same sort of analogical thinking could be used much more broadly, and much more openly.  He noted, as most intelligent people note, that there are things the human mind can know by the exercise of reason and the evidence of the senses, but there are other things that cannot be known by such means. Rationalists like to insist that the things that cannot be known by reason and sensation not only cannot be known at all, but never existed in the first place. This is hogwash, but to many people in Lévi’s time and ours, it’s appealing hogwash, because the only other option widely discussed in Western culture is blind belief in the literal truth of religious doctrines.

The historian Oswald Spengler pointed out many years ago that the rationalist theories of every civilization are inevitably copies of its religious traditions with the serial numbers filed off. That’s just as true of modern industrial civilization as it is of its predecessors—what is the Big Bang, after all, but a pseudosecular copy of God in the first chapter of Genesis saying “Let there be light”?—and hostility to analogical thinking is just as widespread in religious circles as it is in secular ones. If you doubt this, suggest to Christians that their creeds should be understood as metaphors rather than literal facts, and watch the reactions you get; if my experience is anything to go by, you’ll get ten flat denials for every one person willing to consider the possibility.

Yet this possibility is exactly what Eliphas Lévi meant to suggest.  There are things we can know by the use of reason applied to the evidence of the senses, he said, but there are also things that we cannot know by such means.  These two categories, which we can call the knowable and the unknowable, can’t be approached effectively with the same set of mental tools. The first category is well suited to the usual methods of philosophy and science, Lévi suggests, but religion and rationalism are both mistaken when it comes to the second category:  religion in insisting that doctrine and tradition provide the same kind of explicit knowledge as reason and sensation, rationalism in insisting that what can’t be known by reason doesn’t exist at all.

What Lévi proposes here, and throughout his book, is that the truths of religious doctrine and tradition are analogically rather than literally true.  They represent realities that are beyond our cognitive grasp; the best we can do, to borrow a turn of phrase from a later occult teacher, is to make use of the nearest approximate metaphor to phrase them in terms of the things we can grasp. The metaphors and analogies enshrined in doctrine and handed down by tradition, in Lévi’s vision, are precisely that:  the closest approach we can make to understanding things that are beyond the ordinary capacities of the human mind.

Imagine, to borrow a metaphor that has seen much use in certain Asian traditions, that fire was an extremely rare phenomenon, and only a few people had ever seen it. As they tried to describe fire to others who had not seen it, the witnesses of fire would be forced to use analogies:  it is like the sun, as it gives off light and heat; it is like a flower, as it is beautiful and brightly colored, and it perches on its fuel the way a flower perches on its stalk; it is like an animal, as it feeds on its fuel and leaves waste behind.

The people listening to this description would doubtless scratch their heads, trying to figure out how something could be like the sun, a flower, and an animal at the same time. If any of the listeners happened to be rationalists, they could doubtless score plenty of points by bringing up the apparent contradictions between the analogies—something can’t be the sun, a flower, and an animal at the same time, after all!  If any of the listeners happened to be dogmatic theologians, in turn, they might end up shouting at the top of their lungs that fire was in point of literal fact the sun, a flower, and an animal at the same time, and anyone who disagreed would be chucked into the Abyss of Firelessness and stumble around blindly in the dark for all eternity.

These squabbles between rationalists and theologians could go on for centuries and fill entire libraries with learned volumes. Meanwhile the handful of people interested in seeing fire for themselves would find no help from the squabbling professors or the learned volumes, and would have to turn to other sources—some of them forgotten, others denounced by all right-thinking people, still others garbled or dubious—as guidance in their quest.  Then, once they encountered fire, they might say, “Oh, that’s what fire is like!  Yes, it’s like the sun in a way, and like a flower in a way, and like an animal in a way, but it’s not actually any of those things.”

There’s a further implication to all this, and it’s one that Lévi never quite mentions explicitly in his book but references constantly in broad hints in chapter after chapter:  the truths known by magic and the other occult sciences are also analogical, not literal.  The Great Arcanum, the central secret of magic, is not concealed because Lévi or somebody else decided to hide it. It is concealed because it cannot be known by applying reason to the evidence of the senses. Our text has spent quite a few pages already providing analogies to help guide the quest for that central secret, and there are plenty of others in the volume to come. Keep this in mind as we proceed to the practical dimension of Lévi’s work, which will occupy the second half of this commentary.

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 XXI, “Le Monde.”  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 ת (Tau) or the Latin letter Z. 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: Signa, Thot, and Pan. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does Signa, “sign,” relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen?  That’s one session.  How about Thot, the Egyptian god Thoth or Djehuti?  How about Pan, the Greek god of wild nature?   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 22 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 the introduction to Part Two of our text, the Ritual of High Magic, on April 12, 2023. See you then!


  1. It’s interesting that the recognition and acknowledgment of the limitations of reason and faith, and their separation into their respective domains, seems to greatly increase the probability of the effective and ‘right’ usage of each mode. This could be an example of two contrary forces that never meet each other, as Levi writes.

    But, I just noticed the ‘log’ in ‘analogy’, which implies a similar root to the word ‘logic’. A quick search reveals that ‘logos’ comes from the word for ‘reason’. Which seems to reinforce how tricky it is to get beyond language – if I read it right, one thing Levi is touching on, is if you consider language as a mode of perception, there are two different types of this mode: Logic as a method of ensuring agreement between the names of things as applied to what is happening in the world as we can perceive it, and analogy as a way to point to the unknowable using the knowable. Very, very interesting!

    Also, if you ignore the first sentence of the chapter (“Let us now…”) and take each paragraph as a unit of one, and look at each Tarot card in sequence as belonging to each of the following paragraphs through the chapter, they seem to line up nicely, and the 22nd paragraph is the one where Levi describes the World tarot. Hmm! Not all of them seem to fit, at first glance, but enough of them do that makes me wonder if this was intentional, and would seem to reinforce the idea of analogy Levi has presented us with.

  2. Wow, I know the text has been chock full of things to ponder all along, but this chapter really jumps out as “you’ll need to meditate a lot to even get close to getting everything out of this.”

  3. I was wondering last week why we use phrases like “Solar Logos” when the world logos means logic or reason? The Solar Logos isn’t an emanation of logic as far as I know. I see it as an emanation of Will. I suspect it’s because Plato or some other philosopher set this precedent although my reading hasn’t led me there yet.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. JMG,

    At age 85, I don’t have energy to study occult ideas or read Levi (et al) in detail, but I enjoy your periodic discussions, and agree 100% that rationalism can deal adequately with only a small part of human experience. When you cite Spengler on rationalist theories being a civilization’s religious traditions “with the serial numbers filed off,” is that delightful phrase Spengler’s or yours?

    Unitarians joke that they don’t sing well “because they’re looking ahead to see if they agree with the words,” but I’ve learned the rational humanists among them also feel discomfited by the emotional power of the music. As Pascal said, “the heart has reasons that REASON knows not of.

    Is the prefix “ana”_ in “analogue” similar to its use in “Anabaptism”–my tradition of origin–meaning “again,” “above,” or “beyond”? My Google research on this is not clear or definitive.

    Downside Dan

  5. Reading this chapter, the concept of the Parable kept coming to my mind. It is a story that is meant to teach a lesson, but it is also at heart an “analogy” of sorts, is it not? I was raised Catholic and appreciate Levi’s use of themes that i can latch onto. Jesus as a teacher who is using Parable (analogy) to instruct and give some shape to that which cannot be directly known makes so much more sense to me than anything I was taught in mainstream Christian circles. But, that’s just my take on it. By the way, many thanks for the work you have put into this study!

  6. JMG, as an Addendum to my previous comment–Your suggestion to read a passage in Levi several times and then meditate on it seems similar to the monastic practiceof lex divina

    Downside Dan

  7. Quite analogical, like every good spell!

    It’s just operational metaphor that takes advantage of physical and metaphysical properties of information, communication, interaction and intelligence, which are universal and cosmic and personal and local from the micro to the macro…

    Sort of like fire is a beautifully hot painful annual bloom for cooking dinner and burning down buildings if we’re not careful LOL

  8. Jbucks, that’s a basic principle of alchemy! The reason you separate your prima materia into its components is that each of them can be purified and worked with much more easily in isolation, and then you combine the purified forms. Doing that with faith and reason works just as well. As for the assignment of paragraphs to tarot cards, hmm! That hadn’t occurred to me, but you’re right.

    Jeff, good. Very good.

    Luke, the Greek word Λόγος, logos, doesn’t primarily mean “logic” or “reason.” It means speech, word, relationship, or meaning. Logic, logike in Greek, means “that which pertains to speech,” the way that politike, the root of our word “politics,” means “that which pertains to community.” The phrase Solar Logos comes from the use of logos in the Gospel of John: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος (In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.)

    Downside, it’s my phrasing of Spengler’s idea. Yes, the “ana-” in analogue is the same “ana-“, but it’s one of those very wiggly prepositions in Greek — it can mean “up, on, upon; up to, toward; throughout; back, backwards; again, anew.” My take is that in analogue, it means “toward, up to” — that is, not quite logical, but tending in that direction.

    Matthew, yes, exactly! A parable is an analogical narrative: think of the number of times Jesus says “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” Every one of those is an analogy.

    Downside, it does indeed. It’s basically the same practice, reworked by different traditions for their own uses.

    Malleus, thank you. 😉

  9. “The best we can do, to borrow a turn of phrase from a later occult teacher, is to make use of the nearest approximate metaphor to phrase them in terms of the things we can grasp.”
    This sounds to me like T.S. Eliot and his objective correlative, but I don’t think of Eliot as an occultist. As I understand it, there are things that words can’t describe, so to discuss them, the poet finds something objective that is similar (a correlative, rather than a metaphor) to the objective thing. An example is a particular unusual feeling, e.g. of melancholy or depression, which is very hard to describe the texture of. Its objective correlative is a wasteland.

  10. Another analogy that I can not recommend strongly enough:

    “Planet Without Laughter” by (the mage?) Raymund Smullyan. From a tucked away corner of Don Knuth’s web pages. (Yes, that same Don Knuth).

    Proof that some of the masters of modern logic — perhaps the very pinnacle — are smart enough to know the limits of the source of their livelihood!

  11. Hello, JMG.
    I’m adding the last images to my digital copy of the original book in French. Just to be sure before sending you the last version: You’ve used the Fool (major card number 0) for the chapter 21, then the World (major card number 21) for chapter 22, all other cards match the number of the chapter. Is that right?

    Also, I wasn’t expecting that you would continue into the Ritual book. I thought that only Dogme was translated into English.

    Copying it was a good way to read it slowly (and practice French), though I can’t find time to study Lévi now. I’m full hands with the seven deaths chapter.

  12. Downside Dan: “Unitarians joke that they don’t sing well “because they’re looking ahead to see if they agree with the words,” but I’ve learned the rational humanists among them also feel discomfited by the emotional power of the music. As Pascal said, “the heart has reasons that REASON knows not of.”

    As a life long UU this rings true! At least half true! I find that many UU congregations have some of the best music around. And yet many in the congregation are “discomfited”, as you say. Maybe the powerful and well done music is an effort to overcome and overpower this ignoring of emotion?
    This rejection of the soul?

    Us UUs are funny creatures. We claim and practice a non-creedal spirituality, at least for an hour on Sunday mornings. And we are very creedal, in informal ways, especially about No Jesus! And No God talk! That is the real creed in UU. (That and “You must vote Democrat! And drive a Prius! And no plastic straws!” All these drive me crazy, personally, but I still appreciate a religion, while majorly flawed, that officially has no creed. Although recent actions and UUA policies might be finally requiring a creed….) And how can you bring people closer to god without talking about God? I think the ministers, at least the good ones, try to awaken spirituality in any way they can, including using the best music possible! They come at the congregation from unexpected angles.

    Like you said, even if we don’t acknowledge or actively deny it, “the heart has reasons that REASON knows not of.”

    Thanks Dan!


  13. 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.

    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 a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below and/or at the prayer list page.

    This week I would like to bring special attention to the following prayer requests:

    Praesepe, who was due to get a double mastectomy yesterday, March 8th. Please pray that the surgery was a great success, and that she will overcome her cancer; for blessings and her protection, and for her healing. (Original request here).

    Open_Space’s great aunt, who just passed away two days ago. Please consider praying for blessings and aid in her journey.

    Boccaccio’s friend and spiritual teacher “A”, who also passed away yesterday. Please consider praying for blessings to aid and ease in his transition to the other side. (Original request here.).

    Lp9’s request on behalf of their hometown, East Palestine Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people and all living beings in the area. The details coming out are still caught in the fog of war, and various claims of catastrophe and non-catastrophe are flying about, but the reasonable possibility seems to exist that this is an environmental disaster on par with the worst America has ever seen. At any rate, it is clearly having a devastating impact on the local area, and prayers are certainly warranted.

    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. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  14. This chapter jibes very well with my current affirmation for the next week+ from the Occult Philosophy Workbook:

    “Between the visible and the invisible are many worlds – I dwell in all of them.”

    If I was doing a surrealist affirmation it might go like this:

    “Between the rational and irrational are many modes of thought – I unleash myself like a lobster to swim among them.”

    Lots to digest.

  15. I’m not sure if this makes any sense, but it seems Levi was trying to tell us that our speech and actions need to be an analogy of creation, if we wish to create. Magical rituals are analogies of the creation of the universe; as above, so below. I need to meditate on this idea.

  16. Tomriverwriter, nope, it’s Dion Fortune — but you’re right that it sounds like Eliot! Eliot knew his way around philosophy and Christian theology, and you can find the same concept in the better expressions of both those traditions.

    Bfp, Smullyan wasn’t a mage but he was a Taoist, which is the next best thing — and yes, he understood the hard limits of logic. Thank you for the link!

    Abraham, that’s correct. As for the Ritual, both halves have been translated into English twice — once by Arthur Edward Waite, once by me and Mark Mikituk — and the two are normally published as a single volume, so I figured it was appropriate to cover both.

    Quin, thanks for this as always,

    Orion, thanks for this.

    Your Kittenship, hmm! Glad to hear it.

    Justin, ha! So you’ll walk down the streets of Cincinnati with a lobster, without keeping it on a leash…

    Jon, excellent. Excellent. Yes, exactly.

  17. Orion–Thanks for your responses to my comments on Unitarians, rationalism, and music. My kids and I loved “Sound of Music” ever since we first saw the movie and bought the record. UUs do have a social (if not theological) creed in the yard signs, “WE BELIEVE–Black Lives Matter, Science Is Real…etc.” I’d love to continue chatting with you privately on UU issues without subjecting fellow Ecosophians to it.

    I’m not on any social media more modern than email, but when commenting here, I always give my correct one. I know they won’t publicize it to everyone, but could/would JMG (or his webmaster) share our email addresses with just the two of us if we both request it and give permission? Is there any other way for us to be in touch?

    Downside Dan

  18. It was more than one Marine that figured out how to evade AI detection. Besides the somersaulters, two of them hid in a cardboard box, and one dressed up as a fir tree:

    There’s a snapshot of a tweet with a snapshot of a book page*, about two thirds of the way down, that shows what I’m talking about. I don’t know what book it is, unfortunately.

    *I hate the 21st Century.

  19. @Jbucks,
    You said that ‘logos’ comes from ‘reason’. That helped me greatly on my meditation on the card. Levi says “Reason is the necessity, is the law, is the rule of all liberty and the direction of all initiatives. If God is, it is through reason.” Ananke is the primordial Greek goddess of Necessity (or Constraint). She mated with Chronos (primordial Greek god of Time) to split open the Cosmic Egg (which creates the Heavens and the Earth). And Chronos has three heads… a man, a bull, and a lion. If I don’t consider the Eagle on the card, it all ties in nicely with the image on the card. The shield has manifestation in the middle, a sort of orange-y color (so fire and air, masculine) surrounded by blue (water, feminine) because the feminine is limiting. (So the Word is limiting. Hmm. I know what I’ll be meditating on tomorrow.) (That, and figuring out if the Eagle fits in with my Greek interpretation of the card.)

    And also, thank you commenting that each paragraph seems to align with a card, in order. More meditations in order…

    Levi says the girl on the card is holding a magnetized wand in each hand. Is it tradition that they are magnetized? Or how would one know they were magnetized just by looking at the card? On the Knapp Hall deck, it is two wands in one hand (with something on the ends of the wands, but they are too small to identify). (I ask because I recently read something regarding polarity that made me think of a magnet which led to a better understanding of the Supernal Triad and now this chapter brings up magnets, so it seems I need to understand magnets better.) (And why were the wands “magnetized” rather than “magnetic”?)

  20. @Cliff #20 re: source for Gymnastic and/or Boxy Marines

    I was also wondering what the source was for that awesome and hilarious anecdote, so I did a little more searching and I found this article:

    According to this, those screenshots are from Paul Scharre’s just-released (upcoming at the time of the tweet) book, Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence..

    Perversely, the article also is apparently based on the tweet of a screenshot of a book >.< But at least the author went to the trouble to source it!


  21. Downside Dan:
    Agreed! And while I think that UU is actually positioned in a place that is could actually be useful in the ongoing collapse, it needs major reform and to be taken back to an earlier theology to make it work again. I am writing a lot along these lines in a book and poems etc on my own…

    JMG: no need to publish this but glad to share my email with Dan if possible. Thanks!


  22. In regards to the Marines evading AI detection!

    I love the book Cryptonomicon by Neal Stevenson. One character is an x-marine (if you can be an x-marine😁) and he is constantly saying “That was a failure to be adaptable!” Or variations on this theme. Adaptability! I love that the Marines are still teaching adaptability. (Even if it is only in support of the empire….) They recognize the need for imagination in our world and are actively teaching it still!

    I also love that they were laughing their behinds off as they approached the AI! ROFL!

    What does a self driving Tesla “think” of two homeless people in a cardboard box? Does it have compassion for them? Does it give them loose change? Or does it call the cops for illegal camping?


  23. About the meaning of “logos”–
    I have a private translation of the first few books or so of Aristotle that I have been playing with in order to learn Ancient Greek. One of the words of which I keep trying to change my translation is “logos”. I confess I have gotten the best results replacing all instances of “logos” with “logic” or “reason” than any other replacement that is the same word every time.
    However, the definition of “logos” provided by Aristotle in Interpretations 4 does so specifically say it is speech, rather than other forms of communication or logic, to which it seems to be often used loosely to refer. The definition is
    Λόγος δέ ἐστι φονὴ σημαντικὴ κατὰ συνθήκην, ἤς τῶν μερῶν τι σημαντικόν ἐστι κεχωρισμένον, ὡς φάσις, αλλ’ οὐχ ὡς κατάφασις ἢ απόφασις.
    A logos is a meaningful vocalization made of multiple parts, of which one separated is meaningful, in that it says something, but does not affirm or deny.
    So “logos” seems to mean more “phrase” than “word”, and is connected to the verb λέγω, which means “say”, but seems to be used more for declarations and conclusions rather than εἴρω, which also means “say”, but sounds more like a flowery narrative to me. One of the situations where I want to translate λόγος as “logic” is where “the logos of something” seems to refer to its definition, or at least “declarations and conclusions about it”, but I am not comfortable using “definition” when it is the same as “logos” and different from ὁρισμὸς, which refers more specifically to the concept of defining. “The logos of something” is contrasted with its name in several places.
    I realize the later books of Aristotle and the books of Plato have a sensitive relationship with the topics discussed in the first books, and I have started to look through those too, but haven’t gotten as far yet.

  24. “Science is always wrong. It never solves a problem without creating ten more.” -George Bernard Shaw

    I just heard this quote, and it seemed to be related to the post. I don’t know if I agree that it is always wrong, however it is just one way of interpreting things with only one set of senses. I do however nod my head when thinking about the problems it creates as side effects.

    I suppose the side effects are more often from the Faustian technology implemented, rather than from “the science” itself; the development side of research often has its own agenda, outside of what the scientists in our primitive Castalia might do with the knowledge if left outside of so-called development.

    The use of logic and reason are only one branch of development possible for the human mind and powers. One definition of development in the OED is: “The growth or formation of an organ or other structure that is a natural part of the anatomy of an organism.” i.e. Goethe’s “new organs of perception.”

    Another definition is the growth of a wart or tumor. Something “the science” is more than happy to provide with its many noxious byproducts.

    An analogy occurs to me that the at-times nefarious goals of development might be science’s version of “black magic” -and these byproducts, these problem children are the collective raspberry jam we’ve got on our fingers for striking the Faustian bargain.

    Without getting further into binaries, there are of course many other avenues in which science can be applied for investigating nature that we have only begun to tap. Those interested in pursuing those might need to return to the trunk of science and then take a different branch.

    Lets of branches to explore for all kinds of pursuits out there. and J. L. Borges wouldn’t be the only one who’d be delighted if we took some of them!

  25. @Orion #24:
    Your comment about what a Tesla would think about a homeless person living in a cardboard box, made me think of this song by Negativland, Aluminum or Glass: The Memo, from their classic album Dispepsi. …it’s a good question too…

    “Would a man living in Los Angeles
    Understand what a seagull is?
    Would he know about the ants there in the grass?
    Would the ants in the grass
    Understand what the man’s Volvo is?
    Do they know you can buy Pepsi in aluminium or glass?

    Would an advertising executive
    Understand where the homeless live?
    Would he know about the bubbles in his glass?
    Would the bubbles in his glass
    Understand what the man’s golf cart is?
    Do they know you can die frozen underneath an overpass?”

    Also, it would be cool to hear a Unitarian choir do a version of this song 😉

  26. The paper “Emergent Analogical Reasoning in Large Language Models” demonstrates current large language models doing something like analogical reasoning, right out of the gate without any task-specific fine-tuning training, on four tasks: an abstract (and not even particularly linguistic) number pattern completion task, a letter-string analogy task, a four-term verbal analogy task, and a task involving use of analogies between stories for problem-solving. Somebody on twitter claimed that one of the authors, I assume Keith Holyoak, was the world’s leading researcher on analogical reasoning. On small tasks the model seems to perform near or above the level of average adults, but on the large qualitative story task it performed around the level of children (though they didn’t have very many instances of that task to test with, and they only tried the random response generation once for each instance and variation; they didn’t average over generation attempts the way they ideally would have).

    Most of that might not be the kind of analogy you meant, but the task about “analogies between stories” seems like it might be. One of the task instances was about inventing the technique of using radiation beams on tumors from multiple directions to avoid too much cumulative damage to any tissues other than the tumor, with help by analogy from a story about a general dividing his forces across multiple roads to avoid triggering traps on any one road. Another was about using various arts and crafts materials to transfer gumballs to a bowl out of reach, with help by analogy from a story about a genie moving his possessions to a new bottle. The analogy suggestion made it perform better on the first problem but not on the second, and it said a lot of correct things about how the elements of the analogies worked. But this is inconclusive, since there’s a large random factor in performance. It’s also hard to interpret: the model would have already been exposed to texts about that kind of radiation therapy, so the difference in performance may have been partly just a matter of priming it to get onto a track of textual composition where its knowledge could pop out, rather than of it “inventing” anything.

    So far as I understand, current models can only solve four-term analogical reasoning problems involving meanings when the problems are set in a familiar domain, where the model’s training has already allocated enough of its fixed neural dimensionality to the distinctions that the analogy hinges around. I wouldn’t expect current large language models to invent new dimensions of distinction post-training on the fly, to solve an analogy problem in a novel domain, without a lot of being hand-held through an explicitly verbalized deliberation process. The flexible figuration that’s normally associated with human cognition would be mostly happening during training, not during text generation. (Though apparently people have found some suggestive evidence that some models have been shaped by their training data to perform something like the training algorithm called “gradient descent” at text-generation time, to fine-tune their idea of what current textual situation they’re looking at specifically.)

    Emphasis on “current”, though. (I don’t think Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, as applied to computing machines, means what Roger Penrose thinks it means. Penrose’s conclusion is the sort of fiddly philosophical judgement about how to predictively ground an abstraction in reality where, if reality decided to pull the rug out from under you and falsify that judgement, you wouldn’t have much of a case for getting mad at reality for not warning you.)

    I’m not sure I have my Kabbalistic correspondences right, but the way I would say this is: The framing of “computers literally have nothing but logic” centers the idea of artificial intelligence as being restricted to processes characteristic of the sephirah Hod. But a computing machine can also be programmed to manifest a lot of the dreamlikeness and flexibility of a process characteristic of Yesod, by using digital arithmetic on binary numerals with sufficiently fine gradation, pseudorandom generation, and massive parallelism, producing things like modern deep learning. It can also be made to manifest some of the determination and strategic cunning of a process characteristic of Netzach, by using reinforcement learning and tree search-based planning, to produce something like DeepMind’s Alpha series of demonstration projects.

    There are techniques that could have been used to let an AI learn to detect human somersaulting, by playing detection-infiltration games against itself and learning adversarially (Netzach?). However, at the present state of the art it would have required a lot of expensive specialist time to get this game off the ground. You’d need to put in a physics model (Hod) of possible humans and their motor options, and a sort of controllable motor hallucinator (Yesod copying Netzach’s homework) or a motor-synergy learner (Yesod-Netzach), before the infiltrator’s side of the game would be able to invent plans to do anything more coherent than having a seizure. I suppose in this case the AI would still be limited to the logic of the physics model. (What happens if you bring in an amputee, or dress the human up in a giant tumbleweed?)

    “Multimodal” models, that could combine the information from vision and from language, might be able to leverage common sense to solve the problem better. The vision system could provide the language model with a series of descriptions of scenes differing by a cardboard box being incrementally closer, and the language model could generate bafflement as to how the box was moving, and a crafted prompt could be used to get the language model to deliberate about whether that was suspicious. The “descriptions of how scenes differ” is the only part that nobody’s particularly done yet, but it’s well within what can now be reasonably anticipated to be possible.

  27. @Jeff #22:

    Thank you for doing some digging! I’m ordering books for my library and this is now on the list.

    @Justin Patrick Moore #26:

    I’m not sure I agree with George Bernard Shaw, but I pretty much always appreciate his bold, combative views.

  28. @bfp I love the story of the planet without humor, and the wise men trying to explain funny. I don’t have Donald Knuth’s book anymore, but I used an algorithm of his in a product I built. Alas, it was too advanced, and my successors eliminated it in the follow-on product.

  29. Hi John Michael,

    Yes, of course Mr Lévi reached for the neglected mid-point between rationalists and theologians. Strange how extremes are so beloved by our species.

    Science as I understand it to be (just another way of looking at the world in order to produce insights) is useful, however that usefulness doesn’t extend in all directions and applications of the technique. Rationalists look to me as if they are half rate mages caught in spells of their own making. I must add that there are some highly absurd beliefs in circulation these days. To be honest, the mainstream reactions to Peak Oil never really surprised me. After all, I’ve observed a reluctance in our species to revisit our earlier choices. Easier to pretend they never were and we never knew.

    And second hand thoughts, always something of a risk there, but what other way is there to learn? Discernment is the key there don’t you reckon?

    In relation to the card, in an unusual coincidence on Thursday night I encountered an inordinate number of floral head wreaths. Not something you’d see everyday.



  30. In the days before the post came out and I reread the chapter, I did an exercise with a psychiatrist who calls it a jungian/archetype take on internal family systems ‘parts work’ where you let your subconscious elements take on embodied personas. It was a pretty simple visualization to begin. First in the awake ego-logical mind making an intention. Then in visualization world, going up to entrust the intention to the Self, like the higher or Whole Thing Self, and then going down into the earth to sit at a round table of your choosing and let your subconscious characters appear and work with the intention. I tended to pretty quickly make a physical metaphor of the intention both times I’ve done this. It was helpful, too, a sort of cooperative effort between the egoic world-managers and the heart. Reading this (and I sent screenshot photos of book pages to the psychiatrist but didn’t tweet them lol!) it made me think about how my visualizations were clearly analogies, I even used that word with her before I read the chapter. Like when they get little traumatized kids to act out their mental worlds with dollies, I had said to her. And it struck me how this is precisely the technique for working with the astral light. Imagine that this image+gesture+sound is actionably correlated to this outcome in the visible world. In my subconscious trip I found that putting my forearms flat on the table was the gesture of invitation for my subconscious characters to appear for example. I never felt the power of magical gestures so clearly before.

  31. Back when I taught logic at Tulane, I advised my students that logic was a tool with limited use.. The sort I taught (intro to symbolic logic) was useful for analyzing whether a conclusion followed from the premises – and even then, only when your symbolic model correctly tracks the natural language you are trying to model. I could always see a few students perk up who got it.

    JMG, your commentary just gave me one of those aha! moments. I always remembered Aquinas and Aristotle’s point that reasoning from analogy is was weak form of reasoning. But weak does not mean inferior. The weakness in its power to offer proof, gives it strength when expressing ideas that logic is too precise to capture. This looks like the same exploit the marines used to mess with the AI system.

  32. Ps- @bfp and @justinpatrickmoore a planet without laughter and dispepsi are amazing. This place has the best surprise media. Bfp- Why did you say ‘yes *that* knuth?’ I did read like a bio and some more of his weird homepage but I don’t know why he gets a special secret nod among computer science algorithm guys.

  33. Λόγος δέ ἐστι φωνὴ σημαντική, ἧς τῶν μερῶν τι σημαντικόν ἐστι κεχωρισμένον, ὡς φάσις ἀλλ’ οὐχ ὡς κατάφασις.

    In this context logos might even mean sentence: “A sentence is a significant portion of speech, some parts of which have an independent meaning, that is to say, as an utterance, though not as the expression of any positive judgement.” (Oratio autem est vox significativa, cuius partium aliquid significativum est separatum (ut dictio, non ut affirmatio). However, I would agree with John that “word” is the primary meaning.

  34. Cliff, yes, I read the whole story. The somersaulting was enough to make my point.

    Random, as far as I know, Lévi was the one who decided that they were magnetized. We’ll get to the reason for that as we proceed into the Ritual.

    Anonymous, interesting. Thanks for this.

    Chris, well, modern science started off as an offshoot of magic — John Dee called experimental science “archemastry,” and considered it a branch of natural magic — and so it’s not surprising that its current practitioners would be trapped in their own spells!

    AliceEm, hmm! That strikes me as very magical; thank you for sharing the story.

    Chris, a good point — thank you.

  35. Hi John Michael,

    To end up in a star chamber only to make friends with the person sent to examine you is an impressive effort. What a great, who hung out with other greats. The very air at that time of history must have been alive with possibility, don’t you reckon? Today couldn’t be more different.

    I’m genuinely astounded, and many thanks for mentioning the gentleman.



  36. One more image from the text that recalled strongly an image from the visible world, and one with a cool historical link: the separating at the poles and being held together in the center. In mier y noriega, and probably many small Mexican villages, at Christmas the Mary and Jesus statues leave the plaza church and stay at someone’s house and then there is a humble procession of all the people when the baby Jesus is returned to the church. Then they make this wooden stick cross (even, not like a crucifix) and it has a rotating pin in the center, and they attach clockwise pointing firecracker rockets on each of the four ends so the top and bottom seem to be going opposite each other and ditto for the left and right and they light them all and there is this spinning wheel shooting sparks like a huge fiery wreath on the front of the big church in the plaza and well, by going opposite at the poles and held together in the middle you get the solar cross that the nazis turned into the swastika and you get a spinning wheel! Sometimes the old time Catholics know what they are doing, especially when it got mixed up with the old indigenous practices of old Mexico, or other places it got mixed up with, I imagine.

  37. @AliceEm Algorithms aside, Knuth is credited with saying that premature optimization is the root of all evil and, not being satisfied with how mathematical equations were being typeset, went and learned typesetting and invented the typesetting language TeX. Its derivative, LaTeX, is the standard way that people submit articles for publication in the sciences. That alone will ensure Knuth’s lasting legacy.

  38. Don’t forget the eldritch ritual tonight. Open wide your curtains, so you can keep an eye out for nameless abominations outside and so you can see what you’re doing inside, and under the sinister light of a gibbous moon, take up your clock in a trembling hand and turn it ONE HOUR FORWARD!

    You have just donated one hour of your life to the unspeakable Elder Gods, also known as the U. S. Congress.

  39. Chris, he was quite something. Elizabeth I had him choose a time and date for her coronation; given how her reign worked out, I’m impressed!

    AliceEm, thanks for this! That’s a fine vivid image.

    Your Kittenship, Great Cthulhu hangs his tentacled head in embarrassment at the thought of being mistaken for a member of the US Congress…

  40. This is a bit off-topic but so relevant for this blog I could not help it. You have often theorized that the purpose of the ” woke agenda” ( beyond being an employment program for humanities grads) is to keep the “religion of progress” going even when it is failing to delivery material and technical improvements to most people. Friday night Bill Maher used his closing ” New Rules” segment to pretty much echo that. He used the the Oscars and the casts of movies over the years to reassure his audience that we were making “progress”. He used the word progress so many times I almost expected him to come right out and say, ” we can’t go to the moon any more but we can have movies with with casts that are every color of the rainbow.” I guess this means even his “blue” audience needs to be reassured that the religion of progress is not failing because of big improvements in social “virtue”.

  41. The World: (Z)

    1. Signa (Sign)
    2. Thoth (Egyptian God)
    3. Pan (Greek God)

    Signa –

    Agree with Levi (and JMG) here. Analogy/Signa is a good way communicate things or situations that might be beyond the reach of rational thought. The one downside is that modern ideology has so disproportionately elevated thought that it has millions of people ignorant of other ways of apprehending things that compliment it or balance it. And it completely falls down if going beyond the senses.

    Thoth in the underworld weighs a deceased person’s heart on a scale vs a feather for seeing when the scales show even.

    This is real-world insight. It’s the process of seeing how much of mother earth has been either a. ) left behind or b. ) converted to the more subtle element of Akasha so that the soul doesn’t need to re-incarnate on earth anymore.

    According to dharma traditions it takes 3 lifetimes of dedicated spiritual practices to build a more subtle body. Thoth’s weighing a soul vs a feather is a good analogy of assessing the results of such practices. Once the scale is equal there is no imbalance left that will inadvertently pull the spiritual/occult seeker back to fewer life possibilities. Even if they choose to come back as a human a little while longer the possibilities life opens up for them will be far more than what their fellow humans have available.

    Thoth is also said to be self-produced. To me at bare minimum that’s an analogy to a specific branch of occult traditions where the practitioner chooses to focus on self-change rituals and kriyas rather than rituals and kriyas that specialize focus on making changes in the outer world and one’s immediate environment. Since everyone has the same number of minutes per day everyone will inevitably lean slightly toward one or the other as their developed talent.

    Pan – god of nature. I note that Pan aligns motif-wise to earth whereas many of Thoth’s specialties are of a different not-quite-so-earth-motifed-nature. But both are presented of equal import. A mind that is even. That doesn’t favor either one over the other and recognizes both have their place in life.

    Unlike the text my Universal Wirth World card has the woman holding both scepters in the left hand (from the POV of the woman in the card). It would be the right hand from the POV of the tarot practitioner.

    She’s surrounded by a vine that looks like one half of the figure 8 or infinity symbol. Still representing being on her way to yet more work, possibly work reaching beyond Mund/mortal senses of the World. She’s attained some measure of competence with The World. So she’s no longer the Fool of the first card. But it’s only one half of the infinity loop. The Mund is still one half of infinity so one could, in theory, either remain in Mund to become a master mage/yogi of this realm or alternately, beguiled by it and lag behind one’s cohort. Interestingly it’s a woman, the feminine that’s represented in this card as the Jongleur was masculine.

    Surrounded are four beings to either corner of my Universal Wirth card. Very Pan-ish. Bottom left, Ox. Bottom right, lion. Top left, angel. Top right, eagle. I seem to recall this is a direct reference to a passage in the old testament. Maybe it was Ezekiel who saw these.

    Behind the ox and lion heads are mountains. Behind the angel and eagle are clouds. Permeating all of it is Akasha – aether, the most subtle element and the last of the five before crossing beyond the elements completely.

  42. “The Great Arcanum, the central secret of magic, is not concealed because Lévi or somebody else decided to hide it. It is concealed because it cannot be known by applying reason to the evidence of the senses.”

    What a relief to read this. I’ve done some wondering aloud about the Arcanum on this forum, but I still feel that the matter is opaque to me. Good to know that that’s part of its nature.

    What was it the old alchemists said? ‘Lege, lege, lege, relege, ora, labora, et invenies’. Good thing there’s still half the book to go.

  43. Hi JMG,
    While making the Sunday Times newspaper collage this week, I was forcefully reminded of your post about the early 20th century prediction that the world will become covered by spiderwebs as a prescient vision of the interwebbing of today’s globalized computer networks. Not sure if you saw the printed Times, but the vision I had following the spiders was that the next step the earth will be covered by giant serpents.

  44. More from Demons by Dostoyevsky….

    He mentions the “Story of the Expedition of Igor”
    Specifically as something not to be taught about to young people!

    Here is a good translation:

    It is a poem about the losing battle between a Russian prince Igor against the “pagans”. Igor invades what is now Ukraine! The resonance to today is huge! A main point of the story is that Russia’s “princes” and people are connected to Mother Earth and lose when they are divided, from each other and from mother Russia. (In the story from the 11th century, based on actual events, Mother Earth is called “Holy Mother of God Pirogoshchaia” – who after a bunch of research online – turns out to be Zemlia or Zemlya who is Mother Russia!)

    Of course, if you search for Zemlia what comes up is a Ukrainian movie from 2021 called “Stop-Zelmia”. The movie is a “coming of age” movie about teenagers in Kiev. I plan to watch it soon!

    There is no explanation of the meaning of the name of the movie to be found in English, but the director does say that they kept the name in English because “the name had a lot to do with the success of the movie”.

    Nothing to see here!


  45. When I say that the story of Igor “wasn’t to be taught to teenagers” I mean that “polite society” or the “ruling class” wouldn’t teach it. Dostoyevsky seemed to be saying that he thought it was important.

    Also, here is the wiki page for Zemlia.


  46. Last post. Sorry.. Stop-Zelmia.

    The movie is about the egoism and “nihilism” of teenagers (that is how it is described in multiple reviews). And also that it is a “naturalistic” movie.

    The trailer doesn’t show any of the “naturalisticness” (new word?)… But does have a sceen of them being trained to use a rifle?

    Also when the main character is asked about what it feels like to feel love she answers “Awful!” But follows up to acknowledge love is needed on some way.


  47. @Orion: I think Dostoyevski’s “Demons” is an underrated classic. I’d like to re-read it. The anonymous author of “Meditations on the Tarot” thinks the book shouldn’t ever have been published.

  48. Quote of the day from a European website (both lines).

    “We were mistreated by dumb bureaucrats, not by the minions of evil deities..”

    There’s a difference?

  49. Clay, that’s hilarious, in a bleak sort of way.

    Panda, a good solid meditation. Thank you.

    Dylan, and if you figure out the Great Arcanum by the time we finish the book, you’ll be ahead of most people!

    Chris, well, we’ll see. I plan on drawing up an accession chart for Charles III once he’s crowned.

    Patricia M, thanks for this.

    Orion, our old friend Charles Fourier!

    Justinn, I don’t read the Times — I prefer news rather than Pravda-esque propaganda. We’ll see how far the serpents get.

    Orion, fascinating. Thanks for this.

    Siliconguy, the main difference is that the minions of evil deities aren’t usually as bland. Other than that? Not much.

  50. I have continued to ponder the card.

    Normally, I think of our bodies spatially. Our physical body, the most dense, is interior. It is surrounded by the etheric body, then the astral body, and the beginnings of our mental body. (And eventually we’ll shed our denser bodies as we develop our spiritual body. Then the next two planes are causal and divine, so maybe we get a causal body and a divine body?)

    But, if you think of our bodies temporally, our physical body was the last to involve and (my interpretation of parts of the Corpus Hermeticum is) it surrounds our soul (strangling and dragging us down…). So looking at the card, the elements, our physical body is on the outside. The wreath represents Nature.

    “And Nature took the object of her love [the Form of beauty] and wound herself completely round him.”

    Inside of Nature is Man (androgynous), which was created by All-Father Mind (who is Life and Light, which at our level is Soul and Mind). I’m not sure if the Man on the card has Mind (since we are still developing our mental body), but I’m thinking yes (and the red scarf could be Spirit?). (and then the Man on the card would represent Etheric/Soul, Astral/Spirit, and Mental/Mind…) (And regarding Mind, Heindel described the Mind as the lens that our Soul sees the Spirit through. Lens makes me think of prisms. Fortune said the Sephirah were like prisms. Maybe Mind is our personal Cosmos’ Tiphareth?)

    I’m still intrigued by the magnetized wands. I haven’t read ahead, but I am thinking they should be crossed (equal-armed, like the cross inside the circle that represents Earth). I have been pondering off and on for a while now about Will and Imagination. Imagination is the Mind (so that could be Kether or Hod). Will is Desire (so that could be Malkuth or Netzach). But the two wands mean it could be both (as above, so below, just rotated slightly).

    A tangent I went on (though haven’t finished) is that once Man transmutes physical Body to Soul and then Soul to Spirit, he would have his spiritual body. If we have a body for each plane, the next body is causal. Cause is sort of like reason and Corpus Hermeticum refers to God’s Reason as Logos. So Logos is the cause (the First Cause, the Cause without Cause). And then once Man figures that out, then he gets his divine body. (Obviously a lot more to ponder…)

    JMG, if this is too OT, I’ll save for Monday: In Corpus Hermeticum, is says “Around the sun are the eight spheres that depend from it: the sphere of of the fixed stars, the six of the planets, and the one that surrounds the earth.” Does ‘around the sun’ mean in concentric circles, or in a series of circles (like the Wheel of Life)?

  51. I missed the commenting period getting caught up in mulling over each paragraph in this chapter. There’s a lot to chew on. My reading has gone so slowly! But I’m keeping up.

  52. No great insights for le Monde card so far but here is what I have:

    – Noticed that the human w/ wings and line looks at us directly and both their eyes are visible (North or North-west by South or South East???) and the lion means business, whilst the ox and bird look away from us indifferently and we only see one eye. The bird in the upper right corner (North East or East?) is definitely more apt to resent and react to any insult or intrusion than the ox that seems less concerned.

    – just like the Fool card I noticed unusual depiction of the main subject’s left arm. The fool was carrying his knapsack in an awkward position. The virgin(?) subject of this card’s left arm is either a victim of bad art or purposeful mistake in anatomy. We can see her forearm but her hard is at a 45 degree angle upwards when she is holding the wands. Unless she has two elbows with the 2nd elbow about six inches below her hand, it is either bad art or maybe intentionally done to focus on the left hand holding the wands.

    @Happy Panda #45. You deep dive on Thoth leads into the judgement of souls and at that judgement Ammit is there, ready to devour those whose souls were found wanting in the balance ( She was part crocodile and I believe she is the alligator shown in le Mat or the Fool card. She is also part lion and hippopotamus and I’m thinking this is directly related to the depiction of lion, human w/ wings (or angel?), tough bird and ox on the le Monde card.

    @Random #21. And now I have to see if there is a relationship between Chronos and Ammit!!!!

    @Orion #49 Thanks for the link on Fourierism. No comments yet but I’m going to dive into it now.

  53. Notes on the Le Monde card (XXI):
    More info on Levi’s references to the female figure and the surrounding animals, angel or human w/wings.
    Recommend rereading The Tetragrammaton chapter. The animal hieroglyphics are mentioned in passing on pg 63.

    Pg. 166 Potions and Spells chapter.

  54. @Scotty, I have an ebook version and the page numbers change depending on my font size. Could you give me the first few words of the paragraph you are referring to?

  55. @Random
    No problem.

    From The Tetragrammaton chapter:

    “The magical elements are: in alchemy, salt, mercury, sulfur, and azoth. In the Cabala, the macroprosopus, the microprosopus, and the two mothers. In hieroglyphics, the man, the eagle, the lion, and the bull; in ancient physics using the vulgar ideas and terms, air, water, earth and fire.”

    Pg. 166’s relevant chapter starts as:

    “We can compare supersitions to magical emblems and characters whose meaning is no longer understood……” Not sure it will be the same in the e-book but picture of Adda-Nari is right below on the same page in the printed book.

  56. Orion – Zemlya means “earth” in a general sense in Russian, this can range from the planet as a whole to the soil in your garden, “the land” is just one of its meanings, often addressed as “our land” (nasha zemlya) if it to mean Russia.

  57. I mentioned this a couple of posts but and have been thinking it over and now soliciting thoughts on the female figure’s “deformaty” at the center of the card and her non-anthropoidic (if that’s a word) left arm and a joint six or seven inches below her hand (bent upwards at an angle that would require a 2nd elbow).

    Chances are this is a mistake on the artist’s part. This is reinforced by the fact that other examples of this card from the Marseilles deck do not show a similar “deformity”.

    I thought of but am discarding the idea that, if done purposefully, was to transmit or point to some secret.

    If done purposefully, my thought is that it was done to subconsciously change one’s perception away from any sexual thoughts towards the attractive, naked woman displayed so the mind focuses on her beauty in a comforting way (i.e. representative of higher principles).

  58. @RandomActs, could the two wands represent the positive/negative duality of astral light we covered earlier? It seems to power a lot of the action around here.

    Thank you, everyone, I’ve learned so much.

  59. @Claus,

    I think so. I have been reading Heindel (The Rosicrucian Cosmo Conception). He mentions two “laws” (attraction/repulsion and rebirth/consequences). In my notes from Ch 2, I have that the astral light is Chokmah and Binah. Binah is rebirth; Chesed is consequences (so perhaps one wand). From Chesed, the astral light moves to Geburah, which is a polarity with Netzach (so attraction and repulsion) (so that could be the other wand). So the wands could be representing different aspects of the astral light’s polarity.

  60. @Scotty,

    I had not really studied the Oswald Wirth World card until you mentioned her weirdly bent arm. This is the largest image I could find: (and when you click on the image, it magnifies just a little more).

    The hands are definitely weird. To me, if you compare the left hand and the right hand, the wrists are in about the same place (as in distance from the finger tips). So I can live with that weirdness.

    But what is positively freaky looking is her fingers. Her right hand has a definite thumb and index finger, but then four more shorter appendages that definitely look afflicted. And her left hand only has four fingers (well, two for sure, then one much darker and more wrinkled than the other, and then a fourth one that is hardly half the size of the others). And the wands are growing out of the two ‘normal’ fingers; she isn’t clasping them at all.

    Six and four probably mean something. And possibly the fingers are in the shape of Hebrew letters. Regardless, it definitely distracts me from the rest of her now that I see it…

  61. @RandomActs
    Thank you for the insight. Which leads me to my next thought: since the young lady has a red scarf (at least in the deck I’ve got), red indicating creativity, perhaps an analogy can be drawn with the driver and two sphinxes displayed in the Chariot. Or the triangle of Solomon.

  62. @Claus,

    My original thought was that the red scarf was for Fire/Chokmah (with the woman being Water/Binah). But, thinking about the World in relation to the Chariot and the sphinxes… sphinxes and cherubs are closely related. In the Levi Ch 7 commentary, JMG talked about karibu, a human-headed bull that guarded the gates of Babylon. (He also mentioned that Levi’s cherub has four legs, two wings, and three pairs of horns.) But the sphinxes on the Chariot card are missing wings and horns (so air and water?). The Charioteer could be the same person as on the World card (in my deck, anyway). The stars on the drapes/canopy feel like Binah/water to me, and the Chariot card is about Will (so Mind/Air?). Which is a long way of saying, yes, I like your analogy very much.

    By the ‘triangle of Solomon’, do you mean Levi’s picture of the Macroprosopus and Microprosopus reflection with the Star of David?

  63. @ RandomActs,
    The ‘triangle of Solomon’ is the title for the Empress card chapter, so I took the liberty of interpreting that phrase to mean “ternary”. Examples include the divine ternary (reason/necessity/liberty), corporal body/astral body/soul, will/destiny/power, and for this chapter, triangulation by way of analogy. Like, we need two eyes to perceive distance to an object which is something you can’t determine from studying just the object itself.

    I’m fortunate to have you on here. Your comments on Le Pape, L’Etoile, and La Lune really helped. The figures appear flat until I grasp some concept and then the symbols start to jump out at me. Fun!

  64. You say that Levi is saying analogy is close to metaphor. We talk of the laws of physics, but they aren’t rules given by authorities, but observed consistencies. Physical laws are never broken; social laws frequently are. Physics laws are a metaphor for legal law, though the similarity that they are both unbreakable rules. Levi says that all all occult secrets are analogies.
    Religious analogy is always between the seen and the unseen. Another word for this is parable. The seen explains how the unseen works.
    This is how all education works. Ideas are taught through parables. In Waldorf schools, multiplication is taught through beating out rhythms with sticks. Most schools teach addition through grouping objects. In Waldorf, carrying in addition is taught as gnomes putting ten jewels in a bag, then counting bags. Eventually the learner sees through the parable to the underlying truth — that numbers can be used to describe anything, and that their natural language is through addition and multiplication. They’ve gained wisdom.
    Spiritual teachers use parables as well, to show how the unseen words. At first, we think the parables are direct descriptions of truths (a gnome puts ten jewels into a bag) but we eventually gain enough wisdom to see the work of parable, of metaphor, of analogy.

  65. @random @claus – I don’t have much to add on the discussion of the red scarf but I like to think of it as helping to represent contrary forces. In this case the woman is advancing into the wind.
    Contrary forces will be mentioned in the Magical Equilibrium chapter.

    Notes for further meditation:


    Even though there are some differences with the animals and humans outside of the arcanum figure, I think it helps define the relationship of the figures with woman in Card XXI.


    The “devil” according to Levi is actually a representation of the god Pan, amongst others. We’ll read this later in the Ritual portion. Pan being one of the meditation words / themes that being this chapter:

    “Yes, in our profound conviction, the Grand Masters of the Order of Templars worshipped the Baphomet, and caused it to be worshipped by their initiates; yes, there existed in the past, and there may be still in the present, assemblies which are presided over by this figure, seated on a throne and having a flaming torch between the horns. But the adorers of this sign do not consider, as do we, that it is a representation of the devil; on the contrary, for them it is that of the god Pan, the god of our modern schools of philosophy, the god of the Alexandrian theurgic school and of our own mystical Neoplatonists, the god of Lamartine and Victor Cousin, the god of Spinoza and Plato, the god of the primitive Gnostic schools; the Christ also of the dissident priesthood.”

    Also referenced in the link is a quote from Levi’s Book of Splendours and some background on the four figures surrounding the wreath on the card:

    “[Baphomet] is a knowledge rising in opposition to idolatry, protesting though the very monstrosity of the idol.
    The Israelites were forbidden to give divine concepts the figure of a man or of any animal; thus, on the ark of the covenant and in the sanctuary, they dared sculpt only cherubs, that is, sphinxes with the bodies of bulls and the heads of men, eagles or lions.
    These mixed figures reproduced neither the complete form of any man, nor that of any animal.
    These hybrid creations of impossible animals gave to understand that the image was not an idol or reproduction of a living thing, but rather a character or representation of something having its existence in thought.
    Baphomet is not worshipped; it is God who is worshipped, this faceless God behind this formless form, this image which resembles no created being.
    Baphomet is not a God; He is the sign of initiation.”

  66. @Scotty,

    I had not considered Pan as devil/Baphomet. I will meditate on that. I have read in other places that Baphomet represents Sophia (read , specifically the Atbash Cipher). Sophia is also Ain Soph Aur, the Divine Breath. Which ties in nicely with your comment that the scarf shows the woman is ‘advancing into the wind’, the wind being the Divine Breath or the Astral Light.

    So Sophia/Divine Wisdom/Astral Light/Pan/Baphomet are all related and are a sign of initiation. Hmm… I’ve skimmed the article you linked to (on, but need to go back and read it slowly.

    Thank you!

  67. @Claus,
    He was an Egyptian god.

    I haven’t spent much time meditating on his name or theme for this chapter but he’s part of the judgement of the dead (one link says he serves as prosecutor, another the scribe) and also associated with science.

    What I discovered in researching Thoth is that he is depicted during a judgement of other god’s with Ammit nearby. Ammit was the personification of divine retribution and was ready to devour souls that failed the judgement.

    “She was generally depicted as a demon with the head of a crocodile…..” This is interesting because The Fool card from last chapter shows an alligator waiting for the Fool in the distance.

  68. @Random #76

    I should have made it clearer and it is buried in the Levi quote but he was saying that Baphomet was not the Devil or representative of evil but probably more in line with Baphomet = Sophia.

    The god Pan I have to think about more and also how he relates to Thoth and how they relate to the word “sign”.

    I didn’t think of the wind as being the astral light that the woman is advancing so thank you for that analogy!

  69. @Scotty and @Claus,

    Re: Thoth, somewhere I had read that he was somehow related to Hermes. Looked it up this morning; Hermes Trismegistus (, author of the Emerald Tablet, is considered a combination of Hermes and Thoth. I am still pondering that, in relation to Pan, but it is still fuzzy, so hopefully I’ll have something to share about that later.

    But, interesting, when I searched for Thoth and Hermes, this link was offered which relates Thoth to Consciousness and Thought. Ain Soph is also considered Consciousness and when Ain Soph ‘condensed’ from Ain, it left Ain Soph Aur (Sophia/Astral Light/Wisdom). And Thought also relates to Mind (to me, anyway) and Mind relates to Hermes and to Air. (I’m not implying that Hermes is Ain Soph, but it seems to be one of those As Above, So Below things.)

    I have only skimmed the article, but the end says that Thoth is the generative power of creation, so that relates to Pan, too.

    How this all relates to ‘sign’, I haven’t figured that out yet, either.

  70. @Random
    I think your 2nd link (Great magician power consciousness) gave me some insight into “sign” as it relates to Thoth and Pan.

    What is a sign but a symbol?

    Also, as it pertains to the meditation words for this chapter that Thoth and Pan (both symbols) represent a duality if you will. Crudely, Thoth is very businesslike or more orderly, dependable even, attributes needed for a scribe and messenger whereas Pan could not be described in such a way. Take either god’s attributes to the extreme, you’ll have issues but find the balance then easier to walk into the winds.

  71. One of the things that has bothered me for a while is that Netzach/desire is on the Mercy side of the Tree of Life. It seems that when you desire something, you pull it toward you. But the Mercy side is supposed to be expansive and outward. So I just kept that on my list of things to figure out someday when I understood more.

    Then earlier this week, one of our fellow commentariat included this alchemical picture in his Substack post,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/ The King was labeled as Coagula. But Coagula is (to me) becoming more fixed, more solid, more form. I can see Binah the Great Sea as Solve and Coagula, but I definitely thought of Coagula as more form (so the Strength side of the Tree).

    I was not having much success with the Levi chapter last night in my meditations, so I decided to go back to how the King could be Coagula. At some point, I realized that even though I knew the King and Queen were symbolized with the Sun and Moon, I was thinking about them in terms of Chokmah and Binah instead of Tiphareth and Yesod. So I went back to the Astral Light, Binah. Binah emanates to Chesed, on the Mercy side of the Tree. Chesed is the Emperor, but not the King. Chesed, involved to Form, becomes Geburah. But Chesed *with some Form* would be Tiphareth, the King. So when Chesed Coagulates *some*, he is balanced/in harmony.

    After Tiphareth comes Netzach. But then I thought that rather than thinking of Netzach as Desire, I should think of it as Will. And a person emanates their Will outward. Ah ha!

    And then we get to Hod. Hod is represented by Mercury, or Hermes, and Mind. And then I thought of Hermes and Thoth, As Above, So Below. We start with Ain and then Ain Soph (Consciousness or Thoth). That contracts, leaving Ain Soph Aur where it was (Sophia/Astral Light).

    The Astral Light involves to Netzach/Will, which creates another Mind/Consciousness (Hod). Hod contracts, leaving Yesod where it was. So Hod is the “As Below Ain Soph” and Yesod is the “As Below Ain Soph Aur”. When Ain Soph contracted to leave Ain Soph Aur, it contracted into Kether. So when Hod contracts to leave Yesod, it contracts in Malkuth. WHICH IS HOW OUR MALKUTH IS THE KETHER OF ANOTHER TREE! (another WORLD) (Maybe everybody else had figured this out already, but this is a new understanding for me.)

    So how does that relate to The World card and this chapter? Thoth is Consciousness, so Ain Soph. Hermes is our So Below Ain Soph. From here, there are two possibilities I’ve come up with:

    Some of the Greek myths have Pan as the son of Hermes. So Thoth to Hermes to Pan (making Pan the Consciousness of our Malkuth, which fits, seeing he is a God of Nature).

    Another option is to consider Pan as the Lycaean Pan, who “was the most ancient and revered deity of the Arcadians, the most ancient people of Greece.” (The Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology). Lycaean is an epithet for ‘productive of light’, so if Pan is the Ancient All, that would also make him Ain Soph, which produces the Astral Light when it contracts.

    The other symbols for the chapter were Tau and signa. Tau is the cross and resurrection. The four animals on the card are the cardinal signs, which form a cross in the heavens, and the wreath forms a circle around The World, indicating a cycle of death and rebirth (resurrection). For signa, even though JMG defined it as “sign”, I looked up the etymology, because a sign can be many things. Signa, according to wikipedia, is the plural form of signum ( And signum in Medieval Latin meant the cross of Jesus Christ & Christianity. Tau!

  72. @Random #82
    Where do you find “Tau” in this chapter?

    signa = sign I got that but I’m missing Tau.

    Anyway, I’m glad you mentioned Tau as the thought hit me that a cross can be seen as two different “equilibriums” in action, working from different cardinal directions.

    I’ll need a couple of days to digest your Tree of Life meditations. I’ve yet to spend much time meditating on the Tree of Life so it’s harder to find meaning in the analogies.

  73. @Scotty,

    Tau is the Hebrew letter assigned to the card in JMGs comments (third paragraph under Notes and Study).

    Yes, I definitely see the cross as two equilibriums. 🙂

  74. @Scotty,

    Tau is the Hebrew letter assigned to this chapter. (JMG mentions it in Notes for Study and Practice, 4th paragraph.) Yes, seeing the cross as two equilibriums between the cardinal points fits well with this chapter. 🙂

  75. @random,

    Thank you and forgot all about Tau for my meditations, but it turns out this was the essential piece to my current understanding of the card.

    It took me a while and I can’t say I follow all of your train of thought describing your use of the Tree of LIfe but I grasp most of it and believe that our Malkuth is the Kether of another tree has great merit (go to Chapter 4, The Tetragrammaton and find the paragraph beginning with: “Death, in fact, can no more be an absolute end that birth a real beginning..”.

    I view the tarot card XXI, le Monde as the attainment and maintenance of equilibrium but this is not the start of the journey (a la’ The Fool) but just the beginning (see your meditation above). The woman figure is in equilibrium, has obtained wisdom but she is still in movement and heading into the wind, that is, this card represents the Sphinx or the transformation of man into the Sphinx.

    ““You are called to be king of air, water, earth and fire; but to reign over these four living creatures of symbolism, it is necessary to conquer and enchain them. He who aspires to be a sage and to know the Great Enigma of Nature must be the heir and despoiler of the sphinx: his the human head, in order to possess speech; his the eagle’s wings, in order to scale the heights; his the bull’s flanks, in order to furrow the depths; his the lion’s talons, to make a way on the right and the left, before and behind.”

    “Man is like the Sphinx. Both are composed of the four Elements, but in Man they exist in different proportions and are unbalanced, while in the Sphinx the Elements are balanced and synergistic. The Sphinx represents the perfected Man, the Magus. The Four Powers of the Sphinx are “the four words of the Magus,” the “four indispensable conditions” which bring Man to the state of perfection and balance symbolized by the Sphinx.”

    Which leads us to:
    To Know
    To Will
    To Dare
    To Be Silent

  76. @Scotty,

    I am very much a newbie with Cabala/Tree of Life, so my train of thought might get significantly revised as I learn more. 🙂

    The idea of Malkuth being the Kether of the next World is not mine. (Although possibly it is more correct to state that Malkuth emanates the next Kether?) If you are interested in reading about the Tree of Life, JMG has a book Paths of Wisdom that explains it very well. Manly P Hall (Secret Teachings of the Ages) has a chapter ‘Fundamentals of Qabbalistic Cosmogony’ that has a great deal of information, though if I hadn’t read Paths of Wisdom first, I don’t know how much of it would have made sense to me.

    I very much like the article you linked to on I will have to explore that site some more.

    I also very much like your idea that the card represents the Sphinx or the transformation of man into the Sphinx. It fits the symbolism on the card, and it also fits in the sequence of the cards. The second chapter’s commentary brought up the riddle of the Sphinx, and so the World card brings it full circle, it seems. The Fool to the World seems to be starting another Tetragrammaton, maybe in next World Man evolves to? I don’t know if that makes sense. I have more to ponder.

    Thank you (and @Claus) for continuing to share your thoughts on this chapter. You have helped me understand much more than I would have on my own.

  77. @karma @everyone
    I appreciate yours and everyone else’s thoughts on the cards. Many layers of meaning to meditate upon. A lot of your thoughts really helped me for this card.

    By the way, one thing I missed is the woman’s crossed legs. See the chapter concerning the hanging man. Two into one and all that.

    It wasn’t until the Tower card that I really became serious about the meditations and had my first breakthrough moment (as appropriate for the card). As we move into the Ritual portion, my intention is to revisit all the Doctrine chapters and give at least a week to each card. I’m afraid this first time around I only have some intuitive feeling for a few of the cards and would like to develop more (i.e. figure out the symbolism according to Rider-Wait-Smith and of course, Levi and then what the symbolism means to me).

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