Book Club Post

The Doctrine of High Magic: Chapter 8

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 out of print at the moment), the Wirth deck (available in several versions), or any of the Marseilles decks are suitable.


“Chapter 8: Realization” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 88-95).


One of the great difficulties faced by scholar and mage alike in the present era is the general decay of vocabulary that has afflicted all the languages of the West. Words that once had a specific and definite meaning have become vague sounds indicating approval or disapproval, not noticeably different in function or meaning from the whine or the growl of a dog.  Even when some shred of conceptual meaning still clings to a word, too often it has next to nothing to do with what the word meant when some author of an earlier century put it to use. The result is a confusion that can be avoided only by those who remember that the words they encounter might once have meant something.

This chapter’s title is a good example of the confusion that this process can cause. When most English-speaking people these days use the word “realization” they mean, if they mean anything at all, the mental process of coming to remember or understand something: “That’s when I realized that I’d forgotten to mail the letter,” for example. This isn’t what Eliphas Lévi is writing about in this chapter. Those readers who have investments or like to track the markets will know another meaning:  to realize on an investment in brokers’ jargon is to cash it in, and convert its notional value to money you can spend. That’s not what Lévi is writing about here, either, though it’s a little closer to the meaning he had in mind.

To realize is literally to make something real.  When our text talks about realization, it means the process by which something in the realm of thoughts and ideas takes shape in the astral light, and descends from there into material form.  This is an essential part of magical practice, for magic, to borrow a phrase from theology, is justified by works rather than faith.  From the perspective of the mage, a belief is true if it works.  Here is a claim of fact: if you accept it as a hypothesis and act accordingly, do the results fulfill the promise?  If so, the claim is true enough for working purposes. Do the results fail to measure up to the promise? Discard the claim, no matter what abstract arguments or claims of authority bolster it.

Lévi phrases this principle in terms that were more transparent to the audience of his time than they are today: “Magic…does not make a priori judgments until after having established the a posteriori basis for those judgments[.]” The supreme question of classic Western philosophy was what can be known about the world a priori, that is, on the basis of first principles, without bringing in specific data from the empirical sciences or the experiences of daily life. The answer turned out to be “not much,” but Lévi isn’t interested in exploring what was still, in his time, a fierce and ongoing debate. The mage, he suggests, starts from the other end of the question.  Start with effects you can actually be sure of, and reason from there back to theoretical causes; if you do that, whether or not your theories are true in any absolute sense, you can count on getting the results you want when you want them.

The essential tool that traditional magical thinking uses to work back from effects to causes is the law of analogy. Start with what you know, and use that as a model or a metaphor for what you don’t know:  that’s how occult philosophy works. If, as some religions teach, humanity is made in the divine image, what you know about yourself becomes a source of metaphors you can use to reason about divinity. Do some of those metaphors seem awkward, embarrassing, bizarre?  That didn’t matter to the creators of the ancient myths, who were comfortable using the most robustly physical aspects of human existence as a source of analogies. It also didn’t matter much to the compilers of the Old Testament, who were equally comfortable imagining God walking like a human being in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8).

The thing to keep in mind about these analogies is that they may start out as abstractions but they don’t remain that way for long. Again, the conceptions of the world of thoughts and ideas take on form in the astral light, for good or ill, and become powers that influence human consciousness. The astral light, as Lévi points out, is the expression of the intellectual light, as the intellectual light is the expression of the divine light—or, more precisely, the intellectual light can express the divine light. It can also express the diabolical darkness, or for that matter the whole spectrum of color between these two poles. Its forms can be pure or debased, they can lead to regeneration or degeneration, and to a galaxy of other destinations as well.

The medium for these transformations is the process that Lévi (like many other occultists of his time) called magnetic respiration. By “magnetism,” as usual, he refers to the life force, the substance of the astral light.  The diaphane, the body of astral light possessed by everything that exists, breathes in and out, taking in astral influences from its surroundings and giving off astral influences in turn. In the presence of wise and holy persons, or of the places they have been and the things they have touched, the diaphane of another person draws in their influence and makes that person a little wiser and more holy.  Equally, the same process has other effects when we are in the presence of people, places, and things charged with different influences.

One implication of this set of processes is that there is no privacy in the astral light.  Everything you have thought, said, and done is imprinted permanently on your diaphane. From there, the influences of those imprints radiate inward to shape your experience of yourself and the world, but they also radiate outward to affect the people, places, and things you encounter.  Most people sense those outward radiations to some degree, and find other people attractive or repulsive as the radiations of the two diaphanes harmonize or clash.  People who have developed an unusual degree of sensitivity to the astral light can sometimes sense the details of a strongly imprinted desire or memory in another person’s diaphane. All this is normal; as Lévi points out, nothing is more natural than miracles. What seems miraculous to us is simply the working out of natural laws we do not yet know how to anticipate or understand.

The astral side of sex is equally subject to those laws, which exercise considerable influence on every dimension of sexual desire and fulfillment. In Lévi’s time students of occultism had just begun the hard work of sorting out the subtle dimensions of the human organism, and so his comments here should be taken as a helpful first sketch of a picture developed in much more detail after his time. He notes that most men have diaphanes that are polarized one way, and most women have diaphanes that are polarized the opposite way; that opposition of polarities plays a potent role in sexual attraction between men and women.  In a significant number of cases, as he also notes, the polarities don’t match this pattern, resulting in same-sex attraction.

Aside from its role in explaining some aspects of human sexual behavior, that variation in polarity has other implications. Practitioners of magnetic healing, our text suggests, need to be aware of variations in the diaphane in order to heal effectively. Lévi is not in the business of teaching magnetic healing, so his comment about including instructions for magnetizers in the second part of his book needs to be taken in context; what he means here, and in various other contexts where he makes such promises, is that systematic practice of the disciplines covered in The Ritual of High Magic will provide the student with the necessary skill.

The astral light has effects that go beyond sexual interactions between individuals, for that matter.  It mediates between the individual and the collective consciousness of family and communlty, with immense consequences for good or ill. Lévi is concerned to warn his readers about the destructive side of this equation, for reasons that are more than usually relevant just now. The examples he cites are all causes celebrés from French history, and readers who are interested in learning more about the potential for dangerous effects from the astral light could do worse than to look up, for example, the cases of the nuns of Loudon or Louviers, and watch the way that a literal witch’s brew of celibacy and frustrated (or not so frustrated) passion can spin out of control and lead to atrocious consequences.

It’s important to keep in mind that these consequences, and the processes that drive them, are no more moral or ethical than earthquakes or electrocution.  As Lévi points out, the astral light is the weapon on both sides of the legendary battle between the fallen and unfallen angels, and reflects the imaginations and desires of all and sundry without taking sides or playing favorites. In the language of the alchemists, it is Mercury, who roams the world enjoying the company of the good and evil alike.  This doesn’t mean that ethical principles don’t matter when dealing with the astral light; what it means is that your ethical principles won’t protect you from the consequences of stupid actions.  What makes an action smart or stupid in terms of the astral light has no necessary connection to its ethical dimension.

Plenty of things that are significant parts of traditional religious practice, for example, have no moral dimension at all, or at most have moral metaphors pasted on over a practical reason rooted in the behavior of the astral light. Most religions that have been around for more than a few centuries, for example, have formal requirements for purification with water that need to be met before entering into sacred spaces. The holy water available at the doors of Orthodox churches, and those Catholic churches staffed by clergy who haven’t given up and become agnostic in all but name, are cases in point: using water to purify oneself before entering a church or temple goes way back—ancient Greek and Roman temples had similar arrangements, for example, and you can find the same thing in common use today at Shinto shrines in Japan.

A great deal of moral commentary has been loaded onto this but the reason for it, from a magical point of view, is pragmatic. Approaching a sacred space when your diaphane is full of influences not suited to such a space is bad for the space, the other worshippers, and you. Cleansing yourself with water, which absorbs the astral light in certain ways and can communicate a blessing or wash off a contamination, helps keep that from happening.  Is more thorough purification appropriate?  Sure; your devout Shinto practitioner, like Orthodox Jews in a mikveh or Agamemnon and his warriors in the first chapter of the Iliad, uses complete immersion in water to remove more serious impurities.

It’s possible to approach certain kinds of behavior that look entirely ethical with this same way of thinking, and make unexpected sense of them. Lévi does this in the last paragraphs of this chapter. Are mercy and forgiveness moral virtues?  Yes, but they also have a wholly pragmatic magical value because of their effects on the astral light.  If you put a curse on someone, even with the best motives in the world, that act will circle back around to affect you in destructive ways—and no, it doesn’t matter in the least whether you believe this or not. The law of repercussion is as impersonal and amoral as the law of gravity, and your lack of belief in it will not affect it any more than believing that you can fly makes it safe for you to jump off a bridge.

In exactly the same way, if you direct your efforts toward blessing and healing others, even if you do this for reasons that have not a single scrap of altruism in them, the results will circle back around to affect you in beneficial ways. What goes around really does come around, irrespective of the motives that set the cycle in motion.  Keep this in mind and act accordingly, and the future that you make for yourself will be more to your liking.

Notes for Study and Practice:

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

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

For your work on this chapter, take Trump VIII, La Justice, “Justice.”  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 ח (Cheth) or the Latin letter H. 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 and fourth sessions are devoted to the two titles Lévi gives for the card: Hod and Vivens. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does Hod, Glory relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen?  That’s one session.  How about Vivens, “living”?  That’s the next one.  Once again, you’ll have to choose a third word for this chapter, and that word is the theme of the fifth session.  Approach it in the same way.

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 8 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 9:  Initiation” on February 9, 2022. See you then!


  1. Hello JMG and commentariat. I’m healed and free-“moronic” COVID now, so I can learn from the blog on Levi’s teachings on astral light and other topics, with my best regards.
    “What seems miraculous to us is simply the working out of natural laws we do not yet know how to anticipate or understand.”-It’s a good definition of miracle…

  2. Hello JMG, thank you again for all you do. I appreciate the guidance as I work through Levi’s book as well as the Octagon Society work which I’m doing slowly.

    You started off this week discussing words, which brings me to my question. When I’m reading, just as I think I understand something, I feel like I am missing something. One difficulty I have is comprehending what he means with the Verb.

    I went back to chapter one and read about the idea – as above, so below. That was beginning to make sense as the form is proportional to the idea. But then he said ‘the visible is a manifestation of the invisible, the perfect Verb is in the things which are noticeable and visible, in exact proportion to the things which are not noticeable to our senses…’.

    What does he mean by the perfect Verb?


  3. What’s your take on the events with the nuns? I read a few articles but obviously they had a materialist slant. Could there have been actual possession? Just sexually repressed hysteria? Conspiracy? All of the above?

  4. I detest words, and I need to trim mine to the least possible. I fully appreciate your mastery of the evil things. I don’t believe that “the word” created anything. Words are way too susceptible to New York lawyering… I more imagine that supposed motion and fantasy were/are more useful. But Words, like them or not, we’re here kind of stuck with them.

    I agree with your often made point not to throw out bad juju, the “world” is globular and it comes back. … your theories get you in… your karma gets you out… and I’ve always believed that everything I think, do, or feel is forever, because that is what makes me – and should not be discounted.

    Current theory – haha – the human organism contains all of it in an impossible to reconcile position, only our partners/opposites can get us through it. Thanks for the intel on holy water, certainly something I can use. cobo

  5. Chuaquin, glad to hear you’re feeling better. As for Lévi’s definition of miracle, exactly — one of the many things I find very useful in his thought is the way he sets out the proper balance between the things we can know, which are best approached through reason, and the things we can’t know, which are best approached through faith — recognizing always that the line between them can shift.

    Yorkshire, I have no idea what the most intense forms are; there are lots of religious, spiritual, and magical traditions worldwide and I only know a few of them; furthermore, I don’t know of any way to hook up a puritometer to somebody going through a purification ceremony, to figure out which method does the most intensive purification!

    Tamar, Mark and I had a difficult choice in translating that word. Lévi uses the French word Verbe, which means “word” and also “verb” in the grammatical sense; he’s riffing off the opening lines of the Gospel of John — in English, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God”– but he uses the word in both senses, to stress the idea that the creative Logos, the Word that was in the beginning, is a verb, a word that indicates an action. So Lévi is trying to communicate a very complex concept — the creative Logos, the principle of creation, the concept of the universe in the mind of God, the act of creation, God as an eternal outpouring of active creative force — through a single French word…which doesn’t translate well into English.

    Kyle, good question. There was certainly a great deal of sexual hysteria involved, not least because there seems to be good evidence that both men seduced at least some of the young nuns in their charge, and so you had the explosive mix of sexual passion, jealousy, guilt, shame, and more, all bottled up in a setting of toxic moral repressiveness. As the famous business at Salem Village demonstrated, Puritanical moral repression can cause such explosions all by itself. Was there more involved? Possibly, but I’d have to study the cases in much more depth than I have to offer an opinion.

    Coboarts, you’re most welcome. The logocentric obsessions of the Axial Age are our burden and our glory, as the last 2500 or so years seem to have been set aside in some sense to test just how far you can push linguistic abstractions before they break under you or blow up in your face. Me, I make my living with words, and I also naturally think in spoken language, so they’re home territory for me — but I feel sometimes like one of those people who lives in a house on pilings in a deep and treacherous swamp, able to thrive there only because I know just how unstable and dangerous it is!

  6. Is it possible for someone to be in such a bad astral state they can’t do a banishing ritual effectively? They imagine they’re projecting a pure white light but it’s so tainted it doesn’t have the intended effect? Can they actually be making the environment worse?

  7. I’ve always found Justice in the Major Arcana to be pretty hard core..In the Bohemian Gothic, its stern but dignified appearance seems to promise that you will get more justice than you may be ready for…”good and hard” as H.L.Mencken might say..

  8. From what I can tell by looking at the dates of publishing of Schopenhauer and Lévi it seems like Schopenhauer influenced Lévi with the proceeding from the causes to the effects talk discussion. I have a vague memory of you mentioning this influence before too, JMG.

    I think Lévi calling the conscience a most terrible secret of magic is very important to this chapter and I’ve gotten a lot out of thinking about it. The Latin etymology for it is interesting too. “con/com”, a bringing of seperate parts within, and “scire”, to know. From what I remember “con” can also mean the perfection of any act.

  9. Hi JMG,

    During the Magic Monday just past, I asked you about the difference between the method of meditation outlined here and discursive meditation. You advised me to stick with Levi’s method for the duration of the book study before undertaking discursive meditation; I take that to mean most of the next four years.

    Now the curiosity in me has been bitten… why this recommendation? Is discursive meditation so explosive that it needs to be reserved that long to the aspiring student?

    About six months ago I took the recommendation of another commenter on this blog and began practicing the SOP daily. I had hesitated for years wondering whether this practice would be right for me, and finally went ahead because the need for astral cleansing and protection in the current cultural environment seemed like an imperative I didn’t want to ignore any longer. So I took the plunge. I’ve been meditating using Levi’s method and doing a daily divination with the Tarot for that entire time as well.

    In regards to magic I try to take Yoda’s advice seriously: ‘do or do not, there is no try’. (That is, don’t be a dabbler). That is why I proceed with caution and pepper you with questions at each new stage and chapter…. 🙂

  10. If the stigmatization due to public opinion be a reason for lack of success and possibly sudden death, injust though it may be, what does that say of the current stigmatization, brayed loudly in speech and written word, of those not injected with the experimental gene therapies? Are the uninjected being injured in a big way by this, and what sorts of protections and “contrary currents” can be wielded against this by those of us not yet adepts or even competent initiates? Is there any hope of success against such negative energy?

  11. Hello JMG. Thank you for your work.
    In all Marseille decks Justice is pushing with her left elbow on the scales. She appears to be partial, vested in a certain outcome. What do you make of it?

  12. Yorkshire, nope. That’s why you invoke powers outside yourself and trace a set of symbols that have substantial tracks in space laid down by previous work — the ritual carries the weight when you can’t.

    Pyrrhus, justice is harsh stuff. People talk about it all the time but I don’t think most of them actually want it.

    Youngelephant, yep. Schopenhauer published the first edition of The World as Will and Representation in 1818, when Lévi was eight years old. It didn’t make much of a splash at first but over the course of the 19th century word of it spread all over Europe, by way of articles in periodicals talking about it. (It wasn’t translated into French until 1885, ten years after Lévi’s death.) So Lévi wasn’t necessarily working with a full understanding of Schopenhauer’s viewpoint, but he certainly grasped the essentials and then took them in his own direction.

    Dylan, good heavens, no. My point is simply that if you’ve already got a practice that works for you, stick with it for now. You have the rest of your life to go deeper.

    Yak, of course there is. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been maintaining the series of semi-open posts on the Covid business over on my Dreamwidth journal; if you’re in contact with a community of others who share your views and support your choices, that counterbalances the pressure from those who hate and fear you. Occultists have been using that strategy for a very long time…

    Kirsten, what I make of it is that it’s a great theme for meditation!

  13. It seems to me that words are the enchanted result of a gathering of forces or energies around a dimly perceived kernel of thought. I saw this quite clearly back when I was a lot more intelligent: I must have been twelve or so. Out of what seemed to be a void (more like an aether), a droplet of thought coalesced, developed, and coincidentally with what might be called images, words formed around that droplet until we had the conceptual framework of something. Maybe a simple sentence comes out of that work, like “I’m hot,” or “Where’s the bathroom?” or “Aren’t I clever?” Then, if you continue observing, the whole thing dissolves back into the aether.

    This process happens almost instantaneously throughout our so-called conscious lives, except when in certain rare circumstances we enter very clear meditative states, wherein words (and time) don’t exist. Those states are not to be sought, nor are they to be clung to. They are a gift, like a sunny day. They may not even be useful in any sense except as catalysts for some kinds of clarity and the dissolving certain kinds of attachment, perhaps unhelpful ones.

    These states might occur even when you’re not meditating, perhaps during those awful times when you think you’re not sleeping (and you desperately want to)…and you later wake up and realize that during that agonizing time you were actually asleep. So they’re not necessarily pleasant, but they are all the same composed of clarity and timelessness. Not in identity with the meditative clarity, but sharing points of similarity. Based on that, I imagine (and Buddhist scriptures speak of) countless “meditative states.”

    In the sense St. John means when he says: “in principio erat Verbum,” he’s not talking about words, but (I think) the very process I’m describing here. Without our writing words all over the blackboard of life, we might not know our lives in any sense at all. Other, perhaps greater souls, might not need to enter the maze of words, which is what I think JMG alludes to in various places when he talks about the 2,500 year “exile to the planet of words” (my description of what he said, by the way).

  14. JMG,

    Excellent essay, thank you! Levi sounds like a very interesting thinker to contemplate.

    “The thing to keep in mind about these analogies is that they may start out as abstractions but they don’t remain that way for long. Again, the conceptions of the world of thoughts and ideas take on form in the astral light, for good or ill, and become powers that influence human consciousness. The astral light, as Lévi points out, is the expression of the intellectual light, as the intellectual light is the expression of the divine light—or, more precisely, the intellectual light can express the divine light. It can also express the diabolical darkness, or for that matter the whole spectrum of color between these two poles. Its forms can be pure or debased, they can lead to regeneration or degeneration, and to a galaxy of other destinations as well.”

    I especially liked this section. Whenever someone speaks of analogies perceived by poetic Thinking between the spiritual and the physical, I am reminded of the master of such analogies, Ralpho Waldo Emerson. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, however, that the above is hard to square with Kant’s limits to Reason ; )

    “What is true of proverbs, is true of all fables, parables, and allegories. This relation between the mind and matter is not fancied by some poet, but stands in the will of God, and so is free to be known by all men. It appears to men, or it does not appear. When in fortunate hours we ponder this miracle, the wise man doubts, if, at all other times, he is not blind and deaf; “Can these things be, And overcome us like a summer’s cloud, Without our special wonder?” for the universe becomes transparent, and the light of higher laws than its own, shines through it. It is the standing problem which has exercised the wonder and the study of every fine genius since the world began; from the era of the Egyptians and the Brahmins, to that of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Bacon, of Leibnitz, of Swedenborg. There sits the Sphinx at the road-side, and from age to age, as each prophet comes by, he tries his fortune at reading her riddle.

    There seems to be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself in material forms; and day and night, river and storm, beast and bird, acid and alkali, preexist in necessary Ideas in the mind of God, and are what they are by virtue of preceding affections, in the world of spirit. A Fact is the end or last issue of spirit. The visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the invisible world.”
    -Emerson, Nature

  15. “There is no privacy in the astral light. Everything you have thought, said, and done is imprinted permanently on your diaphane.”

    Well, that was quite an anxiety attack. “Permanently” is an absolutely merciless word. Makes the past seem like an inescapable tyrant.

    You later talked about purifications. If everything is imprinted permanently, how is purification possible?

  16. When I first read Chapter 8, I wondered what justice had to do with the number 8, which Levi doesn’t touch on (seemingly) at all.

    In music, if one forgets about major and minor notes for a moment, there isn’t an eighth note in a scale. The eight note is the root or tonic note repeated an octave higher or lower than the original root note. So the 8 is the collection of notes that together make up an octave. Each number has its own unity which is necessary to sense in order to sense the character of the number, but the unity of the 8 has special significance due to the importance of the 7 in the system Levi is using, and due to its reflections in our day to day life:

    There are seven days of the week, and there are 7 planets in the system Levi touched on in Chapter 7 (aside from the Earth itself). So the octave of the week is the next or preceding week, or even the unit of ‘week’ itself. The octave of the planets is the solar system (as defined in Levi’s system which the Western astrological system is based on). (*)

    I haven’t read Plato’s Republic yet (it still looks at me sadly from my bookshelf) but from reading here or elsewhere I’m aware that Plato’s concept of justice involves harmony. With musical notes, the resonance of that is clear: the octave consists of a harmonious collection of notes, not because they are harmonious when all struck together, but because each note is included due its relative spacing with other notes and its placement within the octave itself.

    There are a number of implications in Levi’s introduction of the term realization, one of which is touched on in the text and in this post: on what plane does one make something real?

    And that reminds me of the fourth magical virtue: to keep silent. In other words, to know of the musical notes in the octave, but to decide not to press the keys.

    (*) – if I may indulge in this for a second: the analogy between notes in an octave and the days of the week have forced me to propose the Dominant Friday Chord!

    If your musical scale starts on Monday, then your root chord consists of the notes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The greatest musical tension in this scale is the semi-tone between Wednesday and Thursday, and the leading tone Sunday which wants to resolve back to Monday.

    Therefore, by striking the notes Friday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, you can effectively and nicely resolve your week back to the root chord using this basic cadence.

  17. It’s Wednesday and this week we are going to revisit one of our oldest guest blog posts by Cathy McGuire, who asks “Power Down – Are You Ready?” With our first snow storm of the season due this weekend in St Louis, its a good time to check on our preparations in the event of an emergency.

    The Green Wizard forums saw a lot of discussion this past week, check it out.

    First up, a simple question about a topic many of us don’t think about much lead to some far ranging explorations. Posted by Ken, “Laundry” begins with a question about old washing machines that use less electricity but then looks at the kind of communal laundry facilities we might see in the Long Descent, prostitution, story ideas and women’s work clothing.

    Second, “Priming The Pump – Getting Back Into Writing” looks at a few ways to break a dry spell for writers. If you are a storyteller, let’s make 2022 the year you write more.

    And just posted last night, also by Ken, “LOCAL and SUSTAINABLE” talks about an issue we take serious here at Green Wizards, growing your own food. Don’t miss the comment by Sweet Tatorman where he introduces us to his idea of “Heat Units” and food growing.

    As always reading everything on Green Wizards is free to the public, though to comment you’ll need an account. To sign up, just email me (green wizard dtrammel at gmail dot com) or contact me on Facebook Messenger.

  18. Actually, come to think of it, if you transpose the scale to the North American calendar, in which the week starts on Sunday, the joke works even better. Sunday: the day of the Sun, and the day of rest. Hmm…

  19. In contemplating last months chapter 7, and in beginning to work with The Way of the Golden Section material, my mind had turned yesterday to mapping the Seven Liberal Arts to the Seven Planets. I figured this had already been done, so I looked it up to see what was out there and found out Dante had put down his version of the way they correspond in his “Convivio”.

    I found an article by Titus Burkhardt from 1969 that interestingly enough interprets the west door of the Chartres Cathedral (… it seems to be a favorite cathedral among Sacred Geometers) and it’s imagery relating to the seven liberal arts. [ ]

    I was struck by a line quoted in the article from Thierry of Chartres: “Philosophy has two main instruments, namely intellect (intellectus) and its expression. Intellect is illumined by the quadrivium (arithmetic,music, geometry, and astronomy). Its expression is the concern of the trivium (grammar,logic and rhetoric)”.

    When reading your commentary on chapter 8 of Levi later I was struck by this idea that the Quadrivium illuminates the intellect -the mental sheath- and how this might relate also to the diaphane. In discursive meditation, perhaps on themes from the quadrivium, we are exploring and impressing and upbuilding our mental sheath. This would seem to naturally have an effect on our diaphane or “astral character” (this latter a way I’m thinking of the diaphane after reading Levi’s chapter last night before bed).

    Discursive meditation, in a space cleansed astrally by something such as the SOP -then seems to give or allow a further magnetization of the symbols / thoughts we meditate on. They are thought-forms, especially if already built up by previous “tracks in space”.

    Tamar mentioned the Octagon Society work… that has been a real object lesson in the diaphane and how other people react to your diaphane. I’ll just leave it at that for now as I think it really has to be experienced, or realized. TSW. (Thinking of the heart being weighed on the scales has come to mind after reading the Levi chapter in relation to the Octagon Society too… I guess it’s an eight thing.)

    This is an amazing chapter. It really gets into the theme of justice & balance and when I read it a second time I’ll be keeping that in mind alongside the Egyptian goddess / principle of Ma’at.

    Thank you for your translation & commentary!

  20. In reading the chapter and your commentary I couldn’t help but think of the very loud voices on social media (journalists, TV pundits, book authors, actors, doctors, and many many everyday people) and even our own president wishing death on the unvaccinated. I’ve also seen people wishing death on the vaccinated. What’s the general time frame for curses like that to play out? Is there an astrological measurement? Does the intensity with which it is done matter?

    Of course through the past almost two years of this I’ve had moments of thinking, and then journaling, thoughts of anger, frustration, and sadness at those who keep inflicting the chaos and crazy rules on my family. How do I do clean up on such thoughts? And I’m assuming the written word acts the same as spoken word? Or do the words need a listener outside myself to be effective?

  21. John,
    Another fine post. This line struck a chord with me; “In exactly the same way, if you direct your efforts toward blessing and healing others, even if you do this for reasons that have not a single scrap of altruism in them, the results will circle back around to affect you in beneficial ways. “.
    My old man passed away last year. The last two months of his life were in hospital, and involved lots of errands and visits. In addition, since he passed I have had to provide a lot of support for his widow. I found the universe has been very generous of late, resolving problems rather more easily than I an accustomed too. And help that it gives is not necessarily provided in the form that it was given out.

  22. Would I be correct in assuming that the diaphane is another term for the aura?

    I have recently listened to a Sadhguru talk where he talks about the effects of the colour of clothing. He strongly advises against wearing black as that has the tendency to indiscriminately absorb the energy of any place that you visit or person you encounter. Therefore black is only appropriate if you are absolutely sure that the energies you are going to encounter are beneficial. White is the opposite of course, as that reflects all energies, and so is the appropriate colour to wear if you suspect that the energies you encounter are going to be iffy.

  23. @jbucks & crew: I liked your meditation on the octave. Well done! In bringing in the idea of harmony here, the Egyptian concept of Ma’at (also a goddess but also principle/concept) included the idea of harmony along with order, justice, truth, balance. Perhaps now in the tarot & Levi’s sequence we move to another octave of understanding/initiation.

    …Magic seems to work in octaves, overtones, harmonics…

    Power’s express in similar but different ways depending on the octave being played, expressed or realized.

    & also in music “realization” of a score or piece. From the OED: “the action of completing or enriching the harmonic texture of a piece of music by interpreting performance directions which are either vague or incomplete … a piece of music so completed or enriched.”

  24. Lots of parallels here with the First Realization from Manly P. Hall: “To attempt to live beyond what we know is dangerous. Not to live up to what we know, is equally perilous.”
    Also lots of overlap with the Druid prayer “…and in knowledge, the knowledge of justice…”. As Hall suggests, this is foundational stuff. I hope to live up to the integrity of the truths we know. Thanks JMG for this continued book club!

  25. @Jason the Mason, #16

    Funny! I recall the first time I was told there is an etheric connection between you and everyone you had sex with (and everyone they had sex with…) during the last 7 years.

    But I wonder if you are familiar with the Silmarillion, or with the first chapter in any case?

    When Eru Iluvatar created the world, in communion with the Valar, they all play the Music of Ainur. The music they played then is what will eventually be realized in all the things that we see in the world (including ourselves). But Morgoth did suffer envy, and begun to play disharmonious melodies out of spite of the (sole) composer not being he.

    But the performance must keep going on, so Iluvatar did not go and shut Morgoth (which, IMHO would have resulted in the destruction of our world, and the creation of a different one afterwards). Instead, Iluvatar begun to jazz and to compose even more complex music that would retroactively make Morgoth’s dissonant notes to fall back in harmony with the whole of the piece. They kept going at this for several rounds, but at the end the Supreme Being prevailed over his rebellious creation.

    In this sense, maybe purification rituals were never meant to undo past misdeeds. Though this is only a guess, I expect they do resignify and harmoniously integrate transgressions into the lifestory of the transgressor, who shall then grow a little stronger and a little wiser for it.

  26. JMG – I ordinarily ignore sidebar advertising, and I’d been ignoring one in particular in the last few days, when suddenly I couldn’t ignore it. The large ad, placed next to my Outlook email page, show two bottles of brown fizzy sugar water, sumptuously illuminated, with a top caption “There’s magic when we eat together”, and a bottom caption ” Real Magic”.

    What does it mean when the advertising mages tip their hand about the malevolent means they employ? [“Yeah, we’re using magic on ya. What ya gonna do about it, eh?”]

    Or does this just mean that Microsoft is onto me? I’m viewing this blog entry (in a separate tab), and their “AI” has found a word that it can match with their ad catalog?

  27. This card already has a depth of meaning that’s more than subtle for me. She speaks of balance, karma, discrimination, courage, consequences, limitations, and laws that must be obeyed. The hourglass speaks of Time, the temporal life we experience in this body.

    Thinking about words that start with H, I came to the ternary of Head, Hands and Heart.

    Uniting this ternary is the Human being, poised between Earth (Humus) and Sky (Heaven).

    It is the human heart, the listening post of the Soul, that illuminates the divine within the human.

    For the Adept, the Mage and the Mystic, words, actions, and intelligence must, by choice, be grounded in the heart, the seat of moral and ethical conscience.

    Thank you JMG for all you do.

  28. Clarke, that’s a useful description. Words are tools, not truths; ultimately, they’re the grunts and hoots we use to attract the attention of our fellow primates to something; and we’ve put two and a half millennia into pushing them as far as they can go. In what I’ve called the post-Axial age, I expect much more attention to be paid to their limitations.

    Ash, au contraire, we use analogies precisely because the limits on human cognition are as unshakable as they are. We think in analogies — what are all our representations but analogies? — because we have no direct access to reality, only to its forms, similitudes, and shadows. Those are, in Emerson’s fine phrasing, the riddles the Sphinx asks us — and they are riddles precisely because the best we can do is guess at their answer. Optimist that he was, Emerson exaggerated when he said that the universe becomes transparent to imaginative insight; translucent would be a better word, which is why every prophet who claims to answer the Sphinx gives a different answer. The translucency of the cosmos in spiritual states of cognition is a gain over the opacity of ordinary states of awareness, no question, which is why prophets always find a hearing; it’s when they make the mistake of seeing that they’ve gazed on absolute reality itself that we get the inevitable squabbles between competing visions that have so often drenched the world in blood.

    Did you know, by the way, that Lévi uses the Sphinx as one of his core metaphors? (I don’t think you’ve mentioned whether or not you’ve read the book we’re studying here.) For him, it’s the emblem of the Great Arcanum, the supreme secret of magic, which can be grasped but never expressed in words. That doesn’t make it any kind of ultimate truth — just one of the many things that lie within our reach, given the willingness to strive.

    Jason, the past is what it is. The future is whatever you make it, and you can make it completely different from the past. The present is in your hands right now, waiting to be shaped, and it also doesn’t need to copy the past. As for purifications, you don’t use those to get rid of your past. You use it to clear away, in the present and for the future, some of the consequences of the past.

    Njura, there’s a German translation — Transzendentale Magie. Dogma und Ritual der Hohen Magie. Überarbeitete Neuausgabe mit restaurierten Illustrationen, Aurinia Verlag, Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-937392-68-4. My German isn’t good enough to be able to tell you whether it’s good, but it’s recent and revised, so I’d say give it a try.

    Jbucks, excellent! A fine meditation — and the musical fantasia at the end is something Lévi would have appreciated.

    David T, thanks for this!

    Justin, good. Very good. Chartres Cathedral was the site of one of the great medieval schools of sacred geometry, so it’s not surprising it’s become such a focus — and of course its own geometries are exquisite even by the standards of Gothic cathedrals. (Thanks for the Burkhardt pdf, by the way.)

    Denis, that torrent of ill-wishing and curse-throwing will be paid for on all sides. There are three ways, by and large, that you can clear such things (or any other form of negative karma): in the material world, by getting clobbered by the consequences; in the astral world, by realizing (in Lévi’s sense!) the wrongness of your actions and accepting the emotional suffering that comes with that realization, without trying to duck out on it; or in the mental and spiritual world, by an act of metanoia that outgrows the habits of thought that made the mistake happen. That latter way is far and away the most difficult and painful, which is why so few people go there. Your journaling, since it was simply yourself reflecting to yourself, isn’t any kind of additional issue, btw; you simply expressed the thoughts and feelings that a lot of us have had — but you can, through prayer and meditation, deal with the personal consequences in a way that will facilitate your own personal growth and healing.

    Averagejoe, an excellent example. Please accept my condolences for your loss.

  29. Hey John. I wish I had more substantive offerings to add like others here do. I do want to say I’ve read this 3 times because it has so much to offer and contemplate. Wonderful. Thank you. Den

  30. What I’ve noticed recently is that the more I practice and study the faster my karmic kickbacks come. That gives me much needed hope, because with a better understanding of the implications it’s tempting to fall into despair while imagining this huge pile of awfulness waiting for me in a truly just universe.

    Two days ago I had a frustrating experience and said “g-d it out” loud without thinking and instantly regretted it, saying an imaginary apology. Turns out if I had continued to address the situation with that initial energy I probably would have gotten into a conflict with some other people I didn’t know about at the time. All that work on replacing bad habits is paying off noticeable dividends.

    After carrying around a contaminated diaphane for most of my life it’s finally good to be in a place where people are actually attracted to me instead of being repulsed. Apparently it’s not too late.

  31. My opinion… That is “thoughts put into words”, which “jells toogether” meaning, while creating a “blue print” for “astral light” to “concentrate”…

    My opinion comes from a yogic knowledge/practice(quite amateurish even if over 40 yrs old).
    It helps a lot if one can “perceive with his/her imagination/3rd eye/inner eye chakra” that everything is really “vibrations/wavelenght of photons/astral light” on/with which “sentient beings” precipitate/coagulate/co-create our so called reality, which is quite illision at a QUANTUM atomic particle level.
    Infinite probabilities, all entangle, with no beginning, no end.

    Words… THE VERB… are simply one of the building blocks that help give shape to the astral light. A lot more is involved as we learn in this wonderful treatise… although somewhat “aged” as JMG explained at beginning of study.

    Let’s face it… it is already a great miracle that little human being can look back at “god” and try to “understand” but will never do… INFINITE INFINITY.
    Not for a physical brain to grasp.
    However, totally EXPERIENCIALLY possible through whatever meditative practice when one experiences “realisation/one with everything experience”.
    It’s not an experience that will earn you more money or solve all problems… but it sure helps to have a “gentle/merciful/compassionate” view on everything one encounters.
    Play more with it… because it is much more a SURRENDER than a control… That’s the paradox.
    With LOVE and JOY,
    the seagull

  32. @Lathechuck, #29

    Most likely the second. The bast majority of marketing specialists are not aware that what they do is actually magic. And even if a tiny majority do know, and it can be argued that they are indeed the most effective and therefore should work for big pocket clients such as the “spark of sugar” company, it is also the most aware that are more likely to stick to the rule: to know, to dare, to will, and…

    On the other hand, everyone and their cousin can and do use Internet metadata to profile web users.

  33. I see now why it’s best to stay away from some people and some ideas, as they will leave a permanent imprint with you. The Covid madness is a perfect example of staying away. I think that treating the Astral Light as a fluid is helpful, because I can advise myself not to swim in those dangerous waters. Then all of the water related metaphors can be used, such as currents, riptides, eddies, drowning, getting bashed by rocks, etc.

    I was surprised to see Levi write that Jesus went his own way, but it makes complete sense. The Romans had created their famous road system in the Astral Light, too! Rather than fighting the power, build a new set of roads, or build up a current road system that you think will benefit the world.

    Although I still am confused where the imprint is. Is it the etheric or the astral level?

  34. Darn, I forgot to add one thing. All of these ideas have helped me see humor in a completely new light. Humor disrupts people’s cognitive patterns and often forces one to see things in a brand new way. People like to laugh and readily accept contrary ideas when done humorously. This can break down old patterns in the Astral Light.

    It’s probably why dictators hate humor.

  35. Hey JMG

    I have decided to read Schopenhauer’s “World as will & imagination” since you have emphasised his importance to modern magic as well as Levi, and I downloaded it yesterday.
    I started reading it and apparently it says in the intro that I need to read his earlier book “fourfold root of reason” if I want to understand “world as will & imagination” properly. In your experience is this true?

  36. JMG,

    “The astral light is the realization or the form of the intellectual light, just as the latter is the realization or the form of the divine light.”

    Could “intellectual” in this statement refer to “mental”? (So is Levi saying the divine light travels through the mental plane to get to the astral plane?)

    Also, Levi says “superstitions are the spells of false piety.” Does he mean that superstitions are remnants of old religions (that Levi thinks are false because they don’t worship the Christian God)? Or that people who are superstitious aren’t truly devout?

    Thank you for helping me understand all the words correctly. 🙂

  37. Hi John Michael,

    Well yeah, why do you reckon I chose to deliberately live in an isolated rural place and work towards healing the land around me? 🙂 What can I say, it works.

    But far out man, my energy levels are a bit low at the moment. Not done in, just needing of a bit of care and attention. Almost two years of dealing with crazy and sorting out projects around here with all that that entails. It’s a lot of work. Anyway, respect for continuing to write during your usual holiday period. And um, truth to tell that continued writing reduces comments at my blog so I appreciate the quieter days! 😉

    We run our farm on those lines you wrote about. Give an idea a go, observe the outcomes, and then modify the systems so that they work towards better outcomes. Theory and abstractions are nice and all, but how do they stack up in the real world? It is a shame that so many seem to have forgotten that testing criteria. You should see the hate mail I get whenever I mention that renewable energy systems are good, but they’re not good enough! I delete them out of hand and/or block their IP address if they annoy me enough. 😉 Pesky folks.

    It’s almost 10pm here, and the last vestiges of light are dropping below the horizon. A very tall cloud was catching the last few rays, and what was super cool was that the cloud had lightening flashes. It was the rumble of the thunder which got me away from the computer to check out what was happening outside. Nature is awesome.

    Down Under it seems to have gone to super crazy eleven on the dial (ten was clearly not enough as the old joke suggests). However, on a brighter note, the policies which lead to the super crazy level on the dial appear to be getting publicly ditched. And yes Brother Greer, there was much whingeing in the media! 🙂 He says whilst putting on his best Monty Python voice. We’ve thankfully finally gone past diminishing returns where bins are struggling to be picked up. Next up, bonkers oil price rises and interest rate hikes. Mate, I tell ya truthfully, it is going to be one interesting old year.



  38. John–

    The point about there being “no privacy in the astral light” really hit home for me, as it touches on something which has been at the heart of my path (and my marriage) for may years now.

    My wife is one of those sensitives and over the years it became clear that my “stuff” was impacting her, something that both of us found incredibly annoying. For my part, I was resentful of the invasion of my thoughts (“My thoughts are my own, d— it!”), whereas she, naturally, was annoyed by the physical impacts (usually muscle or stomach pain). At first, I tried sheer denial, then that gave way to resentful acknowledgment of the connection, and has finally worn me down to acceptance of my need to “do the work” versus my prior go-to of boxing things away. (I can still remember quite vividly the time when I was at work and an managerial roadblock put the kibosh on a project I was involved in. I recall the sharp surge of fury that pulsed through me, followed by the thought that I’m going to hear from my wife about that. Sure enough, not a minute later, my phone pinged with a text from her wanting to know what had happened, as she’d just gotten “socked in the gut,” as she put it.)

    What we’ve worked out is that I would not be motivated to “do the work” if I was the only one being impacted by my refusal, while witnessing her getting hit collaterally moved me off the fence and got me going. And so the cosmos provides…

  39. “In exactly the same way, if you direct your efforts toward blessing and healing others, even if you do this for reasons that have not a single scrap of altruism in them, the results will circle back around to affect you in beneficial ways.”

    Hmmm, what about blessing an army before it commits horrific crimes in the name of God? Such as Vatican’s blessing of crusaders before the Albigensian Crusade. I think it must be beneficial for the army (and its blesser) in the short run, but it must also have terrible repercussions in the long run.

  40. @Minervaphilos, #42

    You know, I have come to think that Christendom is the Blue-collar, White, Straight Male of the religions of the world. No matter what our character is, we must be perpetually ashamed of who we are because of what our forefathers did. And no matter how mean and unfair others behave towards us, they are justified because our forefathers did worse. If I went and apply your very same argument to, say, jihadists, i do not think I’d get a free pass; and certainly not from righteous Muslims who try and live their lives honorably.

    But to answer your very interesting question: yes, blessing those crusaders had the intended effect. At least in my framework of reference, even the Sacrament of Penance do not erase your misdeeds nor the consequences of those. You still have to pay all of your debts in full, either in this life or the next, but to receive the sacrament is to have those misdeeds fall into harmony with the history of your personal salvation (or enlightenment, if you prefer to call it that way). The blessing could not wash the blood of their hands, but prevented that blood from pushing them down the slope of corruption, madness, and eventual demonization.

    Now, what may seem abhorrent to you is in reality a different, marginally related event. To slaughter strangers for the profit of your tribe is brutish but ultimately part of our human condition (actually, part of the passions we share with all social animals, but that’s a matter for another day). But the action of deploying those armies, and the fallacious pretense that this deployment is the Will of God, is not on the hand of the individual warriors and priest that went into the battle. Sure they took the karma of following orders without questioning, but it is also part of the human condition (and they never had the benefit of having heard of the Nuremberg Trials, did they?).

    Of the religious and political leaders that used the Sacred Name of Jesus Christ as a banner to set Europe in the war footing ( and for personal gain, too)… I find it no different that the Unpardonable Sin, mentioned in the Gospels (reference to follow from King James Bible.

    Mark 28-30 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”— because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Here the pharisees saw the Good work of Jesus and called it the work of Beelzebub, in the Crusades case, they took the Evil work of the Enemy and called it the work of Jesus).

    Matthew 31-32 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Here we speak of the same event, but with more detail, even straight blasphemy against God is not as bad as trying to portrait Good as Evil, – or Evil as Good, maybe.- and this will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come, which means the consequences are beyond mere karma, but are damaging to the very Divine Spark at our core; whether you believe such thing is possible or not is another matter).

  41. JMG & fellow Ecosophians,

    Based on the following I have a couple of questions:

    “Everything you have thought, said, and done is imprinted permanently on your diaphane…….the influences of those imprints radiate inward to shape your experience of yourself and the world, but they also radiate outward to affect the people, places, and things you encounter. Most people sense those outward radiations to some degree….”

    In the text Levi emphasizes the power of thought that is “….formulated into words and confirmed by acts which constitutes the good deed or the crime”. Also, “thoughts…not translated into speech are thoughts which are lost to humanity; words which are not confirmed by acts are idle words….”.

    Based on Levi’s emphasis on words and deeds but keeping in mind thoughts permanently imprinted on the diaphane would the impact of my thoughts be less if I never put those thoughts into words or actions? Or is he just concentrating on the impact on the material plane and not negative impacts to one’s consciousness?

    2nd question is kind of off-topic but how does one go about building the skill set to recognize the difference between self-generated thoughts (i.e. my perception of astral light reflections) versus externally generated thoughts (e.g. demons such as Fortune’s left behinds from earlier waves putting actual thoughts in one’s head) or can the only way magicians, demons, angels affect my thoughts is to craft an impression on the astral plane that they hope I react to in a certain way (e.g. modern advertising)?

  42. (I can’t get my Google registration to come up. I’m Deborah Bender.)

    Tangential to this post, but since others have mentioned the Seven Liberal Arts, there is a set of contemporary art works in a library in the state of Washington to which I have a familial connection.;id=2842;type=101

    “The Seven Liberal Arts is a seven-part artwork by artist Nancy Mee. She installed the sculptures in the Library of Pierce College’s Puyallup campus.”

    The art works are photographic portraits of people of various ethnicities. My late father, who lived in Tacoma, was the model for Rhetoric. He told me that the artist wanted a Jew for Rhetoric. She chose well. I remember the discussions and arguments we had around the dinner table every night, sometimes resorting to a dictionary or the Encyclopedia Brittanica to settle questions of fact. I participated in these discussions on an equal basis with my parents and brother from an early age. Logic and expressing oneself articulately were prized and encouraged.

    Unfortunately, the web page I linked to above does not include all seven of the works of art, and Rhetoric is not shown. My father was in late middle age but still vigorous when his likeness was taken. His name was Irvin Jack Frankel. He has a kind of immortality from this, although it is anonymous. Do have a look at his picture if you are ever in the neighborhood.

  43. Swedenborg said that in heaven there is no false face ego covering your real personality and all your thoughts and desires are visible to all. Your shame drives you from the selfless or good souls and you gravitate or descend to those who think more like you. A selfish or evil person seeks out those like themself and enters hell on their own accord.

  44. DenG, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Aloysius, excellent! No, it’s never too late; every moment contains the possibility of wisdom, revelation, and enlightenment.

    Seagull, that’ll do as a good working approximation!

    Jon, correct on both counts. As for the imprint, it can happen on any of several levels — an imprint like the one established by Jesus was established on the spiritual planes originally, and then cascaded down the planes from there, affecting each plane in turn.

    J.L.Mc12, I don’t recommend reading On the Fourfold Root first, no. Read the first volume of The World as Will and Representation (assuming you’ve got one of the editions that puts the main text in one volume and the supplementary chapters in another) and then read On the Fourfold Root — it’ll make more sense that way.

    Random, yes, Lévi uses “intellectual” where I would use “mental.” As for “false piety,” I’m pretty sure he means that the superstitious aren’t actually devout.

    Chris, an interesting year indeed! Positive vibes en route for a prompt recovery of energy.

    David BTL, the cosmos does indeed provide. Sometimes it does so with a sledgehammer — I know, I’ve been whacked by a few of those in my time.

    Minervaphilos, even then, yes. The actions of the army and the decisions that sent it on its way had ghastly karma, for which France and the Catholic church both paid in blood; the blessings had certain quiet benefits, as blessings do.

    Scotty, good. Lévi and I emphasize different aspects of the same teaching; I note that even casual thoughts have an impact, he notes that thoughts have a weak impact if you don’t express them in words and deeds, and both these statements are correct. If you never put a negative thought into words or actions, the karma that thought generates will be much weaker, and it will be partly counteracted by the positive karma you generate by recognizing that the thought isn’t one you want to express, and putting the kibosh on it. As for the skill set, it takes practice; regular meditation is the best way I know of to tell. Intrusive mental content comes both ways; on the one hand, you get people crafting impressions to try to lure you into certain thoughts; on the other, malign spirits can push thoughts at you, and thoughts held by people near you can leak into your consciousness as well.

    Deborah, thanks for this! I don’t expect ever to go back to Washington State, but if I do I’ll see if I can make time to swing by.

    DenG, good! Which of Swedenborg’s books are you reading?

  45. I felt pleased reading your opening linguistic commentary on what ‘realization’ is meant to mean… I wrote ‘enrealening’ in my notes. The Buddhists I’ve known best refer to ‘actual proof’ as in, ‘if the things you chant to manifest don’t show up you aren’t doing it right and should try something different.’ An a posteriori basis for faith. What has most happened for me since I started reading this section is that my dreams had physical manifestations upon waking: a maroon Mercury sedan for one. And tonight I walked into the bar next to where I work to be invited to join karaoke Nancy Sinatra ‘boots made for walking’ which in my earlier dream I tuned in on an old time b/w rabbit ears TV. So… synchronicity, repeating and coalescing of images from the world collection of media; but new to me the immediate and direct connection to dreams. How might I improve and direct this newly developing capacity so as to be sufficiently adept w a paddle … as this work seems to be taking me into more powerful currents in the astral light?

    I love your description of the ways to resolve bad karma by receiving and going through it: physical clobbering, emotional self-clobbering… have Def had some experience of this. Keep praying that my dear love-friend will realize he has tortured himself/been clobbered enough soon. Also appreciate earlier commenter’s story of wife being clobbered by his own emotional experiences, and this being catalyst to ‘do the work.’ On the other hand it seems like Levi’s position is that there’s no place for special-partnership status for one doing this work. Powerful mages disentangle to climb the tower, consider powerful waves of the astral light wrapped in the isolating wool blanket of Apollonius of Tyana… Do you see a place for more cooperative and entangled magical operations where there’s such a thing as an active passion? Or do you think passions are always ‘being carried away’— especially for one and maybe both partners in a sexual-lover-partnership? But also as in a passionate sense of loss for destruction of complex living systems, say. Lots of people treat ‘passion’ like it’s a driving force to use for action, whereas this seems to be rejected in ‘High Magic’. I reckon passion gets easily out of balance w reason, by its nature.

    I love the description of the great initiator of Christianity, and of his determination to use interior focus to create a common faith and means of magnetic communication which was apart from the putrefied currents of the depraved Romans. Seems like something we are working on together here in a way, in another time of declining empire! The last sentence of that paragraph is cryptic to me, ‘For that matter, the prophets simply figured out, through the accuracy of their calculations, the propitious time for moral reactions.’ What do you (Levi/you/mikituk) mean by ‘moral reactions’?

  46. When I started looking at the symbolism on the card, I dissected the card into parts (the crown, the bodice, etc.) and thought I understood the card. But I was rereading a section in another chapter (to try to understand something else) and came across Levi’s pentagram and JMG’s description:

    “The pentagram has Jupiter on its head, representing justice; Mars on its hands, representing strength; and Saturn on its feet, representing stability; Mercury and Venus, intellect and emotion, are combined at its heart, and the Sun and Moon are at its breasts. The pentagram represents the microcosm, the human individual.”

    I know the overall card represents Justice, but consider if Jupiter represents justice, then the scales can represent Jupiter. The sword can represent Mars. The hourglass, Saturn. Mercury and Venus, the lion and the Sphinx. The Sun’s symbol is on the crown. The Moon could either be the crescent dividing the background or perhaps the bodice (which is shaped liked two crescents back-to-back).

    So the card contains the aspects of the Pentagram, which represents Man!

    And there are four dualities: Sun/Moon, Mercury/Venus, double-edged Sword, the pans on the scale. Four dualities, 4 * 2 = 8

    But that leaves out Saturn. And on the card, Saturn is separate. It’s on a badge (with a yellow background). Behind the throne (on the Knapp-Hall card) is a red background and, above that, a blue background. Fire and Water, which make Air (which is yellow, on the badge). Levi says that the Astral Light is represented by Time and Eternity. Someone (way back in one of the earlier chapters) noticed that the lemniscate on its side represents eternity, but upright it looks like an hourglass (time). So the badge is the Astral Light, which completes Man (or creates Man).

    Even though I like where this meditation led me, it still feels incomplete. Maybe because Justice is the first moral lesson in the Tarot and it won’t feel complete until I understand the other three moral lesson cards? Or maybe there is something I am not seeing yet. What do you all see in the card?

    (PS: One of my fun dissected symbols was the little heart in the scale, in between the pans. Levi said that the binary of power and wisdom is resolved by love…)

    (PS2: And the astral light is represented by time and eternity!?! Oh, there is a meditation or two in that…)

  47. JMG – “Which of Swedenborg’s books are you reading?”

    Not reading currently. Spent a Summer in the 90s attending the Swedenborg church next to Harvard in Cambridge MA. They have a library I would stop by and use before the internet. I was a paying member of the national organization for probably a decade. I donated 100s of various religious and spiritual books to local libraries in the early 2000s including a beautiful copy of ‘Divine Love and Wisdom’ I wish I kept. I still have ‘Levels of Mind’ in hard cover. ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Arcana Coelestia’ as PDF. ‘Awaken from Death’ has a clear and easily understandable introductory explanation of Swedenborg thought.

    Your statement, “… there is no privacy in the astral light”, brought this all back for me. Thank you.

  48. JMG – You mentioned that sending armies out to rape and pillage and murder brings a like response from karma down on that nation. It seems the US has a lot of imperialism, pillaging (physical and economic), and cultural destruction of other nations to answer for. Any thoughts on what form that blowback might take?

  49. RandomActsOfKarma

    Thanks for sharing your meditation. It sparked some “realizations” in me. I had missed the tiny heart on the balance scale…I’m delighted to see it now! I also see the bodice as a good location to visualize the Moon, personally.


    “What has most happened for me since I started reading this section is that my dreams had physical manifestations upon waking.”

    That happened to me today. In a dream last night, I went into a dark room and reached for the light switch. The lights didn’t come on. This morning in waking life, while trying to plug my ipod into the speaker dock, the sound coming from the ipod’s internal speaker was faint and thin; it wasn’t fully connected to the speaker. After I re-positioned it, the full tones of the music filled the air. I smiled. I took a deep breath and exhaled, experiencing the sense of connection between the physical breath and the subtle bodies concurrently breathing. I wondered: Who is breathing?

    “… use interior focus to create a common faith and means of magnetic communication which was apart from the putrefied currents of the depraved Romans. Seems like something we are working on together here in a way, in another time of declining empire!”

    It seems so to me also.

  50. Just noticed on all versions of the card, Justice has some form of chain or other binding round the neck. Presumably signifying the enforcer of justice is equally bound by it.

  51. AliceEm, “enrealening” is good! The ways to develop skill with the astral light — well, that’s most of what magical training is about. As for “moral reactions,” the word “moral” is another one that’s lost much of its meaning over the years. It used to include the concepts we now lump under the term “morale,” and the wider range of social habits, passions, and enthusiasms. So the prophets paid attention to what was happening in their societies, figured out when most people had gotten sick of the consequences of their own bad habits, and proposed a return to saner ways of doing things at the moment when people were ready to hear it.

    Random, fascinating! That’s an intriguing analysis.

    DenG, gotcha. That’s a useful background to have.

    Leah, at this point it’s anyone’s guess, but the blowback will not be gentle.

    Yorkshire, good. Very good.

    Y. Chireau (offlist), you know, everything you’ve tried to post for the last couple of years has been one form or another of race baiting. That’s really sad; you used to have thoughtful and interesting things to say. Still, enough is enough. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  52. @Leah K, #51

    Not JMG, but if I may…

    My understanding of karma has come to change over the years thanks to the discussions we have here and in JMG’s other blogs. Before, I used to think this idea is more of a spiritual bureaucracy taking notice of everything you do, and either accruing to or withdrawing from your karma balance accordingly. Think of the Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Houses competition, only with non incarnated “teachers” awarding the “points”.

    Now, I think in karma as something much more specific. It is the enduring consequences of everything we think, say, do or even drill into an habit. So, at least in some sense, the consequences of fighting many needless wars is to have:

    1. A bunch of resentful foreign enemies, biding their time and looking for the first shows of weakness
    2. A bunch of resentful veterans that wrecked their health and their psyques in the pursuit of Empire, and who no longer can merge into civilian society.
    3. In a more abstract way, a population at large that has come to accept the idea that “might makes right”, and begin to apply that in their day to day interactions.

    What specific form the full payment for the pursuit of Empire will take in each particular country that goes that route is impossible to say in advance, but if you look at what problems arise from those three (from the minor to the very grave), you will see what kind of interest are paid even during their drunken party times.

  53. Hi John Michael,

    That’s funny. Justice both weighs the scales and can just as likely smite supplicants with a sword. Yes, best not be too hasty to approach such a person with grievances. Although candidly the narrow shoulders tends to indicate a lack of strength and speed behind the blow, even so, swords are effective weapons.

    I can’t quite work out whether the androgynous face is a deliberate act on the part of the artist? Dunno.

    And what’s with the tiny little symbol in the lower left hand corner of the card on the hem of the gown?



  54. Hi John Michael and Leah,

    Apologies this is a bit off topic. And I dunno whether it is of interest or not, but historically wars are a way of expanding access to resources, or in perhaps darker moments – expending certain groups of over supplied resources, but that comes down to the same thing. But basically, forget about the ideology because at the core, the act has to turn a profit. It’s a grubby motive, but it’s there, otherwise the society conducting the war goes broke. It’s not all that different from sending humans to the moon – if that act doesn’t pay its way, then you stop doing it.

    And that’s what’s really weird about the past half century and then some, ideology is nice and all, but it doesn’t pay the bills. But the bills still keep on flowing on in – and I reckon that is part of the blow back story. It is certainly occurring right now – look at inflation or the slowly declining international purchasing power of the US dollar, but it’s greater than that too – there is a loss of credibility. And if other people know you can’t win, they’ll make nuisances of themselves.

    Dunno, but that story is something that I too wonder about.



  55. JMG – Christian new thought and some new age early 90s to Swedenborg mid 90s with great experiences and insights. I let Cambridge BooJews, Jewish Buddhist teachers, whom I appreciate and respect, deconstruct my ego structure, only to watch them carve out special meditation days and times for ‘alternative’ personal identification structures that celebrated and strengthened those identifications and their victimization. Harvard, Noam Chomsky, ACLU, Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, a group I supported for years, turned into a bunch of woke liberal hypocrites. Larry Rosenberg, the founder of CIMC, will always be a great example of what the best of Buddhism is. A medic in the Vietnam war, he is the American mirror of Thich Nhat Hanh and a truly wonderful being.

  56. @ CR Patiño #28 – thank you for this:
    Re purification rituals (and possibly other methods) that “resignify and harmoniously integrate transgressions into the lifestory of the transgressor, who shall then grow a little stronger and a little wiser for it.”

    The idea that wrong notes can be re-integrated back into an enlarged, richer and more complex harmony is lovely, and I will be pondering on this one for a while!

  57. JMG thank you for delineating between writing in a journal vs. speaking aloud. Of course I’ve said things that have come back around and bit me in behind (some comically, not everything is so significant) as if I need reminded that the pan is not and not to touch it.

    I have this instinctual drive to then empty myself and not think anything or create anything because by not doing or saying, I am safe. I can just go with the crowd and can not be blamed for anything or suffer from bad choices I made because I didn’t choose an individual action. Levi doesn’t seem to point out that this is bad in his text. He only seems to make a point that when one does take action to make sure that it is supported by a current and doesn’t go against the crowd. Am I interpreting this correctly?

    And could you say more about the law of realization? I don’t see it in the index and can’t recall if it was in a previous chapter. I’m not understanding what he means by it.

  58. Ok I think I answered my own question on the law of realization when I went back to the top of this post and read it again! It just tripped me up reading the chapter again this morning to see the word “law” there and I can see he is referring to it as an unshakeable truth and not just a theory or preference.

    My brain is so busy right now. I had the oddest encounter with someone yesterday whose response of “what’s the big deal?” to our current predicaments sent me reeling. I wasn’t expecting it from that person and I’ve been mulling it over ever since. There’s a lot of detachment people have done to keep their self going in the usual behaviors through the past two years. The fact that alcohol sales, drug use, and television watching all way up could be indicator of the detachment or maybe numbing is the better word.

    I feel like what we are going thru now is one of the biggest deals of my lifetime. Having someone I respect just brush it off really rattled me.

  59. I have been contemplating the Astral Light as Time/Eternity.

    In Paths of Wisdom, JMG describes creation in ten steps. The first three steps are Reality exists, Reality acts, and Reality rests. I equated these to the first three Spheres, so Existence is Kether, Acting is Chokmah, and Resting is Binah. JMG points out that Action and Rest cannot occur at once, so alternation is implied, and that means TIME. So alternating between Action and Rest creates Time, so Chokmah and Binah make Time. Chokmah is Yod and Binah is Heh, so the first Vau is Time. Chokmah’s element is Fire; Binah’s element is Water, so Time is Air, the Fiery Water from the Creator.

    I originally thought the Air was elemental air, like atmospheric air. But I read on that the Air isn’t the mix of nitrogen and other gases, but rather the Breath (of the Creator) (the Breath of Life)… the Astral Light.

    This Breath is also Wisdom, Sophia (according to The way it is described on that page, the first duality is the Breather and the Breath (the Word and Wisdom). I have not figured out a way to make this align to Action and Rest (Chokmah and Binah), but Chokmah is Wisdom, so it would seem that there was a duality (Breather and Breath) before the duality of Chokmah and Binah. For now, I have decided that this is why Kether, Chokmah, and Binah are the Supernal Triad. They are all representations of the same thing, even though they aren’t the same thing, but they don’t exist without each other, so you need all three of them to have any of them. Maybe. Really, I am just happy I figured out a way to understand that the Astral Light can be represented by Time and Eternity.

    Now is this Time and Eternity really Kronus/Saturn? I’m thinking not. There is Cronus, a Titan, and then there is Chronus, a Protegenoi. JMG (in a Magic Monday answer) said that the Lords of Flame’s home sphere (my phrase, not his) is Netzach, so the Titans wouldn’t be created right after Binah. There are several Greek cosmologies, with different genealogies of the Protogenoi, so maybe one of those would fit with the Spheres leading to Tiphareth. That is a meditation (or fifty) for another day.

  60. I noticed that the lady justice on the card doesn’t have a blindfold. Maybe that indicates that “justice” is already built into all of our actions and thoughts. No judgement is necessary. Would the scales then be what we use to evaluate astral influences we receive when it comes to our best course in our continuing evolution?

  61. Leah Kiser stated:

    “It seems the US has a lot of imperialism, pillaging (physical and economic), and cultural destruction of other nations to answer for.”

    But surely all the US was doing here was delivering the karma to those who deserved it?

    I remember Morris Berman on his blog stating that 9/11 was karma for the CIA organised coup against Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. I then posted a comment suggesting that the 1953 Iranian coup might have been karma for the Persian emperor Nadah Shah massacring the entire population of Delhi in 1739.

    Poor old Morris couldn’t get his head around the idea of non-caucasians doing anything wrong, and so he replied that “no, that’s completely different”.

  62. @Chris @ Fernglade Farm,

    I had not noticed the symbol on the Justice card that JMG posted until you pointed in out. When I tried to expand the image to see it better, it got so pixelated, I still couldn’t tell what it was. I did an image search to find a larger copy of the file and found this:

    The symbol seems to be an O with a W superimposed. On the search that led to the larger-image page, the file was called “La Justicia, Tarot de Oswald Wirth”, so I’m thinking it’s Wirth’s initials.

  63. Random Acts of Karma:

    I noticed the hourglass being the number eight, too. On the Knapp-Hall deck, the shield for each card has some representation of the card’s number. For this one, the number eight is an hourglass. And eight can be eternity, as represented by the lemniscate. But time is moving within eternity. As Plato says, “Time is the moving image of eternity.”

    This makes me think that Justice is karma, balancing things out over many lifetimes.

    You also said that the background is red, and I’ve noticed that so far, every card where someone is wearing a white garment, the background is red: the High Priestess, the Pope and Justice. Those three are all on thrones, too. The Empress is also on a throne but is not wearing a white garment.

    Much to meditate on!

  64. Chris, I’m not sure about the androgynous face either. The symbol, though, is the letters O and W, for Oswald Wirth.

    Patricia M, thanks for this.

    DenG, one of the things I find saddest about what happened to the American Left is precisely that it used to stand for some worthwhile things. Now? In practice, it stands for the maintenance of the status quo.

    Denis, going along with the crowd gives you the karma of going along with the crowd — which typically involves rushing into the with the other lemmings. As for the law of realization, exactly — it’s the principle that what takes shape on the inner planes cascades down to manifest on the plane of dense matter. (And I’m not surprised that people are trying to insist that the current situation is no big deal — it’s a huge deal, but it’s not working out the way most people expected or wanted the future to work out.

    Chris, good! Indeed it is.

    Random, a fine meditation! Thank you for this.

    Kay, that’s certainly what occult tradition has to say about it.

  65. Disclaimer: I am only hanging on to this book club by the fingernails, and just skimming along as best I can. Although even skimming is interesting and useful. 🙂

    I want to note that when I started my own “WOH-adjacent” prayer practice, I added a purification step.
    1) “With this water I am purified” (dip fingers in consecrated water, draw 3 rays on my forehead)
    2) “With this scent, I am attuned” (one or two drops of oil on pot pourri dish)
    3) “With this flame, I enter the presence” (light candles)
    4) greeting and invocation of deity

    It simply felt “right” at the time. Thank you for a fuller explanation here.

  66. @Jon Goddard,

    I like the idea of Justice being karma!

    And now I’ve gone back to look at red backgrounds. It is interesting that the High Priestess, the Pope, and Justice have red backgrounds; the Magician, the Empress, the Emperor, and the Lover are all wearing red; the Chariot doesn’t have any red *at all*. Hmm.

    Maybe because he is the most separated from the Creator? Or maybe it has to do with where he is on the Tree. I will have to ponder. Thank you for the meditation topic. And the Plato quote… that’s going in my notebook.

  67. @Logan, #66

    I’d say both of you were right, regarding the karma of Empire.

    I am probably butchering Gandhi’s quote but I remember it like: “Hell is everyone seeking an eye for an eye, until no one’s left who is not blind”.

  68. I really appreciate your recognition of the significance of our current situation. I switch between rolling my eyes, sighing, and chuckling listening to people talk about things online. It’s such a “let’s go listen to the band play and dance while the Titanic is sinking” situation. They aren’t even shouting for “someone to do something” which is interesting too. I don’t know where I’d be mentally, emotionally and spiritually if it wasn’t for the spaces you are creating. Thank you.

    I’m choosing to approach this law of realization with a bit of experimentation and see what happens when I do specific things and record them. Nothing too drastic just noting what occurs and how it shows up. I’ve had more than one instance where to learn something I had to have an anvil dropped on me emotionally. I’d rather learn without such hard lessons.

  69. JMG: “Ash, au contraire, we use analogies precisely because the limits on human cognition are as unshakable as they are. We think in analogies — what are all our representations but analogies? — because we have no direct access to reality, only to its forms, similitudes, and shadows. Those are, in Emerson’s fine phrasing, the riddles the Sphinx asks us — and they are riddles precisely because the best we can do is guess at their answer. Optimist that he was, Emerson exaggerated when he said that the universe becomes transparent to imaginative insight; translucent would be a better word, which is why every prophet who claims to answer the Sphinx gives a different answer. The translucency of the cosmos in spiritual states of cognition is a gain over the opacity of ordinary states of awareness, no question, which is why prophets always find a hearing; it’s when they make the mistake of seeing that they’ve gazed on absolute reality itself that we get the inevitable squabbles between competing visions that have so often drenched the world in blood.”

    JMG, let’s reason through this carefully. If there was an absolute limit to human cognition which separates it from discernment of the noumenon, how can we make analogies which appear to ‘marry’ the phenomenon with the noumenon, i.e. point to some concrete qualities of its meaning, through our imaginative thinking? The ability to use such analogies *presupposes* that our reasoned thinking can perceive what is greater than itself. It can perceive its own future evolution. That is the other critical piece missing here – human cognition has been and will continue to evolve. There is a gradient of spiritual thinking activity, a depth structure, from the dualistic rational intellect to the eternal Divine Thinking. Unless we hold to a metaphysical dualism, there must be continuity within this gradient as well. So I don’t think it is reasonable to equate the analogies with “guesses” – they are imaginatively informed and consistently applicable metaphors which give us a concrete sense of the meaningful Reality they are pointing to. The inevitable squabbles so often drenched in blood result precisely because we have cut ourselves off from the one integral activity which could bring about truly shared understanding, shared intentions, shared goals, etc. – our higher Thinking activity. Without that possibility, the abstract intellectual remains in firm control and destines itself to perpetual fragmentation, isolation, alienation, and tribal conflict.

    “But this origin of all words that convey a spiritual import—so conspicuous a fact in the history of language—is our least debt to nature. It is not words only that are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic. Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.

    Throw a stone into the stream, and the circles that propagate themselves are the beautiful type of all influence… And the blue sky in which the private earth is buried, the sky with its eternal calm, and full of everlasting orbs, is the type of Reason. That which, intellectually considered, we call Reason, considered in relation to nature, we call Spirit. Spirit is the Creator. Spirit hath life in itself. And man in all ages and countries, embodies it in his language, as the FATHER. It is easily seen that there is nothing lucky or capricious in these analogies, *but that they are constant, and pervade nature*.”

    – Emerson, Nature

  70. Your discussion of the astral side of sex reminded me of your August 5, 2020 post about masturbation and subtle bodies. I reread that post and was struck by your description of demonic possession; of the rigid, mechanical repetition with no ability to reflect on actions. The repetitiveness reminded me of alcoholism, the obsession with repeating the same actions every night. (Your description of the emotional tone of possession as “hot, inflamed, confused, excited, murky” didn’t fit as much.)
    Is alcoholism a form of demonic possession? If so, how did an alcoholic open themselves to possession?

  71. JMG and Commentariate,

    Great chapter.
    So if the Mage is interested in attaining similar results from a working more then once they must work ‘a posteriori’ and determine the conditions that allowed success, and build theory to support. I guess this is partly why Grimoires are made. Although I assume a Mage that has done enough memory work wouldn’t need a Grimoire.

    What this brings to mind is the idea that memory is the source of imagination. Once enough theory is memorized, or documented appropriately, then new possibilities can emerge; greater and more imaginative workings might be made, and perhaps new systems of magic created?

    Although I still feel I am missing something around the connection between memory and imagination I need to work on. Memory is another one of these words that mean much more I feel. Like a spirits memory as opposed to a human mind.

    Thanks again for running this club!

  72. By some coincidence, I’ve been reading the book ‘Zanoni’ which is set during the reign of terror (french revolution times). In the book, justice is rendered by the ‘glaive’ (guillotine) which is the same word that Wirth uses to describe the sword of Justice in the tarot image. It is interesting to wonder whether French occultists in the 1800s (for whom this was still recent history) might have had this darker image of ‘justice’ in mind as well.

  73. Akashic Record, Astral Light, Reflecting Ether, Collective Unconscious. I’m getting confused. On the other blog on Monday you said the Akashic Record was a bunch of baloney. (Sorry if I got that wrong.) Here, on p. 89, Levi says that the imprint of Adam’s disobedience is conserved within the astral light. Initially I thought that should be the reflecting ether …. but, as I said, I’m getting a bit confused. You’ve also said that Levi sometimes lays traps for the unwary, aka “shoveling smoke.” Could this be one of those traps?

  74. Scotlyn, nice! That’ll do very well.

    Patricia M, thanks for this.

    Denis, it’s a wild voyage, and I expect it to get wilder before we finally enter into calm waters again. Experimenting with the concept of realization is a very good idea — the line between what you can do with it and what you can’t is subtle, and runs in places you might not expect.

    Ash, but we don’t make the analogies. That’s exactly it. We encounter phenomena, the way Oedipus encountered the sphinx on the road to Thebes, and only through reflection realize that they are analogies and not truths. The process Barfield called figuration transforms the scattered percepts of the senses into what we call “objects,” which are not things as they are but only things as we perceive them. Then abstraction gets into the act, and we lump the objects together into verbally labeled categories we call “concepts,” which are also not things as they are but solely things as we classify them. Both those processes are partly hardwired into our biology, partly built into our cultures, and partly up to the individual. That can be unpacked by a third activity, reflection, but that doesn’t give us direct access to the truth either; the answer to the riddle of the sphinx is always “man,” because so much of we think we see outside us is what we’ve unthinkingly put there through our mental activities. So we can know the products of our own minds, and to some extent we can know ourselves, but the objective universe? Not on our workbench.

    As for the notion that the evolution of consciousness will somehow fix that, that’s Hegel’s gimmick, borrowed by Steiner and by everyone else who tried to do an end run around the limits to human cognition. It involves a deliberate misreading of Kant, because Kant wasn’t just saying that the intellect has these limits — so do the senses, so does the imagination, so does every other activity of which the human mind is capable. As for the proof of that, why, look at what happens to everyone who claims, as both Hegel and Steiner did, that they have access to a faculty of mind that gives them objective awareness of reality: they end up founding movements characterized by constant squabbles about whose “objective awareness of reality” is the right one. The endless doctrinal quarrels of Marxists and other Hegelians are legenday, of course, but I could also point to the bitter doctrinal feuds of the Allgemeine Anthroposophische Gesellschaft as another fine source of examples. Every movement that claims to be able to offer an objective standard of truth and thus ” truly shared understanding, shared intentions, shared goals, etc.” suffers the same fate. That shows, I think, more clearly than anything else, that the claim is fundamentally mistaken — noble, that I grant, but philosophically naive. Only by accepting that nobody has privileged access to the truth — that we’re all subject to the same limits — can tolerance and kindness flourish.

  75. Ok… so this: “So we can know the products of our own minds, and to some extent we can know ourselves, but the objective universe? Not on our workbench” is another element in a rambling conversation that has taken place across several posts… and I confess this gives me an “itch”… which I keep trying to scratch out loud… apologies if I sound dense.

    So, this comment lays out three concepts:
    – products of our own minds
    – ourselves
    – objective universe

    So, what I personally am missing (in terms of what – or maybe who – we can know) is “other minds”; “other selves” “other subjects”…

    Are we really that unable to touch and get to know other beings, including, but not restricted to, other people?

    Personally, I do not have the least ambition to know “the objective universe”… The idea that I cannot know THAT – pffft!

    But, on the other hand, the idea of being completely trapped and alone within a solipsistic mind/self which is so completely cut off from other mind/self’s as to render them thoroughly unknowable – well, it just does give me a very giant itch.

    Anyway, this is one more attempt to put this out there (If not OT). Thank you.

  76. @Justin Patrick Moore:

    Apologies for my late reply, I’ve been dealing with the consequences of some bad weather over the past few days. I wasn’t aware of Ma’at, so thanks for pointing her out to me. I find it interesting that she is a goddess, but simultaneously also the concept of the order of the universe. I just read that Ma’at was married to Thoth, the god of wisdom.

  77. @Phutactorious Here is my understanding.
    Scientists at the time thought there was an ether that penetrated everything, because they thought light was a wave, and a wave needs a medium to wave through. Levi uses ether as an analogy for the astral light. He often uses physical metaphors like magnetism, because that was the dominant analogy then.

    Unconscious comes out of Freud’s work of about 1880, and collective unconscious out of Jung’s work of about 1900, so both are after Levi. Roughly, Freud’s unconscious is individual, and Jung said that beneath the individual unconscious is a collective unconscious shared by all members of a society. Freud has an concept of “primary process”, of a flow of images that flows through the unconscious; Levi’s diaphane is close to primary process. The astral light is filled with images and feelings, that the diaphane absorbs and reflects. The images that are common in a culture flowing through the astral light would be the collective unconscious.

    No idea on Akashic Record.

    So Levi isn’t blowing smoke, but trying to describe an unseen process — he’s essentially trying to describe spirit. All mystical experiences like Levi’s experience of the astral light are ineffable — they can’t be communicated in words. Still, like all mystics, Levi is trying to describe his experience using the best images he can.

  78. Tomriverwriter, Dion Fortune noted that possession is sometimes a cause of insanity and even more often a co-factor along with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same was true of some addictions.

    Ian, good! As I see it, memory is where we get the raw material of imagination. You take memories of elephants and dragonflies and a few other things, and you get…

    But what assembles the raw material into new patterns is another matter. It’s a human cognitive capacity, and thus (sorry, Ash!) subject to the same innate limitations as all other modes of human cognition, but it’s not just mental thumb-twiddling. It’s a distinctive mode of cognition, and from an astrological perspective it constellated with the discovery of Neptune in 1846. It’s of very high importance and will get a post here in due time.

    Paul, excellent! Yes, that very likely is a connotation Lévi had in mind. BTW, if you haven’t read it yet, “The Haunted and the Haunters” is another first-rate Bulwer-Lytton occult story.

    Phutatorius, what’s baloney about the “akashic record” is the claim that it retains an exact, accurate reflection of everything that ever happened, and so clairvoyants can tap into it and see the unvarnished truth about, say, Atlantis. That was a popular theory in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and yes, that’s what Lévi is talking about. What later occultists discovered the hard way, by comparing different visions of the akashic record, is that visions in the astral light aren’t an accurate reflection of anything but the current condition of the astral light; after George Pal’s worst movie Atlantis: The Lost Continent had its run, for example, imagery from it started showing up in people’s Atlantis visions:

    So this is a place where Lévi was repeating something that the occultists of his time believed, but which turned out not to be true. The moral to this story? Don’t treat this book, or any other, as holy scripture.

    Scotlyn, what bridges those gaps in a certain sense — between you and the universe, between you and other people, between you and the divine — is love. You can’t know any of them as they know themselves, but love makes a mode of shared experience possible. From Schopenhauer’s standpoint, all of us are expressions of a single process of becoming, which he calls the Will — others have their own names for it — and love makes it possible to sense that unity and, in a sense, bridge the gaps. There’s more to this, and I’ll see if I can formulate it in a future post.

  79. @jmg Thank you for the story recommendation! I have taken note of it.

    I do have one question on the sephiroth if you don’t mind… I have been studying these along with the corresponding chapters, primarily relying on your Paths of Wisdom book and also Dion Fortune’s Mystical Qabalah. These have been really interesting and useful, but sometimes confusing in this context as they are based on more modern golden dawn philosophy – which as you have mentioned (and I have found) is not completely consistent with Levi’s world view.

    Are you aware of any book on qabalah that approaches qabalah in from the point of view of Levi’s time period and philosophy?

  80. JMG, Ash

    I’m enjoying the discussion between you two, about the limits (and unlimited potential) of human consciousness. I imagine such dialogs would take place in Castalia (The Glass Bead Game).

    Expanding on this, in Nature Verb, Schwaller de Lubicz develops the idea of Functional Consciousness. He says this is realized in human beings as they evolve beyond Psychological Consciousness. It has something to do with inner knowing and the intelligence of the heart.

    It’s interesting that the writers quoted here are men (Plato, Kant, Hegel, Levi, Jung, Goethe, Steiner), mostly representing the Logos principle. To me, this suggests Jung’s idea of the feeling function, and what he called “precipitating effect of feminine conversation” or the “response of the other that affords the realization of [the value of] one’s own feeling.” The Eros principle is the movement that completes and harmonizes the composition.

    “Then the One, that was hidden in the shell
    Was born through the force of fiery torment.
    From it there arose in the beginning love,
    Which is the germ and the seed of knowledge.
    The wise found the root of being in not-being
    By investigating the impulses of the human heart.”

    ~ Rig-Veda X, 129*

    – – – –

    Here be rabbit holes:

    * A different, wordier translation of Rig-Veda X, 129:

    “HYMN CXXIX. Creation.

    1. THEN was not non-existent nor existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.
    What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?
    2 Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was there, the day’s and night’s divider.
    That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.
    3 Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was indiscriminated chaos.
    All that existed then was void and form less: by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit.
    4 Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit.
    Sages who searched with their heart’s thought discovered the existent’s kinship in the non-existent.
    5 Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it?
    There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder
    6 Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
    The Gods are later than this world’s production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
    7 He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,
    Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.”

  81. @Goldenhawk and @JMG

    Thank you. I tried also posting a response to JMG’s latest response, but I suppose it has not been approved yet or maybe JMG does not post comments on old articles once a new artcle is up. The new once mentions Steiner briefly, so I tried posting it there too.

    I would like to continue the discussion as well. Any suggestions on how we can do this?

  82. Ash

    I saw your post that mentioned Steiner in my email, but it does seem to be missing here on the blog. JMG can you shed any light?

  83. Ash, Goldenhawk et al., please see the words above the comment screen: “Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome.” I have a fairly strict rule about not permitting endless discussion on old posts, especially when, ahem, it’s not that relevant to the subject of the post. I’d encourage the two of you, and anyone else who wants to join in, to find another venue.

  84. @all

    If anyone wants to continue discussing Kant’s epistemology, or Steiner, or anything related to philosophy and spirituality more broadly, I would suggest visiting, where we discuss such topics frequently. Thanks.

  85. JMG,

    When I meditate on analogies starting out as abstractions and that abstractions don’t remain that way for long plus…

    “………. conceptions of the world of thoughts and ideas take on form in the astral light” becoming “powers that influence human consciousness”.

    What comes to mind is advice you have given elsewhere about praying to the God one is familiar with or if one wants to pray on behalf of a deceased family member to pray to the God(s) that the family member prayed to.

    To me, this is almost us praying to a god we’ve created or praying to ourselves or the divine within us (i.e. the reflection of our thoughts on God back from the astral light)?

    If so, wouldn’t our direct experience with the divine, external to us and our thoughts and conceptions come from the divine light, to our intellectual light then mixed with our conceptions that have become “powers that influence human consciousness” and then reflected back to us?

  86. I guess a less confusing way to pose my question is am I correct not to think lineally when it comes to the relation of realizations of


    but better to think of a tertiary / triangular relationship except humans tend to focus on the astral light, even when we are trying to find the divine?

  87. I purchased the Oswald Wirth Tarot for this series. Unfortunately, I purchased from Amazon, the purveyor of fake goods and knock offs (don’t get me started about the counterfeit eclipse glasses they were allowing their sellers to get away with).
    Anyway, I noticed a few comments from folks using the Oswald-Wirth of details my cards don’t have (small emblems and such). Hope someone can recommend a version with more detail.

  88. @BigOki,

    I cannot make a recommendation about a good edition of the Oswald Wirth Tarot deck… I’m not using that deck. But if you don’t get a response, please repost your question during the next chapter discussion (or even post on the Open Post going on right now). Many of the commentariat don’t check on the Levi post once the next week’s post is up.

  89. @BigOki I am using the “Symbolic Tarot of Wirth” – a recent Lo Scarabeo edition based on his artwork. It features a full deck (not just trumps), and the colours are fairly muted, instead of being vibrant. I don’t love the deck, but it has sufficient symbolism to provide reasonably insightful meditations and it is indeed a Wirth deck. I’m waiting on a restock of the Knapp-Hall decks, but this does the trick in the meantime. I don’t shop at the big slimy river; you may have better luck ordering from smaller vendors who specialize in occult literature or tarot specifically.

    – VFH

  90. JMG

    This comment is half-baked because of a lack of subject-matter knowledge. But here it is anyway; to the person that experiences something whether it’s mundane like a car coming down the street, or whether it’s something not so mundane like seeing your deceased father in the corner of your eye only to have the vision pop like a soap bubble the instant you turn your head, the experience feels very real.

    Some experiences, like seeing the car, are verifiable by someone else, other experiences, like seeing a ghost, usually are not. One experience is in the scientific realm where the question is some variant of ‘did you see what I saw?’. The other is a one-off not amenable to systematic investigation, you know, the spooky stuff.

    What is this business with the occult? I guess it’s because this cosmos feels no particular need to let us know how it works. And so we have the Ptolemaic system that does work, supplanted by more modern notions that work better. And quantum mechanics which so defies our intuitive notions of how the world behaves that we have the Copenhagen Interpretation which is something along the lines of just ‘shut up and calculate’.

    And here we have this Doctrine of High Magic. All of them work in their own fashion, covering some aspect of human experience, some not at all in synch with other doctrines the way that quantum mechanics, for example, with its idea of entanglement (referred to by Einstein as spooky action at a distance) is not in accord with Relativity. Yet all these systems reside inside this one cosmos.

    I suppose the question is whether the decades-long effort to unify quantum mechanics with Einsteinian Relativity will ever have a side benefit of bringing what we call magic and the occult into the fold of one theory of reality, for example, by understanding this weird stuff called entanglement and its apparent defiance of the limit of the speed of light. By coming to an understanding of the architecture of the universe will it unify all these different systems of knowledge and experience? I have a feeling the answer would be ‘no’ because nobody understands consciousness or ever will.

    Maybe the answer isn’t in making new discoveries or new knowledge but just in re-arranging what we already know into new comprehension or interpretation.

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