Book Club Post

The Ritual of High Magic: Introduction

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.


“Introduction to the Ritual of High Magic” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 191-207).


We’ve spent almost two years now studying the theory of high magic, or as much of it as can be teased out of Eliphas Lévi’s deliberately evasive prose. Now it’s time to proceed to the practice—and our text launches into this with a pair of complicated and richly developed metaphors with no obvious relationship to practice at all. By now, those of you who have been following along will know that this is par for the course. The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic belongs to the Romantic movement in European literature and culture; it makes use of lurid prose, colorful imagery, and intense emotions to make points that are quite often anything but explicit, and this introduction is a fine example.

The first of the two metaphors just referenced is a classic bit of Romantic blood and thunder, as Death—mort is a feminine noun in French—goes romping through human society with her usual results. After her grand triumph winds up, of course, there come two smiling children who are supposed to represent “the intelligence and love of the century to come.” Yes, it was standard practice in Lévi’s time to project utopian fantasies onto the twentieth century, just as it was standard practice to project identical fantasies onto the twenty-first century when I was a child; it’s a safe bet that by 2050 or so, these same shopworn fantasies will be projected onto the twenty-second century by people who still won’t yet have figured out that the word “utopia” literally means “nowhere.”

That is to say, Lévi wasn’t a prophet. In point of fact, his predictions—and he made a fair number of them here and there—were almost bad enough to qualify him as a modern economist. Fortunately the book we’re studying isn’t The Doctrine and Ritual of Predicting the Future. You sometimes find the talents of mage and prophet in the same person, but they’re different gifts; it’s probably not an accident that Lévi puts his discussion of divination nearly at the end of his book, and doesn’t seem to have practiced it much himself.

The second metaphor is just as lurid as the first.  It relies on a bit of astronomical sciences that turned out not to be correct—astronomers in Lévi’s time still believed that comets were literally on fire. Here we have a scene out of a nineteenth-century grand opera, with the stars as a chorus of sopranos and altos in ornate robes, and the latest fashionable diva dressed in red starring as “The Comet.” The overt theme of the performance is the necessity of pain, suffering, and evil in the cosmos:  the same evil that was so gaudily paraded in the first metaphor.  Yet there’s a further dimension to both metaphors.

It’s important to remember here that in writing this book, Lévi was rebelling against both sides of the Hobson’s choice that Western societies in his time and ours have so reliably imposed on their inmates. Scientific materialism on the one hand, dogmatic religion on the other—take your pick, but don’t you dare propose a third option.  Lévi is one of a long line of original thinkers who insisted on a third option, and thus brought down on his head the denunciations of both sides.

Has it ever struck you as odd, dear reader, that scientific materialists and mainstream religious believers, who agree on so little else, unite in fervent denunciation of such things as tarot cards?  Any time you’re faced with a forced choice of the sort just outlined, once you identify the things that the two sides both reject, you can glimpse at the opposite pole the hidden unity of the two sides. In this case, that hidden unity is intellectual and spiritual subservience: the demand that you must  accept the dictates of a human (and indeed, as Nietzsche liked to put it, all too human) authority figure concerning the basic questions of human existence, rather than exploring for yourself and making up your own mind.

That forbidden option, in turn, is what Lévi is proposing here. Instead of believing what  scientific or religious authorities tell you to believe, he suggests, you can find out for yourself. It’s a lonely path—that’s one of the points the soliloquy of the comet is meant to communicate—and it’s a path that will be misunderstood and condemned by those same authorities and all those who put their trust in them—that’s another point the soliloquy of the comet is meant to pass on, and also one of the points behind the Gnostic beliefs about Lucifer that Lévi cites. To Lévi, remember, the Bible is one of the Western world’s supreme collections of hieratic and symbolic narratives, to be interpreted symbolically rather than literally; for him God is the principle of reason acting through nature—the Chinese word Tao might be a fair translation—and Satan is a phantom projected by superstition onto the astral light. (Whether you agree with him or not is of course up to you, but this is what he thought.)

Much of this chapter, it’s only fair to note, consists of Lévi’s struggles to come to terms with his own Catholic roots. Like most French intellectuals in his time, and a great many Catholics today, he was Catholic by upbringing and felt a deep emotional connection with the rites, symbols, and traditions of the church, but he found it impossible to accept in any literal sense the theology he was presented, and he rejected with some heat the authority over the human soul claimed by the Vatican hierarchy. That’s what lies behind the redefinition of Christian symbolism that takes up so much of this chapter, with “the spirit of the Christ” manifesting in a great many ways not mentioned in standard Christian theology.

Unlike so many of his contemporaries, he couldn’t simply leap from belief to unbelief and embrace the popular scientific atheism of his time and ours.  It wasn’t just that he had the strong emotional commitment to Catholic symbolism just mentioned; as an occultist, he knew better than to think that the world can be reduced to dead matter in empty space. Thus he saw himself in the same position as the comet of his metaphor, troubling the stately order of the established churches of his day while still serving the same God they did.

Among the things he lets slip in the course of the discussion are three words, Od, Ob, and Or or Aour.  These are Hebrew— אוד and אוב and אור respectively: three words for fire used in the Old Testament, borrowed first by Jewish Cabalists and then more generally by occultists, and used already well before Lévi’s time for the three forms of the astral light. Our text has referenced these before in various ways, most of them symbolic in nature:  for example, the archangel Michael and the archfiend Lucifer, locked in a combat that is also a creative polarity, are Od and Ob respectively.   Keep these words in mind as we proceed, because the three currents are the motive power behind the magic Lévi has to teach.

Our text’s long disquisition about the pentagram should also be kept in mind, and studied carefully, because this passage communicates several points that will be of crucial importance in the chapters to come. Notice how Lévi equates the pentagram with the human body, and especially with its extremities—the head, the hands, and the feet—from each of which stream two rays, Od and Ob, the active and passive modalities of the astral light.  This is an important bit of practical lore that can be put to work in many ways.

More important than this, however, is the critically important instruction our text includes on the last two pages of the chapter, when discussing the seal of Solomon and the flaming pentagram.  These are omnipotent over spirits, but only if the one who uses them understands them. (Read this italicized sentence several times until you grasp its meaning, for in this brief passage Lévi has communicated one of the supreme secrets of magic.)

The symbolic emblems and ritual acts have power because of what they represent. They can be used ignorantly, without attention to their meanings, and they will have some power under these conditions, but doing this is not unlike trying to drive while blindfolded.  Understand what the symbols mean, what metaphysical realities they represent, and the blindfold comes off.  It is when the mage passes beyond working spells by rote and understands their meanings, not by looking things up in books but by personal experience, that he or she becomes an adept. That understanding is gnosis, the knowledge gained by personal encounter: “recognition,” as the historian Bentley Layton has translated the Greek word gnosis.

This is why, as Lévi stresses, it is necessary to get beyond prejudice, superstition, and incredulity to become an adept. Prejudice literally means “pre-judgment;” it is the mental habit of those who think they can judge anything on the basis of their existing assumptions.  It comes in two forms: superstition, which is unthinking belief, and incredulity, which is unthinking disbelief.  (Here again Lévi is challenging both the established viewpoints of his age and ours.)  When you stop believing and disbelieving without good reason, you have power over those whose belief and disbelief are automatic unthinking reactions. You may choose not to use that power, if you so wish—but you have it.

All this, as our text hints broadly in its last lines, is a summary of the first half of the book in terms of the lessons it has for the second half:

“One must KNOW in order to DARE.”  Before you embrace the challenge Lévi offers you, you have to know what it is he is offering, and know yourself well enough to decide whether you are prepared to take it up.

“One must DARE in order to WILL.”  To act deliberately and consciously, in response to your own understanding, is to flout the prejudices, superstitions, and incredulities of an age. This takes courage, because the pushback from other people and from the habits of thought and feeling your society has inculcated in you will be fierce.

“One must WILL to have the Empire.”  The empire in question is not a political institution. It is the power that gathers itself in the hands of anyone who learns to live by the light of individual will and wisdom rather than the bullyings and blandishments of a corrupt society. Learn to will freely and forcefully, as Lévi says, and you will become king and priest—so long as you remember the last and most important precept of the mage:

“And to reign, one must BE SILENT.”

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.

As we proceeded through the first half of our text, I introduced one of the standard methods of discursive meditation used in Western occult practice, and those of you who have followed along so far now have a solid background in how to unpack the inner meanings of an occult text using that method. As we proceed through the second half, I want to take things a step further and introduce a technique that Lévi understood but most of his successors and students never grasped: the art of combinations or, as it’s also known, the Lullian art.

Ramon Lull was a Catalan mystic of the Middle Ages who worked out a system of meditation and taught it to a great many students. By the time of his death in 1316, the art of combinations was a common practice all through Europe, and it continued to be taught and studied by a great many people until the scientific revolution, when it fell out of use alongside so much of the spiritual heritage of the Western world. Eliphas Lévi seems to have been one of the few occultists of the nineteenth century who paid attention to Lull, and no later occultist known to me followed up on Lévi’s hints and recognized that he had combined the Lullian art with the tarot.

The secret of the Lullian art is simple.  To practice it, you need a set of concepts general enough to apply to any conceivable subject. Lull himself found his concepts in theology, and used nine divine dignities—goodness, greatness, eternity, power, wisdom, will,  virtue, truth, and glory. Each of these was combined with each of the others to provide themes for meditation.  Later versions of the art of combinations used larger sets of concepts:  Giordano Bruno, for example, used thirty.  What Lévi realized was that the 22 trumps of the tarot make a suitable set of symbols for an imaginative version of the Lullian art.

Here is a way to do it. 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 1, “Preparations,” on May 10, 2023. See you then!


  1. So interesting that Jaideva Singh, Mark Dyczkowski, and Christofer Wallis, among others, write and describe of Kashmir Shaivism as doctrines and/or secrects of Self-Recognition.

  2. One note on the illustrated “The Cherub of Ezekiel”, which would have been entirely familiar to any of Levi’s audiences: the illustrated animal heads are not just related to Ezekiel–they occur over and over in Christian art. One pointer to their symbolism: the famous Lion of Venice is shown along with his proper companions.

  3. DennisG, okay; now perhaps you’ll explain what this has to do with Lévi’s ideas, as I’m not following you.

    SamChevre, true enough; the four animal cherub-faces were also assigned (iirc in the Middle Ages) to the four evangelists, among many other things.

  4. These posts keep on being fascinating and insightful, so thank you!

    Also, thanks especially for the brief description of Lull’s method – it’s a technique I’ve been meaning to look into for a while, and would still like to at some point, but this brief “how to” gives enough to be off to the races with any sufficiently rich body of symbols. I was already getting all fired up about applying this to the Runes or Ogham when it struck me: that’s (part of) what’s going on with the “[Element] of [Element]” attributions of the Ogham. Any idea if this was a conscious influence from Lull/Levi?


  5. I apologize if this has already been asked and answered, but I wonder if you are planning to make this entire Ritual of High Magic series available as a workbook or other publication? I would love to have a durable copy for future use and reference. The economics of printing might not make sense but then again, many now treasured books were printed with no idea of who was going to buy them! Thoreau is supposed to have said, “I have now a library of nearly 900 volumes, over 700 of which I wrote myself.” In the moment, that was undoubtedly financially painful, but imagine how valued those volumes, if any survive, are now. Perhaps as a companion workbook to the TarcherPerigee edition of Levi?

    As always, thank you for sharing your insights and guidance.

  6. What are the different gifts or talents of the mage and the prophet? I’m not sure that all religions reject such things as tarot cards. As long as the Great Vow is not breached esoteric Buddhism isn’t really bothered what one’s other spiritual interests might be.

  7. To those who are interested, here are all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared across the Ecosophia community. Please feel free to add any or all of them to your prayers.

    If I missed anybody on the full list, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below and/or at the prayer list page.

    * * *

    This week I would like to bring special attention to a few prayer requests.

    Patricia Mathew’s friend Al (Alison Kulp) is in the hospital with a nasty life-threatening MRSA infection; please play for her to be blessed, protected, and completely healed as soon as is possible.

    For Det and his recently deceased friend, that the divine grant them both spiritual protection, blessing and ease on their respective journeys.

    Luke Dodson’s friend B, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and is still in serious condition though she’s already had surgery; for blessing, protection, healing, and a full return to health.

    Lp9’s request on behalf of their hometown, East Palestine Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people and all living beings in the area. The details coming out are still caught in the fog of war (Lp9 gives a short update here, and says “things are a bit… murky”), and various claims of catastrophe and non-catastrophe are flying about, but the reasonable possibility seems to exist that this is an environmental disaster on par with the worst America has ever seen. At any rate, it is clearly having a devastating impact on the local area, and prayers are certainly warranted.

    * * *

    If there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  8. Jeff, it would be perfectly possible to do a Lullian process with runes or Ogham. As for the “element of element” business, er, that wasn’t Lull or Lévi; it was me. As far as I know, nobody worked those out before I did.

    Ken, already in process! Just as the Cosmic Doctrine commentaries were put into book form (and is now available), I plan on turning this entire sequence into a book and getting it in print. That’s probably 3-4 years away, but I’ve already got the first half in Word format for ease of editing.

    Tengu, the prophet foretells the future, the mage shapes the future. As for Asian religions, granted — I was speaking of Western religions, of course.

    Quin, thanks for this as always.

  9. @JMG #8 re: Ogham “Element of Element” attributions

    Ah, okay, I suspected that might have been the case, but I didn’t know if it was part of any of the prior Druid lore, since I haven’t yet dug into any Ogham sources besides yours.

    So I suppose I might rephrase more accurately: were you consciously influenced by either Lull or Levi in working out or presenting those correspondences?

    Thanks much,

  10. Hi JMG,

    Thanks very much for this. I am interested in trying out the Lullian Art. I am not sure if this is a common issue or not, but in discursive meditation I do much better when the theme is some kind of paradox. If the theme is too straightforward, my mind tends to drift off track. It’s one reason I am drawn to the Celtic mythology–it is full of ambiguity and contradictions.

    The art of combinations might be just right for me. I almost asked for your advice about this very issue in the last Magic Monday blog, but you seem to have provided a great solution right here to the question I never asked. Well done, Sir!

  11. I’m finding correspondences on the Knapp-Hall deck that might fit here.

    Moses’ statement that leads Levi to talk about Nahash gives us the three cards, Death, The Emperor and Judgement. Just before this he uses the word ”cupidity” for the original attractor.

    I’m currently studying the Lovers card which has Cupid floating before an orange sun. The other two cards with an orange sun are Temperance and Judgement. I’ve taken these three cards to roughly mean that there is a union that needs to be balanced or tempered (finding a ternary?) and then one can move on. Perhaps this is a generalization of the process of polarity. It might also mean finding the right balance between the mundane and divine.

    With the word ”cupidity”, I think there must be a connection to the Lovers and Nahash, but I haven’t figured it out yet. Nor does there seem to be a recognizable pattern for the paths of those three cards.

  12. Jeff, I was primarily influenced by my background in Golden Dawn magic. Granted, the GD system has a lot of Lévi influence in it, so in a secondhand sense, I suppose so.

    Karma, Od is aleph, vau, daleth; Ob is aleph, vau, beth; and Or is aleph, vau, resh.

    Samurai_47, glad to hear it!

    Jon, it’s quite possible that Hall had that in mind!

  13. Hello JMG! Please feel free to not publish this if you think is not appropriate to share.

    I’ve unpacked the sentence, – “These [symbols] are omnipotent over spirits, but only if the one who uses them understands them”, – somewhat differently than you did.

    First, who is the one who uses them, symbols? It is another spirit! It is a mage of course, but like all humans mages are also incarnated spirits. Therefore, the symbols are primarily meant to give you mastery over your own self, and only incidentally over others.

    Second, I notice that the part that reads “who uses them understands them”, you have two them in there and not necessarily the first one refers to the same significant as the second one. It is possible to assign as you did: “the one who uses them [symbols] understand them [symbols], which seems to be the standard way of doing it, and which points to the importance of getting a deep comprehension of the rituals “in the gut”. It is also possible to assign “the one who uses them [symbols] understand them [spirits], which suggest a parallel aspect: you gain mastery over external realities (spirits, but everything is ultimately a spirit, or the reflection of a spirit, isn´t it?) by getting to know deeply that reality. This is somewhat the nobler side of Science (in the modern sense of the word); by gaining insight of how material reality work, you funnel the phenomena that are going to happen anyways regardless in such a way that it will do something useful for you while following the path of less resistance. In the same sense, this is the nobler side of Leadership, too. You get to know deeply the motivations of the people that follows you, so that your goals and their goals are alligned and therefore pushing in the same general direction.

    Third, combine #1 and #2 and you have a practical way of enacting change in the self. Of course, Socrates arrived there a couple milenia earlier: Know thyself! But really, if you have experienced the divided will, you know why you cannot seem to get anything done. I am very excited to try this, as it will be quite interesting to see how to reconcile the urges to my several mees.

    And unexpectedly…. While typing this I figured out that another full set of possible combinations. What happens if you make another creative assignment “the one who uses them [spirits]”. My moral self recoiled in horror, as the images of a Dark Lord imposing his will over others (both incarnate and disincarnate) feels too much like a road straight to Hell. I cannot deny, however, that some more insights await in that meditation. I will try to gather my courage and give it another go later.

  14. Hi John Michael,

    Well, you couldn’t have put it any clearer than that.

    I’m frankly curious here as to your opinion. Mate, there’s an element of discernment to apply, well at least I believe there is, and that is connected to the will and how it is used. But that also invites personal risk, like your memorable working in relation to the future.

    I dunno man, with this I mostly agree with Mr Lévi, but there are times when silence is inappropriate.

    As usual, you’ve got our brains working in overdrive.



  15. First of all, ‘Blandishments’! What a lovely blending to reflect the bristling push towards vapid flatness we encounter these days in the name of Safety-Progress (for it seems they are almost entirely conflated in the public narrative now). In terms of the art of combinations, I guess I am holding this chapter against the ongoing dialog about progress we’ve been in (tho I am also excited to try it more formally, building depth on the tarot). When I read of his two small shining children and your take on his predictive capacity, I thought of a recent comment on progress, about applying the process which was supposedly carrying civilization to a new golden unity to one’s OWN life. That rather than making the society right-in-the-head it would give oneself the capacity to ride the counterwave to the sick empire without drowning. I think Levi will work similarly, not to help midwife the civilization where death now comes as ‘the angel of progress, who will softly detach souls from their mortal chains, to allow them to rise up to God,’ but to help a person and another person to find it in themselves to live this way in spite of the four horseman and the empires who giddily feed them and spur on their frothing steeds.

    I love finding someone to say that reason is the Verb of nature and man, and that the word here is Verb not ‘the Word’. I used to contrast the law of nature (gravity, magnetism, etc) w the law of man as a way to express at least internally that the true law did not need enforced because it can’t be denied. But shifting from law to Verb, and giving it spirit as well as material power, is the synthesis of what I’ve always felt but rarely encounter in the words of others before I found ecosophia.

  16. I don’t think any other book has effected me so. I am excited about proceeding, and find new energies for increased practice. Thank you for your patience with this. It was surprising to hear you say it has been two years! That Lullian discussion about meditative practice is invigorating. I love the tarot and am eager to have a deeper relationship with it.

    I feel like I have a question about being silent, but then the answer that comes back immediately, if you aren’t sure about what to share don’t share.

  17. I was reading a collection of Charles Fourier’s writings and the commentary aid something intreresting about hte history of utopias. Pre-Fourier utopias had been very calm, low-energy places. They were really focused on humans controlling or eliminating their drives and passions. Then Fourier’s Phalanx was all about accepting people as they were and letting them off the chain. Providing social structures to satisfy every possible desire.

    I knew the Phalanx were exceptionally weird, but reading about them in original, I came up with a way to explain what they are. They’re Gormenghast after the revolution. While the power structure has been overthrown, the people have decided to keep a highly ritualised way of life. 🙂

    Would Eliphas Levi have known about Charles Fourier?

  18. I’ve worked with sigils in the past, but never with pentagrams. I think that quote may help explain why.

    Axé, and thank you…

  19. JMG wrote, “Like…a great many Catholics today, he was Catholic by upbringing and felt a deep emotional connection with the rites, symbols, and traditions of the church, but he found it impossible to accept in any literal sense the theology he was presented, and he rejected with some heat the authority over the human soul claimed by the Vatican hierarchy.”

    Thank you for so pithily describing a core component of my spiritual struggles and helping me understand that many others feel the same. I grew up steeped in Catholicism and feel that deep emotional connection to it but also value eclectic, esoteric perspectives and see the earth and alive and divine and am very interested in magic and don’t appreciate literalistic/psychically-stultifying understandings of religion.


  20. CR, as you see, I found this entirely appropriate! Thank you for this very interesting and reflective meditation — and btw, you never have to apologize for reading these texts in a way I don’t.

    Chris, of course. There are also times and situations where it’s not helpful to know, to dare, or to will. Given the amount of talking I do online and in books, I’m hardly one to insist on silence!

    AliceEm, hmm! That’s an intriguing thought — redefine “progress” to mean entirely personal, subjective improvement, and use that to help people detach themselves from a falling empire and make meaningful lives for themselves.

    William, glad to hear it. When you’re ready to share, by all means.

    Yorkshire, ha! That really does define it well — thank you. As for Lévi, of course he knew about Fourier. Everyone knew about Fourier in his time; Fourier’s vision of socialism hadn’t yet been devoured by Marxism.

    Fra’ Lupo, you’re most welcome.

    Jacques, and you’re also most welcome. My wife is a former Catholic, and during my stint as an archdruid I talked to a lot of people who left the Catholic church for various good and sufficient reasons, so I think I have about as clear a sense of it as an outsider can.

  21. Hi John Michael,

    😉 Thought so, and many thanks for the clear reply.

    Mate, it ain’t just you either, which is why I questioned that rule. I limit myself to what may have once been described as ‘blessings’, and have consistently done so for a very long time. Without going into details, there are real world impacts from that.

    Also I’m uncertain of Mr Lévi’s position on power, but that is something I relinquish. Everyone is different in that regard.



  22. The words “…and you will become king and priest” reminded me forcefully of a passage from Dante’s Purgatorio, at the end of Canto XXVII. Having not read the chapter, I don’t know if Lévi cited it, or if the translators mentioned it, but since this is one of my favourite passages from Dante, I hope I will be forgiven for citing it again:

    Non aspettar mio dir più né mio cenno;
    libero, dritto e sano è tuo arbitrio,
    e fallo fora non fare a suo senno:
    per ch’io te sovra te corono e mitrio.

    Await no further word or sign from me:
    your will is free, erect, and whole — to act
    against that will would be to err: therefore
    I crown and miter* you over yourself.”

    It is important to keep in mind, though, that Virgil says this to Dante after Dante has followed and obeyed him for 61 cantos!

    *put on the miter of the bishop or pope

  23. @JMG,

    Thank you! The Hebrew letters on the Seal of Solomon… Shin is 12 o’clock, Heh is 3 o’clock. Is 9 o’clock Nun and 6 o’clock Mem?

    And an interesting synchronicity: From Levi, “Perhaps Lucifer, in falling into the night, dragged with him a rain of suns and stars attracted by his glory!” Last week, from NASA, Hubble saw what appears to be a black hole that has traveled through an area of gas so fast that it didn’t “eat” the gas, but rather triggered star formation in its wake. (Possibly an over-simplification… if you are interested, more details here

  24. JMG apologies for off topic question. More on topic I hope…if you leave out the two binaries in the double triangle you’re left with the true vertical yet also four points that balance in a square. I haven’t worked w tarot beyond tomberg, but the geometry stands out. This would make the old sign of the cross which predates christianity. It would tell you about threes and fours. I have gotten that far. I note that temples traditionally embodied the four and often, at least in the west, the tetrahedron on top or close. Is Levi much into geometry? Thank you

  25. This is off topic but thought I should share. This is link to catalog page for a book on the grail. If the link doesn’t work just check I know nothing else about the book. McFarland publishes academic works on popular culture and history topics. I get their postings on Facebook because they have published my two books. This was obviously meant to appear on my FB since I was listening to one of JMG’s podcasts on the Ceremony of the Grail last night. There are no coincidences. (insert eldrich chuckle)


  26. On Levi’s pentagram pictured at the beginning of the post, the “arms” and “legs” which I think are the conduits for Od and Ob have Mars and Saturn at the points. I think that makes the arms the active force and the legs the passive force, because the planets imply it. But why make them the malefics?

    I re-read chapters 5 and 6 to get a better grip on this introduction and I was very surprised that most of it finally made sense. My biggest takeaway so far is that nothing is ever at rest, ever. We must learn to ride the waves. That’s tough because I’d like a vacation from the astral light once in awhile.

  27. Chris, depends on what kind of power you have in mind — there are many. Lévi relinquished any claim to political power, even within his own community and circle of acquaintances, but he embraced the power to shape thoughts and ideas through his writings. It’s something a lot of occult authors do.

    Aldarion, thank you for this! I don’t happen to know whether Lévi had this passage in mind or not, but it’s perfectly apposite to this chapter, and indeed to Lévi’s entire book. Dante’s experience is one that initiates share; you have to learn from another, including things you don’t want to learn, before you can grow to the point of being able to guide yourself.

    Random, no, the letter at 9 o’clock is a badly written Lamed. The four letters, ShLMH, spell the Hebrew name of Solomon. That’s interesting about the black hole!

    Celadon, good. Lévi did some things with geometry, but not that much.

    Rita, hmm! Interesting. I’ll see if my library system has picked up a copy.

    Jon, that’s a great theme for meditation. 😉 As for a vacation from the astral light, that’s called “being dead.” The astral light is the life force, the thing that keeps you alive.

  28. @JMG,

    Sigh. And I had such a fun meditation going with that letter being Nun. And I was going around clockwise, instead of counter-clockwise. 🙁

    @Jon G,

    I’m not sure that Mars and Saturn are intended to be malefics in the pentagram. Mars has squares in the circles, and in my notes from Chapter 5, I have that as meaning ‘strength with wisdom’. And I have Saturn providing stability.

    If you look closely at the symbols for Mars, the one on the right side has the cross mark, so it is sort-of Venus-y. And the top of the sword handles on Saturn have one circle and three circles, one for the Empress and three for the Emperor. So maybe one arm is active and one arm is passive and same with the legs?

    Your idea to go back and reread chapters is a good one. I think I will do that in concert with my Lullian Art meditations…

  29. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks, and I had not considered that power could have multiple meanings as I’d always considered the definition to be about seeking to control others. Hmm, I guess we are not trained to consider that there would be other aspects to the definition. There is a part of me which wonders whether politics nowadays is there to absorb and disperse the energies of ambitious people. The facts surrounding gridlock suggest the possibility.

    Lévi was a clever bloke to have made that choice. Too many sparks in a single direction will inevitably end up where they began – or possibly worse. That’s what power and control achieves. But dunno, really.



  30. JMG, I am greatly enjoying these posts, although I have nothing special to contribute and am presently reserving my energy for the great trials which are clearly to come in the next few years, and for my usual daily labours, but may I be allowed to say that ‘a holiday from the astral light means you are dead’ is one of the funniest observations I have ever read in an esoteric context, alongside many Sufi humorous tales. Sufis, of course, specialise in humour; most esotericists, sadly, do not. Laughter, like beauty, most surely be near the Divine? In any case, it can only do us good.

  31. Oops, were we supposed to be keeping a journal of our meditations up to this point? I can remember all of the titles I chose for the later cards in the series, and I am sure much of what I came up with in meditation will come back to me as I try the combinations. But still, how important would you say the physical act of journaling is in this process?

    I suppose my next question is along the lines of, what am I signing up for as I plunge into the second half of the book? Theory is not the same as practice, and I would like to have a clear idea of what kind of commitments I would be making by continuing this study. ‘One must KNOW in order to ‘DARE’…

  32. JMG,

    I should have been more clear! I meant to say that it’s frustrating to get battered around by all the reflections of the astral light (including the ones I’m making) and it would be nice to be less influenced by them. Levi is teaching us how to overcome all of these, so I hope my practices will eventually bear fruit. Daily banishments and rituals like the Rose+Cross do seem to help a bit to block out the reflections.


    I think you’re right about the planets. Saturn does bring structure and stability while Mars is not always a malefic, aggressive force. Mars is also drive and initiative. The left-right division makes more sense for active and passive than the arms and legs division.

    Could we divide the limbs into four parts? The active side of passive and the active side of active for the arms, while having the passive side of active and the passive side of passive for the legs? This reminds me of how we divide the light in astrology. Aries to Virgo is active/yang, and Libra to Pisces is passive/yin. But within those two are both an active and passive side depending on whether the light is increasing or decreasing.

  33. Hey JMG

    What is the symbol on the right “leg” of the pentagram that is the first image of your essay? It’s a bit to dark to see clearly, but in assuming that it is another Saturn symbol like the leg next to it.

  34. @Jon G,

    Definitely I think the limbs could be divided into four, though I can see it easier as legs being active/passive and passive/passive (like standing vs walking) and the arms being active/active and passive/active (like writing vs holding a pen). Or maybe we are saying the same thing and I just have to wrap my head around the terminology we are using. I will ponder this some more.

    I do not know much astrology. Is active for increasing light and passive for decreasing? The Moon on the image is a waxing crescent (in the northern hemisphere). I wonder if that fits in somehow?

  35. For the Solomon talisman that Levi says shows the hieroglyphic theory of the composition of magnets and represents the circulatory law of lightning: It is based on the Hebrew letters going around the circumference. I used and for the information about the letters (they each have a page devoted to each letter). (And the explanations of what is happening to the letters makes much more sense if you see how the letters are written.)

    The three mother letters are Aleph, Shin, and Mem. Aleph symbolizes what came before Creation. It isn’t included on the diagram, because it is beyond our comprehension. Aleph represents Air. Shin represents Fire (per Levi, fire balanced by double polarization). Mem represents Water.

    Vau is the Hook, the connecting force of God (between heaven and earth).

    Beth is the House, the form that receives what God emanates. The Torah starts with Beth (because we cannot comprehend Aleph), so Beth ‘comes first’.

    Ash (Aleph-Shin) in Hebrew is Fire. So we start with Shin (12 o’clock position), and then to Ob (the passive Astral Light) (which is Aleph Vau Beth), Aleph being the Creator and Vau connecting the Creator with Beth, the House. Beth is feminine (a form). Where does the Vau come from? Aleph. The way Aleph is written is two Yods (force) connected by a Vau. So the Vau connects the force to the form. Yod is “actualized” and become Kaf. (Yod is the Fist; Kaf is the Palm.)

    The Vau is still connected to Kaf, but is connected at a high point, still reaching toward Heaven. This is Lamed (the letter at the 9 o’clock position).

    As the Creation becomes more manifest, it is less connected to Heaven, so the Vau is written lower next to Kaf and the letter becomes Mem (Water) (at the 6 o’clock position). Mem is also the first letter of Malkuth, which is where we are when we are ‘alive’. In JMG’s comments for Chapter 2, he said that Heh-Vau represents duality/life, so we go from Mem to Heh-Vau. The Vau connects Heh (feminine/form) to Heaven/God, and so we have Heh at the 3 o’clock position.

    To return to Heaven, the Creation must pass through a door (Daleth), so we have Od (Aleph Vau Daleth) (but the Creation goes through Daleth and is connected to Aleph by Vau the Hook).

    Aour, the balanced Astral Light, is Aleph Vau Resh. From, “If you continue drawing the rounded line of the Reish, it turns into kaf, representing the Sefirah of Kesser” [Sphere of Kether]. Some sources say Kaf and Vau make Mem, but other sources say that if Mem loses Vau, it becomes Nun (the Fish, a force swimming in the waters of Mem).

    So Yod and Beth create Mem, which loses Vau (and becomes Nun) to create Heh, so we have Yod-Beth-Nun-Heh, but Beth *always comes first*, so Beth-Yod-Nun-Heh, which is pronounced Binah, the Great Sea, the Divine Breath, the Astral Light. So all of Creation is and is within the Astral Light!

    I think that is the circulatory law of lightning that Levi alluded to. As far as the composition of magnets, I think that refers to the polarization indicated by the line connecting Lamed to Heh (and then continuing to the duality of Mem, being Vau and Heh). From the Chapter 4 commentary, Vau is the twofold nature of attraction/repulsion, so that is why the line from Heh connects to two points on Mem (and note that the end of the line is a boxy U (upside down), while Mem is also a boxy U (but right side up).

  36. “Could we divide the limbs into four parts? The active side of passive and the active side of active for the arms, while having the passive side of active and the passive side of passive for the legs? This reminds me of how we divide the light in astrology. Aries to Virgo is active/yang, and Libra to Pisces is passive/yin. But within those two are both an active and passive side depending on whether the light is increasing or decreasing.”

    If I may, to continue on from this line of thought re: malefic/benefic vs. passive/active and higher and lower limbs – through a slight detour that eventually circles back around (a resh through to kuf/qoph transformation, if you will (sorry… extremely nerdy qabalistic humour), there is a concept that Marie-Louise Von Franz talks about in Shadow and Evil in Fairytales. She describes how most animals have a large lobe in their brain for processing the smell function, but humans don’t (“man is very much crippled in this respect”) – the theory being that we sacrificed it (and our hearing) for our higher intelligence; “… it is possible that these capacities will be sacrificed to produce other functions of the brain, for a capacity lost on one concrete level may return, so to speak, on a higher level; it may become a psychological function and be replaced by [in the case of smell] intuition, by psychological perception instead of physical perception.”

    Crippled legs or missing hands (in the fairy tale she was discussing, it was a missing nose) show up in fairy tales and myth regularly – the crippled god that comes to mind first to me is Vulcan. An injured leg obtained from a fall – related, now, I would guess, to his being the smith god (both as having strong arms, and for the things he crafts for others). If I was to insert Vulcan over the pentagram using that schema, it is interesting.

    (The other senses and other organs and body parts are also interesting to think about as what a symbolic sacrifice on one level would represent as appearing in a character in a myth or fairy tale, too, but it doesn’t work with this pentagram).

    Von Franz also notes that the feminine principle (the yin) is responsible for “bringing the idea of totality into earthly reality”, which would understandably feel fairly malefic for the people experiencing it much of the time. She is also that force which “picks up what has been neglected and overlooked and not liked and which should still be kept alive and looked at.” Most people “get sickened” by the “bad taste” of her style and fail to get at the higher message behind it. That reminds me of the lessons of the malefics: there is a hard way, and an easy way based on what level you meet their challenges at.

  37. Chris, I’ve come to think that power over other people is a cheap substitute for the real thing, which is participation in magical and spiritual power — not control over it, but riding it the way a good sailor in a sailboat rides the winds and waves.

    Xabier, thank you! Among other things, humor is a good break from facing the approaching difficulties. I’ll be talking about some of those latter next week, so a good joke or two is in order!

    Dylan, first, a journal is recommended but not required. As long as you can remember or reconstruct the three keywords for each card, you’re good. Second, the rest of this book presents a fair number of practices, and we’ll be discussing how to apply the instructions, but you don’t have to do any of them. It’s a menu; you can order what you want, and if you don’t want anything, that’s fine too.

    Jon G, gotcha! What you need to do is rise into the upper astral, where the turbulence is a lot less. That’s done by attuning yourself to the spiritual and mental planes, and that, in turn, is done by practices such as meditation, ritual, and prayer.

    J.L.Mc12, it’s another Saturn.

    Random, you’re right, that’s a very good meditation.

  38. @sarad,

    Ooooo… I like considering malefic/benefic with passive/active.

    The idea of sacrificing smell and hearing for intelligence is interesting. Intelligence is associated with Air, and hearing requires sound waves traveling through a medium (and the medium for humans is air). I was trying to figure out which senses would align with which elements and remembered the FHR already did that… taste and smell are associated with Earth. (Water is sense of touch. Fire is sense of sight.) I will have to ponder that some more.

    I am less familiar with Vulcan, but it is interesting to consider Hephaistos. Is some versions of the myths, he was Hera’s child without a father (so no Yod and possibly no Vau?) and his legs were either deformed congenitally or from the fall. And somewhere I read someone’s interpretation of the Hephaistos/Ares/Aphrodite myth (where Hephaistos caught Ares and Aphrodite together and trapped them in a web) that Hephaistos recognized that Ares and Aphrodite *had* to stay together and therefore trapped them. When you consider Aphrodite as Netzach and Ares as Geburah and then Vau as “the twofold nature of attraction/repulsion” and Hephaistus not having Vau (especially with the myth that is was Zeus that threw him off Olympus)… hmm, I know what my meditation for today will be. 🙂

  39. Something else I had read while studying the Hebrew letters that didn’t connect for me until last night was the explanation of why the world was made in Beth rather than Mem. (details here, starting with the paragraph that begins “Starting the Torah with the letter bet…” Short version, Beth is a house, with windows and doors, so even though we are made in Beth, we can leave Beth. We can see through the windows that there is something outside of the house and we can use the door to leave the house. (Even more fun, according to POW, the Path of Heh is ‘window’. And Daleth is ‘door’.) Mem is a closed letter, so if we were made in there, we couldn’t leave. We would not have freedom. Being made in Beth gives us freedom, which relates nicely to the comet metaphor that Levi used.

    When I started meditating on the circumference of letters, I started clockwise. Od (the active part of the astral light) is Aleph Vau Daleth (so Aleph passed through Daleth). Back in the chapter with the ADNI picture, I read somewhere that Aleph through Daleth results in Mem (ADM, Adam Kadmon). But Adam *was* trapped in Eden until Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge. I cannot find in my notes right now the proper spelling of Eve in Hebrew, but it seems there is a Heh and a Vau in there… a window and a connection to the Divine.

    So if you do the talisman clockwise, the Yod from Aleph attached to Daleth to create Heh. And if Heh is the actualized Yod (passing through Daleth), we get to Kaf (and Vau-Kaf gets us to Mem).

    Originally I had thought the Lamed was Nun and that fit well with the Mem. (Mem is water; Nun is Fish, in the water, but eventually rising out of the water.) But it works with Lamed, too. The Vau of Mem rises up so Mem becomes Lamed, and then we are back to Ob.

    The circumference can work both ways. And Aleph has two Yods, so maybe both ways are happening at once (though Aleph only has one Vau and you need a Vau for both sides). It is interesting that the Jewish faith says that Beth comes first, but also has the Adam/Eve story, which is going round the circumference the other way.

    Hmm. But Vau is the duality of attraction/repulsion. So maybe Vau somehow splits and the attraction side goes to Ob and the repulsion side goes to Od?

    And does this make two different sets of Divine Sparks (a la Cosmic Doctrine)? Or are is it still all the same swarm? Is this why some religions seem focused on guilt and the Fall and some aren’t? And going the other way made letters that spelled BINAH. And when I looked up “Eve in Hebrew”, instead of someone nicely just giving me the letters, some wrote that Eve really isn’t Eve; she is Chavah. ( I really didn’t want drag a new letter into this, but if it is Ch-Vau-Heh, then we have a “Ch” sound and we have Kaf already and a Mem and Heh and maybe this ends up spelling CHOKMAH.


  40. @karma – Vulcan is the Romanized Hephaestos ( not this guy), so you got it! Thank you for the meditations!

    May I also just say how great it is to see someone else is cool enough to listen to some rabbi talk about letters.

  41. “…but riding it the way a good sailor in a sailboat rides the winds and waves.”

    Not to mention the tides! At this point, I’m feeling overcommitted, trying to keep up with so many interesting practices and discussions at one time. “Limitation” is making itself felt.

  42. When I read this chapter, one of the things that jumped out at me was the words OD, OB, and AOUR. I haven’t had a chance to read widely in the occult literature yet, so this was the first time I had seen these terms since reading about them in your Druidry books as names for the solar, telluric, and lunar currents respectively. The material on page 199 where Lévi mentions them suggests making that correspondence and that the way we wield the telluric and solar currents to form the lunar current in AODA and GSF fits with what Lévi writes here. Does this make sense?

  43. Scotty, I think you may have only posted part of the URL — I get a “file not found” error when I click on the link you gave.

    Phutatorius, I get that! As I think I mentioned, I recently got given around 18 gigabytes of old occult lessons, and it’s been a real struggle choosing a fairly narrow set of those to study for now. I remember the days when finding any occult instruction at all was hard — now there’s an embarrassment of riches.

    SLClaire, good. Yes, that’s exactly what’s going on here — I’d studied Lévi pretty intensively long before I was initiated into Druidry, and was fascinated to find the same three concepts under different names.

  44. @RandomActsOfKarma, and anyone else who might be interested. Seeing your meditations involving the Hebrew letters (which I cannot but note are actually Aramaic–the “square script” is Aramaic; pre-Exilic Hebrew letters looked different, which is of no matter here, since the Kabbalists used the square script), I thought I’d call attention to Annick de Souzenelle’s The Body and Its Symbolism: A Kabbalistic Approach. Here is a passage I opened at random:

    “The ark, the תבה (tebah) in Hebrew, is a word of great importance, as it joins the two letters ב and ת, which form the word בת (bat), the “daughter,” virgin of Israel. Between these two are all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet except the alef (א). They constitute, symbolically, all the created energies.

    “In asking him to construct his tebah, Elohim invites Noah to “grasp”–to become aware of–all his energies …

    “Noah’s ark is our inner being.” (p. 131)

    This book is impossible to summarize in any manner that could do it justice–there is so much packed into it–but I thought I’d mention it.

  45. @sarad,


    And the letters are really cool. I mean, if someone told me to make an alphabet whose letters transform into different letters and write a book with specific content, but do the letters so they appear in certain places (like the beginning of the book or the exact center of the book), I wouldn’t know how to even start. I feel with my meditations, it likes Hermes says, okay, look at this. No, okay, let’s try this way. Still don’t get it? Okaaaaaay, how about now? And, now? OK, let me find you a picture…

    To get an entire alphabet and book? Oi.


    Oooo, I had not connected Od, Ob, and Aour with the Druid currents. Thank you!

  46. @karma – “it likes Hermes says, okay, look at this. No, okay, let’s try this way. Still don’t get it? Okaaaaaay, how about now? And, now? OK, let me find you a picture…”

    Welcome to the age of aquarius, I think! 😉

    When I was first reading my astrology book, one of the careers it had listed for sun sign Aquarians that was markedly different, I thought, than the STEM and communications focused ones was “optometrist”.

    This offended me greatly, I took it personally. My ex-MIL was an optometrist (though in fairness just to pay the bills, she remains also an extraordinary weaver), and I associated it with being a very nice, vanilla, rather too nice, plays it safe, maybe too nice actually, reads Eckhart Tolle, kinda person.

    And I couldn’t figure out what was Aquarian about THAT. Then I thought about the last time I had my eyes checked, and what do they do?

    “Tell me through which lens you see the letter more clearly? 1 or 2? Good. Now 1 or 3? 3 or 4?”

    Then calibrate your glasses for you to correct your defect (if you have one).

    I decided that was bad ass enough after all.

  47. @SLClare. Same here, I haven’t connected ob and od with the currents. Thanks

    @Random. I’m on travel so not even going to attempt to follow your posts/thoughts but I’ll be back soon and try to catch up

  48. Hi John Michael,

    You’re right. As a general commentary on this matter, I’m of the belief that we as a species seek distractions as an avoidance strategy. We could do better. Still, a person has to walk in both worlds.



  49. JMG,

    Thank you! I’ll keep working on that for the rest of my life!


    My dyslexia kicked in because that is what I wanted to write but I got it backwards. One arm active/active, the other active/passive and passive/active vs passive/passive for the legs. Perhaps the eyes are there to indicate that we turn into the pentagram just like we do the tree of life. So the active side is the right side. I hope Levi gives us clues if that is correct.

    With astrology, you got it right. Aries to Gemini is active/active and Cancer to Virgo is active/passive because the light increases and then diminishes at the solstice. Then it’s passive passive until the Winter Solstice, but shifts to passive/active as the light starts increasing.

  50. @asdf jkl;,

    Oooo! I checked… my library has the book on Hoopla, so I have it on my computer (for 21 days…). Sweet! Just enough time to try to read it all before the next book club week. 🙂

    Thank you!!!

  51. Sarad and RandomActsofKarma,

    Thank you both for those very interesting ideas. My mind keeps going back to the pentagram and with the addition of crippled parts of the body, I wonder if there isn’t something to different circuits being formed depending on which body parts are used.

    For example, with Vulcan/Hephaestus, the crippled legs could indicate an overextension of the active and passive arms. Maybe this indicates that the element of fire and earth are related to the arms. I think that because Hephaestus wrought metals from the earth with fire. That would be Mars and the other point of the pentagram looking like Mars but with another bar to make it resemble Venus (as RandomActsofKarma pointed out.) This also fits in with the story of Hephaestus trapping Aphrodite and Ares in bed with his net.

    Then that would put Air and Water on the legs?

    But, looking closely, I see a cup next to the top right point for water, a wand touching the bottom right point for fire, a sword touching the bottom left point for air but nothing touching the top left point, which should be for earth. But I think the entire pentagram is a symbol for earth and so that may be our key for the entrance of the energy into the body, which appears to be the right arm if we are facing in the direction of the pentagram.

    Goodness, and the left vertical line shows the sun, which is the active/yang and the right vertical line shows the moon, making it the passive/yin (and it’s also shaded darker.) That could make one side OD, the other OB and the entire body AOUR circulating through the body.

    I also wonder if RandomActsofKarma’s recent meditations on Hercules might play a role in this. Does he use different body parts to overcome challenges? I’ll have to look.

  52. @ Jon G: I’m following you, I hope!

    “But I think the entire pentagram is a symbol for earth and so that may be our key for the entrance of the energy into the body, which appears to be the right arm if we are facing in the direction of the pentagram.”

    Here I’m not sure. This Dion Fortune line (which book? Can’t remember) had always haunted me:

    “But you, looking as though into a mirror, see left as right and right as left.”

    I’ve been mulling that in myths, there’s quite a lot about the shields given by goddesses, which are more typically earth-affiliated. And Fortune mention that a key piece of information can be gleamed from the fact that churches dedicated to St Michael were frequently put on top of old pagan tower sites (male[active] earth gods). A tower is both swordlike, but a defensive structure, and there are devotional prayers to St Michael’s Shield.

  53. I think the circulation of the Od, Ob and AOUR forces through the body align with the same movement for the banishing and invoking rituals with the pentagrams. For example, banishing for Earth starts at the bottom left, and if we wish to banish Earth within the body we would start at the right foot. For invoking, we would start with the head.

    I also wonder if each of the Trump cards in the Tarot might correspond to its own ritual or movement of the body. I noticed that in The Lovers, on the Knapp-Hall deck, the man had his arms crossed. It seems like that would be a good way for the energies to cross from one side of the body to the other.

  54. I’m still following along quite closely with each chapter, I just haven’t anything to add this week. Except for…


    You might be interested in this fairly light but interesting post by Ted Gioia about the Merkabah mystics’ connection to music and the hero’s journey (which actually may tie into the Herakles myth, too).

  55. Hi John Michael,

    Way, way, ways off topic, but just a heads up in case you missed this (an unlikely scenario): Ocean conditions in uncharted territory as water temperatures reach record high. Hmm, I’ve been expecting this. Very, very difficult to cool from this point.

    The weather here on this mountain range pimple which sticks up from the Earth, is affected by three oceans: the Indian Ocean (to the NW); the Southern Ocean (to the SW); and the Pacific Ocean (to the NE). And all those are sending more moisture into the atmosphere.

    People think of Australia as if it were a huge desert. But, if you’ve got water, producing edible crops is easier in a desert than compared to a rainforest. Leaching of soil minerals is a complicated process to slow.




  56. Sarad,

    I think we are supposed to turn around and back into the pentagram. Is that what you mean by reversing the positions? The eyes on the image were mystifying but I knew they had a purpose and I think that the purpose is to turn ourselves around.

    And thank you for the shield information. There are a lot. I never noticed that. When I looked into it I found out that Hephaestus made a shield for Achilles in The Illiad. The description is quite incredible:

  57. @Jon G,

    Re: the Pentagram, in my Chapter 5 meditations, I have “Bereshit Bara Elohim Et” (In the beginning, God created Et [and Hebrew is right to left, to Te] ) so Te is what Elohim made before heaven and earth. (I didn’t write a citation, but probably Chabad or Hebrew4Christians.) Next is TRA, which is a trinity (with Tau, Resh, and Aleph) and the cup is the grail (and also represents Water). GRAM has a wand/Fire. So the beginning of creation is water then fire (and way back when, we talked about fiery water…). All that to say I’m not sure the water necessarily has to line up with the “hand” on the same side of the pentagram. Because I like thinking of Hephaestus as Earth and Fire. He uses Fire to give Form to Earth. (And he is the child of Hera, who also represents Earth.)

    And you brought up Herakles? I had deliberately NOT brought him up, thinking I may have abused everyone’s patience with me these past few months. But since *you* brought it up… rather than looking at body parts exclusively, you might consider looking at his tools/weapons, which (except for the club he fashioned of a tree he uprooted) (an olive tree, according to some versions) (and olive trees are associated with Athena!), were gifts from various gods and goddesses. (Somewhere I read that at first, Herakles didn’t use any of the gifts, just his hands and his club, because *he didn’t know how to use the tools*. But as he continued with his Labors, he gained the Wisdom to use the tools.
    Hephaestus gave him a golden breastplate, Poseidon gifted horses, Hermes gifted a sword, Apollo gifted a bow. My favorite, though, was the krotala (‘rattles’) which Athena gifted him. They were made by Hephaestus for Zeus. Zeus gave them to Athena. Some accounts had them as rattles. Some had them as bells, which attached to his breastplate. Some said they were like clappers. Regardless, he shook them to scare the Stymphalian Birds from their roosts, so then he could shoot them with arrows. After much pondering (Why would Hephaestus make a rattle for Zeus?), it occurred to me what the krotala was… thunder! Lightning goes with Fire (Fire goes with light goes with vision; you ‘see’ lightning). Thunder goes with Air (Air goes with sound goes with hearing; you ‘hear’ thunder). But thunder is never far from lightning. Zeus is Fire; Athena is Air. 🙂

    And then with the Hydra, he used the sword (Air) to cut off the heads and a torch (Fire) to cauterize them to keep them from growing back. So I definitely think meditating on the tools/body parts he used for different Labors would be worthwhile. 🙂

    I have not meditated on all the tools (yet), but I have posted some of my other thoughts here, if that is useful to you: I would love to read what you figure out.

  58. @Jon G,

    Your dyslexia comment gave me another idea…

    I think perhaps the shading on the Pentagram shows us the active/passive for each polarity/duality, rather than just right vs left. The Sun is obviously lighter than the Moon (not because it is giving off light, but I mean because of the shading on the Pentagram), so the Sun would be active and the Moon would be passive. But the Hebrew letters to the upper left of the Sun spell Eve, while to the upper right of the Moon spell Adm, but Eve is feminine (so passive). If you look at the ‘bar’ of the Pentagram with Eve and Adm on it, it is drawn so the Adm parts of the bar goes under the Sun bar, so that would make the Eve part a little further back (but Levi probably didn’t want to shade Eve, because he has Aleph (under the eyes) pointing to both of them. The Mars near the cup/grail would appear to be further back than the Mars on the other side.

    I will have to stare at the Pentagram for a while and see if this fits for all the polarities…

  59. @ sarad,

    I have never thought about Aquarius like that! But seeing Hermes as an optometrist (pun intended!) is a good analogy… he’s trying to help me focus what I see in the Astral Light.

    (And now I’ll be humming The 5th Dimension for the rest of the evening… 😉 )

    And for kicks, I just looked up what careers are good for my sign… a human resources manager! Ick! Ickity ick! I’d rather be an optometrist…

  60. There’s a lot to unpack here JMG! Thank you so much for this fascinating commentary!
    I looked up Ezekiel’s description of the cherubim and their associated intersecting wheels (Ezekiel, Chapter 1). In the diagram, Levi has 2 wheels under the cherub (nThere’s a lot to unpack here JMG! Thank you so much for this fascinating commentary!
    I looked up Ezekiel’s description of the cherubim and their associated intersecting wheels (Ezekiel, Chapter 1). In the diagram, Levi has 2 wheels under the cherub (named Ezechiel and Pitagore – Ezekiel and Pythagorus?) with additional symbols. How does Pythagorus fit into all this? Or is ‘Pitagore’ something else?

    It may be worth noting that, later in his book, Ezekiel identifies Satan as one of the guardian cherubs who was kicked out of heaven. He does this as a way of describing the downfall of the king of Tyre, but it gives some insight into Ezekiel’s understanding of what the cherubs were all about (Ezekiel 28:11-17).

  61. Have to get ready for work, so not much time to write, but

    @Jon G, crossing the arms to cross the energy from one side of the body to the other… Oooooo!

    @jbucks, Merkabah and Herakles!?!? I know what I’ll be reading during lunch today! Thank you!

  62. @Jacques I was also raised Catholic and had my first transports after communion and in the May procession. I also rejected the the Church’s claims of power.

    Then, as a teen, a former monk explained to me that the Church has two parts. The pastoral part — parish priests, nuns, bishops, Pope — have the task of guiding the bulk of the faithful. They get good at arguing in confession with a person explaining away their sins. In general, they get good at puncturing self-deception.

    The Church also has a contemplative side — monks and nuns — that the pastoral side generally doesn’t interfere with. Contemplatives have much more freedom to explore new ideas, but also have much greater risk of falling into error. The Church can guide the bulk of the faithful, but it can’t guide the contemplatives. You sound like a contemplative, and your main danger is falling into error. That means, I believe, having ideas and doing things that hurt yourself or others.

  63. Not much input from me this post as when I was able to return to the studies I was busy with Lullian art meditations.

    Wondering if anyone received insight or have thoughts on the reverse side of Solomon’s talisman (pg. 206 of the Greer/Mikituk translation)? My online searches are not revealing much and afraid to do down the magnetism / electrical current rabbit hole. For now, I’m putting this down to old occult theory concerning natural phenomena.

  64. @Scotty, my post #36 has some of my thoughts on the reverse side of the talisman. I see the magnetism as another name for polarity (one magnet has a positive end and a negative end, like the Unity has a masculine aspect and a feminine aspect).

  65. @Random,

    Thank you. That is a deep meditation and I’m out of my depth right now but will keep returning to it. I will keep returning to it and adding to my margin notes around the seal in the book!

  66. @Scotty,

    I have been rereading the earlier chapters of the books and seeing things I didn’t see the first time through. I will be returning to this meditation, too, and will hopefully see more the second time as well. Please let me know if you come up with things, too. 🙂

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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