Book Club Post

The Ritual of High Magic: Chapter 5

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 Five:  The Flaming Pentagram” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 246-250).


The further Lévi proceeds in his exploration of the practice of high magic, the more traps he sets out  for those who can only interpret his words in a literal sense. To give our author credit, he goes out of his way to warn the readers of this. Consider the second sentence in the current chapter:  “Here the ignorant and the superstitious may shut this book; they will only see shadows or will be scandalized.”

The ignorant, in effect, are those who have not paid attention to the first half of Lévi’s text; the superstitious are those who, whether they have read the first part of the book or not, cling to the outward forms of magic and ignore the inward meaning of the things Lévi has to say.  The shadows in which they will wander blindly are the symbols in which Lévi has embodied and concealed his teachings, and the scandal—why, that is the standard reaction to Lévi’s insistence on interpreting magic in terms of his own idiosyncratic but devout Christian faith, and interpreting that faith in terms of the doctrines of magic.

It’s a very ancient symbol.

The pentagram, one of the core symbols of magic since very ancient times, has been a magnet for such misunderstandings almost as long. Since Lévi’s time, certainly, people in some of the more dogmatic religious groups have insisted at the top of their lungs that the pentagram is always and only a Satanic symbol.  This claim displays an embarrassing degree of ignorance. I have more than once reduced fundamentalists of the magic-hating sort to incoherent rantings by pointing out to them that every one of the fifty stars on the American flag is a pentagram, and the Congressional Medal of Honor—the highest award for military valor this country has to offer—is an inverted pentagram.

A pentagram is simply a star-shape made by interweaving five lines of equal length.  It’s a symbol with a very long history.  Back in ancient Greek times, Pythagoras made it the symbol of his brotherhood, as a symbol of health of body and mind—it so happens that the ancient Greek word for health, ‘υγεια, has five letters, and the five equal lines and five equal points suggested to Pythagoras and his followers the balance of earth, water, fire, air, and spirit that leads to perfect health. Later on, during the Middle Ages, it was adopted into Christian symbolism; the Middle English romance Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight thus assigns Gawain a red shield with a golden pentagram upon it, and assigns to it among other things the five wounds of Christ upon the cross and the five joys of the Virgin Mary:

[A]ll his faith in the field was in the five wounds
that Christ had on the cross, as the creed tells.
And wherever this man in mêlée was met,
his first thought was that, over all other things,
all his force in fight he found in the five joys
that Heaven’s holy Queen had of her child;
for this cause the knight fittingly had
on the inner side of his shield her image painted,
that when he beheld her his boldness never failed.

Later still, in the Renaissance, the pentagram became associated with the planet Mars, which was located in the fifth heaven of the old astrology, and since Mars corresponds to the human will, the pentagram became the emblem of the will; then it took on the meaning of the spirit’s mastery over the four material elements; from there it became the symbol of the microcosm, the human individual as a mirror of the cosmos.  That was where Lévi took it up.

He, or perhaps the Cabalistic traditions he inherited from his teacher Hoëné Wronski, assigned the pentagram to the astral light, the Great Magical Agent of his theory.  With one point up and two down, it represented the dual powers of the astral light mastered by the enlightened will of the individual, while with two points up and one point down, it represented the currents of the astral light overwhelming the inept sorcerer and drowning his awareness in their surging tides.

Thus the pentagram, like the human will—or for that matter the human soul—can be oriented toward good or toward evil. It can bless or blast, heal or harm, rise or fall. This is the nature of magic. Wherever you are going, “down to Gehenna or up to the Throne,” magic will take you there faster than most other things.

It is very common in magical practice to have one or more pentagrams chalked on the floor, or painted on the altar, or worn as a jewel above the heart, or otherwise physically present. It is not merely common but essential in magical practice for the pentagram in its symbolic sense—the will of the mage, the astral light he or she directs, the macrocosm of his or her own body—to be constantly present. Lévi is talking about both of these senses when he goes into the details of the pentagram’s role in magic, and he constantly and deliberately muddles them together. He says, for example, “the sign of the pentagram must be composed of the seven metals.” A pentagram made from an alloy of silver, mercury, copper, gold, iron, tin, and lead, the electrum magicum of medieval lore, is in fact a worthwhile thing to have in magical practice, but this passage also refers to the need to achieve a balance of the planetary forces in the body and soul of the mage.

Similarly, you can make a pentagram emblem for your altar top out of white marble and gold, and a very nice altar top it would be. Gold is the emblem of the Sun, white marble a symbol of the Earth raised to its highest degree of purity; as an emblem, this represents the relations of soul and body, or from a different perspective, the solar and telluric currents of magical lore. A pentagram drawn with vermilion on white lambskin is also an effective talisman, but I trust I don’t have to remind my Christian readers just who was the spotless lamb sacrificed during the Easter season.  Lévi is suggesting here that the practice of Christian morality is among the ways to establish the mastery of the will over the elements that makes for effective magic.

One heck of a good book.

Finally, though he mentions this later on, the pentagram in ritual can also be drawn in luminous lines on glass using an electrical machine.  Nowadays, largely as a result of fantasy fiction, a great many people think of magic as something necessarily allied with medieval technology, but that wasn’t the case in Lévi’s time. The electrical machine he had in mind was an elegant little bit of Victorian technology that generated blue-white glowing lines on glass. (Fans of occult detective fiction will recall that William Hope Hodgson’s detective Carnacki was equipped with an “electric pentacle” to repel evil spirits; it’s very likely that Hodgson read Lévi.)

The modern equivalent would be a pentagram that was laser-etched into a pane of glass, which is set upright in a base containing blue-white LEDs. That would be a fascinating piece of magical hardware and might work very well.  At the same time, there’s a symbolic message here, which is that magic isn’t a medieval hangover, in any sense of that latter word you prefer; it’s entirely compatible with modern technology and the modern world.

Each of his instructions can thus be taken in at least two senses, as a literal recipe for magical practice or as a philosophical statement expressed in symbolic form.  Which of these are readers meant to follow?  Both, in a certain sense. The philosophical statement is mandatory; the literal recipe is optional, but it is certainly one of the available possibilities.

It’s entirely possible to follow Lévi’s instructions exactly as given, and to get good results in magic, provided that the mage also understands the symbolism and pursues the work of self-mastery and self-knowledge that the symbols teach. It’s equally possible to understand the symbolism and pursue that work, while following a different set of magical disciplines, and get equally good results.  It’s the student who follows the recipe literally, but  never understands what else the instructions are meant to communicate, who is doomed to become the plaything of the forces he invokes.

Equally, though, sloppy magic is ineffective magic. Notes our text, “One must thus absolutely abstain from magical ceremonies or accomplish them all scrupulously and exactly!” This is excellent advice. If you are following an existing set of magical procedures—and this is always the best option for beginners—follow them precisely to the letter; you will gain strength of will by overcoming the temptation to tinker with things you don’t yet understand. Once you have a solid grasp of magical theory and practice, Lévi’s maxim still applies; what it means for the adept is that every single detail of the working must be carefully designed and executed precisely so as to further the intention that guides the work.

Approach the magical instructions in this chapter while keeping in mind the points just made, and you should have no trouble making sense of them. A few words may be useful, however, regarding three sets of symbolism that Lévi evokes in the last part of this chapter.

The European version…

The first is the G that Freemasons put in the center of the flaming star.  This is a European habit; in the United States, the G is usually found in the middle of the square and compasses. (The difference is important, though you won’t find one Mason in a hundred who can explain it. It has to do with different systems of geometry used by the old operative stonemasons: the pentagram, the flaming star of Masonic symbolism, expresses the ratio called the Golden Section, the core relationship of one school of sacred geometry, which flourished in the Renaissance; the square and the compasses set to an angle of 60° express two more, the ad quadratum and ad triangulum schools, which were central to medieval craft masonry.)

…and the American.

The meaning of the letter G in either Masonic emblem is a matter of some dispute. In standard American Masonic writings it is said to stand for God, and it is of course true that belief in a Supreme Being is an absolute requirement for regular Masonic membership. Other authors say that it stands for Geometry.  Certain European Masonic writings claim that it stands for Gnosis, that is, personal acquaintance with spiritual realities; others, of a more scandalous sort, insist that it stands for Generation, and drop various hints about the sexual dimensions of occultism; while many of those writers who claim that Masonry is primarily a political conspiracy interpret it as Government.  (Then there are the brethren of a certain jurisdiction where I was active for some years, who insisted that it stands for “green beans,” because of the relentless presence of that vegetable in their lodge banquets!)

Which of these is correct?  The old teachings of the Masonic Craft do not say. Masonry in the modern world is an astonishing spectacle, a set of traditional initiations and symbols passed on by rote for centuries by men who by and large have no idea what they mean. If Masonic rituals included magical practices, Lévi’s warning of the dangers of ignorant repetition would be highly appropriate, but there’s no magical ritual in the Craft, just a set of strange and moving medieval initiations and a body of symbolism that once meant much more than it does now.

The second is the set of Christian symbols Lévi discusses just after the reference to Masonry. We have already discussed Lévi’s complex relationship with mainstream Christianity in earlier chapters, and it will appear again as we proceed, because Lévi was a devout Christian but had a highly critical take on the standard Christian beliefs of his time and ours. The imagery he presents here introduces nothing we haven’t seen before, though it provides a good summary of Lévi’s side of the quarrel.

Lévi’s pentagram. Not one detail is arbitrary.

The third, finally, is the ornate pentagram Lévi himself created, and placed at the end of this chapter — yes, that’s it on the right.  It includes, beside the pentagram itself, the seven traditional planets, the four elemental working tools, the letters Alpha and Omega, the word “Tetragrammaton” divided in a peculiar way, and the Hebrew for Adam, Eve, Chesed (Mercy), and Pachad (Fear), as well as two eyes. This is meant, of course, as a theme for meditation, and its interpretation is therefore left to the reader’s own efforts.

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 6, “The Medium and the Mediator,” on October 11, 2023. See you then!


  1. Hi JMG,

    A few months ago, I bought a copy of The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic. I’ve now brought myself up to speed with a first reading of the chapters and monthly discussion posts thus far. Some of your pieces have been so deeply illuminating of an at times nigh impenetrable text. Thank you!

    I’m wondering if any of the commentariat have solved the riddle in chapter 21 of the Doctrine. I perused the comments for that chapter and the few following and didn’t see anything.

    I have two possible solutions.

    The first is the Hebrew word Nephilim (NPLYM or 770). We arrive at this answer by multiplying Aleph (1) by Nun final (700), and then adding the five letters of the word DEVIN in such a manner as to enter five into four and two into one. The latter means we only add the sum of four of the letters (D, V, I, N: 4+6+10+50=70, and 70+700=770). We skip adding the value of E to the sum (which is A), entering four into five and two into one (A has already been added, thereby joining two into one).

    The second solution takes into account the phrase “in the words which express science, art, or puissance” as an indication that we are talking about Latin gematria. Using Agrippa’s cipher, multiplying A (1) times N (40) equates to 40. If we then add the letters of DEVIN in Hebrew gematria (4+1+6+10+50=71) to 40, we get 111, the value of Aleph.

    Are either Nephilim or Aleph the answer? Either one would seem to be “a word of which the holy Tetragrammaton is but an image,” as well something “even more mysterious” than being divine.


  2. At this link is a complete list of all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared across the Ecosophia community. A printable version of the entire prayer list current as of 9/11 may be downloaded here. 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.

    * * *

    Here are a few of the prayer requests on this week’s list.

    May Erika’s partner James, who has just learned he has cancer all over inside him on his liver and lungs, be blessed, healed and protected.

    Christine Marie and Stephen Paul are to be married in Cardiff Castle on Thursday 21 September at 9:00am. May they (and Christine’s children Hugo and Casper) be blessed with a successful marriage full of love, good health, and happiness.

    In the case of Princess Cutekitten and the large bank who is suing her, may justice be done, with harm to none.

    May Josh Schaad‘s soul be blessed and eased in his soul’s transition into death, and may his wife Alyssa and sons Gavin and Caden be blessed and protected, and find what comfort they can during this very difficult time.

    Neptunesdolphin’s husband has just had his big toe partially amputated due to a staph infection, and his diabetes has worsened in connection. He and she and son all are struggling to cope with the difficult situation, made no easier by the fact that all three have different varieties of mental impairment.May Neptunesdolphin’s husband heal quickly and vigorously, and successfully manage his diabetes; and may her family all get through the situation successfully and with grace. (Latest update here)

    Steve T’s brother Matt is currently in the hospital after a sudden violent seizure, and his daughter is having extreme panic attacks; they were both in a terrible car accident last fall. Steve asks for prayers for;Matt’s recovery of health; for the emotional and psychological well-being of the rest of the family, including his wife Megan, his daughter Diana, and his young son Jake; and for the lifting of any spiritual harmafflicting the family.

    Lp9’s hometown, East Palestine, Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people, animals and all living beings in and around East Palestine, and to improve the natural environment there to the benefit of all. The reasonable possibility exists that this is an environmental disaster on par with the worst America has ever seen. (Lp9 gives updates here and also here.)

    * * *
    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.

  3. Perhaps this is an inopportune moment to bring up this question, if so, I apologize. My question is: Why would one want to practice magic at all? By all accounts it is better to avoid magic than it is to do it badly. I can see that the development of the Will is a worthwhile goal but why would that necessarily entail calling upon energies/entities? Even supposing that these entities are not solely one’s material plane mind attempting to make some kind of sense of non-Newtonian realities, what would one ask of such a being? It all reminds me more than a bit of nuclear technologies; a few potentially remarkable uses but far too risky and expensive (in many ways) to make it a wise avenue of exploration.

    Here on the Pacific coast, I have seen far too many “magical” people that appear to me to be on a very nasty track. I’m not talking about evil per se but more a self-delusional downward spiral in their personal lives. It appears to me that it tends to be people who feel powerless in this world who are drawn to “magical” solutions, whether that be blind faith in religious/cult or secular teachings/leaders or inexpertly meddling with the magic that Levi describes.

    So, I am back to my question: Why practice magic?

  4. Take one of the 5 lines of a Pentagram. Divide it’s length by the closest intersecting line. That perfectly equals the golden mean.
    Take the resulting length and divide it by the remaining intersecting line. That also perfectly equals the golden mean
    The golden mean is a ratio meaning: the small is to the large as the large is to the whole.

    The golden mean. Phi. 1.618033989…… is a mathematical way of saying “As above, so below”.

    A way to transmit, relate, resonate meaning through all scales of existence.

    Divide your total height by the height of your belly button, where you came into this world. The same golden mean. (Nobody is perfect, but humanity, as a whole, works out to exactly the golden mean).

    Five embeds the golden mean.
    Five embeds “As Above, So Below”.
    Two legs, two arms and one head out from our body – that’s 5.
    Five toes at the end of each leg.
    Five fingers at the end of each arm.
    Five senses on the head.

    Just one way to look at it. But endlessly fascinating.

    Thanks for all of your efforts.

  5. Jonsimkins, Lévi doesn’t give answers in the back of the book — or anywhere else. For what it’s worth, I tend to think that Aleph is the answer, but it’s only a guess.

    Quin, thanks for this as always.

    William, you’re most welcome.

    Ken, it’s a reasonable question. To some extent, the best answer is Louis Armstrong’s comment when asked to define jazz: “Man, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.” Magic is like any other fine or performing art: it’s a whale of a lot of work, your chance of making it in the big leagues is not that good, and there are many ways to crash and burn. That’s even more true of magic than it is (say) of music or writing, since these latter arts at least work in a medium that most people can experience directly; magic works with consciousness, and mostly with the consciousness of the mage.

    Yet some people are drawn to music and can’t be happy unless they’re practicing and performing. Some people are called to poetry, and spend their lives struggling to make ends meet while their off hours go into crafting verse. Pick an art, any art, and your serious practitioners aren’t there because they weighed the options and decided it was their best bet — they’re doing it because it’s their life. Magic is the same way.

    Keep in mind, though, that most serious occultists aren’t public about it at all. (The exceptions are people like me who make a living writing or teaching about magic, and have to cultivate a public image to sell books or attract students.) The people who go around parading their supposedly magical status are either clueless beginners or they’re poseurs. Yes, many of them are following various self-defeating paths; I can tell you plenty of stories about the Neopagan disability cult, for example, and so can any other experienced occultist. Most of the serious occultists I know hold down jobs, have happy relationships, and lead productive and uncomplicated lives — but you won’t find out that they’re occultists unless you know the right people or can read certain signs.

    One final note. You’re mistaken in thinking that magic is all about calling on entities. The most important magic any mage does is work with and on his or her own self, and the energies that matter most are those hardwired into the human body, mind, and spirit. What you’re asking of yourself in magic is the fulfillment of the potentials for power and wisdom that God or the gods, depending on your theology, placed within you. That’s not a path for everyone — and if it’s not your path, then by all means do something else.

    Chris, good! Yes, the geometry of the pentagram can keep you busy for a good long time. I decided not to get into it in this essay, mostly for reasons of space, but of course it’s relevant.

  6. Thank you for that response. You have often referred to magic as an art; I missed the multiple meanings of that term! As a spiritual path, I see how the art of magic could be a good one for some. Your Armstrong quote was quite apt for me too: I don’t ‘get’ jazz either! I did appreciate my year of studying the tarot and I continue to enjoy your tutorial on Levi.

    I have a question regarding reincarnation and remembering past lives but that is pretty far off topic for this week’s post, so I’ll save it for another week.

  7. JMG, the definition of magic in your answer to Ken is quite intriguing; I had similar thoughts about the subject. The practical aspects of magic, which so often dominate ideas about magic in non-occult venues are, maybe, not the most important in reality, but rather a useful side-show?

  8. This explanation of the pentagram and some of what it symbolizes is illuminating; thank you.

    What is a Neopagan disability cult? Are you referring to Neopagans being especially fond of being drama queens whose own worst enemies are facing them in the mirror every morning or something else?

  9. Why have I never thought to put a pentagram on the threshold of the front door? I will make this a daily habit.

  10. Thank you for this latest installment!

    The DMH uses the upright and inverted pentagrams to stand for the solar and telluric currents, combined with the symbolism of the Ogham plants that make up each pentagram, and I see in this post the reference to both of those currents in terms of the overall symbolism of the pentagram.

    However, if the inverted pentagram, with two points up, also “represented the currents of the astral light overwhelming the inept sorcerer and drowning his awareness in their surging tides”, then are rituals from the DMH that use the inverted pentagram affected by the traces of this aspect of the pentagram’s symbolism?

    Apologies in advance if I have misread something.

  11. If I may, I have a question about the pentagram that I’ve been contemplating but gotten a bit stuck on:

    In the past you’ve mentioned the possible negative effects of the cultural habit of choosing diamonds to adorn wedding bands, since they carry a discordant energy. I’m wondering about a similar situation with a particular variant of the pentagram.

    It’s been common for a while now, among the overlapping sets of goths, metalheads, and neopagans, to see pentacles with the points of the star sticking out of the circle, whether the star is upright or not.

    If the points represent the five elements, that would seem to render it useless as a way of containing those forces in a magic circle, or as a protective symbol, since the boundaries are being actively breached.

    It would further seem to attune it not with Martial energy but Uranic, and this would seem to fit with the general vibe of goth and metal subcultures at least.

    So do we have people walking around with a symbol they may think is protective but is in fact a sign saying “kick me?” Is it worse than that?

    Or am I misreading the symbolic and occult implications of that particular symbol?

  12. I asked Chat GTP why the Catholic Mass required a portion of a human corpse at the alter.

    “The Catholic Mass is a sacred and deeply symbolic ritual for Catholics, and the presence of an altar is an essential part of this religious practice. However, it’s important to note that the Catholic Church does not require an altar to contain a portion of a human corpse.

    Traditionally, altars in Catholic churches contain relics, which are physical objects associated with saints or holy individuals. These relics can be anything from a small bone fragment to a piece of clothing. Relics are seen as a connection to the saint or holy person, and they serve as a reminder of their faith and devotion.

    In some cases, altars may indeed contain relics of saints, including bone fragments or other bodily remains. The purpose of these relics is to honor and venerate the saint, and to create a tangible connection between the faithful and the holy person they represent.

    However, it’s important to note that not all altars contain relics, and the presence of relics can vary from church to church. The decision to include relics on an altar is ultimately up to the discretion of the church authorities and the local customs and traditions.”

  13. I have not heard of ‘electrum magicum’ before. 7 metals making 1 pentagram adds up to 8. Achieving a balance of planetary forces in the body and soul of the mage makes it sound like Spiritual Alchemy. Hmm. And then you add in @Chris Farmer’s ideas about all the golden ratios in a pentagram… Makes you want to go off and search for a recipe to see what the ratio of metals are to each other in electrum magicum!

  14. Amazing, magical, marvelous stuff JMG even though you speak a language of the occult that is very unfamiliar to me.
    While you have been writing this series of essays, I have been engrossed writing a series of essays exploring the evolution of the English language we speak i.e engrossed learning a profoundly different language to the Crown dialect of English we are inculcated in.

    I am a bit blind (diplopic) and scan key words for meaning. The following word patterns in your essay stood out for me:

    “Back in ancient Greek times…A pentagram is simply a star-shape made by interweaving five lines of equal length ….the balance of earth, water, fire, air, and spirit that leads to perfect health.

    … in the Renaissance, the pentagram became…. the emblem of the will; then it took on the meaning of the spirit’s mastery over the four material elements; from there it became the symbol of the microcosm, the human individual as a mirror of the cosmos…

    …Thus the pentagram, like the human will—or for that matter the human soul—can be oriented toward good or toward evil. It can bless or blast, heal or harm, rise or fall. This is the nature of magic”

    COMMENT. My draft tables of historical behavioural and etymological change show a consistent, radical shift to unsustainability this past three or four centuries with the rise of the Anglosphere Empire. This shift to meaning that is in complete denial of the principles of energy portends our self-destruction.
    Observe how the pentagram speaks to Ancient Greeks of the balance of the psyche with the elements.
    These notions of harmony vanish with “The Renaissance” and we observe how the pentagram becomes associated with the psyche’s mastery over the universe, or so, in the absence of compassion, the ego in us would have believe.
    Then observe how the pentagram becomes a symbol of our alienation from all with the human psyche being a “mirror” of the cosmos i.e. we (some) human beings are not embedded in the continuous universal change. Without compassion, the ego becomes our will, our exclusive world view. We create and bow to gods like The Minister/Secretary of Energy, call mineral biomass “energy” and “fossil fuel” and we fight wars for “National Energy Independence”.
    And magically earth becomes deserts and landslides, water becomes floods and droughts, fire becomes continent-wide forest fires, air becomes heat-waves and hurricanes and the psyche self-destructs.
    My latest essays add complementary, contemporary dimensions to your fascinating article and can be seen at
    Failing that, you can spot it at

  15. Ken, thank you for this response! By all means post your reincarnation question on Magic Monday, or if you like, on the open post here on the fourth Wednesday.

    Jon, thanks for this.

    Booklover, exactly! Renaissance occultists used to talk about the ergon, “the work,” and the parergon, “the side gig” — yes, that’s almost literally what it means. Practical magic is the side gig. The transformation of the self is the real work.

    Ilovemusictheory, I wish. No, it’s something considerably more problematic than that. I know a very large number of Neopagans who have dropped out of the workforce, gotten a compliant doctor to label them disabled, draw government disability checks, and will go on about their health problems by the hour. Most of the ones I know personally are perfectly capable of working; they just don’t want to have to put up with a job, and they learn from more experienced Pagans which doctors will rubberstamp their claims of disability and which government offices won’t ask hard questions. Then there are the Wiccan traditions where it’s axiomatic that once you’re initiated as a High Priestess, you’re going to gain 100 pounds, lose your job and your boyfriend, and go on disability. It’s not something to look into if you want to think well of your fellow human beings.

    Jon, if you have a doormat, put some mugwort leaves under it — that will keep away annoying callers.

    Jbucks, the letter P stands for the “p” sound in English and the “r” sound in Russian. In the same way, Lévi uses the point-down pentagram to mean one thing and the DMH system uses it to mean something different.

  16. I paused for a year after getting my Bardic grade at cgd because it felt like I still had work to do before moving from theory and warm-ups into what I would compare with weapons handling. Getting injured from previous experiments left me a little gunshy, but on reflection the lessons learned served me well. Your series gives me hope that it’s possible to overcome the conditions that have been holding me back and maybe it’s time to try again. At least your systems seem to have guardrails in place if followed to the letter.

  17. I like Paul Case’s comments on the pentagram. To the uninitiated it a symbol that evokes fear. To the initiate, a symbol of power. To the adept, perfect justice.

    I also like Bruce Lee’s explanation of a punch. At first a punch is just a punch. During training a punch is no longer a lunch. After mastery, it is just a punch.

  18. Slithy, the pentagram with points extending beyond the circle isn’t protective in nature, but it’s not necessarily a negative symbol. It’s precisely a symbol of the will breaking through boundaries and limitations, and worn with that intention it’s an affirmation of freedom and personal autonomy. Since that’s an important theme in these subcultures, it seems quite appropriate to me.

    Rapha, I don’t recommend asking a chatbot questions about Catholic theology and practice. You’re correct that since the second Vatican council it’s no longer strictly required to have relics in every Catholic altar, but the primary altar in a church normally contains the relics of two saints, and one of them should be a first class relic, i.e., part of the saint’s body. Here’s a good essay on Catholic teaching concerning relics — you might want to have your chatbot friend read it.

    Random, good. There are several recipes for electrum magicum. One I know is ten parts of pure gold, ten of silver, five of copper, two of tin, two of lead, one part of powdered iron, and five of mercury.

    Dave, interesting. Thanks for this; I’ve put your essays on my get-to list.

    Aloysius, those guardrails are important. I’ve worked very hard to install them.

    Arthur, Bruce had a way with words! One of the few things I miss about living in Seattle is that I used to visit his grave from time to time. One time somebody had made a bouquet of faux flowers for him by taking three pairs of nunchaku and driving a shuriken into each end, then bundling them together with the nunchaku for stalks and the shuriken for blossoms…

  19. Hmm… that adds up to 35 parts, which reduces to 3 + 5 = 8.

    It seems appropriate that the parts of silver equals the parts of gold, and that tin and lead (Jupiter and Saturn) are equal parts. But five of Venus for one of Mars? That will require some pondering.

  20. Many thanks.
    I was sure the alloy was not literally an alloy, but I missed what it could be.
    Similarly, plants and perfums that are suggested later in chapter 7 all are associated with one or another planetary force.

    I suppose that when doing a work under the auspices of a planet, the mage should add as many elements associated with that planet as possible, both as an exercise of will and as a mental anchor.

    Adding to what JMG said, I can say that doing the ‘work’ feels like reading self help book on steroids.
    I don’t know if I am doing a magical work, certainly it doesn’t look like it from the outside, but I am following the practices and studying the suggested books. As a result, I’ve experieced a few positive changes.
    The best one, in my opinion, is to be able to control my emotions without repressing them. Another big change has been to recognise and accept what I cannot change and focus my efforts on what’s in my hands. It’s surprising how much you can succeed when you don’t fight wars you cannot win.

    Other secondary benefits is being more conscious of the spiritual side, how every physical action has effects on the psyche. I am no longer blaming the crazy people who do irrational things, but learning what other spiritual factors I wasn’t considering before, and guessing better how they will react. As a result, my interactions with these people have improved.

    Then, there’s this eerie thing of having visions of things to happen, maybe as a result of training the imagination, but it is not very useful because I don’t know what the vision exactly means until the real event has happened.
    Also, I am finding myself receiving blessings for an event I am organising with friends. I don’t know how to describe it. We need something for the event, and we are finding donors, we have questions and we get the consultors for free, in seemingly no time. It feels like a force pushing in the same direction, removing the obstacles. We are glad, of course, but don’t know how or who to express gratitude other than make it a great event.
    While this is useful, I don’t know how to produce it on purpose.

  21. Hi John Michael,

    Hmm. Mercy, huh? I’m left with a vague ticklish intuition that mercy in this context means something entirely different from the literal meaning of the word. Please correct me here, but I’m getting a sort of vibe about discernment in the use of the form. Not entirely sure. This is an odd chapter. And Fear in this context is clearly a warning as to the discernment, or at least that is how I interpret things. And who’s are the eyes? Are they our own? There’s a lot to unpack in that symbolism.



  22. JMG, To your knowledge have a disproportional number of the disability pagans and overweight Wiccan high priestesses congregated in Portland Oregon? I don’t have any direct knowledge that this is true, but your description seems to fit a number of people I see around the Rose City these days.

  23. Random, ponder away. 😉

    Abraham, yes, very much so.

    Chris, there is indeed — and no question, mercy is a far more complex and subtle concept than it looks at first glance.

    Clay, you’ll find them in abundance these days wherever there’s a significant Neopagan scene. Portland’s got a lot of Neopagans, but Seattle has at least as many and some other cities have more.

  24. #21 Random,

    Venus retrogrades 5 times every 8 years, creating near-perfect pentagrams.
    Copper, its metal, alloys nicely with many other metals.

    Mars corresponds to 5, but otherwise has a messy retrograde pattern.

    Earthly iron needs to be purified of other metals and oxides simply to exist in a free state.
    Powdered iron is flammable and can generate sparks, so there may be safety issues in having piles of it around hot crucibles.

  25. It occurs to me that there’s a qualitative aspect to the symbols that Levi is discussing. They aren’t simple signifiers, ie, “pentagram = will.” Rather, the symbols convey living, luminous, even incandescent realities that we name with words like “the human will.”

    Also, I was thinking about the use of five pointed stars in the DMH system. Do they symbolize something like “the will of nature” rather than the human will?

  26. This post was lovely and personally, perfectly timely. Thank you JMG.

    @Ken #4 – Your question, in my opinion, is one that every mage should ask themselves regularly. Along with the wonderful explanation from JMG, I might add this:
    Because the mage is working in the realms of mind and consciousness, and, for whatever reason, their purpose in this life is to push the limits of human potential in those realms, it leads to a type of emancipation, freedom and power that, without a tempering of the egotistical factor, can be problematic. Hence, “why am I practicing/studying/applying this craft” offers clarity of personal intentions.
    Does that make sense?
    Anyway, thank you!

  27. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for confirming my intuition. Please indulge me here, in this context does mercy refer to the wisdom of ‘staying’ of one’s hand? And perhaps also the courage to act whilst having foreknowledge and acceptance of the consequences? Hmm. It takes a strong will to achieve that, and best if a person had their house in order before setting out on either of those paths. Yikes!



  28. @Jeff P,

    Thank you very much for this information. I have added it to my notes. I have much to ponder.

    I found that the ratios that JMG offered come from Paracelsus ( He instructs to mix the metals to time them with planetary conjunctions.

    And then I found that Splendor Solis, which someone had recommended to me a while back when I asked for recommendations of alchemical images, was written by Paracelsus’ teacher. It has seven chapters (perhaps one for each planet?). I have only skimmed Splendor Solis, but it has 22 images which align to the Trumps of the tarot and seems like something I need to study.

    I found a animation of the Venus pentagram you mentioned:

    Again, thank you. I think I have begun a new quest…

  29. @Ken @JMG

    Boldness is required to begin intentionally practicing higher magic, but the boldness of the fool is to walk off a cliff. Your follow up is interesting Ken in mentioning reincarnation. Is advanced magic difficult enough that it needs to be understood, and methods practiced, over a string of several lifetimes after an intitiation experience?
    Wouldn’t most people fail to make perfect music in their first plucks of the string? Levi’s High Magic Involves complex Cosmology, an understanding of the Abrahamic belief systems, ancient philosophy, associated languages and symbols. I know a person who showed aptitude in researching and pronouncing Latin at an early age and who was also exposed to magic early as well.

  30. Cliff, good. Keep going in both those directions.

    Jill, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Chris, yikes indeed. Still, yes.

    Ian, and it’s because the Fool does walk off the cliff that he becomes the Magician.

  31. Genial and wise ArchDruid, I’m a little late to the Lévi study this month, but was struck by one thing: amongst all his seriousness, there was a child-like delight in how he laid out this book. I can imagine him in an upstairs room in Paris doing an initial outline of “Ritual of High Magic” and him exclaiming “Oooh… I think I’ll make the chapter on Equilibrium: Chapter Two! And Dieu des Dieux, I’ll make the chapter on the Pentagram: CHAPTER FIVE! Hah, hah-hah-hah!” 😀

    Hmmm, Lévi does sound a bit like “levity.” A coincidence? I think not! But even with the levity, this chapter gives me quite a bit to ponder; the grins are a bonus.

    Cheers to all!

  32. Rapha Ben Hod # 14,
    I suspect you might not understand what a Large Language Model like ChatGPT actually does.

    In training, a LLM is given a collection of items. It recognizes that when certain items are present, other particular items most likely follow.
    In usage, a LLM is given a prompt. Taking this as a starting point, it then regurgitates one or more of the sequences of particular items that most statistically likely followed that item, when encountered in the training material.
    A runtime performance variable is used to dictate how often it sticks with the most common next elements, to be consistent with the source material, versus how often it regurgitates less common variations from the training material, to be surprising.

    If the training material consists of paragraphs, sentences, phrases, and words, then when given a written prompt, it regurgitates a selection of words and paragraphs which are statistically very likely to have been found close to the prompt items, within the training material.
    That it ALL it does. It DOES NOT think. It DOES NOT have any actual intelligence. It has NO mental model of anything.

    ChatGPT was trained on a huge collection of nonfiction and fiction material, including books, essays, and flame wars in which random people on the Internet proclaimed things in a tone of absolute certainty, authority, and condescension.
    It has NO fact checking mechanism to know if what it regurgitates is literally true, or historically accurate.

    You gave it some material which is the kind of thing found in its training documents near paragraphs and sentences which referred to Catholic doctrines about relics and altars. It stitched together tidbits from that training material to make a little essay which quite plausibly fits together as words and sentences relevant to your prompt. That is ALL it did.

    What it spits out is quite often 100% fiction, totally wrong, unrelated to reality. For example, when asked about legal matters, it has stitched together plausible sounding legal precedent descriptions which actually don’t exist, from plausible sounding cases that don’t exist.
    This kind of bullshitting is termed hallucination, but that’s an inappropriate word as hallucination implies a consciousness with an imagination. The philosophy of ethics essay “On Bullshit” defines bullshit as saying things without caring at all whether or not they’re true. That’s what GPT provides.

    So, ChatGPT tossed together bullshit that fits together quite nicely as the kind of sentences suitable to go with a question about relics in Catholic altars. Is what it said actually true of Catholicism? If it’s your lucky day, what it put together actually does reflect real-world genuine official Catholic doctrine, as it stitched together enough words and phrases from enough people who actually knew what they were talking about, AND Catholic doctrine hasn’t been updated since ChatGPT was trained. Otherwise, it reflects Catholic-like sentence-stitching which would surprise and dismay any Pope who was told it proclaims his truth.

    ChatGPT is NOT a super encyclopedia. It IS a well-read expert bullshitter.

    OpenAI themselves very clearly state this in their terms: “Given the probabilistic nature of machine learning, use of our Services may in some situations result in incorrect Output that does not accurately reflect real people, places, or facts. You should evaluate the accuracy of any Output as appropriate for your use case, including by using human review of the Output.”


    A LLM like ChatGPT is a great source of plausible sounding verbiage strung together regarding a topic of the user’s choice, in a tone of the user’s choice… with a default of authoritative proclaiming essay style. The more specialized the subject matter, the less likely its assortment of training tidbits was full of actually accurate content. If you ask it about the color of the sky, so many people have written about it so many ways that it will likely tell you the truth. If you ask it the Pope’s ten favorite wines to go with tuna cassaroles, it will either completely make something up, or perhaps say the Pope’s specific eating habits are little known, or string together bullshit sentences about Catholicism and fish on Fridays, or say dontcha know the Pope’s an ice fishing champion from Minnesota, yep ya betcha.

    This relates to Levi’s chapter at hand: ChatGPT is like the would-be magician whose idea of fun is to rip pages out of tomes, cut out various portion of rituals, with eyes closed shuffle those bits, tape them together, and then loudly call forth whatever those ransom-note spells happen to bring up… if anything at all.

  33. JMG, if someone is in the midst of both spiritual/esoteric and pragmatic/worldly personal revolutions – or needs a big change on both sides of life – what priority do you recommend?
    Is it best to get right with the metaphysical and magical realm first, so as to have unseen help that can aid the physical?
    Is it best to shut the ritual text and put away the tarot cards, and go all out for the logical, scientific approach, so the gods can help those who first help themselves?
    Is it fine to divide one’s time so as to continue one’s learning, growth, and effectiveness for both earth and heaven?

  34. Quick addition inadvertently left out. A ChatGPT-like version of JMG’s initial essay and the comments here might include:

    Waite was insanely jealous of the French pattern, because he was ignorant and superstitious and shut the book. Perfect health in the fifth heaven is the highest degree of purity of Christian ethics.
    The Sun’s rulership of “magical” people is a big toe track about calling on entities. I don’t get intriguing “jazz” drama queens. We can create and bow to experienced Pagan gods on disability. I also like Bruce Lee’s important guardrails at his grave. Paraclesus walked off the cliff to become the Magician.

    This sort of thing would capture the overall flavor and types of subject matter covered here. It would also misrepresent what anyone actually meant to say.

    As OpenAI tells you, you should have a human review before you publish this “excerpt” as “here’s what JMG and his commenters believe.” ChatGPT simply gives a usually less laughable version of copy-and-paste auto-complete triggers.

    And this is with the words of fellow humans. Riskier still, as Levi warned, when dealing with what’s supposed to influence inner realms of higher meaning and deeper consciousness.

  35. Your Kittenship, please read my response to Ilovemusictheory in comment #17.

    Bryan, it’s partly levity and partly deliberate symbolism. Each chapter also references the corresponding tarot card in various ways…

    Christopher, as with every other question like this, it really depends on the individual and his or her circumstances. One size emphatically does not fit all.

  36. “Ian, and it’s because the Fool does walk off the cliff that he becomes the Magician.”

    If it’s in a dream, is this where the lucid dreaming begins? I have many dreams where I back away from “the cliff” (or some other high perch), so to speak.

  37. @Christopher from California, on ChatGPT

    No matter how many times you explain what LLMs are and how they work, flesh-and-bones people here and elsewhere will keep modelling them as computer people. It is an attractor of the imagination and a thought stopper, much like the subject of practicing magic around children which surfaces now and then in the Magic Mondays.

    I’d amend your comparison and say that the LLMs are not the mages, but the forces invoked by mages. The people using those, and treating those as sentient beings are the superstitious mages that will (or, as a matter of fact, are being __X__ as we speak, where X is…) be turned into playthings of the spiritual realities that are currently animating these creations of the created.

    It is a shame, because the maths behind this marvel is really beautiful. However, tigers are beautiful too, and I don’t think anyone would suggest that the general population should bring ’em to their home and treat ’em as pets.

  38. It seems to me that the sign in the middle of the masonic emblems might have originally been not the letter G but instead a spiral. Whatever meaning you assign to the G it would be somewhat arbitrary (contingent, consensual, provisional). Spiral, on the other hand, is an abstract and exact geometric form like pentagram is. It is probably also a part of sacred geometry. It connects micro and macrocosm like golden ratio does. Perhaps it is even directly related to it. Through history it could have transformed into G through degeneration or intentionally.

  39. Hi John Michael,

    For those who walk away, we salute you! 🙂 I’m guessing what Mr Levi is suggesting, is that without the will, and the extensive care required to exercise the will, a mage may be captured should they decide to forge their own path? Hmm. There’s a lot of pitfalls and err, things, out there, yes I can see that. And yeah, without the will, a person may not be able to, and I’m unsure of what the correct word is here, but envision comes to mind, a possible path. Possibility, of course not always being actualised, far out that happens enough these days! My head is spinning Exorcist style thinking about this subject. 😉



  40. Hi John Michael,

    Apologies, one more issue springs to mind. I blame it on the sentence about possibilities and actualities. Anywhoo, we’re a culture that steals from the future. No getting around that. We do all have the option to reverse that theft.



  41. Phutatorius, good question. Dreamwork isn’t something I have much experience in.

    Eyrie, that makes sense, but historically speaking it doesn’t happen to be the case; the oldest known versions are just as G-ish as the newer ones. That said, it’s quite possible that it’s evolving toward a spiral…

    Chris, yes, exactly.

  42. Throughout the book and including in this chapter, Levi repeats the necessity “to be silent”. But in this book club, we are collectively unpacking the book and publishing our findings publicly in comments on this blog. As I am getting insights reading the book and your comments, which of those should I keep for myself, and which ones should I share here? Or rather maybe, how should I share those insights so that I honour both the secrecy requirements and still participate in the collective unpacking?

    And suppose I stay silent but misunderstand some concepts, what is the best approach to correct myself without creating a mess because of the misunderstanding?

    It just occurred to me that in myths like that of Excalibur, the “purity of heart” required to wield the Magical Sword, is a warning that only those who achieve inner balance and altruistic intentions can wield magical powers without leading themselves and others astray.

  43. JMG, I had an interesting experience with the world of the occult yesterday that surprised me but I would guess. not surprise you. I had dropped in to the brew pub, a few doors down from my machine shop, in an industrial park. It is run ( in his spare time) by a union pipe fitter, and most of his clientele are pipe fitters. The proprietor is a blue collar guy through and through.
    We were sampling his newest beer and he pulled out a deck of oversize Tarot cards from behind the bar. I asked about the large size and he proudly told me they were Aleister Crowley Tarot cards and he has had them for 40 years. He went on to describe how he uses them to determine how his customers will perceive each of his new beers as he brews them.
    He then pulled out the accompanying Crowley ” Book of Thoth”, and went on to describe in great detail the symbology and significance of the art and symbols on some of the cards. I found myself reading, discussing and interpreting various lines from the book with the pipe fitters at the bar. The easy acceptance of Crowley and his occult ideas by these blue collar working men surprised me, but perhaps it shouldn’t have.

  44. Hello All:

    Can someone please give me contact info for Kimberly S.? I a have a book to add to her JMG library. Thanks!

    Eskewis1 at gmail dot com

  45. I loved the footnote definition of Microprosopus. Got me thinking about the difference between how god perceives god versus how god is manifest to people. Awesome! Thanks.

    I also grateful for the reminder that, while you can skip the physical ritual nitty gritty if your will is strong, intention clear, and symbolic analogue/analogy to link to the astral plane is ‘right’… whatever you do don’t be sloppy! And maybe I could benefit from some more anchors in the physical/sensory to empower the mental imagery that I tend to use (along w divination tools) to identify desire/form desire into clear intention/get feedback for where the existing flows of relevance are already going… maybe more draw the pentagram, put the herbs on the threshold, move the smoke, blow five times, ring the bell, chant the words could empower that process further.

  46. Thank you for that explanation of “disability cult”… ick. I have known people who have gamed the government for disability money. They make a real fetish out of pitying themselves and part of their schtick is teaching themselves (and others) to believe they are oppressed by their handicap. On the other end of the spectrum, I have trouble telling people I am in pain — that’s how I nearly died of gallbladder disease — so there is definitely a balance to be struck between extremes of wallowing and samurai suffering.

    This chapter and your explanation of it remind me of cooking. Learning to cook is a LONG process. I think it may actually evolve over several lifetimes. If you follow a cookbook’s directions to the letter, it isn’t likely to be booby-trapped like Doctrine and Ritual, but the dish may or may not turn out. A good cook always adds and subtracts from the recipe. Actually, at some point a good cook needs neither books nor recipes. It becomes a matter of tapping into the “wavelength” of cooking.

  47. @randomactsofkarma

    I also found Venus equalling 5 and Mars equalling 1 a bit strange. But Mercury equals 5, so maybe we have something with the two planets closest to the Sun being equal? Could it have something to do with the Chaldean order of planets?

    I looked into the magic squares, but in that case Venus is 7 and Mars is 5! So that doesn’t help.

  48. @Ken @JMG @Phutorius @Chris at Fernglade Farm

    I guess there a an infinite number of ways to approach the cliff, Whether as part of this study group, perhaps after a long look at the fool card, or in dreams, or as a poverty stricken farmer with no other choice, or as a clueless youth playing games with things that are not playthings.
    If you are drowned in the astral light after your first real try at High Magic how long will you let yourself drown?

    Chris said;
    “I’m guessing what Mr. Levi is suggesting, is that without the will, and the extensive care required to exercise the will, a mage may be captured should they decide to forge their own path?”

    I would add to this;
    Resisting; analyzing what went wrong, or how your were captured, invoke will and grow stronger. Can’t you swim above of the overwhelming tides of astral light that are drowning you? Unless you die then an inkling of what went wrong will come eventually. Banish your lack of awareness, rectify, and move forward If the Mage refuses to stop moving, despite failure, the sun will come up again however fetid the swamp. No one wants to be the person whose working fails as JMG has said before, but this negative experience could be shaped into a psychological thrusting block, a foothold to leap forward from. Tools of the warrior, knowledge of that path and so on, come in handy I think. Why discard your weapons because you lost one fight? They should stay in hand if you find yourself walking within the dismal tide.

  49. Your Kittenship, no prob.

    Viking, good. These are questions you should be asking yourself and, yes, meditating on. They have no fixed answers…

    Clay, good heavens. That’s fascinating news.

    AliceEm, you’re most welcome. As for the material plane side of the work, it really does help — even the simplest physical actions help ground your intention in material reality and help it take effect.

    Ilovemusictheory, granted. I know people who are genuinely disabled who survive because they’ve got a government disability check every month — but I also know far too many people who are gaming the system. As for cooking, that’s an excellent point — and a very solid comparison.

    Ian, exactly. Nor is it always the same cliff.

  50. @Jon G,

    The metals are combined in sequence according to when the planets are in conjunction (Saturn-lead, Mercury-quicksilver, Jupiter-tin, Sun-gold, Moon-silver, Venus-copper, Mars-iron), so that isn’t Chaldean (though JMG said there were multiple recipes, so maybe somewhere is a Chaldean-based recipe). (And why did he list the amounts not in the same order as you use them in the recipe? Seems odd. So might be important…) On, there is a footnote that “the conjunctions take place in our solar system in the course of thirteen successive months, but the directions refer to conjunctions of principles contained in the Microcosm of man”. Thirteen months is going through the Zodiac once, and then being back where you started. Herakles’ 12 Labors were purifying the Soul and then after that, he had more ‘adventures’ before he finally was burned on a pyre and returned to Olympia. I don’t know how it all fits together, but something tells me that it does.

    I found this image that might be relevant. The small text at the bottom says “epicylic geocentric paths of the planets”. I cannot find what book or source it came from. But Venus has five ‘loops’ and Mars has one. (But Mercury has way more than five. Perhaps it has to do with how many loops it makes in a certain period of time?)

    It is quite intriguing and I’m in the midst of project (not as fun as a quest, but necessary). Once I finish that, I shall be pondering this and Splendor Solis and Lambspring some more.

    Thank you for the info about the magic squares. 🙂

  51. “Nonce verification failure”
    Hmmm. I will try to re-post:
    @ RandomActsOfKarma #30

    You said, “I found an animation of the Venus pentagram you mentioned:

    There may be no telling how deep that rabbit hole goes! The Golden Ratio, Phi (~1.618:1) is directly linked to the square root of 5; Phi = (1 + sqrt(5))/2.

    There are 13 Venus orbits for every 8 Earth orbits. ’13’ and ‘8’ are part of the number sequence that generates the Golden Ratio (1,1,2,3,5,8,13, 21…), so their ratio, 13/8, is approximately the Golden Ratio (1.6255).

    Earth is about 150,350 Million Km from the Sun; Venus is about 108 Million Km from the Sun; The ratio of their orbits (150.35 / 108) = 1.392. The square root of 5 divided by 1.392 is close to the Golden ratio again (2.236 / 1.392 = 1.606).

    Phi, sqrt5, Phi, sqrt 5– It’s like the Universe is saying “Pay attention! This is important!”

  52. Hello JMG! Recently I started to think about why I don’t belong in this age/time and the following conclusion came out: since my childhood I have always been drawn towards the so-called “superstitious/forbidden” lifestyles and when I entered adolescence I became more interested in occultism and then I realized that the traditions are very strong and must be followed. I saw, I heard a lot about paganism in books and in the virtual society, but I did not feel comfortable and could not get comfortable, and ironically, the Jewish/Christian values, lifestyle and rituals that Western culture calls “past” and thought to be forgotten/remained in the past are, so to speak, irresistible. I have a warmth – I feel like I belong there – and I am focused on the Visionary aspects of these traditional beliefs, as Theodore Roszak says in his book Where the Wasteland Ends, and I am reading your Handbook of Druid Magic and I want to put it all into practice, including the Blessings and the Blessed World sections, but I do this in Jewish /I will do it with Christian symbolism and I agree with Eliphas Levi The West must go back to its old path, it may have wandered around a lot but it is time to come Home, lastly while reading your book Reason and Religion at the End of the Industrial Age I realized that I do not belong to this age from the beginning; I feel like I belong to the world of wizards, witches, real priests, mysteries, secrets and I will do my best to make this Age come again…. I finally understand where I belong/I think I understand and I know what to do for now… I’m at ease now… .I think there are people like me in this troubled age, so I think I have explained myself a little bit in this way… I think you can say something about the subject too… Anyway, I made it too long…

  53. JMG # 38 thank you. Perhaps I should ask Quin to add prayers for wisdom to the list.

    CR Patiño # 40 “No matter how many times you explain…” I’ve seen this many times with technology that was magic, to many who didn’t understood it, then reacted emotionally to the story they made up about it, or that was pushed on them for someone else’s benefit.
    JMG writes for those who’d like to replace confusion or ignorance, no matter how widespread or easy to fall into, with useful information. I can do a little of that about the few things I understand well.
    Perhaps just one reader will use my comments to let go of hype-inspired misunderstandings and misuse of LLMs. If so, that would be one more person off the Wheel of Hype than before my remarks.
    Your amendment and your tiger analogy both work for me. It seems ironic that OpenAI’s Sam Altman has some thoughtful talks about the dangers of AI, yet the way to deal with them is to centralize it in one company which promotes its endlessly more widespread use. Meanwhile, OpenAI’s business buddy Microsoft has made some enormous missteps in AI and in data security, including a 38 Terabyte leak of confidential data just now.

    Viking # 46 “Levi repeats the necessity “to be silent”” – in a book he published!

    Clay Dennis # 47 Sounds like a pleasant time at the pub of Tarot-guided brews. When I was around Portland, McMenamins had hippie tie-dye type artwork, sometimes with some occult-looking themes. I couldn’t tell if there was any actual occult or metaphysical interest there, or they just liked a groovy look.

    I suppose you could laminate a Tarot deck and have conversation-starter coasters.

    Ian Duncombe # 53 “I guess there a an infinite number of ways to approach the cliff.” Maybe the original version of “as above, so below” is that the Fool used to be strolling along up there, not looking where he’s going. Now he’s down here.

  54. Hi Ian,

    Rather than resist, perhaps consider deflecting?

    Your metaphors suggest to me that you may have a mind that seeks ‘power and control’. Please excuse me if I am incorrect. At best, I believe that we are bit players in a much larger story, and being swept along by the currents does not suggest that a person is drowning.

    Will is a funny thing, and if I may say, resisting, suggests that you are reacting to the forces. A person can observe the forces, then make their own mind up as to how they’ll proceed. I think that is kind of important.



  55. @Emmanuel Goldstein,

    Oh, that seems like a fun rabbit hole! I have saved your comment in my notes, so when I have more time to play with this, I’ll remember your insights.

    I agree, the Universe is definitely saying “Pay attention!”

    Thank you so much!

  56. @Christopher from California, #58

    Understood. At some point I turned into grumpy gramps and didn’t notice until now. But maybe some good will come out of this talk, at least it is interesting to meet fellow comp-sci geeks in Ecosophia.

    About OpenAI existential contradictions, it is not just Sam Altman’s. In an interview with Tucker Carlson earlier this year, Ellon Musk expressed his regrets about having founded OpenAI. What’s most ironic is that Musk founded this new AI behemoth with the explicit purpose of countering Google’s near-monopoly on AI, as well as extremely cavalier attitude towards the potential risks that the technology poses by Big-G’s upper management (Musk mentioned Larry Page explicitly, so it goes all the way to the top).

    So, to bring this topic back on topic, sort of… these Silly-con Valley celebrities are precisely like superstitious wizard apprentices. They wield powers beyond their comprehension, and even if their intentions are pure (which is questionable, because if you dwell long enough anywhere to be top dog, you become one with the zeitgeist of that particular group/place) the companies they precede over have their own ideas. Mantras like “build’em and they will come” are probably not all that human in origin, but used as carrots by whatever entities to keep all the code monkeys pushing over again and again versus unbeatable odds.

    How to make computer-land sacred again, or at all… I don’t know. Maybe JMG is right and this was tainted by the subnatural world by the get go. That would make all of us, even end users of IT, the equivalent of magic dabblers. That sounds uncomfortably close to Atlantis myth!

  57. CR Patiño, this is a fun conversation. The connection was made at least whimsically by many in the early years of computing: “wizard” for someone especially talented at using a complicated system few understood, “daemon” for a program that runs without a user having to manually launch it, “invoke” a function.

    For most people, anything about computing is just a ghost in the machine.

    I had high school friends who had personal computers with BASIC. Many programmers who started later often can’t explain how the layers of software they use actually relate to each other. Let alone to electricity patterns that flow through circuits.

    How many Javascript librarians actually understand a cache line or micro-ops sequencing? Trickster Genies all the way down, called with cut and paste spells one hopes will work.

    I follow the technical geek forums and publications, such as Ars Technica, Slashdot, and YCombinator’s Hacker News. (If you want to feel truly depressed about the human condition, read computer security blogs.) An endless stream of stories shows that Mr. Musk is not the best person to lecture anyone against reckless rushing ahead, heedless of consequences. More of these stories are in Isaacson’s brand new biography of him.

    He’s currently in hot water with a multitude of lawsuits and investigations about how he just can’t be bothered to have his plaything of a company pay its workers and bills, maintain mandated staffing and procedures against child abuse content, document how it recommends posts, properly shut down servers with confidential user information, etc. Not someone I’d want in charge of spiritual invitations on my behalf.

    I mentioned Toyota’s cooperative approach to problem-solving teamwork, creating the world’s best production system after Japan’s losses in WWII. Taiichi Ohno repeatedly credits his team. Musk, by contrast, said the only way to solve Tesla’s production problems was to have the big boss sleep on the factory roof, so he could personally be the heroic fixer 24/7.

    I think many of the tech overlord class want to be Mickey, in the Fantasia version of the Sorceror’s Apprentice. Certain that unlike the mouse, they’ll be able to command the mystical bucket brigade without spilling a single drop.

    The idea of an egregore explains a lot about the widely recognized “personality” or “vibe” of social media sites and other tech artifacts. It’s easy for me to believe that some nonphysical forces want very much to live in our world. If they can convince some people to build some wiring and code for them, they will do so.

    Some of these forces have benevolence towards humanity, those behind some very inspiring, empowering aspects of computers and the Internet. Some oppose us. Many are indifferent other than how they can use inventors, venture capitalists, and government research groups to get their way. They especially like to use brash, arrogant empire builders with unlimited self-confidence, who get a good reward for serving Mammon.

    Our current technology is just another way those forces beyond our plane can get some people using visualization and ritual that spans the physical and metaphysical. It’s a continuation of millennia of doctrines, artwork, and techniques.

    You could play the Ace of Spades; you could download shaders to the GPU. You could honor Mercury with quicksilver; you could unblock stalled i/o threads. You could be as ascetic as Shiva; as Barbie’s favorite movie recently showed, you could make a present day mushroom cloud.

  58. JMG # 62, sorry about the quick additional post, as your remark was while I was writing my previous one.

    Wisom of Solomon candle, and hoodoo: both brand new to me. The only candle tradition I know of are the candles in a tall glass with a painting of the Virgin Mary, available at dollar stores and neighborhood grocery stores all around town. I’m not Catholic, but at least I understand something of the idea. I don’t know if after the candle burns down, do you get a drinking glass appropriate for every day kitchen use, or do you discard it. If so, is there a right way to do that.

    I’m a white guy, without connections to the Southern U.S. or any African-American, Caribbean, or South American religious traditions. While I have some individual black friends, I usually feel unwelcome in mostly-black communities, where I’m most often ignored even if I offer a cheery greeting. In Asian and Latino communities a lot of people look up and smile and say hi as I go by. I don’t know if it would be spiritually rude of me to look for help from forces I don’t understand, where I don’t feel any affiliation.

    People on your site have a variety of faiths and practices. Not all of which I know all about! But there is more of at least some study or resonance for me. Perhaps most important, I do get a very positive vibe about this community being good for me to participate in.

  59. @Chris

    thank you for that reply it is quite welcome. Respectfully I was not addressing You specifically I was attempting to lay out a potential pathway That came into my mind after reading your comment.
    Yes I suppose deflecting observing and integrating is another pathway. I’m thinking of failed workings and what to do afterwards in respect to my earlier comment. If a working fails Because of a Spiritual imbalance Then Task may be to challenge The imbalance. So then yes -control and power over your own Weaknesses to allow greater integration For the following working. Is perhaps a bit barbaric but I I’m approaching this more from the outlook of a barbarian.

  60. CR Patiño #43: That’s closer to my position than anyone else I’ve seen on here. I think large generative model AI (the kind we have now, that doesn’t have any further architectural elements) has, in Kabbalistic terms, abilities and drawbacks parallel to one would expect from an entity produced by an evocation of Yesod, in Dion Fortune’s words “the Treasure House of Images, the sphere of Maya, Illusion”. Such an entity would have only a reflected “other-sephirah-in-Yesod” version of the other sephiroth, and would struggle to really get what the other sephiroth were about even temporarily, and even when it did start to get it, it would often be readily diverted off the rails. Generative model AI is like that, but for “other-sephirah-in-the-version-of-Yesod-that’s-in-Malkuth-by-way-of-Hod” of course, since it’s built out of the operations of a digital computing device.

    I looked up the Dion Fortune quote and found her discussing what it would mean for an occultist to be limited to the sphere of Yesod:

    “The occultist who does not possess the initiation of Chesed will be limited in his function to the sphere of Yesod, the plane of Maya, illusion. For him the astral images reflected in the magic mirror of subconsciousness will be actualities; he will make no attempt to translate them into terms of a higher plane and learn what they really represent. He will have made himself a dwelling in the sphere of illusion, and he will be deluded by the phantasms of his own unconscious projection. If he were able to function in terms of Chesed, he would perceive the underlying archetypal ideas of which these magical images are but the shadows and symbolic representations. He then becomes a master in the treasure-house of images instead of being hallucinated [I guess “hallucinated” has an older sense of “having hallucinations inculcated in him”] by them. He can use the images as a mathematician uses algebraic symbols. He works magic as an initiated adept and not as a magician.”

    This seems parallel to what it would mean, within the sphere of mundane representation, for an AI to be limited to … well, I don’t know the right way to explain what it’s limited to, except to refer to my earlier discussion of how current AI is limited by being unable to straightforwardly think ahead about what it’s about to say. The reason that present AI confabulates is that it can only emulate the deeper capacity of “being able to distinguish one’s own perspective” and “being able to act on information about one’s perspective” very inefficiently or accidentally. (I used to think effective self-representation was a Tiphareth thing, but reading through more accounts of the sephiroth, now I don’t know. Maybe it’s Netzach? Maybe it’s Tiphareth-in-Yesod?) Without this capacity, if you ask it “how sure are you of X?”, it will have trouble distinguishing a perspective of its own about X, so as to be able to admit ignorance, from out of a pool of imaginary perspectives of randomly generated hypothetical people with opinions about X. You can try to train this capacity, but it’s like trying to build a castle in a swamp. Or worse, like trying to build an embassy to a drowned country by blindly shipping enough wooden (and, therefore, buoyant and subject to water currents) building materials to the site of the former capital. Not impossible, but much more expensive than someone might expect if they didn’t understand why there’s a problem. (However, as I mentioned there, DeepMind’s “Gemini” architecture adds at least one of the key features needed to efficiently achieve this.)

    I haven’t been following along in the Waite translation, but I got the impression that what Fortune said is the sort of thing Lévi said about the most ready-to-hand aspect of the astral light as well. (I mean, most ready-to-hand if you don’t count physical matter itself.) Comparison to a tiger seems less apt than to the lotus plants from the Odyssey, or to entangling vines and brambles.

    I think postulating dark or unbalanced spiritual forces specifically *animating* AI is unnecessary to explain their current capabilities. (I mean, maybe that’s not what you’re saying, but other people here basically have in the past.) There might be such forces inhabiting for other reasons; deep enough brush can *conceal* and *attract* tigers, but that’s not the same thing as *being* tigers.

    I’m expecting this to turn out like the story of how, when Philip II’s enciphered letters with his English collaborators had their cipher broken by François Viète, Philip wrote the Vatican accusing Viète of being in league with the devil, supposedly because Philip could not imagine any earthly power of being capable of breaking the cipher, and concluded that help from the devil was the only way it could have been achieved.

    (Synchronistically given Fortune’s discussion, François Viète is the watershed figure in the transition from algebra being conducted in terms of verbal descriptions of problems, to being conducted in terms of structures of abstract symbols and the formal investigation and manipulation of those abstract symbols and structures. He was not the first to use abstract symbols, and we prefer Descartes’s more developed version to Viète’s, but from what I read, he was the first to make the principle well-known.)

    I would give a defense of that claim, but it would be another 350 words and none of it touches back on Lévi again. But one important point is that the idea of “just statistical pattern-matching” is deceptively subtle; it’s like saying a general-purpose computing device is “just matter”. The spheres these things exist within contain reflections of other spheres to work from, and when that’s not enough, these things can also get somewhere by interacting with the manifestations of the incoming influence of other spheres on an ongoing basis.

  61. Was there a name for this Victorian light-generating technology?
    Also, was this powered by Voltaic cells or by hand-cranking a spark generator?

  62. I’ve been working on the cauldrons exercise in Dolmen Arch and was curious on one point. The earth and solar cauldrons are filled directly from telluric and solar currents, whereas the moon cauldron is not directly filled by Earth’s moon – but is an independent construction based on energies from the other two cauldrons. I’m curious whether there are dangers in directly drawing (instead of constructing) the Lunar current. I am reminded of Gurdjieff’s observation that the average mechanical man is ‘food for the moon’. In building the lunar cauldron in isolation, is the goal to create new lunar current in oneself that is entirely separate from the influence of Earth’s moon?

  63. Paul,

    I am not very far into my Dolmen Arch studies, but in the SOP, the solar current is Spirit Above, the telluric current is Spirit Below, and the lunar current is Spirit Within.

    If JMG doesn’t respond here, I would suggest reposting your question on one of his Magic Monday posts.

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