Book Club Post

The Ritual of High Magic: Chapter 10

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

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


“Chapter Ten:  The Key of Occultism” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 280-284).


One of the central insights that guided Eliphas Lévi in his grand project of restoring (or, rather, reinventing) the magical traditions of the past was the realization that the rationalism of his time really didn’t have a clue when it came to the world of myth and symbol.  That insight wasn’t unique to Lévi, of course. All through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a sequence of insightful thinkers rejected the arrogant dismissal of myth and symbol by the smug propagandists of the so-called Enlightenment.

J.R.R. Tolkien. A brilliant philologist, but few people remember that these days.

These days most people know about the psychological side of that movement, especially in the work of Freud and Jung. Some remember the philologists who used myth and symbol as keys to the forgotten history of peoples and languages; J.R.R. Tolkien was one of the last figures in that side of the movement, though of course he’s mostly famous for using his encyclopedic knowledge of philology to construct one of history’s most influential imaginary worlds. Yet there were many other directions taken by those who sensed something potent and meaningful in the strangeness of ancient myth and symbol.  Most of them are forgotten today, but the echoes of their work remain, not least in the occult revival that Lévi set in motion.

We can start our plunge into this dimension of occult thought by noting that human beings think in many different ways. No one of those ways is superior to all the others in all contexts. Useful as rational thought is—and in its place, it is supremely useful—it often fails when it’s treated as the sole resource for dealing with human life. If you try to decide who to marry on a purely rational basis, for example, you’re probably setting yourself up for years of misery; that’s one of the contexts in which the emotional way of thinking really does need to be taken into account.  Equally, in a great many practical situations, intuition is a better guide than reasoning, because the rational mind is subject to the GIGO principle—“garbage in, garbage out”—while intuition will quite often alert you to the fact that something is wrong with your basic assumptions.

The symbolic mode of thinking is another mode of human thinking. It’s far more ancient than rational thought, which dates from roughly the 6th century BC—that’s when thinkers in China, India, and Greece more or less simultaneously got to work sorting out human thought in an explicitly logical fashion. Symbolic thinking certainly goes back to the most ancient surviving mythologies, which flourished millennia further back, and there’s good reason to think that it is older still—older, in fact, than our species. Consider the Neanderthal burials where the dead were sprinkled with red ochre and covered with heaps of flowers before dirt was piled atop them. Red, the color of blood, is one of the oldest and most deeply rooted symbols of life, and the flowers carry forward that same symbolism. Across immensities of time, it’s possible to glimpse a grieving Neanderthal family affirming the immortality of the soul in a language that still speaks clearly to us today.

Grieving for a dead relative, 70,000 years ago. Different species, same feelings — and same symbolism.

The chief difficulty that we face in dealing with symbolism is the same one that Lévi and his contemporaries faced in their own time: the automatic habit of trying to convert a symbolic thought into some more rational form. What sets rational thinking apart from most other kinds of human thought is that it is capable of exact definition. Discuss the immortality of the soul in rational terms and the demand for definitions pops up immediately. What is the soul? How does it relate to the body? What kind of immortality can it expect, if any?  From the perspective of rational thought, questions like these are inescapable.

Symbolic thought, however, doesn’t work like that. The ochre and the flowers aren’t subject to precise definition; they express a constellation of intention and meaning that is both more general and more complex than any rational analysis can be. Try to pick them apart and you lose most of what they have to say. Encounter them as windows through which intention and meaning stream like rays of sunlight, and they become a vivid form of human experience.

This is what Lévi wants us to do with symbols. The term he uses for them is “pentacles,” which confuses things for later readers, since few of the pentacles he offers for consideration have the fivefold symmetry the word seems to suggest.  He applies the term very broadly indeed, as the first pages of this chapter demonstrate. He suggests that all the equipment and garments of the high priests of Israel, and the tabernacle itself, were pentacles; so were the unpleasant diagrams drawn by medieval sorcerers on the skins of sacrificed animals; so are the first eight chapters of the Book of Genesis, the vision of Ezekiel, and the Book of Revelation!

A pentacle from Lévi’s book.

What he is saying, of course, is that from the perspective of occultism, each of these things needs to be understood in symbolic rather than literal terms. Each one embodies and expresses a constellation of intention and meaning. Lévi’s own phrasing is useful:  “The pentacle, being a complete and perfect synthesis, expressed in one single sign, is used to assemble all of the intellectual power into a glance, into a memory, into a contact. It is like a point of support from which to project the will with power.”

Those of my readers who know their way around late twentieth century occultism will have begun thinking of sigil magic long before they finished reading the quotation above. For other readers, a few words of explanation may be helpful. In chaos magic and some other branches of pop-culture occultism, one of the standard ways of working magic consists of creating a sigil—an abstract diagram that embodies an intention—and then concentrating magical force on the sigil.  The usual method for making a sigil involves writing out the intention and then taking the letters and combining them in various ways.  It has mixed results; some people have gotten good results quite reliably with it, though plenty of others have been disappointed.

Part of that disappointment, to be sure, comes from the usual method of charging a sigil. Austin Osman Spare, who invented the method back in the middle years of the twentieth century, used to charge his sigils by masturbating. You can get a surge of magical energy by breaking a taboo you were raised with, and in Spare’s time sexual taboos still had a lot of force. One of the consequences of the 1960s, though, is that most people no longer grow up with the terror of their own sexuality that was instilled into children all through the Western world back in the day. Breaking the taboos your grandparents were raised with doesn’t get the kind of reaction that you can get from breaking those of your own upbringing, which is why sex magic no longer packs the power it once did, and also why so many of the people who attempted to duplicate Spare’s feats ended up with nothing more than sticky fingers.

Austin Osman Spare. What worked in the backwash of the Victorian era doesn’t necessarily work as well today.

Fortunately there are plenty of ways to raise and direct magical energies that don’t involve playing games with taboos.  Many traditionally minded occultists, in fact, hold that the taboo-breaking approach is a cheap trick meant to evade the hard work of magical development that leads to the ability to direct magical forces at will. But there’s another difficulty with sigils of the usual modern kind, which is that they aren’t symbols. They don’t rise above the merely rational level; all they can embody is a word, a phrase, or a sentence that expresses what the practitioner wants in rational terms. A symbol, as the quote from Lévi cited above points out, brings power with it; a sigil made in the usual modern way does not.

Again, a symbol embodies and expresses a constellation of intention and meaning. To borrow an insight from a later French esotericist, René Schwaller de Lubicz, symbols are real rather than true; that is to say, they do not belong to the realm where concepts such as “true” and “false” operate. They are  realities, and they partake of the realm of reality, the Ding an sich or “thing as such” beyond our representations.  This gives them extraordinary power in magical working, although that power comes with a cost: a symbol does not mean whatever you want it to mean. It has an objective meaning, even if that meaning can never be explicitly defined.

How do you learn to perceive a meaning that eludes the grasp of rational thought?  That has been one of the great challenges of occult instruction for many centuries.  Initiation ceremonies, which bring the candidate face to face with carefully chosen symbols while in a heightened state of consciousness, are one classic method for communicating the meaning of symbolism. Tables of correspondences, of the kind that occultists study and memorize, are another standard method: by bringing clusters of names, words, and concepts together around some fundamental symbol, it becomes easier to grasp the symbol’s multifaceted meaning.

What you cannot do, not without losing most of the potential power and meaning of a symbol, is fence it around with ideological definitions.  To Lévi, this was the great mistake of the religious mainstream of his time, and it remains no less pervasive and problematic in ours. The symbols of every religion, from Lévi’s perspective, are pentacles; in the terms we have just been discussing, they are realities rather than truths.  Like the red ochre and flowers in the Neanderthal burials mentioned earlier, they embody and express powerful constellations of intentions and meanings that are meant to be experienced, not defined.

In Lévi’s terms, a powerful and skilfully designed pentacle.

IThis is what underlies the distinction between reason and faith that Lévi makes at several points in our text, and it also underlies the sly comments about the one true religion that embraces all other religions which our text also drops into the mix from time to time. The “one true religion” is not an ideology and cannot be expressed in ideological terms; it is a reality, not a truth.  It is the religion that those grieving Neanderthals expressed when they scattered ochre and flowers over their loved ones, back before our species was born; it is the religion that, in Lévi’s phrasing, the Divine Light wrote as a permanent revelation in the great symbols of visible nature.

It is also, interestingly enough, the faith of a great many ordinary believers today. Once many years ago, when I worked at a photocopy shop to make ends meet, I somehow stumbled into a religious discussion with one of my coworkers, a young woman from a working class family who’d undergone a typically empty American public school education and had no intellectual interests at all. She freely admitted that she didn’t know much about religious matters, nor did she see any point in the theological quarrels that divide the various religions from one another. What mattered to her was summed up simply enough in her own words:  “I believe!

By that she didn’t mean that she believed in some particular set of claims about religious matters. What it meant, as I realized only years later, is that she embraced certain symbols—God, Jesus, heaven, eternal life—and sensed something of the constellations of meaning and intention that they expressed and embodied. That is what Lévi means when he talks about faith, and the one universal religion that every magical initiate recognizes and reveres:  not the acceptance of some set of doctrinal statements, but the rich, subtle, wordless, and indefinable orientation toward the living spirit expressed in the traditional symbols of the world’s religions.

In Lévi’s time, that was a startling way to think about religion. The great scholars who launched the science of comparative religion—our text cites two of them, Charles-François Dupuis and Constantin François Chasseboeuf de Volney—did it entirely within the realm of rational thought, and tried to explain why people accepted the ideologies of religions past and present. Romantic thinkers such as Friedrich Schleiermacher tried to counter this challenge by proposing that religion was oriented to nonrational experience, but lacked the background in the Renaissance philosophy of symbolism and magic that gave Lévi’s approach its power. Here as so often, Lévi shows himself as a full participant in the intellectual debates of his time, alive to the way that magic and contemporary thought illuminated each other.

“The one true religion, written by the divine light in the forms of visible nature.”

It’s an approach that has not lost its relevance today. The habit of trying to turn religious pentacles into a commentary on current news stories that Lévi mocked in the closing paragraph of this chapter remains fixed in place; it is only because Donald Trump’s opponents are by and large aggressively anti-Christian, I’m convinced, that nobody seems to have taken the time to winkle his name around somehow to add up to 666. That the Beast and his number are pentacles, in Lévi’s sense of the term, expressing realities that begin and end in eternity, is not something most of today’s Christians seem willing to contemplate.

Nor, of course, is it my job—or that of any mage—to tell them what to believe. All we can do, if we pay attention to Lévi’s insights, is sort out the separate realms of reason and faith within ourselves, and use each one in its proper place under the guidance of will and imagination.

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.

Along with the first half of our text, I introduced the standard method of meditation used in Western occultism:  discursive meditation, to give it its proper name, which involves training and directing the thinking mind rather than silencing it (as is the practice in so many other forms of meditation).  Readers who are just joining us can find detailed instructions in the earlier posts in this series. For those who have been following along, however, I suggest working with a somewhat more complex method, which Lévi himself mention in passing:  the combinatorial method introduced by Catalan mystic Ramon Lull in the Middle Ages, and adapted by Lévi and his successors for use with the tarot.

Take the first card of the deck, Trump 1, Le Bateleur (The Juggler or The Magician). While looking at it, review the three titles assigned to it:  Disciplina, Ain Soph, Kether, and look over your earlier meditations on this card to be sure you remember what each of these means. Now you are going to add each title of this card to Trump II, La Papesse (The High Priestess): Chokmah, Domus, Gnosis. Place Trump II next to Trump I and consider them. How does Disciplina, discipline, relate to Chokmah, wisdom?  How does Disciplina relate to Domus, house?  How does it relate to Gnosis?  These three relationships are fodder for one day’s meditation. For a second day, relate Ain Soph to the three titles of La Papesse. For a third day, relate Kether to each of these titles. Note down what you find in your journal.

Next, combine Le Bateleur with Trump III, L’Imperatrice (The Empress), in exactly the same way, setting the cards side by side. Meditate on the relationship of each of the Juggler’s titles to the three titles of the Empress,  three meditations in all.  Then combine the Juggler and the Emperor in exactly the same way. Then go on to the Juggler and the Pope, giving three days to each, and proceed from there. You’ll still be working through combinations of Le Bateleur when the next Lévi post goes up, but that’s fine; when you finish with Le Bateleur, you’ll be taking La Papesse and combining her with L’Imperatrice, L’Empereur, and so on, and thus moving through all 231 combinations the trumps make with one another.

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 relationships between the cards take 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.  Meditate on a combination every day anyway. Do the practice and see where it takes you.

We’ll be going on to Chapter 11, “The Triple Chain,” on April 10, 2024. See you then!


  1. Those of us who are big fans of the German New Medicine and related advances in medicine have new appreciation for the power of symbol.

    Here is a Substack by well-regarded medical doctor Larry Burke about “symptoms as metaphors”

    Those of us who focus on holistic healing and “energy medicine” applications of magic and mystical thought and practice will recognize many correspondences with traditional healing techniques and ancient medical systems.


  2. ” The “one true religion” is not an ideology and cannot be expressed in ideological terms; it is a reality, not a truth. …it is the religion that, in Lévi’s phrasing, the Divine Light wrote as a permanent revelation in the great symbols of visible nature.”

    From my universalist perspective I have often seen the many faiths and religions of the world as being part of a stained glass mosaic. The Divine Light comes through that stained glass window, the different colors being the individual religions with their specific cultural perspectives and symbols and practices, but the Divine Light is what causes all of them to be illuminated.

  3. Malleus, hmm! Thank you for this. Lévi doesn’t mention that the symptoms of an illness are a pentacle revealing the patient’s entire state of being, but it’s a valid extension of his idea — and it’s fascinating to see a medical doctor, of all people, noticing this.

    Justin, as a pentacle, that works rather well.

    Travis (offlist), please don’t use my inbox as a dumpster for off topic rants. I’ve tapped you with the ban hammer, meaning you’re IP-banned for a week; don’t push it or I’ll swing it good and hard, and make the ban permanent.

  4. What you cannot do, not without losing most of the potential power and meaning of a symbol, is fence it around with ideological definitions. To Lévi, this was the great mistake of the religious mainstream of his time, and it remains no less pervasive and problematic in ours. The symbols of every religion, from Lévi’s perspective, are pentacles; in the terms we have just been discussing, they are realities rather than truths:

    • Vizzini: “He didn’t fall?! Inconceivable!”

    • Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  5. John–

    I freely admit that I am having a difficult time with this chapter. “Real rather than true” doesn’t make a lot of sense, as I would posit that truth is that which corresponds to reality (of some plane, admittedly); falsehood is that which purports to but does not. Objective reality, to the extent it actually exists, *is* truth. Moreover, how can one discuss or comprehend or honestly believe in something without a reasoned definition of the thing in question? I don’t see how meaning exists in the absence of definitions, or at least explicitly stated assumptions. You have to have that foundation in order to construct any set of theorems or system of thought. I guess I’m just not understanding how symbolic thinking works in any meaningful sense of the term.

  6. The icon of Jesus zinged me in a good way. As far as I can tell in a brief Googling of images of Christ icons the one in the post may be the style entitled “Jesus the Life Giver”. It was a pleasant synchronicity post-meeting the Lord upon wakening this morning. Thank you.

  7. Off topic: your delineation of the Aries ingress for London doesn’t include two intercepted signs, Leo in the 7th house and Aquarius in the 1st.

    On topic: I’m currently reading the New Testament and as I do so, I’ve found that my previous reading of the Mabinogion for its symbolic value has helped me to do the same thing for the NT. This is significant, because my Presbyterian upbringing didn’t leave me with any way to find personal meaning in Jesus or God, but my symbolic reading does. This post is another of many recent and welcome synchronicities in my practice.

  8. I was going to save this for an open post but as odd things happen you mention it today. If it doesn’t fit I will wait and repost, thank you.
    In reading a summary of philosophy book this same observation came up.
    “rational thought, which dates from roughly the 6th century BC—that’s when thinkers in China, India, and Greece more or less simultaneously got to work sorting out human thought in an explicitly logical fashion.”
    Do you have any theories on the why this would have happened at the same time or have you written anything on this else where?

  9. Geoff, ha! Yes, that’s a very suitable pentacle. 😉

    David BTL, truth *corresponds to* reality; that doesn’t mean that it *is* reality. Truth is a representation of reality in a human (or other sentient being’s) mind. As for symbolic meaning, you’re almost there — discussing and comprehending something are activities of rational thinking, so of course you can’t do them without the tools of rational thinking, and “honestly believing” falls into the same category if by that phrase you mean accepting some set of propositions about something. For people who’ve trained themselves to work primarily with the tools of rational thought, symbolic thinking — and indeed any other nonrational mode of experience — is very difficult to grasp, precisely because they’re used to grasping things using rational thought!

    BeardTree, you’re welcome. I went looking online for a good attractive Orthodox icon, and that’s the one that caught my eye. Make of that what you will.

    SLClaire, I don’t always mention the intercepted signs, but you’re right that I might want to be more careful about that. Delighted to hear about your experience with the New Testament — as Lévi pointed out, it’s a very rich pentacle.

    Bill, I’ve discussed it in a few articles here and there. The crucial factor seems to have been the spread of literacy outside a scribal or priestly class; once you have a significant fraction of people who are literate, those people will start to look at words in texts and ask themselves, “Okay, but what does that word mean?” Rational thinking follows from there. Are there deeper factors involved? Oh, quite possibly.

  10. The New Testament Greek word for believe, pisteuo, means “to trust in, rely on and adhere to” a deeper response than mere intellectual, mental assent. For me believing was a response to a felt reality. As it says “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” Again the meaning of saved (sozo) like believe has been debased and trivialized, made two dimensional and flat, it denotes a process over time, with the Greek word meaning to be healed, made whole.

  11. Thanks for this, and especially the link to the medical substack about the roots of things like perpetual itching and inflamed bowels, both of which have personal meanings to me. More generally, this is what Dr. Moravec in “The Book of Haatan” called “thinking like a mage. And described the process identically to the one in Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess, where the main character seeing a woman as a priestess helped her to become one. And thanks for the beautiful icon of Jesus. I’m no longer Christian, but can recognize beauty and power when I see it.

  12. JMG and Justin,
    Thank you for your thoughts. Fascinating! The Divine Light coming through the stained glass window is a very beautiful pentacle. It reminds me of a quote attributed in Russian sources to Chinggis Khan that different religions lead to the same Divine just like different fingers of your hand lead to the same palm. This seems like a rather old, time-tested idea.

  13. If the taboo of the modern West is hatred and bigotry, modern chaos magicians could charge their sigils by angrily yelling racial slurs at them. It would be amusing to watch.

    P.S. The photoshopped picture of Shakira as a Neanderthal made me chuckle.

  14. Regarding this quote:

    This gives them extraordinary power in magical working, although that power comes with a cost: a symbol does not mean whatever you want it to mean. It has an objective meaning, even if that meaning can never be explicitly defined.

    This may just be a good theme for meditation, but I’ve been thinking about the assertion that symbols have an “objective” meaning, and contrasting it with some things you have said about not mixing up the meaning of symbols across systems (for example, the western elements versus the Chinese elements). Might it be that symbols are more “intersubjective” – ultimately defined by what people think about them and how they interpret them, but no one person just gets to decide, it’s a collective process across space, people, and time. The result is that any given symbol has meaning outside of any given observer (thus making it “objective” from his subjective standpoint), even if it’s an amalgamation of scads of individual “subjective” interpretations. The analogy that comes to mind is vocabulary – sure, any given word has different connotations to different speakers of a language, but within a language, a word means something that no one person gets to decide. On the other hand, that word has no objective meaning to someone who doesn’t speak the language, and if it happens to sound like a word in his language, he might make an incorrect leap.

    Am I onto anything here, or missing something? I notice that I’ve left out any other-planar sources of objective meaning here, treating symbols purely as human creations, so that could be a gap.


  15. Hi John Michael,

    Well that’s the thing isn’t it? Acceptance of existing sigils, or work towards creating your own.

    I’ll tell you a funny story. About a decade ago the officials of officialdom arrived to officially rebuke me. In this instance they were wrong, and ended up admitting an administrative mistake had been made, just carry on etc. but accept the warning. Anywhoo, as the two of them were enjoyably telling me off, their negative energies kind of wound down until eventually one of them said: This place is really beautiful. Hmm. Symbols huh! 😉

    Thought you might be amused at some political shenanigans down here. So apparently there’s a politician who’s party is meant to support environmental activism – which coincidentally uses and is also named after a certain colour attached to such things – allegedly took a couple of private jet flights on the tax payers coin. Some cheeky wag made the observation that all pigs are equal! What does the word: hypocrite mean?

    Incidentally, why is it that my mind can sometimes see a female form in the pentacle at the highest triangle? It could hardly be a trick of the eye, maybe?



  16. I very much enjoyed the conversations the commentariat had as we figured out the symbolism of the Tarot cards in the “Doctrine” book club. The “Ritual” part of book club hasn’t included as many discussions of symbols, so I’ve been reading and studying some other texts. One of those, The Tarot of the Magicians by Oswald Wirth, describes two types of Initiations:

    1. Dorism (masculine) or Dry Path
    2. Ionism (feminine) or Wet Path

    He differentiates them in their sequence of Theory and Practice (Dry Path being Theory before Practice, Wet Path being Practice before Theory). I now see Levi’s book of Doctrine and Ritual as being an example of the Dry Path (as we worked on Theory and Understanding before we started learning about Ritual and Practice). He also mentions that the Dry Path appeals to the rational and the acquisition of knowledge and understanding (and someone who successfully follows the Dry Path ends up a wise man). The Wet Path appeals to the emotional (and someone who successfully follows the Wet Path ends up a saint).

    Thanks to your commentary, now I see the paths as aligning to Reason and Faith as well.

    One of the allegories that Levi mentions in this chapter is the ark (as the coffin of Osiris) and the black crow and white dove. Osiris was murdered by Set and his body locked inside a chest (coffin). Isis (Osiris’ wife) retrieves the coffin and corpse and (after other drama) resurrects him long enough so he can father Horus, who overthrows Set (and becomes King).

    Plate 7 of Splendor Solis (an alchemical text with 22 images, somewhat aligned to the Tarot) has an image of a drowning older king and the young new king, which relates to the theme of resurrection of the Osiris story. And the previous plate has images of black ravens turning into white doves (which doesn’t align exactly with the story of Noah, but symbolically, it works quite well).

    (If anyone is interested in my meditations on Splendor Solis, I have started posting them at

    JMG, it amazes me when I read a chapter of Levi and I actually understand some of his references and symbols before I read your commentary. (Because it wasn’t that long ago that I did not understand Levi even after I read your commentary 🙂 .) Thank you so much for doing book clubs.

  17. BeardTree, one of my teachers used to draw a useful distinction between belief and faith. Belief is agreeing to accept certain opinions as true. Faith is trust. It’s one thing to believe that a rope will hold your weight. It’s quite another thing to trust it enough to let it support you. I suspect that fits fairly closely to the distinction you have in mind.

    Patricia M, why, yes — I’ve had Fortune’s novels very much in mind while writing the Ariel Moravec books. 😉

    Kirsten, Chinggis (or, as we misspell it in English, Genghis) Khan was a remarkably openminded person. I’ve seen arguments that his policy of religious toleration played a crucial role in launching ventures in the same direction in the European world.

    Ecosophian, it might work!

    Jeff, even if you add the perspective of nonhuman intelligences, that could work — it’s just that gods, for example, may be said to have a broader and clearer view of the meaning of symbols than you or I do.

    Chris, I’m delighted that people are noticing the searing hypocrisy of the faux-environmentalists. It’s about time! As for the female form, I think it’s supposed to be an ornate crown atop the eagle’s head, but Lévi might have made it look feminine.

    Random, excellent! You get two gold stars, one for reading Wirth (who’s worth close attention) and another for reading Splendor Solis, one of my two favorite alchemical texts.

  18. @BeardTree #6

    The icon in this post is Christ Pantocrator (the text on the icon says so). It is a specific type of depiction of Christ. Literally, it means “ruler of all”. Christ Pantocrator has come to suggest Christ as a mild but stern, all-powerful judge of humanity. When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, Pantokrator was used both for YHVH Sabaoth, “Lord of Hosts”, and for El Shaddai “God Almighty”.

  19. @JMG,
    Thank you!

    The first time I read Wirth, I didn’t understand most of it. Second time through, I did better. Third time through, I’m still seeing stuff that wasn’t there the first time. I looked to see if he wrote anything else, cause he has some really neat ideas, but best I can find, Tarot of the Magicians was the only book he wrote. Are there others?

  20. Hi, JMG, the Greek word translated as faith is pistis which is the noun form of the Greek verb pisteuo (to trust in, rely on, adhere to) that is translated as believe in our English bibles.. English doesn’t have a verb form for faith so we get believe instead. Yes, I have heard of that distinguishing between faith and belief. And I continue to appreciate this commentariat and your hand on the tiller that keeps the civil, yet strong discussion lively and open and diverse but not strident.

  21. I would add that intellectual assent to truths/opinions/doctrines/understandings/teachings/facts/concepts however they are labeled is an aspect of faith/believing trusting in, relying on, adhering to something.. You have mentioned in the past the absurdity of liberal Christianity clinging to outward forms and words of traditional Christianity but not believing in them. I have often thought why don’t they just admit it and be openly the Unitarian- universalists they really are.

  22. Ah… the discussion reminded me of my old friend Marcus Aurelius “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

  23. With respect to “pentacle”:
    One of the problems with Levi’s texts is that in the (French edition) of the Doctrine he uses “pantacle” rather than “pentacle”. The editions of the Ritual are more variable, but in the Bibliotheque Nationale edition at;2#
    he mostly uses “pantacle”. A search on “pantacle” gives a few examples of “pentacle” as well; a search on “pentacle” gives more examples of “pentacle”, but also of “pantacle”. In general, “pantacle” should be “key to all” (or “everything”), while “pentacle” should be “fivefold key”, or “five-based key”. The pantacle then would summarize a whole doctrine or cosmology; the pentacle would summarize what Agrippa calls the “scale of five”.
    Unfortunately, this distinction seems pretty much to have been Levi’s very own invention. The OED doesn’t list “pantacle” at all, except as a variant for a kind of shoe, and contains a variety of quotations under “pentacle” that show it used indifferently for five-pointed and six-pointed talismanic figures, among other things. Various French dictionaries treat “pantacle” as a mere variant of “Pantacle”, although the Dictionnaire des Francophones gratifyingly at least lists the term, and provides the following Gallic beat-down under “Discussion sur l’étymologie” —
    (1740) Variante orthographique tardive de pentacle surtout utilisée par des occultistes (notamment Papus et Éliphas Lévi), attribuée en 1859 par Adolphe Desbarrolles à un soi-disant mot latin pantaculum, signifiant selon lui « qui contient toutes choses ». René Guénon et d’autres auteurs – jusqu’au XXIe siècle compris – ont repris cette étymologie, affirmant parfois que pantacle était la seule graphie correcte du mot et corrigeant le sens littéral par « petit tout » (voir pan- et -culum). Mais le latin médiéval pantaculum n’est référencé nulle part (ni le préfixe aberrant panta-), et l’orthographe supposément ancienne pantacle, essentiellement utilisée à partir du XIXe siècle, est inattestée en ancien et moyen français et inconnue des lexicographes. Certains font une distinction sémantique entre les deux graphies (voir citation 3), qui n’apparait pas chez les occultistes du XIXe siècle et qui n’enlève rien à l’inattestabilité de pantacle.
    The notion that “pentacle” derives from “pend a col”, something to hang around the neck, doesn’t get much of any mention in the dictionaries.
    Pedantic regards!

  24. JMG, so I have to ask, although I should know…what’s the second of the two favorite alchemical texts? Thanks.

  25. John–

    I guess I just cannot grasp the notion of non-rational modes conveying actual meaning. An appeal to baser elements of our natures, sure. But aren’t we, as students on a path of development, trying to transcend the irrational and the limitations of our human condition? The statement of belief that you cited, for example, is meaningless if one cannot identify, to some extent, the object and nature of that belief. Otherwise, what is the person truly saying?

    I’ve always pictured the elevated comprehension in the spiritual realm as a kind of supra-rational system: something that includes what we think of as rational as a substructure and not contradictory to it. Kind of like how in abstract algebra, a field includes a group, but layers upon it another operation with its own properties.

    I’m going to have to wrestle with this, I can see.

  26. Random, Wirth wrote a few other books but as far as I know none of them have been translated into English. He’s definitely one of those writers who needs, and deserves, repeated readings.

    BeardTree, from my perspective, it’s possible to respect and even revere a pentacle without accepting any particular ideological interpretation of it. Your mileage may vary, of course.

    Shadow Rider, he’s worth listening to. He and Epictetus have gotten me through the worst times in my life, and helped me keep my head in some of the best.

    LeGrand, thanks for this! I hadn’t encountered the “pend a col” version before; how very French. 😉

    Celadon, the Book of Lambspring is my other favorite text.

  27. I think you might appreciate this.

    The real question is why — why does every civilization have similar myths? Why does every culture have legends of monstrous humanoids, and why are they are always depicted as fearsome and dangerous?

    Because the legends were real. The orcs were real.

    That is, at least, the argument offered by Danny Vendramini in his book Them and Us: How Neanderthal Predation Created Modern Humans. Vendramini is a heterodox thinker, and his argument is well outside the mainstream view. So before we delve into Vendramini’s book, let’s discuss what that mainstream view is.

  28. My wife’s brother ,who we had living with us ( due to cognitive issues from 4 concussions) passed away recently. My wife and I have been slowly cleaning out the room where he lived and trying to make sense of his possessions . He had a small monthly income from SSI that he used for necessities and the remainder he used to purchase various items to adorn his room. He could get to stores of his choosing on public transit without our intervention. For a while my wife and I struggled to make sense of the things he had. As we are both engineers we tend toward the logical and rational. . But the things he had collected made no sense to us.
    That was until we realized that his condition led him to create a surrounding of symbols and symbolism that had meaning to him and nothing to do with rational constructs. Thus the Masonic trinkets next to photos of cafes in Paris and knock-off Egyptian pyramids and medallions. He had DVD’s that he did not watch because he did not have a DVD player but they seemed to create a symbolic picture that he was looking for.
    He had trouble stringing together rational chains of thought, but symbols seemed to draw on a deeper well of meaning that he could access and that made him content.

  29. So this explains the magic of writing, and how writing becomes writers block once you rationalise it by editing. More generally, rational thought is a left brain thing, whereas magic is right brain thing. The left brain does quantity rather well, but we forget about the right brain ability to understand quality.

    It’s why the radiesthesists teach a light form of meditation to get the brain hemispheres into alignment and communication before dowsing.

  30. Your explanation has shown me that I may have missed an important layer throughout this book, but also how it affects a discursive meditation practice.

    As this post alludes, ‘truth’ and ‘falsity’ are artifacts that only mean anything (in the symbolic sense, perhaps) in the realm of logic, which seems dependent on speech.

    I may have used discursive meditation in the past based on a misunderstanding. It does seem useful for training the mind to do a rational analysis to sort concepts into truth and falsity, but when interpreting scrying results, for example, I may have taken “figure out what a symbol means to you” to mean “define a symbol, and fit it into a rational framework”.

    (Now I can’t write the word ‘means’ without thinking of symbolic thinking!)

    At the risk of here again trying to fit the concept of symbols into a rational framework, I was thinking earlier about how symbols are perhaps like objects in a landscape; they are just there. Realities, as you suggested. And physical objects in a landscape are also themselves symbols that have meaning in themselves, but which people can also attach meaning to.

    If I stand in a river, another ‘object’ as well as a symbol, I can sense the flow of water swirling around me and the force it exerts, but I can also sense a flow of something else that is perceptible in certain feelings, memories, ideas etc that emerge into consciousness; and maybe this is what is meant by ‘meaning’.

    So I wonder if symbolic thinking is like being a landscape painter observing a landscape and trying hard only to represent it well, while knowing the painting is itself a symbol, and unavoidably so.

    Thanks for this post!

  31. I need to think on this some more, but my metaphor above is also perhaps a kind of textual symbol. I am unavoidably unable to get past a representation to make a statement on symbolic thinking, just as my landscape painter isn’t. All I can do is literally ‘re-present’ the situation. And I suppose this is where the confusion can start, as these metaphors enter the domain of logical ‘true/false’ statements.

  32. You don’t hear the word “pantocrator” come up in conversation too often… so here is my song of the week for anyone who cares, which features it in the lyrics. Dormition and Dominion by Current 93, one of my favorite songs by them.

    This is the studio version…

    …but I am very fond of this live version, and think people here might like that one better:

    “I say there is no death
    No death
    We have lived before and shall live again
    And again
    We have slept before and shall sleep again
    We have danced through the shallow pools
    And shall rejoice once again
    To those who say there is no hope
    I say liars
    Liars you are
    Over the starry dancing stars
    There is a land
    Under the sweat ribbed brow
    There is a land
    And this is the globed world of the Pantocrator”

  33. William, it’s an interesting hypothesis, and not a new one. Back in the 19th century, ethnologists discussed the possibility that legends about elves, pixies, dwarves, etc. were based on folk memories of smaller, more elusive hominins with Stone Age technologies, living in earth-sheltered dwellings (the “hollow hills” of legend), who retreated into isolated areas before the invading humans. Some writers suggested that this happened as recently as the beginning of the Iron Age, accounting for the traditional fairy terror of iron. For that matter, it’s been suggested more than once that legends of giants may have been inspired by surviving populations of very tall bipedal apes such as Gigantopithecus. What intrigues me is that such ideas are starting to filter back into discussion after most of a century on the far fringes.

    Clay, that makes a great deal of sense to me, not least because there are similar patterns in Sara’s possessions, which I’ve been cleaning out. I wonder, though — if you look at your own possessions, can you see the pentacle that is made by those?

    Peter, good! True in both cases.

    Jbucks, excellent. Yes, and I plan on discussing this in a future book on discursive meditation. (I’m learning plenty by rereading Lévi…)

    Justin, thanks for both of these. Here’s the image:

  34. I remember reading that Trump’s name added up to 666 and I thought nothing of it, but now that you say it, it is worthy of meditation! I found it interesting that BLM types in Chicago twerked to allegedly anti-Trump chanting. They gave the distinct impression they were doing a fertility dance in his honor… a cargo cult. They had no idea of what they were symbolically invoking because they had confined their thoughts entirely to surface values. To my mind, they were attempting to keep Trump in power for as long as possible whether they knew it or not. Another zinger was when they were carrying signs that said Love Trumps Hate, and I think it was you who pointed out how close it was to saying Love Trump’s Hate, meaning they love to pretend Trump and his followers hate them, yet they are the ones marinating in hatred, or any one of a thousand variations upon that theme. Otherwise why would they use his own name in order to attempt to banish him and send him away? There’s no other word for “trump”, for instance “Love Overcomes Hate” or “Love Beats Hate”?

    When I started doing discursive meditation about six years ago, I realized that one can spend a lifetime meditating on a single Tarot card. Several lifetimes if it is in the major arcana.

  35. My meditation this morning was something of an epiphany when I realized that there was symbolism in my collection of pentacles (I am trying to cull the collection as I am out of room) that can almost always out wit my objective mind as I try to eliminate the unnecessary ones. It would seem that I certainly need to respect the symbolism my subjective mind places in my pentacles but to gently make room for some new symbolism in my subjective mind for less of them and arranged in a different order.

    This is tricky, but I am rather enjoying this mornings epiphany and yours and Clay’s comments.

  36. Thinking on the lyrics of Dormition and Dominion I was struck by how it is itself a pantacle. Thinking of that the German word zaubergesange came to mind. (I picked up zaubergesange reading a parallel translation of some of Holderlin’s poetry recently…. the word stuck.) Zauber = Magic, Gesange = Chant, or song.

    A good incantation will of course be filled with evocative pentacles.

    In Tibet’s piece we have God the Father, the Mother of God, the Greek Acton, and St. Eustace with his “criss-cross stag”

    As I pondered this commentary last night I also thought of how little realist fiction I read. Realist fiction can of course have symbol. Good fiction always does have symbolism. Otherwise there is little resonance to the story. Genre fiction can of course be just as lacking in good symbolism as strict literary realism, but there is more chance for something to break on through from the other side into the writers consciousness and on the page, that I wouldn’t say thats a hard and fast rule.

    The symbolism in realism, could be, well, symbolic. But some do more to bring those mythic strands into their work.

    The novel The Warriors by Sol Yurick elevates the story of gang fighting in NYC from a typical 1960s pulp plot to something else by modeling it on the story of Anabasis by Xenophon. This is what I think helped give it its cult status when it was adapted to the screen. And while the story of Xenophon might be a history, it has receded in time to now be at the level of the mythic.

    Just some thoughts on symbolism in literature here. As Peter suggests above with regards to rationality and writing, I think these symbols might be better left to come through via intuition during writing and composing of a piece, rather than forcibly trying to insert them. The threads that are there will emerge.

  37. JMG,
    Regarding intuition: I forget the author but I once read that intuition works really well if you have a lot of previous experience of the topic. Then you just kind of tend to see what you are supposed to do. On the other hand, if you lack the said experience, your intuition does not have very much to work with and it is forced to use experiences that are similar to, but not necessarily useful regarding the situation.

    In the latter case, according to that author, it is better to rely on abstract knowledge gained from books, manuals, experts etc. or lacking those, rational thinking. You may still get it wrong but you have a better chance of not getting it totally wrong.

  38. Re: that last image. What a sourpuss! The wandering rabbi of Galilee would not recognize himself in that at all.

  39. Excellent post. This seems like a good time to thank you for communicating your knowledge, insights, and clarification about the spiritual dimension. For example: “The “one true religion” is not an ideology and cannot be expressed in ideological terms; it is a reality, not a truth.” and “That is what Lévi means when he talks about faith, and the one universal religion that every magical initiate recognizes and reveres: not the acceptance of some set of doctrinal statements, but the rich, subtle, wordless, and indefinable orientation toward the living spirit expressed in the traditional symbols of the world’s religions.”. Contemplating your posts helps me to free myself from 50+ years of confusion about my relation to the living spirit. Thank you.

  40. I don’t want to take this discussion off on too much of a tangent, but to add to the hominid theory, I’ve noticed that here in North America a number of native tribes, especially in the west, believed in little people, about 18 inches tall, who were hostile toward them. The Lewis and Clark expedition even mentioned them. Additionally, in Life Among the Piutes, a Piute woman named Sarah Winnemucca writes of a tribe of people whose description is not quite human who her people were constantly in conflict with in the recent past. I think she called them Snakeheads but can’t recall now.

    Both of these examples treated them not as spirits, which Indians had no trouble discussing, but as flesh and blood rivals.

    To bring it back to pentacles, whether or not things like this are real, our fascination shows they certainly serve as a pentacle of something. A slightly other-than-human group of creatures who can cause mischief for us. If there’s no material basis, we may at least be taking some kind of spirits to represent some earlier stage of our humanity, which still harries us.

  41. Just after reading this chapter today, I encountered the following in Whitehead’s Process and Reality, which made me write “so many pentacles” in the margin:

    “The initial data of a complex feeling, as mere data, are many; though as felt, they are one in the objective unity of a pattern. This a nexus is a realized pattern of the initial data; though this pattern is merely relative to the feeling, expressive of those factors in the many data by reason of which they can acquire their unity in the feeling.”

    Whitehead states that feelings, which for him are how all actual entities and nexus (complex groups of actual entities) create themselves, have a vector character. This struck me as another justification for why you can’t make a symbol mean anything you want. It’s composed of all the feelings that went into it over the entire span of its existence, and not just the ones that humans have felt on perceiving it. A flower means life because it shouts, “Life!” it every time a flower blooms far from our eyes.

    We can no more change a symbol to mean anything we want than we can stand on the train tracks and flick our finger upward as the engine arrives, hoping to redirect it skyward.

  42. For those interested in “..the magical calendars of Tycho Brahe and of Duchenteau..”

    Tycho Brahe
    Blog post on the Wroclaw Codex of the Magical Calendar

    Calendarium naturale magicum perpetuum profundissimam rerum secretissimarum contemplationem totiusque Philosophiæ cognitionem complectens

    This copy from The Getty has better image quality and it’s possible to zoom in and read the tables.

    The Wikipedia article has a more colorful facsimile but cannot zoom in

    Jean Touzay Duchenteau
    One post on a discussion board with a few links though none are “magical calendar” specific. Very hard to find any images of a calendar except at French auction sites. Link below is the best I could find:

  43. #Bill: Wow synchronicity I think I’m reading the same book (why materialism is a baloney, by Bernardo Kastrup) and I was wondering the same thing.

  44. Kimberly, I remember the Trump fertility dances, not to mention the people who Loved Trump’s Hate. It really was odd to watch them get caught up in the archetype without ever noticing it. It’ll be entertaining to see if that happens again!

    Kay, thank you for this — that strikes very close to home just now, as I’ve spent the last three weeks sorting through Sara’s pentacles and, yes, setting out a few of my own.

    Justin, I know the feeling. I keep on trying to cultivate an interest in “serious” (i.e., realistic) literature, and finding it bland and uninteresting. The sole exceptions are writers such as Hermann Hesse, who marinated themselves in the mythic and weave it into all their stories.

    Oskari, it really seems to vary from person to person. Some people need the help of experience and study to make their intuition flow — that’s true for me, for example. Others are quite literally better off without that. I’ve watched people in that latter category lose their ability to intuit the workings of complex systems because they learned too much!

    Patricia M, maybe he was a sourpuss too! We know effectively nothing about him — the clouds of myth closed around that faint historical presence a very, very long time ago.

    Marco, delighted to hear it; you’re most welcome.

    Kyle, in the Puget Sound region the local native people believed in two categories of such beings. One group were small, lived in mound-shaped dwellings in the forests, and were dangerous but could be beneficent — shamans used to befriend them, a complex and risky process that had many benefits for those that survived and succeeded. The other were bigger than humans, also lived in the forest, and ate people when they could — there was never any talk of working with them. So, yes, it’s possible that Homo sapiens in North America lived among other hominins until times within the reach of oral tradition. As for Whitehead, thanks for this — yeah, he hada very clear grasp of what Lévi was saying.

    Scotty, thank you for this! The Magical Calendar of Tycho Brahe was republished back in the 1990s by a little esoteric press in the US, along with a companion book explaining it; I’ve got a copy hanging on the wall ten feet or so from where I’m typing this.

  45. Dear JMG
    Wonderful, perceptive post.
    A few thoughts:
    The friction mentioned between rational vs symbolic reminded me of speculation about the right and left brain functions and the differences between them- rational/pieces vs symbolic/whole. (I see one of commenters here mentioned that too!)

    I loved how perfectly you listed those fundamental existential questions: “What is the soul? How does it relate to the body? What kind of immortality can it expect, if any? “
    and then how those glorious Axial Age poets and philosophers, in spite of burgeoning “rationality”, sought to express answers to those very questions.

    Lastly, as I took my very own five fingers and shaped them into the hand gesture in imitation of your picture of Christ, I felt a very distinct and lovely pentacle. Perhaps one of the many ways to learn to perceive a meaning that eludes rational thought!

    Thank you for your insights always.

    Jill C

  46. JMG,
    Thank you for hosting this discussion of Levi. I have been following along, but recently have been wondering I’m how much I actually understand and have taken a break for few months. But this weeks discussion has been helpful and I feel inspired by the possibility that I need to approach it more symbolically, and that what is being discussed is a topic that is difficult to put in words and understand rationally. In fact, this makes me think that I need to reapproach this entire time in life more symbolically, including health and life changes. Thank you, you have given me much food for contemplation. I like the idea of thinking of health issues more symbolically. In my case vision and immunity is involved I think perhaps the message is entirely symbolic.

    Regarding memories of other species in our oldest stories, my kids recently read ‘the epic of Gilgamesh,’ and I was struck by the possibility that Gilgamesh’s friend, Enkidu, is a Neanderthal. Modern humans and Neanderthals must have had many thousands of years of overlap, and it would make sense if some stories survived from that time.

  47. @Oskari Autto #39 re: Expert Knowledge and Intuition

    Intuition is one of those words with a lot of different meanings to different folks, but it sounds like you might be talking about Gary Klein and his book The Power of Intuition. If so, he defines it pretty narrowly. For him, “intuition” is the kind of thing an expert has after dealing with lots of slightly different specific cases, and knowing how to respond to a new one without thinking through explicit rules – it’s a kind of generalized competence based on inference – a skilled nurse recognizes “something off” and calls for a blood test, a firefighter realizes the door is “the wrong approach” and goes in through the window, or businessman thinks a deal doesn’t “feel right” and turns it down, even though it looks good on paper.

    I’m not sure how much this kind of skill/ability has to do with some of the kinds of “intuition” that folks on the magical side of things tend to talk about, like that developed by divination, for example. Obviously, it’s quite possible that a wholly “mundane” cognitive process accepted by material science and something relying on subtler forces could interact in all kinds of ways, and likely differ from person to person.


  48. JMG #46,

    Would you mind posting details on the small publisher of The Magical Calendar of Tycho Brahe and companion book? I found some books published in 2008 but no trace of a calendar… I entrust Wyrd to lead me to the correct online marketplace or yard sale….

  49. Just a thought/observation, but the “hippie Jesus” comment caught my attention and the hand gestures of the icons then started to look like the ubiquitous hippie “peace sign” to me and I wondered about Churchhill’s, “V for Victory” with the hand held backwards. Inverting the meaning? Victory through the opposite of peace?

  50. JMG,
    The rationalist, engineer, student of Carl Sagan me at first responds to your challenge about my pentacles with the ” what me”, I don’t have any shelves of bric-a brac or tapestries of drawers full of medallions, with the exception of my Harry Chapin Memorial Concert Poster. I only have books, kitchen utensils, records. tools and other household items.
    But upon further thought many of those items I think of as purely utilitarian have symbolic value. I could cook on a new lodge cast iron pan from Walmart, but instead I restored a 1905 Griswold and spend a day getting a perfect season on it. I could plane a chunk of wood with a basic hand power planer from Home Depot, but, among others, I sometimes use my traditional Japanese pull-style plane made from white oak with a hand forged blade. I of course keep this plane and other vintage tools on the wall in my garage where I can look at them while I am working.
    But as you point out, on further contemplation these things ( and many others) are symbols just as much as they are items with a rational purpose.

  51. Jill, glad you liked it. I’ve never been sure how seriously to take the whole left brain-right brain thing, not least because those two modes of consciousness are only two of many options!

    Tamar, you’re most welcome. That’s an interesting thought about Enkidu — and a plausible one.

    Scotty, it was published by Phanes Press in 1994 under the title The Magical Calendar, translated and with a commentary by Adam McLean. I don’t know if anyone carries the calendar itself, but the book is still quite readily available in the used book market, and it has all the same information.

    Ken, hmm! The peace gesture came after Churchill’s V for victory, though, so it would be the other way around — peace through the opposite of victory.

    Clay, heh heh heh. 😉

  52. What I find absolutely fascinating about different ways of thinking is that people use them all the time, and a lot of people lose sight of this in their own thinking. Rationalization, where people make decisions based on emotions and then justify it after the fact, is a very common thing; but it’s even more fascinating watching someone who’s intuition has screamed that they need to do something, or not do something, and then watch the effort on that person’s part to justify it: because a lot of people can’t admit, even to themselves, they have intuition.
    I’m quite convinced that a large part of the reason rationalisms always fail, having watched it in action my whole life (my parents are an engineer and a university professor) is that no one actually uses reason all the time, and the attempt to ignore other forms of thinking merely guarantees that the people caught in this spell will not be able to reason about anything, because their intuition, emotions, symbolic minds, values, and the like will gang up on reason, gut it, and then wear it like a skin suit so they can pretend to be reason.

  53. At this link is the full list of all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared at and, as well as in the comments of the prayer list posts. Please feel free to add any or all of the requests to your own prayers.

    If I missed anybody, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below.

    * * *

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

    Tyler A’s wife Monika’s pregnancy is high risk; may Mother and child be blessed with good health and a smooth delivery, and be soothed and healed from their recent pains and discomfort in a manner that supports a positive outcome to the pregnancy.

    May Deathcap’s friend Mike, who has begun a 5 week course of radiation treatment after a nearly fatal surgery for a malignant tumor on his leg, be healed of his cancer and return to full health quickly and as completely as possible.

    May new mother Molly M recover quickly and completely from her recent stroke and the lingering loss of vision and slurred speech that ensued, and may newborn Lela and husband Austin be comforted and strengthened through this difficult time.

    May John Michael Greer’s wife Sara Greer, who passed away on February 20th, be blessed and soothed as she moves into the next stage of her spirit’s journey. And may John Michael Greer be blessed and lent strength in this most difficult time.

    May Frank Rudolf Hartman of Altadena California (picture), who is receiving chemotherapy, be completely cured of the lymphoma that is afflicting him, and may he return to full health.

    May Just Another Green Rage Monster‘s father, who is dealing with Stage 4 Lymphoma, and mother, who is primary caregiver, be blessed, protected and healed.

    May Kyle’s friend Amanda, who though in her early thirties is undergoing various difficult treatments for brain cancer, make a full recovery; and may her body and spirit heal with grace.

    Lp9’s hometown, East Palestine, Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people, animals and all living beings in and around East Palestine, and to improve the natural environment there to the benefit of all.

    * * *

    Guidelines for how long prayer requests stay on the list, how to word requests, how to be added to the weekly email list, how to improve the chances of your prayer being answered, and several other common questions and issues, are to be found at the Ecosophia Prayer List FAQ.

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

  54. @random

    As JMG mentions, Wirth wrote a number of books, most untranslated. I’m currently reading a short treatise of his ‘imposition of the hands’ on animal magnetism. It is an early work and quite funny in parts. Imagine a young Wirth as a new recruit in the army enthusiastically offering his healing services to his fellow soldiers. Let’s just say he was taken down a notch or two.

    When the book club started, I decided to read along in French (per JMG’s suggestion) despite only rudimentary high school knowledge decades old. Though initially painful (sometimes only processing a page in a single reading), this study has opened up a large number of untranslated works for reading. And I’ve noticed even translations can be misleading or lack nuance.

    Just to say, don’t immediately disregard the possibility of reading Wirth in his native tongue. I’m certainly not gifted in languages so if I can do it anyone can. One useful resource if this interests you is ‘Reading French in the arts and sciences” which is aimed at the beginner.

  55. When it comes to symbols, which aren’t whatever you want them to be, a question arises: what about the swastika? Originally, it was a symbol in ancient cultures, a symbol of the sun, a symbol of the four directions (there is a modern Chinese character for “region” derived from it), and other meanings. Then, during the first half of the twentieth century, it was taken up by fascist organizations and became the emblem of the National Socialists. Since then, that connection has stuck and nowadays, it stands in the Western world only for right-wing extremism. What it is what can make symbols change their meaning? Am I right in assuming that deliberate action, as described here, can sometimes successfuly change the meaning of a symbol? Additionally, this might be relevant for the obsession the West has with Hitler and the symbols of his party.

  56. Riffing off of Booklover, if symbols hold their meaning independent of human beings, then if human beings declare war on a symbol, they are declaring war on whatever the symbol means, not what they claim it means. This makes a lot of sense of the post World War II cultural shifts in the Western World: when the Swastika was declared to be a symbol of evil that must be fought, that meant the meanings it holds are now subject to this war. Since it means wisdom, we’ve seen the complete collapse of our intellectual institutions; since it means good health, we’ve descended into chronic illness; even the weird obsession our society has with avoiding exposure to sunlight is explained by this, as the swastika is a symbol of the sun, and our culture is thus at war with it!
    I think I have at least a month worth of meditations here….

  57. Hi John Michael and Clay Dennis,

    Clay – respect! 😉

    A few years ago (if I recall correctly) you made an off the cuff comment about how the early Christian mages succeeded, because they worked better magic. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    It’s a good strategy. Recently I purchased a cheap mill which is intended to be used to produce posts for a couple of projects. I came to this decision because, err, cost of living pressures, and one post costs about $100 retail. Producing the things is a good hourly return, but working elsewhere in order to buy the same things doesn’t make a lot of economic sense. This is one of the reasons for the decline of the west, and it gets down to the symbols. People support the symbols and also the mages producing them (apologies for the comparison), if it makes sense to do so. When doing things yourself, or other alternatives, becomes a more powerful magic, that’s a real problem for the system. I’d imagine that this risk is known?

    Speaking of odd statements made by elites: when I used to live in the big smoke of Melbourne, it was a very left leaning council area. I didn’t really much like the direction the area went, and candidly I was at odds with the expectations of the neighbours. I mean planting vegetables in the front yard, and drying clothes on washing horses was met with horror. Yes, very progressive… Anywhoo, that council area was recently debating charging larger vehicles, higher rates of parking costs as a sort of disincentive to own the machines. For the record, I’m not a fan of the vehicles either, but it is worth noting that the machines are produced and there is a market for them, and eventually resource depletion and economics will sort the entire matter out without all of the antagonistic behaviour. After all, we can only be wasteful, when we can afford to be wasteful. It’s also possible that people owning such vehicles probably are making that economic decision over other decisions such as err, international travel. The vehicles are simply a more visible target for faux environmentalists.

    Here is an interesting quote from the debate: Cr Jolly warned, however, that Yarra supported high-rise “urban consolidation” and construction sites brought tradies with utes (Edit: a tradie being a tradesman and a ute being what is known as a ‘pick-up truck’ in the US).

    He added that “almost everyone who owns a home or rents has a tradie come at least once”, and similarly that many public housing residents in Yarra worked blue-collar jobs in the outer suburbs.. You can read more about it all here: ‘You need to be dealt with’: Yarra Council votes in favour of crackdown on ‘idiots’ owning huge utes

    The inference I take away from the debate, is that if you are a blue collar worker, unless you happen to live in social housing in that area, you’re economically excluded. There’s something really dodgy about economically segregating people in a geographical area. But that is one of the unintended (?) consequences of the set of policies in place, don’t you reckon? It’s a dangerous experiment.



  58. Re: Neanderthals and giants. Being immersed in Northern Studies for several semesters, the treatment of Giants is a fascinating melange. Two of the Vanir marry Giant maidens, both of whom are presented as tall and fair; one scholarly article I studied in class suggested they were the original Scandinavians as seen by shorter, darker invaders from the east. In other tales, they are huge enough that Thor can get lost in one of their gloves. In another, two women are shown as louder, coarser, more primitive country cousins. In a third, a Giant is seen as a source of aboriginal wisdom Odin goes to for learning. Tyr’s father, or possibly stepfather, is presented as big, nasty and brutal; Odin himself is (one article ran the numbers on the genetics as given in the Lore) 5/8th Giant himself. Sometimes they’re monsters with several heads or whatever’ sometimes they’re supernatural, and at others, just another tribe. Jotunheim, their homeland is as real as a place on a map. And to top it off, Frost Giants and Fire Giants and the basic creation myth of a gap between fire and ice reflects the geography of Iceland to a T. It’s a delightful mix to play with.

  59. @Paul,
    Thank you so much for the vote of confidence. I studied German in high school and Spanish in college, both times they taught it as ‘conversational’. Learning to speak a language is definitely not something that comes easily to me. But your comment made me realize that I don’t need to speak it, just learn to read it. That seems much less daunting. Thank you!!!

  60. “because a lot of people can’t admit, even to themselves, they have intuition.”

    Curious. I’ve always believed that intuition is your subconscious pattern matching and extrapolating current events. Everyone should have intuition. It will become less reliable as you move out of your experience base so you do have to look out for that.

  61. @William Hunter Duncan,
    Thank you so much for the link to the Orc article! I enjoyed reading it, and seeing a Neanderthal as a silver-back makes them seem much less cuddly than the Fred Flintstone version…

  62. One of the symbols Levi mentioned early on was the Sphinx. I recently read something that referenced someone’s research who thought the Sphinx was built in 11,541BCE. I looked online to see if I could find more about the research and found this (I have NOT read “The Egypt Code” that this page references, but this seemed to be a good summary.)

    In 11,541BCE, the Milky Way would have be oriented in the sky parallel to the Nile, the Giza pyramids would have aligned to Orion, and the Sphinx would have faced the constellation Leo at the Spring Equinox. (And this fits nicely with my idea that the Herakles’ myths are based on myths from much older civilizations!) So all those structures were symbols of the Heavens.

  63. JMG I think that what you describe here as ‘the rich, subtle, wordless, and indefinable orientation…’ is what my grandmothers were onto all their lives as devout Roman Catholics.

    And they accepted all the doctrinal statements. Mary was a virgin, Jesus died and was resurrected, beginning and end of discussion. And it had to be that way because otherwise the world didn’t make sense to them. No matter the wartime butcheries they witnessed and difficulties they faced plus the grind of poverty, losing infants etc, they couldn’t be budged. A lot of women of their generation were of a similar bent.

    My grandfathers were much more easily budged. Not an exaggeration to say that they came back from their service in WW1 and 2 as unbelievers, both having survived by the skin of their teeth. I think that to them life is nasty and that’s all there is to say. My maternal grandfather said that maybe there is something under the surface but I think he was just too brutalized by his experiences. And so they scoffed where my grandmothers were wholly accepting, they ridiculed their observances, they despised the priesthood and the Church as aiding and abetting an exploitative and unjust regime. Most guys their age were the same.

    The interesting thing was the sharp divide between the sexes, the piety of the women against the contemptuous unbelief of their husbands. I think maybe the wars put an end to the faith of the menfolk. But not the women.

  64. Taylor Burgess, the business with the swastika is really a bit weird; despite the supposed rationalism of the Western world the swastika is treated, especially in Germany, as a very powerful symbol, which has to be obsessed about, or in the case of Germany, outlawed. Donald Trump is another such symbol, a symbol for the loud, garish new-rich, a bit like Trimalchio, that may be why the PMC and bourgeois classes of the Western world are so obsessed about him.

  65. Random #64,

    Interesting. Charles-Francois Dupuis (mentioned on pg. 282 of the Greer / Mikituk translation) may be your guy.

    Basically, Dupuis wrote that the ancient gods were none other than the constellations. Of course, Levi disagreed with Dupuis “negating all religions”
    On I found a copy of Bauval’s The Egypt Code. Ran a search for “Dupuis” but nothing came up.

    An online copy of Dupis’ The Origin of All Religious Worship can be found here:

    Unfortunately, there is nothing in there I found (just a quick glance this a.m.) about the alignment of monuments to astrological signs but the chapter on the Isis legend is very interesting as he breaks down the different parts of the Isis story and matches them with different astrological aspects.

    This reminds me of William Sullivan’s The Secret of the Incas, a book mentioned here on Ecosophia by a commenter some time ago. Warning, Sullivan is one serious cat and gets down into the nitty gritty when explaining the connection between Incan religion and astrology. He not only maps Incan legends to the stars but also discusses, in detail, the alignment of temples and monuments.

  66. @ Taylor Burgess,

    That is an intriguing thought! It made me wonder about another symbol (closer to home for me) that has been the target of a war (and symbol of a war) closer to home for me… the Confederate battle flag. I had never looked up the symbolism for that… I just thought it was sort of like the Union Jack. But the Smithsonian specifically says it was designed after the St. Andrew’s cross. So I looked up the symbolism of that… martyrdom. Well, gee. With the number of battles in SC and Sherman’s March (and the fact that the Confederacy lost), seems like that was a pretty powerful symbol.

  67. @Booklover #66

    I think you might be right about Donald Trump.
    For that matter, I think Vladimir Putin is another symbol, a symbol of a strongman dictator. In the Western liberals’ story, he is supposed to fail and be overthrown by plucky liberal-minded youths.
    The fact that he hasn’t been overthrown, that he hasn’t failed, is driving the Western liberals mad. So, like the Black Knight in the Monty Python skit, they keep fighting him in Ukraine until they lose all their limbs.

    Monty Python – The Black Knight:

  68. Something else has clicked with regards to the War on the Swastika being the root cause of a lot of oddities of contemporary Western society. As I did research into the swastika, I found other things it symbolizes, one of which is particularly fascinating: the Swastika is, in addition to being a symbol of the sun, also a symbol of night.

    Well, we have a society utterly terrified of the night, as can be seen by the amount of effort that goes into making the nights as bright as the day. The weird obsessions with avoiding natural light and flooding the night with artificial lights are in fact twins: both born of the obsession with the swastika.

  69. JMG, and Ecosophian – For chaos magic, what is the taboo of our times, now that sex magic is passe? I propose that if the magician were to shut himself (or herself) away in a dark room, or remove himself (or herself) to a remote clearing in a forest, with no electronic device at hand, no mobile phone, no streaming video service, for a few hours of magical contemplation, their peers would find the practice very, very weird. “What if something happened, and no one could reach you?”

  70. David BTL – Regarding logic and reason as ways to engage with the world… “Reason” only takes us from axioms or premises to conclusions. If this, then that. But our minds never have all of the axioms that we might need. We don’t HAVE the “this”, so we can’t reason to the “that”. Russell and Whitehead tried to put a foundation just under mathematics, and then Kurt Godel blew the whole thing up. Now, try to put a rational foundation under everyday nutrition! Or under the mammalian immune system!

    But we don’t really need “conclusions”, anyway; we need plans (short term, and long term), which we know will never be conclusively completed.

    I’ve recently read Will Durant’s “Story of Philosophy”, which captures a lot of the historical back-and-forth about reason and it’s critiques. 😉 The first edition came out in the 1920s when it appeared that we may have learned something from The Great War (with later editions into the 1950s, when it was clear that we had not, though he does not dwell on such things).

  71. @Scotty,

    Thank you so much for the link! I’ve downloaded the book into my “to read” folder. 🙂

  72. Anonymous, yeah, it’s entertaining in an odd way. You’re quite correct about reason as a skinsuit for various kinds of unreason; as Jung liked to point out, you can acknowledge these things or you can act them out unconsciously, take your pick.

    Quin, thanks for this as always.

    Booklover, that’s exactly it. At a deep level, the swastika means what it’s always meant, but our culture insists on giving it one and only one explicit meaning. That’s one of the core reasons Western societies remain utterly obsessed by the Nazis — everyone senses that the swastika is a pagan symbol of life and light, and the repression of that symbolic meaning gives the symbol a potency it wouldn’t otherwise have.

    Taylor, excellent! Those should be very, very worthwhile meditations.

    Chris, I’m impressed that tradies aren’t already excluded from such neighborhoods; in the US there’s very strict segregation by wealth and social class, quietly enforced by real estate companies and bank.

    Random, it’s an intriguing hypothesis.

    Smith, yep. I think that’s a lot of why traditional religions hang on, especially among women (who are culturally encouraged to be less dependent on rational logic than men).

    Chris, the good thing is that the magic is so blatant. If they weren’t so panicked it would be subtle, and thus harder to fight. Remember also that laughter is a powerful banishing!

    Taylor, I could definitely see that.

    Lathechuck, ha! Yes, that might do it.

  73. “The one true religion, written by the divine light in the forms of visible nature.” What a beautiful way to put it. It reminds me of the ‘fingers pointing at the moon’ metaphor. Most people seem to intuit the all-pervading divinity of the world, but it’s so hard to put into words. And when we try to contain it with words, usually only trouble follows! That’s why I love the beautiful symbolism of the Tree of Life, it’s a useful symbol to help carry that truth without desiccating it.

    So many times in my nature excursions, I’ve felt this stupefying rush of emotion, the unity of being and the divine pattern that is reflected at every level of the cosmos, from the grandest galaxy to the humblest plant growing on the side of a wind-swept desert hill.

    Thank you for all you do, John. You are touching peoples lives more than you know.

  74. Lathechuck #73

    Doesn’t that then bring us to the issue of insufficient information? It isn’t that reason doesn’t apply, but rather that we don’t possess sufficient knowledge? That’s where I was going with my supra-rational comment: reality is (or should be) rational, but includes operations/definitions/axioms that are beyond our current knowledge base. Within its own sphere, however, rationality is true, just as the operations of the abelian group embedded in an algebraic field are still valid. It’s just that there are further expansions (e.g. a second operation called ‘multiplication’) which go beyond the bounds of what we currently understand. The nature of the expansion, however, is consistent with the core fundamentals. At least, that’s what I’d hope for: consistency, understandability, and predicability.

    The challenge I’m having with symbolic thinking, and with my adventures into Jungian psychology generally, is precisely the seeming inconsistency and arbitrary nature of its functions and symbols and meanings. A thing should mean something, clearly and consistently, not sort of mean this thing here but something else entirely on odd Thursdays in a leap year when the moon is a waning gibbous. And there should be an understandable path to get from premise to conclusion, not the kind of nonsense-like statements one sees in some kabbalistic literature where Moses’s left big toe symbolizes the omnipotence of Deity, therefore the holy sephiroth spin counterclockwise. How can meaning exist in a cosmos that doesn’t have an underlying order?

  75. Lathechuck #73 and my previous comment

    Understanding, of course, that we will never reach total comprehension b/c we will never acquire knowledge of *all* fundamental axioms necessary. We should, however, be able to approach Truth, if only asymptotically. Rather like the epsilon-delta definition of a limit: there should exist a function f(x) such that if I comprehend x proportion of the fundamental axioms, then my understanding is within f(x) distance of Truth, converging to Truth as x approaches 1.

  76. @ Lathechuck #73

    “Regarding logic and reason as ways to engage with the world… “Reason” only takes us from axioms or premises to conclusions. If this, then that. But our minds never have all of the axioms that we might need. We don’t HAVE the “this”, so we can’t reason to the “that”… we don’t really need “conclusions”, anyway; we need plans (short term, and long term), which we know will never be conclusively completed.”

    Thank you so much! This such a very nice and concise way of putting into words the specific incommensurability between “logic and reason” and “ways to engage with the world”.

    Because, of course! *slaps forehead*
    Logic and reason are how (or at least one type of how) we build our own models and maps… BUT… the actual terrain will always be bigger, deeper, wider, and more full of mystery and surprise than any map or model, and at some point we have to set the map or model aside and just pick a path and walk it, and see what happens, and respond to what happens, and… navigate.

  77. The discussion of the swastika as a symbol got me thinking about the use of of such symbols has changed over time. I entered college as a freshman in 1979, and lived in an all-freshman dorm. Right across from us ( about 50 feet away) was an older gothic style dorm built in 1905. Along a wide swath of the Masonary in that older dorm were cast a set of symbols running horizontally around the building. I don’t remember what all the symbols were but about every 4th one was a swastika. At the university I attended about 35% of the students were Jewish, and the same percentage applied to the board fo trustee’s and the faculty.
    So a large number of these Jewish kids looked out their windows, everyday, at 3 foot tall swastikas that had been there for decades. But there was no uproar, no call for them to be blasted from the buildings. Instead occasionally students would contemplate them. It seemed to be understood by all that these were symbols from another time that were installed when they had a different meaning.
    This was an era , unlike today, when people could hold two contradictory thoughts in their head at one time. It was also a time when history and context seemed to matter as opposed to emotion, outrage, and so called triggering. It was also a time before the great universities had gone bad, when diversity of opinion and freedom of ideas was still respected.
    But also think it was time before so many of these symbols had become weaponized for some particular purpose or another.

  78. I always enjoy it when a single insight solves multiple mysteries. The idea of the swastika rejection distorting Western society seems to be one of those. If the swastika is considered a symbol of evil, then naturally anything associated with it becomes associated with evil. If the swastika is always evil, then everything associated with it must be evil. It is a symbol of life; so if the swastika is evil, then life itself becomes evil. The weird biophobia that gripped the Western World in the wake of the Second World War could then be tied to the weird obsession with the swastika as well. The insistence that gardening makes people into Nazis which is now making the rounds is a further reflection of this: gardening brings connection to the living world; which is connected to the swastika; which can only mean “Nazi!”


    The swastika thing is really weird; for whatever reason, the programming didn’t stick with me, and I just see a bunch of lines. I have no emotional reaction to it at all; which means I can see quite clearly when everyone else is freaking out over a bunch of lines. It really looks like a schizophrenic breakdown to me.


    As a non-American, my thought is that the Confederate Battle Flag looks an awful lot like the US flag. I wonder if the War on the Confederate Battle Flag is related to the rise in Anti-American sentiment within the US lately. The two flags might symbolize very similar things, and if so, then this could explain a lot of otherwise weird things as well.

  79. Mr. Greer,
    You say that “the one true religion that embraces all other religions” is a reality. However, it sounds to me very much like Rene Guenon’s primordial tradition. In your post from April 5, 2023, “The Reign of Quantity”, you wrote: “The perennialist stance assumes that all religions are different roads climbing the same mountain, but a sustained look at different religions and spiritual paths suggests a very different metaphor: the different paths really do lead up different mountains. Though there are certainly similarities in the methods of ascent — climbing a trail up one mountain requires many of the same skills as climbing a trail up another — the landscapes to be crossed and the views from the top are emphatically not the same.” Did you change your opinion or is there a difference between Levi and Guenon here that I don’t see?

  80. I’ve been thinking about David, by the lake’s comments, and while I cannot offer a “guide for the perplexed”, I can, however, offer something that might add to the perplexity: it is impossible to work with natal astrology (the only one with which I’m familiar) without working with symbols, and working towards understanding them, and here I would add, in any particular case. One can look up Mars conjunct Saturn in a book of interpretations, and freak out (they’re both malefics in traditional astrology) or one can begin to work with the symbols: on one hand Saturn, the limiting principle, can work to impede the will (if that is how one interprets Mars), or it can work to constrain the tendency to be impulsive (think of the Roman Mars instead as the Greek Aries, the god of blood-lust). One could go on and on, but in the end it is a question of how this works out in this individual’s or that individual’s life. The best I can say at this time is that Mars conjunct Saturn, as symbols, suggest a focus for a particular individual, a focus which a different individual might not have. How that focus plays out in an individual’s life is hard to say, I think, but it can serve as fodder for reflection for that individual.

  81. Eyrie, I think that’s the difference between a universalism that is negative polarized (here’s absolute truth, conform), and one that is positive: look at all that is, what unifies it? Now of course Guenon would see this other way around, inside out, and upside down. The solar element in guenon is so intense as to render impossible the approach of earth or moon current.

  82. In the West the swastika has become the symbol of the Nazis and therefore of Absolute Evil. I can’t see this changing. I support what the swastika used to stand for before 1933.

    Just after 9/11 I saw Norman Mailer interviewed and he said that if you’re half evil there’s nothing more reassuring than believing your enemy is totally evil. If your enemy is half evil as well then you just have the usual human mess. Maybe that’s why there is this obsession with the Nazis; whatever our faults we can be sure we’re morally superior to them and we defeated them. Good will triumph!

  83. #67 Could it be because they can’t cope with a partial solution to a problem and can only think in terms of an all-or-nothing style, or is it really because they want to go the full-WEF you will own nothing utopia where you only lease the clothes you wear?

  84. Kinda late in the comment stream, but this week’s discussion of pentacles/symbols has been quite fascinating. The observations brought up explain and answer quite crisply, I think, the question posed in a recent article I read: “What is it about fossil fuels and the people who produce them that brings forth such uncontrolled hatred, anger, and vengefulness in a very large segment of the population?” ; see

    The author is puzzled why people would have such a visceral hate for the companies producing the fuels that make their lives of ease, luxury, comfort, and safety possible. I think this week’s discussions provide answers: the fossil fuel companies symbolize ease, comfort, safety, and the maniford technological characteristics of our modern societies. We can’t have those things! We don’t deserve them! And anyway, the fuels will run out or at least become much more expensive so sooner or later we WON’T have those things (or so many people fear.) Quite something, all that. Biting the hand that feeds you, as it were. Ah, humans…

  85. Noteworthy and influential Archdruid, I confess that this week’s chapter left me scratching my head and saying “Wait, where was that mentioned or discussed previously?” Magical calendars? Adonhiram? Hieroglyphic alphabet? (is he talking about written Hebrew?) The four rivers? The battle between Anteros and Eros? The coffin of Osiros? Dupuis and Volney? Children of Zoroaster? Briah? Yetzirah? Atziluth? Ye gads, he name-drops a boatload of items which without some sort of magic decoder ring, most everyone will go “huh?” I looked in my box under the bed: darn, no decoder ring.

    I will say though, I was quite smitten by the final few words of the chapter where Levi states: “…humanity is not as malicious in spirit as we might suppose by the appearance of its vices.”

    All the best!

  86. If the Swastika is a symbol of the sun, and when Western society redefined the Swastika as evil in the wake of the Second World War we also made a link between evil and the Sun, then another historical mystery has its answer here: why, after millennia of strength, did Christianity in the Western World collapse over the course of the second half of the 20th century? This is all the more bizarre in that it currently looks like Christianity is doing better in the former USSR, where it was actively suppressed; and even as it was failing in the Western World, the insistence was that religion was part of what separated us from the Godless Commies. A lot of Christians have talked about a major shift in the 1990s and 2000s, when Christianity went from being socially “good” to “neutral”; but I think that just showed what had been underway since the 1950s, but had been obscured by the Cold War; after all, the entire cultural shift of the 1960s can be seen as a rejection of Christian morality, and a case can be made that a superficial shell was kept in order to avoid admitting the US was now as “godless” as the commies.

    The obvious question is what happened? It can’t be anything related to the divine, or Christianity would have imploded globally; it can’t have been an ordinary cultural trend, or it wouldn’t have affected essentially every Western culture; and it can’t be related to religion in general, since Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and the like are going strong, even growing stronger. It does, however, make perfect sense if what happened was he consequence of a society that was, by its choice of symbolism, redefining itself and every aspect of its existence to align with the Solar Current, which heavily shapes Christianity, as being inherently evil.

  87. I think the case can be made very easily for the swastika obsession distorting our society; but what about other symbols? One which occurs to me is the rose: it’s often used around the world as a symbol of sacrifice, and martyrdom (including a lot of Christian symbolism, which I’m familiar with through the Hermetic traditions I’ve studied), and although like all symbols, it differs from region to region somewhat, those seem to be its core elements. It’s a symbol of love in some cultures; and these cultures tend to emphasize sacrifice as an ideal for lovers to attain (examples include Sati in India, or the perpetual mourning widowhood of medieval Europe); while cultures where the rose is not a traditional symbol of love seem to have less of this emphasis.

    Further, there are many different ways to define love: and while devotion and sacrifice play a role, there are ways to view it where they are not central to the phenomena. However, the western world has made sacrificing oneself crucial to our understanding of love; and in fact, a lot of people act as if anything short of self destruction in order to try to make your beloved happy proves you don’t truly love someone.

    It seems possible to me that this is a result of using a symbol of sacrifice, especially of martyrdom, as a symbol of love: the ideals of love will be slowly transformed to match the symbol, because the two are tied together very closely in the minds of those within the culture.

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