Book Club Post

The Ritual of High Magic: Chapter 2

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


“Chapter Two:  Magical Equilibrium” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 218-224).


By and large, fantasy fiction is useful to students of occultism as a source of belly laughs. Whether we’re talking about the Harry Potter franchise or some less giddily lucrative product of the genre, authors of fantasy fiction seem to go out of their way to avoid learning anything about what magic is and how it works, and it shows.  You have to go to the tackiest of tenth-rate science fiction or the shoddiest of lowbrow mysteries to get science or detection as absurdly detached from reality as the magic you find even in relatively good fantasy novels.

It happens now and then, though, that  by some cascade of accidents, a piece of genuine occult lore finds its way into a fantasy novel. I’m thinking of one of those just now. Readers who know their way around Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic A Wizard of Earthsea will recall that the central principle that guides competent wizardry in that imaginary world is equilibrium. Le Guin probably got that idea from Taoism, which was one of her main philosophical influences; I doubt, all things considered, that she ever turned the pages of our text.  It’s true nonetheless that for once, in that one section of her novel, her wizards were presenting the core concept of a genuine occult teaching.

Equilibrium is the law of existence. That doesn’t mean, as Lévi is quick to point out, that all things are frozen in stasis, everything forever equal to everything else. The balance of the cosmos is active, not static, and the principle of equilibrium is a broader application of the law that Isaac Newton (who was, after all, an alchemist as well as a physicist) applied to motion:  for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Keep in mind that the law of equilibrium isn’t a moral rule of the conventional sort—that is to say, a guide to behavior that most people insist they believe in but next to nobody actually follows. Our text is not saying that you ought to direct your magic or govern your actions according to the law of equilibrium.  It’s saying, rather, that the law of equilibrium is going to affect you whether or not you approve of it, and also that it’s going to do so whether or not you believe in it. Like it or lump it, every action of yours is going to generate an equal and opposite reaction.  That being the case, if you have any interest in getting the results you want, it’s helpful to keep this law in mind and to be ready to deal with the equal and opposite reaction when it comes around.  Better still, you can be proactive, and include the equal and opposite reaction in your planning from the start.

Writing in 1854, Lévi used convenient metaphors from the science of his time.  He pointed out the way that electricity follows the law of equilibrium, and proceeded from there to show that the life force—the “animal magnetism” of Franz Anton Mesmer, which hadn’t yet been consigned to the limbo of pseudoscience—also follows that law. This led him inevitably to speak of sexual politics, the inescapable subtext of animal magnetism at that time, and of course he did so in terms that made sense to a man of 1854. My readers may make of his comments on women what they will.  In his defense, it may be worth noting that the women he had in mind were sexually frustrated middle-class women in the Victorian era, and his comments are echoed and even expanded on in novels from the same period written by and for women.  No doubt my female readers will have also noted that his comments on how to deal with women work just as well with the gender labels reversed.

As though he knows he might have said too much, Lévi immediately shifts gears at this point and begins talking about magical practice. When he speaks of two breaths, cold and hot, he is not indulging in metaphor; bring your hand a few inches from your mouth, blow on it, and vary the way you breathe until you can make it hot or cold at will.  Those two breaths were (and still are) much used by old-fashioned occultists to direct Od and Ob, the two modes of the astral light, and the projection of these same two currents of the astral light through the hands is also a standard practice. It can be learned, as Lévi suggests, by regular practice, and its effects can be learned the same way. The energetic balance of the human body, symbolized by the pentagram, is another element of traditional practice, which was discussed in the introduction to this half of the book; it deserves a great deal of study and meditation.

The same principle of equilibrium has an even more crucial application to practice in the design and arrangement of magical workings. Most teachers of occultism have encountered their share of people who attempted to cast a love spell on someone, and ended up falling under their own spell and becoming hopelessly besotted with people who had zero interest in them. Most teachers of occultism have likewise encountered their share of people who attempted to cast spells to get money without earning it, and were perplexed when they ended up losing money instead. Equilibrium is even more obviously essential in these modes of magical working than in others, since they deal with such potent emotional drives.

There are two ways to manage the necessary balance. The first is to follow the practice of the temple builders cited by Lévi, who carried a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other—that is, to do paired workings, one directed toward generating the desired force in one person or place or situation, the other directed toward generating the opposite force in a different person or place or situation. That allows the mage to remain in the place of balance between the contending forces. The second way is to alternate the forces in the same person or place or situation, imitating the heartless flirt of Lévi’s metaphor, who snuggles up against her targets at one moment and turns coldly away from them in the next, in order to fix them all the more tightly in her clutches.

Notice here again that we are not talking about morality.  There are ethical ways to practice either of the kinds of alternation Lévi is discussing, just as there are unethical ways to practice them. A pervasive bad habit of modern thought is the confusion between what is morally right and what is practically effective. It’s just as foolish to insist that everything must work out if your heart is in the right place as it is to insist that evil is inherently more effective than goodness. In reality, morality and practicality run at right angles to each other; there are ethical and unethical approaches that succeed, and ethical and unethical approaches that fail. Our text has spoken of morality at rather some length in earlier chapters. Now Lévi is talking about what works.

To push in one direction for too long is to fail. To push for too long in any direction at all is to fail, too, because magic cannot be a full-time occupation; for best results, daily magical practices need to be followed by more mundane occupations, and major magical workings by periods of rest and enjoyment. It also works, and works well, to pull the swing back before you push it forward—that is, to choose to do something of a contrary nature to your working before you pursue the working itself. This is why medieval mages used to attend mass and give alms to the poor for a certain number of days before each working:  submitting their will to the will of God as they understood it was the pulling back of the swing, and was balanced by a burst of strength and independence of will that gave their magic additional power.

It’s not necessary to follow that prescription exactly.  Nor is it necessary to follow the distinctly exotic requirements of archaic magical rituals that Lévi lists in an attempt to make his point.  (As he noted in the previous chapter, the ancient rituals can just as well be seen as mystifications or enigmas.) What matters, here as elsewhere in magic, is that every detail in a magical working should express its intention as exactly as possible.  The requirements of equilibrium are among the factors to keep in mind when formulating the intention. I don’t recall ever meeting a mage who followed Lévi’s advice literally and had two of every one of his working tools, but some important emblem of duality and equilibrium is normally present.  The two pillars of the sanctuary, whether full size as in a Golden Dawn temple or Masonic lodge, or small enough to place on the altar as in a temple of the Fellowship of the Hermetic Rose, are an example; some systems use another equally explicit emblem, while others are subtler about it.

The same principle applies throughout magical practice. The important thing is not that some specific traditional set of procedures is followed, though this can be a valuable part of training, and it has the advantage of making it more likely that beginners will get a balanced and effective symbolism without too much fumbling. The important things are to have an adequately precise and detailed symbolism expressing the intention of each magical working, and to deploy that symbolism in a balanced and functional way. This is what prepares the way for those nonordinary states of consciousness where, as Lévi points out, the water seems to boil though no heat is applied by it, the fire flares up of itself, the working tools behave strangely, and equally strange voices whisper through the hushed air as the ritual reaches its culmination.

Those states are the moments where magic takes place. They’re the heart of what Lévi is talking about in the practical chapters of our text. Lévi believed that they could be attained without going through the elaborate rigmarole of medieval magical rituals—throwing a frog’s head on burning charcoal, say, while brandishing a hazel wand cut at a single stroke at moonrise and reciting words that had been miscopied into gibberish a thousand years in the past. Strictly speaking, he was right; you can get to the same states of consciousness in a variety of other ways, and more than a century and a half of systematic exploration of magic since Lévi’s time has uncovered some of those other ways.  None of them are much less complicated than the business with the frog’s head, and it remains true that medieval rigmarole is just as effective at getting results as any of the other options; but the other options are there.

Lévi’s goal, however, was to get those other options into circulation.  In his own eccentric way, he was a Christian and a Catholic; he explicitly disavowed any interest in restoring the Pagan mysteries of the ancient world, and the magic he presented in this and other books was intended to be suitable for other nineteenth-century Catholic people. He was quite aware that the Catholic church and most other religious traditions of his time (and ours as well) have a long history of denouncing and proscribing magic, but he considered that proscription to unfold from the necessities of priestcraft:  to keep the trust and obedience of the ignorant in earlier times, he believed, it was once necessary for priests and other religious professionals to practice magic and to keep its secrets as the exclusive possession of the priesthood.

Lévi was convinced that the day of such machinations was over.  In another sense, a sense he did not anticipate, it ended even more drastically a century or so after his time. In the United States and Western Europe, certainly, today’s priests, ministers, and religious professionals in the mainstream faiths no longer know enough about magic to matter—certainly not enough to use will and imagination to direct the astral light to confirm the faith of believers through wonders the way the ancient and medieval priesthoods did.

The religious proscription of magic thus ended up having a disastrous effect on religion itself. In our time, seminaries have been transformed into third-rate liberal arts colleges that teach their students anything and everything but how to call down the power of their gods for the benefit of their congregations, and how to call up the focused emotion and intention of their congregations as an offering to their gods. Weekly services have devolved into political meetings, Marxist-lite consciousness-raising sessions, or simply dreary get-togethers accompanied by tacky music for people who know that once upon a time there was a point to going to meeting on Sunday but seem to have forgotten what that point might have been.

Attention to what Lévi has to say could change that, but I suspect it will be a very long time before The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic becomes required reading for seminarians. In the meantime, those of us who feel called to the study and practice of magic have to make do with the available spiritual options, and pursue the secrets of the old mysteries in whatever way we can manage.

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 3, “The Triangle of the Pentacles” on July 12, 2023. See you then!


  1. There are two ways to manage the necessary balance.

    I don’t know if Levi covers this in later chapters, but isn’t there at least one more way to balance Od and Ob, and that is with the third current of Or? Or maybe the creation of Or requires that Od and Ob are balanced?

  2. I’m not sure anyone ever taught it to me, so I think I might have independently come up with it; or perhaps it’s a carry over from an earlier life which may have pursued some occult training, but I’ve used the trick of pursuing balance by alternating between two contending forces for quite some time now.

    I have a Uranus-Neptune conjunction opposing a Sun-Moon conjunction; since Uranus and Neptune are in my first house, and the Sun and Moon are in my seventh house, this is a fairly powerful force in my life.

    (I use Hellenistic Astrology, with the addition of Uranus, and Neptune, with the indications following those worked out for them since their discovery. I find this works much better for me than anything else does; some of the material I discuss here on the indications of the houses will be different from the standard indications in more contemporary astrology).

    The first house in Hellenistic astrology indicates the native; in my case, having both planets here gives me a rebellious nature, a religious and mystical orientation; a desire for independence and a natural religious outlook, with my religion and eccentricity being tied together given the conjunction.

    The main indicator of the seventh house in Hellenistic Astrology is romance and sexuality (death and old age as well; but these indicators have yet to come up for me). Given the importance of the Sun and Moon in Hellenistic Astrology, the affairs of any house with one of them are always very important; both of them together generates a massive focus on the house where they fall. While I am a bit of a hopeless romantic, who tends to fall for people very quickly (thanks to the Moon being here, things happen quickly; thanks to the Sun, it tends towards being intense when it does), this is always at odds with my eccentric religious side, since Uranus and Neptune oppose them.

    My way of dealing with this has always been to up my spiritual practices, and pursue whatever eccentric hobby happens to be on my mind at the time when I’m single, and then when I fall for someone, I pursue it with all my heart. Knowing it will be temporary (since the Moon, when afflicted, indicates things which will not last), I’m able to consciously put aside some of the more extreme manifestations of Uranus and Neptune, at least until the relationship ends. Since I know it’s temporary, furthermore, I’m usually able to end it on better terms than would happen if I tried to pursue the relationship on a longer term basis.

    In other words, I bounce between Uranus and Neptune on the one hand, when I’m single and free to pursue my own passions, and embracing the call of the luminaries on the other when I fall for someone. This works very well for me, and has allowed for me to handle these energies in a way that is much less destructive than trying to balance the two would be.

  3. “Readers who know their way around Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic A Wizard of Earthsea will recall that the central principle that guides competent wizardry in that imaginary world is equilibrium.”

    I’ve read that book and I remember it, indeed, JMG. A great fantasy novel!

  4. Thank you for this post. Would the dynamics of procession and return, of the descent and ascent, factor as part of the balancing act of equilibrium? If so, the hexagram might function as an effective symbol…△ + ▽

    I would say the current Catholic exorcist scene seems to maintain something of the ancient knowledge, though it is hostile to and marshaled explicitly against (principally left-hand path) magic. Still, in terms of practical application there are hints that they are fully aware of the basic functions of magic (though they daren’t call what they’re doing that).


  5. Jbucks, good. There are quite a few other ways to balance it; these are just the two that Lévi, at the dawn of the modern magical revival, knew about.

    Taylor, good. It’s a very useful approach; interestingly, it’s a technique that The Kybalion discusses, so it’s been all over the trad occult community for more than a century.

    Chuaquin, it is indeed.

    Justin, if you have a Starry Wisdom church handy, or for that matter a lodge of the Esoteric Order of Dagon, why, yes, that would be great. Iâ!

    Fra’ Lupo, yes, exactly. The hexagram is used quite often in occult writings as an emblem of equilibrium. As for Catholic exorcism, no surprises there; the grimoire tradition seems to have begun among exorcists in the Middle Ages, if I recall correctly.

  6. I think you’re right on the grimoires, JMG. There’s a historical book, “Magic in the Cloister,” that I’m hoping to get to shortly that reviews the occult library of the abbey of St. Augustine in England where there apparently was a thriving use of magic. (I guess if you’re going to preserve magical traditions, it helps to be able to write things down, and that would likely mean the clergy.)

    An addendum to my comment: The sort of “deliverance ministry” that still seems to work effectively in the Catholic sense plays on equilibrim, I believe. I’ve commented elsewhere about the sort of “sin-redemption” circuit that seems intrinsic to Christianity, and in that sense “deliverance” highlights and heightens the impression of nefarious occult agents (whom I’m inclined to believe are out there, myself) so as to draw adherents to “la diritta via” of the Church. Whether that plays to a wider audience that is (apparently) desensitized to the notion of sin remains to be told, I guess.

  7. Hi JMG, first of all I would like to say that last week I had nasty back pain and medical websites recommended talk therapy, since back pain is considered to have “psychosomatic” origins. I have never responded well to talk therapy, but it did remind me that your blog is the best guide to practical psychic manipulation/occultism I have ever read. So I came back here after a few years’ absence and read through this year’s posts, and as I read for an hour or two, my back was fully healed. So thank you for that!

    On a related note, Lévi’s discussion of the feminine essence strikes me as one of the most troublesome aspects of modern occultism. It is not because I am offended by it! Rather, I frequently see this easy leap from Mesmer’s discoveries to imagining total subjectivity for oneself and total submission in the objects of one’s work, and when I read about the practical consequences this has had for practitioners it makes me cautious and skeptical. In particular, I will soon be publishing about an 1890s Japanese atheistic occultist who got into serious trouble because he believed Mesmer’s results came from acting like a god and didn’t understand the implications that such behavior would have for his personal life. Am I to understand that Lévi’s adoption of Mesmer is balanced out by his peculiar religious faith?

  8. From this perspective would it be a good idea for Pride month to be followed by Humility month?

  9. I think a quote given to me recently by a wise person I know applies here.

    “Before enlightenment. Chop wood. Carry water. After enlightenment. Chop wood. Carry water.”


  10. Religious professionals in the mainstream faiths may not know anything about magic, but I have run into it in an African American Gospel church. I was there because I had taken a seminar with the preacher, who had just inherited her position from her talented and charismatic dad. She had the support of the regular keyboard player and one elderly deaconess, but she apparently wasn’t the engaging speaker he had been. Attendance had dropped off quite a bit since his time, so I had this notion to start showing up for services and putting money in the collection plate, you know, to support her. I did this for a few months. Got quite an education.

    And then one Sunday morning, during a sermon, she asked everyone who wanted a closer relationship with Jesus to stand up. Most of the congregation (maybe 100 people) stood up, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I had been neopagan for a couple of decades at that point and this seemed like too much of a violation of my integrity. So I sat there at the end of the aisle and the elderly deaconess came up, soft of behind me, put one hand on my shoulder, and gave me a strong zap of nonspecific Reiki energy, while murmuring, “Your life is changed completely. Your life is never going to be the same.”

    If I had not been familiar with Reiki and with magic in general, that might have impressed me enough to kickstart a conversion. As it was, I wrote the preacher a letter of apology and quit going.

  11. Would anyone be willing to share some of their Lullian meditation insights? I have success with some of the combinations, but with others, not so much.

    One of the ones that I’m part-happy and part-smack-my-head-how-did-I-not-see-this-before about is Chokmah and Fulgur (thunderbolts, from Chapter 16 and the Tower card). Thunderbolt, from, is “a flash of lightning, accompanied by thunder, which strikes something such as a building or tree”. I interpret “accompanied” as “happening at the same time” (because sometimes you have the lightning and then you have the thunder a few seconds later, which would *not* be a thunderbolt). I interpret “strikes something” as being destructive (because I’ve never known a lightning strike to be constructive and the image on the Tower card seems to concur).

    Thunder is sound; sound is associated with Air.
    Lightning is light (sort of… at least we see it as light); light is associated with Fire. (And lightning strikes would seem to definitely be associated with Fire.)
    Lightning and thunder *happening at the same time* are two things at once, so a duality and a unity.

    Kether is associated with Air; Chokmah with Fire. So a thunderbolt is the destructive aspect of Creation, the Solve that needs the Coagula of Binah, which ties in nicely to Levi’s statement that works of magic need one or three people participating.

  12. Fra’ Lupo, that book is on my get-to list.

    Avery, good heavens. That’s one of the odder testimonials I’ve received here! As for Lévi’s notion of sexual politics, it’s worth remembering that his marriage ended in separation and bitter feelings. His ideas got picked up by some later writers — Julius Evola is one example that comes to mind — but a lot of others realized that Lévi simply wasn’t that smart when it came to relationships, and adapted their ideas in response to their own experiences. (Your current project sounds intriguing, btw.)

    Dobbs, yes, indeed it would. Pride month probably also should have been in August, so it would come before a fall in a somewhat less drastic manner…

    Orion, it’s good advice — and guarantees that your hermitage will have firewood and water!

    Joan, that’s one of the great exceptions. I’m not sure where the African-American churches got their mastery of magical energies, but if I had to guess I’d suggest looking at early urban hoodoo in the first three decades or so of the 20th century, when African-American occultists fused their own very rich traditions with material brought in from the Western esoteric tradition more generally.

    Random, nice. I’m going to leave this for the commentariat to discuss.

  13. Here are all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared across the Ecosophia community. 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.

    JH’s mother-in-law Sue, who lives in Spain, has had a severe arthritis affliction in her knee that has left her unable to walk for weeks now, leaving her more or less bed bound; for prayers and/or healing energy for swift resolution of the issue and swift recovery of her ability to walk.

    Tanamous’s friend’s brother David got in a terrible motorcycle accident and has been diagnosed as a quadriplegic given the resultant spinal damage; for healing and the positive outcomes of upcoming surgeries and rehabilitation, specifically towards him being able to walk and live a normal life once more.

    One of @open_space’s best friends, Patricio Lopez de Nava Amezcua, was shot and killed last week; for the safe and pleasant passing of his soul. (Photo of Patricio here.)

    Nicole’s (shewhoholdstension) 41 year brother Robert died suddenly in bed on May 15th; for a smooth and blessed journey on the other side. Robert was a single dad and he leaves behind three children: Hannah, Zack, and Jordyn; that they and Nicole be blessed and protected, and find what comfort they can during this very difficult time. (Update here.)

    Lp9’s request on behalf of their hometown, East Palestine Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people and all living beings in the area. (Lp9 gives updates here and most recently here, and says “things are a bit… murky”), and the reasonable possibility seems to exist that this is an environmental disaster on par with the worst America has ever seen. At any rate, it is clearly having a devastating impact on the local area, and prayers are still warranted.

    * * *

    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 now 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.

  14. I’m really glad you’re giving us help on this, JMG, because I would’ve been completely lost. I’m on my second read-through of the chapter and shaking my head in confusion. I eventually understand each chapter, but it takes awhile. But I consider myself very fortunate to have your tutelage.

    It occurred to me that higher beings must also follow these rules. Perhaps that is why we use the phrase, “darkest before the dawn” after seeking divine help. Maybe the gods or saints or whoever have us go through a bout of pain and suffering before the prayer miraculously gets answered for equilibrium.

  15. It gets really funky when you try to balance through the spheres. Especially if balance, at the delivery point, isn’t really where you wanted to be. I just let it flow, figuring that it will balance itself, rightly. It’s a magician’s world – and totally funky. Appreciation for your scholarship, wit and hard work.

  16. When you brought up the topic of equilibrium and Ursula K Leguin a notion struck me. For most of her life Ursala lived in a big old craftsman on Thurman street in Portland, overlooking much of the city. During that time Portland had an especially lucky streak ( in my opinion). Like a benevolent wizard her presence bestowed Portland with good Karma, drawing young people from all over. But like all equilibrium,. the time on one side of the pendulum was not to last. Like clockwork when she passed away in 2018 the pendulum swung to the other side. The good Karma turned dark. Nearly every one of Portlands strengths turned around to become its weakness. I hope the dark side does not last as long as her time in Portland did, but that is probably not how equilibrium works.

  17. Sorry for being horribly off topic, but as I’m reading the Occult philosophy workbook, lesson 16, you write “as creations of the created, elementals have no divine spark….” and it immediately brought to mind an article i came across today.

    Is it safe to extrapolate that any artificial intelligence, or perhaps even synthetic human embryos brought to term would also be without divine spark?

    If so, what are the implications for the people who are produced by such means?

  18. Quin, thanks for this as always.

    Jon, exactly. Even they have to pull back the swing a ways in order to give it a good hard push the other direction.

    Cobo, funky indeed!

    Clay, that makes enormous and rather melancholy sense. I enjoyed visiting Portland a great deal back in the say, but that was well before 2018. At this point, I don’t expect to go back.

    Absoluteneophyte, lacking either a divine spark or the protective blessings of the Lords of Flame, who created the elementals, such creatures would be wide open to possession by evil spirits. With any luck our civilization will fall first.

  19. #12 RandomActsOfKarma
    Thunder is the sound, the lightning bolt is the light – they are the perceptions of the strike with the delay being because of the difference in the speed of sound and speed of light. So the unity of its dasein is being perceived as a duality through the duality of the senses, with an added duality (or triad?) of the perceived and the perceiver possibly complicating things more (you could from the one of the strike through the two perceptions to the one of the perceiver, giving the four, and altogether as a five!).

  20. Hi John Michael,

    Is this just another way of saying that there will be consequences, and a person would be wise to consider those in whatever form they take? Consequences being neither good, nor bad, but just are.

    Had to laugh, the term ‘practically effective’ sounds a lot like the grubby world of politics, that is when it works. Just sayin… 😉

    Pah! You think that you come up with something new, and Lévi was clearly there long before you were even a vague idea as a side benefit of a bit of fun naughtiness! My reading strategy is to alternate: Heavy going books with more enjoyable and lighter books. Works for me. Hey, it works out in the land as well: A bit of produce for the forest critters, and a bit for us. Nobody is entirely happy about the arrangement, but isn’t that the mid-point?

    The concept of equilibrium has wider implications for our society. Yes, pollution does not in fact go away, and resource depletion never sleeps. Hmm. We push, we push, we unknowingly push hard, and where we’ll end is at the beginning again.

    As usual, I’m enjoying the series.



  21. “To push in one direction for too long is to fail. To push for too long in any direction at all is to fail…”

    Okay, I wonder about something now. Does this apply to balance and equilibrium? I suppose pushing too far towards balance would create a sort of imbalance; and both balance and imbalance are integral parts of the universe, so there needs to be a balance between the two. Hmm.

  22. “Absoluteneophyte, lacking either a divine spark or the protective blessings of the Lords of Flame, who created the elementals, such creatures would be wide open to possession by evil spirits. With any luck our civilization will fall first.”

    Is it possible that this sort of thing is why things are falling apart so quickly? We’re being allowed to reach right up to the cliff, and then being yanked back just before we reach the void?

  23. The subject of Pelagius and Pelagianism has come up in my personal studies.

    (I did bibliomantic divination with a dictionary a few weeks ago and my finger landed on Pelagianism of all things -it gave me quite a boost. I was familiar with it from the Celtic Gnostic Church book by JMG for the AODA -but not much otherwise. Since I didn’t end up going down the AODA route at the time – or at least not yet- I hadn’t looked at much since I read it after publication.)

    I like this Pelagian stuff. It makes sense to me. Pelagius thought that Adam was not made holy. He was created in state of moral equilibrium and neutrality. At the beginning, before any actions were taken, he existed at the center point, the fulcrum between the two sides of the scale in a state of neutrality. At that point it seemed the garden of Eden was a kind of like Switzerland.

    Moral responsibility required this neutral beginning. Then, with those first steps of using human will, the pendulum of action and reaction start swinging.

    (This chapter on equilibrium also does much to elucidate your general theories about history JMG!)

    In the Pelagianist version Adam was born without sin in a mortal body. Death is not a punishment, just the end of physical life (in that form).

    With each incarnation (though we have karma from our previous lives) we are created anew and have the capacity to act from a position of free will before we start generating fresh actions and reactions in this life.

    It seems so many of the cool people in the history of the Catholic Church ended up being condemned. It would be interesting to read an alternate history novel in which the ideas of Pelagius were not seen as heresy, but accepted. What if theo sophia had become the thing instead of theo logic?

    The Pelagian vision is at least still relevant today.

  24. Another good example of equilibrium gone wrong is our two party political system. Back in the day, when each party represented an actual constituency on the ground they could hold each other in check. As the democrats abandoned labor and rushed to drink at the trough of the Finance and Military industrial complex’s their differences with the republicans became concocted for show business purposes. The pendulum swung too far one way with the Bush administration because the democrats ceased to offer any real opposition to war or the survaliice state, or letting finance run roughshod over the real economy. Then when the democrats gained the levers of power they were offered little resistance from main stream republicans because the republicans constituency was getting everything they wanted ( war and no limits for the financial racket). But this time resistance rose up in the form of Trump and his followers. This enraged the Democrats as they felt they had gotten things to go their way permanently. So instead of letting the pendulum swing back to rebalance equilibrium they threw away the rule book ( tipped over the checker board) and went crazy trying to get power back. Now we see the result of trying to escape equilibrium. A political power structure that is equal parts demented corrupt and insane. The pushback will come as it always does, but it will not be a gentle correction that is the hallmark of a healthy system.

  25. I am reminded here of the Egyptian notion of ma’at, which is sometimes translated as “justice” but can also be regarded as “balance” (which is the way Josephine McCarthy uses it).

  26. Well, since Chris and Clay brought up politics (and as a lawyer with the regional government told me this week – “you know what we call local government? The only government that answers the phone.”) I consider myself summoned.

    I was talking to two semi-retired social workers last night, and they had been working with at risk children for 50 years. One described the vacillation between extremes not as a pendulum, but an accordion- government goes in and out, central and dispersed. They don’t just push hard, sometimes they pull. This made way more sense to me – a pendulum metaphor implies only one centre moving between extremes, and any hold to the central position being a death of movement entirely, and no change in position in a third direction possible. But an accordion implies a double pendulum, which is more how political groupings behave, and it produces something along another axis – in the accordion’s case, sound*.

    The real world example is that, at one time, the children would be placed in a house with all the services meeting them there, now the children have to go to services all over that don’t communicate. And they change it back and forth each time they realize they’ve hit a wall on how much better they can make it. They think, this didn’t work, let’s try the other way! It’s been just long enough everyone forgets or theres no old timers around to say they had just tried the other way and that didn’t work either, ultimately. But changing the system always produces gains for a time, no matter which direction it ws changing. It never gets the problem to zero though. I asked if the overall movement had any directionality to it. The one who worked with sexually exploited youth said yes, just one: we used to call the children criminals. Now we call them victims. So there is a product of that movement, a central belief, which changed, as a result of the in and out.

    Functionally, what the two linked pendulum system means is that periods of functional behaviour from the system is possible, with both “sides” working harmoniously, and times when they will both be deranged, and times one will be more one than another – the idea that they switch positions mathematically between good guys and bad guys is false (demonstrably, but also theoretically.)

    *I almost used “noise”, but last time I made fun of accordions, I went camping the next day and the people in the site across had one they played at night. Who does that? Who brings an accordion camping?! But I know not to pick a fight with an accordion, now. 2020 was a weird year.

  27. Thanks as always for these – I find them an interesting contrast/supplement/complement to the stuff I am studying more intensely. In this case, I couldn’t help but think about the application of the Druid principle of looking for the ternary when presented with a binary. What came to mind is the idea that a push-pull flavor of equilibrium is two dimensional. But if you add a third dimension, your dynamic “equilibrium” has the potential to become the engine for a rising (or falling) spiral – exert force outward and upward, then pull it back in to head for the next loop up. It seems that often, what might serve as the resolving third option is a goal that both “opposites” serve – for good health, you need activity and rest. If you carefully plan your activity and rest, you can improve your health. For good writing, you need expansive drafting and contractive editing – again, plan them right, and you head in the direction of better writing.

  28. My previous thought, about excessive balance being inherently an unbalancing force, makes a lot of sense of why so many mellow people eventually suddenly snap and suffer mental breakdowns of various sorts: it’s not just that a lot of people repress their anger/frustration/sadness/whatever until they snap and it comes pouring out: there’s also the issue of pursuing and maintaining a calm equilibrium for too long leads to an imbalance in the form of an excess of balance; and this therefore, in order to restore balance, some imbalance or other pops up.

  29. @ Kerry Nitz,

    hmm. Lots to ponder.

    First, ‘dasein’ is a new word for me. It is a very good word and seems to mean more than its basic definition, so I will have to read more about it.

    Second, your idea that duality is a *perception* of the unity, rather than an actual duality is quite intriguing. I have been working on another meditation, but kinda got stuck. I think going back to it with this idea will be fruitful. Thank you.

    And I really like that if the perceiver can perceive the Duality and Understand it is really a Unity (Understanding relating to Binah), we get to five, the Pentagram.

    Fun stuff! Thank you!!!

  30. @ sarad,

    I pondered the double-pendulum and the accordion. Then I thought about adding the third axis. And what about a fourth? And a fifth? Usually, there are multiple influences at one time, and then I thought of bucky balls.

    I tried to find a video to show what I was thinking. This starting at the 21 second mark is the best I could find, though the internet also offered, which is also intriguing.

    Either way, expanding/contracting bucky balls or accordions both make me think inhalation/exhalation, which tickles my brain with something from CosDoc (cosmic days and nights? I’m not sure. Will have to go back through my notes, but that won’t happen this morning…)

    Anyway, thank you for the meditation fodder.

  31. Thanks as always for bringing Levi’s work out of the shadows for us! Speaking of shadows, I think most people these days are terrified of shadow work — they don’t want to ponder the mind of a serial killer lest they see the tiniest reflection of themselves in that serial killer. Jordan Peterson has a meaningful discussion about it in this video: In short, he talks about having to face the darkness within and integrate it so that you have control over your inner monster instead of the other approach, which is to ignore/repress it and accidentally put the monster in control.

    For hundreds if not thousands (millions?) of years, humans must have longed for an era of convenience and ease, and the current era of cheap oil is what we got. We replaced the light of the stars with our own frantic network of electric substitutes and thought of ourselves as hard-working and industrious. In my opinion, we are in a spiritual dark age where it is harder than ever to connect with spirit, especially when we are faced with the task of loving the material world enough to see the generosity and the beauty of what the Earth so kindly provides for us. Rejecting the material and the carnal as monotheists have largely done does not seem to be the way; it’s like individuals who are afraid to look at their own inner serial killers. You have to face what is nasty and base and figure out a way to accept it and work with it. I know you don’t watch TV and gods bless you for that, but there is a comedian called Larry the Cable Guy who has a famous expression “Git’r done!” I like to invoke that phrase every time I am getting too high-browed and precious in my daily life.

  32. Minervaphilos, thanks for this! Le Guin commented in one of her essays that she had always felt strongly attracted to Taoist philosophy, but it’s interesting to have that confirmed.

    Chris, yeah, that sums up the basic theme! The problem, of course, is that you can talk about consequences until your hair turns white and most people still won’t pay attention.

    Taylor, excellent! Yes, exactly, and that’s why the balance can never be static — you push it this way and then you watch as it swings the other way, weaving in enough imbalance into the balance to keep everything alive and flowing. As for your supposition, that’s quite possible.

    Justin, I won’t argue a bit; Pelagianism always seemed like a much more reasonable concept than the Augustinian notion of original sin. Among other things, it absolves the Christian god from the accusation of punishing everyone for the fault of two people in the distant past, since the concept of collective guilt is unjust and morally indefensible.

    Clay, a good example. One could say that the entire political class has ended up on one extreme, and so the necessary balance will involve that class losing its legitimacy and its hold on power, probably in a very messy way.

    Asdf, good! One translation of maat I find especially useful is “proper measure.” Not too little, not too much…

    Justin, hmm! I’ll have to look for that. What poems of hers I’ve read were very good.

    Sarad, good. I wonder what experiments have been done with pendulums hanging from pendulums, hanging from pendulums, hanging from pendulums…

    Jeff, we’ll be getting to some elements of that in the next chapter!

    Taylor, also very good. Yes, exactly.

    Kimberly, agreed — and of course there’s good reason for people in the industrial world to be terrified of facing their own shadows. The reason so many people are fixated on the fantasy that they’re the good guys, perpetually triumphing over evil, is that they know what kind of world their lifestyles are creating for their own grandchildren, and for the rest of humanity.

  33. There’s a general principle I remember seeing a while back that some ancient astrologers used, that an excess of one planet creates a movement towards another, following a cycle moving two planets towards the Earth in the Chaldean Order. If balance is inherently Saturnine (as seems likely to me based on the nature of the planet), then it makes sense why too much balance usually leads to explosive outbursts, rather than, say, an intense creative movement that destabilises the person or society, or flashes of insight into the nature of reality that alter this balance: excessive balance is a Saturnine imbalance. There seems to be much to think about here.

    On a different note, this principle of equilibrium makes the way so many people who have met serial killers have said that they seemed to be among the nicest, friendliest, and most mellow people they’ve ever met make a lot more sense: they’re essentially doing the opposite of the people who remain mellow until something snaps, and by releasing their rage and frustration in such dramatic fashion, they ensuing counter-reaction makes the rest of their personality incredibly mellow and relaxed.

  34. A politician who seems to understand the concept of balance ( like him or not) is Putin. He is accused by pro-Russians as going to slow in dealing with the Ukraine and the West in general. Pro-Nato flacks and accuse Russia of weakness because they did not go all ” shock and awe” on the Ukraine like the US did in Iraq. Russian certainly has the military capability to have wiped out the Ukrainian military and civilian leadership in the early months of the war. But Putin understands the concept of pushback and realizes the stronger Russia’s gains on the battlefield, the stronger the pushback from Nato. He also accepts that push-back could happen at any time and keeps a large portion of Russia’s military in reserve. He is perfectly happy to make modest gains while slowly wiping out the Ukrainian army the Nato supplies of surplus weapons. He knows that eventually more pushback will come, but he wants to make sure that both the Ukraine and Nato are weak and toothless when that time comes.

  35. @JMG *gasp* – But we were warned!.

    “We cannot pass up this opportunity to contrast our world view with the Weltanschauung of two mathematicians who consider the complexity of their equations to be the ultimate beauty. In the introductory paragraph of their paper [2] they write, “As far as we know the experiment has never been performed but that is not important…in fact, it may not even be wise to do the actual experiment in order to understand the double pendulum…given that numerical computation is by now much faster than classical experimentation—why should anybody put an effort in the real thing?” Our mission is to inspire people’s appreciation of the workings of the physical world with the real thing. And this thing is nifty.”

    Though I understand people have run many simulations.

  36. Hi John Michael,

    Yup, consequences sure are funny things. A bit of a shame that, because those things are the proverbial stick which prove that limits really are more than just a good idea. 😉

    Dunno about you, but I’m observing a lot of pressure building. Hmm. When people communicate with each other with overtones of contempt, well let’s just say that that is a red flag in my books. And I’m seeing a lot of that going on. A bit sad really, but you know, our society needs to learn the hard way. And that awful emotional energy can be easily deflected, or reflected back at the user – not nice, but if there was another way…

    Getting back to the topic though, I reckon the insights gleaned from this series of essays can be as equally applied to the physical world around us all.



  37. JMG and other experienced ceremonial magi: did/do you literally have two sets of tools as the text suggests? Two wands, two cups, two swords, etc? That seems like it would get expensive.

  38. Taylor, that’s uncomfortably plausible.

    Clay, true enough. He also understands something our government and media is incapable of grasping: the power of patience. I wonder if anyone in NATO has thought through what will happen if the Russians just keep doing what they’re doing for the next five years or more.

    Sarad, fun! It’s always delighted me that even relatively simple physical systems can produce behavior so complex that we can’t even begin to predict the results.

    Chris, exactly. If the one doctrine of magic is true, and the visible is the manifestation of the invisible, then what works in the world of magic also works in its own way in the world of everyday life.

    Kimberly, er, as I noted in the post, “I don’t recall ever meeting a mage who followed Lévi’s advice literally and had two of every one of his working tools, but some important emblem of duality and equilibrium is normally present.”

  39. Greetings all!
    (1) JMG wrote: “certainly not enough to use will and imagination to direct the astral light to confirm the faith of believers through wonders the way the ancient and medieval priesthoods did.”

    Very intruiging. Can we have a very brief account of what these wonders could have been?
    For instance, miraculous healings?

    (2) Concerning Od and Ob, the two modes of the astral light, can we have some references where those are discussed?

    Many thanks!

    PS: fascinating discussion really!

  40. JMG and kommentariat, it’s maybe a bit offtopic what I’m going to write, sorry…but I’ve read Mr. Kunstler Friday post today and I’ve seen references to Jewish devils, and exorcists!.

    I thought that JHK wasn’t a religious Jew…it’s interesting that reference in his blog, I think it, even as a metaphore for his personal politics “black beasts”.
    What do you think about it? Is that reference a sign of the times?

  41. John–

    Not a question on the chapter, but related in that it deals with oppositional forces. I just ran across a reference to a William Blake comment (not a direct quote, so I don’t have a citation) saying that “we should go to heaven for form and to hell for energy–and marry the two.” In addition to noting the relation to this week’s discussion, I also noted the reversal of the expected sources: I’d think “spirit below” to be the source of form and “spirit above” to be the source of energy. (This also relates to an much earlier question I had re the apparent reversal on the Tree of Life: that aspects like thought and will are on the feminine side while feeling and compassion are on the masculine side.) I admit to being puzzled here.

  42. @sarad,


    I have been pondering a new hammer, and you have given me another nail to practice on.

    Heindel, in the Rosicrucian Cosmo Conception, discussed the two Laws of existence (according to his cosmology).

    Wolfram says about Time: “But for now let me say that what will emerge is that time is about causal relationships between things, and that in fact, even when the paths of history that are followed are different, these causal relationships can end up being the same—and that in effect, to an observer embedded in the system, there is still just a single thread of time.”

    Wolfram says about Space: “But for now, let’s talk about how one would measure curvature on a hypergraph. Normally the area of a circle is πr2. But let’s imagine that we’ve drawn a circle on the surface of a sphere, and now we’re measuring the area on the sphere that’s inside the circle… In other words, as the radius of the circle gets bigger, the effect of being on the sphere is ever more important. (On the surface of the Earth, imagine a circle drawn around the North Pole; once it gets to the equator, it can never get any bigger.)”

    If you look at those statements and squint a little, you can almost see the Law of Consequences and Rebirth and the Law of Attraction and Repulsion. 🙂

    And when Wolfram gets to causal invariance, you can almost see a tetractys.

    But those are not the nail I wish to hammer on.

    He gets to the point where he talks about mass and energy. Energy, to Wolfram, is “the flux of causal edges through spacelike hypersurfaces” (and then he gets to “light cones”, which “show how information (as transmitted by light) can spread in space with time”) (and then get to “the flux of causal edges specifically in the timelike direction corresponds to rest mass”). Simplified (granted, probably over-simplified, but I want to use my hammer), light transmits information through time to create mass.

    Now, when light transmits information through time, what happens to it?

    (But before considering that, understand that during my Lullian meditations, I had the thought that my meditations were getting a little repetitive and a little redundant, and then had the insight that perhaps is the point of the Lullian meditations. To slightly paraphrase The Kybalian, All is in THE ALL, THE ALL is in All, and everything is ALL. Each Sphere is just a slightly different perception/understanding of the SAME THING.)

    Now, ponder Chokmah and inflexus (meaning ‘bent’, Chapter 17, The Star, Hebrew letter Peh, meaning “incarnation: resurrection, barrier, opening, return, rebirth”) (Peh meaning from The Body and Its Symbolism, Annick de Souzenelle,).

    I tend to see the Spheres as the Tree, with the Spheres refracting Light along the Path. I saw the Spheres as crystals, with their different angles of refraction caused by structure (like gemstones have different composition, which changes the structure of crystals, which causes the angle of refraction for that crystal OR the structure of the facets of the crystal). But there are other ways of arranging the Spheres.

    Hall (Secret Teachings…) describes the Spheres as being concentric (and he does 40 Spheres, four sets of Kether–>Malkuth, one for each World). Our Malkuth is the most dense and is in the center of all the other Spheres, if I understand Hall correctly.

    Instead of the light being refracted because of the structure of the Sphere, imagine it is being refracted because of the density of the Sphere. (See

    In the image, to the right of the glass block is the same material as to the left of the glass block, which is why the transmitted ray ends up being at the same angle as the incident ray, just slightly shifted (like when you look at a straw is a clear glass of water, it looks like the bottom of the straw is shifted slightly compared to the straw out of the water).

    Now consider that instead of the same material to the right, it is a slightly denser material. The angle of refraction would increase and the transmitted ray would be at a slightly different angle. Imagine that there are 39 layers of material, each slightly more dense, so each with a slightly different angle of refraction, and that by the time you get to the 39th layer, instead of refraction, you get reflection. A perfect reflection. Welcome to Yesod.

    Now consider a window. If you are in the house and it is light in the house and it is light outside, you can see outside. And someone outside can see in. But when it is dark outside and light inside, the window functions like a mirror… you see your reflection instead of seeing outside (though you can still see some stuff outside, just not very well). But if it is dark inside and light outside, you can see out.

    Now back to Yesod. I am thinking that Yesod is like a one-way mirror/window and we are in the house. Sometimes we need light in the house, so we can see what we are doing. But the sage/mage can control his light and sometimes ‘turn it down’ (see The Hermit using his Cloak of Silence to partially cover his light), and then see ‘through’ Yesod (piercing the Veil…). The sage/mage would still see through Yesod imperfectly, until his Mind can pass through Yesod and actually be in the reflected Divine Light. (In Malkuth, we just get refracted Divine Light.)

    And now back to the Wolfram nail: “In the formalism of quantum mechanics, one can then say that at each time, the observer experiences a superposition of possible states of the system. But now there’s a critical point. In direct analogy to the case of relativity, there are many different possible choices the observer can make about how to define time—and each of them corresponds to a different foliation of the multiway graph.”

    So the “superposition of possible states” is the Divine Light being refracted through the concentric Spheres to each of us. And, IIRC, each of us is a Logos (or a Logos-to-be, potentially). So the “many different possible choices the observer can make about how to define time” is how we choose to interact with the final refraction/reflection.

    My hammer is still new and I haven’t finished exploring it… I sort of expected it would be refined as I worked through all the Lullian meditations for the second part of the Levi book. But since @Kerry Nitz commented on the importance of the perceiver and your link commented on the importance of the observer, it seemed like it was something I should share, even though my meditations are incomplete. Perhaps you (or others) will have more resources to recommend that will help me think through things.

  43. @cicada grove maybe you have to build your own! 😉 (and according to their instructions, never use you own hand to stop it 🙄. You know it’s because somebody did this.)

    @JMG – the more funner part is that as the number of pendulums increase (I watched up to 1000) in the models, the more quickly it restabilizes, and more like a single pendulum the whole thing behaves. If only there was sort of natural system, some sort of… eco…system? which could demonstrate this in physical reality…

  44. @ Random #12 – Just having a watch and a listen to the most ferocious thunderstorm giving it welly right outside our window (I just managed to get in from the garden before the first *crrraackkk*) and you’ve given me plenty to be pondering on. 🙂 Thank you!

  45. @David BTL,

    Maybe by ‘heaven’, he is referring to the Great Sea (Water) and for ‘hell’, he is referring to Fire…

  46. Combining the principle of equilibrium with the ideas in the Cosmic Doctrine suggests a very intriguing possibility: namely, locking something you don’t like into a temporary conflict, waiting for the entire system to stabilise around this, and then walking out of the way. The forces generated, and now locked in conflict with you, would then fly out into the void. This could even be used to destroy things which would otherwise persist, since once the conflict starts, then things would go sideways. Of course, this seems very, very risky for a number reasons, but it could, in principle, work.

    And this could help explain why the Age of Reason is always followed by a new Age of Faith, but why society always ends up turning to something other than the older religions: the older religions are tied to the conflict with the rationalists. Once the rationalists implode, the older faiths fly out into the void, and something new has to be found, since both the religion and rationalism end up flying away to the void.

  47. Ay yi yi, JMG, mea culpa, my reading comprehension ain’t what it used to be. I blame my six cats (despite three being on the outside and unavailable for scapegoating). As to the Kunstler essay, he merely used dybbuk as a literary device. I don’t think he was being literal, like Naomi Wolf’s latest wild goose chase of her own childhood religion.

  48. Karim, (1) there’s quite a range of them. Sudden spontaneous healing of illness is among the most common, but if you look back over the miracles that have happened in every religious tradition in fairly recent times, you’ll see that there are many different kinds. (2) My book The Druid Magic Handbook talks about those in some detail.

    Chuaquin, he isn’t, but he knows his way around Jewish folklore — and he’s not as closed to the possibility of magic as you might think. His novels about post-decline America have quite a bit of magic in them.

    David BTL, different people interpret the inkblot patterns of the cosmos in different ways. It really is that simple.

    Sarad, of course! Over time, stochastic patterns cancel each other out and produce a sort of statistical order — as in the wetland you have in mind. It’s generally only human technologies that are stupidly simplistic enough to really go apeshale.

    Taylor, yes, exactly. That’s one of the many strategic implications of the Cos.Doc.

    Kimberly, no problem — cats are, well, cats. 😉 As for Jim, maybe he’ll end up subscribing to the Dybbuk-of-the-Month Club…

  49. @Random, Holy Moly! I like your hammer (sorry, someone also mentioned Larry, saw that bit live at the same place in town Jordan Peterson just came. Heard everyone thought he was high, but on the other hand he does just talk like that).

    @Chauqin, I actually don’t think you’re too far off topic. I recently went to Charles Eisenstein’s blog, because I used to like him, but his new project really ooged me out – what are they selling? Can anyone even tell? It seemed deeply ironically named. I was fretting about it to my partner, who waved it off as a typical secular jew thing to do, which I should be informed about, as someone who has to my knowledge, no Jewish heritage yet shares some of the more idiosyncratic Jewish habits of thought that jews have learned to play for comedy so successfully. (I am not certain if I am yet allowed to throw up my hands and exclaim piteously “why does this always happen to me?”, yet, or if a rabbi must give permission). Anyone read Naomi Wolf lately? Natch.

    (That Lizzo is really just for Chris – he laughed at my joke once before, and that’s like letting Sadu, or whatever her name is in the English version, out of that well. But don’t worry, that’s as Cardi as I get, but it’s Cardi enough, consider the trigger warning for swears).

  50. Since we’re talking about balance and pendulum swings, I’ve noticed such a pattern in parents-as-villains, literary or otherwise, alternating between the Devouring Mother as now, with weak, enabling fathers, and the Ogre Father, with weak, enabling or absent mothers. If an author’s villains are almost all overbearing, tyrannical alpha males, with weak, enabling mothers, the chances are very good that the author is somewhere around my age or less – maybe 20 years less. Cases in point: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Laurie King, and Jim Morrison of The Doors. Then the fashion changes and the Devouring Mother takes over for a while, and then back to the Ogre Father. Fairy tales show the same pattern.

  51. Hi John Michael,

    Thank you for confirming my suspicion. I’ve been working towards that for a while now, and given the history of this continent, engaging meaningfully with the land is a good idea. And a lot of energy has clearly been put into that task for a very long time. Possibly also true in your country. Things are perhaps different elsewhere, although civilisation is also manifesting in the physical realm, and that will have consequences. Hmm.

    The funny thing is that the work affords a level of protection on a number of levels, with the major exclusion being that of other members of society – not so much there. What do you say about the planes being discreet and… 🙂

    As to Mr Kunstler’s ‘World Made by Hand’ series of four books, I re-read them from cover to cover every two years or so. Despite all the travails and hardships, I kind of enjoy being in that fictional world. If people haven’t read the series, why the heck not?



  52. Levi has given us another aspect to the Great Arcanum, that humans are divine creatures. That works well with the cube from an earlier chapter. Each axis of the cube reveals a dimension of the divine in the human: YHVH/Solomon is divine wisdom, Adam/Eve is the divine impregnating matter and AZOTH/Jesus is the eternal in the temporal.

    That’s just a guess for now but will ponder…

  53. Patricia M, that’s a valid point. I tend to have more Devouring Mothers in my fiction than Ogre Fathers — hmm. I should consider a novel or two that reverses that.

    Chris, it’s a good series!

    Jon, good. Yes, it’s another piece of the puzzle.

  54. I don’t know how to feel about the idea of Lévi’s implied project of “cartel-busting” or “monopoly-busting” or “guild-busting” a priesthood’s grip on supernatural efficacy. It seems like a local improvement step, but there’s a destructive cycle that his project seems like it might just be one more step of, and one might have preferred an alternative to that cycle.

    It seems bad for people to be culturally abused into falsely believing, as the Church of Lévi’s time taught and still now teaches, that the efficacy of their own culture’s supernatural worldview/paradigm was because it was the only one that could possibly be true, and that all the appearances that other worldviews/paradigms were comparably efficacious or could possibly be true were just the work of devils. (In the Christian memeplex, the drama of this belief is further sharpened to a knife’s point by by the idea that the devils are ensnaring specifically those too intellectually prideful to “admit” that they would obviously be abjectly powerless to protect themselves against the innumerable transhumanly cunning supernatural deceivers who prowled the howling wilderness around the Church’s sheepfold on every side, if they ever stepped out of the only line in which they (knowing what they knew) could ever receive the protection of divine grace, i.e. if they ever disbelieved any dogma too strongly, thereby supposedly “separating” themselves from “the body of Christ”.)

    But sometimes organized bodies or distributed professional consensuses can do things that you wouldn’t be able to get from a fully guild-busted and therefore atomized version of a profession. The example that comes to mind is how journalists, despite the pressures on their profession, have a professional code which lets them blackball members of their profession who, at least, literally, make things up, and censure journals that didn’t maintain good practices like only reporting things as true when they got independent confirmation. Without a profession to maintain tracking of the reputations of individuals and organizations, it seems like this might not happen. Cartel-busting atomization can lead to a race-to-the-bottom dynamic.

    This race-to-the-bottom is arguably even what happened in the wake of the priesthood-cartel-busting of the Protestant Reformation, perhaps contributing to the gradual hollowing-out of the priesthood you mention. Something peculiarly similar to the Protestant Reformation happened in Asia starting in the 1860s (out of the same alliance between bureaucratizing centralized state power, rising intellectually literate middle classes, and internal reformers, against the substantially corrupt institutions of a priest class), now termed “Protestant Buddhism“:

    “The Protestant Reformation was a radical solution: it cut the Church out of the deal altogether. The central theoretical change was to give lay people direct access to God. That eliminated the special role of the Church.

    According to Protestantism, each man can be his own priest. The Reformation rejected a separate priestly class, rejected monasticism, and closed monasteries where it could. (Similarly, Protestant Buddhism has extended the word “Sangha” to refer to lay believers as well as monks, and allows lay people to teach.)”

    And cartel-busting Protestantization of Buddhism seems to affect the supernatural practices of its priesthood in a similar direction. At the above link there is a point-by-point comparison between the Western received version of Buddhism and the as-practiced historical one. Two of the items are “Ritual is not necessary; it’s a late cultural accretion on the original, rational Buddhist teachings” versus “Essentially all Buddhist practice is public ritual”, and “Magic, used to accomplish practical goals, is not part of Buddhism” versus “Much of Buddhist practice aims at practical, this-world goals, by magically influencing spirits”.

    Another extended commentary on this theme of the long-term corrosive effect of atomized choice on religious efficacy is a post called “Why Methodists don’t go to heaven“, from a blog from the heyday of the neo-reactionary part of the dissident right, that was concerned about long-term selection effects on populations, institutions and cultures, and how they made them functional or dysfunctional:

    “Imagine for a moment that we conducted science the way we conduct theology. Every week, we gather at the lecture-hall of one prominent scientist or other who gives a talk on his theories and is supported by donations from attendees. Anything that’s too counterintuitive or has too much math would meet with empty pews. Forget quantum mechanics, I don’t think we’d even have moved past geocentrism!

    What’s needed is a counterbalancing force, not accountable to the people, and charged with maintaining the integrity of the faith. While the elders of a church can theoretically serve this role, it makes it more difficult when they themselves are drawn from the pastors who won the populist competition.”

    (In a way, “Why Methodists Don’t Go to Heaven” presents a flip-side of the Christian memeplex’s self-justifications, about how “separating oneself from the body of Christ” constitutes the catastrophic folly of willfully stepping outside the circle of divine protection. Also this tidbit: “that the institution of the Church itself is protected from falling into heresy[…] does have one interesting conclusion […] If this were the case, you could actually experimentally derive additional bits [in the sense of information theory or computer science] of theological information! All you need to do is stir up political fights within the Church and see which faction’s interpretation of scripture wins.”)

    (It’s not obvious to me whether one would see more or less supernatural efficacy on net, and in a direction that was more benefic or more malefic, in a world where both the top-down Protestant Reformation and grass-roots cartel-busting efforts like Lévi’s had failed.)

    I suppose after you get a race-to-the-bottom, you get people realizing what’s bad about a race to the bottom, and then you get a gradual building-up process that starts with more organized things like occult lodges, then leads to things like mystery religions, then to imperial support and organized religions and then you have to do cartel-busting again or whatever?

    Are there tolerable sacrifices a culture could make that would be sufficient to get it off the flame-grill merry-go-round, here? It seems like staying in the middle might be only be like half as bad on average as cycling between the extremes.

    But staying in the middle seems like an equilibrium that would, by default, be unstable. It would require maintaining a live, viscerally credible shared cultural understanding of what would actually happen if people left each other in a condition where naturally following their local incentives would lead to either extreme. Otherwise people would be lax about it, and then other people would naturally follow their local incentives, and the society would naturally just collapse back to one of the extremes again. And it’s hard to maintain such a live cultural understanding if you don’t constantly have examples in living memory of either extreme happening, at least in microcosm.

    (And then maybe you would get a sort of collective moralistic rigidity about the “virtuous” ways of interpreting the things that were being collectively mythologized to have happened, in whatever that week’s microcosm to have been put in the pillory was. What happens if the “let’s not be lax about it” culture becomes its own hegemony, that has to itself be cartel-busted? Are you back to square one, then?

    [snip ~500 more words about why one might be tempted to hope it was okay to suppose that having this be the space the pendulum inevitably had to swing through wasn’t okay, and about why the universe might not care and might instead say it wasn’t okay to be attached to the idea that it wasn’t okay, using the Church’s millennia of subjectively entirely credible eternal torture threats towards cartel-busters (threats given their credibility, unintentionally or intentionally, by whatever’s willingly powering Christian miracles) as a case study])

    I’ve often wondered if this problem, of collective forgetting of the emergent collective quasi-“punishments” for blind collective folly that drive cultural cycles, is a lot of what Taoism was aimed at trying to solve. Cultivating an eye for in Yang the seeds of Yin, and in Yin the seeds of Yang, and in every Shen the beginnings of its overcoming Shen, and in everything a microcosm of everything else. If you see the analogies between the phases in each system, maybe you don’t need the universe to inflict so many bloody object lessons on you before you get the message, and from a disaster in one system acquire a “living memory” that applies to all the other analogous systems, counterbalancing the effects of collective forgetting.

  55. That switching of behaviour in seduction is also the most potent technique for destroying an abuse victim’s mind. The current technical term for it is ‘inconsistent reinforcement’.

  56. JMG and kommentariat, thanks for the comments on JHK topic!
    “he’s not as closed to the possibility of magic as you might think. His novels about post-decline America have quite a bit of magic in them.”
    It’s amazing, I didn’t know it. I’d like to read one or more JHK novels…

  57. @Scotlyn,

    It makes me happy when my comments useful to others. Thank you! 🙂


    I do enjoy the soundtracks that come with your posts. And I do like your interpretation of the article a la The Tree. (I don’t think you mentioned on here that you explore that more in your Dreamwidth blog. I hope it isn’t impolite of me to mention your blog post here.)

    @Jon G,

    Ooo… I like what you started. It made me think of the chapter I recently read in Hall’s Secret Teachings. He has a chapter on the Apocalypse and discusses various metaphors/allegories/interpretations of Revelations. One of the interpretations of the four horses was one horse represented Fire/Jupiter, one horse represented Air/Juno, one horse represented Water/Neptune, and the fourth horse (who didn’t get to move) was Earth/Vesta. I’m not sure if this really relates to the Cube, but it made me think about the Cube in terms of elements, with Earth in the center. Wisdom, I see as Water. The Divine impregnating matter, Fire? And then Azoth/Jesus could be Air. The intersection of all three would be where everything is in balance/equilibrium, Kether. (Ah, but when the Alchemist gets his Soul perfected, his Malkuth would align with Kether in the center and the Alchemist gets his Cube, his Philosopher’s Stone.) Oh, fun. I know what my meditation today will be on. Thank you!!!

  58. @random: hee hee, girl I love you, you know I don’t mind at all!. (Somebody’s always gotta ask. Like a vampire that way. oh, and it’s not Sadu – I conflated Sabu and <a href=""Sadako. In the English version, her name is Samara).

    In my next post, I’m going to talk about Eric Berne’s Pastimes, or “an autobiographical account of how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb”. As some might have guessed, it will include Jordan Peterson, blue collar comedy, and other such educated intellectual entertainments. 😉

  59. “JMG and kommentariat, thanks for the comments on JHK topic!
    “he’s not as closed to the possibility of magic as you might think. His novels about post-decline America have quite a bit of magic in them.””

    The Witch of Hebron. The title is pretty explicit. 😉 but no wands in evidence.

    The series isn’t great writing, but it does make you think at times.

  60. Anonymous, good. It got you thinking, and that was one of Lévi’s central goals.

    Yorkshire, exactly. Anything powerful can and will be misused.

    Chuaquin, I recommend starting with A World Made By Hand.

  61. Speaking of pushback. I think the Woke pendulum has swung way too far in one direction and pushback is inevitable ( if not already in progress).Those most involved in this agenda seem to have no idea it is a temporary fad and not the permanent direction of history. I think there will be many anxiety attacks when this happens and sinks in.

  62. @JMG – if you do use an Ogre Father, you’ll either need an earlier setting, as if a flashback, or a ghost, or a member of a culture or subculture where abusive macho men are common. Or, of course, a seriously troubled individual.

    The authors I mentioned were reacting to the same cultural norms that the TV show All In The Family set out to undermine, and the bad guy end of that spectrum, just as the Devouring Mother is the bad guy end of the Mama Bear/Tiger Mother spectrum. And before them, you have the classic Victorian patriarch. In between, well, I finally noticed that Alcott’s heroes were Bronson Alcott without Bronson’s irresponsibility. And the Transcendentalists bred a generation of strong women, often crusading reformers. Whom you also get later in the runup to the 1920s.

    I just finished reading Renault’s duology The King Must Die/Bull from the Sea. Theseus goes around taming or bringing down The Goddess and the matriarchs, but turns just plain pirate in his later years. He’s the sort to turn tyrant in his later years. The Bible is full of young prophet heroes who stand up to tyrants and corrupt elders and bring them down, and so is fiction, and that’s the other end of the pendulum. And so is real life, see above for crusading reformers.

    My suggestion would be to bring in someone the age of Dr. Moravec’s father, hardened in the crucible of the Depression and a World War – or a similar period earlier. In Britain, I’d dig up someone like the generals who led the blood bath in the trenches of WWI with their pig-headedness, and then ruthlessly punished those who broke under the strain “to set an example.” Ariel’s favorite period is the 1920s – I wonder if she reads the War Poets.

    Kipling, BTW, could tell you all about the Devouring Mother – and did. At some length.

  63. @JMG #35, R #33, Sarad #12

    Actually, the multiple pendulums problem has been studied quite a bit by physicists and mathematicians. Anything more than a double pendulum starts to resemble chaotic motion, although the movement repeats itself (ideally – no friction, etc.) eventually.

    As an interesting extension, circular motion projected onto a single dimension mimics the motion of a pendulum. Motion of a circle-on-a-circle projected onto a line mimics the motion of a double pendulum. (Think of the orbit of the moon around the earth as the earth orbits the sun, and then think of yourself watching all this through a telescope when you’re somewhere at the edge of the solar system on the plane of the ecliptic.

    The ultimate extension of this concept is the Fourier transform. It can be used to break up a pattern of sound into its frequency components. The reverse process can be used to combine frequency components into patterns of sound. That’s a 1-dimensional application of the principle, but it also works in two dimensions, where virtually any shape can be generated by circles-on-circles rotating at different rates. You can see an interesting demonstration of this at

  64. @JMG #35, R #33, Sarad #12 (cont’d)

    Hit the wrong button and posted my previous comment before it was finished.

    But to continue… The fourier transform also works in 3- and higher-dimensions. So maybe the quantum physicists and mystics are correct! The universe really is made up of vibrations at different frequencies!

  65. Hi John Michael,

    Apologies, this is way off topic, and please indulge me: “To boldly go, where only robots were ever meant to have gone”

    Mate, is it just me, or am I getting this weird historical vibe that all this stuff is like the super yachts of the 1920’s all over again? And people who have read history, know how this story turned out.



  66. JMG – It’s late in the week, and I haven’t been keeping up with the comments, but I think want to get this item “entered into the Record”. An article in the Washington Post, June 20, 2023: “Do you believe in magic? In health crises, it might help.” The article describes some folk magical practices which people have performed prior to recovering from serious illness. By “folk magic”, I mean that it’s simply passed by word of mouth from one friend to another. Of course, the story wraps up with… “Of course, the birds, the teddy bears and the wand did not save Emily’s life — doctors and medicine did. But than now-weathered pink-feathered rod did save mine. It helped me cope.” I hear a statement of blind faith in that paragraph: that it was only the doctors and medicine that worked.

    To see any positive reflection on magic in the mainstream media is encouraging.

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