Book Club Post

The Doctrine of High Magic: Chapter 9

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 9: Initiation” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 96-99).


This is a very short chapter, one of the shortest in the book.  Lévi has something very important to say in it, but he was not interested in spelling it out in more words than necessary. A very close reading of our text is therefore in order.

The theme of the chapter is initiation. I noted in print many years ago that there had probably been more nonsense written about initiation than any other subject but the lost continent of Atlantis.  That’s not as true as it once was, partly because initiation isn’t the hot-button issue it was a few decades ago, and partly because the production of nonsense on certain other subjects has been ramped up to unprecedented levels. (It’s a growth industry these days.)  Even so, a certain amount of clarification may be in order when dealing with the concept.

What is initiation?  The Latin word initiatio, from which it derives, literally means “beginning.”  To be initiated is to begin, to make a start. To be an initiate is to be a beginner.  In occult parlance an initiate is someone who has actually made a start on the path of occultism.  In place of sitting around daydreaming about what it would be like to practice high magic, or doing any of the other delaying tactics that so many people use to avoid the hard work and equally hard realizations of occult training, the initiate is in motion.

Lévi tells us that the initiate has three curious items, which are shown on the tarot card that illustrates this chapter:  the lamp of Hermes Trismegistus, the cloak of Apollonius of Tyana, and the staff of the Biblical patriarchs.  It’s a neatly turned image, and the three items mean a great deal more than the simple allegorical notions to which he assigns them.

To begin with, Hermes Trismegistus, “Hermes the Thrice Greatest” as the name means in Greek, was the nominal author of a collection of essays—the Corpus Hermeticum—which were actually written by an assortment of Greek-speaking Egyptian occultists not long after the start of the Christian era. The only surviving copy reached Florence in the fifteenth century and played a major role in kickstarting the Renaissance occult revival. Apollonius of Tyana was a Syrian occultist, active in the second century AD, who had a reputation as a miracle-worker, and who studied the surviving lore of the Pythagorean Brotherhood, an occult initiatory order that flourished in the Greek colonial cities of southern Italy around 500 BC. The patriarchs are the legendary figures fron the Book of Genesis—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers—to whom Jewish mystics  trace the origins of the Cabala.

As a symbolic summary of the Western occult tradition, that is, Lévi’s imagery is apt. Occultism as we know it does in fact come from a fusion of the Hermetic, Neopythagorean/Neoplatonist, and Cabalistic traditions.  All three of them were rooted in the rich magical heritage of the classical world; all three of them survived in a hole-and-corner way through the long centuries of religious persecution; all three of them came out of hiding in the Renaissance, as part of the general recovery of lost knowledge during that astonishing era; all three of them suffered a second era of obscuration after the rise of materialist rationalism—and all three of them flowed into Eliphas Lévi’s great synthesis. To become an initiate, as he understood magical initiation, requires a good working acquaintance with all three.

Notice also that the items in question are not holy relics laid up in some safe place to be admired and venerated at a distance. They are tools that initiates pick up and put to work to meet their own needs. The point here—and it’s a crucial one—is that the admirable figures referenced by the titles of these items are examples to be emulated, not icons to be adored. What you are now, they once were. What they became, you also can be.  Getting there isn’t easy but it can be done, by those prepared to know, to dare, to will, and to be silent.

The lamp of Trismegistus, the cloak of Apollonius, and the staff of the patriarchs can of course be interpreted in other ways. That’s one of the lessons to be learned from this chapter, and from Lévi’s examination of symbolism more generally. The number nine, as our text explains, is that of the divine reflections. In the Cabala, this is symbolized by the nine lower spheres of the Tree of Life, each of which is a reflection of the first, divine sphere.  It is also symbolized by the ninth sphere, Yesod, which is called the Treasure House of Images and in one of its expressions is the realm of imagination in which the symbols of spiritual reality are found.

Every symbol, however, necessarily distorts the thing it symbolizes, and this is especially true when what’s being symbolized cannot be expressed in any straightforward or literal way. To reveal something is to re-veil it. This is why the number nine is assigned to the concepts of superstition and idolatry. What is a superstition?  A custom preserved by habit when its meaning has been lost. What is idolatry?  Reverence directed at a symbol instead of at the thing to which the symbol is meant to point. To use a fine old Zen image, a finger that points at the Moon is not the Moon.  Expecting the finger to give light on a dark night is idolatry; pointing at the sky whether the Moon is visible or not is superstition.

What makes these considerations of high importance is that superstition and idolatry are the normal conditions of human thought. We routinely believe things to be true just because we read them somewhere, or heard them from someone we want to trust; we routinely orient our actions in relation to symbols, in the serene and unthinking conviction that the realities will be there when called for. Nor are superstition and idolatry restricted to the uneducated—quite the contrary, the more educated you are, the more things you have to take on faith.  Consider the content of a newspaper, a news website, or (if you must) the stories spouted by talking heads on a television news show.  How many of the things they say can you check against other sources of information?  How often do you even try?

Initiates know the dominion of superstition and idolatry over humanity. They also know that any attempt they might make to end that dominion will simply replace one superstition with another, one idolatry with another.  As Lévi points out, reason, liberty, and strength are available to anyone who wants them, but most people aren’t willing to put in the effort needed to win them.  Nor can they be given to anyone by anyone else—they can only be achieved by the individual, through his or her own efforts. Since initiates know this, they do their best to point out the way to these things and then let people choose for themselves.  Meanwhile, the initiates conceal themselves within whatever form of camouflage the prevailing fashions in superstition and idolatry make most convenient.

Let go of superstitions and idolatries and the world becomes a more meaningful place. Divination, our text points out, is one expression of this. Most people, most of the time, see the world through a thick haze of mental clichés. Doing this makes the world much less complicated to deal with, since everything is reduced to one of a manageable number of stereotypes, but it also limits your knowledge of what is actually happening around you. “Divination,” Lévi points out, “is simply the knowledge of the effects contained in the causes.”  In less gnomic language, he is saying that the law of cause and effect is active everywhere and in all things; certain causes reliably precede certain effects, and if you compare the causes presently in motion to analogous causes at work in other situations, you can very often see the analogous effects taking shape.

As Lévi means to hint with his deliberately mocking examples, it’s the small things that so often reveal the shape of the future crouching in the shadows of the present. The initiate pays more attention to trifles than to those things that seem more important to the general public, because the latter are easier to fake. Public figures who make a pretense of modesty very often betray themselves by little vanities—that’s Caesar in Lévi’s example. The other examples can be interpreted in similar ways, and it’s an exercise worth the time to take some current figure, look for the little cues that don’t fit, and see if you can see the real person underneath the layer of public relations. You will be able to do this to the precise extent that you become conscious of your own pretenses and falsifications.

This is also the one effective defense against what Lévi terms “the false lights of mysticism.” One of the great risks run by anyone who aspires to a knowledge of the spiritual realm is that of confusing the symbol with the reality. Read histories of false messiahs and failed prophets and you’ll find that this pitfall is the most common cause of disaster. The map is not the territory, the image held in the mind is not the reality it more or less expresses:  this is above all true of anything that comes out of seership or visionary experience.  Lose track of that and you’re in the same predicament as all the other people who mistook a vision for an everyday reality and stood blinking in surprise and disappointment when Jesus didn’t show up or the Space Brothers didn’t land or the world didn’t end promptly on December 21, 2012.

If you know your own bad habits of thought and feeling, it’s much easier to recognize that mistaking experiences of the imagination as objective truths is simply another form of superstition, and that placing blind trust in the imaginative experiences of some supposed prophet is simply another form of idolatry. It’s when imagination is recognized as what it is—a tremendous gift, but one that is subject to the same limits as all other forms of human cognition, and to certain predictable weaknesses of its own—that it can be used to best advantage.

The three instruments of the initiate, in turn, are also three of the four magical virtues:  the lamp is an instrument of knowing, the staff of daring, and the cloak of keeping silent. Knowledge gives the initiate the necessary framework for action, daring characterizes the action itself, and silence makes it possible to act without running afoul of the inevitable pushback from the superstitious and idolatrous collective mind, and the majority of people who are inevitably influenced by that collective mind. It’s because initiates guide their actions using these rules that they accomplish their goals with a minimum of fuss.  Lao Tsu noted the same principle more than two thousand years before Lévi’s time:  “Take action without unnecessary talk, and people will say, ‘we did it all by ourselves.’”

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 IX, L’Hermite, “The Hermit”  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 ט (Teth) or the Latin letter I. 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: Yesod and Bonum. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does Yesod, Foundation, relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen?  That’s one session.  How about Bonum, “good”?  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 9 of the Doctrine and find something in it that interests you.  Spend five minutes figuring out how it relates to the imagery on the card, the letter, and the three titles. Do the same thing with a different passage the next day, and the day after, and so on. If you run out of material for meditation in this chapter, you can certainly go back to the previous chapters and review what they have to say.

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

We’ll be going on to “Chapter 10:  The Cabala” on March 9, 2022. See you then!


  1. Consider the content of a newspaper, a news website, or (if you must) the stories spouted by talking heads on a television news show. How many of the things they say can you check against other sources of information? How often do you even try?

    Good questions, JMG, that I started to make to myself when COVIDian cult hysteria started (superstition and idolatry nowadays).

  2. On a recent Magic Monday thread:


    you mentioned that the Knapp-Hall tarot deck “is set up to use with a kind of meditation I’ve only seen discussed in books on Shingon.”

    I was intrigued by this. I ordered a copy of Hall’s Meditation Symbols in Eastern and Western Mysticism, and downloaded a copy of Taiko Yamasaki’s book Shingon: Japanese Esoteric Buddhism (

    I’m still working my way through them, but I wanted to share a wonderful example of corresponding imagery that expanded my associations to last month’s card, La Justice.

    In Meditation Symbols in Eastern and Western Mysticism, Hall reproduces a black and white image of a deity called Fudo myo-o. Here he is in color:

    Hall writes:

    “Fudo myo-o is considered to be an aspect of Dainichi Nyorai, the Supreme Buddha. Although of ferocious visage and carrying a sword and the noose cord and his body surrounded by flames, Fudo is a benevolent representation of universal law. Buddhism has no malevolent deity. Punishment is not a spiritual reality. Karma is never represented as an adversary but, as Mephisto says in Faust, ‘…part of that power that still works for good while ever scheming ill.’ When the human being for any reason or under any circumstance performs an action contrary to virtue, a reaction results. This is not actually a punishment but a lesson, a revelation of the infinite plan in which all things exist and grow…. The devout Buddhist, understanding the doctrine, recognizes Fudo as a teacher worthy of veneration and respect.”

    I was struck by the resemblance between the symbolism in Fudo to the symbolism in La Justice. Reading Yamasaki’s book, I caught a glimmer of a deeper understanding about the way the Knapp-Hall tarot could be used as a vehicle for meditation on the universal principles that are expressed in the esoteric religious traditions of the East and West.

    Many thanks JGM for this productive “seeding” of my imagination!

    I’m looking forward to working with L’Ermite as the next step in my ongoing initiatory journey.

  3. It seems like perfect timing for this card, in light of the madness of the Left and Official Experts around Covid, censorship and the increasingly broad definition of terrorist. Especially too, as a bewildering amount of information contrary to the Official Narrative has begun to flow, as an increasing torrent becoming a flood.

    This occult work certainly has helped me not get caught up in the idolatry of the Left or the superstition of some of those who criticize the Narrative. That idolatry brings one Into the intoxication of authoritarianism, while that superstition threatens to drag one into the intoxication of revenge.

    I forsee a lot of people in need of healing.

  4. Chuaquin, this one was timely, wasn’t it?

    Siliconguy, thanks for this — I was just looking for good examples of people stuck in an endless loop of self-created failure because of their inability to notice the gap between their abstractions and the real world.

    Goldenhawk, excellent! I’ve been filling in some of the details of the method and should be able to publish something on it fairly soon.

    William, I ain’t arguing. Now’s a very good time to make sure you’ve got those three working tools close to hand!

  5. Just a few days ago I re-read chapter 8. This time it really hit home what Levi was saying about the Astral Light. You need to speak and to do in order to have an affect. Unfortunately, I’ve been foolishly yammering on and doing things that have impacted the Astral Light for decades. Flipping off someone who just cut you off is not a good idea. On the other hand, wishing somebody a good day and waving to them is a good idea.

    But then, his four virtues had a real impact. Every magical act follows those four virtues. First, the idea of the magical act is determined, then it is decided to be done and prepared for. The act is performed, and then you don’t tell anyone about it. To know, to will, to dare and to keep silent. The tetragrammaton can also fit into those four virtues.

  6. I find myself regularly struggling with things that disturb my inner peace, like a fish who keeps going for the bait and wondering why it always ends up flopping on the end of a line. If I conquer the desire to take the bait, then I gain the power of the fisherman. This is strength training, and every day I get a little stronger.

    I went looking for your Lau Tzu quote and found another one that also fits really well.

    “He who stands on tiptoe is not steady. He who strides cannot maintain the pace. He who makes a show is not enlightened. He who is self-righteous is not respected. He who boasts achieves nothing. He who brags will not endure. According to followers of the Tao, “These are extra food and unnecessary luggage.” They do not bring happiness, therefore followers of the Tao avoid them.”

  7. re: the fusion energy breakthrough… The machine ran for five seconds, and “produced” enough energy (power x time) for one house, for one day (so they say), They say that the power level, 12 MW, is comparable to a wind turbine, but I’m guessing that there was a lot more capital invested in that tokamak than any wind turbine. So, what’s next? “The tokamak in Oxford, called the Joint European Torus (JET), has been subject to such extreme heat and pressure that this experiment is likely the last it will cope with.”

    O-kaaay. It’s like a wind turbine that needs to be replaced after five seconds of operation.

  8. I really enjoyed this entry, thank you! One question if I may… I had been mulling over the fact that ‘to will’ was the only virtue not assigned a magical item. Would this be because ‘will’ is more of a higher attribute on the Tree (I.e. associated with the middle triad and the Pape most specifically?). So in a sense ‘to will’ stands by itself, perhaps superior to the other virtues?

  9. This chapter is 9…

    The Lamp, the Mantle and the Staff could correspond to the three rays or three principles.

    Each of these Tools of the Hermit is also tripartite: the past, present and future is within the lamp. The Mantle is folded three times and the staff divided into three. (A fine theme for meditation I think!)


    It seems like the current state of the mainstream media is like the qliphotic or inverse of the Treasure House of Images.The mirror has become dirty and polluted, and lost in the reflections people see only what they want to see and not the light itself. The moon only reflects this light, it is not the source of the light. The astral aspect of the media has become a slime encrusted swamp.

    –In the past in this book club the dead nature of electrical energy was discussed. Perhaps because so much of the news is now consumed via flickering screens and all the associated webs of electrical energy, magnetic storage, radio/cellular transmission, it has become more polluted by our own/talking heads projections of shadow into the media.

    In Matt Taibi’s 2019 book Hate Inc. he showed how before the media was used to “manufacture consent”. Now it is being used to manufacture discontent and divide “silo” people into different camps, because hate sells, and divisive media gets more clicks.

    Each screen that accesses the web could be seen as a scrying mirror into this muddied treasure house. But there are nice places to visit on the astral, clean places. Same is true of the internet. It’s up to us to stay clean and navigate the “news” sources and more pure, closer to the source, streams of information.

  10. Interesting that we do The Hermit this week. Carrying his solar light, concealed by the cloak of wisdom, and the staff of the opening of the way.
    Along with the already mentioned flash in the pan attempt to once again create a false Sun, I read that a Solar flare knocked out 40 of Elon Musk’s 49 satellites. From what I understood, it was so severe they will be burning up in the atmosphere. The comments about the fusion circus showed me people are almost insane over their need to keep their lifestyles. Back to the Hermit, he also symbolizes being silent, going about ones life as always, while avoiding getting in anyone’s face. At my latitude there is now an hour more daylight than Dec 21. We in the Northern Hemisphere are past mid Winter. Rebirth coming Linking to last week, That Hideous Strength is about the descent of the planetary powers, after humans arrogantly trespassed, with evil intent. And the renewal of an ancient line.

  11. “They also know that any attempt they might make to end that dominion will simply replace one superstition with another, one idolatry with another.”

    I’ve seen this happen in the workplace multiple times. One particularly good example was a manager who handed out a fashionable new book which, to give it credit, had some good ideas and represented an interesting new way of working that the manager wanted to try. All that happened was that people started using the words in the book while continuing the old way of working. Most of society operates as a cargo cult.

  12. Jon, good. Waking up to the magical side of the world does involve a lot of “Oh, shale!” moments, I grant that freely…

    Aloysius, I don’t have any idea whether Lévi ever read the Tao Te Ching, but Lao Tsu’s ideas fit with his to an impressive degree.

    Lathechuck, that’s absolutely delightful. I just did some searching and, amusingly, it seems to be very hard to find out just how many millions of Euros have been sent gurgling down that particular high-tech rathole, to produce enough electricity to power one house. For one day. And they have to replace the whole thing now because the mere process of running it in five-second bursts was enough to wear it out. Yes, of course fusion power is an option…

    Paul, Lévi went out of his way not to explain that. May I suggest it as a theme for meditation?

    Justin, it is indeed. As for the media, no argument there.

    Marlena, it really does feel as though light is filtering back in, in more than a calendrical sense. But we’ll see.

    Dylan, you’re most welcome.

    Simon, nicely summarized!

  13. This is a divinely rich chapter. Lévi’s unfolding of three simple images into a nine-fold path is so expertly underplayed. Grasping the attributes of the Hermit, Lévi alludes to three sub-dimensions within each of the more obvious dimensions he is exploring. All nine paths are reflections and sub-reflections of the divine. I do have to wonder how many paths and sub-dimensions he will be discussing in chapter twelve…

    Whatever Lévi’s plans may be for holding back on the initiatory practice “to will”, I myself don’t see that as being the odd man out among the Hermit’s gifts. The Hermit only retires into seclusion — in the hope that the winds of enlightenment might there inspire him — after his creative fires have already been kindled and his will has already been awakened to guide him up to that lonely retreat. Which initiation is it that the Hermit is still striving towards?

  14. I was thinking the cloak represented keeping silent as especially on the Knapp-Hall and Wirth cards he’s using it to shield the lamp. So he can see where he’s going, but others will have trouble seeing him.

    Is the lamp also a source of warmth and thus comfort, or is it more like a cold light and you may not like a lot of what it shows you?

  15. The staff my Hermit uses (on the Knapp Hall deck) is different than the one pictured at the top of the blog. It has a curve on top, not quite a shepherd’s crook, but almost. Perhaps it represents that the Hermit has passed the nadir and it starting on his return trip up the Path.

    My card also has a snake, and an oddly shaped snake at that. The middle of his body is coiled like a lowercase cursive “e”, but the snake definitely appears to be moving in the same direction as the Hermit. And I noticed what appears to be a second snake, almost hidden behind the right bottom corner of the cloak, with the same cursive “e” body. A snake meditation is in order, but I’m thinking the shape of the snake’s body means something, too…

  16. “What makes these considerations of high importance is that superstition and idolatry are the normal conditions of human thought. “

    This quote in particular, and reading the thoughtful comments so far, provoked the below.

    I get up in the mornings, have a coffee, scan the news, read the latest post here and comments, then go do the SOP and discursive meditation.

    On days when my willpower is weak, I will read an article and get provoked, and spend time forming mental arguments as a reaction to that article. When I’m particularly worked up, it can be a real struggle to focus on doing my SOP rather than formulating counter arguments. I’m sure this a common experience!

    What I noticed this morning after reading this post and comments is that my morning SOP was a battle between trying to focus on doing the ritual, but also to excitedly draft this comment in my mind.

    Then I realized it: the part of myself that gets worked up by a logically incoherent and propagandized news article, and the part of myself that gets worked up by the latest Levi post IS THE SAME THING. It’s just the quality of emotion and quality of the thought that is different.

    As I watched this battle between these sides of myself, I saw that I was trying to find ways of “fixing” that train of thought into place, to make it permanent by writing it down, and perhaps to raise another finger toward the Moon.

    So what part of myself was doing this? And was the “wiser, enlightened” side of myself the side which wanted to write all this down, or the side of myself which kept trying to remind me to do my darned SOP already? And is this desire to write things down the tendency in myself to create my own superstitions and idols?

    If I may think that I might be smarter and wiser and enlightened than others if I spend time reading philosophy, because we as society agree that reading lots of philosophy is what smart and wise people do, then perhaps I’m really stuck in the traps of superstition and idolatry. If I think that I might even be smarter and wiser than a heavy philosophy reader by “reading the creme de le creme of occult philosophy, Eliphas Levi,” then I fall into an even more insidious version of the same trap.

    Levi seems to be pointing out that there is no escape from this. Even the Hermit, unburdened by the expectations of society, is still stuck with it. If the initiate means someone who makes a beginning, then maybe that will put off those want to become an initiate as an end. That is, to achieve ‘initiate’ as a title, something fixed into place.

    Maybe that’s why Levi uses such extravagant, overblown, incredible language in places, or why some of the trappings of occultists are the same, like wands and robes – perhaps to scare away those who only want to be seen as being more respectable and worthy in the eyes of society.

    But it also increases the danger for those who venture into occultism, because recognizing this sleight of hand may reinforce their thought that “this stuff is the real wisdom!” and then the same trap appears.

  17. Are the magical discussions here not your cup of tea? Then come over and check out Green Wizards this week instead.

    The snow is melting here in St. Louis and it will soon be time to go through all that stuff in boxes and drawers for some Spring cleaning. One thing I always have after a hard Winter are socks with holes. This week’s main post, “Mending and Upcycling Wool Socks” by Green Wizard pymgycory introduces us to “needlefelting” and give you a novel way to reuse them. Anyone for some stylish wool toe warmers?

    Last week’s main post has gotten quite a bit of discussion. Weigh in on whether you use recycled peanut butter jars or pickle jars to can in “How Much Do You Need? – Pantry Management”.

    Too often the picture painted by pundits is one of rising stock prices mean the economy is booming when for most people it sucks. For those of you with an interest in math and economics, come help me figure out the complicated issue of average annual wages in “Understanding The Lie Of Average Worker Salary”.

    Do you have a subject that you want some input on? Got a issue you are passionate about? Do you have a skill or hobby you love and want to share your knowledge with a group of like minded individuals?

    Well come over to Green Wizards for some conversation. As always, posts and comments can be read by anyone, though to make add your voice you’ll need a free account. Contact me via email (green wizard dtrammel at gmail dot com) or on Facebook via Messenger.

    BTW if you thought you have already joined but forgot your user name or password, contact me as well. I’ll get your account active and a new password out to you ASAP.

  18. Wearing the Mantle of a (formerly?) Dominant Religion

    I was curious what other people’s thoughts are about “remaing silent” and what I’ll call “wearing the mantle of a dominant religion”. Levi says to participate or not, “without impiety.”

    I have a lot of Christian family and many Christian friends. Because I know the Bible some, better than some who’ve never read it, and not as well as those who’ve devoted themselves to studying it deeply, some people have just thought I was a Christian without me ever saying I was. I went along with it because it’s often easier to blend in this way, rather than be like, well actually, no, I’m a Universalist Occultist/Mage who believes, as far as I can tell, that there is a Divinity, but that there are differences between Divinity and Deity. I see the Divinity as the One, perhaps as a Neoplatonist would, but then below that are all kinds of Deities and a whole ecology and swirl of spiritual beings (including us because the universe is alive, etc.).

    Yaweh, Christ, etc. are part of this “world full of gods”. I have a connection to Christ because I was raised Christian. Also had a “Christ acceptance” experience through a member of an esoteric Christian/magical group where I live, but it was a brief association. But “wearing the mantle” of that religion full-time as it were, never did seem right, and there have always been aspects I get the “ick” factor I get from Christianity (no offense meant on any of this to the Christians here).

    Yet I share the belief in a “creator”, and I have encountered deep strains of gnosis within the B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth according to the gospel of Wu-Tang). So I always feel with these friends as if I’m skirting around something.

    I guess it would be fair to say I could be considered a Christo-Pagan, religiously. But how do Christo-Pagans relate to their Christian friends who would really dislike it if they know they also pray to other gods besides Christ, have a relationship with Elen of the Ways as much as Virgin Mary? And even some Christians would say you’re an idolator if you light a candle at Mary shrine in a local cathedral where you aren’t even part of the congregation. Because Catholics, well they have a pope, and all those shrines and that’s “wrong”.

    One of the main problems I’ve always had as someone who was raised in a church that was the “one true religion” even amongst other Christian denominations, is that “believing correctly” was more important than what you did in some cases. Of course you were expected to obey the law – a very legalistic church that kept as many Old Testament rules as they could find. Christians often, very often, point to their interpretations of the Bible as proof of the soundness of their doctrine. But it’s not like the Bible is the only book that contains truth out there… there are many books, and the book of nature and religions that aren’t of the book seem more open to intertextuality and not always thinking theirs is the only true way in the universe. Who is to say the Bible is the only book to be believed (well, Jehovah’s Witnesses say that for example… though I belonged to a different sect/cult).

    Anyway, I quit going when I was a teenager, the same time my occult interest ramped up. The numerous splinter groups within Christianity, and many who believed there splinter is the only right one, struck me as hubris. Of course every other non-Christian religion was wrong on top of that, if not actually Satanic, because the deities of other religions are actually demons in disguise. That’s the thinking I’ve encountered more often than not.

    And yet I do find truth, with a lower case t, in the Bible. There’s a shale ton of magic in there. A shale ton of mysticism. My magical & some visionary experiences have been proven “true” by Bible verses that I later came to understand in a new “gnostic” way. These have helped me to relate to and accept the Christians in my life in a different way.

    Didn’t Levi also something along the lines of one religion for the people, another for the initiate? I’ll have to go back and find it in an earlier chapter.

    Are these interactions with devout Christians a place where “to keep silent” is a virtue? I like to have conversations about spirituality with some of them. When it strays into dogma and “believing right” is when I get squirrely. What do others think?

    Writing under an occasional pseudonym for this comment just in case the Witch Finder Generals ever comes looking for me.

  19. After searching for a long time i was finally able to track down and meet with the great Mage Kwds.
    The first thing i asked him was “how do you pronounce your name?”
    He replied “It is pronounced like squid but the S is silent.”

    Then i asked “why no representation of will on the Hermit card ?”
    He replied ” will is not a representation.”

    (jokes only people around here will get)

  20. JMG – Sorry to wander off-topic, but just to be precise, the JET tokamak experiment produced 12 MW, 59 MJ, of “energy”. It’s as if they proved that coal could burn, but not that the flame could boil water to make steam to spin a turbine to spin a generator to make electricity to be transmitted, transformed, and distributed to people who want it. There would be losses at every stage. Of course, we KNOW how to do all those things (with coal), but the big JET machine does none of them… because they hadn’t proven that the deuterium/tritium fuel would fuse, even for five seconds.

    Deuterium is found in nature, but tritium is produced by irradiating lithium in a fission reactor.

  21. So it’s Schopenhauer jokes now? This really is getting to be an esoteric discussion!

    Like others, I also noticed the absence of “will” in Levi’s discussion of the magical virtues in this chapter. And my Hermit card also has a very red serpent proceeding in advance of the hermit; sort of the opposite of the little dog nipping at the fool’s heels.

  22. Christophe, excellent. One hint about will — it’s displayed in the card, too. One of the points Schopenhauer makes in The World as Will and Representation is that your body is the way you experience your will in the world of representation — more simply put, the body is will…

    Yorkshire, if my experience is anything to go by, the lamp varies in temperature. Sometimes it’s warm, sometimes it’s cold, sometimes it burns.

    Karma, the snake is in Wirth’s version also, and in some versions descended from it. It’s partly a reference to the Hebrew letter Teth, the name of which means “serpent,” but of course it has other meanings as well — and Hall wove all kinds of complexities into his deck.

    Jbucks, excellent! The traps are certainly there, and some of them are quite deliberate — but the point of them is exactly that realization of “Oh, crap — I’m doing that, aren’t I?”

    David T, alternatively, there are plenty of people who enjoy magic and also get into green wizardry! Thanks for this, as always.

    Know Wonder, it’s a common perplexity for occultists who were raised Christian: just what do you say to the ordinary, exoteric Christians around you? Since I wasn’t raised Christian, and indeed was never even baptized, it’s not something I can really discuss, but I hope others have suggestions.

    Skyrider, funny. The last bit is very, very close to something important…

    Chuaquin, you’re most welcome.

    LatheChuck, this just gets funnier. I hadn’t realized they were talking about estimated total heat produced, not useable energy…

    Goldenhawk, thanks for this! Apparently I’m the only one who can post photos here, but I’m happy to oblige. That really is a glorious image of Fudo.

    Phutatorius, one of the things I enjoy most about blogging is the sheer recherché weirdness of the conversations that result…

  23. Front page of a economic news letter from an incurable optimist/cornucopiaist. (Is that a word?)

    “My longtime friend George Friedman writes in the introduction to his recently released Geopolitical Futures report, The World in 2022:

    For an uncertain amount of time, the culture of abundance will be gone, and with it the foundations of most modern, industrialized cultures. It will not be illness or death caused by COVID-19 that creates social and political bitterness but the unavailability of once plentiful goods and the loss of economic promise that that denotes. Fairly or not, governments will be blamed, and governments will be charged with making things right. Quick, efficient solutions will be difficult if not impossible to come by.”

    Then of course he wants to sell me his news letter on how to make a buck out of the coming turmoil.

    A different kind of magic is going away. But Yesterday we were on the doorstep of cheap green fusion energy, today we are running out of everything. A different article had someone complaining about “a shortage of molecules ” as in there aren’t enough commodities known to build the renewable energy economy. The PMC clearly has no idea what is going on.

  24. JMG, I’d like to project my current understanding of Schopenhauer onto the point you made about the will being the body because I think it might further hint at an important point, at least to me. I’m fairly confident you you were giving the short version of the point in the previous comment, so my intention isn’t to be a nitpicky nuisance. I’m very early into The World as Will and Representation but have read the Fourfold Root.

    Schopenhauer calls representations “mediate objects” because they mediate between the subject and objective reality. He calls the body an “immediate object”. It is the object through which we know representations, known immediately to the understanding, but it is still an object, and therefore a representation. This indicates to me that Schopenhauer does not think the will is the body but the will expresses itself through the body.

    Thanks you Jon for pointing out the connection between the magical virtues and the Tetragrammation, this gave me something to think about today.

  25. JMG,

    I reread your post today. I really like the phrase “the initiate is in motion.” It reminds me of Fortune’s primary duality.

    To anyone interested in the snakes,

    I came up with one interpretation on my own. The snake is making a loop, but not biting his tail, so he isn’t representing eternity but maybe a discrete amount of time. (Maybe an incarnation?)

    But then is researching Teth, I found out that the pictograph of Teth is described as a snake coiled inside a basket. (, under “Tet Advanced Information”). But then #4 under Advanced Information is even better: Evil Teth is a serpent (with a head and a coiled tail) and Good Teth is a disciple of the Lord (the “head” being the letter Zayin, which represents the Crowned Man, and the “tail” be the letter Vau, a man bowed in submission). (So the one letter Teth represents a duality. That has my head spinning right now…)

    I’m not that good with Christian symbolism, but I’ll hazard a guess that the Evil Teth is the one behind the Hermit. 😉

  26. @JMG: Well, I was tempted to spell “jokes” as “joaks,” which would’ve made it even more recherche.

  27. Darkest Yorkshire, thank you for pointing out that the cloak conceals the lantern, I noticed on the Knapp-Hall deck that the light points downward, towards the serpent. That may be important.

    Random Acts of Karma, do you think the serpent is leading the Hermit? It looks as if the serpent is leading its merry band towards something. Towards what? I don’t know!

  28. Oh JMG, just reread your original comment about body&will. I see you did point out the conclusion I made in the last comment but put it more simply after. Anyway, I guess I just added an explanation in Schopenhauer’s jargon.

    Skyrider, thanks for the joke!

  29. Darkest Yorkshire,

    Your comment on the cloak shielding the lamp resonated with me. I remember in an earlier chapter, knowledge implied four. I went back and found the reference in Chapter 2. Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge are levels of perception; Wisdom implies two, understanding implies three, knowledge implies four. I stared at the card and saw that the cloak was completely shielding the lamp… there is no light going in front of the Hermit. Around the Hermit is pitch black.

    I looked at my Chapter 2 notes again to read the whole paragraph I have with levels of perception. Second sentence: “Chokmah conceals Kether.”

    So the lamp is Kether. The cloak is Chokmah. I think this might be an “as above, so below” card. If it is, then the pitch black is the Azoth. The Hermit is standing on Earth, the material plane, surrounded by Azoth. The shield is a man (a pentacle) on the material plane (a square, for the elements), surrounded by water (representing the Chaotic Sea, the Azoth).

    And since this is the nine card, there are probably representations for each of the Spheres.

    I think I will have to reread some chapters now.

  30. @Phutatorius,

    Are you using the Wirth deck? I found a picture of that Hermit (since JMG mentioned Wirth also having a snake). But if there is another deck with a snake, I want to find a picture of that, too.

    I noticed the staff in the Wirth deck has 8 sections. Hmm…

  31. “I guess it would be fair to say I could be considered a Christo-Pagan, religiously. But how do Christo-Pagans relate to their Christian friends who would really dislike it if they know they also pray to other gods besides Christ, have a relationship with Elen of the Ways as much as Virgin Mary? …

    “Are these interactions with devout Christians a place where “to keep silent” is a virtue? I like to have conversations about spirituality with some of them. When it strays into dogma and “believing right” is when I get squirrely. What do others think?”

    I think what you just concluded. To know when to be silent is a discipline, even a virtue. This brings me to Goldenhawk and Fudo. “When the human being for any reason or under any circumstance performs an action contrary to virtue, a reaction results. This is not actually a punishment but a lesson …” I’ve experienced this, “instant karma” in popular parlance. Think a bad thought about someone, no matter how righteous that thought may seem to be to you at that time, and it is your good fortune if you are slapped upside the head a moment later by some unforeseen circumstance that serves as sufficient warning not to engage in that kind of wrong thinking (not the political kind). This suggests that deities and demons may be the same but in different aspects. Good parents may on occasion seem like bad parents because their actions are designed to protect you, unbeknownst to yourself.

    I have a question for John. “Meanwhile, the initiates conceal themselves within whatever form of camouflage the prevailing fashions in superstition and idolatry make most convenient.” If an initiate is a beginner, then this must refer to an initiate who is somewhere along on the path. Is that correct? Could you explain this one a bit more? Thanks.

  32. I’m sorry to say I am still mulling over the previous chapter, JMG. It was good to read In an earlier post that laggards are welcome here!

    As others have shared, I also experienced the “Oh crap!” moment when I saw more clearly than before that everything I say and do makes its imprint on the Astral Light. It seems the Order of Essenes made a similar point, but chapter 8 here pounded it a little more firmly into my mind. More time blessing and less time cursing seems an even better idea than before.

    I found the Urbain Grandier story more disturbing than I thought I would. After finding the story online, and reading it, I was and am horrified. The missed cues and escalating price of his bad behavior feel like much, much more than tit-for-tat. If this is so, how does this happen?

    Are some circumstances such that there is so much energy to be discharged from that overloaded circuit that any sense of proportionality goes straight out the window? I’m not saying punishment wasn’t warranted in his case, but that was one shockingly horrific end.

    Which also causes me to reflect on our times, of course. Grandier and the current powers that be certainly have stuff in common: Arrogance and bad behavior, yielding a bumper crop of rage. The cluelessness of Grandier and our elites is epic. I am worried about where this country is heading. Public executions and elaborate tortures never went away. It seems they may just be on hiatus on this continent.

    No wonder you caution people to not get embroiled in movements that fan negative emotion. My guess is that those who participated in and reveled in Grandier’s punishment stored up some exceptionally nasty stuff for themselves.

    I’m also guessing that this is why you repeatedly advise strengthening Team Positive, rather than hopping on the bandwagon of vengeance.

    Your thoughts would be much appreciated.


  33. What’s funny, is that when I started this I went to Thrifbooks to order my copy of your book. They ended up sending me, Waite. WTF, then, after I was able to unpack boxes of books I’ve put away for sometme, dang if I didn’t already have two copies of your book – let one go… So, anyway, ah whatever, too much to say

  34. I was getting used to seeing the image in the shield correspond to the number of the tarot. But not in this case. The pentagram is related to five. So I thought this was a reference to the topics discussed in Chapter 5.
    For the third word in Chapter 5, I had chosen “harmony.” The pentagram has the golden ratio embedded in it, and Levi tells us that we need to separate the rays from the reflections and act with pure character. That seems to imply living in harmony with the rest of the world and with one’s self. 

    This corresponds to what JMG says:
    This is the point at which Lévi’s sly sense of humor comes into play.  As he did earlier in this chapter, he again presents the old notion of magic as dominion and domination, the empire of the will over the four elements and their inhabitants. That empire, he states, is found in the pentagram, and this symbol can be used to command the elemental spirits—or can it?  “Those which are not weighed down with the chains of matter recognize with their first intuition if a sign is the expression of a real power or of an imprudent will.  The intelligence of the sage thus gives validity to his pentacle.”
    This got me thinking that Will is something natural. For example, we do not will ourselves to breath. So when we become the purified form of the pentagram, and we have our cloak, our staff and our lamp, our will becomes as natural as breathing. The will is not a drive, but a harmony with all the forces.

    I hope this makes sense.

  35. Siliconguy, good heavens. Reality is starting to trickle in.

    Youngelephant, the body is known both mediately and immediately. You can look at your hand and experience it as a representation, and you can move it and know it as will. Once you get to section 18 in Book II you’ll find that Schopenhauer explicitly identifies the body as will.

    Random, fascinating! I hadn’t encountered the snake-in-a-basket imagery; thanks for this.

    Phutatorius, hah!

    Random (if I may), well, there’s this one:

    That’s from one of my favorite decks, Jean Beauchard’s Masonic Tarot, which is strongly influenced by the Wirth deck.

    A Reader, once you’ve begun the work of initiation, it’s helpful to keep your mouth shut about what you’re doing except among those who can handle it, and it’s equally helpful to conform to the accepted customs where that’s a necessity or a convenience for social purposes. You don’t have to be any distance along the path at all — just aware that the work that you’ve begun is something many people will misunderstand.

    Ottergirl, excellent. In a society in the midst of a rolling collective nervous breakdown, it’s critically important to avoid the tides of negative emotion, and also to avoid coming to the attention of those whose negative emotions are always looking for a target. Individually, the people who participated in Grandier’s destruction built up plenty of ghastly karma for themselves; collectively, the society that set up Grandier for his fate got to pay it all back by going through the horrors of the French Revolution and the convulsions that followed.

    Coboarts, funny. I’m glad you had at least one!

    Jon, it makes perfect sense. Will is natural — in fact, if Schopenhauer is right (and I think he is), everything is will — the will is the thing-in-itself, the real nature of all that is. It’s solely because we’ve gotten ourselves all bollixed up that we human beings have to make our wills conscious and do things deliberately with them. It’s a little like having to consciously learn how to walk again after a serious injury — we have to relearn how to exercise powers that are natural to us.

  36. New here. Have not read the great book, but your posts and the commentary keep drawing me back. I am into catholic mysticism and Umberto Eco. When I read the three things, the lamp, the staff, and the snake, I thought the snake was knowledge, the awakening consciousness, the kundalini. I thought of the light of wisdom that shows the way, hidden under the cloak of personality, that obscures the light, ergo the path.
    A trinity of sorts, whose rod is a cross to die on, or a wand to throw down and devour others powers, a rod of iron to rule.

    But in your card shown, so much more… the 8 stones, 7 headed serpent, a sliver of moon in the stream, and the box of numbers.
    I think of deadly sins and stumbling blocks, hydras and feathered serpents, virtues too.

    I have not learned to be silent in the face of things. I have paid a great price for speaking freely. But once, and only once with disinterest and in silence, I prayed with a group from far flung places for a neighbours mom who was dying, and low she lived.

  37. With every act leaving traces on the astral body – does that reset with every incarnation or does it carry through from life to life?

  38. Hi John Michael,

    Oh my! This card spoke to me – loudly. Is it my imagination or does it appear that the hermit is holding a light which illuminates a possible way forward? And I enjoyed your description of the staff and cloak – so true.

    Mate, you could not have written your essay in any plainer language. I hear you, oh yeah. I’ll bet you spent a fair bit of time before setting out on this particular essay journey? The time was well worth the effort. 🙂



  39. JMG,

    The Beauchard is beautiful and reminds me of my old (and beloved) non-Marseilles deck that I’ve used for decades. My deck is based on Greek mythology and the Hermit is Kronos, representing the Time needed (ie, Patience) to turn the understanding of the four virtues (the four preceding cards) into Wisdom.

    The snake is the Beauchard card reminds me of the snake under the Tree (and reaching up the Tree) in Paths of Wisdom. I will need to reread that chapter.


    You had asked where I thought the Serpent was leading the Hermit. I thought about that last night and had an idea. JMG’s card doesn’t fit with that idea (I think. Maybe it does. I will have to ponder his card for a while.) But what I came up with is this:

    The other cards we have studied so far have not represented the mage on the path; rather, they represent how the Azoth is manifested on each of the Spheres. Even though this chapter is about Initiation, I don’t recall that Levi specifies that the image on the card is the Initiate. (Maybe he does; I’m going to reread the chapter today.) Perhaps the image on the card is the Initiator. In Cosmic Doctrine vocabulary, that would make him a Lord of Mind. So maybe this is the impression that the Lord of Mind wants to make on a Human Divine spark, and the snake is leading toward Yesod, the Sphere of the Lords of Mind.

    (And something that makes absolutely no sense to me yet… When I first read your comment about the serpent “leading its merry band towards something”, my very first thought was of the Canterbury Tales. I have no idea why… I haven’t read the Tales since high school. But I’ve learned when something pops in my head like that, I need to pay attention to it.)

    About your other post, about the card referencing harmony. I agree, though the word I thought of was balance. And the shield does have nine. The pentagram is five; the square is four.

    About Will… I had spent some time meditating on the Yod of YHVH, trying to come up with an example of YHVH that didn’t start (initiate?) in the astral. But all the examples I could find that JMG gave (and all the examples I could come up with myself) always started with an idea, even if the idea was a reaction to something material. That led me towards the idea (not an understanding yet, cause I am still trying to wrap my head around it) that everything starts with the astral, the Azoth, which comes from the Divinity. And the Azoth is the Will of the Divine. So maybe our will is a reflection of the Divine Will (a distorted reflection, though). Your comments about will are helping me make sense of this, so thank you.

  40. @Karma #34: it’s the Oswald Wirth tarot deck published by US Games. I couldn’t find an image on line to link.

  41. If the body is the will, then the snake may represent the illusions of the word that the hermits lamp of knowledge illuminates so that he moves through the darkness with surety.

  42. I’ve been meditating on this months deck and today I’ve realized a curious effect on me. I’ve found some fondness on the Hermit, maybe for personal affinity with this character. I am an introverted person, who has been lonely for some times in the past, and my views often are against the social majority (maybe this is an Aquarian “vice”). There is maybe some identificaton with the figure.
    Is this sensation of affinity positive or negative to achieve goals in meditation? I’m a bit surprised by this. I expect your answer, thanks.

  43. Youngelephant, no prob.

    Naomi, you might consider reading the book as well. Lévi was also a Catholic, you know!

    Yorkshire, the traces in the astral body are absorbed by the soul between lives, and become the basis for karma. They don’t go away until you resolve the issues in question.

    Chris, the essay was quick and easy to write; the forty years of meditation that led up to it — well, that’s another matter…

    Random, it’s a lovely deck! The other cards are equally rich in symbolism. Which Greek mythology deck do you use?

    Kay, that could work.

    Chuaquin, it’s neither a positive nor a negative — it’s simply another source of themes for meditation. “Why do I feel an affinity for this card?” and “Why does this card repel me?” are both worth at least one period of meditation.

  44. @Know Wonder Oh I like you already.


    Admittedly I’ve not gotten this far in the course but I will say that this is a topic I’ve been thinking on for quite some time, and have a lot to say, but find that it’s better to orrate my ideas (despite hiccups), rather than typing it out on a medium void of tone, and even then I’m apprehensive as to who I should talk to. It’s probably best to save my energy and wait it out anyways.

    I’d first like to mention that this is riminicent of John 14 as a whole, but in one of the verses Jesus mentions “I am the the way, the truth, and the life”. And it got me thinking, The way of the staff, The truth of the lantern, and the life of silence.

    Secondly, if people know people know, Be like Pwyll, not like Caine. You never know how people will associate and try to understand your culture from the framework of their own. Taking the time to learn about a rather alien culture as you’re learning about your own rather than actively support total destruction is something that has mitigated the “push” as if something is saying “if you’re going to learn about me, you need to at least be aware of what I’m comprised of.” or for others “If you’re going to learn about a few of us, you need to be explicitly aware of what we all add up to and what happens when balance is disrupted”. It’s a lot like learning a language and being told that you’re building the tower of Babbel the right way, the hard way.

    Lastly, in my short amount of time studying I’ve kinda realized and feel that initiation is certainly an honor to have, but by no means should it ever be chased after because sometimes we already are initiated and never realize it till it’s too late.

    Hopefully that all makes sense.

  45. @RandomActsOfKarma: With the regards to the snake on the Hermit card, a half-formed memory led me to look in Chapter 6, page 79, where I found:

    “That which corresponds to the Cabalistic woman, in the elementary world, is water, and that which corresponds to the serpent is fire. To tame the serpent, which means to dominate the circle of astral light, one must manage to get outside the currents, that is to say one must isolate oneself.”

    Like a hermit, perhaps? I’m not sure how much it relates yet, still thinking about it as well.

  46. @JMG: So noted!

    @A Reader: Thanks for chiming in!

    @JMG Again: “t’s helpful to keep your mouth shut about what you’re doing except among those who can handle it, and it’s equally helpful to conform to the accepted customs where that’s a necessity or a convenience for social purposes. You don’t have to be any distance along the path at all — just aware that the work that you’ve begun is something many people will misunderstand.”

    That is very helpful.

  47. The idea of body as will is an interesting one.

    I was initially hesitant, as in the Essenes model, the body is said to be a reflection of thought – seeming to more be a victim of divided or misdirected will, than being a primary actor. However it does kind of make sense if one considers Yesod to be a tertiary / resolution with Hod and Netzach (which could correspond to the Essenes ingredients of thought and desire). In which case, will might be considered an emergent property of the two. However as someone mentions previously, there is also the concept of higher will (the ‘real you’ in Essenes terms) which ties in here somehow. So I am still thinking about this.

    If we are talking about the body in Yesod, might we be talking about the etheric body here (which one could argue is a more direct / closer representation of will than the physical one)? If so then perhaps the other items / virtues might be usefully mapped to the surrounding sephiroth. For example, the cloak bears strong resemblance to the terrestrial light (which was similarly said to inhibit contrary currents) – so might be associated with Malkuth.

  48. I’ll give a Jung inspired take on the snake/serpent/dragon in the card and say it’s the tamed devouring mother. It doesn’t look like a danger to the Hermit and looks like he’s following it. Maybe it might bite his heels, but if he happened to trip it might be more dangerous!

  49. @Phutatorius,

    Thank you for your reply.


    Thank you for the link. So many fun pictures. I shall enjoy exploring that site! Also, I love the Fudo myo-o image.


    I use the Mythic Tarot, 1986 edition. (It was re-done in 2011 with new artwork. I don’t have that deck.) has some of the cards pictured (but the wrong date in the description). I found a close up of the Hermit here And it did not come with a little bitty book; it came with a nice hardcover book

    I got my deck in 1986 and it was the only deck I owned and used until I bought the cat Marseilles deck for this book study. The deck is about worn to tatters and I finally put the cards in protectors. They don’t seem to mind being in the protectors and still work well for me.


    oooo… good memory! And looking at the Hermit’s shield, the Hermit (the white pentagram) is isolated in the square (red=fire). And though the square is in the blue (water), the Hermit isn’t in the currents; he’s in the square.

    So what is “the circle of astral light”? Why is it a circle? Because it comes from Kether? Seems I have more rereading to do…

  50. For the Knapp-Hall card, I’ve decided that the lamp is not Kether. The light is Kether; the lamp contains the light, so it is Binah. (The cloak hanging in front of the lamp is Chokmah.) (And the Hermit using the cloak to direct light from the lamp down to the snake is knowledge, Daath.)

    Levi says that his “staff is the emblem of his strength and audacity”. The top part of the staff, with the crook that can limit where sheep go, is Geburah. The bottom of the staff provides support and strength, so it is Chesed.

    The light from Kether above shines directly below onto the snake (which is a balanced duality, good teth and evil teth), so the snake is Tiphareth.

    Levi says that “the mantle isolates the sage from the instinctive currents.” The instinctive currents are Netzach, so that would be the darkness.

    Yesod, the foundation, are the feet/sandals, who have a rhythm (in walking).

    Hod isn’t so clear to me yet. Perhaps the hood, which limits the sage’s peripheral vision?

  51. Copper, it makes a great deal of sense.

    Paul, one of the things that makes Lévi’s take on Schopenhauer complicated is that Schopenhauer didn’t have the concept of the subtle bodies. What he means by “body,” though, is subtler than it seems. If you look at your hand, say, you experience it as a representation — you see it the way you see a rock, and though you feel it from inside rather than outside, that feeling still gets processed through the complicated machinery that turns sensations into representations. On the other hand, you can move your hand. The act of will that moves your hand is not the same as the visual or tactile experience of watching or feeling the hand move; it isn’t a representation at all, it’s a cause of representations. You don’t experience that act of will, you just do it. That’s the sense in which the body is will. It’s the sum total of possible actions that you can do directly. From an occult standpoint, the body as will is the vital or etheric body, and the material body is the body as representation. Does that help at all?

    Youngelephant, interesting.

    Random, interesting! Thanks for this. That does look like a very nice deck — and thank you also for the meditation on the card.

  52. “Meanwhile, the initiates conceal themselves within whatever form of camouflage the prevailing fashions in superstition and idolatry make most convenient.”

    I originally thought this might have meant something like selling out, but after JMG’s clarificatory comment, I see now that it’s more like the Rosicrucian admonition to blend in and adopt and adapt to the customs of the place, not to stand out or stick out. It makes sense, but it also makes to be silent more of a pointed imperative. I also think it advocates against evangelism. I’m interested in hearing JMG’s opinion on this conclusion.

  53. John M. Greer. Thanks, I just might do that. 😉 More random thoughts on the card(s) here.

    ” About Will… I had spent some time meditating on the Yod of YHVH, trying to come up with an example of YHVH that didn’t start (initiate?) in the astral. But all the examples I could find that JMG gave (and all the examples I could come up with myself) always started with an idea, …”

    So, on Will or more exactly, Divine Will. I really like String Theory, another idea!, wherein, in the beginning, pre big bang, there were three vibrations, the Holy Trinity to moi of course, Who sang the universe into being. Amen.

    And if Jewish midrash is to be believed, God blew Himself into infinitesimal bits to know Himself. So we we are Divine Sparks, indeed.

    In relation to that, I have accidentally burned the link, but have read within the last week of low sustained tones and light healing, what?, was it hearts? Maybe. Oh, it was an article saying that mice were cleared of arterial plaque using only light & sound.

    And the box of numbers, though there were but 9, still reminded me of the breastplates of the high priest of the Sanhedrin, with their 12 jewels for 12 tribes if I remember correctly. But 9 is the number of completion in God. So perhaps it is apt for our times.

  54. Hi John Michael,

    🙂 Yes, of course. How could it be otherwise? And possibly this was your path which you needed to take?

    Anyway, truth to tell I’m also learning that hard lesson as I go here on the farm. I get to see only a few steps ahead at any one time, and even then I have to work my way through those steps. Yes, definitely we both must have done something bad in a past life to end up working so hard in this one. Oh well, I’m not grumbling.



  55. jbucks,

    I went back and reread the section in the book you quoted. Now I think that the cloak concealing the lamp isn’t Chokmah. The Hermit holding the lamp represents knowledge. The light is still Kether; the outer part of the lamp is still Binah. Chokmah can be the force… whatever the lamp fuel is (candle? kerosene? oil?).

    I did not have a good representation of Hod, but since Chokmah isn’t the cloak anymore, that means the cloak (the mantle) can be Hod. That fits really well, because the mantle is supposed to isolate the sage from the instinctive currents (Yetzach), so the mantle limits Yetzach’s influence, which is appropriate for Hod.

    The cloak/mantle doesn’t completely surround the lamp… that would be unbalanced. Rather, it is like walking with a candle and using your hand to block the flame, so the wind (current) doesn’t blow it out. Since the Hermit *is* balanced, Hod and Yetzach are balanced, which results in Yesod, the foundation. (The feet that can step on the serpent!)

    Since the Hermit is holding the cloak to protect and direct the light, he illuminates the serpent (the good teth and evil teth, good and evil being force and thrust-block from Cosmic Doctrine, which are necessary for creation). The lamp of knowledge illuminates good and evil; the Hermit knows how to create.

  56. JMG – a mix of a two questions & request.

    For your book club posts about how long is it before you move on from the conversation?

    I ask as I’m new to these studies and takes me longer to process and have anything useful to say/ask. By the time I do you are deep into multiple conversations on newer posts.

    There is the opportunity to post follow up questions on Magic Mondays but I get a lot of value out of the conversations in the book club and my request (heavy workload permitting) would be a final review and comment from you prior to the next chapter’s post. I make this request with the admission that I don’t know how you keep up with the multiple conversations on and (answer = throw away the television?).

    I do note that most of my line of questioning in the last chapter (relationship between the astral, intellectual and divine light) was answered in your excellent first Revolt of the Imagination post (especially the Robert Fludd diagram).

    Q – Reading the paragraph concerning the origins of the modern occult Greek-speaking Egyptian occultists; a Syrian occultist active in the second century AD influenced by the Pythagorean Brotherhood and the Cabala) would it be safe to generalize that the early foundations were a Greek cultural / Jewish diaspora interpretation of ancient Egyptian and Babylonian occult science? Maybe another way to summarize is modern occult science derives from the initial contact the ancient Greeks had with Magian culture?

  57. @A Reader, #59. Robert Heinlein, via his characters, used to keep saying that superficial conformity to the “monkey customs” while being yourself was the best way to go, since “the brown monkeys will tear a blue monkey in their midst to pieces.”

    Heinlein, BTW, had more than a passing acquaintance with the occult. For starters, he knew Jack Parsons, and Leslyn was apparently in the occult scene of the period. One writer for Green Egg, writing as “Adam Walks Between The Worlds,” wrote a 3-part essay on Heinlein as an initiate, because of what he seemed to know. It seemed convincing at the time, but now I think a lot of it was second-hand and he never got that far into the scene, being a man not wanting to be tied down like that.

  58. Regarding initiation, what do you think of Guenon and his ideas? I was greatly moved by Guenon as a young man, but I would guess that you are less friendly to the Traditionalists.

  59. A Reader, exactly. Remember that when the original Rosicrucian manifestoes appeared, Europe was in the middle of tearing itself to shreds in a brutal series of religious wars, and camouflage of the sort Lévi has in mind was a necessity for sheer survival. That’s less true these days, in some parts of the world — by no means all! — but it can still be a massive problem to stick out too much. As for evangelism, from the occult perspective that’s always a bad idea — you can’t get anyone to understand something they’re not ready to understand, and that means that the highest occult teachings will instantly get turned into just another dreary ideology in the hands of those who can only handle ideologies (that is, the majority of human beings). Besides, evangelism is always an admission that you don’t really believe what you’re pushing — it’s not those who are secure in their beliefs who evangelize, it’s those who are trying to silence their own doubts.

    Naomi, nice. The box of numbers is also the magic square of Saturn — each of the old planets has such a square.

    Chris, sure, but think of all the positive wombat karma you’re gathering up for yourself! 😉

    Scotty, I try to respond to every question people ask for the month that the post stays up, though I can’t always manage that. As for a final review and comment, hmm — I rarely have much to say. As for your question, ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia weren’t Magian; they were great cultures all their own, with their own distinctive visions of the world. Both of them, many centuries after they’d settled into the mold of civilizations, were overwhelmed and replaced by the rising Magian culture; the conquest of Babylon and the second conquest of Egypt by the Persian empire, in 539 BC and 343 BC respectively, marked the end of the line for both civilizations.

    Bonaventure, that’s far too huge a question for a simple answer! The very short form is that I’m not sympathetic to the Traditionalists, not least because they their “Traditions” are pastiches just as much as the beliefs of the Theosophists they denounced (and then copied). I’ve read Evola more closely than Guenon, but in both cases the pervasive air of snotnosed arrogance is distinctly off-putting, and while both men have interesting things to say — Guenon’s The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times and his exegeses of Vedanta are particularly worth close readings — overall, it’s too heavily larded with early 20th century cultural politics for my taste. (To be fair, the same is true of the later Theosophists!)

  60. Random

    I discovered the Mythic Tarot early last year. I really like reflecting on it in combination with this Lévi study because it provides a Jungian perspective. I completely understand how your deck…the original 1986 one!…could be well worn by now.


    Thank you for your hint about Chapter 6. L’Ermite’s loopy little snake that could either be a 6 or a 9 is a clever clue! In Chapter 6, the cloak of wool, the staff, and the serpent are mentioned.

  61. @Patricia Mathews (#64):

    Thank you so much for reminding me of Adam Rostoker’s essay in Green Egg, which had slipped my memory It bears on something I am slowly writing about Witchcraft as a new counter-religion in the US during the century before the first British Wic[c]ans came over here from England in the early 1960s.

    From the scanty evidence available at the moment, it appears quite likely that Heinlein’s second wife, Leslyn, had gotten into magic and occult philosophy well before he himself did, and also well before they both began to socialize with Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard (around 1940). Leslyn seems to have been calling herself a witch by the 1930s, and later to have been working protective magic for her friends who were overseas fighting in WW2. There are two good essays on Leslyn (and her magic) by Robert James in The Heinlein Journal for 2001 and 2002. She is clearly the real-life prototype for the character of the witch Amanda in his Magic, Inc.

    Adam is surely right that RAH had been influenced by Thelema (through Parsons, especially) well before Stranger in a Strange Land was published (1961). But I also think you’re right about the limited extent of Heinlein’s own involvement with Thelema.

  62. Hi JMG. You wrote, “Initiates conceal themselves within whatever form of camouflage the prevailing fashions in superstition and idolatry make most convenient.” Can you give some examples of the camouflage used at different times? Current day camouflage would be most appreciated.

  63. Hi JMG. I see that A Reader has been asking the same question that I just did. If you think you’ve already answered it, you don’t need to respond to my question.

  64. Hi John Michael,

    The same could be said for yourself! 🙂 Actually, I’d hope that the good works here with the land pays some of the larger debts owed – in whatever minor way – to the rest of the species living around these parts. It’s a bit of problem that issue. If I get some benefit from that work, well that’s cool too. That’s not a goal of mine though, it’s more of a happy side effect. Tell ya what though, I’ve been constantly surprised in this endeavour by other peoples responses to the work. The more negative responses are very telling about the individuals. I reckon deep down, they know, but whether they can acknowledge that understanding is another matter, and thus probably why they’re so negative in the first place. Strange huh?



  65. Youngelephant,
    I’m glad I gave you a topic for meditation!
    Random Acts of Karma
    I really like the idea of each card being how the Azoth is manifested on each Sphere. Also, with JMG pointing out that Will is natural, it makes total sense that our will is a reflection of the divine will. Maybe Yesod is where that will finally takes form as the 9th sphere and the Moon purify and balance it before it reaches Malkuth.
    The Beauchard card immediately brought up the story of Moses in the desert. The Israelites had been plagued by snakes so Moses had them make an image of the snake to drive them away. Also, Levi mentions that Moses used his knowledge to find water in the desert. I wonder if the Hermit in Beauchard’s deck is Moses. By the way, there are 8 stones. The 9th stone is the moon, which could be Yesod. As an aside, the magic number behind the Hermit adds up to 15, or 6. I don’t know why.
    I see now that the pentagram was in the square. Perhaps the number nine should be considered the sum of 4 and 5, and not any other combination, just as 7 was 4 and 3 according to Levi. I will combine my ideas of the quaternity with the pentagram.

    So much to ponder!

  66. Will the court cards and the pips also be part of the study and meditations of Levi’s book?

  67. Chris, I’ve seen the same thing. It’s precisely those who get nasty about it who clearly understand, and can’t deal with that understanding.

    Trystan, nope. Lévi only discusses the trumps in this book.

  68. RandomActsOfKarma wrote, “Evil Teth is a serpent (with a head and a coiled tail) and Good Teth is a disciple of the Lord (the ‘head’ being the letter Zayin, which represents the Crowned Man, and the ‘tail’ be the letter Vau, a man bowed in submission). (So the one letter Teth represents a duality.”

    In mythology, serpents are almost always paired. An individual story may only highlight one aspect of the pair, but its duality can be unearthed by comparing similar myths. The serpent coiling round the tree of life shows up as either good or evil in so many myths it’s unmistakable. Is it the protective dragon, or will its roiling shake the world to destruction? Is it generously guarding the divine fruit, or cruelly hoarding it? Is it tempting with sin and a fall, or offering the gift of wisdom necessary to move out of idyllic childhood into maturity?

    The caduceus is another powerful symbol of that perpetual polarity. As the two serpents cross and recross the staff, like energy rising up through the planes or the kundalini passing through the chakras, their balancing effect upon each other is visible. The serpent of healing is not of benefit unless it is balanced by the serpent of disease (as we are unfortunately learning from gratuitous vaccines in search of a missing pandemic.) We should never try to invoke the “good” serpent unless the “evil” serpent is already truly present and needs balancing. They are a pair, and very difficult to call up separately.

    Whenever we find ourselves wanting to call up the rising serpent but not the descending one, or the clockwise serpent but not the counter-clockwise one, or the green one but not the brown one, we ought to think twice. Picture the kundalini rising, but never coming back down again… there are infinitely more pleasant ways to die! Picture a cure inflicted on people without a disease…

    Even worse, should we tap the wrong head, we will end up invoking the destroyer rather than the preserver. The most damage often gets done when we are sincerely convinced that true evil is stalking the land and that we, in our infallibility, know the easy antidote. True evil dwells within our Shadows and is far too easy to project out onto run-of-the-mill bad luck. Taking the good with the bad, health with disease, joy with grieving is always the safer choice. The political expedient of demonizing Eve’s two-faced apple bearer has wrought no end of mischief in our age.

  69. A Reader wrote, “I’ve experienced this, ‘instant karma’ in popular parlance. Think a bad thought about someone, no matter how righteous that thought may seem to be to you at that time, and it is your good fortune if you are slapped upside the head a moment later by some unforeseen circumstance that serves as sufficient warning”

    Amen! Karma is never a punishment; it is always a blessing. The punishment would be if the universe allowed our imbalance to continue veering further and further out of alignment from the direction of fate and the will of god. We’ve all met people who actively resisted karma’s lessons so bitterly that they somehow achieved sufficient distance from god and fate to obliterate themselves into demonhood. There but for the grace of god (aka. karma) go all of us.

    Karma is the boon that protects us from our own ignorance and inexperience. Had we already experienced being abused, we probably wouldn’t be straying so far into being abusive. Not a problem, though — karma will provide us with that missing experience to rebalance us back towards the flow of fate. Sure, that often feels like a terrible curse, but that’s how a lot of rebalancing tends to feel. It really is good fortune to be offered the chance to resolve one’s karma within one’s lifetime, rather than dragging that imbalance forward into the next one.

    If we have strayed way beyond the left bank of the stream of god’s will, that imbalance isn’t remedied by being put back center stream, as we will just veer left again. That leftward drift is rebalanced by pairing it with a rightward drift equally extreme — what fun! Karma provides the lessons, but we must then do the learning. Some do ultimately fail to recognize the blessing of having such a good teacher, but what would be the point to playing a game where you couldn’t possibly lose? How dull would that be?

    The gods are like potters, teasing lumps of clay out from the center of the wheel to create fragile, balanced vessels to fill with the mysteries of the universe. Like all potters, sometimes their creations warp beyond the guiding control of their caring hands, and they have to return those failed attempts to the wedging board for another try. I wonder if the clay complains as much about being turned into something sublime as we do about our unappreciated karma?

  70. John Michael wrote, “Will is natural — in fact, if Schopenhauer is right (and I think he is), everything is will — the will is the thing-in-itself, the real nature of all that is.”

    Oh, that is sheer brilliance tying will to real nature! You know it has to be on the right path when it would read equally true reversed: Nature is willful — in fact, everything is nature — the real nature is the thing-in-itself, the will of all that is.

    Playing the same game with consciousness and presence is equally rewarding.

  71. RandomActsOfKarma wrote, “Perhaps the image on the card is the Initiator. In Cosmic Doctrine vocabulary, that would make him a Lord of Mind.”

    What an interesting path of inquiry! If the Hermit card is, in fact, depicting the reclusive God of Initiation, looking out to guide and light the way of all initiates, then he would most certainly be a Lord. Would that make him a Lord of Mind though, or would he have already passed through in a previous swarm to help guide the Lords of Mind with their initiations as well? That question is way beyond my pay grade! Can anyone else catch a glimpse of an answer to that?

    Also, our will is undoubtedly a reflection of the Divine Will. Just try going against the Divine Will in any extreme way to discover how easily we can each be squished like an annoying little bug. We are here at the benevolence and indulgence of the divine.

    The gods enjoy pondering and playing with their creations as much as we enjoy pondering and playing with our ideas. Even so, they can become just as disgusted with us as we can with our ideas (critical race theory, anyone?) Similar to how our ideas relate to us, I think we are not so much distorted reflections of the divine as we are shattered reflections, with each of us reflecting some tiny shard of the incomprehensible complexity of the larger divinity.

  72. @ JMG (#66, your response to “A Reader”), What’s wrong with an ideology though? And isn’t the belief that Occultism is only for those smarter than the dreary mass of humanity, those spiritually mature elites who have outgrown mere ideologies, kind of…arrogant? In Orthodoxy before Lent (a time when a pious Orthodox will fast, pray, and strive to become close to God), every church reads Jesus’ parable of the Publican and the Pharisee as a caution against the spiritual pride which observing Lent can create in some people-and more generally, there’s a sense that we are all sinners, none of us is really, in the end, “better” than anyone else, and allowing oneself to truly, honestly, sincerely believe such a thing is the surest path to perdition. For me personally, this whole idea that Occultism is reserved only for some kind of spiritual elite, and that a genuine interest in Occultism proves one is part of that elite, seems close to the kind of conceit that Jesus was warning about.

  73. @Goldenhawk,

    All I know about Jung is stuff I’ve read on JMG’s blogs. The universe keeps dropping hints that I need to learn more about it.

    @Jon Goddard,

    Your comment (and others 🙂 ) have helped me realize that our individual Will is a reflection of the divine Will. I don’t know why my mind was resisting that so much. (Maybe because that means my Free Will is just a corruption of the Divine Will.)

    I am not fluent in Christian stories… at some point, didn’t Moses thrown down his staff and it became a snake? I’ve tried looking online, but apparently I am not using the correct terminology to find that story.

    I like the idea that the moon is the ninth stone. The moon’s reflection also relates to some of the Sophia stories that I read, where Sophia was attracted to the reflection of Divine Light in the waters, which eventually led to the Fall (and then the seven headed snake/dragon).

    Oh, I like that the magic number adds up to 6. The Hermit is balanced between his Personality and Individuality!

    I look forward to reading about what you come up with re: quaternary and pentagram. 🙂

  74. @Random Acts: try wikipedia’s article on the staff of Moses. It’ll cite Exodus ch 4. God asks Moses, “what’s that in your hand?”

  75. Random

    I saw The Ten Commandments as a child, so I remember the part where the staff of Moses turned into a snake! He also used it to turn the rivers of the Nile to blood.

    That story comes from the Bible, Exodus 7-12. Despite the plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness (#9!), and the plague of the firstborn (ten plagues in all), Pharaoh doubled down, hardened his heart and refused to let the children of Israel go. (Some things never change, it seems.)

    Moses also turns his staff into a brass snake in another story (Numbers 21:6-9).

  76. Christophe, yes, exactly. Nature is willful — to Schopenhauer, Nature is will itself, or rather our experience of willing is the closest we can get to understanding the surging, untamed, questing reality of Nature itself. Dion Fortune liked to put it even more succinctly: “God is pressure.”

    Tolkienguy, yes, I know; that always raises the hackles of some people. For most people, an ideology — a coherent set of opinions — is not merely adequate, it’s as far as they can go. Being able to go further — realizing that opinions cannot be literally correct, that they are representations rather than realities, and that it’s possible to do other things with symbolic experience besides affirming it as true or false — is for the few. That does not make them better than other people. Some people can sing well, others can’t carry a tune in a bucket; some people are graceful, others clumsy; some people are good at math and others, no matter how hard they try, will never get the trick of abstraction that opens the door to the more complex end of mathematics…and some people are good at working with consciousness using symbolic tools, while others are not. That’s simply the way things are, and every teacher of occultism has had to deal with people who are enthusiastic but Just. Don’t. Get. It.

    Your Christian faith is quite correct to point out that the destiny of the soul doesn’t depend on whether you excel at this or that end of spiritual practice, and occultists by and large agree with that — some, granted, fall into the no-ego ego trip so common among mystics, Christian and otherwise, who are prone to think of their own path as the only way that matters. Au contraire, as Dante points out in the grand final vision of the Paradiso, souls have many different tasks and places and destinies, and each soul is best suited for its own proper place. Being an occultist, like being a painter or an opera singer or an engineer or a priest, is not for everyone, and insisting that there’s something wrong with that fact is part of the motive force behind the flight to the lowest common denominator that’s spiritually crippled so many Protestant denominations, among others.

  77. JMG, though I’m not following the meditation practices for this series (yet), I just want to note how much I always look forward to, and enjoy, reading your chapter analyses. Having already read the whole book several times over, these book club posts make it akin to playing a chess game, and then getting to watch a much more experienced chess player play the same opponent. Thank you!

  78. @A Reader: How should a Xhisto-Pagan react to Christians? Perhaps as a polytheism to a monotheist. A polytheist sees several ways, and a monotheist sees only one. Perhaps they are on the right path or the wrong one; none of us in this world will ever know. Simply let them follow their path and help where you can.
    And if the Christian is demanding that you follow one oath? Then he or she is probably committing the sin of pride, a very common sin but an important one. Treat them as you would any other sinner — with firm gentleness. O

  79. The snake on the Knapp-Hall deck looks like a fancy script W shape to me. That might suggest Willing is leading the parade of Knowing, Daring, and Keeping Silent. Think of a newborn infant: no knowledge, daring (you need knowledge to know you are daring something), or keeping silent about a newborn, but a newborn has plenty of will!

    Also when I think of the snake leading the parade, then where is the parade going, and why is the Hermit part of it? If our friend the Hermit has tamed the snake (looks like it to me), then the snake may be a dragon, leading the Hermit to its hoard of treasure. And taming the snake suggests something important about the will and that learning how to wield the will is an important part of magic.

  80. Hi John Michael,

    Yeah, they know. I used to believe that people were unaware, but the emotional response also suggests to me that they know.

    Please forgive this slightly off topic chatter, or maybe given that you are discussing abstractions and comparing those to reality, maybe it isn’t that far off topic? Dunno. But all the same it is interesting.

    Down under has embarked upon an experiment of installing more rooftop grid connected solar power systems than pretty much anywhere else on the planet. It’s not working out so well because nature provides at one speed, and humans expect to use at an entirely different speed. Unfortunately, the electricity system has to match generation and usage, otherwise things go badly for the system, like really badly. And the simplest solution of them all is getting deployed: switch off the rooftop solar installations. I can’t make this stuff up: Household solar to be switched off as another state gains emergency grid management powers.

    And the sad laugh for me is that the arrangement begins to look more and more like what I have experienced with this technology, but without the super expensive batteries, controllers etc… The thing is, I never went into the technology for purely crass economic concerns. But look at the article, the give-away word used is ‘investment’ – that’s how other people see this stuff. Look at the disappointment of the person interviewed in the article – that’s an emotional response equivalent to possibly foot stomping.

    The system was not set up with rooftop solar in mind, and peoples lived experience is such that they cannot make use of the energy when it is being generated. Those are hard limits, they might change, but I doubt it.



  81. @Christophe,

    I like your image that we are shattered reflections reflecting a tiny shard of the complex divinity.

    Re: initiations, is JMG’s post about initiations from the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind. Lords of Flame and Form “initiate the younger swarms collectively”; it is the Lords of Mind who can initiate individuals. And in Chapter 16 in CosDoc, Fortune explains how the third swarm (Lords of Mind) never meets a more advanced swarm going when evolving through the planes, so the “predominating influence is that of the Logoidal Image, and of the production of its own ‘epigenesis’.”

    And JMG dropped a hint about which swarms are associated with which Spheres on a MM post (look for the response to d_mekel, 3rd question down here

    Re: serpents, what are the green serpent and the brown serpent? (And thank you for all the duality snake examples… they’ve gone into my notebook!)


    Thank you! Is the consensus that God did that just to show Moses what he was capable of? Or to prove it was God speaking? (And apparently the Pharoah’s sorcerers could transform their rods into snakes? And now I’m remembering Thulsa Doom and the snake arrow… I wonder what symbolism is in that movie that I missed. I might need to have a Conan movie night.)


    Ah ha! That’s where I saw it! I could not for the life of me remember where I saw that. Hmm… 9 plagues wasn’t enough? I guess 10 is a magic number. 🙂

  82. I think the magical meaning of this chapter is simple. Do you accept initiation? Do you agree to become a mage? Have you examined yourself and found that you have the three characteristics that Levi outlined in chapter 1: Do you wish to know the truth?
    Are you audacious? Can you be silent when needed?

  83. Random Acts of Karma

    When I read your comment, I immediately remembered Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives and saying, “Yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Uff da, that’s some free will in accordance with the divine will.

    If you have the chance, could you explain more what you mean by: the Hermit being balanced between his Personality and Individuality? This is intriguing, thanks.

  84. John Michael wrote, “Dion Fortune liked to put it even more succinctly: ‘God is pressure.’”

    That’s lovely, too! God is like gravity, that peculiar influence of focality within the void, that prevents us from disintegrating apart in the pressurelessness of undifferentiated space. Our fascination with space travel would then be like the obsessive compulsion of a demon child to frustrate its parents’ benevolent attempts to influence or pressure its errant behavior. Given our preoccupation with escaping the limiting pressures of a gravity incomprehensibly greater than us, we must know deep inside that we’re being awfully naughty. What pressures or consequences are we deceiving ourselves that we could possibly escape from? Other than our karma, obviously.

    All praises and honor be upon the celestial spheres, blessing us with their attractive pressure, drawing us ever nearer to them, and holding us in orbit round their magnificence! May we never find ourselves so cruelly cursed as to be banished beyond the blessing pressures of our sacred trinity of Earth, Moon, and Sun, nor cast out beyond the guiding influences of the gathered company of heaven in our greater solar system. The gods have truly blessed us with their binding tethers to this glorious planet and all the pressures that keep us safe here!

  85. I went back to chapter six, since the magic square referred to six, and I ran across this quote, where Levi talks about the cloak of Apollonius:

    To tame the serpent, which means to dominate the circle of astral light, one must manage to get outside the currents, that is to say, one must isolate oneself. That is why Apollonius of Tyana covered himself entirely in a coat of fine wool…

    Perhaps the serpent in the Knapp-Hall deck isn’t leading the Hermit, but is rather a tame serpent that is walking with the Hermit, just as an obedient dog would walk. The Hermit is someone who is outside of the currents and it is advising us to do the same.

    The serpent can also be the astral light, which is neutral and can be used for good or evil. If we are outside of the currents, we can better tame this light. Levi tells us that we have to have absolute tranquility of the mind and heart.

    I also find it interesting that the Rider-Waite and the BOTA deck both have a hexagram as the light in the Hermit’s lamp. That might be a reference to equilibrium.

    Forgive my going down a rabbit hole, but I looked in Case’s book on the Tarot, and he associates the Hermit with Yod, and the mode of consciousness attributed to Yod is the “Intelligence of Will.” And Will means primarily delight, along with supplementary meanings of pleasure, intent, purpose and determination.

    If we align ourselves with the Divine Will, we shall participate in the delight of Creation with the Creator.

  86. RandomActsOfKarma wrote, “Lords of Flame and Form ‘initiate the younger swarms collectively’; it is the Lords of Mind who can initiate individuals.”

    Does the reclusive God of Initiation busy himself with each individual initiate, or did he simply lay down the original tracks in space that then govern the pathways and constraints by which any future initiation occurs? I have no doubt that the Lords of Mind help us in all our endeavors, including initiation — why else would we pray to our personal gods and angels for guidance, if they weren’t helpful? But someone had to carve the initial groove for every future traveller either to follow or to attempt to carve out an alternate path.

    I think we may be asking different questions about the Hermit. Could you be picturing him as the proximal god who aids each initiate directly, while I’m picturing him as the distant, reclusive god who walked the path of initiation into existence long before? That difference could be summed up by the question “Who initiated the initiators?” The Lords of Mind would not ever need to meet a more advanced swarm in order to continue promoting its influence. We have all followed well-worn trails in the forest without ever meeting the original tribe who laid out the path we’re so easily hiking.

    In the book club post you linked to, John Michael describes the Lords of Flame thus, “They also interact with the swarm of divine sparks that’s inhabiting that plane on the descending arc. The nature of that interaction varies from plane to plane and from swarm to swarm, but there’s a generic term for that entire class of interactions, and that term is ‘initiation.’” He goes on to describe that same interaction from the sparks’ perspective, “The beings that follow the Lords of Mind down the planes, though, encounter the three primal swarms on the way down, and are transformed by the encounter, receiving capacities for action and perception they would not be able to attain so quickly on their own. Again, this is the basic pattern of all initiation.”

    I see no reason why the Hermit cannot be a mythic image containing many different levels and swarms of meaning. He is us as initiates, our gods as initiators, and whatever force chose to make initiation an enduring pattern of the universe. Perhaps he is a swarm of swarms, containing them all.

    As for the green and brown serpents, there’s no particular referent. They could have just as easily been black and white, good and evil, creator and destroyer, willing and resisting, focused and blurred, connected and separated, etc. My point was that we should always think twice before trying to call up good to imbalance evil, rather than to balance it. For that matter, think twice before trying to call up balance to imbalance imbalance, rather than to balance it. There’s a bit of an incomprehensible Catch-22 in that one, and thus we know we must still be on the path. Lords of Mind we are not — that’s still something we have to look forward to!

  87. What if the Astral is Will?
    And if so, the Neural Lace Will
    Override yours ours, Gods Will.

    I see the reflection of the moons reflective light
    In a stream reflected in another beam of light.

    The monster of Karma Fudo
    with his burgeoning billows of black limbed
    Whose taste we now know is
    Death by a thousand cuts
    And aids for most puritanically pure
    On our hearts with His singing blade
    In our depleted blood, with vaids
    His hanging rope He’ll use on ours
    For those in charge He’ll melt with fires
    When they dance with glee.

    These are the days my friend
    We knew that they would end
    The end of days
    And those with lilies symbolised
    The pure in heart will materialise
    Out of the haze in the flyover states
    To begin this dance again.

    The key around the hermits neck
    L’Hermitage nor Kingdom of
    Looks like izod from above
    In Saturns hanging square.

    The rod, the staff, the yoke is light
    But it put Moses into the night
    When he alone hit that rock twice
    When God said once, so took his throne
    And Mo did not see the promised land
    Or enter unto it.
    For though he used the staff with might
    He missed the bit, “Hit once not twice.”

    Here I might remind us all
    Though we’ve been in magics thrall
    It will devour us instantly
    If we are not as pure as He
    That is alone, humility.

  88. @John Michael Greer

    “Lose track of that and you’re in the same predicament as all the other people who mistook a vision for an everyday reality and stood blinking in surprise and disappointment when Jesus didn’t show up or the Space Brothers didn’t land or the world didn’t end promptly on December 21, 2012.”

    Its not only that. And there are many charlatans out there who mistake their own imaginations and delusions for Divine Revelation:

    Deuteronomy 18:20-22

    “20But if any prophet dares to speak a message in My name that I have not commanded him to speak, or to speak in the name of other gods, that prophet must be put to death.”

    21You may ask in your heart, “How can we recognize a message that the LORD has not spoken?” 22When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD and the message does not come to pass or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”

    If such a vision doesn’t actually have firm connection with the events of the world and is exactly accurate. That is pretty much a Capital Crime.

    What I see interestingly is how there are repeating patterns in a fractal fashion whilst being quite plausible in being grounded in reality throughout the historical patterns.

    And every substantial public Miracle has symbolic value. It never happens like how we conceive of magic in the DnD sense.

  89. @RandomActsofKarma,

    Thank you for the Cosmic Doctrine link.

    Not as much as I should, but I often try to cross reference our current Doctrine of High Magic studies with Dion Fortune’s work to find common themes (keeping in mind there will always be differences how Fortune and Levi interpreted things).

  90. @Jon Goddard,

    “Yet not My will, but Yours be done” reminds me of one of the affirmations JMG suggested to someone a while back, referencing the One Light… “may it shine through me to accomplish all my worthy desires.” If the worthy desires are the Divine’s desires, that would be saying about the same thing. I have a vague memory of the phrase “aligning with the Solar Logos” from the CosDoc. I need to go back and find that. Thanks for your comment. I think once I finally figure this out, it will be one of those ‘how did I not see that?’ moments.

    Re: Personality and Individuality, I don’t know if you participated in the CosDoc book club. Briefly, my understanding is that the Individuality is our Higher Self (that what endures from incarnation to incarnation) and Personality is what we are in this incarnation and the goal of the sage/mage is to bring them in alignment (or balance). The geometric representation of this is the hexagram (number 6), also referred to as the Microprosopus. Kether is the Macroprosopus (and is Yod). The hexagram (and the 6 spheres below Kether-Chokmah-Binah, so all of them except Malkuth) are the Microprosopus and are the Vau (of YHVH). So (to me) it just all sorts of fits together that the Hermit is who we are to aspire to be.

    (I hope this makes sense. I am doing this quickly before I go to work…)

  91. “Does the reclusive God of Initiation busy himself with each individual initiate, or did he simply lay down the original tracks in space that then govern the pathways and constraints by which any future initiation occurs?”

    Obviously, I don’t know for sure how these things work. 🙂 But I don’t think there is one God of Initiation, unless you are referring to the Solor Logos. (And then there was a Logos that initiated him, so…) I liked the idea that the Lords of Mind find the Sparks that have an affinity toward them and impress upon them and that a Spark can receive an impression by more than one Lord of Mind. Some Sparks get one impression; those Sparks would tend to monotheism, I think. Some Sparks get more than one impression; those Sparks would tend to polytheism. I don’t know that I view initiation as carving a track in space, though. I recently read something that quoted Blavatsky (and I haven’t read the original text by Blavatsky, so the quote may be incorrect), but it likened the Spark to warm wax and the initiation was an impression on the wax.

    Who initiated the initiators is, in my mind, for our Cosmos, the Solar Logos.

    I definitely agree that the Hermit can represent many things, all those that you listed and more. I enjoy reading everyone’s perceptions of the cards we study, because everyone sees things that I don’t and it helps me understand more.

  92. I’ve always thought this mathematically generated cellular automaton from Stephen Wolfram looked like an otherworldly hermit or Gandalf. It’s not art, but a figure made from a simple set of starting conditions and rules, let to run free. Complexity from simplicity. Or from pressure, if you prefer.

  93. Random Acts of Karma,

    Thanks for your help with the Cosmic Doctrine ideas (and all the other ones!) I did not participate in that group, but I’ve looked over a few of JMG’s posts and think it’s something I need to do in the future.

    Thanks also to JMG and everyone who commented. For a short chapter, there sure was a lot to think about.

  94. I was looking at the Hermit card and wondering about the missing “will” in this chapter. The heading “VIIII” caught my eye, leading me to imagine “WILL” superimposed over “VIIII”. But then I remembered that Levi wrote in French so it doesn’t actually work. What is the French word/phrase Levi uses for “to will”?

  95. IVN, thank you. I appreciate hearing that.

    SLClaire, hmm! Good. I could definitely see that.

    Chris, funny! Bleak, granted, but funny.

    Tomriverwriter, that’s certainly one of the magical meanings of this chapter. Never assume, when reading an occult text, that there’s only one.

    Christophe, a fine paean to gravity — thank you for this.

    Jon, this entire book club is a series of adventures down rabbit holes! All this is relevant.

    Naomi, thanks for this also.

    Info, of course. I’m not in favor of executing failed prophets, not least because laughing at them is even more bruising to their egos, but some check on the endless parade of failed predictions is helpful.

    Kyle, that’s really remarkable — you’re right, of course, that it looks like a wizard:

    I have a copy of Wolfram’s book, and have read it cover to cover twice; one of these days, time and other details permitting, I want to write something about the considerable light it casts on occult philosophy.

    Phutatorius, it’s “vouloir.”

    Kyle, apparently I’m the only one who can post photos. The autoformat feature on this blog screws up your link, btw, by turning the two hyphens after “p70” into an em dash; not sure what can be done about that. Still, I posted the image above.

  96. “The Latin word initiatio, from which it derives, literally means “beginning.” To be initiated is to begin, to make a start. To be an initiate is to be a beginner. In occult parlance an initiate is someone who has actually made a start on the path of occultism.”

    Thank you for this. I’ve been thinking of initiation as some sort of perfected state vs. making a commitment to a path. I’m on my second time through LRM and trying to do it perfectly and of course it makes me procrastinate in the process. Whereas the things I do as daily practice – LBRP, the Tarot 3 cards, meditation, and daily review – I can see now looking back 6 months, I’ve progressed on (maybe deepened is a better word?) and it was the repetition without expectation that did it.

    “As Lévi points out, reason, liberty, and strength are available to anyone who wants them, but most people aren’t willing to put in the effort needed to win them. Nor can they be given to anyone by anyone else—they can only be achieved by the individual, through his or her own efforts.”

    I think a lot about how our current culture doesn’t talk about character or virtues any more. Even in churches. Its like who we are is just the accumulation of circumstances that happened to us (skin color, poverty, trauma, etc). The idea of consciously reaching for and feeling accomplished in a character trait or virtue is not even in the conversation. It’s all about happiness, productivity, and making a difference.

    Pursuing character over “happiness” seems like it would lead one away from superstition and trends.

  97. In your notes on this chapter, you write “if you compare the causes presently in motion to analogous causes at work in other situations, you can very often see the analogous effects taking shape.” I would simply call that abstraction. In the example of Louis Phillipe, absolute monarchs claim to be linked to or inspired by God, and to participate slightly in the Divine. By carrying an umbrella, a brand new invention that depended on the availability of low cost good quality steel from the Bessemer process, he showed himself to be a modern man, benefiting from science and technology. (I think that’s more important than the middle-classness of an umbrella.) The contradiction showed that his reign couldn’t last.
    In this description, I’ve used abstraction, of describing the relationship to the divine that absolute monarchs have. It’s analogous to all other absolute European monarch, as well as to the kings of Hawaii and the kings of Ur.
    In other words, you seem to say that many types of analogy are available to initiates, not just the macrocosm/microcosm analogy.

  98. I think the answer to my question is at the end of the chapter. Levi goes through a series of equations:
    lamp=knowledge; mantle=discretion; staff=audacity.
    knowledge=secrets of the future; audacity=daring in the present; discretion=stays silent about the past.
    knowledge is knowledge about the weaknesses of the human heart; audacity is using that knowledge; discretion is staying silent about using the knowledge of the weaknesses.

    So the focus of Levi’s study is learning the weaknesses of the human heart. Abstraction is the work of a thinker. A mage thinks about the the weaknesses of the human heart.

  99. I’m using the Oswald Wirth tarot and the hermit’s cloak is dark earth brown on the outside, blue on the inside and his undergarments covering his legs are yellow.

    My thoughts turned to the cloak being related to the elements. Earth providing camouflage and protection, blue for water inside no idea yet and can’t relate it to how the occult views the elements as I’m new to these studies. Yellow for air / wind. Fire is absent from the cloak but resides in and radiates from, the lantern.

  100. @Scotty,

    I’m not using that deck, but I like how you relate the colors to the elements. I have been reading up on Greek mythology/philosophy. One of the philosophers thought that the spirit was male and the soul was female. So your hermit has yellow for spirit, blue for soul, and brown for body. (And then the lantern would be his Divine Spark, maybe?)

  101. @RandomActsOfKarma – thanks for the mention of the philosopher’s color code concerning spirit, soul and body and that was the most probable meaning behind the colors (if our modern Marseilles deck faithfully reproduces the original colors).

    Even though it was brown for earth that started my thought process, the blue confirmed the elemental train of thought. I was about to claim that “water has been on my mind lately” but not so sure about that.

    I do note that the latest Order of Essenes Group post on lead me to the first lesson ( and the first request/task is to daily drink water upon rising and before bed: “two swallows, then count two, then two more swallows and count two until you have it all” . Mention that because whilst I do so, I can meditate on the card and the blue and brown cloak!

  102. @Scotty,

    Oh, the colors as elements was your idea. The idea I had read was just the ‘gender’ of the spirit and soul, which I matched up to the genders of the elements. (Hmm… and green is usually for Earth. Maybe brown is for ‘older Earth’? 🙂 )

    I haven’t looked at the Essenes lessons yet. It seems like something I would like, but I will have to wait until I finish something else before I start something else. But drinking water when getting up and before going to bed, that is very do-able. I just never thought of doing mini-meditations while doing it! Thanks!

  103. @Random
    I’m definitely moving the topic of conversation away in this forum now but I recommend you take a look at those lessons. I don’t know how far along you are in your general health but I’m finding the first two lessons useful and you may also as for now, it is still in an introductory phase and concentrates on general health (have to get your body right before you can work on your thinking).
    First lesson was the importance of water and keeping hydrated, second lesson involves training the body to breathe more efficiently. All my life I’ve read about the importance of keeping hydrated and once in a while I’d try a breathing exercise. For some reason, I believe I’ll be sticking with this course or study whereas I’d always drop off any health initiative before.

    Example, is the breathing exercise in Lesson 2. Over the years I’d try various breathing exercises for relaxation or efficiency, such as Wim Hof method but I never got over the initial discomfort or never built the new habit. I only started the breathing exercise yesterday but I found once I was done, I wanted to take more deep breaths. Maybe it was psychological but I think the exercise helped to “open up” previously blocked pathways if that’s a good way to describe it.

  104. @Scotty,

    General health is always a good thing. 🙂 Okay, I’ve got one project on the cusp of being wrapped up. Once that is done, I will look at the Essenes lessons.

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