Book Club Post

The Ritual of High Magic: Chapter 3

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 Three:  The Triangle of the Pentacles” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 225-233).


When our author announced earlier in the book that he was going to unveil the practical secrets of magic, he wasn’t making empty promises.  This chapter opens with one of the great secrets of magical work.  As Lévi himself notes, that secret is presented in terms that are too simple and too facile for most readers to grasp. That’s a serious issue in magical training. By and large, the more powerful a magical working is, the simpler it is, but that very simplicity is the great barrier that must be overcome by the student. Half the ornate symbolism and complicated procedures of the magical art consists of ways to veil the simplicity of the great workings so that our minds can grasp what they are actually all about.

The example Lévi presents here is typical. Let’s unpack it a step at a time.  Certain varieties of spiritual beings, the kinds that traditional magical writings call “intelligences,” are embodied on the plane of thought the way human beings are embodied on the plane of matter.  Their bodies consist of thoughts thinking themselves, perceiving themselves, and understanding themselves.  To evoke such a being—that is, to call it into manifestation—all the operative mage needs to do is to enter into attunement with those thoughts. The result of the evocation will depend on the relative moral condition of the mage and the spirit.

This last point is easy to misunderstand.  Lévi wrote in French, and in that language morale means something broader than morality in the English sense of the word. It is the general condition and direction of the will, including its morality, its morale, its clarity and its potency. If the mage has a strong, balanced, confident, and ethically guided will, the evocation will result in the spirit becoming a familiar, in every sense of that word:  the thoughts that give the spirit its body will become familiar to the mage, even if they were previously unknown, and the spirit will assist the mage in anything corresponding to its own realm of consciousness. If the will of the mage is weak, unbalanced, or unguided by ethics, the mage will become a prisoner of the thoughts he has evoked, and the spirit will ride him—usually to his own destruction.

There are other varieties of spiritual beings whose embodiments exist on planes other than the realm of thought. Angels are embodied in the spiritual planes, and to evoke an angel is to enter into a state of consciousness that’s quite literally superhuman; that’s what many mystics try to do, whether or not they think of their practice in terms of evocation. Many other spirits, however, are embodied at levels below that of human thought, and evoking such beings involves certain serious dangers. It is for this reason that the old texts recommend that before evoking spirits or elementals, it is necessary to evoke the intelligence that governs them, and then to have the intelligence command the spirit or elemental.  That approach keeps mages safe from being drawn down into realms of emotion or passion where, unless they have an unusually strong and focused will, they risk being overwhelmed and dominated by the spirit on its own ground.

By this point, I suspect, a good many of my readers will already be asking themselves two questions. The first of these is quite simple:  does all this actually work?  Lévi’s answer, the only answer that makes any difference, amounts to “try it and see.”  I think most of us have realized by now that it’s impossible to prove the existence of anything to a person who starts from the assumption that the thing in question can’t exist. Those who invest the necessary time and effort into learning and mastering magic know that it works. Those who don’t—who dabble a little in a half-hearted way and then give up, or who slam the door in the face of the possibility, shouting that magic doesn’t work because this or that ideology forbids it—don’t know enough about the subject to have an informed opinion.

That leads in turn to a second question:  what is the point of the whole farrago of wands, chalk circles, billowing incense, incomprehensible words, and the rest of it?  If evocation is simply a matter of attuning consciousness to unfamiliar patterns of thought, why not do it sitting comfortably in an armchair?  In point of fact, most people do this all the time. I’m sure that everyone reading this has had the experience of encountering some new set of ideas, thinking them over, entertaining them, and then deciding either to accept or to reject them. That’s the art of evocation in a nutshell.  It can be done that simply, and in fact adepts do exactly that.

It’s easy for modern people to fall into the trap of thinking that Lévi is saying that spirits are nothing but ideas, emotions, or passions. As Viktor Frankl pointed out a long time ago, the nihilistic spirit at the heart of today’s mass culture isn’t obsessed with nothingness, but rather with nothing-but-ness. What Lévi is saying is something considerably more threatening to the conventional wisdom of our time. He’s saying that what we experience as ideas, emotions, and passions are spirits:  that is to say, beings with their own perceptions and intentions. Yes, he means that literally. Yes, I’m aware that there are few ways of thinking about the world more likely to baffle and enrage the conventionally minded. No, Lévi didn’t care, and neither do I.

The independent and self-aware nature of spirits explains, among other things, why it’s not always easy to engage, entertain, and then invoke or banish whatever new set of ideas you want, whenever you choose to do so. It’s also why it can be even more difficult to do the same trick with patterns of emotion or passion, particularly the latter—the word “passion” comes from the same root as “passive,” after all, and passions get their name because human beings are generally so passive in relation to them. The methods of magic, with all their wands, circles, and so on serve the same purpose in learning magic as training wheels in learning to ride a bicycle. They make it easier for apprentice mages to begin taking charge of their own interactions with the realms of ideas, emotions, and passions. Since that task takes quite a bit longer than learning to balance on a bicycle, the wands and circles have their place for a good long time.

Until adeptship is reached, the mage in training also needs to make use of another source of strength. As Lévi points out, the word “conjure” literally means “to take a vow together.”  To be part of a living tradition, supported by the example of successful practitioners of past and present, enables apprentice mages to direct a current of force far greater than the ordinary individual can create. This is one of the many reasons why it’s useful for the magical novice to train in an existing system of magic, rather than trying to create something new out of whole cloth. An adept can command spirits in his own name because he has the momentum of years of successful work behind him. A novice cannot, and so has to rely on the borrowed momentum of a school, a tradition, or a religious faith to get the same results.

Most of the rest of this chapter sets out the forms and symbols that allowed beginning mages in the middle of the nineteenth century to conjure spirits using the borrowed momentum of early modern magical practice. The ternary, the key to so much of Lévi’s magic, is an essential part of this. Replace with ternaries the binaries that play so overwhelming a part in conventional thinking all through Western cultures—right or left, good or bad, this or that, and never any third factor—and you don’t merely distance yourself from the conventional wisdom of our time and Lévi’s; you place yourself in what Lévi calls a magic chain, a sequence of individuals linked together across space and time by shared states of consciousness. The triangles that play such an important role in the symbolism of magical ceremonies are meant to symbolize the ternary pattern, representing to the imagination what ternary logic represents to the intellect.

pentagram and hexagram, from our text

Other geometrical patterns are of comparable importance in magical practice.  This chapter discusses the hexagram, the form made by two interlaced equilateral triangles, which is also known in magic as the seal of Solomon, and can be formed out of letters—two As and two Xs, as one of Lévi’s diagrams shows.  Another of comparable importance is the pentagram or pentalpha, which (as our text shows) can be envisioned as a pattern made of five interwoven As. Our text does not explain these; they are meant as themes for meditation, and those readers who take the time to explore them will find the effort worth making.

Alongside geometrical patterns, in turn, are traditional names of power. The word ABRACADABRA, so often misused by stage magicians and children’s entertainers, is one of these, and can also be expressed in the form of a triangle, as our text shows. Lévi devotes two paragraphs to that word’s interpretation, and here again, those who take the time to work through his logic and meditate on the symbolic meanings he unfolds in this section will find that they have a great deal to teach.

That kind of study and meditation are essential for the practice of high magic.  They are not essential for the practice of all kinds of magic.  As our text points out, “a practice, even a superstitious one, even a foolish one, is effective because it is a realization” (literally, a making-real) “of the will.” Most of the everyday practice of religion consists of such realizations of the will.  The peasant woman in Lévi’s example, who takes money she can little afford to spare and uses it to buy a candle to burn before the shrine of some local saint, is practicing an ancient, effective, and beneficent form of magic:  the effort of will and self-mastery involved in doing without a little milk in her tea so that she can afford the candle gives focus and strength to the intention embodied in her prayer, and it also refines and strengthens her own character.

It is essential, by the way, that she make this effort herself, of her own free choice, rather than having it forced on her by some authority. The fatal flaw in organized religion consists of the habit of bullying people into doing practices that only have strength and value when they are freely chosen by the individual will.  That flaw explains why the magical chains established by prophets and messiahs, which have so much potency in the hands of the immediate disciples of the founder, lose force over time and turn into empty forms.  You cannot conjure spirits effectively in the name of a magic chain whose links have been browbeaten into obedience—a rule that explains, with painful exactness, why so many churches today have become empty shells from which the glory of the spirit has departed, or maintain a weak simulacrum of their original power by whipping the congregation up into temporary emotional outbursts.

Magic is not exempt from this same rule. It has happened tolerably often in the history of Western occultism that what started out as an ebullient upsurge of potent magical force has turned into the same sort of empty mummery enacted in so many contemporary churches. Part of the reason for this is that the expanded consciousness needed to evoke and direct spiritual forces and beings, the exalted morale and morality that gives the mage superiority over the spirits, is hard to maintain and even harder to pass on to one’s students.

The example Lévi uses is again highly appropriate. The Trident of Paracelsus was one of the most important symbolic patterns crafted by its namesake, one of the great occult philosophers of the late Renaissance. It is, as our text points out, “a concrete and absolute sign of an entire doctrine,” which embodied a magical chain reaching back through the Middle Ages to the initiates of the ancient world. In Lévi’s own time it was still in use, but it had degenerated into an amulet used by superstitious men as a cure for impotence! Lévi proposed the goal of reviving the power underlying the Trident by a systematic study of its symbolism, but what happened after his time was simply that the Trident entered standard use as an instrument of ritual magic, wielded far more often than not by practitioners who had only the vaguest idea of its meanings.

That same debasement, Lévi proposes, took place in a far more destructive way in the revolt of the European intelligentsia against religion.  That revolt, he argues, was spearheaded by magical initiates who turned their efforts against a monumentally corrupt and unspiritual church. The heirs of the great revolt, however, fell into a superstitious reverence for human reason, and tore down the religious institutions of their culture instead of renovating and purifying those institutions. In the process, they tore down the support for their own structure as well.

As Lévi foresaw, the rationalists have fallen in their turn, leaving only competing superstitions to quarrel over the wreckage. Those who insist that the reign of superstition is ended forever are themselves motivated by rationalist superstitions, and these are fragile when compared to the old strong superstitions of penny candles and saints’ shrines.  Someday these latter will be gathered up into a new religious-magical synthesis, which makes ample room for the superstitions of the common folk but also provides a ladder of ascent for those willing to understand the higher and deeper dimensions of religious magic and magical religion. When will that happen?  Our text does not pretend 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 4, “The Conjuration of the Four,” on August 9, 2023. See you then!


Limited edition with metallic embossing on the cover.

In other news, I’m delighted to report that there is now a limited hardback edition of The Witch of Criswell, the first of my Ariel Moravec occult detective novels.  As far as I know, current plans are to bring out all of these novels in hardback as well as paperback editions — and I expect to have good news along the same lines concerning The Weird of Hali shortly.

Speaking of which, all seven volumes of The Weird of Hali are scheduled for release on Halloween of this year. You can place an advance order for any of all of them here if you live in the United States and here if you live anywhere else.


  1. I found this chapter fairly dense, in that there is a lot to unpack.

    From your post, a few things came to light:

    – I wondered first why the will needed to be guided by ethics, as in, why some ethical law of unknown origin needs to be followed. But what you have said previously about ethics being like a form of sanitation answers that in a way.

    In the same way that one washes one’s hands before cooking a meal, or setting up a chemical reaction in one’s lab, ethics seems like the same thing on the upper planes. Which then led me to realize that ‘sanitation’ and ‘sanity’ are probably derived from the same root.

    – I am currently doing a second pass through the outer OSA exercises and your explanation of Levi’s ideas about how emotions and passions are entities with their own consciousness is really thought provoking.

    So when I grapple with the emotions from my past to do with fear, sadness, and anger, I am grappling with beings! Beings that I encountered when I was a kid and which have somehow followed me through time!

    So when I grapple with these, what’s actually happening? Is it that I am removing their claws from me? And in what ways will they fight back?

    Lots to think on!

    – I also had a ternary experience worth noting related to the OSA work. In the Law of Happiness, I missed the first time around the thought that my unhappiness and my happiness are caused by how I think about the events that happen to me. The first time round, I focused only on unhappiness and happiness was just simply a whole bunch of yay! not worth thinking about.

    Once I saw that I am unhappy or happy based on the same rule, which I discovered to be some deep belief I had, I realized I had found the ternary.

    Plus, it’s an example of how a higher order concept, presumably from a higher plane, affects my emotional life.

  2. I see this magical chain as happening within certain artistic movements and subcultures as well. Perhaps within these movements & subcultures, it is also that certain groups of people within them incarnate around the same time and have previous connections. Something to meditate on!

    This part is very interesting and ties in well with your posts on enchantment, “The heirs of the great revolt, however, fell into a superstitious reverence for human reason, and tore down the religious institutions of their culture instead of renovating and purifying those institutions. In the process, they tore down the support for their own structure as well.”

    The library bought Josephson-Storm’s Myth of Disenchantment and Metamodernism. The latter came in first and I brought it home yesterday after cataloging it this week. The intro, I thought was really interesting with regards to the post today.

    He writes, “Limiting one’s research to critical scholarship about scholarship tends to undercut the work of the disciplines and to reduce them to little more than ideological formations themselves -an act which is essentially, destructive rather than creative. It seems that destruction generally takes less efort and is better rewarded than construction. Despite all the controversy it inevitably evokes, it can be seductive to take the stance of the epistemological anarchist and to start exploding fundamental concepts and then reveling in the chaos as disciplines disintegrate. I have largely made my career out of such an attitude. I think this kind of work is valuable but simply not enough.

    “After something has been destroyed, something new must be built, and for something new to be built a movement is necessary. That movement, I hope is metamodernism…”

    What I thought was really interesting was how he was copping to the fact that intellectual deconstructionism can only go so far. Earlier he had said “scholarship… that endlessly repeats and valorizes the act of deconstruction, and that which narrowly focuses on irrelevant and microscopic case studies… are dead ends.”

    So these people who tore down support structure, went on to dismantle even the deconstructionist tendency itself. It seem’s Josephson-Storm may represent a nadir of this trend, and now he has turned his mind to the reconstruction and what may lie on the other side.

    Thanks for the turn on to this guys writings through your own engagement with them.

    Congrats, also, on the limited editions John!

  3. 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 or in the comments of the prayer list post linked above.

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

    Roobyalien’s stepmother Leigh Hennen
    is in the ICU in Sarasota FL, suffering from sepsis; may she be blessed and healed back to full health swiftly; may her husband find the strength and energy to support her and her daughters be blessed.

    Boccaccio, who has had difficult brain and nervous system health issues for over a decade, will visit Spain this week to see a renowned special to better diagnose his issues; for a successful trip to Spain, and healing and resolution of all of his health problems.

    Oilman2 has survived cancer and is learning to adjust to a rebuilt colon and learning how to walk again; for healing energies, for robust fitness in his new physical circumstances, and for him to remain cancer free.

    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.

  4. Jbucks, three very good reflections!

    Justin, of course. Subcultures have their own very powerful groupminds, and it’s quite possible to conjure states of consciousness in their names. With regard to Josephson-Storm, you’re most welcome; he’s definitely worth reading and reflecting on — and his position at the nadir of the arc of deconstruction is part of that.

    Quin, thanks for this as always.

  5. Thanks for this post.

    David Bentley Hart also diagnoses Nihilism—true belief in Nothing, that is—as the spiritual impetus behind much of the modern condition, although Frankl’s variant that you mentioned seems to also capture its reductionist tendencies. I like the line you draw between the superstition of overly-dogmatic religion and the “superstitious reverence for human reason,” the latter of which I suspect, codified, is part of the religion of Progress.

    What’s intriguing about this line of thinking is that, whether it’s the belief in Nothing or in Progress, these modern religions could arguably also present a sort of path of ascent for some of its most dedicated adherents (perhaps one like a Carl Sagan, who, having ascended into the mountain of his god, quakes at the thought of the teeming hosts awaiting on other peaks).

    Different beliefs lead to different places, and not all of them places one might like to visit…

  6. “Lévi’s answer, the only answer that makes any difference, amounts to “try it and see.”

    I’ve been practicing for a while now, using your book “Learning Ritual Magic” and other sources. I also started practicing geomancy. I went into it with an open mind, and wow. A few months in I was dumbfounded. “Holy ****, this actually works!”

  7. “The independent and self-aware nature of spirits explains, among other things, why it’s not always easy to engage, entertain, and then invoke or banish whatever new set of ideas you want, whenever you choose to do so.”

    Are there specific banishing techniques for these? The only techniques I know of are those like the mastery of thoughts taught by Franz Bardon. Thanks.

  8. Hi John Michael,

    In order for the ‘good people’ to actually become the ‘good people’, they have to first be the ‘good people’. Deception is not advantageous for that journey.

    It hardly surprises me that I come across past references to people being possessed. In earlier days people were perhaps more honest than they are today? I’ve experienced people who are trapped in extreme emotions, their eyes look dead to me, and truly, it is as if something else is riding them. Hmm. It takes a very strong will to not fall into that trap.

    Training of the will is not something which is encouraged. What’s your opinion about that observation?

    Ah, the great revolt, I’d not heard of them, but yes, another classic text book failure along the lines of other more recent conversations. Oh well. They can walk back from the damage wrought, then work upon repair, it’s not that hard to do, but then there’s that pesky will thing again. And they do say that pride is the devil.



  9. Huh. Continuing the “oh, that explains practices I’ve done but didn’t know I was doing” theme.

    A couple years ago I was with a shaman (had at least some abilities, I judge the real deal) and I demonstrated a couple of what I called “modes”. The first was “primal good”, where one does the right thing no matter what. The second, because the shaman was discussing learning how to be a predator was “primal” predator mode.

    At this point the shaman freaked out and said “I have to leave, these are things that don’t really belong on Earth and I don’t want them to notice me.”

    Guess I may have been contacting more than modes.

  10. Hi JMG,

    Thanks as always for your commentary on this book. I have been a bit discouraged at a few points when Levi says, after a fairly elaborate and obscure passage, “and now I have unveiled the secret of the Great Work, as you can see it is quite simple.” I have the feeling that it is right under my nose but I can’t quite see it.

    Rather than getting depressed, do you have any advice to keep motivation up in order to keep on willing to will? My experience doing the SOP thousands of times has been steady incremental gains, but it sure feels slow sometimes.

    On the plus side, the references in this chapter about the bizarre cult of the monstrous nocturnal goat carrying a lit torch in its horns that will be discussed in detail later on sounds pretty disturbing but I am intrigued.

  11. Dear JMG
    Hello! and thank you once again for your brilliant clarity.

    I did think that creating mental focus was part of the reason for magical tools and that the specialized settings were helpful in sustaining that focus. Thanks for confirmation (if I’m understanding correctly?).
    Jill C

  12. First, a beautiful presentation of your new book, previously noted to be a prerequisite for published works. I agree.

    Second, I want to thank you for your liturgical posts – treasures. Perhaps these do not receive the same mass appeal as the some of the others. A shame, of course, as the results of those others are, I suspect, derived from the former…

    Noscere. Velle. Audere. Tacere.

  13. I have the ability to improvise melodies and even full songs on command given a 3-5 note idea. I’m not anywhere near as good as some, for instance, I can improvise a 2 part invention on the fly but it would be very slow and clunky. A regular pop song with harmony though is no trouble at all and I can do it in various styles. I had to train myself to do this as a child via trial and error because no teacher could or would do it and there was no internet back then. There is only one way to learn how to compose melody, in my opinion, and that is to go at it relentlessly via trial and error as I did when I was a child.

    When I write a melody, it is as if I access a bandwidth or continuum where melodies float around. Other musicians have access to it as well. There are other bandwidths, for instance the blues noodling bandwidth, the elegant Rococo-era classical bandwidth, and the cheesy game show songs bandwidth. It’s like tuning into a radio – I am only able to do it because I developed and “built” certain equipment. I definitely prefer certain channels to others. I am confident the bandwidths exist apart from me on the astral and mental planes. Yes, there’s a little bit of me in there when I make up any given song (I often make up songs on the spot based on random 3-5 note sequences for my students to amuse them) but it’s mostly the bandwidth.

    Another thing — musicians who don’t compose and who only play classics or cover are accessing a musical bandwidth too, but it is nowhere near the same bandwidth as the ones songwriters and composers access. The reason European classical music performances are often boring is because they no longer touch the composer/improviser bandwidth that had a key part in creating those pieces.

  14. Fra’ Lupo, granted, but as you’ve also noted, not every route of ascent leads up the same hill.

    Enjoyer, it’s been quite a few years now, but I well remember that same feeling!

    Asdf, sure. You can do it in a very straightforward way by using the imagination to formulate images of the spiritual beings in question, and then invoking or banishing using standard pentagram or hexagram rituals, or any other ritual form that comes to mind.

    Chris, exactly. Training the will is one of the most revolutionary things anyone can do these days, because the entire structure of collective manipulation depends on you not having the strength to make your own choices and think your own thoughts.

    Ian, you were indeed.

    Samurai_47, Chris and I were just talking about the will. At some point in the training of every apprentice mage, the student reaches the point at which motivation doesn’t hack it any more. You have to keep doing it purely because you choose to keep doing that — and once you learn and master that lesson, you have freed your will from the tyranny of motivation and you are free to do as you will, no matter what. That’s where you are. What will you do?

    Jill, exactly.

    Iguana, thank you! That’s high praise.

    Joseph, you’re most welcome and thank you.

    Kimberly, the old mages would say that you’re coming into contact with the intelligences of music, who have a fairly high place in the world of spirits — music, being formless, partakes of the mental plane, and sometimes overlaps with the spiritual plane.

  15. John Michael Greer, Thank you for posting this. I found this to be the clearest explanation of a chapter so far.

  16. @samurai_47,

    Regarding Levi’s repeated “and here’s the Great Secret comments”, once you decide to pursue that, here is something you might try: go through the book and write down every hint and comment Levi has made about “here’s the Great Secret”. Jon G made a comment last month about the Cube and I went through the book to write down all the hints about the cube. (And then realized how the Cube was connected to the Great Work. And that to the Magical Agent. And the Great Secret/Arcanum, so wrote down notes for all those hints, too.) Then start meditating. I have been doing the Lully version, where if I have two comments about the Cube but they don’t seem related, I work on it until I see a relationship. And then I start comparing the Cube to the Philosopher’s Stone, etc.

    Do I have the Great Secret figured out? Not yet. But I am definitely closer than I was. And I have learned some other things that were not my intent, but all that will eventually lead to a greater understanding.

    (If you want to see what I have come up with so far, I am posting in my Dreamwidth, but I only have two posts so far and I have about five more diagrams to go, but will stop work temporarily this week, so I can do book club.)

  17. @jbucks,

    Ooo, I had not considered what is actually happening to the emotions as beings doing the OSA work. I have added that to my list of meditations-to-do.

    And sanitation ~ sanity… nice! and OSA is like a mental house-cleaning! (well, and astral house-cleaning. and etheric house-cleaning.)

  18. For the 2-V 2-X hexagram, it makes me think of Levi’s TARO/INRI diagram The two X’s are crosses… resurrection… the Rho’s in TARO and INRI. The two V’s could be the ternaries from chapter 6 (Reason-Libery-Necessity for the upward pointing triangle, Destiny-Will-Power for the downward pointing triangle.)

    For the pentagram, I am not so sure. Perhaps what I think are A’s are really V’s with stabilizing bars, to represent balance or equilibrium? (So five balanced ternaries make a happy mage?) 🙂

  19. Hello JMG,
    I must admit I have not been following the course of study of Levi’s book, but I found your commentary fascinating. The writing about spirits and “intelligences” came to mind when reading the story that has been all over UK newspapers for the last couple of days, about the BBC’s best known presenter. An intelligent, urbane and apparently devout man, obviously wealthy and successful, he started suffering from depression about 20 years ago and more recently seems to have become increasingly overwhelmed by bizarre and unpleasant sexual needs.
    The ideas you presented seem to offer a way of explaining his fall entirely different to, and perhaps more plausible than, anything that might be offered by conventional psychology. Do you think that being led to destruction by spirits is a reasonable explanation for cases like this?

  20. Hello JMG and kommentariat. I’ve read this phrase and I’m pleased

    “As Viktor Frankl pointed out a long time ago, the nihilistic spirit at the heart of today’s mass culture isn’t obsessed with nothingness, but rather with nothing-but-ness.”

    Frankl was a sensitive psychoterapyst and his books helped me a lot with my mind problems in my recent past. Thank you for quoting it. He was an spiritual and humanist healer.

  21. Hello JMG;

    “Certain varieties of spiritual beings, the kinds that traditional magical writings call “intelligences,” are embodied on the plane of thought the way human beings are embodied on the plane of matter. Their bodies consist of thoughts thinking themselves, perceiving themselves, and understanding themselves.

    If we are spiritual beings with temporary bodies on this material plane are we ourselves part of the “intelligences” the writers talk about with embodiments on the plane of thought also? Do we have dual or more existences and just have to learn how to communicate with our compatriots? And just like here on the material plane chose which embodiments we wish to be friends with and to create with and which to avoid? Knowing this why would anyone be afraid to die?

  22. Following along with some added themes that came up in this past weeks Magic Monday…

    The Saturnian nature of academia -amplified with the help of its more recent Plutonian variation- could be in part the reason deconstruction became such a thing in intellectual circles over the last century or so. Nihilism and melancholia run rampant by a descent into morbid reflection.

    Without the magnanimity and generosity of Jupiter, without the love of beauty from Venus, and without the vitalizing and warming flare of the Solar impulse, academia has become increasingly dry, brittle.

    Somehow getting the humanities and what else may be salvaged from academia back on track with a dose of Jupiterian, Venusian and Solar currents seems like a potentially good way to reimbue it with some life.

    Peace & Happy Thursday

  23. I have a question- why is there a coat of arms of poland on this trump, was the author trying to squeeze in some marian symbolism, with the stars and stomping on moon?

  24. Dear gods, I think I was snubbed by an intelligence!

    No matter how hard I try, I’ve never, ever, been able to understand Progress. It’s not that I haven’t tried, I have indeed tried deeply. There was a point in my life I desperately needed to understand it, and not being able to do it was driving me mad. I have a firm ability to grasp plenty of other things, even ideas I find disagreeable, but Progress just never clicked. No matter how hard I tried to do it, I could never make any sense of it.

    I think the best explanation is that whatever being drives it never deigned to interact with me, so I could never get a handle on those ideas. I wonder what I did to it….

  25. @R: House-cleaning indeed! Hmm, your comment made me think of a multi-planar house as a nice analogy; the bottom story of the house would be the material plane, the next level is the etheric level, etc.

    And thanks in turn for pointing out the similarities to 2-V 2-X hexagram to the TARO / INRI diagram!

  26. Thinking further on the idea of emotions and concepts as conscious beings: on what plane does the being of an archetype exist on? The spiritual / divine plane?

  27. … although I should have remembered the house analogy R and I discussed right before my archetype question, and answered it on my own: archetypes would exist as conscious beings across multiple planes.

  28. This is one of those posts that tied a lot of things together for me, or started to at least!

    A friend of mine joked a while back that in Steiner’s Anthroposophical writings, everything is framed in terms of ‘beings’ of various kinds. I’ve noticed too that in Dion Fortune and the Golden Dawn tradition, it’s all about ‘forces’ of various kinds. This post takes it up one level for me, with the notion that all these words and images point to things that actually look like something quite different on the plane they come from, which corresponds to how we experience them only over a great epistemological distance.

    Yet therein lies the hidden chain of analogies and the ladder of ascent…! Thank you for introducing me to this most agreeable idea.

  29. Very interesting, for someone short of time, what is a good way to begin exploring those teachings and practices

  30. Is there a connection / intersection between our western ideas of these thought forms and eastern Tulpas?

  31. C.M., thank you!

    R, good. Yes, that’s a useful practice. As for the diagrams, good! Keep working on it.

    Robert, yes, very much so. This is why spiritual hygiene is so important. The older style of sacramental religious practices can provide that, as of course can magical practices; what passes for religion too often nowadays doesn’t cut it.

    Chuqauin, you’re welcome. I read several books by Frankl many years ago and found him well worth close attention.

    Daniel, exactly. That’s what occultists are talking about when they discuss the material, etheric, astral, and mental bodies. It’s by developing our (usually still undeveloped) embodiments on the mental plane that we become able to interact consciously with intelligences, and also with angelic and divine beings who can act on that plane as well as their own. As for why people are afraid to die, why, most people are fixated on the material plane and the material body is the only one they’re conscious of. Half the work of any form of spirituality focuses on awakening the self to an awareness of the other planes.

    Justin, excellent! Yes, modern academia desperately needs what Dr. Ficino has to offer.

    Katylina, I hadn’t thought of it as the Polish coat of arms, but of course you’re correct. In the French tradition of tarot, the Empress always has a white eagle and the Emperor a red eagle; it’s a reference to alchemical symbolism — though given the importance of Polish occult traditions (via the Frankists) in 19th century France, it’s not impossible that the reference to Poland is deliberate. As for the stars and moon, yes, that’s a deliberate reference to the image in the Book of Revelations.

    Anonymous, nah, Progress isn’t an intelligence; it has no intellectual content. It’s a spirit, because it’s entirely emotional in nature: “New is Good! Old is Bad!” That’s why it made no sense to you; it’s not about making sense, it’s about feeling a giddy rush of emotion.

    Jbucks, archetypes themselves exist on the causal plane, the plane between the divine plane (the highest) and the spiritual plane.

    Luke, good heavens. Well, that came as a surprise!

    Dylan, exactly. One maxim I learned many years ago has it that every energy is an entity, and every entity is an energy, depending on the plane on which you perceive them.

    Tony C, that’s a little like asking how someone short of time can begin exploring playing a classical instrument, or practicing a martial art, or becoming a physician. There are doors that can’t be opened until and unless you’re willing to invest the time, effort, and passion to open them.

    Nando, indeed there is. The creation of tulpas is one fairly narrow technical application of these ideas.

  32. Kimberly Steele wrote: “The reason European classical music performances are often boring is because they no longer touch the composer/improviser bandwidth that had a key part in creating those pieces.”

    And I thought it was equal temperament. (Smiley face here, but I’m not entirely kidding) Agreed that much of the earlier stuff sounds trite these days. Especially a lot of Haydn and the “sons of Bach” and even some of JS Bach himself. I can barely stand to listen to a flute concerto. Sometimes, however, I hear something that is unexpectedly moving and I wonder what it was that set it apart. It’s often violin music where there can be more subtleties of intonation than with most keyboard instruments. But I like this bandwidth theory.

  33. Hi JMG, while reading your High Magic Ritual posts, I thought of what you said about Oswald Spengler and as you said in our last post, you said that Eliphas Levi’s books should be a mandatory reading and practice for the priesthood, likewise Arnold Tonybee in the final stages of the ‘collapse’ of a collapsing civilization. you mentioned that it is a seedbed for movements, so then for the Holy Church to regain its strength and power, the first thing that needs to be removed is the preaching chair in front of the altar, and the Church should return to its victorious state and not get caught up in the ‘strawman’ arguments trying to corrupt it and it should go back to its roots, right ! About to see the Victorious-Sacramental Church!

  34. Hi John Michael,

    Yes, I agree. It raises the awful question, if you are not exercising your will, then who’s will are you following?

    The problem I ponder with this matter, and the wider culture of course, is that eventually the folks promoting this outcome fall under their own spell, and similarly lose the power to will. It is a serious risk to this strategy.

    It’s a bit scary really. Thanks as always for your clarity with these essays.



  35. “Progress isn’t an intelligence; it has no intellectual content.”

    I’ve no argument with that.

    “it’s entirely emotional in nature: “New is Good! Old is Bad!” That’s why it made no sense to you; it’s not about making sense, it’s about feeling a giddy rush of emotion.”

    I’ve seen that too, the Apple M2 chip wasn’t as big a step up in performance from the M1 as expected so there was lots of whining mixed with “now we have to wait until the M3 chip.”

    But before it gets pathological Progress is measurable. Are fewer women dying in childbirth? Are more children reaching adulthood? Have there been improvements in keeping food on the table? Are deaths from too cold or too hot going down? Are people living long enough to die of old age instead of something else?

    Those are quantifiable facts, not emotions. This does not say that Progress is immune to diminishing returns. At some point you do have to declare victory and withdraw.

  36. First, I have fixed my browser (I hope), so I am back to being more than just a letter. 🙂

    Second, I decided lunch was over-rated and worked on my explanations today. The third installment on my thoughts on the Cube are here

    Third, comments and questions…

    @jbucks, ah! a multi-story/planar house is a good idea. I am at the age where I prefer a one-story, so I was thinking of an eight-room house, but an eight-story house works better. Especially if the basement doesn’t have any windows. Or if it does have one of those weird toilets just sitting there. ( And who knows what we’ll find in the attic!

    @Kimberly, thank you very much for the bandwidth metaphor. That has helped me a great deal.

    @Kimberly or @JMG or @anyone-who-understands,

    Using the bandwidth metaphor, are spirits or intelligences or other beings one-way (like a radio station broadcasting) or two-way (like ham radios)? If we interact with an idea and change it slightly, does our ‘change’ go back to the source and get incorporated? Or do we end up creating a new being? Or is that just something that Adepts can do?

  37. I don’t know how I didn’t realize before that conjure comes from com-together and jurarse (I always think of it in the reflexive form because, Spanish)! It’s such a deep yet widely used phrase, like many on the tongue of old school Mexicans, the women of the sanctuary-triangle milk-penny candles. ‘Te juro.’ ‘I swear to you’. These are not mere ‘promises’. Carrying spiritual linguistic weight like Ojala and ‘si dios quiere’ ‘godwilling’, which another among the commentariat was joshing about last week, having both a sense of humor and deadly seriousness.

    On this other bit, a wondering:
    ‘If we raise ourselves morally higher at the same time, we will lead that spirit to us and he will serve us. Otherwise he will lead us into his circle and we will serve him.’ But isn’t there a third option: reciprocal service? Is this what channeling is, sometimes? Or ‘identifying with’ a spirit? I serve you, you serve me; I am in you, you are in me?

    I had in my mind Imix, which is a crocodile or a dragon and has a sense of fierce protective mothering. It’s one of the glyph-spirits of the tzolkin Mayan interlocking wheels of calendar. Perhaps neither of us ‘bests’ the other and we collaborate in… say… fiercely mothering? Because we have shared goals at the time. And then when it’s another time one might identify more with another spirit and might exchange offerings and material expressive capabilities for the opportunity to gain capabilities on another plane? Or is this ‘being ridden’ at risk of ‘to death or insanity’? Feels like a ternary rather than a win-lose binary.

  38. Thought you guys might like this in the world of ‘the profaning adepts surpassed the sons of Adam, gathered the fruits of science and didn’t know how to feed themselves from them… their reign of superstition ends at a time when true religion reconstitutes itself.’ This man advocates for the Cantos of Ezra Pound as a new center of true religion (if people won’t take him at his word when he says it should be ‘Nature’). The piece is pretty great and so is the poem he selects as evidence Pound is an ‘anti-Machine prophet, and of the party of the Gods.’ Sort of blends our ‘progress’ posts and the DRHM work, even ref herakles for Random …

    Blasted friends
    left a goddam radio here yester.
    God damn destructive and dispersive
    devil of an invention…
    Anybody who can survive may strengthen
    inner life,
    but mass of apes and worms
    will be still further rejuiced to passivity…
    A double sense of the blessedness
    of silence
    when the damn thing is turned off…
    Personae now poked into every bleedin’ ‘ome
    and smearing the mind of the peapull.
    If anyone is a purrfekk HERRRRkules,
    he may clarify his style in resistance
    to the devil box.
    I mean if he ain’t druv to melancholia crepitans
    before he recovers.1

    The old countryside is so spoiled
    by all of the roads…
    where land is exchanged for asphalt.2
    All inside of earth being put
    outside. Oil and metal in which
    nothing grows. Tar where grass
    should be. The inside of earth put
    outside. Macadam, the infertile
    roads encroaching on fields.

    the war is from carbon
    attacking first hydrogen
    then oxygen
    their mouths are stopped with
    The war is from carbon.3

    I believe that [mechanization] is all temporary.
    I think there is something “seminal” in humanity
    that can outlive mechanization.
    In short, I believe
    something of man’s consciousness will remain,
    despite everything,
    and that it will be able to fight
    against the forces of mindlessness.4

    I try to break out of the cosmos.
    There must be a light… somewhere…
    The light in the rose-garden,
    It’s a strange thing…
    …The power of Evil!5

    In accordance as man is intelligent,
    he seeks after gods.6

  39. Yiğit, I think getting rid of the preaching chair would be a very good step. Another thing you’d have to do, at least in the US, is to fire the teaching staff at all the seminaries and replace them with teachers who can teach seminarians how to pray, how to develop their relationship with the Divine, and how to work with the subtle energies of ritual. In my experience, priests and ministers these days are less able to handle such things than almost anyone else!

    Chris, thank you for this. I offer your words as a theme for daily meditation: “Whose will am I following? Mine, or someone else’s?”

    Siliconguy, sure, they’re measurable — but they’re also cherrypicked. Fewer women die in childbirth, but more people die of lung diseases caused by smoke from burning coal; more food gets brought to the table, but a slice of bread before industrial agriculture has more protein than the same slice of bread topped with a quarter inch of peanut butter after industrial agriculture comes in. The first gets mentioned, the second gets swept under the rug. The emotional force of the myth of progress is what leads to this disparity.

    Random, they’re persons. Interactions with them change both parties.

    AliceEm, that’s a valid point. Lévi is presenting things in a relatively simple mode, and of course his thinking reflects European ideas of hierarchy and power. There are other modes of interaction — but it’s important to understand that being ridden to destruction is also a risk. Thank you also for the Pound quote; I picked up the Cantos at a library book sale a few months ago and have been slowly reflecting on them.

  40. @Kimberely & Phutatorius:

    Kimberley wrote:

    “Another thing — musicians who don’t compose and who only play classics or cover are accessing a musical bandwidth too, but it is nowhere near the same bandwidth as the ones songwriters and composers access. The reason European classical music performances are often boring is because they no longer touch the composer/improviser bandwidth that had a key part in creating those pieces.”

    I think this is cool and I agree with that… it was something the avant-garde modernists tried to address by including the performer in the score, with certain parts allowing for improvisation, while still being a piece written by a composer. I really thought Stockhausen hit something when he noted how classical musicians were often trained out of being able to improvise, and so should work on that as a side of their training, and that improvisers and jazz musicians should really work on following a score to the letter to work on that side of things, to address the imbalance in each. With musicians trained in both a new kind of ensemble could be created. I think some of the underground music that has come out of the west since those times is a good fusion of such.

    But its a shame you won’t hear much of that music at the symphony orchestras, because for the most part those are bought and paid for by subscribers to the Musical Museum, who want to hear those things from the past. Some really do sing -we love going to the symphony when we can- but others are a bit more flat, and you can tell the players are bored with having to haul that piece out to put on display in the Museum once again.

    This is an area too, where I think mixing more new pieces in with selected older pieces could be invigorating if done in the spirit of beauty.

    Phutatorius wrote:

    “I thought it was equal temperament. (Smiley face here, but I’m not entirely kidding) ”

    “Sometimes, however, I hear something that is unexpectedly moving and I wonder what it was that set it apart. It’s often violin music where there can be more subtleties of intonation than with most keyboard instruments.”

    There is something about those stringed instruments where things can go microtonal… I suspect that is why I tend to love most anything featuring pedal steel and lap steel guitar, or in blues guitar when people play with a slide. Those harmonics are just so rich and beautiful.

  41. Hi JMG, thanks for your reply I request a post from you; I would be very happy if you do. As you said about Paul Kingsnorth, you talked about the return to traditional religion of intellectuals emerging from a corrupt and uncreative world. In this way, I would like to see a post called ‘Back to Traditional Religion’. Thanks for your answer !

  42. Hi JMG,

    excellent post! Short meditation on the topic:

    “Angels are embodied in the spiritual planes, and to evoke an angel is to enter into a state of consciousness that’s quite literally superhuman; that’s what many mystics try to do, whether or not they think of their practice in terms of evocation”.

    First thing that spring to my mind is that many mystics try for another set of patterns on spiritual planes: Names of God. Cabalist title “Baal Shem Tov”, which means “Master of the Good Name. When Levi describes Shemhamphorash (in chapter 10), the name which contains 72 divine names he is hinting toward a way of working that is both extraordinary simple… if one compare what saints have done with simplest of prayer “”Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”.

    Obviously, it might be that there is far more of those secrets that presented are too simple and too facile to grasp alone. Buddhists controversy over ” “white panacea” (tibetan: dkar po chig thub). The sub-school of thought about the dispensability of extraneous practices once one has realized the key point of the Dharma. The western scholars (and my comprehension is limited to western scholarship work) call it “ultimatists” perspectives.

    “the ocean of compassion covers all sentient beings.
    even deities and nāgas hear the words of truth.
    if one knows oneself to be a buddha,
    One need not venerate the three Jewels in any other way”

    This is as vivid description of working directly from spiritual planes as any. If one grasp Mahamudra… simple not equal to easy.

    Last but not least, the Bardon’s work which is full of Tiferet symbolism and ideals. But that is (for me) far longer meditation.

    Once more, thank you for this post and place to share, think and write new thoughts.


  43. The symbols that Levi explores in this chapter are very much like the emblem Robert Graves used in his book “The White Goddess”: Three cranes and a pentagram. It was a book that made a huge impression on me – 50 years ago. (I was younger then.)

  44. Hi John Michael,

    It’s such an important question. And one we’re generally trained from a young age to disregard.

    I really tried hard to put some distance between err, it (that’s me being both amusing and serious at the same time), and where I wanted to be. This is something which is not as easy to do as you’d imagine. The system keeps drawing you back in. I’d have to suggest that maintaining that drawing-back-in mechanism must take an awful lot of energy, relative to the benefits. Hmm. I can well understand the frustration of Indigenous folks who probably want some aspects of civilisation, but all of it, let’s just say that I hold some doubts there.

    Hey, you gave me a useful analogy years ago, about the martial artist who rather than absorbing the energy of an opponent, instead neatly deflects the energy to the side and away. Thanks, and it’s a very useful mental model!



  45. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that this Simplicius Dark Futara post is relevant to this post. Reading it now but sure that “tip of the iceberg” is == or related to: material/etheric/astral/mental/etc.

    Basically talks about a lot of what has come up before in Ecosophia in that our “reality” is just a tiny fraction of what passes through the filter of our senses.

  46. I haven’t commented on these before but I have been following along. These posts definitely have helped me understand Levi better; I actually read this book before the book club but I didn’t get nearly as much out of it. I appreciate the essays and reading everyone’s thoughts each month. I’d also like to say that the fact that Brittney Spears and I are reading the same book is pretty mind boggling.

  47. @random #38 @JMG #41 – I have been thinking that if ideas, emotions, and passions are actual spirits and intelligences we should also consider it’s possible that it’s not a one-way street and those same sprits can evoke and conjure us.

    Am I correct that In the popular imagination when we evoke and conjure, the other beings (either from higher or lower planes) are aware of being evoked and conjured? If this is the case, for some reason, we are uniquely vulnerable as we are not really aware when we are being evoked and conjured from other planes. Or maybe, for many or most of these spirits, they experience the evocation the same way we do? That is, they dialed into our frequency but not really aware of an individual on the other end, only they have made some sort of contact.

  48. Yiğit, that post will have to be written by somebody else, as traditional religion isn’t something I practice, you know. I’ll have a few things to say about that next week.

    Changeling, good. I’m glad to see the book sparking interesting thoughts.

    Phutatorius, it’s worth a reread if you haven’t read it since then. As any Druid will tell you, the ravings of an inspired poet are worth listening to!

    Chris, that tactic of deflection is very, very useful!

    Scotty, the link didn’t come through. Can you post the link as text? Thank you.

    Ari, trust me, I’m just as boggled that Brittney Spears is reading one of my books…

    Scotty, good. I recommend much meditation on that.

  49. @ Justin Patrick Moore (#42) and others:

    I’m actually sympathetic to the notion that equal-temperament might have to be rolled back in favour of well-temperament. Ideally, I think we should rediscover our pre-classical musical traditions, without discarding the interesting discoveries of the Renaissance and beyond.

    Partly the reason I think this way is that the fixation on harmony and tempered tuning above all else is a specifically Faustian one – it’s another manifestation of that ‘straight line extended to infinity’. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we’ve taken it up to a point where popular music has degenerated to a collection of mostly-predictable chord progressions utilising a fairly narrow range of rhythmic ideas. The result is that you can take the vocal tracks from “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley, mix them into the instrumental track from almost any other pop/rock (be it the Beegees, Nirvana, or Nine Inch Nails), and the combination sounds identifiably musical. Once you realise that, a lot of contemporary music starts to sound pretty boring. Of course, you get weird outliers in jazz, ambient, prog, and the more technical end of heavy-metal, but even those scenes have been stagnating a bit in the past 15 years or so.

    We need to shake things up a bit, and the classical musicians are largely too fuddy-duddy and stiff to take up the challenge. We need to rediscover a more ancient approach to music. Those microtonal variations that sound so rich to our ears were once common across Western European singing, but were ironed out as the classical conservatoires established a musical orthodoxy.

  50. Here is the Dark Futura post by Simplicus:

    Upon my first read his focus is less on “external” planes such as astral, mental but more on our subconsciousness and how it was developed. Interesting bits about the theories put forth by some physicists and aboriginal dream time.

  51. @Ari, @JMG

    Ari, trust me, I’m just as boggled that Brittney Spears is reading one of my books…

    What would be even cooler is if she has been posting in The Doctrine of High Magic threads.

  52. @Scotty,

    I think being aware of being evoked/conjured from other planes depends on a person’s ability to perceive more than just the material plane. When I was younger, I could almost always sense the ‘vibe’ of a place, but now (that I do the SOP daily), the vibes I sense are more nuanced. Before, it was basically “I like this place” or “I want to leave”. Now, I can sometimes feel if places are happy or peaceful or tired or whatever. And there have been a few instances now where I distinctly felt like something was trying to communicate (sometimes for good, sometimes for definitely not-good). I suspect the ‘adepts’ on other planes can dial a specific phone number (ie, contact a specific entity, like a particular person), but the non-adepts just call the party line and hope someone picks up.

  53. @Scotty,

    I had another thought, not specific to evoking/conjuring, but about interactions between the spirits on other planes who aren’t even trying to evoke/conjure.

    Imagine if our astral body was a car. Driving on a road, with lots of other cars, is like interacting with other people’s astral bodies. Some people are good drivers (more aware of their astral) and they are considerate to other drivers on the road. Some people are bad drivers (not aware of their astral); not deliberately evil and trying to do harm, but so oblivious to the other cars on the road that they are a danger to themselves and others. And then there are some truly obnoxious drivers who do things they know are dangerous (because why? I don’t know… never understood people who drive like maniacs). I imagine some of the spirits on that plane are as unaware of us as some of the oblivious drivers are. That doesn’t mean they don’t affect us, though. That’s why we have to drive defensively (yeah, SOP!).

    And then the beings on the other planes who are evoking/conjuring… those are the ones that have a deer run out in front of us, or have your favorite song come on the radio, or decide how long the light stays yellow and red… 🙂

  54. Yes, Siliconguy, progress has diminishing returns. But the problem is current technology has been overwhelmed by today’s expanding population. If we had our current technology with a global population of 4 billion or less, life would be a lot less stressful. We probably wouldn’t even need much of our current technology since technology is basically a response to population growth.

  55. The notion of intelligences as beings, and thus ideas as beings, may help explain a few weird features of ideologies. First, the fact that they so often come in as fads, hold the thoughts of millions, and then fade out (in some cases quite suddenly) and become incomprehensible, makes sense: these ideas are floating there in the mental plane, and then for some reason turn their attention to human beings for a while. The result is a brief period of time (over historical time), during which time the ideology is moving around in the “space” human beings occupy on the mental plane: the unwary and unaware get dragged into it and completely consumed by it, while it exerts a kind of gravitational attraction on large numbers of others. Then, once it moves on, there’s a hollow shell left; and this hollow shell eventually collapses in on itself.

    This also helps explain why ideologies are so universally destructive: these beings live on the mental plane, and so they have absolutely no idea how the material plane works. I’m not sure what the experience is like for them, but it seems doubtful to me that many of them can figure out how the material plane functions, and so their efforts to improve things pretty reliably goes septic.

    Hmm. I think I’ve found a theme for at least a month of meditation here.

  56. Scotty, thanks for this. Fascinating stuff — and it intrigues me that someone who’s made a name for himself writing acute political and military essays is also turning his attention to the structures of consciousness and the realms that occultists deal with. As for Brittney Spears (or one of her employees), if so, who knows? It might be beneficial to a lot of people. I’m a very, very minor celebrity in fringe circles; she’s a major celebrity in the cultural mainstream — and if ideas from these posts find their way, directly or indirectly, to her audience, that could be a very good thing.

    Anonymous, excellent. If you can extract everything from that in a single month, you’ll be doing very, very well.

  57. Greetings all
    JMG said: “Training the will is one of the most revolutionary things anyone can do these days, because the entire structure of collective manipulation depends on you not having the strength to make your own choices and think your own thoughts.”

    And may be this is why there is such a push among materialist thinkers to convince everybody that free will does not exist with, after all, arguments that always sounded to me as dogmatic…


  58. About this: “It is for this reason that the old texts recommend that before evoking spirits or elementals, it is necessary to evoke the intelligence that governs them, and then to have the intelligence command the spirit or elemental.”

    If I understand it correctly, the Fellowship of the Hermetic Rose practices work from the bottom up, so to speak: E.g. work with Earth Elementals first, then ask them to introduce you to a Gnome, establish a good connection, then ask that Gnome to introduce you to an Earth Angel when you are ready for it.

    Is this simply a different approach, and if so: What are the pros and cons of each of the two approaches?

    Or am I on the wrong track here, and this is something else entirely?


  59. Karim, exactly. It’s also quite common for people who don’t want to take responsibility for their choices to insist that free will doesn’t exist.

    Milkyway, it is indeed a different method. The FHR approach works with scrying, also known as active imagination, which mediates between you and the entities you’re encountering; that mediation keeps you from being sucked into the mindset of the entity. (That’s why the Golden Dawn used scrying so heavily in dealing with elementals.) The downside is that scrying filters out much of the power — it’s like the difference between having a phone conversation with someone and actually meeting them. Evocation is face to face, so the power is much more substantial and thus much more dangerous.

  60. I really shouldn’t find it so amusing to realize it’s possible Britney Spears is among the Anonymoi….

  61. Roman,
    I think you may have the population driving technology thing backward. For well over a 1000 years the population of the earth remained about the same. It did not start to grow rapidly until the discovery and large scale utilization of fossil fuels ( coal at first). It was the availability of cheap abundant energy and the technology that accompanied it that made rapid population growth possible. It is common to think of Technology as some sort of separate thing that is advancing due to the cleverness of humans, when in most cases it is created in response to cheap and abundant energy.
    Davinci designed a helicopter but without the high density energy of petroleum the design was useless. The Haber-Bosch process for producing nitrogen based fertilizer probably contributed more to population growth than any other technology but it is useless with abundant natural gas.
    Humans are really no different than a colony of field mice. If a truckload of grain is spilled in the territory of the field mice the population will explode until the new energy source ( huge pile of grain) is used up, and then it will crash back to a level below ( for a time) where it was before.
    For the human population of earth fossil fuels were like a giant truck full of grain being dumped in our habitat. All of our technology has been gadgets to use up this energy more quickly ( and in many cases wastefully). As this cheap and abundant energy runs out the Earths population will collapse back to where it was before Humans stumbled on to this Motherload. Smart phones, The Internet, Airplanes, Sewage Treatment and Ginzu knives won’t change this at all. And once the energy is gone, then so will most of the “technology”. We may be able to hold on too a few books about how to make Microprocessors, or Moon Rockets but without the energy the real thing will disappear. If we are lucky we might be able to hold on to a few low energy bits such as basic antibiotics, simple surgery and bicycles.

  62. Hey JMG

    I have read the chapter, and I have a few questions concerning the trident of Paracelsus.

    1-When Levi described the trident as a pentacle, is he using that word in the general sense of magical sign or talisman, or does the trident have some secret relation to the pentagram or the number 5?
    2-Does anyone know what the symbols and words written on the trident mean? Some of the words seem to be Latin and the symbols look alchemical.
    3- Have you tried to unlock the true meaning of the trident as Levi hoped would be done?
    4-Also, what literature is there on the trident that would helpful in understanding its history and true meaning?

  63. I have just remembered Jimi Hendrix’s song Axis Bold As Love from the eponymous album.

    In this song Hendrix assigns emotions to personified colors.

    Lyrics here:

    The Wikipedia article for the album contains the following quote:

    “Hendrix composed the album’s title track and finale around two verses and two choruses, during which he pairs emotions with personas, comparing them to colors..”.

    Actually, I believe that Hendrix began with colors and paired them to different emotions and personas. I forgot the title of the biography I read in which it mentioned (almost in passing) that he had become interested in colors and their relationship with music.

    Anecdote by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame that Hendrix gave him a pink Fender Stratocaster guitar and “he said the color pink was not conductive to burning, so he gave it to me and said ‘play on, brother’.

    Keith Altham: Early in the morning, we set out to find an ‘indestructible’ guitar for Jimi. ‘I need a Fender,’ explained Jimi. We failed to get the model Jimi wanted but somehow later acquired one in Monterey. It was the wrong color but he remedied that by spraying it white and drawing swirling designs all over it with a felt pen.

    Anyway, a little pedantic to explore if Hendrix began with colors then paired them to emotions or started with emotions and paired them with colors. Either way, he was using the same score as this thread.

  64. When we were discussing the Hermit card, there was some discussion about the magical virtues (to dare, to know…). Levi, in a previous chapter, had recommended reading The Virgin of the World (by Hermes Tristmegistus) (available here I finally took his advice and thought I’d share another view of the virtues:

    “The panoply with which Greek art invests HERMES, is symbolical of the functions of the Understanding. He has four implements–the rod, the wings, the sword, and the cap, denoting respectively the science of the magian, the courage of the adventurer, the will of the hero, and the discretion of the adept.”

    (I also recommend the Introductory Essays and Preface.)

    (And I’m sure the other books are good, too, I just haven’t gotten that far.) 🙂

  65. Concerning the christian mystic you take today’s meditations from, the spelling we use in Catalan is Ramon Llull, and he is actually from Majorque. He is quite known in our culture because his writings, in XIII century old Catalan, are amongst the oldest and more wide-spread in our language. The actual contents of them, however, do not tend to generate much attention nowadays by the mainstream culture. Much of it is about how to prove Christianity superior to Islam or Judaism, philosophy/theology, medieval epistemology, meditations and occultism… neither of them fashionable subjects after disenchantment. I once tried to read one of his books but I soon realized I was not ready for it. After all, me too I’m an impatient son of disenchantment.
    In any case, it was nice to see him mentioned here.

  66. JMG:

    This month’s lesson connects with some mediation instructions I got when I lived in DC and attended Shambala. That was to understand your thoughts and emotions as things that are outside of you and thus not part of you. They affect you but are not you. I always thought of thoughts and emotions as objects we bump up against in this context, but Levi is talking about them as subjects we interact with. This is a whole other way of interacting with them. It also relates back to the disenchantment discussion about seeing things, animals, etc as subjects and not just dumb matter.

    This is blowing my mind, and yet I also feel like I am hearing it at the right time with previous work in Buddhism and now Magic giving me the foundation to be receptive and to work with it. Thank you again for providing this website!

  67. 1. If ideas, emotions and passions are spirits, beings with their own perceptions and intentions, then all human beings are permanently possessed. Is it some kind of otherworldly infestation that started in prehistoric times?

    2. If it is so, how does it affect Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am”? Who is it that actually thinks, who is it that actually is, and who or what is “I”?

  68. I’m only going to give “ideologies as mental plane beings” a month of meditations; I’ll probably circle back to it later, but I have around a dozen other topics worth at least a month I’d like to get to at some point. Even meditating twice a day, there’s too much to meditate on!

    My weirdest insight though is that Dogmatic Materialism is an ideology, and thus likely a being on the mental plane. It’s a very weird one though, since it rejects its own existence based on its own principles. I wonder if this is part of why dogmatic materialists seem to so often end up rejecting existence entirely (whether through solipsism or various other means), tend to adopt an attitude of “existence is bad”, and are prone to self-hatred and depression; those emotions seem to me to be clear translations down to the astral plane of the kind of contradiction in denying one’s own existence!

  69. Not Brittney, that’s the thing about anonymoi. For all you or I know, Vladimir Putin and Willie Nelson may be having a conversation here.

    Um, Clay and Roman, you’re way off topic. Please save it for an open post.

    J.L.Mc12, (1) Lévi was sloppy in his use of the word “pentacle.” The word he wanted was “pantacle,” which doesn’t have the reference to the number five and instead includes a sense that each pantacle is an image of the universe. (2) There are various interpretations; I encourate you to meditate on the words and symbols. (3) Yes. (4) Very little. Mouni Sadhu’s The Tarot gives it an interesting discussion.

    Scotty, that doesn’t surprise me at all. On the one hand, Hendrix always struck me as an extremely intuitive cat; on the other, a huge number of musicians in his generation had at least a nodding acquaintance with occultism.

    Random, hmm! Thanks for this; that’s very possibly where Lévi got the idea.

    Marti, thanks for this. I have enough Welsh readers that I usually avoid the Catalan spelling in print, since “ll” has a very distinctive sound in Welsh. As for Llull’s work, are you at all familiar with Yanis Damberg’s first-rate site on Llull and his work? He has computer programs to help students learn the Ars Combinatoria. You can find it online here:

    Chris S, you’re welcome and thank you. I wonder what would happen if Buddhists started treating thoughts and feelings as sentient beings capable of salvation…

    Eyrie, (1) not quite. You can be possessed by your thoughts and feelings, or you can possess them, or you can relate to them as companions and fellow-creatures. (2) Excellent! The Hindu teacher Sri Ramana Maharshi used to say that meditating on that very question is among the fastest ways to enlightenment.

    Anonymous, good heavens. That hadn’t occurred to me, but of course you’re right.

  70. About the four virtues: I hope I‘m not completely off the mark here, but I tend to think that in this particular phrasing, they might have originated in German, for the simple reason that the German translation sounds just a tad too good to be an accident, with rhyme, meter and alliterations… 😉

    zu _wissen, zu _wollen, zu _wagen
    _und nicht _weiterzu_sagen

    (I‘ve marked the stressed syllables with an underscore in front of them.)


    PS: If you want to be very fussy about the meter in the second part, I‘d propose the translation „und _doch nicht _weiterzu_sagen“ instead = „but still not to tell others“. 🙂

  71. Something else has struck me as potentially very, very interesting: the ideology that material existence is all there is is one of the few ideologies to appear repeatedly; unlike others, which tend to last for a while, fizzle out, and then vanish forever leaving people scratching our heads at what that was all about, dogmatic materialism keeps reappearing. It’s not the only ideology which does this, but it dates back over 2,000 years, and has emerged in disparate cultures.

    Further, upon reflection, there’s a case to be made that a large function of much of the oddities of religious and spiritual thinking serve to fight the strange appeal of this ideology. So it’s been here for some time. I wonder now if this entity is behind the weirdness of the Axial Age. Presumably, of course, it can’t last forever, but if this is the case, then I imagine it will be with us for quite some time.

  72. For all anyone else knows, “Not Britney” could be Britney Spears! 😉

    Something else has struck me: in theory, there ought to be millions of ways for a society to go off the rails, but human societies have consistently chosen to adopt a dogmatic materialism, a lack of intellectual rigor, and a host of other maladies which, well they don’t all obviously unfold from a complete rejection of anything besides the physical world, unfold from a deep seated intellectual contradiction and embrace of cultural paradox; this would seem to match the sense of an ideology with a deep seated contradiction and paradox built into it. Then religion comes back into vogue, and nearly all of them have clear defense mechanisms against materialism, such as the Abrahamic visceral hatred of Atheism. All of this suggests that the ideology of dogmatic materialism is a major factor in human thinking, shaping our societies in ways which go well beyond how most ideologies interact with us. This is deeply troubling to me in many ways, some of which I’m not able to put into words.

    I’m also curious if it might also exist on the spiritual plane, and be able to interact with people there: the curious rejection of the existence of a self, of divine energies, the pursuit of non-being, and the like, found in some forms of Buddhism seems very troubling to me in light of this possibility; and yet plenty of Buddhist mystics exist even in those schools….

  73. Milkyway, good heavens. Yes, that makes a great deal of sense — and of course in the 1850s there was a huge amount of cultural interaction between France and the German-speaking lands. Heine was living in Paris in those years, of course, and Wagner was in Paris toward the end of the decade; it’s quite plausible that other German expatriates might have brought traditions that Lévi studied.

    Anonymous, maybe so. We’ll see!

  74. JMG, when I first re-translated it back into German and the lightbulb went on, I did a (very quick) internet search to see if there is an obvious source. The only things I could find back then pointed to some Rosicrucian material, but in these sources, „nicht weitersagen“ (= not to tell others) was phrased as „schweigen“ (= to be silent).

    But then, of course, considering the fourth virtue, the Rosicrucians and others might not have made the exact phrasing public, especially if it might have been used in some ritual/magical ways, would they? 😀

    I‘d love to dig deeper into this, but am up to my ears in other studies. At some later point, hopefully.


  75. On what level would traditional spiritual entities, like the God and Goddess of Wicca, or Jesus or Zeus exist? Spiritual? Causal? Divine?
    What would an example of an intelligence be?
    I think I agree that Progress isn’t a entity. It’s a myth, a story about how the universe works. I don’t see any aliveness to it.

  76. Hi John Michael,

    Apologies, this is way off topic, and please indulge me here. Things are moving fast and I don’t expect a reply at this late stage in the weekly cycle, but if you have time? Hmm. Nothing quite says the word ‘broke’ possibly like: Commonwealth Games scrapped in regional Victoria as government redirects allocated money. Our state Premier looks like a very committed funeral director, but might possibly have something of a dodgy memory problem. After the state was locked down for another four months during you-know-what (and we hold the world record), nobody could recall who or why that edict was issued. It looks like incompetence to me, but given some of the agreements signed which have now been ripped up, he may also possibly be a Sinophile.

    Anyway, the other interesting thing is that our Japanese friends are testing missiles on Aussie soil. Japan to fire advanced ship-killing missile on Australia’s shores. Not much says ‘keep your distance, like those sorts of things’.

    Far out. My! People come and go so quickly here! 🙂 Crazy days huh?



  77. Well didn’t this chapter just make a truly cogent and compelling argument in favor of discursive meditation? Unlike the exclusionary disregard of mindfulness meditation or the exclusive consideration of repeating a mantra [aka: an ideology], discursive meditation invites in not only the spirit of the idea nominally being explored, but all of its close friends and relations as well. It’s like creating within us a playground for ideas to thoroughly enjoy themselves in. Although there are certainly some inherently grumpy, stand-offish ideas out there, I imagine most ideas are quite delighted to discover a quirky new friend who’s willing to hang out with their entire motley crew.

    If idea beings are anything like human beings, then most of them probably just pass by anyone who arrogantly demands of them that they must quit their entire circle of friends should they ever want to merit the least consideration. Such thoughtless pomposity would easily beget ever-greater thoughtlessness, as idea beings would start giving the tiresome VIP an ever-wider berth. Actually, that kind of pretentious conceit sounds peculiarly similar to our neurotically social-signaling overlords, whom I most certainly always try to avoid like the plague!

    Come to think of it, it’s kind of interesting that said overlords, associated wannabes, and hangers on, all of whom appear to be unable to practice anything as acceptingly un-judgmental as discursive meditation, are currently the human beings most bound up in exclusive ideologies and exclusionary disregard. I wonder how they managed to befriend those particular isolating, stand-offish idea beings to the exclusion of all the other ones, who could so easily get them out of the fix they’ve now put themselves in?

    Perhaps the gods simply put them here on earth as a warning to the rest of us: choose your friends wisely, lest you become a prisoner to their more noxious habits. What a foolish spell they’ve fallen under / cast over themselves. It’s certainly worth pondering what dubious intentions or morally-compromised goals led them to evoke the rabid ideologies they’ve chosen to destroy themselves with.

  78. Milkyway, fascinating. The poem may well have been one of the secret teachings of a Rosicrucian lodge, and in that case, those who knew it would be careful never to quote it exactly.

    Tomriverwriter, depends on the entity. Most actual gods are, as you’d expect, on the divine plane. Some of the things that humans worship, however, are astral egregors that have only the power their worshippers give them — I’ve wondered more than once if the generic “God and Goddess” of Wicca was one of those. Intelligences? Most people don’t encounter them directly; you’ll find their names and information in old handbooks of ceremonial magic. For example, the intelligence of Mercury is named Tiriel, and if you evoke him and commune with him, he will assist you in any work of learning, especially those having to do with languages and communication.

    Chris, oh, that doesn’t scream financial crisis at all, does it? Interesting…

    Christophe, ha! I like this. Discursive meditation as a party to which you invite a bunch of ideas and their friends, and everyone sits around having a great time — yeah, that works.

  79. Chris # 79:

    “Commonwealth Games scrapped in regional Victoria as government redirects allocated money.”
    No more “panem et circenses”, bread and circus!
    Christophe #80:

    “the exclusionary disregard of mindfulness meditation”

    Yeah, a good and fast definition of (the worst of) mindfulness…

  80. When Britney Taylor Spears Swift came to the region of the great colluseum for her massively expensive concert, she asked her disciples, “Who do people say Britney Taylor Spears Swift really is?”
    They replied, “Some say the person who wrote her songs; others say a media simulacra; and still others, a figment of their own imagination.”
    “But what about you?” she asked. “Who do you say I am?”

    As this song shows, by cleverly using the original Stairway to Heaven, with not Britney Spears lyrics, it is very possible she may be interested in magic and mysticism.

  81. @JMG I think I know what you mean about the Wiccan deities. They don’t have distinct personalities, and represent all men and all women. Each follower has their own understand of what all men and all women are. So the pair become the projection of the followers’ minds.
    I evoke the Lord and Lady every full and new moon (when they choose to come.) I’m aware they are primarily a part of myself that my everyday ego doesn’t allow me to see, and that the processes of creating a circle allows those hidden parts to emerge and speak. Yet they have been leading me away from themselves for a few years now, taking different forms, merging together, showing their similarities. It’s very hard not to treat them as intelligences.
    Regarding Tiriel: I’ve been trying to learn French and Spanish since the COVID lockdown began, but haven’t made much progress. I will read Levi carefully to see if Tiriel can help somehow.

  82. When I added up the letters in ABRACADABRA, I got 52 assuming A=1 and R=18.
    Is the missing 14 derived from (15-1) from the figures, or would the original French add extra numbers for the accented versions of letters? Or is this a straight-up math error?

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