Book Club Post

The Ritual of High Magic: Chapter 9

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 Nine:  The Ceremony of the Initiates” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 275-279).


No truly pioneering work is without its flaws and limitations, and our text is no exception to that rule. Eliphas Lévi understood a great deal about practical occultism—more than any other author in a Western language in his generation, certainly—but there were dimensions of occult study and practice he never had the opportunity to learn about. This chapter is a case in point. Lévi’s understanding of initiation is not so much flawed as hopelessly incomplete; he discusses with great enthusiasm some of the preparations for initiation, and repeats some of the rhetoric that has been used down through the centuries by initiates who have claimed privileged access to political power, but he never quite gets around to initiation itself.

That oddity was far from unique to Lévi, or to his generation and culture. Consider Mozart’s fine opera The Magic Flute, one of the great creative works to come out of the late eighteenth century flowering of occultism and initiatory orders.  Late in Act 2, having made their way through any number of perils, the protagonists Tamino and Pamina pass through the rites of initiation into the mysteries of Isis.  Their initiation consists of passing through fire and water without panicking, protected by the magic of Tamino’s flute, after which they are immediately acclaimed as initiates. Mozart was an enthusiastic Freemason and knew perfectly well that there was more to it than that, but as a Freemason in a Catholic country he also knew how to keep his mouth shut.

…and they’re initiated! (That’s a Toronto Opera production of The Magic Flute.)

Mozart wasn’t the only Mason who gave the fourth of the magical virtues a thorough workout when it came to initiation.  Lévi, by contrast, did not become a Mason until long after he wrote our text, and even then the initiation ceremony seems to have made little impression on him. His understanding of initiation, especially in the chapter we are studying, was therefore part and parcel of the process of magical preparation and education he presents to his readers. It consists of the education of the emotions to achieve self-mastery in the face of fears and passions, and the education of the mind to assess all things in the light of truth and reason.  A worthwhile course of study?  Of course—but it’s not initiation in the traditional sense of the word.

Let’s go back a couple of millennia to the oldest well-documented initiatory traditions in the Western world, the mystery initiations of the ancient Greeks. None of those rituals reached the modern world intact—the handful of ancient books that gave away their secrets were suppressed in ancient times—but people who went through the rituals quite often described the experience in general terms. Here’s what Plutarch, an initiate of several mysteries, had to say:

“At first there is wandering, and wearisome roaming, and fearful traveling through darkness with no end to be found.  Then, just before the consummation, there is every sort of terror, shuddering and trembling and perspiring and being alarmed. But after this a marvelous light appears, and open places and meadows await, with voices and dances and the solemities of sacred utterances and holy visions. In that place one walks about at will, now perfect and initiated and free, and wearing a crown, one celebrates religious rites, and joins with pure and pious people.”

If you’ve been through a modern lodge initiation this is all going to sound very familiar. What happens in the standard lodge ritual is that the candidates are blindfolded and brought into a dark place, where they are moved around in the darkness until they are confused and dazed. Then the blindfolds come off briefly and something frightening accosts them.  Shortly thereafter—sometimes after another interval of blindfolded movement, sometimes not—darkness gives way to light, certain words and emblems and other signs are passed on to the candidates, everyone applauds, and the candidates receive the symbol of membership—a wreath (“crown”) on the head in the ancient mysteries, a white apron in Freemasonry, and so on.  The candidates are then led to seats, receive an explanation of what they have just witnessed, and join in a final ceremony. Ta-da! They’re initiates.

A Masonic initiation. Note the blindfold on the candidate.

Yes, there’s a reason why modern lodge rituals have a lot in common with ancient Greek mystery initiations.  There were direct historical connections between lodges such as Freemasonry and the medieval craft guilds, between the guilds and the collegia or craft guilds of the Roman world, and between Roman collegia and Greek mystery cults, which (like fraternal lodges in our own culture) provided the basic template for voluntary organizations throughout the ancient world. Fifteen hundred years is not that long when it comes to the survival of ritual forms; witness the history of the Christian Mass, or for that matter the esoteric Buddhist traditions of Japan, which still practice rituals out of sutras such as the Mahavairocanasambodhi Sutra, which was written in India sometime during the sixth century AD.

All this ritualistic activity may nonetheless sound like empty mummery.  It can certainly become empty mummery if it’s done by people who are just bumbling through it by rote, but then the same is true of any ritual. What a great many people these days don’t realize is that ritual doesn’t have to be bumbled through by rote. If it’s done with focused intention and a certain amount of dramatic flair, it can have a significant psychological effect on the candidate. That effect is reinforced if the new initiate witnesses the same rite being performed for other people thereafter.

Is the effect foolproof?  Of course not. Everybody who’s participated in a lodge knows that for a certain number of candidates, the ritual will never be more than an empty form, and most of those will drift away from the lodge promptly thereafter, having gained little or nothing from their experience. (To judge by his comments, that’s what happened to Lévi when he was made a Mason.) When it works, however, it works well; the disorientation of the movements through darkness, the sudden shock of fear, and then the revelation of the words, emblems, and signs in a blaze of light imprints certain states of consciousness on the new initiates and gives them tools for accessing those states of consciousness in the future.

What states of consciousness? Why, that depends entirely on the details of the ritual. In old-fashioned fraternal lodges such as the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows, the focus is on ethical conduct, and the ritual is intended (as Masons like to say) to make good men better. In occult lodges, the states of consciousness achieved through the ritual are rather more exotic, though they also have an ethical dimension. One of the basic theses of occultism is that human beings have the capacity to transform themselves and their world in ways that materialist thought never grasps, but that capacity can only be made actual in states of consciousness most people never achieve. Ceremonial initiation is one way to learn how to achieve them.

A pratyekabuddha. You can get there all by yourself — though it takes work.

It is not the only way. This is one detail Lévi got right, though he did it on the basis of very few clues; it’s something you also find in Eastern traditions, where the path of the pratyekabuddha—the solitary buddha, who achieves enlightenment by his own efforts—is a known option. You can initiate yourself by following Lévi’s own template of training—that is to say, by learning to be fearless, dispassionate, and governed by reason, and then maintaining that state of mind while practicing magical ceremonies of the kind he describes. There are other ways of self-initiation besides Lévi’s; read traditional occult literature from the medieval and early modern periods and you’ll get a selection of methods, and there’s also the way that’s come to be standard  in most modern occult systems, which consists of daily practice of certain basic occult practices combined with more intensive rituals meant to trigger certain specific shifts in consciousness.

What comes after initiation is an even more complex matter. One interesting factor here is that the Latin word initiatio, the root of our word, literally means “beginning.” Becoming an initiate isn’t the be-all and end-all of occult practice, it’s the beginning of serious work.  You see this in Christianity, where baptism is the standard initiatory practice; you see it in the esoteric Buddhist traditions mentioned earlier, where receiving an initiation is the beginning of a sustained practice of whatever specific meditative discipline the initiation is meant to confer; and of course you see it in Western occultism, where the first thing that happens to you when you receive an initiation is that you get handed a bunch of papers explaining the things you have to learn and the practices you are expected to take up.

That doesn’t leave a lot of room for Lévi’s conviction that the world is in deep trouble because it isn’t run by initiates.  His point of view is of course a very ancient one, going back well before the time of Plato, who enshrined it in his brilliant and problematic dialogue The Republic. There have been any number of attempts to put that point of view into practice. The one thing that can be said about those attempts is that none of them lived up to their billing.

We can talk, if you like, about the oldest documented example of all, the Pythagorean Brotherhood, the first known initiatory order in Europe.  It was founded by Pythagoras, who’d studied occultism in Egypt and Babylon before returning to the Greek world—imagine some American equivalent who spent twenty years meditating at the feet of masters in India and Japan and you’ve got the picture. It so happened that his school attracted influential members of the ruling elite in Crotona, the city where he settled, and half a dozen other cities among the Greek colonies in southern Italy.

Pythagoras (as envisioned by Augustus Knapp). He would have been fine if he’d stuck to mysticism and mathematics.

The Brotherhood soon ended up as the de facto government of those cities, and systematically excluded nonmembers from the ruling circles.  The result? Let’s just say it wasn’t utopia.  After a few decades, violent rebellions against Pythagorean rule all across southern Italy swept the Brotherhood out of power. Most of the initiates died in the tumult, and so did Pythagoras himself; the survivors fled to Greece, where they became stock figures of fun in the plays of the Middle Comedy of Athens.

Rule by a self-selecting elite that believes it’s morally superior to the rest of humanity is never a success. It doesn’t always end as badly as the Pythagorean Brotherhood did, but it never lives up to its supposed promise, and there’s a simple reason for that:  initiation may make you a better person but it doesn’t make you a better politician. Human societies are messy because human beings are messy, and the management of a human society is better left to those who understand and sympathize with that messiness because they share it, rather than trying to restrict it to those who claim to transcend that messiness—even for the best possible reasons.

That’s why theocracies always turn into authoritarian nightmares, and why giving people as much freedom as possible to make their own choices and live their own lives works best, even though those choices and lives may not live up to any particularly high standard. As the internet saying goes, “humans gonna human,” and though it’s helpful to try to teach and persuade them to do better, and necessary to have and enforce those basic laws necessary for people to live together in relative peace, it’s a fatal mistake to try to force them to conform to an ideal they can neither understand nor appreciate.

This is among the many places where legend is a better guide than the reasoned arguments of philosophers. The great occult initiates of Western legend are very rarely in positions of political power, and when they are—King Solomon of Israel is of course the classic example—the results tend to be disastrous sooner or later.  Far more often, the roles assigned to initiates in legend range from advisers to government (e.g., Merlin as King Arthur’s chief adviser) to staying as far away from the political process as possible (e.g., Elias Artista, the legendary alchemist of early modern Europe, who appeared to pass on the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone to those alchemists who were ready for it, but vanished without a trace before greedy kings could get their hands on him and his secrets.)

Merlin. He had the great good sense to stay out of political office, and shape things by the useful expedient of teaching the next king.

It’s a good example to follow. It’s also the example that Lévi himself ended up following, of course. Like most intellectuals, he would have made a lousy politician; one of the blessings Providence sent his way was that he never had the opportunity to display that. He met and corresponded with influential people now and then during his life, but the work that gave his ideas an immense impact on the future of the Western world was done quietly, in the privacy of an inexpensive Paris apartment, and his influence guided a modest circle of intellectuals on the fringe rather than having any more dramatic effect.

“Yes, the sages must speak, not to say, but to lead others to find.”  Our text is among other things  a very good example of that maxim in action. Eliphas Lévi had some important things to say, but his greater impact was in the things he led others to find.  The art of initiation, which had already risen to a considerable level of competence in fraternal and occult lodges before his time, but achieved far more once he put the tools of operative occultism in the hands of initiators, was among the important things that his heirs found.

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 10, “The Key of Occultism,” on February 14, 2024. See you then!


  1. Roldy, excellent! Yes, I modeled that detail of Star’s Reach specifically on 17th and 18th century British initiations for apprentices in various crafts, but the pattern’s very much the same as in other Western initiations.

  2. Posted this at the end of the last open post but, it might fit here based on what you just published?
    Please ignore if diverging off topic.

    JMG: “That doesn’t leave a lot of room for Lévi’s conviction that the world is in deep trouble because it isn’t run by initiates.
    “…Rule by a self-selecting elite that believes it’s morally superior to the rest of humanity is never a success.”

    What do you make of the link below? Reasonablt accurate of a bunch of initiates getting carried away with themselves or out of context hodge-podge?
    The British Empire’s Gnostic Revival of Scientific Paganism and a New World Religion

    It quotes Annie Besant: “…for it will be all-inclusive. That mighty World-Religion is to be proclaimed by the supreme Teacher, the Teacher of Angels and of Men.”

    Was that the job Krishnamurti dodged?

  3. I thought it was numbers that ruled the universe, not initiates ? ; )

    (As a synchronistic aside, the latest Imaginary Station is The Numbers Station for those of you of a Pythagorean / Clandestine / Numerological bent. I posted the announcement referencing Pythagoras this morning: )

    How do theocracies relate to the current swarm, The Lords of Freedom, and our development of politics and sociology? What a fine theme for meditation!

    As for initiation, one thing I noted was how powerful my Thelemic initiation in H.O.O.R. was even though the local lodge dissipated rather quickly and I didn’t stay involved with the one in Louisville, where the initiation happened.

    The whole thing of going there, with people I barely knew, when I was 18, and being put up in a hotel with someone else I didn’t know at all -then being picked up and having a hood put over my head as I was driven around the city and then entering a home with a sonorous chant resonating throughout and being led into the temple -(the rest I wont share)- well, it is an experience that will, literally, stay with me forever. The organization had its issues (as any does), but the initiation really did set me down a specific path.

    In that case the “papers” I was handed afterwards as we drank beers and talked until the sun came up was the music of Current 93, Coil, Psychic TV, and the works of Robert Anton Wilson, and others. All of that stuff became very important to me in the years immediately ahead, and they remain dear to me, if tempered by time, and new interests.

    Yet today I’m thinking of the GSF as I recatalog an old copy of Paul Hindemith’s opera “Die Harmonie Der Welt.” There is a symphony version to. The images of the Platonic solids on the back of the boxed set are calling out to me.

  4. Hi John,
    I have an off-topic question about geomancy/divination. Are there any potential downsides or dangers involved with divination such as attracting any unfriendly spirit? I know it sounds like a dilettante question, but I recall hearing from you or Chris Warnock, that when you are divining it´s not just like measuring or analyzing something in a completely detached manner, but more like interacting with the cosmos as a whole and in some sense getting in tune with other things out there. This leads into the next question as to whether or not a banishing ritual is necessary before performing any kind of divination.

    Upong looking on amazon I noticed that you have more than one book on Geomancy, which one would you say is the most comprehensive?

  5. All magical initiations also have growth period.
    The more time in the retort, the more testing, the more painful inner transformation
    Say something to warn about the growth period please
    ANy suggestion?

  6. I read with great interest your description of the initiation ritual in the Masonic ( and other lodges). While never having been in any of these fraternal organizations I was in a fraternity in college. While the college greek system has been much maligned ( for good reason in many cases), some houses did follow these type of traditional practices and rituals.
    In my case the greek letter fraternity that I was in, practiced an initiation ritual remarkably similar to the one you describe. The main difference is that since our new initiates were not regular members of society with families and day to day duties they could last longer ( an entire weekend). Our initiates could partake in a full evening and following day of exhausting activities ( sleep deprivation) and then when fully exhausted during the evening of the second day they were allowed a short period of sleep ( as soon as it got dark). One by one they were awoken though-out the night and quickly whisked off to an initiation chamber ( disorientation) where they were startled by an array of occult imagery, flames, skulls and swearing out an initiation rite. They were then whisked back to their beds to ponder if what they had just experienced was a dream or not.
    It was not until the next morning when they were awaken and congratulated by the entire brotherhood, treated to an elaborate breakfast and allowed to bask in their new found sense of belonging.
    This can all seem childish to those hearing about it on the outside. But I believe the benefits to the men involved were considerable. And in many cases would last their entire lives.

  7. “Eliphas Lévi understood a great deal about practical occultism—more than any other author in a Western language in his generation, certainly—but there were dimensions of occult study and practice he never had the opportunity to learn about. This chapter is a case in point.”

    Well, JMG, nobody is perfect…

  8. Mr. Greer,

    Reading that part about the Pythagorean Brotherhood I had three little thoughts enter my head.

    1. The situation of the Pythagorean Brotherhood seems to be analogous in many respects to modern America where most of the ruling class tend to have been students at a handful of influential schools and part of these fraternal organizations like the Skull and Bones or Bohemian Grove.
    2. Pythagoras was born about 570BC and he would likely be finishing up his education under Pherecydes and heading to meet Thales of Miletus around 555BC. So he is probably starting to develop the beginnings of his political and religious philosophy right about the time of that Saturn-Neptune conjunction we were talking about the last couple of days.
    3. Pythagoras fled his original homeland of Samos and headed for Croton about 535BC. Shortly afterwards, Samos was invaded and conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. In fact, the Greco-Persian Wars kick off in 499BC, right about the same time Crotona and surrounding cities begin their revolt against the Pythagorean Brotherhood.
    Macedonia, Alexander the Great’s homeland, gains its independence in from Persia about 450BC right about when the majority of the Pythagoreans flee Magna Graecia for Greece proper. Don’t know if that means anything, but it is a funny little coincidence.

  9. I had no idea that The Magic Flute featured an initiation sequence into the mysteries of Isis! I’ve never seen or listened to it, and it seems I need to go the opera sometime when it’s on. Thanks also for the passage from Plutarch.

    And thanks for these book club posts. I am still eagerly reading each month’s chapter in the book itself and following along with these posts, even if I’m a bit swept up in other things at the moment.

  10. Earthworm, it’s halfway in between. The Fabian Society and the Round Table Organization were just as toxic as the article suggests, but they hated and fought each other, and neither one had any kind of occult background — H.G. Wells’s blathering about a “new world religion” was typical late 19th century scientific atheist braggadocio. The great problem with the author of that article is that he’s stuck, like so many people on today’s conspiracy culture, with the mistaken notion that there’s One Big Conspiracy behind it all, when in fact there are dozens and no two of them want the same thing. Some of them may even be on the author’s side.

    As for Theosophy, the writer had to quote Besant, because she was practically the only Theosophist who had a pro-British bias — Blavatsky was not merely ethnically Russian, she worked for the Tsar’s espionage agency and helped destabilize British rule in India, while influential Theosophists outside Britain, such as William Q, Judge in the US and Rudolf Steiner in German-speaking central Europe, opposed the British Empire. Yes, Besant had Jiddu Krishnamurti in mind as the next World Teacher, and yes, he had the great good sense (not to mention the moral courage) to tell her to get stuffed.

    Justin, when initiates forget that numbers run things, not people, they get stupid and end up dying in a fire like most of the Pythagorean initiates. That’s interesting about H.O.O.R — I have a complete set of bootleg OTO rituals (now that Crowley’s writings are public domain, those are getting easy to find) but I don’t know how close those are to the ritual you experienced. I have to say that listening to experimental music and rapping about Robert Anton Wilson sounds a lot more entertaining than being handed a stack of Crowley essays, but then I’m prejudiced. As for the Hindemuth piece, I have the symphonic version playing right now; my initial reaction isn’t too favorable — but that doesn’t matter. One of the reasons the GSF is a tradition rather than an organization is precisely that no two people will find inspiration in exactly the same places; Hindemuth was drawing on Boethius and Johannes Kepler, two top-notch names in the quadrivium, so if he inspires you, go ye forth and Hindemize!

    Marco, the geomantic spirits are pretty stable and friendly. The risk, as with all forms of divination, is becoming so dependent on geomancy that common sense heads out the window! As for my books, it’s a long and somewhat complex story, but they basically cover the same material. Pick either one and you’re good.

    Aidawedo, maybe you could explain what you mean by “growth period.” I can think of half a dozen things that could be given that label.

    Clay, the Greek letter societies were offshoots of the fraternal-lodge movement that featured Masons, Odd Fellows, and so many others. As for the ritual, I can see that working extremely well.

    Chuaquin, my point exactly.

    Karl, the thing to keep in mind is that Skull and Bones, the Bohemian Grove, etc. have the last faint traces of initiatory ritual in them — despite the attempts of fundamentalists to whip themselves into a frenzy over the Cremation of Care ritual at the latter, for example, it’s the kind of thing every summer camp in the country did a century ago. The self-proclaimed elite of our society lack the spiritual training Pythagoras gave to his students. As for the dates, hmm! Most interesting indeed.

    Jbucks, you’re welcome and thank you! The Magic Flute is immense fun; Mozart was an initiate but he also knew how to have a good time, and the result is one of the few operas that will keep an eight-year-old’s attention riveted on the stage all the way through.

  11. In the first paragraph, “the earlier posts in this sequence; you can find them here” doesn’t include a link. Perhaps this is an initiatory technique, to disorient the reader so that they take a hero’s journey through the cave of the site’s archive, reach inner apotheosis upon finding the relevant prior posts, and emerge renewed by the elixer of comprehension into a glorious ascendancy of initiated understanding of Lévi’s text.

    Or, maybe a link got lost in publication. 😉

    My small college, closely tied to a no-frills Christian denomination, didn’t have Greek houses. When I’ve read or seen descriptions of them, I’ve always been completely lost as to the appeal for people not interested in lots of wild drunken parties. Or for Skull and Bones, being recognized as being from an elite bloodline with conspiratorial plans to rule the world. Something I’d never qualify for!

    Masonic fellowship of thoughtful people studying occult traditions and offering friendly mutual career boosts? That has some appeal.

    But I had read that to become a Mason, I’d need to have a dagger positioned in a dangerous position near my heart as I recite an oath inviting a painful, gruesome death to be delivered to me if I revealed any secrets, and including spiritual forces as invited enforcers of omerta. This hasn’t appealed to me.

    You describe being blindfolded, disoriented, symbolically shocked, symbolically enlightened, and then well informed. This sounds like a much better time. If that’s all it takes, maybe I should locate my local Masons already!

    I had read somewhere that Mozart got in some hot water with his local Masons for using Masonic themes in The Magic Flute, including the knocking pattern at the very beginning of the overture. But maybe that was another wrong rumor.

    Your other blog said you are open for people having general prayers for your overall well being in a challenging time, which you’re not free to say more about yet.
    I wasn’t happy to learn of your having a rough time, but I was glad to learn that interacting with your community is something that’s a refreshing and enjoyable change of pace for you from whatever the other issues are.

    Would it be appropriate to, say, invite the spiritual forces which you’ve honored with your studies, practices, and teachings, whatever those forces might be (without my having to know what they all are), to now appreciate your respect to them by bringing peace, comfort, happiness, and good resolution of all issues for you and yours? Would that be spiritually stepping on toes, or would it be received as a polite invocation?

  12. Mr. Greer,

    In fact, the more I think about it the more I see what you were talking about Saturn-Neptune conjunction and the birth of a new age. If Pythagoras started developing his political and religious philosophies around the time of the 555BC conjunction that has several interesting implications, especially in regards to Plato. Plato was heavily influenced by Pythagorean thought via his friend Archytas. Archytas is also the guy who developed the most famous argument for the infinity of the universe during the Classical Era.

    I also know that both Aristotle and Cicero claimed that the philosophy of Plato closely followed the teachings of the Pythagoreans. It is quite possible that without the works of Pythagoras Plato’s Republic would never have been written. In fact, Platonist and Pythagorean movements would be feeding off and reinforcing each other for the next several centuries. For example, Numenius of Apamea was a Neopythagorean whose work gave birth to Neoplatonism and Neoplatonism had a major influence on a great many Christian thinkers such as Saint Augustine of Hippo; to the point Nietzsche called Christianity “Platonism for the masses”. Not to mention the revival of Neoplatonist thought during the Renaissance is one of the things that lead to development of Humanism.

    So around 555BC you have the guy (Pythagoras) responsible ultimately responsible for the development of the lion’s share of Western political and religious thought and the guy (Cyrus the Great) responsible for creating the blueprint for modern Western empires starting their respective careers. It is almost like Neptune was personified in Pythagoras and Saturn in Cyrus.

  13. Hi JMG!

    When I attempt to send posts from this site to my kindle, the conversion fails. Anyone else try to do that successfully? Or similarly fail? (My kindle is old in computer years but still works well. It is 5th generation). I’m trying to do less on screens that glow…


  14. Hi John Michael,

    All the way through the essay my brain was saying: ‘a beginning, and not an end in and of itself’ – and then you went and wrote just that. But yeah, of course! It’s been said elsewhere in amusing terms that enlightenment takes consistent hard work.

    Out of sheer curiosity, was your great simple spell you dropped all those years ago (you know the one) a form of initiation into a more likely future?

    I had an eerie insight this morning and was curious as to your thoughts in the matter. The elites are getting up to what looks like mischief, because it saves them the heartache of recognising the greater loss. Dunno. The advantage of the hermit is that such a person can step away from the collective spell.



  15. Thanks for bringing up the Masonic Initiation. A member of the lodge told me that it will be an experience that I never forget. I can see why!

  16. Christopher, thanks for catching that — I’ve fixed it. What you’ve read about becoming a Mason is pretty thoroughly garbled; the only spiritual force that’s invoked in a Masonic lodge is the God of standard Western monotheism, and while there’s some nice lurid language in a few places, it’s meant symbolically, not literally. As for inviting spiritual forces, be sure I’m working with them just now.

    Karl, it’s quite interesting. Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, was also born right around then — his traditional date works out to 563 BC — and Judaism took on something much closer to its modern form after the end of the Babylonian exile in 539 BC. A lot of things shifted in a modern direction right about then; it’ll be interesting to see which way they shift this time. (And I may take the time to cast and delineate the 555 BC conjunction to get some clues…)

    Matt, I have no idea! That’s well beyond my geek skills. Anybody else?

    Chris, a very, very simple form of initiation! Zen masters — not that I’m one of those — like to use a simple utterance now and again to shock people into a different state of awareness. As for the elites, yeah, that seems very likely to me — and the path of the Hermit is an effective response.

    Jon, he’s quite correct. My first initiation was into Odd Fellowship rather than Masonry, and it’s always the first one that sticks the hardest — I can still remember every detail, from sitting in the anteroom with two other candidates hearing odd sounds from inside the lodge hall, all the way through — but I can call all my initiations to mind without effort, and I’ve gone through upwards of 70 initiation ceremonies so far.

  17. JMG:
    1. You’re welcome.
    2. I kind of wondered how something as wacky as what I’d read about could survive and be so popular. There’s plenty of wacky stuff in this world, but I’m glad to learn that Masonry is more straightforward than the weird version I got of its reputation.
    3. If I pursue this, it will be with language such as “those forces JMG currently seeks to prioritize, in his own working relationship with them.”

    You don’t say what fails. There is a server bug where some users get a preview of the post which has all line breaks removed, leaving a giant wall of text, but when JMG posts it the post is published just fine. Are you subscribing with a Calibre recipe? I think JMG could introduce you to the site’s tech team, if you would like to help them do some troubleshooting tests.

  18. JMG, you’re right about remembering rituals. I was initiated into the Order of the Arrow, a Boy Scout offshoot, back in high school. It was a day of complete silence and traipsing about some cold, November woods in Minnesota doing menial and strenuous work.

    We received a hard boiled egg for lunch. By the end of the afternoon we returned to the warm lodge where food awaited us and we learned a song which was Ojibwe, I think. It was a lot for a 15 year old boy to take in and I still remember the song.

  19. I am really struggling with these “Ritual” chapters. When we first started with the “Doctrine” chapters, I could read sentences and knew what each word meant, but had no idea what the sentence meant. I finally got to the point that I understood sentences and then I think I understood the chapters as a whole… describing the Tree, with the stages of involution and evolution. (And I’m sure there are multiple levels of understanding the Tree. I am happy that I at least understood one.)
    So with the “Ritual” chapters, I understand individual chapters, but I don’t see the overall relationship between them. I’ve been reading some other texts, hoping that would help. The best I’ve come up with so far is that “Doctrine” described the process abstractly (astral-ly) and “Ritual” is describing it more symbolically (etheric-ly).
    If this is sort of on track, I have a question about Divine Sparks and astral/etheric bodies: does the Divine Spark starts as an “so Below” Kether, since it is an emanation and then does it observe itself, creating a duality in Chokmah and then does that duality separate into a masculine/feminine (Soul/Spirit) or is the Divine Spark a piece of the Fiery part of the Divine that is emanated into the Watery part of the Divine and some of the Watery part of the Divine coalesces around the Divine Spark, the Watery part becoming the Spirit and the Divine Spark becoming the Soul? And if that is what happens, during Chokmah, is the duality the Divine Spark observing the Kether-Divine? Or what?
    If that is no where near on track, could you please give me a hint that would help me get back on track?
    Thank you.

  20. Noteworthy and always-engaging Archruid, I found that this chapter accumulated in my markups on my copy quite a few “?” and even “Hmmm” notations, where I am skeptical of what Levi says. Parts of the chapter read like he was having The Vapors, with something having triggered a dismissive fit of elitism. “But the government of the world belongs by right to the elite” even summoned my dreaded Red Pen of Outline and Disapproval!

    ‘Imposing silence on your lusts and fears’, from the point of view of this mystically-inclined person at least, seems a prescription for a losing battle with repression.

    He’s so over the top in some of the things he says in this chapter (e.g. “Life is war, where one must prove oneself to rise in rank: power is not given; one must take it”) that I have to suspect he’s pulling our legs, at least to an extent. Levi IS a bit of a trickster & this chapter is talking about initiation; of course initiation rituals can involve certain outrageous and unusual acts. So that’s how I’m processing this chapter, at least for now: an outrageous challenge intended to push me to break through, beyond to a realm beyond my mundane normality.

    All the best to you, JMG!

  21. Even if I’d never learned anything else from your writings, your dual testimony to 1) the importance of serious focus in initiatory proceedings (e.g. the druidic year-long study) and 2) the feasibility of self-initiation would be enough to compel my gratitude. I’m in a woo-friendly area, and I know so very many people who have been ‘initiated’ into various things for a small fee. I’ve also been carefully subject to lengthy traditional initiatory preparations. I have no interest in disparaging the former or practicing the latter, and without remembering the importance and feasibility of self-initiation, I’d be more discouraged about my journies into the hidden.

  22. Christopher, fair enough!

    Jon, the Order of the Arrow initiation was borrowed from Ernest Thompson Seton’s Woodcraft movement, during the brief period when the Scouts tried to co-opt Seton. By all accounts it’s a solid ritual — Seton’s work was always first-rate.

    Random, nice. That’s very much on track. As for the Ritual, Lévi doesn’t follow a linear structure in either half of his book; the idea is that you read all 22 chapters of the Ritual, think and meditate about each one, and then start practicing rituals and bit by bit realize what Lévi was talking about.

    Bryan, good. This chapter is very easy to take too literally or too seriously.

    Leo, I’m glad to hear this.

  23. Here I am, having suggested mystery initiations for the fifth Wednesday just the past week, and then I get this teaser. 😉

    (A sign from the heavens that I should bring this topic up again on the next fifth Wednesday??)

    Anyway, there is one very practical issue I‘ve been wondering about. With initiations where people are brought into a different state of sorts, and then are expected to swear an oath: Do the candidates generally know beforehand what they are supposed to swear upon, and what their oath will entail?

    And if not, what happens if a candidate isn‘t willing to take such an oath, and only realises that during the ceremony?

    (My unruly imagination keeps producing dramatic scenes, in an underground vault, with candlelight, and torches burning on the walls, chanting people in robes in the background, an altar with various important objects on it, and a half circle of adepts around an initiate who is asked to swear his life on this thing or another, on swordpoint. The music rises to a dramatic crescendo, everything else is fading away, and the initiate opens his mouth… and then says, slowly and thoughtfully, „I dunno, folks, something about that oath doesn‘t sit right with me. I think I‘ll need a few days to mull this over. Maybe we can reconvene next Saturday, and simply pick it up from here? Oh, and while we‘re at it, is there any chance we could re-negotiate that middle part?“)

    I‘m only kidding here, of course (if nothing else, it would probably take superhuman social strength to interrupt such a ceremony in such a way… 😉 ), but the question remains: Do people generally know beforehand what they will be supposed to commit to? And if not: How much value does an oath have which is given under such exceptional circumstances and emotional stress?


  24. @JMG,

    1. Was it common for authors to not put things in order? (Because Splendor Solis would definitely make more sense if some things were rearranged.)

    2. Hall (Secret Teachings) described the Tree as rather than being one Tree divided up into four Worlds, there were four Trees, one for each World (an oversimplification, I know). I like seeing the Worlds this way, because it is easier for me to understand the Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind that way. Then I read a Rosicrucian article and they had sort of the same idea (but Emanation, Creation, Formation, Action instead of Atziluth, et al). But then, if I understood it correctly, they were describing the path etheric-ly. If you look at the Trees this way, does a Divine Spark have his own set of four Trees that he travels down? Or is he following the same Trees, just at a different time?

    And I just had a thought… Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind could relate to principles of Sulphur, Salt, and Quicksilver. (not necessarily in that order. I will have to think on that a bit.)

    Thank you so much.

  25. John Michael wrote, “Aidawedo, maybe you could explain what you mean by “growth period.” I can think of half a dozen things that could be given that label.”

    I too found that peculiarly poetically-spaced comment baffling… until I read your response. Had the ghost of E. E. Cummings unexpectedly started channeling through the commentariat in order to get a message through to you from the other side? While that may not be wholly inconceivable, I have to assume that such a talented ghost would be far better at putting in line breaks and conveying subtle meanings. Your honest query thus led me to go back to try deciphering out what might have been so cryptically hinted at in that incomprehensible mash. Alas, it now appears to me that nothing was being hinted at all, but rather just being encrypted.

    One wretchedly over-ambitious answer to your quite reasonable question can be found in the anagram acrostically highlighted in the capital letters of that surreal poeticism. (Note: That would—ever so accidentally, I’m sure—include more that merely the first letter of each line. What a truly labored effort! How on earth do these folks motivate themselves to aspire to such pitifully impotent drudgery?) Not that that anagcrostic (Who knew the English language was missing such a useful word?) yields a very satisfying or meaningful answer to your sane question, but I doubt the original comment was ever meant to make any rational sense. Its petunia logic may have just been a Trojan horse of a thoughtstopper, solely designed to scatter your attention sufficient to sneak its formulaic anagram through.

    Ah, how the mightily ear-splitting and monstrously earth-shaking squeaks of the magically timid and insecure thunderously roll and echo within their own heads! Fortunately, the rest of us would have to listen very, very closely to even notice the mewling whimper that their ongoing self-harm still permits them to incant out loud. Or in print.
    “Heh, heh, look, Beavis, I got someone to post a naughty word without realizing it, heh, heh.”
    “Yeah, Butt-Head, heh, heh, you sure did. That was great, heh, heh.”
    So many have gotten lost in the mazes of their own delusions of grandeur. Prayers for the fallen are certainly called for.

  26. @ Bryan Allen,

    I’m not sure this resource is directly related to the phrases you referred to in this chapter… I read it a few weeks ago and will need to reread it thinking about this chapter and your comments. But the author explains interpretations of some common prayers at the Body, Soul, Spirit level. This is an overview: Then he has more page that go into each phrase of each prayer individually. It might give you some ideas of how to interpret Levi’s statements.

    This might not be new to you, but I have a limited background in Christian prayer and I interpreted things literally. So to read this was eye-opening for me:

    “5 Thou shalt honour thy Father and thy Mother.
    This deals with the principle of polarity and gender, of right relationship between spirit and matter, male and female, active and passive. Thou: refers to our little “self” operating from our objective consciousness and sub-consciousness. To honour is to deliberately focus attention upon and enter into a right relationship with:

    the Father: as both God and our Divine spark, which are identical in truth, if we could only understand this; and
    the Mother: the lowest level of reality, personified as Nature in general and our individual vehicle of consciousness, our body, in particular.”

  27. Some people here who like mystery fiction might enjoy the Quint Dalrymple series by Paul Johnston. It is set in a future Dystopian Scotland that has been modeled on Plato’s Republic, with results that are quite, uh, not nice. I read the first one, Body Politic, and was thinking of it again and may read the second one soon. It wasn’t the best novel I ever read, but I did like the mixture of dystopia, SF, mystery/thriller, and the future Scotland setting. Maybe the second one, The Bone Yard picks up speed…

    John, as for the H.O.O.R initiation ritual, they did say they thought theirs was “better” than the O.T.O. version, which I guess they had pirated versions of then, back in 1997. Some members might have left the O.T.O. for that matter. H.O.O.R’s lineage came from an A.:.A.:. lineage that went to Marcela Moto, so maybe it was closer to S.O.T.O? I was looking forward to your post on the Thelemic wars in your history of American occultism. I understand about certain projects getting sidelined though. (And as far as O.T.O stuff goes I’m just glad I didn’t get to have to go through the H.O.O.R. version of the XI-th degree with an elderly male initiator ; )

    The initiations that followed since were all self-initiations and/or hybrid self and astral initiations timed with other members of the groups I’ve worked with.

    As far as Hindemith goes, I listened to the orchestral version as well. It was ok, but it didn’t knock my socks off or anything. I couldn’t concentrate on my work easily with the operatic singing. I really like his Trio for Trautonium, which was my first introduction to his music, and which I wrote about. I was excited to learn yesterday though, that Hindemith wrote a piece called Ludus Tonalis, which I guess could be translated slightly incorrectly as Game of Tones…his attempt at 20th century version of The Well Tempered Clavier. That’s what I’ll be exploring next from his work.

    I’ve come to think, from some dreams and other evidence, that I may have had a connection to some of this kind of music in a past life that happened around the midcentury, but I’m not forcing the issue. I’ll wait and see what else arises in time. But it makes sense in the way I gravitated to some of this material with no influence from my family or school, but just exploring the library and hearing certain radio shows as a teenager.

    @Chris: In the H.O.O.R. initiation I had to kneel on the ground and had two swords placed above my neck at angles with the threat of banishment, etc. if I communicated the ritual.

  28. John, have you heard about this guy James L. Kelley? I’m going to read this book. It seemed like something that might be useful to you for your writings on enchantment and modernity, etc.

    Anatomyzing Divinity: Studies in Science, Esotericism and Political Theology:

    “This three-part analysis of modernity assesses the impact that Western thought and philosophy has had on today’s world. Making use of neglected research from the fringes of academia, “Anatomyzing Divinity” traces the circuitous path of occult wisdom from China, India, Egypt and the Hellenistic world to Byzantium and beyond. At the heart of the book is an investigation of the life and thought of G. W. Leibniz, the man who invented calculus and laid the groundwork for binary code, which in turn made computers possible. Leibniz’s roots, Kelley shows, lay in the Frankish metaphysical tradition, and thus have little in common with some of his contemporaries’ materialism. Along the way, sidelights are turned on 1) the occult basis of Western political systems, as well as 2) the alchemical basis of much Western philosophy and theology.”

  29. Mr. Greer,

    I would be interested in hearing your results. Also you mentioned Buddha being born in 563BC; Confucius was born in 551BC. The main underlying pattern here- with Pythagoras, Cyrus, Confucius, Siddhartha Gautama -is bureaucratization, centralization and rule by an educated elite of which our society’s recent obsession with technocracy is the final worn out form of. I also remember your statement a couple of weeks ago about Piscean belief systems:

    “rooted in the emotions, collectivist in its outlook, demanding uniformity of belief and behavior, fixated on “helping” others whether they want your help or not.”

    And the Piscean age the governmental and philosophical instruments of the Piscean age seemed to have been born about this time. So assuming whatever this new Saturn-Neptune conjunction brings it is likely to be opposed to the concepts of bureaucratization and centralization. Also, as we are entering into an Aquarian age which you described as:

    “individualistic, eccentric, aloof, rooted in thought rather than emotion, and fixated on pursuing a personal vision no matter what other people think.”

    And if that is the case I see roughly three types of political systems that would appeal to an individualistic political leader fixated on pursuing a personal vision regardless of the opinions of the rest of the world:

    1. Confederation: Central authority is relatively weak and local/regional rulers have a great deal of autonomy and personal initiative. Decisions made by the central government require subsequent implementation by the member states to take effect. Laws have the character of interstate agreements.
    2. Feudalism: Decentralization of political and military power. Local rulers have considerable political and military power and freedom of action.
    3. Dictatorship: While bucking the decentralization trend this form of government offers individual rulers the most freedom of action and the ability to pursue their personal vision free from the constraints of society.

    It is worth noting that all three of these government systems are ones would have horrified the thinkers of the 555BC Saturn-Neptune conjunction. Pythagoras fled his homeland of Samos to escape the Tyranny of Polycrates. It is interesting to note the word Tyrant in the original Greek terminology meant an absolute sovereign who came to power without constitutional right and had a neutral connotation during the Archaic and early Classical periods of Greek history. It was Pythagoras and Plato who gave the word its modern negative connotation. And it goes without saying the idea of an absolute monarch or a feudal state or a confederation of tribes/clans would have horrified Confucius.

    There was also a religious system that started to die out about this time; that of apotheosis, the imperial cult and the sacred king. Those have been making something of a comeback the last century; watch how Stalin or the Kim family in North Korea were worshipped as deities. Not to mention it is cropping up in Western culture more and more. It first showing up in Dune, specifically the book Dune Messiah where the concept first showed up was released only a few months after Hair’s Age of Aquarius debuted on Broadway. By the way, Warner Brothers has apparently greenlit an adaptation of Dune Messiah currently scheduled for a 2026 release and Amazon’s new Warhammer 40,000 film/TV series is also scheduled for a 2026 release. Interesting timing there.

  30. Christopher from California (and others):

    On my iphone I attempt to “share” the webpage with kindle which for other webpages creates and uploads a version to my amazon kindle library that I can download and read on my kindle device. I would rather read on kindle then on an iphone. (would really rather read hard copy but…) The file that shows up in kindle library for download has the right title, but the content that should be the text of the article reads “Web Extraction Failed We were unable to extract the content from the following web page. We apologize for an inconvenience.”

    Any help is appreciated, but understand that it may not be doable.


  31. @Christophe, that’s well observed. Anyone who would invoke the popular name of Kris Kringle (however acrostically and anagrammatically) more than two weeks after Christmas might very well be groping their way through some kind of dark intricacy, lashing out at imagined terrors and awaiting the light of revelation.

    Or is it a coincidence involving some of the most common letters of the alphabet? Labyrinths of our own creation can be the hardest to escape.

  32. “… the pattern’s very much the same as in other Western initiations.” Now you’ve piqued my interest! How do Eastern initiations differ?

  33. Milkyway, it really depends on the order in question. In Masonry, the candidate is informed of the general nature of the pledges he’ll be expected to make beforehand, and in the ritual, before the obligation is taken, he is told by the chief officer of the lodge that the obligation contains nothing that will conflict in any way with his civil, religious, or moral duties (which is quite true) and asked whether he is willing to take the obligation. If he says no, he’s taken out of the lodge room and the initiation goes no further. In Martinist lodges, the candidate gets the complete text of the obligation in advance and has to write it out by hand and sign it before the initiation can begin! On the other hand, I’ve heard of a few corrupt Wiccan groups and magical lodges that spring all kinds of dubious things on candidates in the obligation; that doesn’t last for long, though, because word gets out and people shun such orders.

    Random, (1) all the time. It was a very common gimmick among old-fashioned occult authors. (2) Since the Tree of Life is a map, not the territory the map describes, you can interpret it and use it in all these ways. Thus there’s no one right answer to your question! Use the way of thinking that helps you make sense of it, and be ready to expand on that as you learn more. (Emanation, Creation, Formation, and Action, btw, are English translations of Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiah respectively, so it’s the same system.)

    Christophe, funny. Unfortunately, since I lack the fine literary sensibilities that would enable me to extract the meaning from such intricate puzzles, I fall back on asking the author what they mean.

    Justin, I wonder if they’d have had you worshipping a gold plated penis in the 8th. 😉 In 1997 bootleg photocopies of Francis King’s suppressed The Secret Rituals of the O.T.O. were all the rage — I didn’t have one, but I knew people who did. As for the OTO wars and the American occult history series, I’m hoping that things calm down enough to get back to that! No, I hadn’t heard of Kelly — fascinating. I’ll have to check him out.

    Karl, my guess is that the political systems of the next cycle will be just as unimaginable to Piscean thinkers as Piscean ideological bureaucracies were to the thinkers of the age of Aries. Dictators are an endlessly recurring presence in complex societies — they take power whenever an established system becomes too incompetent and corrupt to provide the basic necessities of social life — and feudalism is the inevitable result of the collapse of a civilization; you always get a feudal system afterwards, because feudalism is based on control of farmland and personal relationships, the two things you have left when societies go completely to pot. Thus we can certainly expect plenty of those! My guess, though, is that we haven’t yet seen the first sketches of the post-Piscean political order.

    Roldy, in the ones I’m familiar with, the initiator establishes a sacred space in the form of a mandala, and the candidates go through various purificatory practices — fasting, prayer, pouring twenty buckets of cold water over their heads each morning, noon, evening, and midnight, etc., etc. Then, after the candidates are good and purified, the initiator brings them into the mandala, gives them the secret mantra and other elements of the practice they’ll be doing, and then they all do a ritual to invoke the deity who presides over the practice. There may be some lectures in there somewhere too.

  34. JMG, that‘s fair enough, and thanks for explaining the details. I‘ll tell my imagination to go focus on something else (it was a very dramatic scene while it lasted, though!). 😉


  35. Matt # 31 who is the “We” who are unable to extract web content? The error message would come from either your phone’s browser, or the web to Kindle conversion service. Both of them are third parties, not affiliated with the hosting service JMG uses for this site. There is something about that third party software’s attempt to scrape the contents of the site. The third party Kindle conversion program you’re using – or, your phone’s browser – fails to successfully read the page’s content and convert it for your Kindle.

    The place to start with a support request would be with Amazon, or whoever provides the software that is supposed to read web sites and download them to your Kindle. Or Apple, or whoever provides the browser you’re using on your phone. Those are the two places were “we” could fail to download web content.

    Near the top right of this web page you can see that is the hosting provider. The link there takes you to Geoff’s page with About for how you can reach him through LinkedIn.
    As a customer of the hosting service, JMG might perhaps have an additional contact point for you, who could help your Kindle conversion service provider to look into why the external, third party converter fails when downloading this particular site.

    JMG himself doesn’t have a technology background, as far as I know. The only software features he uses as a publisher are making his posts with embedded pictures, and moderating and responding to comments. He’s not involved with the code to generate the HTML pages shown here.

    The only error I’ve ever seen users here report is the formatting bug that omits blank lines from previews of reply comments. Other than that, Geoff Stratton’s server correctly serves up a web page, which your Kindle utility then fails to handle correctly.

    Hope this gets you pointed in the right direction for a fix. Reading Ecosophia on e-ink would be very appropriate technology!

  36. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for your explanation. Appreciate that.

    As something of a hermit myself, when I look at the goings on with the elites, it is hard not to feel concern for their overall mental health. It would be getting more difficult for them over time, rather than less so. Probably compassion misplaced, but the consequences are playing out all around us. I noted a recent use of dark magic with the suggestion that somehow: ‘5% inflation was an entirely new concept which was described as disinflation’. You’ve discussed before how the planes are discreet, but err, A+ for effort, F- for results with that lot It’s troubling to consider that we’re at the point in time when the people in power consider that the use of magic is enough, even in the face of repeated failure.

    As a somewhat related side story, and for your interest. Did you know that such types are constructing houses which look like concrete bunkers to me, they’re spruiking luxury cruise ship holidays, and get this, they’re constructing what suspiciously look like country villas. Talk about bubble-land! Isn’t it odd how everything old is new again? You can see this playing out in magazines, and it’s funny how we give our internal states away?

    We have few fences here, and that sends a message: We’re poor, there’s nothing of any value to take. The bunkers and heavily fenced and well appointed villas on the other hand tell an entirely different story, don’t you reckon? I’m of the opinion that many acts that we as a species do, are based in magic.



  37. As for “growth” I refer to expansion post magical initiation
    I was asking you to comment about the growth periods after initiation which can be psychically, physically, emotionally distressing and difficult, esp. with the trials.

    I was write using a device while in motion and made some errors, so i am sorry. It is very funny I suppose. Just hilarious. TY, TY

  38. spruiking?
    I had to look that one up. 🙂

    [ sprook ] verb (used without object) Australian Slang. to make or give a speech, especially extensively or elaborately; spiel; orate.

  39. Perhaps off subject, but a response to the paragraph containing “enforce those basic laws necessary for people to live together in relative peace” I thought of my youth and childhood in the 50’s and 60’s when over the vast majority of the USA unsupervised children wandered about on bicycles and foot with their parents often at the best having only a general idea where they might be. I read once an account by a man recalling he had the freedom to go around San Francisco without an adult as a 11 year old boy on the bus system in the very early 60’s! I think that this is now unthinkable in so many areas and subject to CPS disapproval is a diagnostic sign of an increasingly unhealthy society.

  40. Chris, yes, I immediately thought of all those wealthy people in Roman Britain who fled the cities for rural villas, and died messily once the barbarians came because Saxons, Picts, and Irish were all quick learners who figured out the villas were where the best plunder was. I’m waiting to see if any of our current crop of failed elites will learn from history and recognize that clinging to their status and wealth in times like these basically paints a bull’s-eye on their backsides.

    Aidawedo, thanks for clarifying. Not everyone has that experience. If the course of magical training leading up to initiation is reasonably well designed, in fact, the post-initiation period should be relatively easy. Mind you, I’m talking about Western occult initiation here, the kind Eliphas Lévi wrote about; if you’re talking about a different cultural tradition, it may have very different effects.

    BeardTree, I was one of those kids — I went all over the place on my bike, meaning anything up to twenty miles from home, and neither I nor anyone else thought anything of it. The collapse of childhood freedoms in the face of mostly imaginary parental and societal terrors is a bleak story.

  41. Karl Grant’s question about the Age of Aquarius threw me into a fit of nostalgia, and I queued up 5th Dimension’s “Age of Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine” and listened to it again.
    JMG, I know you scorn its lyrics for the wholly inaccurate astrology. What the song does for me, is much more of a *mood*.
    I was born in 1961, and remember the earlier 1960’s as a time that felt very straitjacketed, and spiritually like living on a diet of sawdust and grey cardboard. The 1950’s and 1960’s were when the PMC came roaring out of the starting gates and imposed their pointy-haired managerial, everything-squared-off-and-just-so, Danish Modern sterile hideousness upon our world.
    Then about 1966, certainly by 1967, the youth had had enough and the revolt came like a kaleidoscopic explosion of flowers heaving up the grey concrete of the Square Order. The music was the anthem of those times, a paean of life, vibrantness, liberation, *color*. It was for me like finally getting to take a deep breath of spiritual fresh air. To this day, songs from that era remind me of that atmosphere of hope, vigor, newness.
    This of course is the perspective of a 6-to-9-year-old child in suburbia in a smallish city at the time. The turmoil of Vietnam, racial conflict, and college student riots was far from me.

  42. Mr Greer,
    I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this here before (forgive me if so), but with respect to the mystery initiations of the ancient Greeks, have you come across Richard Mitchell’s (sadly unfinished) Psyche Papers, available here (it’s in four sections, you have to scroll down): ? I’d be interested to know what you think of it if you have time.

  43. @JMG,

    1. Sigh. I wish they didn’t do that. It’s not like this stuff would be easy if they didn’t do that.

    2. So solve and coagula, sublimate, repeat. And repeat. And repeat a few more times. 😉

    Thank you for the translations and guidance.

  44. It seems to me there are traces and echoes of initiatory practices and experiences everywhere, from the myth of Theseus in the Labyrinth (among countless other myths) to the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” to the design of “dark rides” in theme parks. Is that like a Freudian seeing references to illicit sex everywhere, or is there something more to it?

  45. Regarding the mental health of elites, @Chris #39, I find a lyric by Al Stewart often coming to mind. It’s from “The Age of Rhythm” (album “Between the Wars”), a song about the latter years of the 1920s.

    Everyone seems a little bit desperate
    They’re oh so witty, but over the edge
    Don’t know why they try to impress you
    With one foot on the window ledge

  46. Kindle update – I can save the webpage on my computer and send to the kindle library successfully. I needed to save as html only.

    It is delightfully “modern” in the sense that the process takes more steps than expected to actually work!

  47. In your opinion what is the difference between an attunement and an initiation. My take is that all attunements could be seen as initiatory in a sense, but not all initiations work to awaken energy centers, which I guess is what distinguishes an attunement. Though the initiation does attune the person to certain symbols and currents and the powers at work in the tradition. On the one hand, so the neophyte will recognize those symbols, and on the other hand so the powers will recognize the neophyte.

  48. Hello JMG! I have an urgent question for you; The Epstein incident and the psychological distress and nausea it caused, the difficult period my country is going through – economic difficulties – collapse, as a result of the outbreak of wars around the world, I feel like my mental health is falling apart, how can I keep my mental health in balance, I feel like going out and shouting, what practices do you recommend? . Meanwhile; There are rumors that Epstein is engaged in satanic rituals. I fear that these sickening events will cause all esoteric systems to be labeled as ‘evil’ and start a second Witch Hunt era. What can we personally do about this? Thank you. Please answer, my mental health is in trouble, I am waiting for your answer.

  49. JMG,

    Does 70+ initiations mean 70+ states of consciousness? Has each one been unique, or are there overlaps in the states of consciousness that are transmitted?

    While some of the initiations offered by some orders might be “from time immemorial,” it seems like some might have more recent origins. How does the first initiator in a lineage start it? If someone had a particular vision, but no initiation corresponding to it, would it be possible to make contact through another way and establish something legitimate?

    I’m currently meditating through the Ogham fews following the DMH. At some point with each few, I seem to make contact with the particular state of consciousness of the few. This seems rather “initiatory” in the sense of a beginning, as in addition to that state of consciousness being easier to access in the future by working with the few, it also seems that working with it helps to integrate the qualities are merits of that state of consciousness into the states of consciousness I normally inhabit. Synchronicities relating to the states of consciousness also abound. How does this relate to the kind of initiation you’re discussing here?

    Thank you!

  50. JMG and Beardtree,
    On the subject of children on Bikes. It seems we have a long process by which we have slowly changed from a society where children were viewed as small adults ( with limitations) to one in which most adults are treated like children ( at least by the government and mass media). This started with replacing the dawn to dusk freedom a boy or girl in the 1960’s had and moved up through high school and college and beyond. This has an interesting ( in my mind) Nexus with initiations. As this practice of treating young adults as children expanded it of course spread to colleges and universities. This has had effects on freedom of speech on campus, etc.
    But the first place that was targeted by the “reformers” was the greek letter societies as they represented things that were an anathema to the “childification” of colleges and society at large. What I think particularly pissed them off were traditional rituals and initiations as rites of passage. All these things were officially classified as hazing ( a badity bad thing like terrorism) and that used as the cudgel to eliminated the hated clans of men undergoing rites of passage to adulthood. After all these things did not just usher a pledge in to the brotherhood but in many ways manhood, which we now know has become a hated synmbol in this “woke” age.

  51. Matt # 49 “We found the problem, sir. There’s a nut loose behind the keyboard.” 😉

  52. I and my siblings were among the unsupervised children of the 1960s.

    On my first day of kindergarten in 1962, my mother, who had a 3 1/2 year old and a 10 month old at home, walked me, age 5 1/2, to school. Being observant, I noticed that none of the other kids’ mothers were walking them to school and decided I could walk by myself too. As my mother walked me home, I paid careful attention to the route so I would know exactly how to get to and from school. The next morning, while my mother was walking me to school, I told her I knew the way home and could walk home by myself. She said OK, probably thinking it would be better to stay home with the younger kids and let me do as I wanted. I walked home without problems and walked by myself to and from school every day for that year and the next, until my sister started school when I began second grade and walked with me. Can you imagine a parent letting a 5 1/2 year old child walk by herself these days, even inside a subdivision for only several blocks, not having to cross any major streets, as was the case for me? Any parent who tried it would be in jail before they could say “child abuse.”

    I remember that first walk quite well, and I think it had the characteristics of an initiation. If so, then among other issues with helicopter parenting, another problem with it is it doesn’t allow children to go through some initiation-like experiences that help them to gain confidence in themselves and grow into confident and competent adults.

  53. Cicada, oh, I love the song. I roll my eyes at the astrology in the lyrics, but I still know all the words. I still listen to the version by The Fifth Dimension sometimes.

    Adrian, I’m not familiar with Mitchell’s work at all. Thank you; I’ve bookmarked it and will have a look as time permits.

    Random, it wasn’t casually done. They believed that the secrets they were guarding could cause unimaginable destruction in the hands of the greedy and clueless. The scrambled order of operations, the evasive symbolism — all that was intended as a means of security.

    Walt, partly it’s the Freud effect, but there’s more to it than that. On the one hand, initiation rituals, at least in theory, mirror certain essential aspects of the deep structure of the mind; on the other, people have been practicing them since long before the beginning of recorded history — there’s no shortage of archeological sites that make most sense as places of initiation — so it’s not surprising to find traces all over.

    Matt, glad to hear it.

    Justin, an attunement need not include the jolt that brings you to a different state of awareness; it can simply energize centers in your subtle body. An initiation, at least in the Western occult use of the term, always has that shift in levels of consciousness.

    Yiğit, I am not a mental health specialist and I’m not qualified to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for mental issues. I don’t know how things are in your country but in mind, I could do jail time for trying to act like a doctor or a therapist when I don’t have the necessary qualifications. I’d encourage you to find a legally qualified therapist or counselor; under the laws we have here in the US, that’s literally all I’m permitted to do.

    Yucca, there’s a huge amount of overlap. In fraternal initiations, the desired states of consciousness are all very similar to one another, being variations on the theme of moral goodness; in Western occult initiations, similarly, there’s not that much variation in the stages of unfolding the capacity for inner perception and action. Thus it’s not at all hard, if you’ve received some initiations and helped to confer them on other people, to create new initiations with similar goals; I’ve done it myself several times, with good results. As for your Ogham work, excellent — that’s one of the classic modes of self-initiation.

    Clay, that’s a fascinating point, and also an important one. Thank you.

    SLClaire, I also walked to kindergarten; I did it with a group of other kids from my street, but once we’d made the trip a couple of times with one of the moms for escort, we proceeded on our own. This was a little later than your experience — I was born in 1962, so started kindergarten in the fall of 1968 — but the principle was the same.

  54. Good point about there being a good number of conspiracies in competition., ranging from drug cartel criminal syndicates (look what’s happening in Ecuador) up to our beloved Davos/WEF types (this one I can’t help to think they may be in more aware connection with bad boy spiritual forces, though in the name of good intentions, consider Klaus Schwab! You can’t deny he looks the part)
    The Chinese elite has been openly conspiring for world domination for decades as documented in the book The 100 Year Marathon – 2049 is the target date for completion. I read once that FDR in his college days encountered a Japanese student who told him of his country’s elite’s plans for domination of Asia. In WW1 the Germans secretly sent Lenin into Russia to conspire to destabilize their Russian opponent. In American history the Committees of Correspondence and the Sons of Liberty conspired to effect that there would be “No king but King Jesus”. On board with that statement I am ( spiritually with free choice involved, not an earthly theocracy, that’s been tried to bad effect) being a descendant of cousins of John and Samuel Adams and revolutionary war soldiers.

  55. RandomActsOfKarma # 27 That symbolic interpretation is interesting and helpful for me. Thanks!

    Justin Patrick Moore # 28 “I had to kneel on the ground and had two swords placed above my neck at angles with the threat” That’s exactly the kind of thing I’d like to avoid in this lifetime. It sounds like JMG wouldn’t recommend an initiation that had this kind of action scene in the ritual.

    Karl Grant # 30 It seems that Confederation and Feudalism go well together, as with a monarchy whose Knights or Nobility are each responsible to provide a certain level of military forces in wartime, and a certain level of economic tribute in peacetime.

    JMG # 35 “As for the OTO wars and the American occult history series, I’m hoping that things calm down enough to get back to that!” Could you explain a bit more what you hope could continue? Or was this an in-joke that sailed right over my head?

    Milkyway # 36 Your and my ideas about Hideous Initiations, Mwah Ha Ha! could lead to some really bad horror fiction! I’m kind of surprised now that it’s not already a popular meme for lousy B-movies with evil occultist bad guys. I suppose Rocky Horror kind of comes close?

    As with JMG # 43, a few years younger than him, as a little kid growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles I rode my bike all around town, sometimes for hours, with nobody thinking this was unusual. I was bussed to schools across town through 6th grade. Grades 7-12 I was close enough to walk to school and back home, and did so. It’s something I enjoyed about those years. Again, there was nothing unusual about this.

    Walt F # 48 Roger Waters’s lyrics for the song Dogs, performed by Pink Floyd, discuss brutal, abuse elites who themselves were brutally abused. One of his best deep dives into his lifelong themes of the union of psychology and sociology, in my opinion.
    # 47 Disneyland’s “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” is a dark ride in which after careless driving in a way that could kill pedestrians, Mr. Toad careens into Hell! I wonder if that’s been revised since my childhood?

    Cicada Grove # 44 In my mid 50s now I have exactly the same feeling about “Let the sunshine in.” Mood, vibe, message are crystal clear even if the astrology isn’t. Video of The Fifth Dimension performing is timelessly joyous, groovy, uplifting, and very colorful!

  56. JMG,
    This may be more of an Open Post question, but as the topic is initiations, I thought I’d ask:
    Husband and I felt a pull to enroll in a Basic Pistol I class at a local indoor shooting range. We’ve no history as “gun people”. The rules were explained, as well as technique, and off we trooped to the range. It was absolutely terrifying. Warning signs everywhere, instructions on how and when to call 911, explosions in the background, difficulty hearing voices through my ear protection, nonstop verbal instructions. I got to my booth, prepared to shoot my rented 38-special revolver, and then shot. The world went completely black, except for the most amazing burst of flame and sound I’ve ever experienced in my life. A few more tries, and I said to my instructor, I cannot do this. She wisely brought me a 22 caliber pistol, and life got much better. At the end of the class, husband and I wobbled back to our car and felt dazed for the next 24 hours. You’d think we’d hang it up. No, that just determined that we’d go back to Basic Pistol 2 today. The results were better. We’re oddly determined to continue. My thought is that perhaps our higher selves are “initiating” us to align us better with the turbulence that is already here in The West and increasing. Not in a sense, necessarily, of “You need to learn to defend yourself with a gun” but more in the sense of “Find and learn to handle your power in the midst of chaos.” What do you think?

  57. @Christopher from California,

    I am glad you found it helpful, too! The author (in other essays on that site) has some detailed explanations of some interesting alchemical drawings, if you like that kind of thing.

  58. @Christopher from California: I thoroughly enjoyed and reveled in tbe experience, even as there was a certain amount of fear present. Thats part of what made the experience initiatory. I saw that part as a test and trial to pass through, just as there are tests and trials in life. Passing through them brings new experience and changes in consciousness.

  59. @Yigit – when you find yourself in a situation like that you need to fall back at least I’ve always found this to be true, on your exotic practice and go back over it and see what youve missed or under utilized, and see how to put that back into your esoteric practice. The hermit has a staff for a reason.

  60. BeardTree, exactly. I’ve long thought that we need more conspiracies, not fewer; if you’ve got a point of view that’s not well represented in the political sphere, why not organize a conspiracy? As the Sons of Liberty demonstrated, it’s the American way! 😉

    Christopher, several years ago I did a series of posts on the history of occultism in America. It began with this post —

    –and continued off and on for most of two years before the pressure of other issues made me put it on the sidelines for a while.

    Ottergirl, intentionally or not, that had the structure of a classic initiation; you entered an unfamiliar place, were confronted with something frightening, and then learned to deal with your fears and rise to a different state of consciousness.

  61. @Ottergirl #59 re: Learning to Shoot
    (JMG, if this is too far off-topic, I understand).

    First off, I’m glad that you were able to find the initiatory lesson in that experience and meet it with resilience!

    On the other hand, oof, it always frustrates me to hear stories like this. Most gun people have always been gun people and have grown up around gun people, and so guns are just loud, dangerous tools that need to be treated with the proper respect, like a chainsaw. They have no idea how weighted with frightful associations they are to folks who did not grow up with them, or how shockingly loud they are, even with ear protection, if you’re not used to them.

    I had the “good” fortune to grow up as non-gun person, and then to join the Army, which, as you might imagine, made me very familiar and comfortable with firearms. When I teach folks to shoot, my goal is to reduce the scariness as much as possible, both so that the experience is a pleasant one you might want to try again, and because being scared leads to all kinds of problems with accuracy (flinching, squeezing the trigger too jerkily, closing eyes, all that stuff). You might already be past where this will help, but here’s some tips I give to folks I’m teaching to shoot:
    1. Before shooting, I walk someone through how to load, unload, safe and unsafe the weapon, explaining how it works, as well as the standard weapon safety rules. This is as much for basic safety as it is to get him or her comfortable handling it and seeing that it is a little machine run by springs and levers and the like, which demystifies it somewhat.
    2. I make sure to reassure him or her that if you’ve never shot before it’s totally normal to be nervous, most people are. It’s going to be loud, and there will be some recoil, and both will be at least somewhat surprising for the first several times, but once you get used to it, you’ll see that it’s likely much less than you anticipated. All of that’s okay, and nothing to worry about as long as you’re following the basic safety rules.
    3. Wear double ear protection: foam ear plugs as well as over-ear muffs. The noise is easily the scariest part when you’re starting, so muffling that makes it easier to ease into it.
    4. Start with something low recoil. A .22 is an excellent choice. The fundamentals are the same whatever the caliber.
    5. Many folks do better starting with a rifle than a pistol. The larger mass of the rifle absorbs more of the recoil, giving it less felt “kick,” and once you understand the mechanics of what you’re doing with a rifle, it’s really easy to say with a pistol “okay, so now your shooting arm is your stock, but otherwise it’s the same.” There may also be a psychological/socialization aspect: pistols are pretty much only for shooting people (or targets), whereas rifles are used for all sorts of other stuff, so folks have some associations besides cops/robbers/military.

    Anyhow, you may have instead gotten the “toss them into the deep end and let them work it out” method of instruction, which as you indicated, may have had some advantages if you’re able to handle it. Either way, good luck with the rest of your classes and further learning!


  62. Yigit, and I should add what JMG said. From what you wrote sounds like you need to seek out a medical professional you trust and see what’s available in help. Sometimes we just have sleep issues or chemical imbalance needs fixing. Or what have ye.

  63. Christopher from California, Mr. Greer,

    I understand what you are saying about feudalism and dictatorship. I am just trying to brainstorm what the institutions, both political and religious, would look like during an Aquarian age which is an age defined individualist intellectual visionaries. Right now, bureaucracies tend towards collectivization and ideological conformity. Our education system designed to produce future leaders also tends towards that; which is at odds with Aquarian concepts of individualism, creativity and personal vision.

    I wonder if something along the lines of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game when it came to training a new generation of leaders would be more inline with an Aquarian age were you test their imagination and leadership capabilities via their ability to do world building, lore crafting and leading their teams through victory through a series of role-playing and war games. Instead of writing a political thesis or dissertation on the politics of the Roman Empire make them do creative writing assignments along the lines of Jorge Luis Borges’ Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius to see who can create the most interesting and realistic fantasy world. Because vision and creativity are sorely lacking when it comes to our current leadership and institutions.

  64. Karl, I wonder. Have you considered writing professionally? I have no idea if you have the interest, but you’ve got the right kind of imagination, and Marion Zimmer Bradley used to say that anyone who can write a literate English sentence (which you can, of course) can make a living in genre fiction. I found that her rule works just as well in genre nonfiction, for whatever that’s worth.

  65. Mr. Greer,

    I did have aspirations when I was in my late teens/early 20s to be a science fiction/fantasy writer. I even submitted some novel drafts to places and got a series of rejection letters for my trouble.

    For example, the last novel I wrote the basic premise was that in 2050 three things happen in quick succession that caused a scenario similar to the Bronze Age Collapse. One, resource depletion including peak oil. Two was the dawn of a new ice age causing widespread crop failures and food shortages. I had read a scientific paper arguing that melting ice water from the glaciers and polar ice caps could shutdown the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift, plunging the Northern hemisphere into a new ice age and used that as the basis. The third was modern surveillance technology had pretty much forced a bunch of supernatural beings-werewolves, vampires, etc….- out of hiding and the resulting damage that did to modernism/scientism triggered a bunch of widespread panic and paranoia about secret societies and sinister supernatural cabals running the world. All this worked to trigger massive social unrest and a series of world wide interconnected civil wars.

    The main story took place about 100 years after this around 2150. The world’s population had been reduced to about 3 billion and new powers were rising out of the anarchy. In North America a werewolf dominated military junta had seized power and was in the process of ruthlessly strip-mining Canada’s natural resources and tearing apart their towns and cities for salvage to be shipped south before the ice took it all. They were also building up a massive army to invade Mexico and Central America to secure the newly fertile farmland down there. I had Mexico being divided between rival narco-states as the drug cartels had seized power while other parts were ruled by some necromancer/vampire cult.

    I did put a lot of thought into what it would take to build and maintain an industrial society and army in such an environment. For example, I had them building canals and incorporating hydroelectric projects along the canal to power nearby factories and electric trams to tow barges up and down the canals. Other things included funding research into genetic engineering to create crops that were both more resistant to cold and had increased ethanol yield or making improvements to wood gasifiers. Rather then implementing one panacea like nuclear power I had them do about a dozen different things to deal with their energy problems.

    A lot of the rejection letters I got said things along the lines of that I was very good at world building, had an extremely vivid imagination, that I needed more experience writing dialog and they were not interested in post-apocalyptic stories. I wrote 3 other novels and over a dozen short stories but I don’t even know if I still got a copy of any of the rough drafts either because this was over 12 years ago and I gave up and lost interest completely. I switched computers twice since then and I don’t know where I put the thumb drives I had the backup copies of the drafts stored on.

  66. Karl Grant # 69 Your world building looks fascinating, well researched, deeply considered, and very thought provoking.

    On this site’s sidebar column, you can see the link for the New Maps periodical of post-industrial fiction. There’s at least one publisher who definitely wouldn’t turn you down solely for your sometimes bleak view of the future.

    Although it doesn’t seem like writing for New Maps is a path to a lucrative new career all by itself, perhaps it could get you published. Perhaps those readers would like to continue with your ideas at full novel length. Your future history seems like enough for more than one book, it the book is anything more than “let me give you a guided tour of the situation” speeches and exposition.

    I believe you did so much research and thought, that you could readily reconstruct and update the scenario for new stories. “That leaves the rest of the story, don’t it,” he said rhetorically. “Dialog, that kind of thing.”

    A similar discussion a couple of weeks ago led me to make the comment linked below, with an example of a very successful team-written novel. One author was the conceptual visionary, with a premise and a recommended action plan. The other author had compelling dialogue and emotionally engaging personal scenes with the characters.
    My comment provides only one example, there are other team writing successes from throughout the history of publishing.
    If the interpersonal part of the story is a struggle for you to write, perhaps someone already strong at that would like to collaborate with your richly developed world building.

  67. Jeff (#65) and JMG: Thank you, Gentlemen!
    I am most appreciative of your thoughtful email, Jeff. It heartens me and husband. He’s 71 and British, so the whole gun thing has an additional layer of “Do Not Touch!” on it. He’s determined to blast through the fear (pun intended).
    Should you ever relocate to SW Idaho, we’d hire you in a heartbeat to teach us! Your students are lucky to have you as their instructor.
    I printed out your email and shared it with husband, and he too expresses his thanks. We were toying with the idea of shotgun, and may well do that once we get some proficiency with the Glock 44s we started with. Thanks again,

  68. @ Karl Grant – Ooo, your stories sound fun; I hope you find the drafts. JMG might be able to suggest a publisher who would be interested, or you could self-publish.

    @Ottergirl, congratulations on entering the ‘gun den’ and trouping through all the noise and unfamiliarity! I am similar to Jeff in that I also got most of my training about guns in the Army. Guns (pistols) are noisy little machines that operate according to a clear and understandable set of principles. Know these principles, and you can handle them in a way that’s safe for you and the ones you love. Even if you and your husband decide never to buy guns for yourselves, going through these classes can take a lot of the mystification and fear out of them.
    I hope you will also take some self-defense classes; the one I took had a very useful section on how to deal with a foe who has a pistol.

  69. Karl, I did the same thing and got the same response. Years passed — and I got into print writing nonfiction — before I found out that science fiction and fantasy these days are dominated by a handful of huge corporate publishers with very narrow agendas, and a lot of hangers-on that try to copy the big boys in every way in the hope of being respectable. If you want to get into print writing something that doesn’t copy the current corporate party line, you need to avoid the mainstream. Fortunately these days there’s an entire world of dissident science fiction and fantasy, with at least one SF convention (BasedCon) and a lively fandom; most of it’s independently published, but sales are higher than many mainstream publishers can manage.

    That said, I don’t recommend going back to your old stories. Consider doing something new and different. You’re 12 years older and have more experience of the world; presumably you’ve also read a lot more fiction, and thus have had more chance to figure out how dialogue works. (Try sometime reading one of your favorite novels with an eye toward the dialogue. How is it handled? What exactly does the writer do to keep the talk flowing? You can learn an enormous amount from that.)

  70. Christopher from California,

    Thanks. Not sure how well New Maps would be a fit for me as I tended to write about different visions of industrialism. I mean one of the other novels I wrote was an alternate history novel were the USA and the Soviet Union had focused on deep sea exploration, mining and colonization instead of the space race during the Cold War. I did think about how that would affect technological development. For example, I figured our society’s focus on solar power was a side effect of our obsession with space exploration as it is a good way to power satellites, space probes, etc….. but it is not a good way to power submarines. So in that story a lot of development instead went into hydrogen fuel cells and water splitting and solar power was practically non-existent except for some hobbyist projects while the world was running on mixture of hydrogen and fossil fuels.

    Cicada Grove,

    Thanks. I spent a couple of hours looking through the attic and closet for the thumb drives but so far haven’t had any luck.

    Mr. Greer,

    Thanks. I would probably have to start from scratch anyway as I so far haven’t been able to find the thumb drives with the copies of drafts and the computer I wrote them on got the hard drive wiped and hauled off to Goodwill about 10 years ago.

  71. Comment #1 got me to re-read “Star’s Reach.” I just finished the vision quest chapter and have two more to go. I think I noticed a few things that I failed to pick up on the first time.

    On the subject of firearms: My own experience is from the military (I was a radar tech during the VietNam era), from Boy Scouts and from hunting with my dad. Also a couple of handgun classes. So I’m not any sort of “gunslinger.” An acquaintance of mine who is in his 60s with no firearms experience at all tells an amusing story about the time he was cleaning out a deceased relatives house and came across a loaded revolver. He could see that it was loaded but didn’t know how to unload it. So he put it in a bag and took it down to the police station! He survived, and now the story is amusing. The lesson is that every adult ought to know (at least) how to make a firearm safe.

  72. JMG – In today’s Washington Post (Jan. 14), staff book critic Michael Dirda reviews “Magus: The Art of Magic from Faustus to Agrippa”, by Anthony Grafton. (Belknap Press, 304 pp., $39.95). The book focuses on Johannes Trithemius, Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and Heinrich Cornelies Agrippa. In my opinion, the tone of the review is very positive, toward both the author and his topic. As he starts the review, Dirda draws clear boundaries between stage magic, practical magic (e.g., Harry Potter-style), and high magic (the topic at hand). With a big review in the Sunday Post, it looks like high magic has fans in the mainstream media!

  73. Just a friendly reminder here to everyone who is interested that now is a good time to renew your New Maps subscription, or start one if you haven’t already. The first issue for the fourth volume & 2024 year hasn’t come out just yet.
    New Maps makes great reading for when you are snuggled up at home during a polar vortex event that reaches down into the midwest.

    @Karl Grove: If you do decide to conjure up something deindustrial for New Maps, the editor Nathanael Bonnell he does take longer short stories at the 10,000 word mark or so. Nathanael has some guidelines about the difference between post-industrial stories and what constitutes deindustrial fiction. If you haven’t seen them yet, they are here.

    I’d like to add that, after getting caught up on the comments here again, your tales do sound like the kind of thing I’d like to read and I wish you success in finding a home for your words and a readership. I always loved a good underwater adventure tale and always thought there should have been more SF focused under the seas.

    @JMG: Thanks for your words about attunements vs. initiations. That makes sense to me.

  74. Cicada Grove and Phutatorius,
    Husband and I much appreciate the encouragement, stories, and good advice! “Gun Den” is a keeper. We indeed feel warmly welcomed, and send you a big smile and a thank you. You just never know who or what you’ll find in JMG’s tidy yet always inviting cyber living room.

  75. @Christopher #54 thanks for the hearty laugh

    @Chris and JMG re: elites in bunkers. Was on a video talk by Nate Hagens last week and apparently he has decided that talking the elites into considering in advance that retreating to bunkers won’t work so that they might take a different tack with regard to the rest of us at this tricky time is a critical piece of the work for The Great Simplification. Doing a retreat in India to develop his powers for transmuting anger into equanimity first!

    @Clay #53 That nexus between the childification of adults and the banishing of frat initiations is interesting thought. I have a related thought that maybe the childification (which had been going on a long time by the time I got to college in 2003) made the quality of the rituals themselves more simple violence and less complex consciousness shifting so that it was easier to say, “Those immature college boys can’t be trusted with that”. Like the way kids don’t learn to cook and handle knives capably and then *shock* they cut themselves and then it becomes an offense that child “protective” services will take your kids from you for if you require them to learn to cook for themselves at a youngish (whatever that might be) age. The “protection” creates a need for more “protection” in a circular self-fulfilling way.

    @SLClaire #55 jinx: I wrote the above just before I read yours. Having tangled with CPS I’m particularly interested in this aspect and the way also that “community policing” made neighbors look to cops to fix interpersonal problems rather than to deal with each other directly.

    @Karl Grant #67-69 cool variation on Ender’s Game… way less cinematic and hollywood but more interesting, and I thought Ender’s Game was interestting already! Wish I could see your 2150 world

  76. @Christopher #58, that’s a great song. And of course, a much more famous Pink Floyd song makes a parallel point: “But in the town it was well known…”

    “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to Hell” (as I’ve always called it) at Disneyland still has the same ending. Alas, the Magic Kingdom version is gone. I have to say that one wasn’t among the ones I had in mind when I was thinking of dark rides that echo initiatory narratives, but there it is.

    Six or seven years ago I went to Universal Studios theme park on a family trip organized by my sisters, and I immediately noticed a certain sameness in the “plot” of every ride that involved film or narration. You start out on a “tour” or being addressed as a new “recruit,” entering some safe controlled facility, but something goes wrong and your ride vehicle diverts into a dangerous “forbidden” area; a Well-Known Movie Protagonist cries “Get out of here!” but to no avail as the situation spins out of control and one hazard after another looms up and then barely misses; until you reach some deep dark place and encounter the Well-Known Movie Villain who threatens you with a final annihilation; whereupon the WKMP re-appears with a power-up and rescues you. Then, strangely, all the good characters greet you at your return to safe normalcy, welcome you as one of them now, and applaud you (sometimes literally) for, apparently, the accomplishment of remaining strapped immobile in your seat for the entire ride. This pattern became more eerie and at the same time more hilarious with each successive attraction, since it never varied in structure whether the story was based on ancient myths, wizard school, dinosaurs, space SF, or even a dysfunctional cartoon family. What made this exact distorted version of the monomyth so necessary? What effect does it have on the kids it was primarily designed for? I’m still not sure. Being accustomed to meaningless effortless “accomplishments,” I suppose, but is that the reason or the intended effect? Of course, you can purchase garments or other accessories demonstrating your new affiliation at the gift shop that you exit through. Maybe that’s sufficient reason.

    @JMG, it occurs to me that you might not have encountered such descriptions of recent theme park attractions, and so might not have seen what I was getting at when mentioning “dark rides” before.

    @Yucca glauca #52, I can easily imagine initiatory practices arising out of actual experiences such as hunting, seafaring, and especially war, all of which involve actually going to strange places and confronting dangerous and frightening confrontations or trials there, and surviving (or not, but in that case there’s no further issue). Training to prepare novices to experience the same makes obvious sense, then such practices become abstracted and generalized over time.

  77. #80 Cicada Grove

    That one has been out for a while.
    Be aware that the cards are smaller than standard tarot card size, and thin enough they won’t withstand regular shuffling. On the upside, they are in their original proportions and vividly colored.

  78. Lathechuck, hmm! Chalk up one more sign that the age of reason is over and done with.

    AliceEm, I appreciate a meme I saw the other day, talking about elites going into bunkers. I don’t remember the specific words, but the theme was that once they’ve done that, somebody has to drop live rattlesnakes into the air vents, and the meme creator was volunteering for that job… 😉

    Cicada Grove, delighted to hear this.

    Walt, you’re quite correct. I haven’t been to a theme park in my adult life. I do recall the “Flight To Mars” ride in the Seattle Center Fun Forest back a good many years; it tried to be scary, but was mostly pretty silly:

  79. AliceEm glad you liked it. The engineers made the system foolproof. But nature provided a new generation of even more unpredictable fools.

    Walt F # 81
    “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to Hell” That would be a great title for a Roger Waters song.

    Some of the theme park change reflects a shift in the source material.

    In the 1977 Star Wars, Luke has to go against a socially conditioned provider role, overcome self-doubt, get training, “not get cocky, kid,” and ultimately think, feel, and act in a new way, in order to reach his potential as a hero. The Hero’s Journey goes DOWN to the cave before it goes UP to victory. In Empire, his hotheaded refusal to accept that his training isn’t complete has bad consequences.
    In later movies, Rey is so super-special that when she shows up, everything is super easy for her to win on first attempt. Her only character arc is accepting that she’s the super-special ultimate winner.

    Iron Man and Spider-Man have a difficult process learning to deal with dangerous new abilities, and must stop being jerks before more people get hurt. Although the superpowers are outlandish, the emotional journey is relatable, the winning Marvel formula. Peter Parker is a nobody Everyman kid. Tony Stark’s an Everyman when it comes to his need for more emotional maturity and integrity.
    In “superhero fatigue” era, Black Adam and Captain Marvel never lose, because they are so super-special that their only problem was not yet knowing how super-special and unconquerable they are. Who cares about yet another fight the hero will win without a scratch?

    Some critics have accurately teased apart that some audience malaise blamed on “woke” pandering is actually “Mary Sue” pandering. From filmmakers who didn’t realize perfect teen cadet Mary Sue who did everything perfectly, and was a love interest of senior officers, was a parody, not a recommended formula.
    This writing style would be boring no matter what race, gender, or species had everything come perfectly easy just because they’re special-special, destined to effortlessly win with no struggle by virtue of their awesome Overlooked Winner Team genetics.
    Thus the Participation Trophy ride storyline where just surviving, having been rescued by the Glorious Good Guys, makes one also a Glorious Good Guy by Glorious Goodness rubbing off on you. As though every Hobbit deserved to be called a dragon-slayer or ring-bearer.

  80. “In “superhero fatigue” era, Black Adam and Captain Marvel never lose, because they are so super-special that their only problem was not yet knowing how super-special and unconquerable they are. Who cares about yet another fight the hero will win without a scratch?”

    That would explain the audience’s glee when the Scarlet Witch efficiently slaughtered the Illuminati.

    Interestingly at the end of the movie she still lost.

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