Book Club Post

The Ritual of High Magic: Chapter 13

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 Thirteen:  Necromancy” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 296-307).


For obvious reasons, the borderland between life and death has been of central interest to human beings since before we finished becoming human.  All of us are going to cross that line ourselves sooner or later.  For that matter, until the modern world with its stark panic of biological realities walled up the dying in medical facilities, most people witnessed the death of someone they knew by the time they got out of childhood. From Neanderthal days onward, our ancestors honored the dead with emblems of life and framed their grief with ritual and symbol—and from the time of the first surviving written records, and probably long before then, our species’ religious imagination has focused with laser intensity on  those rare situations when people who were thought to be dead returned to life.

It’s something that happens. Until the invention of modern medical instruments, the only way to be absolutely sure somebody was dead was to wait until putrefaction set in. As noted in an earlier chapter of this commentary, that was what gave rise to the traditional wake, in which people would literally sit up with the corpse, watching for any sign of life, until it became clear that death had definitely taken place—or until some slight movement or hint of life showed that the guy with the scythe had had second thoughts. This happened often enough that the custom was worth doing, especially when the person thus affected was young and relatively healthy, and the cause of apparent death was one that left the body intact.

The first half of Lévi’s discussion focuses on the light this casts on some of the classic miracles of the Bible. It’s always seemed rather odd to me that Christians ignore the explicit words of their founder at the bedside of the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:39):  “the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.” That is to say, he recognized that she was comatose and not dead, and promptly and efficiently roused her from her coma.  It’s a fine example of the miraculous healings that the gospels attribute to Jesus, and it seems unnecessary and possibly irreverent to ignore the literal meaning of his statement in an attempt to inflate it into something it was not.

McClenon’s one of the few sociologists who’s willing to deal with the reality of spiritual experience. I have no idea how he’s managed to stay in academe.

Such miraculous healings happen. They are among the standard events that take place around persons of unusual holiness in every religion. Sociologist James McClenon, in a thought-provoking book entitled Wondrous Healing, has argued that such healings are among the core reasons we have religions in the first place—which is not all that different from the Christian belief that their god sometimes grants signs and wonders to give solace to the faithful and confusion to unbelievers. Lévi proposes that when this happens, something related to the sudden healings caused by Mesmerism is involved:  the trust and faith of the patient and the family the healer’s mastery of the life force to jolt a comatose and unresponsive person back to obvious life.

Lévi’s reason for discussing this is partly a matter of winding up an argument he began in Chapter 20 of the Doctrine, but it also has practical applications. He wants to stress that the various magical means of communicating with the dead do not involve physical resurrection. This may seem obvious, but human fear and folly are powerful forces, and in every era there have been people left sufficiently frantic by the thought of their own or another person’s death that they have convinced themselves that they or someone they love could somehow evade the common lot of us all. No doubt Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which appeared in a French translation in 1821 (just three years after its first English edition) and became an instant cult classic, also lurks somewhere in the background of this chapter:  what Lévi is saying here is that no mad scientists need apply.

What our text has in mind, rather, is the deliberate evocation of a phenomenon that is quite common as a spontaneous experience. It so happens that a significant number of people—up to a third of the population in some surveys—have seen a ghost: that is to say, the phantom form of a person who has died. Accounts of ghosts can be found in cultures around the world as far back as written records go, and an impressive number of the details have remained unchanged all along; it’s intriguing to read the Roman-era story of the philosopher Athenodorus and his encounter with a ghost, for example, and find that it has exact equivalents in ghost encounters from the modern world, right down to the economic realities of renting out a haunted house.

Athenodorus and the ghost. It’s a good lively story.

Whatever ghosts are, then, people experience them. Lévi proposes to teach us how. He warns against doing so out of mere curiosity, and he also dismisses with a few tart words the actions of some corrupt mages of the Middle Ages, who summoned ghosts for various unwholesome purposes when they wanted a break from their usual practice of dealing with demons. In Lévi’s view, the evocation of the dead is justifiable only for two motives, love or knowledge: to communicate with a dead person the mage loved, or to seek instruction from a dead person who knew something the mage needs to know.

His description of these two methods is precise and practical. In both cases a period of intensive preparation involving a restricted diet, meditation, and prayer builds up to a final evocation, after which the desired spirit appears briefly to the mage. The period of preparation helps the mage attune himself or herself to the consciousness of the desired spirit and increases his or her sensitivity to the astral light. The prayers to use in this working, Lévi stresses, should always be based on the concept of the Divine accepted by the dead person.

No other conjurations, invocations, or other magical actions are necessary or appropriate; the mage simply enters into a state of expanded consciousness in which the astral light reveals the forms that are sought. For the evocation of love, the potent emotional bond between lover and beloved does most of the work. For the evocation of knowledge, a simple technical method Lévi has described before—directing a ray of light into a billowing cloud of incense, which the mind of the mage can then use as a sort of ever-changing Rohrshach blot—becomes the medium through which forms are projected from the Unseen.

Are those forms the souls of the dead? Lévi expresses his doubts on the subject, but does not close the door entirely on that possibility. Certainly in his formula for the evocation for knowledge, he assumes that the form thus evoked can in fact reveal knowledge to the mage, and may also be irritated or sad at the moral condition of the evoker.

In the latter part of this chapter he inserts two passages, one brief and the other lengthy, that are meant to discourage (or, more precisely, to knock some sense into) those individuals who might be tempted to use the same methods to summon evil spirits, or to evoke the dead for corrupt reasons. To begin with, he points out that the titles used for evil spirits in the old grimoires are labels for categories of spirits, not the names of individuals. Here he is drawing on a traditional bit of lore from the old Neoplatonists. If God is one, then the opposite of God must be the opposite of unity; there is therefore no one super-demon ruling over all other demons, but swarms of debased entities, confused, degraded, ignorant, and vicious, who go about in terror of a ruling power that is simply their own first dim perception of the Divine, shaped by them (as all such perceptions inevitably are) in their own image.

Like most Elizabethan intellectuals, Marlowe knew a lot about these things.

Can one summon such beings?  Of course.  The method, as Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe pointed out in Doctor Faustus, is simplicity itself:  all you have to do is descend to their level, and there they are. (“Why, this is Hell,” said Mephistopheles in that play, “nor am I ever out of it.”) It’s a precise equivalent of the method Lévi gives for evocations for love and knowledge, adapted to a vastly lower grade of spirit. Of course it’s one thing to make that descent and quite another to climb back up again:

“The gates of hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
In this the task and mighty labor lies.”

Those who think that they can summon and command the swarms of debased spirits are subject to the same fatal law as the spirits themselves: the further they go, the more they lose of whatever dignity, intelligence, and power they once had.

That this is not just a bit of moral preaching can be shown readily enough, as Lévi points out, from the medieval literature of black magic. The description he gives of sorcerers in the Middle Ages digging up cadavers from graves, stealing holy objects from churches, and using these together with hallucinatory herbal drugs is not exaggerated. It’s interesting that Lévi seems to have known about the phenomenon of the “contact high,” the way that drug-induced mental states can pass from the intoxicated person to others not so impaired; his comments about “the magnetism of hallucination and the contagion of madness” are hard to interpret any other way. As the foregoing may suggest, however, what was being communicated by the contact high in this case was one whale of a bad trip.

It is in fact possible to do magic that way. As we saw back in the commentary on Chapter 10 of the Ritual, you can whip yourself up into a frenzy by breaking taboos, release a certain amount of magical energy that way, and get results. It’s not a method that handles repetition well, since each breaking of the same taboo yields less in the way of results than the ones before it, until what started out as a dizzying rush turns into a tawdry habit.  Thus people who practice this kind of magic, like drug addicts of a certain type, have to go to greater and greater extremes to get the same result some fairly mild dose did early on. Odds are that they’ll run out of harmless taboos fairly quickly, and after that it’s a matter for the police.

It really is a bad idea.

Quite a few of the old necromantic rituals given in the grimoires Lévi cites, in fact, would land you very promptly in trouble with the law if you tried them today. They weren’t any safer back when the Grand Grimoire was written, and the legal environment in those days was far less forgiving. The ritual for summoning the dead that our text gives in the last paragraph in this chapter, back in the day, would have been a very effective way to achieve the medieval equivalent of “suicide by cop.”

Imagine for a moment that in 1522, the publication date listed in one edition of the Grand Grimoire, somebody wearing a cross made of human bones around his neck, his hands stained with graveyard dirt, jumped up in the middle of Christmas midnight mass anywhere in Catholic Europe and shouted “May the dead be released from their graves!” before sprinting out the church door. A few minutes later back he comes from the churchyard, puts the crossed bones down by the church door, adds a fistful of graveyard dirt, and shouts the same thing. Then he walks away slowly, counting his steps.

I promise you he would not cover anything close to the 4500 steps specified by the ritual before being tackled by half a dozen stalwart members of the congregation, beaten soundly, dragged back to the church, and handed over to the first officials of the Holy Inquisition that could be found. A trial and an agonizing death through burning at the stake would follow promptly. In Lévi’s time, as our text notes, that would have been replaced by incarceration in an institution for the criminally insane, but this is still not exactly helpful if you want to pursue a career in magic.

Why did the unknown author or authors of the Grand Grimoire insert something so obviously self-defeating and self-destructive into their textbook?  My guess is that it was put there precisely to get rid of anyone idiotic enough to follow such instructions.  Just as the alchemists sometimes included recipes in their books that were obviously intended to blast the clueless straight to kingdom come, sorcerers of the sort who wrote and practiced the kind of material taught in the Grand Grimoire had no interest in passing on their secrets to those too careless or thoughtless to use them. It was a harsh time and harsh methods were in vogue.

Lévi’s approach was less drastic, and also less final. Yet he also protected some of the essentials of his teaching in ways that would effectively distract the foolish. This chapter contains some of those protections. Close reading of the text is recommended for those who hope to grasp what he has to say.

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 14, “Transmutations,” on July 10, 2024. See you then!


  1. Fascinating chapter! You note that Lévi has some doubts that one really conjures the souls of the dead; for my part, I wonder if that sort of phenomenon could be connected with Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance in which the memories of the deceased could persist in a way that they become accessible. Of course, morphic resonance is as far as I can tell just another term for the Astral Light…

  2. Alex, that’s certainly another interpretation to consider. As with so many of these things, it’s easy to come up with hypotheses but very hard to figure out how to test them — so we’re left going “okay, it could be this, or this, or this…”

  3. Since last week’s topic was on dreams, I thought I’d just say here that they are another favored way for the dead to communicate with the living. On the day before my mother passed away unexpectedly I had a dream that predicted it -only I didn’t know that’s what it predicted until after the fact. Following her death I had several dreams where she appeared to me and gave me solace. There were a few, but one of them that I continue to find comfort in, is when she told me she was going to a school to study history. I think this must have been one of her afterlife assignments. Or perhaps a future life. She has since turned up on occasion, but not as much, as it has been sixteen years this coming weekend. Other departed relatives have appeared to me as well in dreams.

    My mom also seemed to appear to a cousin of mine she was close to, by messing with her electricity and playing a familiar song, when that would not have been possible otherwise, to comfort her. Later my dad reported that his printer was acting up, and it would sometimes print things with the header of the hospice where my mom had worked as a nurse at the top of the page, when he wasn’t printing anything.

    Also, on Halloween one year I did the work in R. J. Stewart’s “Underworld Initiation.” There were some relatives who appeared to me, who I previously didn’t have much connection with, as they were older great aunt, etc., during the last part of the pathworking.

    All this is to say, it only seems that in our industrial world, that we have lost these kinds of abilities to receive signs and visits from our dearly departed.

    John, I still cherish the dream visit I had with your wife in the kitchen where I was comforted by her loving presence.

  4. OT: I am cataloging a book called “The Afternoon of Christianity” just now. It reminded me of your post, The Return of Religion, about, among other things, Christianity in its autumnal phase:

    “In a world transformed by secularization and globalization, torn by stark political and social distrust, and ravaged by war and pandemic, Christians are facing a crisis of faith. In The Afternoon of Christianity, Tomas Halik reflects on past and present challenges confronting Christian faith, drawing together strands from the Bible, historic Christian theology, philosophy, psychology, and classic literature. In the process, he reveals the current crisis as a crossroads: one road leads toward division and irrelevance, while the other provides the opportunity to develop a deeper, more credible and mature form of church, theology, and spirituality–an afternoon epoch of Christianity.”–inside flap.

  5. JMG, thank you for guiding us through this book chapter by chapter. I’ve been reading along, but in the last few months I added the meditation of contemplating the themes of each chapter together. I misread your instructions and instead of contemplating 3 combinations in one day, I’ve done one combination per day, thus I’m moving slowly.

    I really appreciate this practice because it helps me to see the tree of life. Previously these words were just words, it was hard for me to see their significance, and the tree of life was an abstraction. Now the tree of life has come to life for me, and the meditation has helped me connect to the book which more often than not feels out of reach of my ability to understand it. So I will stick with it, and see where it leads me.

  6. Justin, talk about synchronicity! I’ve just finished the first draft of the manuscript for the fourth Ariel Moravec novel, which is about a ghost, and the last scene that I wrote — it’s in the middle — has a character explain to Ariel that since dreams involve contact with the astral plane, and the dead spend the first part of the afterlife on that same plane, dreams are a common way for the dead to communicate with the living…

    That is to say, thank you for this.

    Tamar, you’re most welcome — and thank you for taking the work seriously.

  7. “It is in fact possible to do magic that way. As we saw back in the commentary on Chapter 10 of the Ritual, you can whip yourself up into a frenzy by breaking taboos, release a certain amount of magical energy that way, and get results. It’s not a method that handles repetition well, since each breaking of the same taboo yields less in the way of results than the ones before it, until what started out as a dizzying rush turns into a tawdry habit. Thus people who practice this kind of magic, like drug addicts of a certain type, have to go to greater and greater extremes to get the same result some fairly mild dose did early on. Odds are that they’ll run out of harmless taboos fairly quickly, and after that it’s a matter for the police.”

    Something fascinating has clicked with this. We’ve discussed before the possibilities of accidental large scale magic before, and also the truly weird hold Progressivism has on society, especially as it goes off the rails. Well, the entire inner logic of Progressivism is to find the taboos from the past that hold society back from the glorious future, and break them in the name of Progress. Not everyone involved in the Progressive movement always engages in this sort of behaviour, but it is common among the passionate core to break a lot of taboos held by most members of society; and in a lot of ways as a society we’ve been dragged along since at least the 1920s by this dynamic, with the taboos so broken eventually ceasing to be taboos as everyone embraces this new social order.

    Especially combined with the Progressive movement’s somewhat odd focus on drugs, and sexuality, and the edgier side of the occult, all of which play a role in certain kinds of dangerous magic, I wonder now if the reason Progressivism ran to such extremes is because they (I hope) accidentally created a large scale, over-a-century-long magical working based upon drawing strength from violating societal taboos, especially those around sex, drugs, and non-Christian spirituality.

    This could even explain why it’s running out of steam now: the taboos left are there for good reasons (such as taboos against demonolatry and paedophilia), good enough that a lot of people are unwilling to go along with even suggesting breaking them; and there are no longer enough taboos of the types that Progressives are comfortable breaking in order to fuel their large scale working anyway.


  8. You’re very welcome. I’ll look forward to reading it. Dreams and signs have the advantage of the dead coming to us, rather than the other way of round. Levi’s text and your commentary have pointed out how that can get unhealthy, if people don’t have very good motivations, not that their can’t be good motivations. Then you hear about people going to mediums and psychics to reconnect with those who have passed on, with results that often seem mixed at best by most accounts.

    Seeing my mom in dreams also helped ease my own fear of death because it gave me direct experience of the continuity of consciousness.

    A real quick story… I went to see Negativland in Lexington, KY on Monday night. After the show, there was a number of people who stuck around to talk to the group. I found myself standing next to Philo Drummond, who happens to be one of the co-founders of the Church of the Subgenius and now lives in KY. Small world! (Of course Negativland has some connections to the Church, so not a total surprise.) Also, in front of the theater where they played there was a very nice sculpture of the Tree of Life as welded and grafted onto a parking meter. All in all it was absolutely fantastic.

  9. “If God is one, then the opposite of God must be the opposite of unity; there is therefore no one super-demon ruling over all other demons, but swarms of debased entities, confused, degraded, ignorant, and vicious, who go about in terror of a ruling power that is simply their own first dim perception of the Divine, shaped by them (as all such perceptions inevitably are) in their own image.”

    That is a hell of a sentence!

    I have increasingly come to trust my truthsense as my years on this spinning rock mount up and, to me, that sentence rings true like a bell.

    Fear as a pathway to God initially strikes me as repugnant but obviously that is a judgement on my part, based on my own evolutionary state and relationship to the Unity. But, when considering the soul/essence/life-force/pattern of a being most recently manifest in time and space as an insect (for example), it makes a lot of sense that the fear of God would likely come before the love of God. And are those seemingly opposite reactions not usually found all mixed up together, even, or especially, in humans as well? The old testament would certainly seem to verify that notion! Thus it would seem to me unwise to call upon disembodied Beings without true need as the ones that are likely to be hanging around and willing to answer are not the ones that are highly evolved and compassionate. Could this be the origin of the father of lies trope?

    A second thought that this brought up (and I apologize if this is too far off topic) is it possible that what we call The Big Bang is the beginning of multiplicity in spiritual terms as well as physical? The Unity gets bored and explodes into an infinitude of holographic pieces just to see what happens? Is there not a Hindu cosmological story of the Universe (in an infinite set of Universes) being simply a dream of Brahma?

  10. I know of four people who had dream encounters in some manner with those who have passed on, myself included. The most spectacular was a co-worker of mine. Her mother had died, a transition featuring deceased relatives appearing to the mother and the mother talking about them to those gathered. The . A few weeks later she encountered her mother in a dream. It was so real and intense she woke up everyone in the house at 4:00 AM to share what had happened. During her sharing she turned to her 10 year old daughter and said, “Holly, grandma wants me to tell you her house in heaven is red” Holly burst into tears. The day before at the the private Christian school she attended the teacher had done a talk on Jesus saying in John 14 that was going to prepare a place for you and afterwards would receive you to himself and that in his Father’s house there were many mansions. The teacher said that there would be houses prepared for us in heaven. Holly had then prayed to God saying she wanted to know what color her Grandma’s house was.

  11. Thank you so much for your down-to-earth explanation of this chapter. In my own limited experience, I talk to dead people or at least I sincerely believe I talk to dead people. I don’t see them as a rule, though about three years ago I did see my first and only ever full body apparition in the forest preserve. I live close to a graveyard and sometimes I will talk to the recently dead people who are interred there. I believe anyone can talk to the dead, along with other incorporeal entities. The difficult part is discerning who you are talking to. Entities like to impersonate one another. For instance, when people try to talk to their dead grandma via a Ouija board (extremely bad idea) they are usually talking to an impersonator from the nastier part of the lower astral plane. It’s not that dead grandma doesn’t want to talk to them — it’s that the impersonators push her out of the way. I actually try not to talk to dead people unless they talk to me first or in the case of dead loved ones, if I truly feel the need to talk to them. When someone first dies, it’s very easy to talk to him or her. Once their physical body is cremated or decomposes, it gets more “subtle” for lack fo a better term. They fade away, and the only decent or proper way of talking to them is to remember their best attributes and act out those kindnesses and generosities in Meatworld directly. It’s a way of actively remembering them. The way I see it is the immortal part of any person was expressed via his or her best acts, and that is what lives on beyond space and time. If and when you meet with your loved one after the jump, it’s your souls that will recognize each other, not whatever superficial identifiers you had while in Meatworld. In a nutshell, that is why it makes zero sense to try and reanimate someone’s etheric or physical body after they have died. It’s gross as hell on so many levels and it isn’t really them. To add insult to injury, it’s probably an impersonator 99% of the time I would guess.

  12. A while back, I had a very unusual and lucid dream, involving a good friend of mine who had died untimely…I was in my bed, when suddenly I was whisked up into the clouds to behold a six year old girl wearing a white “Easter” dress, and shining with millions of watts of light…I had no idea what to make of that…then my friend appeared, in one her typical elegant pants suits, and she said “what are you doing here, Peter?”…I replied, “I have no idea. (name deleted)” Then she said, “you don’t belong here..” and suddenly I was propelled back through the clouds into my bed….
    Dream interpreters have said that the 6 year old girl was a powerful entity, but my (deceased) friend removed me from its influence… Of course, I believe that our good friends are with us in many lives, but I still don’t understand what was going on….

  13. Taylor, thank you for this. I think you’ve touched on something very important here. Hmm…

    Justin, doubtless this will define me in your eyes as the squarest of the square, but I had to do a search to find out what Negativland was. A movie? A theme park? I wasn’t sure. 😉

    Ken, I’ve come to respect the bit of scripture that says “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” It’s just the beginning, and like most beginnings, it gets set aside fairly soon, for the same reasons neither of us wears diapers or puts training wheels on our bikes any more — but it is a beginning. If a being is confused, degraded, ignorant, and vicious, as demons are, then the one way it can begin to perceive the Divine is as something much bigger and tougher and more dangerous than it is; it’s scared of this vast frightening presence, and so it begins to modify its behavior a bit to keep from drawing that dreadful entity’s attention. In this way it takes its first tiny baby steps toward wisdom and grace.

    But you’re quite right that it’s a bad idea to call on disembodied beings. The beings you get will be those that are most in resonance with your current state of consciousness. If that isn’t very elevated — and how many of us can really say that we rise to our potential? — then the beings that answer won’t be any better. You get better results by improving your own state and changing the way you relate to the world.

    BeardTree, that’s great. It’s also typical of the better grade of ghosts that Grandma would have made sure to pass that detail on.

    Kimberly, you’re most welcome. My experiences are more or less equivalent to yours, although some magical techniques make it a little easier to talk to those on the other side when that’s appropriate.

    Pyrrhus, fascinating.

  14. Regarding taboos, I tend to the view that they are cyclical. When you remove a taboo, you are making the taboo taboo in a sense. So the complete removal of taboos is just the creation of a taboo against taboos, and the violation of this is the recreation of taboos.

    So my prediction (prophecy?) is that many of the old taboos that supposedly are no longer will return in due course – which will return and which won’t is of course a question I cannot answer.

  15. My first cat and I had a very strong bond. (He lived to be 18 years old.) After he died, he would visit my dreams. He would let me hold him for a while, but eventually he would want to get up and start walking. I would follow him and we would end up crossing a very large meadow. At the edge of the meadow was a split rail fence. He could easily walk under it. I looked away from him to see if there was a gate, rather than just climbing over the fence, and when I looked back at him, he was gone.

    I had the dream several times, at first once a week, then once a month, and then once every few months. We always ended up in the meadow and I tried dozens of times to cross the fence without letting him out of my sight. I never could. And whenever I realized he was gone, I would wake up.

    After a year, I finally understood. So when he visited my dream the next time, I walked with him to the fence. I picked him up and gave him a hug and said I understood that he had to go somewhere I couldn’t and that I was sorry I had been holding him back. He gave me a head-bump. I put him down and watched him walk under the fence. He never visited my dreams again.

    But I think he did visit one last time. My replacement cat was a tuxedo cat, completely different than my first cat (a gray tabby). A month or so after my dream of watching my tabby walk under the fence, I was outside with my tuxedo cat and the light hit at just the right angle and his tuxedo turned into a pinstripe suit… and for a moment, he looked just like a tabby.

  16. @ Justin Patrick Moore and JMG: Alas, I have no dream stories or encounters with the dead to relate. It’s way too normal here in my life. The chapter on Death in “Meditations on the Tarot” was particularly interesting to me because of its material on Gurdjieff & Ouspensky. When I read Levi’s chapter on death, by mistake, one month ago, it left me unimpressed, and I haven’t gone back to try again.

    Negativeland! That’s the first I’ve heard of them since I lived in the East Bay (I left in 1998). They were one of the two weirdest bands going. “The loudspeaker spoke up and said….” The other one was The Residents, another bizarre Bay Area band that you would only hear played on college radio stations. My apologies for not being more “on topic.” (As I type this, Brahms is playing on the stereo.)

  17. The dead aren’t the same beings as they were in their former lives as humans. They have become a type of elemental. For some this form is temporary, in transit to future lives, and for some this is their future life. Levi is also mistaken in his understanding of the underworld, which has a royal family and an aristocracy. There are no good reasons for summoning the dead, apart from healing them. Since only forty percent of what the dead communicate is true and the rest is gibberish they are of little use in divination. Nonetheless the vast majority of what passes for magic in this world is crude necromancy. The dead are abused and enslaved by these necromancers for base purposes which leads to very unfortunate results. Not only do these victimised beings wait eagerly for their abuser‘s demise, the very act of tampering with the primordial separation between realms is a grave sin which leads inevitably to an inferior rebirth. Lastly, Levi’s description of the actual methods of necromancy is overly contrived and deliberately misleading.

  18. Nah… They are a fringe taste even in the music Circles I inhabit and I’m kind of Square in my enthusiasm for them. But that just means I’m squaring the circle.

    Peace & thanks for the essay.

  19. KAN, that seems very plausible to me.

    Random, thank you for this! A very sweet ghost story.

    Phutatorius, duly noted.

    Tengu, I remember when I used to be that certain about such things. I grew out of it, though.

    Justin, ha!

  20. It’s interesting that one of the types of resurrection that Levi describes is the other end of what is now often called the Near Death Experience of the sort in which the dying person is called or sent back to earthly life when just at the portal of the after-death process.

    As for the Grand Grimoire and its necromancy, this is one of the places where Levi and Waite are in close agreement. For better or for worse, one of the great, very probably inexhaustible, renewable resources is human folly; although Levi often lets it speak for itself, while Waite cannot resist commenting directly on it. The Grand Grimoire, which is generally though to date from the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century (, is a prime example, though it’s quite possible to suppose that it’s more of a jeu d’esprit than an earnest manual of magic. Various texts, in French and in English translation, are freely available all over the internet, including the necromantic part, which Levi has tweaked a bit to be even more grotesque.

    Unfortunately, the history of magic is ornamented with the kind of person who would take Swift’s “Modest Proposal” at face value. The very serious recipes of the Picatrix have fortunately not yet been taken up by these people, although someone like Gilles de Rais might have been tempted. However, the Grand Grimoire has featured in at least one sad incident, as clownish as it is sinister ( This is why so many authors on such subjects emphasize that they are modifying the rituals they describe to make them ineffective.

    It is one of the reasons that so many people have looked askance at magic and magicians. As CS Lewis, among others, pointed out, the quest for pure knowledge, and sheer technical effectiveness, unhindered by other considerations, is one of the places where certain kinds of magical and scientific pursuits overlap. Or, to put it another way, certain kinds of magic are ancestral to certain kinds of science, and what starts as a sacrifice of beagles may go on to activities even more dire.

  21. FWIW, I’m one of the one third of all people that’s seen a ghost. It was my dad a few months after he died. I was sitting on a couch in the living room at my mother’s place when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up. It was an image of my dad wearing a sweater I bought him. He took a step forward and then disappeared like a popping soap bubble. No eerie sounds, no wailing like in a spooky movie. And he took no notice of me.

    Also, FWIW, about healing. When I was a young lad I had a large, hard lump behind my knee. I don’t remember what kind of lump it was, just that my parents were concerned because if it became necessary to surgically remove it, the doctor said it could leave my knee stiff.

    Enter my grandfather visiting from the old country where he was known as a healer. He did a sign of the cross on the lump, said a prayer of some kind and lo and behold the lump was gone a few days later.

    I visited the old country in my teens and saw people coming to visit my grandfather for healing services. So I know that he was known for healing.

    As a thoroughly modern man I’m expected to scoff at this stuff. But I saw what I saw.

  22. Archdruid, I’m always open to new ideas and I don’t enjoy certainty in any subjects, apart from sorcery and necromancy (which I’ve studied from the age of four).

  23. @Phutatorius: As you no doubt probably suspect, I like the Resident’s too, but not nearly as much as Negativland. who are still really weird! And super friendly, as were the other fans. They have always been a positive presence in my life since I first encountered their music in the early nineties. They got me interested in ham radio, shortwave, community radio, and a number of other topics. Each episode of their Over the Edge radio program was like an essay for the ears on particular topics coming at it from all angles.

    To relate this to the topic, when member Don Joyce passed away they packaged and shipped tiny bits of his cremains along with their latest record. 2 grams of Don in each bag to be precise. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get one in time. But I did meet Don on their 2007 tour. The band said of them packaging his remains, “This is not a hoax. We’ve decided to take The Chopping Channel concept to its logical conclusion by ‘productizing’ an actual band member. It is also a celebration of the degree to which no idea in art was ever off-limits to Don, and offers a literal piece of him, and of his audio art, for the listener to repurpose and reuse. We are pretty sure he would have wanted it this way.”

    The three dead members of Negativland were also present at the concert on Monday – in the form of audio recordings. Their voices and sounds live on.

  24. About death in another sense. Yesterday’s email included the statement that Biden had decreed that our flags – on Flag Day! – should fly at half-mast for Pulse Day. I had to look that up – oh, yes, mass death in a gay bar – and promptly went into a meditation on all the mass shootings, bombing, and fires for ideological reasons and others such as school shootings that have pockmarked the recent years like nasty bug bites on the body politic. Ir reminded me of the assassinations that marked the ’60s and ’70s. And I wondered what was driving these and what they were symptoms of? Apart from the usual urban/left pieties about Gun Violence.

    Domestic and workplace shootings have probably been with us forever, like gang shootings, but still, the above struck me as worth wondering about.

    Also, a recent headline in USA Today: “The leading cause of death among members of our armed forces is suicide.” Shakes head.

  25. A rather troubling thought has occurred to me that I now cannot shake. Democracies only function because of norms; in other words, taboos, and one possible read for the ongoing and more aggressive persecution of Conservatives is that Progressivism, having run out of other taboos to break, is now turning to destroying the taboos that keep civil society possible. This could end very badly….

  26. “In Lévi’s time, as our text notes, that would have been replaced by incarceration in an institution for the criminally insane, but this is still not exactly helpful if you want to pursue a career in magic.”

    Maybe that’s true where you live, but here they would let them right back out on the street again assuming that they even bother to take them away in the first place. It sounds like the authors of the grimoires did not anticipate a civilization that would be so perfectly set up for the open practice of black magic. Never mind the Cultural Revolution, I’m starting to get Sodom and Gomorrah vibes.

  27. On death, and the tarot:
    This is the Hazard Tarot (not mine, no sales pitch), a tarot deck made entirely of safety hazard signs. Possibly the opposite of the peace-and-light genre, every picture is a warning about a different way you could die. The one of The World is a globe blowing itself apart. The Magician is an electrical bolt descending from above.

  28. @Taylor #25 Speaking of norms being abandoned, recently I went to buy a box of bandages at a Walmart. To my astonishment they were now in a locked case because of shoplifting! This was the most recent of a cavalcade of ordinary products in that store being sequestered. And the neighborhood isn’t a “bad” one. I remember the lovely clean San Francisco of the late seventies. Even The Tenderloin, the bad part of the town looked low key to this Wisconsin farm boy as I walked through it in the day time. Is there a ritual to bring back this dead America!

  29. LeGrand, a valid and important point — and I can well imagine what Lewis would have had to say about the beagles. What’s more, he might have been right.

    Smith, thanks for these — two classic accounts of the “TSW” variety. These things happen.

    Tengu, maybe so, but I also have a little experience in these fields and my experience and understanding differ from yours.

    Patricia M, there’s that — a very disquieting issue.

    Taylor, it might. On the other hand, Progressivism has also established its own set of potent taboos — and if things follow the usual route, the next step will be turning against those taboos.

    KVD, I said that would happen in Lévi’s time, not in ours!

    Kfish, that’s funny. It reminds me of Edward Gorey’s Fantod Pack, in which all the cards predict misery and doom.

  30. I had to go back and read it again a few times and yeah I stand corrected. Not sure how I misread you. That actually kind of bothers me. Will add it to the list of bad habits to clean up.

  31. Has anyone read Carl Wickland’s 30 Years Among the Dead?

    An astrologer, Jeff Harman recommends this book and my copy arrived yesterday. I’m only a few pages in but Wickland is saying that many spirits do not know that they are dead and attach themselves to hosts. Also there are a host of malicious entities that are the cause behind many imposed bad thoughts, feelings and ideas.

  32. JMG, what set of magical techniques is that, if you don’t mind my asking? RandomActsofKarma, thank you for sharing your story about your beloved cat. About a year after my beloved black cat Kiki died, I believe I was visited in a dream by Saint Francis himself who comforted me by saying that she was doing well in the afterlife, and “eating” a lot as he put it. Like most cats, Kiki loved to eat.

  33. @JMG
    When you come to Glastonbury I’ll whistle up all the dead from the Somerset Levels and we can ask them (just kidding 🙂 )
    In a short time I’ve learnt a great deal from your writing and from this unique community. According to my limited understanding you’ve not yet made a single error in anything that you’ve written, so I’m quite curious as to precisely which part of my initial comment in incorrect, in your view?

  34. One of the most important contacts with my father, some years after he passed away, was in a dream too.

    I’d see him in my dreams every now and then before that but we wouldn’t talk or communicate. This time he hugged me and said that all he wanted for me is to grow up to be most myself. The last two words are the closest I can make in English out of the Russian phrase. The dream was way more vivid than usual and I felt the message received deep in my soul.

    I don’t know how I compare to others on the scale of daddy issues. I guess ‘more than some less than others’ would do a good enough job to describe it here. Needless to say, the communication happened at an important moment in my life and helped a great deal to turn our mutual screw ups around.

    Another number of years later, I took a dive into the sort of work we are discussing here and I am starting to wonder just how deep that ‘most myself’ part of my dad’s message sank in that night? :—}

  35. @ Taylor (#7)

    I think you have discovered the root cause of Woke-ism, together with insight into its trajectory and ultimate fate. Sure, breaking taboos releases tremendous energy – but the energy coming off of it is analogous to the energy released from breaking apart an atom: yes it can be harnessed, but neither safely nor efficiently.

  36. Hi John Michael,

    The dead make for poor company and are of little assistance, although people can say what they will. I may have mentioned to you that earlier this year an old school friend popped into my awareness, and also that of my wife, who also knew him back in the day. We got to talking about him. Anyway, because we sometimes do idiotic things, we looked him up on the interweb to see what he was up to these days, only to discover I’d missed his funeral by mere days. It appeared that he’d taken his own life. I told you that the dead make for poor company. Other than learning that he had a special interest in squirrels of all things, there was little other than grief to be gained there.

    Mr Lévi’s warning in this regard is to be taken very seriously indeed.



  37. Kimberly Steele,
    I am glad to know that Saint Francis let you know Kiki is doing well. IIRC, you said Kiki was like a child to you. I got Max when I was 23, so similar to your circumstance, I think.

    Max died almost 14 years ago. Writing about the dreams where he visited me has made me profoundly sad. So, Kimberly, JMG, anyone who has something to offer, any suggestions on how to work through emotions that I thought I had come to grips with long ago? I’ve reread the OSA work on sadness (well, happiness) and right now, it isn’t working. Distracting myself by doing stuff that makes me happy obviously works superficially… I’ve been “fine” for 13 years now. But obviously the sadness is still there.

  38. From a speech by Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council:

    Russia could trigger a war in space, wage a psychological warfare campaign against Western citizens so that they “tremble under blankets in their cozy homes” and “to turn their life into a never-ending nightmare, in which they cannot distinguish reality from the wildest fiction.”

    Does that qualify as an invocation to use dark magic?

    In regard to “unleash a tsunami of fake news” though, how would we know? Every single US news organization has discredited itself over the last decade. The “fact checkers” have been caught lying (no one at Snopes ever wore a hard hat, I find that completely believable).

    Or would the deluge of misinformation be intended as a smokescreen to prevent focusing on effective countermeasures to the main effort?

  39. Hi Tengu,

    Unsolicited advice is rarely sought, and mostly unappreciated, so I won’t give you any.

    The point I took away from the essay was that Mr Lévi warned against seeking the dead. Your conduct suggests to me that his advice was wise beyond the mere words used.

    Good luck.


  40. @RandomActsofKarma #37 re: Grief


    First off, my condolences – I’ve been very close to some cats in my life, and their loss can really hurt. I also had a pretty intense experience a couple years after my mom died that made a big difference. Basically, I allowed myself to truly, deeply feel the sadness I had about her being gone – I cried much harder than I had at any point since the funeral. What was important, though, was that as it was happening, I realized that even though it hurt, it wasn’t bad, and in fact it was the other side of the love I had felt for her. Of course I was sad, it would have been weird, and maybe even doing wrong by her memory not to be. Since then, I haven’t had any episodes as intense, but when I’ve realized that I miss her and feel sad about it, I’ve tried to really let myself feel it – crying if I need to, not fleeing to the next the distraction, just sitting with it and letting it happen. That’s tough for me, as I’m bad at emotions generally, and especially the unpleasant kind, but the spiritual work I’ve been doing has helped.

    Your mileage may, of course, vary, but hopefully something in there is helpful. My blessings if you’ll have them,

  41. Okay, when I told my ghost story about my grandfather communicating a bit of knowledge to my father meant only for his astral ears this past Monday, I had no idea this was the next chapter; nor that the same idea of knowledge by the recently deceased being passed to the living through dreams was part of the next Moravec story… I promise you JMG, I’m not trying to read your mind on purpose! hehe

    Something tells me I might’ve done this a few times haven’t I… I blame it on my brain marinating on your writing often.

  42. @Chris from Fernglade #39
    Hi Chris, Thank you for your comment, and my condolences on the loss of your friend.
    As for ‘seeking the dead’ you apparently haven’t considered that it might actually be the other way around. My sincere apologies if my conduct on this forum has offended you.

  43. Jeff Russell,

    Thank you. I will definitely accept your blessings. And I will definitely try your advice to let myself feel it, rather than just wanting the feeling to go away. Thank you. And blessings to you, if you’ll have them.

  44. Reading the example evocations Levi give I’m struck by the importance of calling upon the deceased three times.

    In evocations (and ritual magic) what is the importance of three?

    I believe one reason is that it not only confirms intent but commits the person to that intent. It may also be a call on the material, spiritual and divine planes.

    The importance probably isn’t all intent because I note that on page 307 when Levi gives his final example and quotes, “May the dead…..”, he repeats that statement twice but does not repeat it in full for the third time even though it is obvious he was only giving an example.

    Three times is definitely embedded in our experience. Peter denying Jesus three times; three strikes and you are out; etc.

  45. I was going to comment that Levi seems to treat a “spirit of light” that is evoked and shows itself as sad or irritated in an excessively familiar & commanding way: “….do not torment me” or “Silence and farewell” and this reminds me of his attitude vis a vis the elementals (one’s will must be stronger than theirs so one can command them). Compare that to the Sphere of Protection ritual in which one respectfully requests their aid.

    Anyway, when reviewing Levi’s Conjugation of the Four Elements, the Prayer of the Sylphs’ evocation begins with “Spirit of light”. Going back to Chapter 13 of the Ritual I wonder if Levi thought that the evocation of loved one’s spirits or the spirits of those one seeks knowledge from, were actually sylph elementals taking the form of the dead?

  46. Hi Tengu,

    Yes, yes, I see.

    Many thanks for the polite reply. And I’ve got no beef with you, nor the entities you hang out with.

    You’ve put me in an awkward position, because I meant the words ‘good luck’ literally. Let’s just say that I hold some concerns, but also I’m on the record saying above that you’ll get no advice from me, so instead I’ll tell you how the situation looks to me, and you can make of that what you will. Of course, will being the crucial point here.

    So, our host, who is probably the most competent person I know in this area, has written an essay warning of the dangers of certain activities. Mr Greer cites one his personal heroes, Mr Lévi, who provides the same warning, for the same reasons.

    You come into the picture discussing your interests and activities, and our host replies to you courteously, but it looks to me like he is backing away. Here is where things get interesting. You keep trying to engage him in a discussion on your activities and interests. Heck, you even tried to engage me in dialogue. That is an area I will not touch, because you know, err, warnings and stuff.

    The thing is dude, whether we know it or not, we give ourselves away in all sorts of little ways. Respect for boundaries is a fascinating issue. Coming back repeatedly to a topic, especially when our host is politely disagreeing with you, for your own reasons, is suggestive of wanting to push against boundaries. I tell ya man, there’s a lot of malign entities wandering around out there, and messing with boundaries is one of their err, tools. People can get off on the high that comes from doing that pesky activity. It’s a bit of a problem in our civilisation.

    Anywhoo, to put the issue in its most blunt terms, it looks to me like they got ya.

    Good luck.


  47. 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 or in the comments at the first link above.

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

    May Jennifer have a safe and healthy pregnancy, may the delivery go smoothly, and may her baby be born healthy and blessed.

    May Ecosophian, whose cat Cheesecake (picture)ran away on Wednesday 6/12, be safely reunited with Cheesecake; and may Cheesecake be protected and guided on his journey home.

    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.

    May Jennifer’s father Robert, who passed away on May 29th, be blessed and soothed, and may his soul be helped to its ultimate destiny and greatest good.

    Tyler A’s wife Monika’s pregnancy is high risk, and has now successfully entered the third trimester; may Monika and baby Isabelle both be blessed with good health and a smooth delivery.

    May Jennifer’s mother Nancy G. in SW Missouri is still recovering from various troubles including brain surgery for hydrocephaly; may she be healed, regain her mobility, and be encouraged with loving energy.

    May Erika, who recently lost her partner James and has been dealing with major knee problems (and who senses a connection between the two), be healed in both broken heart and broken knee, and be able to dance in the sun once more.

    May Doug Y of Geauga County, Ohio be supported and healed as he makes his way through the diagnosis and treatment process for prostate cancer.

    May Ms. Krieger’s hometown of Norwalk, Connecticut recover quickly and fully from the gasoline tanker fire that destroyed an overpass and shut down interstate 95 on May 2. May the anger and fire that has made driving in the area so fraught cool down in a way that benefits all beings. May all people, animals, and other beings around the highway, the adjacent river and the harbor be protected and blessed, and may the natural environment improve to the benefit of all. (update)

    May Christina, who passed away on 5/8, experience a peaceful repose; may the minor child she leaves behind be cared for, and the needs of all affected me met; and may her family be comforted in this 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 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 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.

    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.

    Now, here is the current list.

  48. A few random thoughts and reflections:

    @Taylor, JMG and others: this discussion regarding progressivism/woke movement and taboos is one that made a huge resonance in me and, in my opinion, warrants deep exploration in order to delineate not only what has been happening but what will happen if it plays itself out.

    I rarely dreamed of my parents when they were alive, and rarely have since they have died. But my son – who was only 3 years old when my father was dying of terminal cancer and all that he knew was that “grandpa is sick” – had a vivid dream of his grandfather visiting him and telling him that he is feeling well now. That was the night that my father died. And my mother – who was called a ‘white witch’ and ‘fey’ in my hometown – told my father one time when the phone rang and he went to pick up the receiver, “no need to tell me; Dad is dead”. On the other end of the phone was one of her sisters breaking the news that their father had very suddenly dropped dead at a relatively young age. Though I can sense the presence of ghosts, they seem to have no desire to communicate with me: the feeling is mutual.

    Many people in this forum are likely aware that traditional Hindu society is far more accepting of the occult than Christian Western society. For example, astrology is accepted as a fact of life and daily life is filled with ritual actions which are, in fact, folk magic. But there are some red lines. And necromancy is one of them. The only ones who engage in it seem to be certain practitioners of tantra and they are greatly loathed and feared and are avoided by most people and especially by Brahmins.

    Regarding attempts at reviving the dead or bringing or giving a body to be used by the soul of one who is deceased, I was reminded of something in the news not that long ago. Caution: this is way out of my depth and I am only reporting on what I have heard. Anyway. Some folks may recall a bit of a hubbub that happened in the independent media (I can’t say about the MSM, as I avoid black magic like the plague) last winter about an illegal tunnel being found in connection with a synagogue (Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters) in Brooklyn, New York. Videos went viral about a brawl inside the synagogue, arrests being made by police, a stained mattress being pulled out, etc. Speculation (and memes) ran rampant. I was curious about this unusual event because it seemed to have an illegal/occult nexus feel. I came across an interview of a dissident rabbi who stated that the stained mattress was due to a ritual that is conducted by members of this sect in which a recently deceased member of the community is taken into the tunnel and cuts are made on his body as part of an elaborate ritual in the hope/expectation that the deceased founder of the sect (Rabbi Shneur Zalman?) will animate the fresh corpse. I have no idea if it is true; regardless, it’s a pretty twisted story!

  49. The veil between the living and the dead is very much like the veil between today and yesterday. Occult lore says they’re not the same (because those who died yesterday exist in some form or place today) but even so it makes a fine metaphor. We can engage with the past in loving memory and we can seek knowledge from it, but it can become an unlimited source of regrets and resentments if engaged unwisely. Lévi’s warnings might very well apply more broadly there. There’s one history and legions of could-have-beens; are those analogous to the unity of God versus the multiplicity of demons? I don’t usually hold that ours is the best of all possible worlds, but a flawed world that exists has important advantages over any number of alternatives that don’t.

    Time travel SF stories used to be mostly cautionary but in recent pop culture time travel solves every problem. From ruined relationships to apocalypses, just go back to the past and fix it. Time loop stories have become a genre too. There have been dozens of movies alone since Groundhog Day. I’m actually quite fond of them. They’re much like ghost stories from the ghost’s point of view, usually ending with the protagonist giving up their unwanted immortality by learning to appreciate the world.

    Along those lines, don’t get me started on the dubious politics of restoring the past. No, really, don’t, because I’d probably end up banned. My point is, while overt necromancy hasn’t been that strong a motif in recent popular culture, there’s been a whole lot of anachromancy going on.

  50. @Chris at Fernglade #46
    Hi Chris,
    Thank you for your comment. Perhaps I was being a bit discourteous and pushy, for which I apologise. I have in fact largely grown out of any sense of certainty in these matters, and I definitely don’t consider my knowledge of the occult to be complete. I studied these very dark subjects for about twenty five years, in order to defend myself, then I was imprisoned in a temple for fifteen years by an Oriental Master who completely cured me. For the last decade or so I’ve lived a normal life with no connection to the occult. My original comment was intended only to reinforce the warnings given by Levi in the text.
    Good luck to you as well,

  51. To Patricia Matthews, at #24, re suicide as the top cause of death among active duty military members:

    I was on active duty with the Air Force from 1983 to 2004, during which time there were multiple “anti-suicide” campaigns carried out by our “leaders.” Such campaigns struck me as disingenuous, though I wasn’t dumb enough to say so out loud.

    In ANY cohort of young, healthy people, the top CAUSE of death will pretty much always be either accident or suicide, for obvious reasons. Worrying about it is mostly pointless, except for PR purposes. The RATE of death for USAF members when I was on active duty was always below that of the U.S. population as a whole–again, because we were a cohort of young, healthy people. (Unhealthy people–even slightly unhealthy people–are rejected for active duty service.) More tellingly, the suicide RATE for military members, when I was on active duty, was actually below that of our fellow Americans of similar age who weren’t on active duty.

    Of course, those cause-of-death numbers change during times of actual combat. But even then, it’s the Marines and Army infantry that take the brunt of combat deaths, not USAF or Navy. For those latter two branches, accident or suicide typically remains the top cause of death, even during combat operations, at least post-WW II.

  52. @ unkarlfarbmanlike: Thanks!!! That makes a lot of sense. The media story reported it with no context at all, as if either our recruits were mentally ill, or the service, unbearable. The old newsroom mantra “If it bleeds, it leads,” should be a caveat with every such story. Glad to have the perspective now.

  53. Scotty, I haven’t. Interesting.

    Kimberly, systematic practice of discursive meditation and scrying sensitizes the mind so that communication with any form of disembodied being, including the souls of the dead, becomes much easier.

    Tengu, very reminiscent of Jung! “The dead came back from Jerusalem, where they found not that which they sought.”

    Ganesh, thank you for this; a fascinating account. The Latin for “most oneself,” btw, is ipsissimus — yes, that’s also the highest grade of initiation in the Golden Dawn system.

    Chris, oh, granted. Sometimes it’s appropriate to interact with them and sometimes it’s necessary, but the separation of the living from the dead isn’t an accident.

    Siliconguy, I’ve heard people referring to the guy as Off-his-meds-vedev; he really is getting over the top. (I assume he’s been assigned the role of bad cop, in running the usual scheme on the West.) I really wonder, though, if he has any idea what it’s already like over here…

    Augusto, you have indeed. If time is simply a form through which we perceive the world, as many philosophers argue, it’s not surprising that things should leak through from time to time!

    Scotty, three is the standard pattern number in Indo-European societies. In many Native American societies it’s four — among them, it’s the fourth son, not the third, who gives the right answer to the question, and fourth time’s the charm. As for Lévi, he seems to be pretty agnostic about what actually appears to the mage, but you’re right that his attitude is the same one he uses with elementals. (Congratulate your spell checker, by the way, for a first-rate malapropism — “Conjugation of the Four Elements” is very funny indeed to those who’ve done Latin grammar!)

    Quin, thanks for this as always,

    Ron, many thanks for this.

    Walt, “anachromancy” is a great word. One thing about trying to revive the past is that it’s one of the most effective ways of creating something completely new — because “the past” as remembered is always an abstract fantasy based on scraps of subjective memory, and trying to reenact it always sets off a cascade of unintended consequences!

  54. I mentioned Carl Wickland’s Thirty Years Among the Dead earlier.

    I’m finding it hard to read on (which I will) because of a few statements.

    First is that “…obsessing spirits are sensitive to pain” (Chapter 1, pg. 7). This is based on “a large percentage of cures reported by the New Jersey State Hospital for the Insane at Trenton effected by the removal of diseased teeth, tonsils or affected organs”. Elsewhere Wickland states that “…many discarnated intelligences are attracted to the magnetic light which emanates from morals, attaching themselves to these magnetic auras and finding an avenue of expression through influencing, obsessing or possessing human begins.” To me, that would be the only way a non-material entity could experience pain but not sure it is pain the intelligences are feeling. Maybe the vector in which they could attach themselves to the victim was removed?

    Secondly, Wickland mentions that many spirits do not realize they are dead. I get that many spirits are still bound to their interests, desires and such. Basically, in Wickland’s words, they carry their mentality with them into the spiritual realm but I’m not so sure that a spirit will not realize they are, in fact, a spirit, too much longer after “death”.

    Finally, Wickland states that “Inter-communication between the visible and invisible worlds is a natural privilege and is established through a person of a certain psychic constitution, capable of acting as an intermediary through whom discarnate intelligences can readily come in rapport with the physical plane”. I have not issue with that statement just that it is Mrs. Wickland that serves as the psychic intermediary and “…was easily controlled by discarnate intelligences”. I guess the Wicklands are all right but still, after reading this latest chapter in The Doctrine and Ritual that gives me pause.

    Still, this is an interesting book and I’ll keep on but wanted to mention some of the main items I am thinking over or have issue with, so far.

  55. JMG, thank you — I have noticed after approximately 6-7 years of doing the SoP, discursive meditation, and divination that my sensitivities are much more refined. I plan on adding more formal forms of scrying to my routines as a great deal of my insights have come via waking “walks” in various astral neighborhoods. It’s not that there is any more or less of an ecosystem from my pre-study days, it’s absolutely my perception that has gotten better. For instance, yesterday an impersonator spirit came at me saying it was the late Amy Winehouse and I said “no, you’re not” and it shrank away. I told it that if it ever wanted some kind of honest interaction with me, it would need to discard the silly mask.
    RandomActsofKarma, St. Francis was the most helpful so far in getting me to understand Kiki was doing fine in her afterlife process. I felt healed after that encounter. So I am going to suggest praying to him and if you want, I’ll pray to him on your behalf.

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