Book Club Post

The Doctrine of High Magic: Chapter 3

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

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


“Chapter 3:  The Triangle of Solomon” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 48-55).


With this chapter Lévi introduces one of the most important concepts in our text, which is also one of the most important concepts in Western occult thought in general. This is the idea of ternary logic. Our usual habits of thinking sort things out into binaries—this or that, right or wrong, pleasant or painful, and so on. That’s hardwired into our psyches, and it’s useful in emergency situations where a snap judgment has to be made in a hurry. (Very likely this is why it’s so prevalent:  those of our ancestors who were able to make such snap judgments survived more often than those who spent time they didn’t have doing more sophisticated analyses.)

That comes with a price, however, because outside of emergency situations, binary thinking isn’t actually that helpful. It’s as easy as it is unproductive to get stuck in rigid binaries in dealing with things and experiences that demand a more subtle approach. The habit is deeply engrained enough, however, that it takes a certain amount of subtlety to get out of it. Making the transition from binary to ternary, from two options to three, became the classic way to do it in traditional Western occult schools.  That, too, can take a bit of subtlety, and Lévi is happy to oblige.

He begins in his usual manner, with a series of symbolic expressions of the ternary. Speak a word aloud in someone else’s hearing:  the speaker’s intended meaning, the word itself, and the listener’s understanding of the word are three different things. Consider the sun shining in the sky: the sun, its light, and its heat are three different things. Think of the three persons in grammar—I say, you say, he or she or it says—and you have a comparable set of three:  one that speaks, one that is spoken to, and one that is spoken of. Every movement in time has a beginning, a middle, and an end; every action has a source, a trajectory, and a result. Reflect on these images and it becomes easier to understand the ternary. Each of them expresses the crucial difference between binary and ternary: the binary is static, but the ternary is always in motion.

(Notice also how Lévi dangles a baited hook in this first section, asking you to imagine a ternary involving the zenith, the point directly above you in the heavens, connected with lines to the east and west—in astrological language, the ascendant and descendant, the degrees of the zodiac that are rising and setting at each moment. That implies in turn an equal and opposite ternary connecting the two points on the horizon with the nadir, the point directly beneath you in the unseen heavens on the far side of the earth. That image is meant to spark thoughts that will be visited again in chapters 4 and 6.)

Of course the Christian Trinity is one of the classic examples of the ternary in thought and symbolism, and as a devout if eccentric Christian, Lévi makes the most of this. Since the second Person of the Trinity is described in Christian theology as the Word, Lévi formulates the Trinity as a ternary using one of the other patterns he’s described already. God speaks of himself to himself: as speaker, the Father; as spoken Word, the Son, and as listener, the Holy Spirit. He also argues that sacramental Christianity is the most perfect religion available to his readers because it embodies the ternary doctrine most completely. In France in 1854, that was arguably true, and it may well still be true for some of his readers today.

There are many forms or patterns of the ternary in magical theory. Lévi focuses most of his attention in this chapter on one of them. He describes it neatly as that which is above, that which is below, and that which connects them. These are the three worlds of Renaissance magic:  the divine or religious world above, the natural or physical world below, and the spiritual or metaphysical world connecting them.  In the modern religious mainstream of the West and in popular thought generally, these are interpreted in typical binary fashion:  God above, humanity below; spirit above, matter below; immortality above, death below, and so on.  That typically motionless binary forbids any resolution, except for the hope of moving from one category to another.

Lévi, and the Western magical tradition in general, recognizes the existence of a middle ground that bridges these two realities. Once that middle ground is admitted, it becomes possible to sort it out in different ways and modes, and recognize the varying states and conditions of being that unite heaven and earth. Since the ternary is always in motion, the recognition of the ternary also makes it possible to see creation as a continuous process following a cyclical movement, a speaking of the Word that is ongoing and ever-changing rather than an event in the past that is over and done with. This is essential in the high magic that Lévi wishes to communicate, since the secret of that magic is the participation of the mage in the ongoing process of creation.

The logic of the ternary also makes it possible to make sense of that perennial chestnut, the argument from evil. This is the argument that holds that the claim that there is one onmipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God is contradicted by the existence of pervasive, pointless misery in the world. From within the patterns of binary thinking, it’s a forceful argument:  if God is omnibenevolent, he would want to eliminate misery, and if he is omnipotent and omniscient, nothing can stop him from doing so—he could have set up the cosmos however he liked, and the words “had to” cannot be applied to him or any of his actions.  In that case, why is there so much pointless suffering in the world?

The logic of the ternary allows a resolution to the conundrum.  Good and evil, in this way of thinking, are the two hands of God; in Lévi’s words, “the first cause is beneficial and harsh, it vivifies and it destroys.” These two aspects are controlled by divine wisdom, which pits each of them against the other and maintains the equilibrium by which the universe is sustained. Lévi’s God is not good in a simplistic Sunday school sense; he is the source of all that is good and all that is evil, and indeed of all that is, without exception.

Since Lévi was a Christian, his God is also symbolically masculine—that is, active. Here we bump against one of the longstanding quarrels between Eastern and Western Christianity.  Orthodox Christianity typically thinks of the third person of the Trinity as feminine and as proceeding from the Father alone:  in effect, God the Father begets twins, a son and a daughter. The Western churches, by contrast, typically think of the third person of the Trinity as masculine and as proceeding from both the Father and the Son.

Lévi follows the Western vision here and sees the Trinity as wholly masculine, balanced against a subordinate manifestation that is wholly feminine or receptive.  He is sufficiently creative in his theology to formulate a feminine Trinity to balance the masculine one; it consists of Nature, the Virgin Mary, and the Church—the latter being traditionally the Bride of Christ, which in Lévi’s colorful phrase is humanity regenerated and fertilized by the Holy Spirit. It’s typical of the man that he assigns these two ternaries to two of the trigrams of the I Ching, those that represent Heaven and Earth. (That I know of, nobody has picked up his hints and used them to create a Hermetic Christian I Ching, but the thing could quite readily be done.)

Lévi goes on at once to insist that he is not trying to set up a rival theology. He is offering an alternative interpretation of theological symbols for students of magic who choose to remain members of their church, as of course he himself did—not “raising altar against altar” but recognizing ordinary religious teaching as an appropriate set of beliefs for people at one level of development, while the same symbols and rites can be understood in another way by those at another level of development. This approach was standard all through the Christian end of the occult scene until quite recent times; a case could doubtless be made that it would be worth reviving today.

The difficulty faced by all religious and spiritual teachings is that symbols and statements that are true at one level of consciousness harden into falsehoods when they are taken down to a lower level of consciousness. The spirit, our text suggests, is like wax which hardens into rigid forms when exposed to cold air. Ideas can petrify or, to use Lévi’s word, “carnify” in this way; so can human souls; so can souls that were never human—our text here makes reference to the Qlippoth, the demons of the Cabala, and reminds us that their name literally means “husks” or “shells.” Lévi’s suggestion that there is something demonic about the hardened shells of old truths is one that bears close meditation.

The world that Lévi has sketched out for us here, the world of the operative mage, differs in important ways from the one most people in the modern Western world think they inhabit. Replace the binary of heaven and earth with a ternary that includes a middle ground, a spectrum of spiritual states through which souls and their actions can move and reverberate, and quite a few familiar ideas take on a very different form. Our text explores two of these in detail.

First, since it has been discussing the Christian Trinity and the argument from evil, it proceeds to that other common stumbling block, the doctrine of Hell. To Lévi damnation is a natural process:  the soul that descends to a lower level of consciousness has its subtle body, which our text terms the Diaphane, harden in exactly the way just described, becoming a prison for the soul. Can the soul escape?  Yes, it can do so any time it wishes to, provided only that it is willing to let the husk that surrounds it melt in the fire of divine grace.  This is not an easy process or a painless one, and  many souls refuse it, remaining in the prison of their husks, tormented by the fire of their own thoughts and passions.

The second idea Lévi wishes to explore here is the traditional teaching that human thoughts, words, and deeds can have influence over the spiritual as well as the physical worlds. Once again, the presence of an intermediate realm between spirit and matter provides the medium through which this takes place. Because spirit and matter are not separate from each other, but the two ends of a spectrum, actions on one plane can influence events on another. This is among other things the basic principle of magic, and we will be seeing it again in various forms as our text proceeds.

All these points have an immediate practical application.  As a Christian, Lévi places this in the context of his own faith, and sees the ternary pattern he has been tracing out as the foundation of the Christian revelation, shown in the Book of Revelation—the most cryptic of the books of the New Testament, and inevitably the most often and most colorfully misunderstood—and also in a passage that appears in some early copies of the Book of Matthew and not in others, but found a place early on in Christian ritual practice. The words in Hebrew and Greek given here are repeated by many people every day as a coda to the Lord’s Prayer:  “For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever, Amen.”

“Kingdom,” Malkuth in Hebrew, is the name of the tenth and lowest sphere of the Tree of Life, a diagram of the cosmos Lévi will be discussing in much more detail later on; “Power,” Geburah in Hebrew, is the name of the fifth sphere and also of the pillar on the right side of the Tree, and “Glory” is a somewhat clumsy translation of the Hebrew word Chesed, more properly “magnificence,” the name of the fourth sphere and also of the pillar on the left side of the Tree.  At first glance, something seems to be missing—an indication of the highest sphere—but it’s there:  “Thine,” Ateh in Hebrew, is traditionally used as a reference to Kether, the first and highest of the ten spheres. Christian mages of a generation after Lévi took this discussion, combined it with the habit of making the sign of the cross, and created the Cabalistic Cross, one of the fundamental ritual practices of modern Christian magic.

Yet Kether is not expressed directly in this set of words or the ritual made from them. Instead, the ternary of Kingdom, Power, and Glory (Malkuth, Geburah, and Chesed) is manifest, with a higher fourth element latent.  In the same way, as our text points out, the Gnostics and the Cabalists understood the spiritual path as involving three steps that human souls could take and a fourth that was forever beyond their reach.  To understand the ternary, Lévi is suggesting, it is necessary to go beyond it to the quaternary, the fourfold pattern made famous above all in the Tetragrammaton—the holy unspeakable name of God which unites the three and the four, since it is written with three letters, one of which repeats itself. That will be our theme in next month’s chapter.

Notes for Study and Practice:

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

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

For your work on this chapter, take Trump III, L’Imperatrice, “The Empress.”  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 ג (Gimel) or the Latin letter C. 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, fourth, and fifth sessions are devoted to the three titles Lévi gives for the card: Plenitudo vocis, Binah, Physis. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does fullness of voice relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen?  That’s one session.  How about Binah, Understanding?  Or nature?  Those are the next two.

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

Sessions Six through the end of the month are done exactly the same way, except that you take the concepts from the chapter. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. Then open the book to Chapter 3 of the Doctrine and find something in it that interests you.  Spend five minutes figuring out how it relates to the imagery on the card, the letter, and the three titles. Do the same thing with a different passage the next day, and the day after, and so on.

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

We’ll be going on to “Chapter 4:  The Tetragrammaton” on September 8, 2021. See you then!


  1. Interesting how Kingdom, Power, and Glory, and Thine could be mapped onto the natal chart, and that Lévi subtly confirmed what I was talking about last month. Jung also talks about the importance of the quaternary. I am also seeing the “transcendent function” of Jung as the skill of the High Priestess, the Empress (I can’t deal with the French spelling right now) as the regenerative power of the unconscious, and the Emperor as our conscious ability to act on it.

    Something fell in my lap by way of a good friend that I think relates to some of this stuff. The Christ Pantocrator image . If anyone takes a look, pay close attention to Jesus’s eyes. You might want to cover up one side of his face at a time. Try to map the ideas of Love, Truth/Wisdom, Masculine, and Feminine onto the eyes. I found it very interesting with regards to Pope Joan.

    Thanks for the post JMG. Looking forward to seeing what the rest of the commentariat has to say.

  2. Thanks as always for the very interesting and helpful commentary. I noticed a small typo – at the end of the post, you give the date for the next chapter (4) as today, August 11th, when I assume you meant September 8th or 15th..

  3. As a student of Biblical Hebrew, I have long been puzzled by the Cabalistic Cross, and this post inspires me to ask my questions.

    (1) It is often asserted (here by Lévi, in POW by JMG) that the Doxology which appears in some manuscripts of Matthew (“For thine is the kingdom . . .” ) derives from a Hebrew prayer. Can anyone provide a citation for such a Hebrew text? One scholarly paper suggests that the Western occult community back-translated the Doxology, which it knew from the New Testament, into Hebrew: i.e., that there is no known Hebrew source.

    (2) The same paper points out something that has puzzled me since I first learned the CC: the Hebrew of the formula does not mean “Thine is the kingdom…” but rather “Thou art the kingdom…” In the paper I linked, Wikander speculates on the intention behind that change. Rather than ascribing these attributes to God (as does the Doxology), the Golden Dawn formula addresses the Sephiroth, or perhaps better, an entity or process which can be identified with the Sephiroth. To me, this is not a pedantic distinction! Who or what is being addressed in the Cabalistic Cross?

    (3) Lévi’s Hebrew looks garbled to me, as if several of the letters got mangled by bad OCR (well, he _was_ ahead of his time). But a few details seem significant.

    First, he offers a “Thine is . . .” version rather than Israel Regardie’s “Thou art . . .”.

    Second, for the first attribute/Sephirah mentioned, he uses the word _mamlakah_ instead of _malkuth_. Their meanings overlap, but _malkuth_ is the standard name of the tenth Sephirah, right?

    Third, for the last of the attributes/Sephiroth, Lévi’s Hebrew uses neither _Gedulah_ nor _Chesed_, but rather _Hod_.

    Yet in his commentary immediately following, he refers to Malkout, Géburah, and Chesed apparently in the belief that that is what the Hebrew text mentioned. I have read enough to believe that Lévi was neither ignorant nor careless, but what is one to make of these discrepancies?

  4. I had some interesting synchronicities around the word “Domus” this past month, as I re-read chapter two and did the meditation work.

    I’ve loved the idea of ternary logic that you, JMG, have written about in past essays, so it’s good to be exploring the ternary here on an esoteric level.

    A Hermetic Christian I Ching sound intriguing. I hope someone takes you up on that and uses the hints to develop it.

    In the meantime I’ll read the third chapter tonight. I have noticed the cards gaining a heightened dimensionality and, shall I say, fullness, in my meditations.:.

  5. JMG, thank you again for hosting this discussion and for your introduction to each chapter. Your summary is helping me in making sense of Levi, and gives me lots of food for thought.

    The idea of the binary and the ternary seems so relevant right now as it seems that the binary is hardening into firm positions and there seems to be no resolution in sight. But thinking of the ternary does change my thinking entirely about what I see around me. It’s in the ternary that creativity is, new possibilities, new solutions, new thinking.

    I’ll meditate on that as my whole future could be changing due to limitations placed around me. And your timing is impeccable really. Also with the OSA (?) study. I started the first exercise in writing about blame, and although difficult I can see how it would lead to new ways of thinking by working through the experiences and thought patterns that come from there, and thereby leaving old patterns behind.

    Thank you again,

  6. “The Christ did not write down his dogma; he only revealed it in secret to his favorite disciple, the only Cabalist, and a great Cabalist among the apostles.”

    Hmmm. This made me think of Mary Magdalene right away. I recently picked up a copy of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene with commentary by Jean Yves-Lelousp, used for five books at a secondhand shop… I have the Nag Hammadi Library as well.

    What I’m wondering is do you think Levi was referring to Mary Magdalene also? Some traditions of Gnosticism claim her as the favorite apostle, as she was their when Christ was resurrected and this is perhaps when he transmitted some teachings to her. I suppose it could also be Matthew, whose gospel he references further down the page and as you noted in your commentary.

    Well, after a first quick reading, I’m definitely looking forward to extracting more from this text with further readings and meditations with Trump III.

    Thank you for hosting this discussion!

  7. I didn’t make it to last month’s discussion, but I’ve been happily following along with reading the French text and meditating nightly. Thank you for this wonderfully rich series!

    I also want to say here that I’ve long appreciated the grace and insight with which you write about the Christian religion. I grew up in that religion, found my theology transformed by your writings on polytheism and magic, and more recently have noticed my heart strings being lightly and ever so gently touched every time esoteric Christianity comes up for discussion here. I think that’s worth paying attention to, and I gather that Levi is going to help me go deeper.

  8. I’ve been ruminating over this for a month, debating whether to post this or not, and find that since it touches on this chapter, I will go ahead and post it.

    I disagree with Lévi. There. I said it.

    Unless I completely misunderstand him, which is quite probable, or he has set a trap for those who cannot see through the fog of patriarchy, equally probable, (or there is a ternary somewhere in there) I think he is mistaken when he argues (in the previous chapter) that the first principle is masculine. (I’m reading Lévi in the original French, so perhaps this is something you have addressed in your translation?)

    I want to argue that the first principle must be both masculine and feminine equally and that the masculine is hidden in the feminine and the feminine is hidden in the masculine. And that all binaries have that condition.

    Men do not only initiate, they react. Before he can desire and set up a chase, she exists, she actively makes herself desirable, she beckons, she invites and she also pursues (initiator, active/masculine).

    To accept, to receive, to allow are active, not passive states. To flee, to refuse, to fight, etc., are also active states when the male does initiate and it is not welcomed. Unless you want to argue that females are conscious-less blobs of flesh in a state of pure passivity, to be acted upon by the males, the “masculine” principle resides in her as well.

    I think Lévi is wrong when he says that men pursue and women flee. I don’t know what planet he’s from, but from what I see, women and men rush towards each other. Their tactics might be a bit different but the desire/movement is the same. Which means that while they rush towards each other (masculine), they are both also being rushed towards (feminine), giving them the experience of being both masculine and feminine, using Lévi’s definitions.

    When a male ejaculates, he sends forth sperm (a masculine act) but at the same time empties himself, loses control, lets go (feminine). The female accepts (active) and gains control of the sperm and uses it to fertilize her egg. And I find frankly absurd the notion that a woman giving birth is performing a masculine act as she send her baby forth. Rather, I see the first principle moving through her, while she performs a feminine act and since the first principle is also feminine, there is no absurdity. Note that she also empties herself, lets go, and loses control while giving birth.

    “Male and female he created them” in Genesis could mean humanity is divided into two sexes but it could also mean that every human is both female and male.

    I would argue that the first priciple is pure movement (from the Cosmic Doctrine) and is equally expressed in both males and females. I can’t stop myself from thinking of pure movement as the binary to the pure stillness that is the source. What else can the not-source be but what the source is not? Now, I know that the source cannot be part of a binary, being the nothing that transcends everything, but at the very least, the initial movement in my mind must contain both the feminine and the masculine, the dark and the light, the force and the form and all binaries from which all creation emanates.

    So the masculine is in the feminine, the feminine in the masculine, force in form, form in force, and while one side of the veil is separate from the other side, what is behind that veil, we already are, it is already contained in us and we in it.

    I also think the use of the Papesse to illustrate this truth is brilliant: the feminine in the male role, and the male in the feminine (expressed by the penis on her lap). It makes me think that as we reach for and rush towards the divine, the divine reaches for and rushes towards us. We must be both masculine and feminine at the same time if we are to step past the veil and enter the other world.

    So, back to this chapter’s lesson. I can see how movement back and forth in the expression of what is masculine and what is feminine is the ternary that resolves the binary of male and female, and again, have to disagree with Lévi about his masculine notion of the divine. Really, I think he fell for his own trap if he thinks that.

  9. Is there any association between the alphabet and the lessons besides being labels for a mental filling cabinet? I am interested in the intersection of Levi, Tarot and CGD so using the Coelbren would perhaps be appropriate.

  10. Ye gods, the idea of Thrice Greatest Hermes takes on a totally different meaning now. Hermes is great in the religious world, the physical world, and the spiritual world. My mind has been blown.

  11. And if you want to swap two items, you need a third space to hold one item as the second is moved to its new location. If the binary is static, then the ternary allows for movement, and that means the ternary could be the basis of time. I’ve always suspected that what we call time is the observation of the separation of movement.

    I think it was Temporary Reality who has a t-shirt that says, “the occult is the physics degree you always wanted to have.” I have to agree.

  12. My copy of the book just arrived yesterday, so I’m a late starter. Have done a quick read through the first three chapters but will have to go back over them in the weeks ahead to try and catch up properly. Looking forward to contributing more in the months ahead.

    This chapter reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about recently which is the hero – villain binary. We all know the cheesy versions of stories/movies where the bad guys are all bad and the good guys are all good. However, a third type of character arose out of this tired old binary: the “anti-hero”. The anti-hero is far more psychologically sophisticated. They are as capable of evil as the villain but they strive for the good like a hero.

  13. Youngelephant, I’m quite sure that Jung read Lévi, so it’s by no means impossible that the connection you’ve traced is deliberate on Jung’s part!

    Jeff, so noted (and fixed).

    Gray Hat, I’ll leave that to the Hebrew scholars, not being one myself.

    Justin, you could always try it yourself…

    Tamar, delighted to hear this. It’s exactly the power of the ternary that it enables a static binary to be resolved creatively into movement and change.

    Goran, yep. Guenon in later years did his level best to pretend that he didn’t get most of his ideas from the French occult scene!

    Justin, no, he was referring to the apostle John. Remember that the Gnostic gospels hadn’t been found yet in Lévi’s time, and esoteric Christians mostly traced their lineage to John.

    Dylan, thank you. It’s something I’ve tried to do.

    Myriam, your disagreement is of course very common these days, contemporary gender politics being what they are. Whether or not you agree with Lévi doesn’t concern me at all; I hope you take the time to notice that he’s not primarily talking about gender politics, and has something rather different to say through the medium of what, in his time, were standard metaphors and beliefs.

    Augusto, you can use any alphabet you want, though it helps if it has 22 letters.

    Jon, excellent! That’s how trad occultists have interpreted the title, certainly. (And that tee shirt is seriously cool.)

    Simon, good. Can you think of any other ways to resolve the same binary?

  14. Hi JMG, you are such a blessing and wise voice in this world.

    A slightly off-topic question, but hopefully relevant for all readers of JMG. What would others recommend as a starting place (spiritually speaking) for those who have relatively recently woken up to the true scale of global industrial societies predicament, have been smacked out of the myths of our society (progress, the scientific paradigm etc.) by this wake-up call and are desperately looking for meaning and the strength inside of them to know that they will be able to live through much harder times (deep fear of physical pain and injury, human violence and the breakdown of law and order and fear that I do not have the strength to live through any such matters – logically I understand that these have been normal parts of most human lives, but I can’t shake the sense that I’m too weak and sensitive and not cut out for any of it).

    I’ve practiced meditation almost daily for over a year now, but mostly the ‘mind-quietening’ type. It was this practice that forced me to look directly at what my subconscious knew – collapse – and after reading and listening to lots of thinkers in the space I settled on JMG as the most sane voice.

    But now I feel deeply lost – my husband and I were trying for our first child at the time, but that has come to an end because I have been overwhelmed by fear. I was hoping there might be some kind of magical or spiritual practice I could begin to incorporate to into my life to help me see clearer?

    Running head on into the myths of our civilisation, that I quietly knew were myths all along, has been extremely disorientating. My internal world is battling with whether there could be a meaning to all this (that this really is part of my souls journey) or that life has no meaning (I really struggle with imagining what lesson a soul could possibly need to learn by, for example, being a young girl born into a war torn country, sold so their family could eat food and raped and tortured for your life).

    I want to believe that there is a purpose, but there is a part of me that thinks there is a real point to Terror Management Theory – needing there to be a purpose is a way of managing the subconscious terror of knowing that you are no more significant than a potato in the grand scheme of things, that every trace of you will be wiped from this earth one day (according to the theory that’s why humans create religions and cultures, so that we can leave traces of ourselves behind in culture and can hope to ‘go on’ in some way after death). JMG what do know of/think of terror management theory and it’s application to the development of magic?

    Anyway, hope this slightly off-topic (but hopefully relevant) question is ok to ask here.

  15. To Grey Hat #3,

    I have had just enough exposure to classical Hebrew to be able to follow the discussion of pronunciation, spelling, and grammar in the very interesting article you linked to. I was exposed to the LBRP when I was an active member of the OTO. The butchered pronunciation, and the casual use of Hebrew divine titles as barbarous words of evocation in some Golden Dawn material that Crowley imported put me off it. Toward the end of the article, the author says in the politest way that most of the leaders of the HOGD were ignorant of Hebrew and not interested in learning it; that confirmed my initial impression about them.

    I was a child when Reform Judaism in the US switched from using Ashkenazic pronunciation to Sephardic pronunciation for prayer services. Reform Judaism originated in Germany in the nineteenth century so Ashkenazic pronunciation was the inherited custom. I presume the switch was made after the State of Israel adopted Sephardic pronunciation. I don’t know exactly when that happened, but the setting of the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah surely was done by an Ashkenazic Jew. It has a rhythm which puts the accents on the wrong syl LAH ble for a speaker of modern Israeli Hebrew, which must be as much of a trial for them as hitting the high notes in the Star-Spangled Banner is for Americans. I mention this because when I’m not thinking about it, I revert to Ashkenazic pronunciation of the phrases and prayers I learned as a small child. Israel Regardie did not have the benefit of having new habits reinforced by regular communal prayer, so it is understandable that his pronunciation vacillated.

    The theology of the Lord’s Prayer is compatible with Pharisaic Judaism. If the passage reflects authentic sayings, Jesus’s mother tongue was Aramaic. The people who asked him for a prayer were also Aramaic speakers, and some of them probably didn’t speak or understand much Hebrew, although the two languages are related. If Jesus composed the Lord’s Prayer, the version he taught might have been in Aramaic. It would be easier to get to a Hebrew version from Aramaic than from Koine Greek, a language with a different grammar and different mental categories. The bit at the end of the doxology (“for Thine is the Kingdom . . .”), the part that isn’t in all versions of the Gospel, is a phrase that turns up in a lot of Hebrew prayers, (transliterated) lay olam va-ed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think olam in Hebrew has a double meaning, “world” and “forever” or “eternally”, which gets Englished in some Christian prayers as “world without end”.

    There were synagogues in the time of Jesus. I don’t know whether they had prayer books or could afford them, though some synagogues could afford good quality mosaic floors. Old prayer scrolls or codices of that period or later might have survived in a genizah, since paper or parchment on which the name of God is written are not supposed to be thrown away. As you probably know, many of the prayers in a modern siddur postdate the first century. A number of important prayers were composed in various places during the Middle Ages. Your question about whether the Cabalistic Cross has any Hebrew models beyond the passage cited by Wikander is probably answerable. I don’t know enough to answer. I doubt it, for the reason Wikander gives. These people were not very interested in Jewish Cabalistic traditions or devotional practices.

    That’s all I’ve got. I hope it isn’t all painfully obvious.

  16. Picking up on Myriam’s point, the concepts active and passive are often used in cognitive semantics in a way that I think elucidates what Myriam is talking about. An active object has volition and intention while a passive object does not. Sometimes these are called the Agent and the Patient. Humans in their fullness are never patients unless they are eg. unconscious. Thus, as Kant said: a person is always to be treated as an end and never as a means.

    To use Myriam’s example of a seduction, both the man and the woman must be Agents in the seduction: they must want it. If a man approaches a woman but she rejects him, there is no seduction. So, it doesn’t matter who initiates the seduction, what matters is that both parties agree to it.

    So, I wonder if this is an example of the ternary? On the physical plane we have the interaction of two humans which gives rise to a higher meaning which is “seduction”. Would this meaning exist in Binah (“understanding”). If so, that would fit the theme of the chapter.

  17. JMG,

    I think Judas would be another option. He “belongs” to the good but does evil. Of course, then we get into certain logical issues. If Judas never betrayed Jesus, then the crucifixion would never have happened and mankind would not have been saved. I’m no Christian scholar but I believe there are interpretations where Judas was therefore seen as acting for the good in an analogous way that the anti-hero does ‘bad’ things to achieve good outcomes. This raises the further question of how time fits into all this. The thesis – antithesis – synthesis (often attributed to Hegel) is a ternary form but may take a long while to get to the resolution. What may appear to be a binary is just a ternary that hasn’t completed yet.

  18. You’ve said the best action is usually the mid-point between two extremes. Ternary thinking literally adds a new dimension to that. Visualising the halfway mark between two points is still really binary thinking and seeing in two dimensions. If you think of it in three dimensions and rotate the image, it could reveal the midpoint as actually the third point of a triangle that only shares one axis in common with the others, rather than two.

    When you get to three objects is also when complexity sets in, as in the three-body problem in physics. Amusingly the three-body problem is also a joke about the complex biomechanics of group sex.

  19. Question: An Armenian priest of my acquaintance once cited (in a sermon) an unnamed church father who compared the Trinity to the sun, its light, and the thing illuminated. When I asked, he did not remember his source, but thought it might be Ignatius of Antioch. (It does not seem to be.) Anybody know?

  20. Anonymous fearful one #15, the solution to fear is knowledge and competence. After going on the fire marshal course and learning to use an extinguisher, fire isn’t scary in the same way. I know this after enthusiastically putting out a car fire with a dry powder extinguisher.

    If you’re afraid of industrial collapse, read books by the engineers who will move heaven and earth to keeps the lights on (and get ideas for things you could do). Such as Crisis Managementin the Power Industry: An Inside Story by Frank Ledger and Howard Sallis. It’s also a guide to ruthless strikebreaking but we’ll leave that aside for the moment. If you’re afraid of violence, and live in America, your options are an embarrassment of riches: It’s easy to get overwhelmed by abstractions. Once you know specifics and options, the fear melts away. As an added bonus, the more sensitive you are – the better victory and revenge feels.

    I never understood people saying they were doing children a favour by not having them. It’s like when you realise that food animals’ reward for the mass adoption of veganism would be to mostly cease to exist. Some of my ancestors were slaves in Latin America and they still managed to breed in harsh circumstances.

    Back in my atheist materialist days I had a saying – “Needing things to have meaning is the crutch of a weak mind.” Even now that I think there may be meaning, I think it’s still a good basic priciple. Like when Tony Stark says to Spiderman “If you’re not enough without the suit, you’ll never be enough with it.”

  21. Hello, @Anonymous_fearful_one

    That kind of meditation you were doing is useful for peacing the mind and it gives control over your emotions, but this practice alone is not enough to offer you answers.

    What we aim is to be able to choose our actions based on what we *want* to do, not on what we are *supposed* to do or *told* to do. To achieve this you need a clear mind. If you are blocked by your fears then you can’t think clearly. In the occult jargon, that’s the etheric, realm of passions. This is the plane that is more easily affected by the physical plane. In other words, your physical actions have a rather direct effect on your passions. A basic ritual which our host always reccomend is the daily practice of the Sphere of Protection, he has provided a tutorial in his ecosophia site. There are others, but this looks easy even for noobs.

    If you think we are all doomed and there’s nothing to be done, then you will do nothing and will fail for sure. If you give hope a place (which the ritual can help you with), then you will try something and you might fail too, but you might as well succeed. Fear is so self-defeating. One thing that has helped me in this process, was to change the word ‘problems’ for the word ‘challenges’. Another thing was the realization that by doing something I may fail, but failing is also a learning experience, while not doing anything is the real failure. (I failed so many times to bake sourdough bread before I succeded!).
    I was given the same advice long ago, but then I wasn’t ready to really understand the words and put them into practice. It took me a personal crisis to get out of my zone of comfort and try new things.

    Control over your fears is the first step. Then, you can work to reduce what causes you to fear, by preparing, as much as you can, for what’s ahead. Do you know what’s ahead? You have some collapsist suspicions, but how will things actually develop for you and your family? Divination is a classic occult tool that makes no sense, but that fails less often than our guts expectations. If you are not comfortable with divination, then remember that things rarely come to the extremes. Think what’s the best and the worst that can happen, and the thing that actually happens most of the time is something in between.
    In other words, hope for the best, plan for the worst, Preppers have an emergency bag with all they might need if they are given five minutes to abandon the house: documents, contacts, money, first aid, water, swiss knife, … I don’t know if they will ever use it, but it surely must be a relief to have one if you fear you might have to run from your house someday.

    I’d say that it is also very important that you learn to think by yourself. I thought I was an independent thinker, but now I think I was just repeating the last ideas that I read and liked. The tool for independent thinking that is sponsored here is the ‘discursive meditation’. It’s a very focused and intensive way of studying. This works as follows: you pick some data, you study them for a few minutes the discursive way (in discurse you expose one idea and the opposite, or explore several facets of the same topic), then rummage for the whole day or days on the subject. Useful questions: How accurate is the data? Is the source reliable? Is this interpretation the best one? Are there reasonable alternative explanations? Be prepared to change your opinons. When you are done, you get a new piece of the puzzle, one that works better than your older ones. Eventually you see a whole puzzle that works better and it was you who made it.
    Was it good? Then repeat this daily. Brains need exercise, you know?

  22. JMG: …yes, I could make a little notebook to accompany this and try and at least file some notes on the I Ching stuff that Levi talks about. I may do that. Though my knowledge of I Ching is quite limited, this would be a chance to learn.

    Also, I know the main Gnostic texts weren’t discovered until after Levi’s time, but I did wonder about the possibility of some the Gnosticism being transmitted orally, as is claimed by some Gnostic schools/orders. (Of course that could be just the standard operating procedure of occult groups claiming ancient lineages.) I’m thinking here specifically of those claimed by The Gnostic Sanctuary:
    The modern order claims to have origins in Southern France. (I do realize there was a popular novel written about some of this stuff, but I never actually read it, so it hasn’t really colored my thinking on this.) And Levi is from France, so was kind of speculating that perhaps there was a connection.

    The esoteric links between Miriam, Mary, Mary Magdalene, etc. is something that’s interested me for awhile.

    However, it seems likely that John the Baptist was an Essene. & of course there are teachings that Jesus himself was an Essene. John the Apostle is a different figure than John the Baptist… but the resonance of names is interesting in the same way that there are two Mary’s in the New Testament. I was looking into Johannine Christianity in terms of some remarks you made here or on the other blog about Apostolic succession, recently, so this is in line with that.

    It’ll all be a lot to study to further and meditate further on. It is great that this is also helping to deepen my knowledge of esoteric Christianity.

  23. JMG, Greek is a ternary language. Apart from masculine and feminine it also sports neutral nomina. “Pneuma”, though ending in alpha – often indicating a feminine – is of 3rd declination neutral gender, “to pneuma -atos”, plural “ta pneumata”, which makes “Agia Pneuma” for “Holy Spirit” grammatically unsound, it should be “agion pneuma”.
    From wikipedia, I gather that in biblical texts “Holy Spirit” was rendered into Greek, from Aramaic “ruach”, as “Pneuma” plain, leaving out “agion”. On the other hand, an “unclean spirit” earned an epithet and was called “pneuma akatharton”, plural “pneumata akatharta”.
    I hope this doesn’t upset your argument too much, for I’m always impressed by your ability to give expression to your great learning.

  24. Anonymous_fearful_one because life matters now. It has been both worse and better than now, over and over for milennia, and it was still worth it. To most people anyway. We’re not at all unique. We’re not at all special. We’re not in any more danger than usual. In fact, in most places people are reading this life is still better, safer, more legal, and less capricious than the last 2,000 years. Get the 30 years stats: Violence, sharp down. Life expectancy, long up. Infant mortality, 10x higher than any time previous to 1900. Environment, cleaner than since 1900. What’s not to like?

    To me, the issue is CONNECTION. Although the ancient natives of your area had wildly higher infant mortality, far higher risks, far harder conditions, they had MEANING. That’s what makes life worthwhile. To brain.

    Connection to earth means you have the earth, nature, speak to you, your body, your self, and say “Life.” It’s only your brain, super-heated with social media and what are generally, provably, repeated lies and irrelevancies from lairs and irrelevant people that are strangers to you, that say, “hold up.” They say “Fear NOW”, not “Fear not.” Same with your partner.

    Connection means this (mental) world doesn’t have to be perfect because life and experience is worth it right now, so obviously it will be worth it a day or a year from now. Mind cannot make this meaning on its own; it’s a mirror. It needs an anchor a ‘real’ subject to reflect or gets lost in its own whirlwind. Called “fantasy,” “Delusion”. That anchor, long forgot, is the earth, the deeper universe you are tapped into and made of, where the colorful antics of mind are but a slim layer, barely worth considering. You, your partner, and your child are much more than that. But action of being physical, and being human, you have an infinite heritage back the energy-patterns from the first atom, and most of your life is made of that, not mind and thinking at all. So, capture and re-internalize ALL of what it is to be “human”.

  25. Greetings JMG and Fellow Magic Lovers

    For those interested in the Lord’s Prayer as related to the Tree of Life, as well as the main energy centers (chakras) of the body, I’ve uploaded some photos from the following resource by Master Choa Kok Sui:

    “Universal and Kabbalistic Chakra Meditation on the Lord’s Prayer”

    They’re the files beginning “TreeOfLife” and “LordsPrayer”


    The reference to the “sex” chakra is the sacral chakra; and the “base” chakra is the root chakra.

    The Meng Mein and Spleen “chakras” are important chi / Qi centers in various Eastern traditions.

    I found these correspondences really opened up to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Lord’s Prayer.

    Sending waves of bliss ~ •


  26. Youngelephant #1 Interesting you mention the Christ Pantocrator icons. Having Orthodox relatives, and often going to Orthodox services throughout my life, Ive oft noticed the similarities between Norman Christian, Orthadox and Celtic Christian icons. There is even the idea that pre Patrick, Irish Christianity, which would have been “Orthadox” at the time, was woven into the Druidry of the time, and it was the Druid “snakes” Patrick drove out. Which wasn’t that successful until after the Great Schism of 1054, leading to anything Orthodox-ish being removed from Roman churches.
    Myriam #9 I constantly have to remind myself of when Levi wrote this, and the times he lived, and unclench my teeth. Consider that the Wirth deck is from the 1880’s, and the Knapp-Hall is 1929. Comparing them to each other and a modern deck, there are major differences. Why JMG insists on particular decks.
    A suggestion for anonymous #15…. that one or at most 2 people respond? She could easily be overwhelmed by good intentions. Course this being JMG’s blog, Id totally defer to him, and what anonymous feels. That being said, I’m going to stick my nose in, and suggest she change “fearful” to “faithful” was the word that came up. Words DO have meaning, and subtle powers

  27. JMG,

    Well, now, that is very good news! I will try to understand what he is saying, and maybe see if I can find a different metaphor, one that doesn’t curl my toes quite so badly. Thank you.

  28. i don’t know how to wade in here because i’m still carrying tendrils of unfinished, unwritten thoughts from chapter 2.

    but my best friend, James, went out on a blind date i set up for him, and without his vaccine passport, he was made to sit outside in the cold with a faulty heat lamp, and even during discussions his date, an asian girl, said he as a white man has no right to complain or say anything anymore. she had no problem with it. she shrugged it off as an inevitability.

    this from a girl who was once my literary agent in early 2000s, and came back to offer me a video teaching gig because her office of white/asians took an anti-racist class and realized they needed to “diversify” and hire “others.” / that’s why they came to me: for diversity.

    they were so racist, she didn’t even realize how condescending that would be to me.

    i’m used to that. blew it off. but when i heard about the date, and how it’d never work because he wasn’t vaccinated and her roommate would freak out, i realized we’re at that point Baldwin was horrified about. we’ve just re-niggrified others all over again.

    enraged because it’s my best friend, i was inspired to make arm band/face mask combinations with the 6-pointed star of David, but in bright corporate IKEA colors and googly eyes or expressions like a wrinkled mouth or frown.

    i’m taking Carl’s Jr. star and melding it with the star of David for an armband and realize getting beat up over dancing was mere practice for this, for where i have to go.

    i’ve tried talking myself out of this. it’s so WRONG.

    but it’s so RIGHT.

    after re-connecting with hidden interpretations or archetypes via these cards and this Papa G practice, it seems so OBVIOUS what i have to do.

    but i’m terrified.

    i’ve also realized that with censorship rampant, i need to make clothing or sew or make ANYTHING that is as if Sam Kinison were a visual artist. i have to scream without words because all that is going on here in this once freak-flag-flying city cum totalitarian town is leaving me speechless– not in awe, but like the air got punched hard out of me.

    my birthday was august 10 and so it’s my New Year where i recommit to being more of ME and THIS. but we watched Gary Cooper’s western classic “High Noon,” and it was a worse horror story than The Body Snatchers for me because people are soooo much weaker and frankly pathetic now than i fantasized they were THEN.

    i wanted to ask what the alternative meanings for triangles are a couple of days ago and thankfully another installment was up here. i know it’s wrong to ask for direct ANSWERS, especially when i’m in play and it’s all an experiment ANYHOW, to see how people REACT…

    but i’m trying to find the THIRD other blended meaning, which may not be fully in …understanding? expression? … i struggle and claw at words in this place i’m in. i feel feral and am going with the nausea of: “I CANNOT POSSIBLY ‘appropriate’ THE STAR OF DAVID! THAT IS SACRED!”

    …or IS it? and it’s already been commodified and rendered a joke via what the Israeli state has done to Palestinians.

    i grew up partially in cherry hill new jersey where a lot of affluent Jewish folks were, and grew up with multiple “WE WILL NOT FORGET” memorials to the slain during the holocaust, but it seems no one else REMEMBERS anything anymore.

    and these cards remind me: ALL IMAGES BELONG TO EVERYONE.

    this fear of “appropriation” is anti-artist, anti-creativity, anti-growth, anti-LIFE.

    and thus i have to RE-appropriate a symbol, a religious symbol used as oppression, it’s so horrid… but why can people casually call everyone else Nazis? then this other side must be fair game…

    however! — if not careful it falls into the BINARY trap of victim/oppressor and i’m out that game. i now back to thinking it’s a lie, a choice. i could get slayed for saying THAT alone.

    i’ve tried the abused child victim shtick, as well as colored girl or female victim shtick. they’re all boring passive and a trap.

    so what is this THIRD way of making these arm bands, especially now that i’ve also figured out how to make covid-like POM POMS on the ties?

    RIDICULE. it’s time to return to Springtime for Hitler level of ridicule.

    however, as an artist in play, i have my own goals– theatrical goals. this is not necessarily to be worn by others (it’d take a LOT to expect someone to actually wear one in real life), but it takes the piss out of all this. it makes one LAUGH.

    a gallows laugh.

    the symbol, the armband is really a way of us finding EACH OTHER. not of being identified as their lowly “negro,” but a way of dismissing anyone who gets huffy as NOT your people. you cannot argue. we are past arguing.

    you cannot flash facts and expect peace.

    i am kicking up my audacity because we are all so isolated and scamper in and out of our abodes now. the innerwebs and the magic phones are censored surveillance devices. we need flashes of recognition for each other that can happen in mere seconds.

    i’m not afraid of the people who steal from walgreen’s. i’m afraid of the liberal elite gentrifiers who’ve already lost their minds and attacked me for making THEM feel “uncomfortable” by simply dancing outside my own apartment or on my own neighborhood’s streets.

    this may fail miserably. i am offering them as forms of my new “zine.” a limited signed edition of 100. i plan on actually wearing them to SEE what happens. i’ve already planned on being cowboy-silent if it inspires more of their hostility.

    the moment someone bursts out laughing as i did when i doodled the googly eyes as soooo sooo very WRONG… so wrong it was RIGHT.. because when i laugh like that, i have to obey even as i get nausea at the idea of actually making them.

    but THREE… i am the liberal elite’s “intersectionalism” incarnate, so i know it’s POSSIBLE.

    (all this and i haven’t even gotten back to Random Acts of Karma’s insight about Isis and Osiris, which is why i wrote on my own site about the late Wardy Joubert, a 5D love affair of mine at the gym when he knew why i danced outside in the sun when i was in agony… and he came up and kissed me outside and we were there kissing for an hour… and then later when he died and the creepy innerweb world made him a meme by posting his porn photo and making tshirts and towels out of his image.. and i thought of the fish eating Osiris’ penis and she had to fashion a new one as it was the only piece of him they couldn’t find, and i wrote about Wardy with that horrid image of him to take back what “the fish” ate, because i wanted his kids anyone who loved him, to have a more interesting deep image of their father’s power that was twisted for cheap tricks in this world).

    i’m in play and it’s my birthday time.. please forgive the leaky messes. i’m trying to put forth confusing other ways, catch people off guard.

    i felt it when i saw a couple of white guys cowering behind their masks in the produce section and laughing when i called out how racist san francisco was turning. they giggled with me under their masks like it wasn’t allowed!

    so i raised my voice even higher to the entire half of the store: “let’s balance things out while i’m here, shall we?” and i lifted my fist in a power sign and said, “WHITE POWER!” and the guys laughed like tiny lizards under rocks and everyone else looked away in HORROR because they didn’t know WHAT to do with this silver haired colored woman and a push up bra yelling WHITE POWER!

    and i knew what my job is now. but if you’re not careful these things kick back on you brutally.
    thanks for this THIRD WAY.

    in the off-balance mode… that’s where you can fly in an idea or upend everything. look what they’ve DONE.


  29. I like how Knapp-Hall goes big on the symbolism. The others have a crest with an eagle, Knapp-Hall has an actual eagle. And a huge, almost Aztec-style sun.

  30. On Lévi’s unconscious cultural spirit-of-his-time sexism:

    I’ve been learning to substitute the word “receptive” for “passive.”

    Also, to think not in terms of human gender polarities (masculine/feminine), but in terms of complementary energetic principles.


    Thank you youngelephant for your comment about Jung’s transcendent function!

    “…the symbol brings together body, mind and soul, through the creative imagination, constantly transforming…” ~ Marion Woodman

  31. Fearful One, a lot of people are asking themselves questions like this right now. That’s a good sign, since the first requirement of dealing with the world is waking up enough to take a good clear look at it, but yes, it can be very difficult! The first thing to do is to accept that you’re scared, and that your fear is shaping how you experience the world — in effect, filtering everything through fear-colored goggles. The second thing to do is to notice that there are quite a few people — indeed, entire industries — that thrive by making you feel frightened and powerless. “You can’t bear to live without me!” — that’s the message being pushed at you by the entire structure of modern industrial society.

    It’s a lie. Many people, including quite a few who read and comment on this blog, have let go of the various trinkets and toys that industrial society offers you in exchange for your freedom and your strength. Many people, including some who read and comment here, have been through the kind of rough times we can expect to get; remember that for a great many people right here in the United States, the last half century or so has been a rising spiral of poverty, misery, violence, and disintegration. The world of “work, buy, consume, die” that’s been pushed at you all your life is not all there is.

    I don’t have any specific recommendations for where you should go to reconnect with the sense of meaning that’s been taken from you by our society, because I don’t know what your background is; my path — the path of Druidry — may or may not be suitable for you. Don’t let yourself be buffaloed by theories intended to keep you in your rut, and see what calls to your heart. That’s the best advice I can offer just now.

    Simon, every object in the world of manifestation is both active and receptive. In the world we experience with our senses, there are no things that are always active and never passive, nor are there things that are always passive and never active. Humans are always patients and always agents — they are affected by things and they affect things. Lévi was well aware of this. Now meditate on what he was trying to do by defining God as he’s done. As for Judas, good! One way of generalizing from that is to speak of an antivillain — a person who checks all the hero boxes, as an antihero checks all the villain boxes, but who accomplishes evil instead of good. (There are plenty of those just now.)

    Yorkshire, excellent! Anyone who’s ever watched poly drama unfold knows that the three-body problem is just as insoluble when the bodies are human…

    Bei Dawei, I’m not sure of the source, but it’s something I’ve seen many times.

    Justin, I have no reason to doubt that Tau Rosamonde was contacted by a group of French Gnostics — there have been quite a few of those around since not long after Lévi’s time, and my episcopal lineage also goes back to the French Gnostic revival. Does her Gnostic lineage go back before, oh, 1870 or so? There’s zero evidence for that, and I tend to doubt it, for the same reason I tend to doubt Wiccan grandmother stories. That doesn’t make Tau Rosamonde’s tradition invalid — it just means that it probably doesn’t date back as far as she thinks. (Her apostolic succession is another matter entirely — she was consecrated by Tau Stephan Hoeller and +Herman Spruit among others, and their apostolic succession is uncontestable.)

    Ronald, thanks for this. I looked into it and see that I was misinformed; I have therefore corrected the post.

    Tanya, thanks for this.

    Myriam, by all means! One of the challenges in dealing with older occult literature is that familiar metaphors have changed considerably and may not work well.

    Erika, thank you for another burst of high energy! Happy birthday, and may you rattle their cages good and hard.

    Yorkshire, that’s one of the many things I like about that deck. It goes all out.

    Goldenhawk, that works.

  32. Thanks JMG!

    I’d like to learn more about the French Gnostic revival. Any pointers? Did it grow out Martinism?

    …a guick internet search… turns up the following lead of the Gnostic Church of France one Jules Doinel. Looking even briefly at Doinel seems to confirm the Martinist connection. It seems the E.G.C. was born of this. That is a bit of history I never knew, but I don’t know a lot about Martinism. All this French stuff is awesome BTW. So much to read and explore and work to do.

    I don’t know Tau Rosamonde but I agree that the lineage probably doesn’t go back before 1870. I hear you about Wiccan grandmother stories… and this does seem to smell like a Gnostic variety of the same.

    It is interesting that some of these streams of spirituality began reemerging after the discovery of the Pistis Sophia in 1773.

    …Cathars, Gnostics, Essenes, oh my!…

  33. Oh, Dear Dear Papa G-

    thanks for the kind words. i read ’em earlier and had to go cry.

    now i’m back to say: i didn’t realize i was flinging what i’m doing before you like meat on a string to see what you’d say, if anything. if i ASK you for a warning, you won’t give it. i figured if i just drag what i’m doing by you, then you’d say think or OFFER a warning if you saw me courting obvious quick and dirty danger.

    i saw a recent clip of Bill Maher faltering before his audience and realized, “comedy is totally OVER. it’s time to find the new boundary that twists necks again.”

    but when you wish me a happy birthday and thank me for my ENERGY, it’s a wink to keep on keepin’ on.

    thanks, Papa G. i’m struggling to step up because i know Now is The Time. and suicide – either the living or the dead one – is easier to write about in the future or past tense but makes me squeamish squirmy and nauseous with terror and fear of living it as a true action VERB in the present tense.


  34. A big difference between this and the previous card. The Priestess had elements of secrecy – the hood, keys and book, and the mysteries concealed by the curtain. The Empress has none of that – she’s broad daylight majesty.

    What’s the crescent-shaped thing she has a foot on?

  35. For the Trinity, Tripartite, or Trenary system of Levi’s have some of its roots in the French language’s inclusion of the impersonal first person pronoun, which shows up in British English but has dropped out of American English? The French say “Il pleut comme la vache XXX” Translation: It rains as the cow XXX.” or “On dit . . .” Translation, “One says” or “They say.” The British upper classes use the impersonal “One ought to see to it that . . .” or “One wants to ensure . . .” or “One never knows, does one, that Scots will always wear kilts. One finds the odd person who will wear morning dress instead to a wedding.” “One” remains in the British upper class lexicon as the impersonal “I” pronoun.

  36. I have been reading this and Levi, meditating on the cards and writing down thoughts. I’ve also started working through the steps in the Law of Blame of the Octagon Society work from your Dreamwidth page, much of which reminds me of The Mankind Project work I did years ago, based on Jungian archetypes and the writings of Robert Bly on mythology and initiation.

    I have worked with various Tarot decks over the years, but something has shifted in my thinking about it. Rather than thinking of it as something like a medium, like the Word arising as I need it, I have begun to feel it is more like a map of myself. I am the fool and all the cards. I’m not sure where that map leads but I am on the path, one chapter/card at a time. Thank you for the guidance.

  37. @ JMG and Goran:

    It’s been quite a while since I’ve read The Great Triad, but my recollection is that Guenon discussed Chinese esotericism and religious thought at considerable length in that particular work. I have read a lot of Guenon’s books in English translation and in my view, The Great Triad was one of his better and more interesting ones.

  38. Justin, it’s more that Martinism and modern Gnosticism were born in the same village and grew up playing together. They (and several other things, such as the alchemical revival) all unfolded from the cultural ferment that Lévi’s book kickstarted. It’s an amazingly rich field of study — how’s your French? There’s a lot there that hasn’t been translated yet.

    Erika, keep on keeping on! The present is much more brittle than it looks. We live in a Potemkin nation of empty facades where one good push could bring everything crashing down.

    Yorkshire, it’s the Moon.

    Jenxyz, interesting. That’s a good point.

    William, excellent! Yes, that’s one of the secrets of the deck.

    Galen, interesting. I may take a look at it, then.

  39. Off topic but worth noting…

    Curiously enough, David Brin just tried to post another saliva-flecked rant here denouncing me for the post I did back at the beginning of June in which I mentioned that the two of us agree about some things, and discussed the collapse of public trust in science. At least in my experience, this is out of character for him; devout believers in the religion of progress typically brush aside us heretics as quickly as possible and go back to prostrating themselves before the Flying Spaghetti Spaceship that’s going to take us all to infinity. It might be worth watching to see if this kind of brittleness becomes more general among devotees of that faith.

  40. Erica Lopez (no 31), the “Star of David” is by no means an exclusively Jewish symbol. It is used in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism (for example, in the Vajrayogini mandala). I forget which book this is in, but Gershom Scholem writes somewhere about how it became a Jewish symbol. Going by memory here, but it was apparently a magical image first, and associated with King Solomon on that basis. Followers of the messianic claimant Sabbatai Zevi wore badges in that shape (guess he was into magic?), emblazoned with the text “Messiah, Son of David” which may be where the association with David comes from. Christopher Wren then used it in his architecture, thinking that synagogues needed a symbol of their own, like the cross on Christian churches.

  41. Justin Patrick Moore (no. 24), the idea that Jesus was an Essene goes back to the Enlightenment. For example, Humphrey Prideaux was a Deist writing in 1717. Around 1800, Karl Friedrich Venturini wrote a four-volume novel about Jesus which agreed that Jesus, his father Joseph, and Joseph of Aramathea were all Essenes. (But the disciples were not fully initiated, and misunderstood Jesus’s teachings.) Later Karl Friedrich Bahrdt argued this, and named the Masons as the Essenes modern continuation. I’m getting all this from Per Beskow, “Strange Tales about Jesus: A Survey of Unfamiliar Gospels” (1983).

    Basically, the Essenes were known from Josephus, Philo, and Pliny the Elder, who also discuss other Jewish sects like the Pharisees and Sadducees. Since Jesus curses the Pharisees and Sadducees, but does not mention the Essenes, this suggested to some that he *was* an Essene. Also, it was noticed that John the Baptist was active in an area near one of the Essene locations mentioned by Pliny–which also matches the location of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. For a discussion of whether the Qumran sect ought to be identified with the “Essenes” mentioned by these ancient writers, see James Charlesworth, “Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls” (1994).

    The Qumran sect reminds me a bit of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. If Jesus did have any connection with them, it couldn’t have been a very happy one, since the reason they were out there in the desert was to preserve their spiritual purity. Meanwhile, Jesus was known to hang out with prostitutes, collaborators, etc,! But there may well have been other, less strict groups in the towns. It’s just that we have zero evidence of Jesus having any Essene ties–unless you count raw geography, in which case God help anybody who tries to reach conclusions about my religious beliefs based on who my neighbors are!

  42. For anyone who is using the Knapp-Hall deck (the one you can see here

    Any ideas what the eyes on the steps represent?

    At first, I thought the steps would represent the Worlds, like on the Papesse, but the floor isn’t black and white (like on the Papesse), so I’m thinking no.

    The top step has three eyes, so the Supernal Triad (Kether-Chokmah-Binah), maybe?

    But then five and seven? My brain is too full of dualities and trinities and quaternaries…

    I also noticed eyes on the shield of the Emperor card, facing the cardinal directions, so I thought those might represent the Elements.

    So then maybe five is the four Elements, plus Spirit/Ether?

    Would that be a representation/reflection of the Unity? (If yes, then maybe the seven is for the Tiphereth, which is Sphere 7, which is a reflection of Kether…)

    Or could the seven be for the seven classical planets?

    Any other ideas out there? 🙂

  43. “This approach was standard all through the Christian end of the occult scene until quite recent times; a case could doubtless be made that it would be worth reviving today.”

    For what it’s worth, on my Read Old Things blog I’ve been making my way (slowly) through the Gospel of Matthew, approaching it from this point of view. I’ve been specifically drawing on Levi, but also Dion Fortune, Plato, Plotinus and Neoplatonism generally– as well as Catholic theology.

    The whole thing can be read at . A recent post I did, summarizing the Beatitudes as a system of occult initiation, might be an interesting introduction to the whole series; it can be found here: . In the discussion of the final Beatitudes, I referenced your last post in this series:

    “Some months back, in one of his discussions of Dion Fortune’s The Cosmic Doctrine, JMG quoted J.R.R. Tolkien’s discussion of the elves and other magical beings in the Lord of the Rings who have lived in the “Blessed Realm,” the home of the gods:

    “‘those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power.’

    “What Jesus is telling us is not that we oughtn’t mind persecution because we’ll be happy later. We won’t be happy later, but we will be happy now, while we are being persecuted, even though we are being persecuted. By following his initiatic path and beholding the face of God, we will dwell in both worlds at once. As Plato says, we will “keep our eye fixed” on the “universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual.”

    “This more than anything else shows us how so many of the early saints went willingly, even gladly to their deaths. Dwelling in the Heavens even while their bodies moved about the Earth, they had no need to fear torment or pain, and when death came, it was only the severing of the final bonds which tied them to the material reality. And so they did not die, but rose from this tomb of matter to the True Life of the spirit.”

  44. I’m off on a few tangents and I’m probably a bit behind by now because I’ve been reading more of the Greek myths referenced in the Introduction. Aeschylus’ The Seven Against Thebes finally arrived in the mail today, so I can finish the Oedipus sequence referenced already. I have Jason and the Argonauts all ready to go after I finish The Golden Ass. This material really does seem relevant to this material, I’ll have more to say when I collect some of my notes together, but for now I’d like to emphasize how good these stories are! The Golden Ass, for example, is a fantastic, readable, wonderful book in its own right, even without all the material related to Lévi in it.

  45. @JMG
    Any chance the rant could be spliced into the original post?


    My first thought was “the eye in the pyramid”, symbolizing awareness/control of everything going on in the human-accessible parts of the Tree of Life. This goes with the Royal Purple throw shawl and the foot on the moon; she’s taking care of business.

    The eyes add up to 15, the number of paths on the Golden Dawn Tree of Life connecting everything below Daath/Iau, including the path to it from Tipareth/Muner.

    If you squint right, the Empress could scan as Michael or Lucifer–the “devil” that rules the world.

    I’m as interested in the number of “rays” of the sun equaling 29, which if I have the math right equals all of the paths and sefirots up to and including Binah/Dofydd.

    Still can’t figure out the 9 stars over her crown, though.

  46. Ooooh, Papa G! thanks for that. you took a heavy wet raccoon coat of fear off my shoulders.

    and to anyone actually paying attention to what i’m doing in case you wanna be inspired for your own upsets at home, when i say “third way” being “ridicule,” it’s just a place holder, a way of being and doing and handling all this to avoid the quicksand pitfalls of the now-ubiquitous helpless passive despair until the much better, creative and constructive third way comes up.

    on my birthday i was wondering who i’d confess my current secrets to so that someone could riff and improve or avoid what i do, and so i guess it’s youse guys.



  47. RandomActsOfKarma # 45 According to the book Revised New Art Tarot, which is specifically for the Knapp-Hall deck, She states that in the Empress card “Nature is seated upon a triple throne. The steps are her witnesses, for generation manifests through the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms. The eyes upon the steps signify divine hierarchies imprisoned temporarily in matter”
    This book has all the cards in color, along with a lot of text. There is aversion that is NOT in color, so check which one you get. Hope this helps

  48. @RandomActsOf Karma:

    And then there’s this from a very old, very odd song I and others used to sing now and then when we were children:

    “What is your number?
    “Nine for the nine Bright Shiners,
    Eight for the April Rainers,
    Seven for the Seven Stars in the sky,
    Six for the Six Proud Walkers,
    Five for the symbols at your door,
    “One is One and All Alone,
    And ever more shall be so.”

    (No, I really don’t think that it’s a set of riddles with definite answers. It’s a set of provocations toward wisdom.)

  49. Random, good. Eyes in the Knapp-Hall deck are symbols of wisdom. 3, 5, and 7 are the number of steps in the stair that leads to wisdom in a certain very old symbolism; in alchemical language (one of their many interpretations) 3 is the three principles, salt, sulphur, and mercury; five is the five elements, and seven is the seven planets.

    Steve, I’m delighted to hear this.

    Jbucks, excellent! You get today’s Tall Pointed Wizard Hat for doing the work with enthusiasm.

    Jeffrey, nope. It’s full of schoolyard insults and general nastiness, and I have no interest in giving that a platform. If Brin wants to comment here he can learn to keep a civil tongue in his head, just like anyone else.

    Erika, just one of the services I offer. 😉

    Robert, a fine strange song, in many variants — it has its own Wikipedia page, which for a change is not too inaccurate.

  50. Regarding the nine stars above her head, human generation from conception to birth takes 9 months.

    Also 3 squared = 9

  51. Hi All

    With regards to the 9 stars above the Empress’ head, here’s my interpretation…

    Numerically, 9 is the final number, signifying wholeness and completion. Those leaning toward Eastern traditions will note then the significance of 108 (1 + 0 + 8 = 9).

    The title of the chapter “The Triangle of Solomon”, is the formation of Kether, Chokmah and Binah. The trinity or 3 as 1. This trinity makes up the world of Atziluth (archetypes).

    If we multiply 3 x 3, we get 6 – which then relates to the next world or realm on the Tree of Life, that being Briah (creation). 6 also relates to the 6th sephirot, Tiphereth.

    This also relates to the 6 pointed star – as above, so below.

    3 x 3 x 3 = 9, which relates to the next realm being Yetzirah (formation). 9 on the Tree of Life, relates to Yesod which means “Foundation” – another clue.

    So each of these realms or worlds, consisting of 3 sephirot, all begin with the first trinity – the 3 as 1. The symbols they make are all triangles.

    So, if you superimpose these 3 triangles on top of each other, you get a 9 pointed star.

    The 9 pointed star also relates to “wholeness” and “completion”.

    It is the brightest “star” – the revealer of order in chaos and oneness of all.

    It is significant in understanding that despite the seeming “chaos”, the friction and tension that is caused by dualistic thinking and living – a state of being, there is a solid foundation, originating from Kether (1) of complete wisdom (chokmah) and understanding (binah) – Perfect and Divine Order.

    If you view the 3 as 1, and beginning from 1, kether of the Tree of Life, moving through DA’ATH – down the middle pillar, you get Tiphereth (6), Yesod (9), and then Malkuth (10 – which is actually just 1 again), Kingdom.

    So it may be then that wherever the Tree of Life is applied to whatever system (human vessel, societal, planetary, universal etc), where there is wisdom and understanding – and the balance between the two (this will also relate to the other “opposite” sephirot on the Pillars of the Tree) – it may be said that “heaven” is on Earth.

    Or perhaps, from this state of BEing… Malkuth (Kingdom) – the physical realm IS the spiritual realm. ie there is no division… it’s ALL ONE.

    It also helps to visualize or imagine the sephirot, not hierarchically structured as on the Tree of Life, but instead as beginning with a point – with the sephirot as circles emanating from that original point.

    The final sephirot then (Malkuth – 10) can then be seen as a circle encompassing / “holding” / containing all the preceding sephirot or circles.

    Which then may also be likened to the dragon eating it’s tail.

    Anyway… some thoughts to reflect upon 🙂

    Waves of love ~ •


  52. Looking at a larger image I realise that’s a balustrade or bannister behind her. From the original picture I was looking at, I thought she was in the middle of a courtyard and there was a huge palace in the distance. That certainly seemed to fit in with the rest of the grandeur.

    Is there significance to the big piece of cloth she has draped over her right arm? No occult symbolism jumped to mind – maybe it was a royal gesture that meant something at the time.

    In the Wirth version there’s a flower next to her. This contrasts with Le Bateleur who has a plant or flower between his legs. I was thinking for him that would be a sexual or scatological reference. Makes sense as I see him having a very earthy existence – as a scoundrel living life on the road, going to the bathroom in the bushes and having a woman in every town. And since reading Narcissus and Goldmund, it’s difficult to think of that as anything but the Goldmund card. 🙂 But for her, while she’s still connected to life, she’s more life-adjacent.

  53. Hey, JMC

    While I’m just getting into the swing of the exercises Learning Ritual Magic (just finishing up on the first week of lesson 2), and reading the Mystical Qabalah (on my own time as I got at least five out of the six books recommended). Is it recommended that I take on this monthly book club or should I wait till the iron has cooled off somewhat and play a game of catch up? Apparently I’m playing a game of Schrodinger’s Marseille’s deck with local businesses, but I at least got the translation that you and mark worked on I can use to follow along in the mean time.

  54. To Fearful One

    I just wanted to point out that motherhood can be a very spiritual path for the right person. I always thought I was too weak and sensitive for the world, turns out I was wrong. The same things that made me think I was weak turned out to be part of something stronger. Mothers wear their strength inside, sitting up for the 15th time that night for the I don’t want to tell you how many days in the row with an upset infant is soft, it is certainly not weak, (don’t take that as an advert for motherhood, I had world record bad sleepers) but the same traits that give you the strength to do that, get perceived as weakness in society. Once you have children you have a vested interest in society and the future, a dedicated mother is the heart, she knits, binds and keeps everyone well behaved, put her in the right place and she keeps a community healthy. Mommas may be a bigger part of the solution than society gives them credit for.

  55. @JMC #42

    I’ve read his latest blog, but I cannot find the screed in which he refers to you in his blog (I found the accusation made against you in the link you posted, but I don’t know which blog of his he’s referring to). Can I just say that I cant really take someone seriously when they legitimately do have dissent on their post, say an anonymous communist, coming and flapping their gums to him, he goes on an attack and in a way “pulls rank”. in conjunction with spitting some rather true statements about Karl Marx and his philosophy, also combines the falsehood that FDR wasn’t the same breed of progressive idealist that Marx was and offered something entirely different. While it was different like he said from the beginning, the results are the exact same. one is just playing a short bloody game rather than that of a slow and steady game that compounds in interest. Reading some of his things, I was constantly thinking the typical insult of my generation towards the like of his “Ok Boomer”. I agree with some of his sentiments, don’t get me wrong, but the lack of self awareness leaves much to be desired.

  56. @Robert Mathiesen, @marlena13, @Jeffrey Pikul: Thanks very much for your responses. I will be ruminating on them today. 🙂 (And I’ll be thinking about the 9 stars, too!)

    @JMG, Thank you for what the numbers represent. I think there is more to it than what you are saying, so I will work on that and report back. 🙂

  57. Hi John Michael,

    Out of sheer curiosity, is the introduction of more than the ternary choices into a situation, also an act of magic designed to befuddle the recipient of the multi-layered options who may not be suitably schooled or even alert to the possibility? It reminds me of the awful confrontation to the senses which is encountering the bizarre quantity of differing toothpaste brands and formulas. 😉 I’m not mucking around saying that either.

    And, is Lévi suggesting that balancing of otherwise contentious forces is possible by seeking the middle ground?

    Makes me wonder what Lévi would say as to the demonic forces at large today? It sure would be interesting! I mentioned the pervasiveness…

    And if you could enlighten me, I was rather uncertain as to what the symbolism in the bottom right hand corner of the card was?



  58. “devout believers in the religion of progress typically brush aside us heretics as quickly as possible”

    That is, until the signs of the cyclical and wave like nature of time assert themselves and the path to the stars begins to look like ruminations of the moribund, stuck and going nowhere. I expect to see a flurry of google newz posts about cold fusion, the promise of hydrogen – oh and I did see one recently about how Exxon is going to renew civilization with blended biofuels. And another study of mice that if they eat the **** of baby mice they reverse the signs of aging. That last is an investment tip, as we can fully expect to hear about how capsules of baby **** are going to let (the rich) people live to 200.

  59. @JMG: #41 My French is non-existent, but I want to remedy that. That sounds like a good stew all those groups and movements were in.

    @Bei Dawei: #44. Thanks for all these leads, and the breakdown of the history of the idea that Jesus and John the Baptist were Essenes.

    @Robert Mathiesen: #51

    Current 93 (one of my favorite Gnostic folk bands) did a version of the song, as The Dilly Song:

    Speaking of Current 93 @youngelephant #1 mentioned Christ the Pantocrator. This phrase turns up in a lyric by Current 93 on the song Dormition and Dominion, from the album Of Ruine or Some Blazing Star, which is about, among other things, the legend of St. Eustace. It’s probably my favorite C93 album.

  60. Sorry, JMG, if this is too long!

    Writing quickly, because I need to go to work, sorry if jumbled. But the question struck me: why is Wisdom separate from Understanding? It relates to what I’ve been reading.

    For those who haven’t read these stories:

    Oedipus, after killing his father without knowing it is his father, and after solving the riddle of the sphinx, marries Jacosta, who he also doesn’t know is his mother. He is in a state of unknowing about the truth of things, as is his wife/mother.

    After seeing signs that his kingdom of Thebes (a symbol for his psyche?) is troubled by disease and difficulty, he looks into the reason why, and eventually finds out that it is himself that is the cause, because he killed his father and married his mother – and because of his answer to the sphinx, which causes the sphinx to change, to become etherial and thus more powerful than before. Maybe he repressed something with his answer, a sign in the form of a monster from his unconscious, which through being repressed went further into the unconscious, and caused disease.

    The tragedy of Oedipus, on the surface of things, is that he proved to be his own undoing. By seeking to understand, and eventually becoming more frantic and harsh to others about it until he succeeds, he comes to the terrible realization of the truth.

    In Jungian terms, the Anima is the feminine side of a male, so was Jacosta his feminine side that was unresolved, like a kind of Schrödingers cat situation, where it resolved as soon as it was observed? Where the act of observation, which necessitates putting oneself into an outside perspective, caused the conclusion?

    I have to read the next plays to find out more (Oedipus at Colonnus and Seven Against Thebes) to dig deeper, but I do know that Oedipus blinds himself (destroys his ability to observe) and wanders off blindfolded, like the Fool.

    Cupid and Psyche (a tale buried within The Golden Ass):
    The beautiful Psyche draws the ire of Venus, who feels threatened by the attention of others given to Psyche due to her beauty, and sends her son Cupid to deal with her. But Cupid (or Eros, or Love) falls in love with Psyche (Greek for ‘mind’, I believe) and eventually (I’m leaving a lot out here) marry.

    But Cupid only comes to Psyche at night (symbolically representing that she dreams?) and he is always invisible, and warns Psyche: don’t try to discover who I am, for if you see me, it will force us to part. Driven on by her jealous sisters, and given a lamp to reveal Cupid and a dagger to wound him with, she one night reveals her husband to be Cupid, but despite her wonder she still cannot resist wounding him due to loyalty to her sisters.

    Venus is incensed, and sends others to find Psyche. Psyche wanders the land after taking revenge on her sisters, praying to gods who won’t help her, until finally Cupid finds her, still in love. But not before Venus finds Psyche and puts her through a series of impossible (initiatory?) tasks. She eventually marries Cupid formally through the divine favor of Jupiter.

    I’m sure I’m missing further symbolic layers in both stories, they are very rich.

    But in both stories, they seem to have in common how understanding a mystery resolves it beyond repair, you cannot un-understand it. It can be a terrible blow. I still can’t tell yet if the tale of Oedipus is a cautionary tale, as in what not to do, as his family is then cursed, as the later plays show how his children fight amongst themselves and all eventually die. Or, if it is the first part of the cycle of self-knowledge, and all these characters represents archetypes that represent changes in the self. (Psyche’s sisters and the Sphinx could represent the Shadow.)

    Whereas in Cupid and Psyche, there is a happy ending – Mind and Love are joined through the interference of the gods. I’m still digesting it.

    There are lots of loose tendrils around, like Lévi’s discussion of faith and reason, the two Tarot cards from this chapter and the one previous with their relationship to Chokmah and Binah.

    La Papesse carries the crescent moon on her headdress and on an abstract figure around her neck. There’s a unity – she wears perhaps a symbol that is an abstraction of herself, because she also wears the crescent moon on her own head. The two are joined in a recursive unity of sorts.

    L’imperatice however steps on the crescent moon, she seems to indicate that she dominates it, it is literally beneath her. Does this mean she, the ternary, resolves a binary, or is this almost a type of arrogance: she believes she has ‘mastered’ Wisdom, or both? The sun casts out rays, which must also cast shadows – the sun revealing everything through light and shadow at the same time.

    In Jung’s book Man and His Symbols, he writes:

    “When I use the word ‘feeling’ in contrast to ‘thinking,’ I refer to a judgement of value – for instance, agreeable or disagreeable, good or bad, and so on. Feeling according to this definition is not an emotion (which, as the word conveys, is involuntary). Feeling as I mean it is (like thinking) a rational (i.e. ordering function, whereas intuition is an irrational (i.e. perceiving) function.”

    And here I’m a little flummoxed, because is Wisdom associated with intuition, or feeling? It seems clearer that Understanding has to do with thinking. But if I go with the idea of Wisdom as corresponding to feeling in the sense Jung uses, then it is an ordering of things by value.

    To use an analogy, L’Imperatice (Physis/nature) is then perhaps the ability to distinguish houses in a city, to understand them: the territory. La Papesse (Domus/house) is about (perhaps) about Home, not houses. THIS house is valued, is felt, through one’s own experience (gnosis).

    So when I asked earlier about why is Wisdom separate from Understanding – they are, like the horns of the crescent moon, part of the same thing. The two need to be integrated by balancing them. I’m then struck by the thought that perhaps there is some mode of thinking and feeling in a harmonious blend that is even beyond all the qualities we talk about when we refer to wisdom. What can be ‘higher’ than wisdom? But it appears that there is something higher indeed. Perhaps the ‘knowingness’ and ‘feelingness’ you get when you create a great piece of music, or poem. Not sure, but it’s implied through this separation of Wisdom and Understanding from, and back into, the unity.

  61. Brin is becoming an increasingly bitter and angry old man. I used to comment there regularly, but Trump and the pandemic have driven him over the edge.

    He really does think of himself as a high priest of Positive Sums (positive sum is his short hand for the God of Progress). He really does think that through science, markets, courts and sports mankind has found the special sauce that will enable MANKIND TO RULE THE STARS.

    Now I challenged him several times to show me the accounting that proves that certain types of interaction can produce a genuinely positive result for all. For example using fossil fuels can have a big short term benefit and a small but cumulative negative impact, how do you account for that? Or when the benefit goes to one group and the cost go to others? And that does not even begin to get into the intractable problem that people value different things differently.

    He of course would not provide any details on how one might go about actually proving his core pet theory of positive sum interaction. Just said it is obvious and is happy to use economic growth as its proxy. (and it is easy to be positive sum if you don’t count the costs,)

    But he not been able to square his belief in the god of progress with current events and has taken to blaming zero sum thinkers, republicans, progressives upset with the democrats, feudalist, Russians and anyone having doubts about the Great God of Progress. If we would only listen to Brin and believe that we are on the way to become real gods who rule the stars, we really would be.

  62. @ Darkest Yorkshire #19

    As I was journaling last night about this post, I made a similar connection of the ternary to “dimensionality.” I’d been reading a commentary on the artist Paul Lafolley, and the commentary made reference to the classic, multidimensional (!) novel Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions:

    “Upon entering Spaceland, the square is first seized by an ‘unspeakable horror, saying, ‘Either this is madness or this is Hell.’ The sphere replies, ‘It is neither […] it is Knowledge, it is Three Dimensions.'”

    A. Square is initiated into the world of 3 dimensions. He cannot communicate with polygons for fear of appearing mad. He also cannot get A. Sphere to recognize that, by analogy, there may be a world of dimensions beyond the 3rd.

    Back to the commentary on the artist, the ternary, and dimensionality:

    “‘The encounter with fate and free will, Lafolley insists, ‘is much richer than analytical philosophers, who reduce it simply to the conflict of determinism versus indeterminism, would have us believe.’ He gestures toward the possibility that there exists some tertium quid between these seemingly irreconcilable positions, and that dimensionality is the key to theorizing it.”

    Having found myself in the dark wood in my middle age, I’ve completed two readings of Dante’s Divine Comedy in the last year, in two translations, and the ternary is all over the place there.

    Thanks as always JMG and Ecosophian Green Wizard weirdo comrades for this forum!

  63. Thanks for pointing that out JMG. Do you have a sense of to what degree Jung was playing up his psychologist persona? On one hand he talks about the collective unconscious, among other things, which is a paradigm smasher and on the other I detect a smidgeon of scientific hubris from him. For instance some people criticize his psychologizing of alchemy, but I wonder if he was consciously working within that model knowing it descended from a deeper reality. I’ve only read Man and His Symbols and Symbols of Transformation so I haven’t been able to quite figure this out yet.

  64. Thank you, Ms. Bender #16, for your thoughtful reading of the Wikander article and for sharing your experiences with the Hebrew language. I am willing to overlook the Golden Dawn’s linguistic fumbles if the message or practice which they imperfectly expressed is valid and effective. When the message appears incoherent, however, I grow concerned. It seems to me that the “Thine is”/“Thou art” ambiguity in the CC needs to be resolved if someone practicing the rite is to know what he or she is doing. And that Lévi could transcribe a Hebrew text referring to Hod and say it refers to Chesed raises painful doubts. Wikander probably saw little value in occult philosophy and could therefore easily be dismissive of the occultists’ errors.

    Bei Dawei, thanks very much for calling my attention to 1 Chron 29:11. First, it starts with lekha, Thine; and second, the attributes there credited to YHVH are (in order) Gedulah, Geburah, Tiphereth, Netzach, and Hod, and then in the next clause He is also credited with the Mamlakha, the alternate word for Kingdom that we see in Lévi. This is very Kabbalistic, since if we refer the words to the sephiroth we get two sephiroth from each of the Pillars, and they even seem to follow the order of the lightning flash!

  65. Goldenhawk and Tanya, thanks for this discussion!

    Copper, you can certainly combine this with those practices. One of the reasons I assigned a very simple and flexible style of divination for use with this book club is that it combines very well with most Western magical practices and courses of study. As for Brin’s tirade, I honestly don’t remember where it appeared — I’ve fielded a lot of shrill denunciations over the years and his wasn’t especially memorable.

    Random, there may well be much more!

    Chris, yes, that’s a variety of confusion spell, and knowing how to collapse the confusion into a threefold pattern is a good counterspell. As for seeking the middle ground, yes, exactly. It’s an extraordinarily effective tool when dealing with toxic binaries — of which we have no shortage these days…

    William, well, there’s that! And of course cashing in on the stupidities of the clueless rich is a grand old tradition among occultists, so anyone who wants to get into the market early and start selling capsules of freeze-dried baby poop to those with more dollars than sense have my blessing. ((I honestly wonder if some sinister Discordians are behind this, since Fliegende Kinderscheisse! is of course a sacred Discordian initiatory oath.)

    Justin, find a book on French for reading knowledge — that’ll avoid all the things you don’t need to know in order to read French texts. Six months of steady work on that, and a good dictionary, and you’ll be on your way to fluent reading ability.

    Jbucks, excellent! A fine meditation.

    Jim, that’s really sad to hear.

    Youngelephant, I think Jung used his psychologist persona very skilfully as a tool to stay respectable and financially solvent. He did believe, like many other avant-garde occultists of his time, that the forces and beings invoked by occultists were all internal to the psyche, but he was also a first-rate astrologer; his studies of alchemy have always seemed to me to veil something.

  66. As for me, I didn’t understand Chapter 3 at all on a first reading, even after reading your commentary. One thing I don’t understand is how you get a six pointed star from his description of two triads, each of which has a congruent side (the Ascendant-Descendant, or less precisely, the horizon). Add the MC above and IC below; they then outline a square rather than a six pointed star. I can see how a quaternary (the four points Asc, Dsc, MC, IC) leads to four different ternaries (Asc-MC-Dsc, MC-Dsc-IC, Dsc-IC-Asc, IC-Asc-MC) and how two sets of the four points, MC/IC and Asc/Dsc, can interact as dualities. Back to meditating on the card for a few days and re-reading your commentary before I tackle the chapter again.

  67. Green Rage Monster #65, Paul Laffoley’s art looks like they could have been some of the best Commodore 64 games and programs ever made. With titles like Know Other Worlds and Master of the Hidden Form. 🙂

  68. Also, I forgot to mention something important. A lot of what I wrote above relates to reading I’ve been doing about Jungian concepts on Violet’s blog, for example, this post on Eros and Logos. She discusses in that post, among many over the last few weeks, the concept of enantiodromia, which describes how one pole of a binary eventually morphs into its opposite. So I’ve been influenced by her musings on the topic along with my reading of Lévi, Jung, and the Greek myths.

    @Goldenhawk: I must apologize, you responded to a comment of mine on the open post a couple weeks back that I hadn’t replied to. Thanks for your thoughts on using a ternary regarding giving expression to the creative inner voice! It certainly applies to this chapter.

  69. Hi Michael, thanks for another stimulating blog…it certainly resonates with me and is something I thought I had discovered back around the age of 22 (as all kids do that age – think they are first to think something)

    Anyway it reminded me of this woefully neglected (by academia at least – in the same way they neglect magic) passage from Plato

    Parmenides 146b
    “Everything is surely related to everything as follows: Either it is the same or different, or if it is not the same or different, it would be related as part to whole or as whole to part”

    All the best

  70. I noticed gimel looks different on the Knapp Hall deck and appears very similar to Bet. This created a bit of confusion when trying to find the corresponding pattern on the card because I kept oscillating back and forth with the starting point. Should I stick with the real gimel or the deck version?

  71. Happy Friday the 13th, all!

    The seven can also be the seven virtues: the Three Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity; and the Four Cardinal Virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.

    @ Another Green Rage Monster #65: having long since passed the mid point of my travels, I realized it was time to read the Divine Comedy. I’ve just finished my first pass in a prose translation, and, about 5 minutes before reading your comment, I ordered the Longfellow translation from my local library. Since I speak Italian passably well, the plan is for the third time to be in the original language. There’s that ternary, again. The Canto which impressed itself upon me the most was Canto IX of Purgatorio, wherein an angel inscribes 7 P’s (for Peccati, “Sins”) on Dante’s forehead. I think the thing I fear most is to have my sins exposed to the world.

  72. Eyes on the Steps

    (I am only up to Chapter 5 in Paths of Wisdom, so please consider the following a work-in-progress that is subject to revision as I learn more. 🙂 )

    JMG said that the eyes are symbols of wisdom and the steps are leading to wisdom. Levi said that wisdom is the conciliation and the union of two principles (masculine and feminine). “Eye” in Hebrew is Ayin. It can also mean “to see”, “and by extension, to understand and obey.” ( )
    Since the Empress is between Chokmah (Wisdom) and Binah (Understanding), I think the Empress represents Creation. In the previous chapter, Levi/JMG said that Wisdom is a duality (something is and it is something in particular), Understanding is a trinity (something is, that it understands, and that there is something that is understands), and Knowledge is a quaternary (something is, it knows, there is something it knows, and that something (knowledge) comes out of its act of knowing). The quaternary corresponds to the Tetragrammaton, which is the process of Creation.

    “The steps are her [the Empress’] witnesses, for generation manifests through the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms. The eyes upon the steps signify divine hierarchies imprisoned temporarily in matter.” (from Revised New Art Tarot, thank you @marlena13) I believe these ‘divine hierarchies’ are planes (or sub-planes) of manifestation, which are created below the Empress. She sits on the Path of Daleth, which creates ‘the realm of multiplicity below the Abyss’ (Paths of Wisdom).

    Creation starts as Azoth (Alchemists use sulfur, mercury, and salt, the principles, as the ingredients to make Azoth). (Salt is the principle of fixity/non-action and incombustibility; Mercury is the principle of fusibility (ability to melt and flow) and volatility; Sulfur is principle of inflammability.)

    The next step, with three eyes, represent the trinity. The trinity of the principles (sulfur, mercury, and salt) represents the kingdoms (mineral, vegetable, and animal). Mercury represents the Spirit and is associated with Kether. Sulfur represents the Soul and is associated with Chokmah. Salt represents the Body and is associated with Binah.

    The next step, with five eyes, divides/multiplies the principles into the classical elements (sulfur to Fire, salt to Earth, mercury to Air and Water) including ether. (Correspondences of elements to principles from Levi, Transcendental Magic). (Not sure exactly where the ether comes from; I would think from mercury…)

    The next step, with seven eyes, divides/multiplies the elements into the sub-planes of our Cosmos, represented by the planets and the Spheres: Moon-Yesod (Sphere 9), Mercury-Hod (Sphere 8), Venus-Netzach (Sphere 7), Sun-Tiphareth (Sphere 6), Mars-Geburah (Sphere 5), Jupiter-Chesed (Sphere 4), Saturn-Binah (Sphere 3).

    Finally, we reach the floor, which is black. The floor represents our physical body on the material plane of Earth.

    other sources used:

  73. JMG,

    Thank you for your commentary. Levi’s writing seems so obtuse and opaque as to be impenetrable – for example, consider the first sentence of this chapter. If it wasn’t for your commentary, there’s no way I could have teased out what you did. Is this intentional on Levi’s part? You’ve mentioned before that occult authors in the past intentionally put their ideas and methods in rather difficult and vague terms so that only the most diligent and worthy students, those with a certain level of development, are able to understand and use properly. This approach keeps the ideas and methods out of the hands, hearts, and minds of those with a lower level of development, for fear of abuse and incompetence. Or, is this just an artifact or feature of the French writing style of the time? As you mentioned in the Intro post, the French writing style is very elaborate and ornate.
    Thanks again.

  74. RE Brin. I submit the McGuffin Postulate: Every civilization has a McGuffin that is the focus of the civilization. For Western civilization, for a while now, the McGuffin has been science and technology. Perhaps people like Brin believe that we have discovered and learned to control THE McGuffin to End All McGuffins, the most important McGuffin of all time, the McGuffin from Olympus. We can now rest easy, Mankind’s search is over. However, in reality, our McGuffin is just an ordinary, everyday, unimportant, mortal McGuffin, just like all the other McGuffins from civilizations past and future. Brin just hasn’t realized it yet.

  75. Just Another Green Rage Monster–

    i just got back from the store where i got the googly eyes and the blue and red yarn for the covid pom poms, and i read your piece and i’m relieved it’s happening out there.

    we thought of a PINK triangle, but that’s too cute and there’s a pink triangle on the hill near castro. besides this move needs to go all out like a bolt being shot between the eyes, so it had to be the whole shmigeggy… the six-pointed star. and as i re-read this chapter i actually see it’s PERFECT re third way and “i tell you what the six pointed star means, you interpret it how you want, and you reflect it back your way.”

    there is no time for pulling punches. that’s why i was afraid. i’m already astounded how long they can keep these tantrums going on and on and on.

    my deadline for these is 20 August, because that’s when our segregation officially begins. and i just put a hold on my gym membership because that’s off limits next week to us.

    and i’ll re-do my abandoned website and start dancing wearing armbands across from the walgreen’s at 24th/potrero. where the poor useless security guard has nothing to do, so he keeps an eye on me.

    the stage fright goes away the moment you’re out on stage and that’s what’s happened.

    i’ll show you when they’re finished. i’m gonna start figuring out the pattern for my covid pom poms right now!

    and Papa G- thanks for letting me know the children are about petered out. James has my back over here so thanks for having it regarding the weather report. all my life i’ve always had best friends who cover me when we’re on a play, and look around check things out and say to me, “okay… go ahead. pull the zip tie!”


  76. Hi JMG,

    Somehow the passage on husks resonated quite strongly with me. Intentionally or not, it seems as if you timed the publishing of the OSA work with this chapter of the book club for the first 2 lessons of Spiritual Alchemy are very much about dissolving the inner husks. It’s painful, yes, but the sense of relief and lightness after they are gone is palpable to a surprising degree!

  77. @Tanya and @Goldenhawk, I very much like the ideas you both shared about the nine stars and will be adding them to my notes. I had two more ideas. One regarded Pythagoras (since he was mentioned in the Introduction). Pythagoreans recognized nine heavenly bodies: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Central Fire. Another option is if the Empress’ crown represents Kether, the 9 stars would represent the other Spheres.

    @Anonymous_Fearful_One, I don’t have a whole lot to add to what the others have said, except two things from my personal experience. First, I had my child over 20 years ago. The world did not seem to have near the drama then as it has now and the idea of becoming a parent was still scary. Becoming a parent is a life-long commitment and being nervous about it shows that you would be taking that commitment seriously. That’s the kind of thing that makes someone a good parent. Second, if you think you are weak, wait until you become a mother. Watch some nature movies about what mother animals will do to protect their babies. You will find strength and courage you never knew you had.

    @Darkest Yorkshire, you had mentioned the eagle in your comment yesterday. I pondered on it today and this is what I have so far:

    The Eagle is one of the faces of the Sphinx. Eagle represents Scorpio, which is a water sign. Binah is a water Sphere (from Paths of Wisdom). And the eagle on the World card has a chalice, which is receptive (and would hold water).

    The Empress is on a horizontal path, above the Abyss. Another horizontal path is above the Veil and is represented with the Strength card, which has a lion.

    Lion represents Leo, which is a fire sign. Geburah is a fire Sphere (from Paths of Wisdom). On my other tarot deck (Mythic Tarot), the Strength card has Hercules fighting the lion. So to pass the Veil, maybe we have to endure fire to melt our ‘carnified’ shells, like Hercules did. So to pass the Abyss, maybe we need water (representing Wisdom)?

    (So one face of the Sphinx is guarding the Veil, another face is guarding the Abyss. I didn’t recognize an Ox when looking at my cards, but I’m guessing that eventually we’ll have a card that has something that represents the Ox…)

    Your recent comment mentions the balustrade/bannister. What strikes me about it is that the Sun is in front of it. If the balustrade was in front of the Empress and the Sun (and the Sun represents Kether), then I would say that the balustrade represented the Abyss. But it is behind the Empress and behind the Sun (Kether), so then it would represent one of the Ains (Ain Soph Aur, the Boundless Light?) But maybe the Sun isn’t representing Kether, maybe it is representing Tiphareth. And then the balustrade is behind (below) Tiphareth and would represent the Veil. And another option is maybe it isn’t a balustrade at all. Somewhere I read something was a gate. Was in the Empress? Was it Gimel? I don’t remember… I will go back and reread and see if I can find it.

    @Jeffrey Pikul, when you counted the rays, did you only count the ones that show? Or did you count what would also be hidden by the Empress and the shield?

  78. @jbucks, you had asked about why Wisdom is separate from Understanding. In Paths of Wisdom, JMG has a few paragraphs devoted to it. (This is somewhat paraphrased, to condense it a little.)

    Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom form an ascending scale of levels of perception; one may know something without understanding it, and one may understand it without having the wisdom to use it appropriately.

    Wisdom implies two things (first, something is; second, it is something in particular, ie, wise.).
    Understanding implies three things (something is, that it understands, and that there is something that is understands).
    Knowledge implies four things (something is, it knows, there is something it knows, and that something (knowledge) comes out of its act of knowing).

  79. Gray Hat (no 68), you’re very welcome, but the Kabbalistic Tree of Life is a product of the Middle Ages, and shouldn’t be projected onto biblical texts (unless you’re playing more of a theological game than a historical one). Okay, the general idea is neo-Platonic, but the specifics were formulated a lot later, and under Muslim influence. See that link I put in the same post.

  80. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for the confirmation. Out of sheer curiosity, and I’d be curious to hear your opinion, but I’d imagine that sooner or later, the over use of toxic binaries as a policy is an inevitably self defeating policy. To my mind it displays an incredibly weak hand, and surely other interested folks would have taken note of that? And then made preparations accordingly. Dunno, but things sure seem weirder than the usual level of weird lately. 🙂



  81. @Random
    I counted the ones that showed, including the sliver that made it past the eagle’s wing and the rays at the top and bottom of the shield.
    Looking at the card and the Tree of Life again, taking out the top shield ray reduces the count to 28.
    This count accounts for everything in the Tree except for Keter/Celi and the 3 paths to it.

    I miscounted the contents Tree _and_ the number of rays. *facepalm*

  82. I wonder why Brin would come to this specific post were we are discussing binaries.

    I asked the Tarot about this: What’s up with Brin? I used the Smith-Waite for this though, because my Oswald Wirth in card form instead of digital is taking a bit to get home. Errrr. Positions are: Brin, Situation, Outcome

    Brin: X of Swords, Situation: Seven of Pentacles, Outcome: 9 of Pentacles, reversed.

    I think your speculation is right about the brittleness, though the Tarot, as usual, as least to me, spared no feelings. He is not only defeated but massacred by the impatience of not getting the Star Trek future of his dreams. He and the whole establishments hopes of this have reaped nothing but just one ripe fruit, but they are still waiting for the others (This is the Seven). The cancelled project of the Future (9 of Pentacles, reversed) I think really struck a chord for him.

    But still, why here? I asked. I got Death. A clear, concise and brutal “time’s up”.

  83. and I failed to add. Time’s up, the King of Progress is death for resisting change and letting his rigidity cloud his judgement and the topics discussed here are a projection of the forces that are or will be thriving in change and also, the priest giving a reason to not fear change gives hope to the ones that embrace it. If I had to speculate, well, what could be more opposite to the established religion of progress than spirituality and Magic of all things? What is opposed to the rigid binary of flying to the stars or perishing? A ternary, the topic of discussion.

  84. @Jeffrey Pikul, please don’t think I was being critical. 🙂 I think it is a cool correspondence you found… I was just going nuts trying to figure out what to count. (And sometimes, what isn’t shown matters as much as what is.)

  85. @ Darkest Yorkshire, I have been pondering the big cloth the Empress has on her right arm. Compared to the Papesse, this card (at first glance) seems less balanced. Papesse had keys in one hand and a book in the other, but everything else seemed very symmetrical. The Empress card is not symmetrical, but her left side has the wand/staff and the moon and her right side has the eagle and the blanket, so two symbols on each side.

    The moon is receptive. The wand/staff is balanced (wand is masculine, but topped with a Venus symbol). The eagle is a water sign, so feminine. So it seems the blanket should be balanced, to make the card overall be balanced.

    The Empress is my Mythic Tarot deck is Demeter as Mother Nature. Perhaps the brown blanket is for winter, when the earth is brown instead of green (Mother Nature puts on a brown blanket when it is cold…).

    Going through the deck, a similar blond angel is on the Lovers and Temperance, though there she is wearing white, not red. So maybe her red is for Fire, which is masculine, to balance the moon and the eagle.

    And I did notice her bodice has an ‘as above, so below’ vibe (it even has an Abyss!).

  86. Do any Spheres on the Tree of Life particularly represent the bridge or jumping off point to cross either the Veil or the Abyss?

  87. Rereading Dante, and something here strikes a chord. In Paradiso Canto XIII, he has Aquinas (I believe) describe the procession of all things from the First Cause (as I understand it, a Scholastic argument), in an effort to rectify the perfection of the Creator to the imperfection of material things. In it he describes how Light issuing from the Triune God is refracted down through the orders of angels, and Nature takes on a kind of demiurgic role, transmitting these rays into the material realm. Makes me think of the position given to Nature in Levi’s model…


  88. Augusto:

    An interesting reading, thanks for posting. I found a possible tenuous connection to those Pentacle images, in an old Brin short story:

    “So I kept watch over his work. It sounded so dubious, so damn stupid. And I knew it just might bear fruit, in the end.” ~David Brin, “The Giving Plague,” 1987

    The complete story is posted on his website. Kind of eerie in light of current events; make of it what you will.

  89. This post and the comments are so inspiring. I’ve only read the comments up to 42, so I might be repeating someone. Jbucks has inspired me to read Oedipus. I’ve never heard anyone in my life mention that Sophocles was writing about spiritual ideas, but then, all of the spirituality was wiped clean from the Ancient Greeks as long as I’ve been around. That’s a tragedy. Secularization gave us a very incomplete picture of Ancient Greece.

    Was Dumas an occultist? The famous saying of the Three Musketeers is, ”All for one and one for all.” That sounds like something Levi would say about the ternary.

    The three steps of L’Imperatrice are each numbered: 3,5 and 7. Then she has nine stars over her head instead of twelve like the Rider-Waite and BOTA deck. But nine is three squared, so it is the ternary and the binary combined. Two sets of three give us six, but three put into a square is three of three and gives us nine. That’s confusing.

    I do not understand the bird. I can only think it might be related to Artemis.

    I see the active on the passive in many ways. Does the active and passive give us the ternary? The pillars of force and form? The shield has white over black, with a triangle and three dots in it. In the Judgement card you have the man and woman (yellow and red that give orange) creating a child, in blue. Orange and blue are the colors of Gabriel in the LBRP and also make gray, wisdom.

    L’Imperatrice also has her foot on the moon with her left leg. The moon is the passive element in the Sun/Moon relationship. So I might think that the L’Imperatrice is also masculine. In fact, using L’Imperatrice sort of implies a dynamic quality because she is a ruler, and maybe this is a way for us to stop thinking of human gender as the total personification of dynamic/passive elements.

    In sacred geometry, the circle must double to give us the Vesica Pisces, which is the space necessary for the other shapes to emerge. That sounds like Levy, too. The third is the space for the binary to interact and generate new forms. So, within the Vesica Pisces we get the triangle, square, pentagram and all of the forms, at least up to ten.

    She also has a pendant at Tiphareth.

  90. The nine stars above the Empress correspond to the nine levels of the Paradiso in the Divine Comedy: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the fixed stars, and the Primum Mobile. Also to the nine levels of the Inferno and of the Purgatorio, but I doubt that’s the reference intended.

    The Empress has wings: is she angel or human, or both angel and human? The eagle on the Empress’s shield reminded me that Dante was expelled from Florence due to being on the wrong side in the long running battle between the Pope and the Emperor (the Guelphs and the Ghibellines) for the allegiance of the various small Italian states. From that, he had the time and desire to write the Divine Comedy. Is she on both sides of this struggle between temporal and divine power? Or is she perhaps the ternary which brings the duality into balance?

  91. SLClaire, good. Lévi does not explain things so that just anyone can figure them out; as we proceed to later chapters, some of those details will become clearer.

    Davidjones, a good point!

    Aloysius, a lot of old tarot decks have really sloppy Hebrew on them. Use the real Gimel.

    Will1000, it’s wholly intentional. Lévi, like most occult authors before the 1960s, wanted readers to earn access to what he had to say. As for your McGuffin Postulate, I ain’t arguing — that’s the basis for my claim that faith in progress is the established religion of our culture.

    Erika, go ahead and pull the zip tie! 😉

    Ganesh, good! Yes, that’s a very useful way to think about the OSA work.

    Chris, ruling elites use toxic binaries when they themselves have gotten caught in toxic binaries of their own; that’s the point Toynbee discusses, where what used to be a creative minority decays into a dominant minority and stops being able to solve problems. As for the weirdness level, yep — I suspect it’ll get weirder still in the months immediately ahead.

    Augusto, fascinating. Thanks for this.

    Yorkshire, you can only cross the Veil or the Abyss along the Middle Pillar, so Yesod is the starting point for the crossing of the Veil and Tiphareth for the crossing of the Abyss. However, you can’t make the crossing until you’ve integrated the polarity between the next two spheres — Hod and Netzach in the former case, Geburah and Chesed in the latter.

    Fra’ Lupo, that’s probably where Lévi got the idea. He got a Catholic seminary education at a time when Scholastic theology was the dominant subject of study.

    Jon, a fine meditation. I don’t happen to know if Alexandre Dumas had occult connections, but you’re right that the slogan works!

    Peter, and another good meditation. Thank you.

  92. I noticed the angel wings too (in the Knapp-Hall deck), but then I also noticed that the Empress seems to be sitting down; specifically, her right leg is too short in proportion to her upper body if she isn’t sitting down. She might be sitting on a chair, which is a C word that would fit the card; I don’t see anything else in the card that she could be sitting on. So I am wondering if the angel wings double as a chair, as a way to support her, and if that unearths anything to help me understand what Levi is getting at. If the wings double as a chair, their shape reminds me of the shape of the throne in the previous card. The way the sun is drawn reminds me of its corona, which also reminds me that the Buddha and the Christ are often depicted with an aura around them; the corona of the sun could be symbolizing an aura about the Empress. The moon is in the shape of a crescent. She is clasping the eagle by its feet for another C word. I’ll take these ideas and some others from the comments into tonight’s meditation on the card.

  93. As a Christian, though less excentric than Lévi, I have found it interesting to read a bit along here, though for lack of time I haven’t read the original. This week, there is some discussion of the topic of human and divine masculinity and femininity, so I hope my question won’t be amiss here.

    The Song of Songs alternates between parts sung to a female and to a male addressee (as determined by the Hebrew gender of the 2nd person – the 1st person is not gendered in Hebrew). Though obviously based on secular love (or marriage) songs, it was included in the Bible because the parts addressed to a female were allegorically interpreted as representing YHWH’s love for Israel, and later God’s love for the church or for an individual mystic, and the parts addressed to a male were interpreted as expressing love for YHWH. This is the common interpretation of the Song of Songs found from the 1st to the 20th century. More recently (I think), the literal and actually quite explicit exaltation of human love and sexuality has also been re-emphasized.

    My question concerns the obverse. Are there examples where the female addressee has been identified with God? This runs counter to the common gendering, but I thought it might have appeared in the mystic literature of the Troubadour era, when male poets would often idealize human women (up to Dante). I thought that at least the Virgin Mary might have been identified with the Beloved of the Song of Songs. However, the only example I have found is a Jewish one in Maimonides’ Teshuvah 10,3, which at least obliquely compares a person full of love for God with Solomon when he is lovesick. I am not at all well versed in post-biblical Jewish thinking, so there might be many more examples.

  94. Hi John Michael,

    Hmm, thanks for the reply. We’ve spoken of this topic over the years, but somehow: “stops being able to solve problems” sounds a lot to me like trying to keep things as they are, rigidly in place, when the strong storm winds have other ideas. I feel that the current fixation on overwhelming loss has sprung from that belief system.

    Maybe it is just me, but I sensed a change yesterday. I can’t put a finger on the intuition, but all the same I’m keeping my eyes and ears open to what it may mean. And it was a change for the better, although people may not like the outcome.



  95. Ever-so-subtle Archdruid, I’m running into a couple of stumbling blocks in this chapter. One that initially leapt off the page was Levi talking about the Sun being manifest by its light, but demonstrating its manifestation through its heat. Huh? Said “heat” IS light, at infrared wavelengths! The Sun emits energy, yes, but to split out a certain band of energy and say that the subset of energy emitted somehow creates a ternary seems like a false distinction. X-ray, UV, visible, infrared: it’s ALL light!

    Did Levi intend to say ‘the Physical Sun, its visible emanations, and its invisible emanations’ is somehow a ternary? Mass is unimportant, but splitting out different wavelengths is important?

    Your commentary sentence in that case would be corrected to: “Consider the Sun shining in the sky: the Sun, its light, and its light are three different things.” Huh? Are we trying to say “the EFFECT of its light” for the third item? That makes more sense to me.

    No, the more I reflect on it, the ternary is “The Sun, its light, and the effects of its light.” We shall be silent about the equally-important feature of the Sun’s mass… 😊

    Worse than that, Levi goes on to evoke lines emanating from directly overhead at an infinite distance (well, I’m willing to compromise and specify that the starting point is MUCH closer than that, let’s say only ten light-years away) and coming down to meet the horizon line due east and due west and somehow that’s described as a triangle. There’s no base! And the two upright lines emanating from the zenith will be so close to parallel as to be otherwise imperceptibly sloping towards one another. Extend this in the nadir direction (this time he mentions a base, which is parallel to a previously-unmentioned line extending from East to West) and this gives you something like the figure on p. 43… how? So I guess one interpretation for the “baited hook” that you mention is that taking this description and these descriptions literally is a mistake of noteworthy consequence.

    I’m thinking that Levi intended the third chapter to be the one where a reader that he wanted to filter out would get fed up and fling the book across the room!

    Not flinging quite yet… signed, Plaid Atomic Lamprey.

  96. Chris, interesting. It also feels to me as though things are shifting, but we’ll see.

    Bryan, good heavens, is that what they’re teaching in physics classes these days? As I learned it, heat is the vibration of molecules — absolute zero is the point at which molecular vibration comes to a complete halt. Some forms of electromagnetic radiation are more effective at setting molecules buzzing than others, but that doesn’t make them “heat” — it makes them good at generating heat. As for the triangle, ahem. “These images are not descriptive but symbolic, and are designed to train the mind, not to inform it…”

  97. RandomActsOfKarma #90, if her bodice represents the cosmos does that mean if she was in a bodice-ripper the universe would implode? 🙂

  98. In last night’s meditation I started with thinking the Priestess represents spiritual power while the Empress represents worldly power. Then I realised that’s not it – the Empress is clearly a sacred monarch. She would lead processions, mass rituals, the public aspects of the religion. The Priestess however would take on the self-selecting few who wanted to go much further, and keep it quiet.

  99. Often, when studying Levi and contemplating the relevant key, the words and images are so pregnant with associations that I have to stop reading in order to avoid getting indigestion.

    Near the beginning of Chapter 3, for example, when he mentions the sacred seal of Solomon, he footnotes the reader back to a figure from Chapter 2. Just below this figure he says, “To render light visible, God has only to imagine shadow. To make truth manifest, he made doubt possible. Shadow is a foil for light, and the possibility of error is necessary for the temporal manifestation of the truth.”

    These evocative words take me back to the crest in the upper right hand corner of the Knapp-Hall version of Key 3. A white triangle, with a black dot in each of the three angles, stands against a background of half light and half shadow. But the white triangle only becomes visible against the shadowed portion of the background, just as the black dots and lines which define the triangle are what make it visible against the white light.

    The author’s aphoristic phrases, combined with the simple sigil of a triangle, cause me to close the book and put away the key. It could easily take days and weeks to tease out the practical implications of Levi’s three short sentences and this one essential symbol.

  100. OT: But, speaking of ritual magic…from the Lois McMaster Bujold fan list (her father was an engineer),

    On Aug 2, 2021, at 20:13, Louann Miller wrote:
    >>> I wonder if Lois’s dad the engineer knew this oath-swearing ceremony was
    >>> going on right across the border.
    >> Oh, wow. Are Canadians the only doing it? Because it makes tons of sense. Lives are indeed at stake if the designs (and construction) weren’t up to par.On Aug 2, 2021, at 20:13, Louann Miller wrote:

  101. @Darkest Yorkshire #103,

    Hmm… I think that would depend if she actively ripped off the bodice or if she (passively) allowed the bodice to be ripped off. 😉

    Or, perhaps she is not a timid heroine and understands the cyclic nature of creation, so as the Emperor actively rips off her bodice, she is actively ripping off the Emperor’s codpiece.

    (Not that my Emperor card actually shows a codpiece, but he dressed sort of like a Roman legionnaire…)

    (LOL… thank you so much for the fun image you posted. Levi would be proud, I think!)

  102. Bei Dawei

    Thank you for that information. I saw The Ninth Gate years ago and it was a seriously creepy movie. The Club Dumas might be an interesting read.

  103. @RandomActsOfKarma: Thanks so much for that info from Paths of Wisdom! It does help me to understand further about what is meant, and clearly I’m going to need to consider purchasing that book. 🙂

  104. regarding THIRD WAY- i finally just got what that MEANS! James was home this morning for the first time in a week so i told him all i wrote here and what i’m thinking and my approach now with this third way, and he said something like, “yeah, JMG once said ‘find the third way; don’t get caught in their binary trap.'”

    and i got that third way is not an answer but an APPROACH TO A WAY OF THINKING! so even i just got caught thinking the moon is the finger pointing at it! oh man, this stuff is hella slippery. you think you get it but you tied your shoelaces together and fall with your pants around your ankles just the same.

    i’m making covid pom poms. perfectionism, my APPROACH to anything i deign to make because otherwise i make my own life into another meaningless call center, right?

    and we’ve been watching cowboy movies lately so it’s also funny that James’ approach is to longer argue as his co-workers casually call him a racist or conservative with dripping contempt, his approach is to shrug calmly and say, “that’s okay… go ahead and Hate Me.”

    i said, “that’s the approach! that’s what’s NEXT!”

    the third way is to play the prescribed role but not in a way that victimizes you, but frees you because it’s UNEXPECTED!

    that’s what we train for, right? not to choke when the opening occurs. it’s like a planetary move; i feel MY moment is now and if i missed coming in on my beat, i’d never be able to live this down for MYSELF. i’d feel i failed life and all i’ve trained for.

    so i wonder if that’s why this discussion is quieter here. pray tell: are people plotting scheming DOING and trying and playing out some of these acts of disobedience in Real Life???

    because it makes sense that they’re turning us into terrorists, those of us who merely doubt the health guidelines. we cannot justify sitting it out anymore. my inner voice isn’t impressive; i’m embarrassed at how LATE i am to understanding ANY of this. ashamed, actually. people got this from jump and i didn’t see it coming until like 3 hours ago.

    i just train to be the junkyard dog.

    okay, back to work. i haven’t wanted to make art in 3D in a long ass time. and on deadline! i need deadlines. like the deadline to losing just one more freedom on top of a heap of casually, already-discarded rights.

    even going around with an American flag seems hella controversial now. how bizarre! i worry MORE about the American flag i’m trying to design into my next bicycle vest, than i do about wearing a 6-pointed star armband with googly eyes and a couple of covids pom poms out on the median at the ever-busy 24th/potrero.

    why there? because the walgreen’s security guard can’t do a thing about folks stealing but he can keep an eye on ME and make sure i’m safe with all that free time.


    i’m getting it now! you don’t “make” the underground… you embody, you BECOME the underground.


  105. p.s. James calls John Michael Greer, JMG, like my other friend on here, Norm. i call him Papa G even though i know Gangaji had her Papaji. it’s different, unrelated.

    i put Papa G in the teacher guru realm because he never goes “Osho” or “Jim Jones” crazy with the adulation or power here, no matter how often he calls things. maybe it’s his Asperger’s but he seems oddly and safely immune from his ego taking over like it oughta’. like no matter how suicidal someone claims to be on here, he never caves to “i can save you!” like the rest of us.

    no matter how repetitive it gets or how easy it’d be to just give an easy answer, he is consistent in how he’s about teaching us how to listen to ourselves because that is his Third Way. if he goes for the Okey Doke, he just puts in another binary alternative.

    it’s cool to watch. i was talking about this this morning with James. he agreed.

    anyhow, that’s why i call him Papa G; he actually worked for it / he deserves it.


  106. p.p.s. i didn’t elaborate on my perfectionism– it has me making not 200 but 400 spotted covid pom poms because the design NEEDS it, calls for it. but i’ve never had so much fun winding red and blue yarn over tattered cardboard pom pom templates and perfecting my covids spatter!

    i wanted to run in and out with a fast and dirty joke with this project, but it has to go all the way. not just in going where we’re all thinking– because that’s how you rule the room:

    all you gotta do is call out the OBVIOUS no one else will!

    you don’t have to be brilliant by their standards. just say what no one else will.

    then hopefully OTHERS will have more and more courage to step out as well. that’s the HOPE the WISH, anyhow. but that’s why i dance first at shows or laugh really hard at the good jokes– to salt to warm to lubricate the audience.

    i go so far out, anything you do even if it’s a disaster, will look tempered compared to whatever i pull off. yay! that’s my purpose, too.

    and the tragedy of no more free speech is that everyone’s already LONG BEEN saying “where are the Jewish arm bands?” but i’ve been canceled fired broke exiled from the arts but i’ve got rent control and thus i have the RESPONSIBILITY to go tits out and do what everyone’s thinking and saying but will get fired for expressing. so i’ve gotta actually MAKE what isn’t allowed to be said, and make it in a way that isn’t like crapping my own pants.

    so i had to flip the image the meaning in that THIRD WAY and now i can barely stop making pom poms or planning the text as i plan to entirely re-do my neglected website.

    i have a couple other unused etsy stores and will use one because i expect to be booted off etsy. artistic freedom went with free speech years ago.

    so i may have to get a PO box and deal with checks like the 1980s.

    as an ARTIST, i have never felt like MAKING THINGS so hard again. this tarot study is intense for me. brought me back HOME to the power of the image and the underground.

    there’s a great old quote about recognizing your own discarded genius in others’ realized thoughts. i hate that existentially empty feeling of sitting on my hands for fear of embarrassing myself in front of a world rampant with 8 year olds and under.

    i found James because i lived and wrote “Flaming Iguanas” just as something “to do.” / all these years later i think it was to find HIM. almost every day i say i wouldn’t have made it this far without him in my life to understand me and all THIS that i’ve become.

    i’m living a third way. their story is so anemic you have NO IDEA. when i lost everything, what made me feel better was seeing how GREAT my life was even at its lowest in comparison to Regular People.

    i mean look at this world now. they DIG this. they’re high fiving each other going, “how can we keep the fun people inside indefinitely?”

    we’re the Pretty Ones you all. how fun are their serum concerts really? i was dancing with the homeless outside of a closed off tech people block party and we were the ones having all the fun while they had the best DJs but they stood around uncomfortably taking selfies because they were too afraid to be photographed dancing like Elaine on Seinfeld and ruined for LIFE.

    WE freaks sensitives and ferals are the Pretty Ones, y’all. we make culture. they destroy it.


  107. @Peter Van Erp (#95): What’s additionally interesting about the model of the Paradiso is how the nine orders can be mapped (inverted) to the sefiroth, with the “Planetary Spirits” (as it were) falling directly in line with where they are commonly attributed in certain Cabalistic views (Portae Lucis)…

    If I remember right, the author David Pantano holds that Dante in the Commedia is in effect describing an initiatory path (the confusion of the dark wood, descent, purgation, ascent)…

  108. @Jon Goddard, I was unfamiliar with the Vesica Pisces. Thank you for mentioning it… lots to read and meditate on!

    @jbucks, You are quite welcome. I am only up to Chapter 5 in Paths of Wisdom, but it is an excellent book. I highly recommend it!

    @ to anyone in the Commentariat:

    In his discussion of the Paternoster, Levi mentions the Aeons. In the Wikipedia entry for Aeons, it is said that the Aeons (plus their source) form the Plemora, which is Greek for ‘fullness’. When I was researching “plenitudo vocis” (which the footnote translates as ‘fullness of voice’), I didn’t find much. But since ‘speaking’ is sometimes substituted for ‘creating’ and you can speak (hence, create) with a voice, I decided to read up a little more on Plemora (thinking “fullness of voice :: Plemora of creation”). My simplistic understanding of plenitudo vocis as Plemora of creation is that all there is (the Creator and his creations) are within the Plemora (reminiscent of ‘the All is in All’) (and outside the Ring-Pass-Not is Unmanifest). The Wiki article did mention that Jung used the word Plemora and I know some of the Commentariat are versed in Jungian theories… anything you can share that might explain plenitudo vocis better? Or did anyone else have more luck in their research?

  109. i’ve used up the one blue skein of yarn i had on 95 of my 400 covid pom poms needed, so i’m writing thoughts i had while wrapping them on cardboard…

    RE: third way regarding titles and responsibility on both sides-

    i also call Papa G, Papa G because he deserves the title because i know of no other artist writer or thinker who’d even DO these teachings open and online. it’s a term of immense respect.

    and i also do it here when i know it makes some of you squirmy. somehow we love people to know more than us but like we learned in chapter two, the binary is dead, static, lifeless. it goes nowhere. you see it all the time online. people are grateful for the intensity, truth, connection, humanity, but there’s also the pull to trash the person. the internet is made for trolling yelling and pain. it’s a cauldron of agonies to me.

    i was brought up to be wary of hierarchy and titles. look at where we’re AT. but that doesn’t mean that some people should be honored with titles for their work, their specialties. however humans tend to get lazy the moment they think someone is a teacher and knows something MORE. they cede control that they later seem to inevitably regret when they tear their teacher apart for being human and imperfect.

    they do that to EVERYONE who gets known for anything. even a bad dirty evil writer such as me. i hated the faux respect that’ll turn the moment you say something “wrong.” don’t want that no more.

    this is related to our perceived powerlessness as a people. we put these people in power and can tear them down. we DO tear them down, even when we shouldn’t.

    there are many Jesuses who’ve been murdered and there will be many more, small and huge Jesuses.

    so i know it makes people itchy to hear a woman honor a man. i bowed before Wardy in person and it blew people’s minds just like when i yelled “white power!” in trader joe’s. and i wasn’t weak in either instance.

    and when i call Papa G “Papa G,” it is not only a term of recognition and respect for all he’s doing and giving (you cannot pay most anyone enough to traipse through such lessons!), it’s also letting him know i COUNT ON HIM with italics. and he is the kind of man to take that seriously and if he ever were to be casual or take that for granted, i would let him know. it’s MY RESPONSIBILITY TO LET HIM KNOW.

    we know in our guts when our teachers have gone off the rails. there was a moment early on before they went to Guyana, when some followers KNEW not to listen to Jim Jones anymore. that it’d gone to his head for whatever reasons.

    we make our gods shallow. they MADE him insane. their is a dance. he could not have become what he did without his followers.

    to surrender isn’t to become stupid and follow blindly. to follow isn’t to become a child. you can be a student and still CHALLENGE your teacher on where they are taking you.

    that’s the third way on deference. it’s not absolving yourself of personal responsibility and deeply thinking and knowing one’s self.

    i don’t like having “fans” anymore because they’re just vampires who usually turn on you the moment you deviate from their expectations. no thank you.

    so that’s why i know all that Papa G is working on here, and he’s not just another shmuck like the rest of us.

    i don’t know whether it’s postmodernism or WHAT, but this culture wants everyone to be just another shmuck regarding real talents. we don’t want heroes or need ’em. our heroes are mediocre now. so they’re just like us or something and don’t make us feel bad challenged or inadequate for doing nothing with our lives.

    maybe i’m just talking smack.


  110. JMG – Levi p49 “…grammar attributes three persons to the verb. The first person speaks, the second person to whom we speak, the third is he about whom we speak.”

    Baumer – Abinavagupta’s Hermeneutics of the Absolute – Ch 5 The Three Grammatical Persons of the Trika, p102-103 “…I-You-He/She/It… Everything in the universe consist of a triad.

    An upward pointing triangle diagram included.
    I never knew of and was not expecting these East/West parallels.

    Can’t help but notice the Herme in Hermenuetics:)

    Love It! Thanks JMG – Shorter Handle Dennis G > DenG

  111. RandomActsOfKarma

    You’re certainly welcome for the Vesica Pisces info. I found sacred geometry interesting and fun for drawing and painting, but now with Levi, it’s taking on even more significance. I recall seeing a carving of Jesus inside a vesica with a closed book. It’s over one of the doors at Chartres. Suddenly all of this information has gone beyond the intellectual and into something a bit more… real.

  112. Random:

    My current understanding of the concept of the pleroma (fullness) is that it’s something like the ain soph. It’s the chaos prior to the operation of the world-creating Logos. It’s the causeless uncreated suchness that exists before the darkness moves upon the face of the water. It is without qualities. Not this, not that. Thought cannot grasp it.

    Jung wrote:
    “The articles of faith of science are: space, time and causality. The fourth is missing and rejected: the pleroma.”

  113. erikalopez you inspire me.

    You (we) are the creative and the receptive, the pleroma coalescing into form, winding, winding round the core…measure, snip, spin….masked as a pom-pom…a holy fool!…infinity’s child playing in time.

    You (we) breathe life into these dry husks, words, concepts.

    You (we) ARE the word, you (we) ARE the verb.

    I get it. Thank you.

    Each of us IS the verb…the spirit that moves, in plenitudo vocis, a choir singing the world into being. Becoming the voices of the gods, to breathe living meaning into the world.

    “The pattern grows more intricate and subtle
    And being swept along is not enough.”

    ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

  114. Erika, I take “Papa G” as a compliment, so thank you.

    DenG, yep. Keep in mind that eastern and western spiritual teachers have been reading each others’ writings for the last two hundred years or so!

  115. Still working on the Empress card…

    The Empress is on the horizontal Path between Chokmah and Binah. The Papesse is on the vertical Path between Kether and Tiphareth. The Empress’ red dress could represent the red curtain behind the Papesse.

    Another thought… the Empress’ Path and the Papesse’s Path intersect and create a Tau. So the Empress and the Papesse create a quaternary… (I’m going to save that meditation for Chapter 4. 🙂 )

  116. I find it interesting how much more Marian the symbolism of this card grows over time. The Rider-Waite is the woman “with…a crown of twelve stars on her head”; the picture in the post has the woman “with the moon under her feet” (both from Revelation 12: traditionally in Catholic teaching, Mary having the moon under her feet shows her as above time and change). The Marseille and CBD versions have neither: the imagery is much more straightforwardly imperial, with the eagle (Rome, Austria, and Russia all use it as a symbol of the Empire) and the sceptre with orb.

    Still thinking about the meanings, but found the imagery interesting.

  117. @Walt
    Thanks for crunching numbers.My thought for “fuel for desalination” we need JMG to rank order what we already have in landfills in order from least toxic to most toxic. Let’s burn that for desalination. Only partly kidding. Landfills around California: think of the stuff for repurposing.

    Generac has made a success of solar panels on roofs collecting and storing in batteries hung of garage walls. We need someone to take rainwater from roofs and gutters and re-route it for flushing toilets. There is no good reason to have city-water-treated, chlorinated, potable water for flushing toilets when rainwater will do, at least to my mind.

    I’m thinking acid rain: why was it so damaging to buildings, monuments, and gravestones but didn’t seem to bother agriculture?

    Back on topic: the Tarot women, the 2 I’ve met so far, and been right on the money; in July, stress and conflict related to maternal earthly matters. In August, The Empress says delays will be necessary, which is spot on.

  118. I’m having a lot of difficulty buying ‘The Wealth of Nature’ – it seems to be hundreds of pounds (I’m English). Where’s the best place to get a reasonably-priced copy, please?

  119. Susan – Here in the States, you can get a used copy on ebay or from Thriftbooks or from New Society Publishers. I believe New Society Publishers is Canadian.

    Shipping from the States to the U.K. proved to be a nightmare when I tried it last (had to go DHL, for $$$), but try those websites and see.

    Pat in Florida.

  120. In his commentary on Chapter 3, JMG mentions in passing possibility of creating a Hermetic Christian version of the I Ching. Traditional I Ching has many elements of this already.
    Levi mentions two trigrams – Heaven and Earth – that are all firm or all yielding lines. They are also called “Father” and “Mother.” The I Ching has six other trigrams that represent the eldest, middle and youngest sons, and the eldest, middle and youngest daughters.
    Strangely, though Heaven/Father has three firm lines, the trigrams representing son each have only one firm line. I see it as breaking out the three lines of Father into the component parts of masculinity.
    Thunder, the eldest son, has one firm line at the bottom, with two other yielding lines. Mountain, the youngest son, has one firm line at the top.
    The chief characteristic of Thunder is movement – sudden, expected actions, while the chief characteristic of Mountain is stillness – a conscious choice to be still, including in meditation.
    The lesson I take is that stillness, when it is actively chosen, is still active, even though no action is apparent. One can choose to wait, and that is an active choice.
    There are other mysteries here that I haven’t understood yet, but I’m sure you can break down Mother into its its individual yielding lines to come to understand Earth.

  121. The empress card seems more interesting to me as time goes on.

    If you cover the middle of the card horizontally, the upper and lower half don’t really match up. The upper half is very prim and proper, the lower half is somewhat slovenly and obscure. The virgin and the whore, the spiritual and the material / nature.

    In a way, the second and third cards are inverses of each other. Note the crescent moon at the head of the papesse and under the foot of the empress. Wirth notes that the orientation of the crescent is important, which would be relevant to the proper reflection based on the moon. The two cards are chokmah and binah… which are actually aspects of kether, the unity – so this mirror image would make sense in that context.

    Wirth also notes that the empress is receptive to the ‘vibrations’ of the papesse (without manifesting them), which again seems to correspond to the roles of chokmah and binah (wisdom and understanding).

    The bataleur card also takes on greater meaning now. The left hand the principle, the body the incarnation / realization, the right hand the adaptation / materialization (via the imagination). His body is representing the tertiary in the unity.

    Hope this makes sense and is useful.

  122. Finally caught up. Discovered this web site (thanks Higher Side Chats) and recently finished Dion Fortune’s The Cosmic Doctrine and the associated posts on this site. Immediately started following this Eliphas Levi High Magic series and now can follow along on a more reflective schedule.

    Still trying to processes Dion Fortune’s work and unless someone tells me otherwise, I am considering The Cosmic Doctrine as a general blueprint whilst High Magic fleshes out details via Levi’s perspective.

    Since we are reading the chapters dealing with duality, the ternary and will soon read about the Tetragrammaton I’m trying to tie in Levi’s following statement (Chapter 2) to Fortune’s Doctrine:

    “…the material elements…analogous to the divine elements are thought of as four, are explained by two, and only exist in the end as three”.

    I’m wondering if the ternary isn’t “baked into” the system or cosmos due to the Ring Cosmos, Ring Chaos and Ring Pass Not?

    As for duality I’m current thinking of ideas such as the relationship between the travelling atoms (projection of the Cosmos) and the Logos. Another relationship are the Cosmic Atoms to the Logos (Ref: Millennium Edition, Chapter 15).

    For the Tetragrammaton or anything to do with “four” I’m thinking of the phases of evolution towards a grand unity –
    1 System of Rings – Absolute
    2 System of Rays and Circles – Cosmos
    3 Cosmic atoms, according to their planes
    4 The great organisms – universes according to their plans (Ref: Millennium Edition, Chapter 5).

    Anyway, thanks to John Michael Greer for this opportunity to study, reflect and learn.

  123. Whoa, I think something just happened.

    First, I switched deck to Symbolic Tarot of Wirth and love, love this deck. Next my daily meditation this last few days has been to gaze at and explore L’Imperatrice.

    Here’s a download that just came through me, all at once. In part:
    So, I have the three cards we’ve looked at on my desk right now. All the sudden I get this idea of the blue cloak (green backed) Water/Earth across her lap. Foot on the moon. Red shield with Phoenix and Blouse (Fire/Will) and Wings and Yellow Scepter (Air, Mind).

    She is upright in a full frontal position, nothing secret or hidden. She is governing with Air and Fire elements. Intuition and emotion, Water and Earth are not ruling here though still present.

    Looking at La Papesse opened a similar, if somewhat complementary, type of awareness.

    What really caught my attention was not so much the specific symbolism which I enjoyed realizing. It was the sudden realization of a complex set of symbols present in and between the images.

    This is different from the approach of building a narrative based on the images and their positions in a spread I have been practicing when doing a reading.

  124. @Scotty,

    Welcome! I, too, try to find connections between CosDoc and High Magic. There are some I still can’t figure out, but I remind myself it we have several chapters to go. 🙂 I don’t know if you read JMG’s Magic Monday. The most recent post ( had an illustration relating to the Absolute, the Supreme Being, and the Solar Logos. On page 2 of the comments, Anonymous posted a question (@ 2021-08-16 11:23am) about the illustration and the comments are quite interesting. I very much like your Tetragrammaton with the Great Organisms being the final Heh.


    I had not noticed that the top half of the Empress was prim and proper and the bottom half doesn’t have her knees together and her ankles crossed (as my mother taught was ‘proper’). 🙂 And I had not noticed the ternary in the unity of the Magician’s body. More things to add to my notes and ponder!

    @Eric Cole,

    I am not using the Wirth deck, but looked up the Empress to see what you are describing. The crescent moon on my deck (Knapp Hall) is oriented differently than in the Wirth deck; on my deck, the concave side of the crescent is on the upper side (to me, like a cup or bowl, something that would be receptive). Have you pondered yet what the significance is of your crescent opening on the lower side?
    And I agree seeing the symbolism between the cards is fascinating. I have seriously considered turning one of my walls into a ‘crime wall’ of Cabala. (‘Crime wall’ meaning one of those walls that they show on cop/detective shows, where they tape pictures on a wall, with pieces of yarn connecting the suspects. At the moment, I can fit all the cards on my desk, but eventually they won’t all fit…)

  125. Rereading Chapter 3 today I all of the sudden felt meaning in the ternary. Now I am looking forward to a deeper dive into Barddas. A book full of ternaries!

    Also, this realization feeling experience looks to be a thing to explore. While not a new experience I suspect there is a benefit to understanding it more consciously. A study I have not yet done to any great degree.

    @RandomActsOfKarma Not yet regarding the moon crescent but an excellent idea.

  126. Note, this is all a bit rambly, Ive stopped for lunch, after being out in the garden, continuing preparations for spring.

    I agree with many of the insights put forth here, as Ive had them myself.
    Regarding the Wirth deck, I’m seeing a lot of yin and yang energy with trumps 2 and 3, the opposite colouring of the clothing, the types of headware, veils covering hair, flowing hair, a veil behind transformed into wings, moon at top, moon below. Sitting to the side, sitting full face forward. The style of the clothing; loose fitting and tight, collars, waistbands, etc. Holding a book, holding a shield, crossed keys, a sceptre with the globe and cross
    Lots to compare and contrast.

    Wirth mentions that the stars number 12 around the Empress, nine of which can be seen, representing the Zodiac.

    As an aside, he also calls what appears to be red garments, purple. I personally would have liked to see them printed that way!

    I quite like the subtle pulling back of the cloak to reveal the Sphinx, a fine theme for meditation, as our host would say.

    Inner mysteries of the Priestess to the outwards manifestation of the Empress

    Ive started reading The Mystical Cabala. Fortune talks about daath, or knowledge being formed at the conjunction of Sephira 2, Chokmah, (force) wisdom and 3, Binah, (form) understanding. Numerologically, this could apply to these two Trumps, with knowledge being that third part of the Ternery perhaps?

    JMG, As far as the paths go, is there a system we should be following?
    If we maintain the position of the Hebrew letters, then the standard GD Tarot attributions need to be moved to correspond with Levi’s letters. Eg, the Empress goes on path 13 whereas for GD it would be the Priestess?

    A note on Gimel, on path 13, Ive heard/read that the camel 🐫 as it means, is what is needed to cross the abyss….

    Another thing I’ve had pop into my head, we often hear about the fool’s journey in tarot and we are the fool.
    With Levi’s version, as we are starting with the magician, are we going on the journey of the magician, or initiate?
    We’ve supposedly “mastered” the four elements represented in the minor arcana and we’re off to the races!

    I had more to say but I’ve forgotten!
    Plus I need to get back outside.

    Oh I remember, I have a couple of interesting links, which I’ll post this evening.

    All the best everyone, I hope you’re all having fun with this!

    Helen in Oz 🙏
    (I wish I could give every one of the poor souls stuck in lockdown here, a Tarot deck and guidebook. I seriously do!)

    Ps apologies for typos, doing this on the tracking device, sorry, phone.

  127. I read your blog post titled “How Not to Learn Magic” about good systems of magical training. Is this study group on Levi’s book intended to be balanced magical training?

  128. JMG – Just an FYI that I am going to back burner this tarot work for now and concentrate on SOP and OSA and build a strong base from there. Rereading some Ernest Holmes who was very important to me 3 decades ago before I fell for ‘sophisticated and exotic’ teachings. Reconnected with him through your PRS recommendation and Obadiah Harris writings and Science of Mind connection. Note the icon. I am smiling ear to ear right now. Thank you so much John.

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