Sunday, December 21, 2014

Surfing the Astral Light

In making sense of the astral light, the concept introduced in last month’s post on The Well of Galabes, it’s worth keeping in mind that operative mages are by and large more concerned with using magic than they are with proving its existence and efficacy to hostile skeptics The concerns of materialists or, for that matter, the dubious logic generally deployed in attempts to defend materialist skepticism these days, aren’t of great interest to most of the serious practitioners of magic I’ve met; if the skeptics don’t wish to help themselves to the practical benefits of magic, why should the mages care?

Thus the concept of the astral light is not presented by magical literature as a falsifiable scientific hypothesis. It’s probably necessary to point out that this doesn’t make it meaningless. Falsifiable scientific hypotheses are extremely useful in that large but not limitless realm to which the methods of science apply—broadly speaking, those aspects of human experience that are subject to replicable quantitative measurement—but they reach no further.  Such statements as “I love you,” “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower drives me also,” and “government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed” are not falsifiable scientific hypotheses, either, but I hope most of my readers will admit that they mean something, and in their own spheres, something of importance.

So, too, the concept of the astral light. Because magic deals with consciousness and the whole systems that relate to it, it’s fiendishly difficult to quantify, and even harder to replicate exactly under controlled conditions. (How do you control for, say, the difference in the lifetime’s worth of experiences between one human mind and another?). Thus operative mages make use of concepts that are, strictly speaking, little more than rules of thumb, rough generalizations that reflect the experiences of magical practice. The only justifications for this practice are that, first, since the subjective phenomena of consciousness aren’t quantifiable or strictly replicable, generalizations are the only tools we’ve got; second, the generalizations in question do a very good job of reflecting the experiences that people encounter when they take up magical practice; and third, they also have an important pedagogical function.

This last point is at least as important as the first two. To understand how it works, it’ll be helpful to go back to the points made in the very first post on this blog, and remember how it is that this thing we call the world comes into being. As I noted then, the world isn’t sitting “out there” waiting for us to see it exactly as it is; what’s “out there,” scientists assure us, consists entirely of wholly unimaginable quantum-level stresses in the fabric of four-dimensional spacetime.  Those stresses impinge on our sense organs in certain strictly limited ways—did you notice the burst of neutrinos that went whizzing by just now? Neither did any other human being—and those sense organs trigger reactions in your nervous system; your mind then assembles those reactions into a coherent pattern, according to a template that’s partly biological, partly cultural, and partly individual, and that’s your world.

For most people, under most circumstances, the process of creating a world out of the fragmentary glimpses handed us by the senses isn’t a conscious thing. Still, it can be shaped by conscious action, and one of the most useful ways to shape the process is by changing the focus of attention.

This is something that every scientist learns early on in his or her university training. If you’re just beginning the study of botany, for example, odds are that you’ve only paid cursory attention to the trees and plants you see every day; you might be able to recognize a dozen species of trees and as many lawn and garden weeds, but how many people actually take the time, let’s say, to examine a blade of grass an inch at a time through a magnifying lens? As you study plant physiology and structure, put in the hours keying out plants in the laboratory, and tromp through the mud on field identification walks, what used to be a vague green background turns into something considerably richer: a galaxy of complex, meaningful structures that can be read and understood, and can teach you things that the uninstructed don’t notice. This plant tells you that the ground where it grows tends to be soggy in winter; that one tells you that the soil is poor in nitrogen; the tree up on the hill, which belongs to a species normally found far to the north, reveals the otherwise hidden history of climate change in your region over the last ten or twenty thousand years, and so on.

At the heart of that reshaping of awareness is a process of using concepts to focus the attention Before your first botany class, you may have looked at leaves on stems any number of times, but without the technical vocabulary of the botanist, it might never have occurred to you to notice the difference between those plants that have leaves in pairs on either side of the stem and those that have them unpaired—in botanical terms, between opposite and alternate habits. Simple and compound leaves, palmate and pinnate veins, entire, dentate, and serrate leaf edges, and the rest of the incantatory vocabulary of the field botanist: all of that permits botanists to communicate exact details of plant structure to one another, but it also, and crucially, focuses the attention of the novice botanist onto exactly those details that allow plant structure to be understood.

That sort of refocusing of attention on details that might otherwise be neglected is central to most kinds of education. It certainly plays a crucial role in magical training and initiation, and the use of concepts to focus attention is just as important to the neophyte occultist as it is to the beginner in botany. The astral light, as a concept, has a central part in that process. Whether or not you’ve had any previous exposure to occult philosophy, dear reader, and even if you consider the subject of this blog to be the worst sort of superstitious malarkey, imagine for a moment that there is such a thing as the astral light—a vast field of subtle substance streaming out from the Sun to fill the solar system and everything in it, intangible to the physical senses and to all the instruments so far devised, but clearly perceptible to certain less widely recognized capacities of human consciousness. Imagine that this field permeates your body and that of every other living and nonliving thing, and that the phenomena discussed in last month’s post are among its many effects.

That’s a core aspect of the universe as understood by traditional occult philosophy. Like the details of plant structure studied by botanists, it directs attention toward certain things that are otherwise very often neglected by the untrained.

Let’s take an example that may be familiar to some readers. Members of a certain generation used to talk about the “vibe” of a place, a person, or a situation: “The scene had a really groovy vibe early on, but once that dude in the leather vest showed up, man, the vibe got heavy in a hurry”—that sort of thing. It’s a convenient shorthand for a dimension of human experience that normally gets brushed aside as an irrelevance in modern industrial societies: one of many things we dump into the grab-bag category called “feelings” in English, and generally ignore.

Pay attention to the vibe or, if you prefer, the feeling that occurs in different places, though, and you may just begin to notice that it’s something distinct from other senses of the word “feeling,” such as your emotional states or the internal sensations produced by the nerve endings in your viscera. The more closely you attend to it, the more complex the experience becomes and the more likely it is to communicate information that has practical value. With practice, attending to the vibe becomes a sensory modality of remarkable complexity and power, as useful as eyes or ears.  I’ve long since lost track of the number of times I’ve used it in unfamiliar towns to find used book stores and cheap dives with good food.  No, I don’t expect you to take that on faith; start directing attention to your surroundings in the way I’ve just suggested, and see what results you get.

(A digression about occult slang might be useful at this point. Most of the older systems of occult philosophy still in circulation use the 19th-century terminology of “planes,” and speak of the mental plane, the etheric plane, and so on; we’ll get to those and the common human experiences involved in them in a later post. The material plane, in this way of speaking, is the world as known by the five ordinary senses and instruments based on them: basically, the world as known by modern science.  The other two, or four, or six planes—depending on the specifics of the system of occult philosophy you’re studying—tend to get lumped together in ordinary conversation among mages as “the inner planes,” and the material world is called “the outer plane” It’s a very rough categorization but a useful one.

(The “vibe” or “feeling” we’ve been talking about belongs to the category of inner plane experiences, and when an inner plane experience checks out in material, verifiable terms, that’s called an “outer plane check.” Operative mages tend to pay close attention to outer plane checks, since those offer one of the very few ways to calibrate inner plane perceptions. When a perception turns out to be a dud—which of course does happen; inner plane perceptions are no more infallible than, say, eyesight, and suffer from their own equivalents of optical illusions and eye trouble—it’s not uncommon to hear the discomfited mage say something like, “Yeah, my outer plane check just bounced.”

(Which shows, if nothing else, that occultists have their own quirky sense of humor. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Well of Galabes post.)

The standard explanation in magical philosophy for what I’ve been calling vibes and feelings is that the astral light isn’t uniform; it’s influenced—colored or flavored, perhaps, depending on your choice of sensory metaphor—by a very broad range of phenomena, including human thoughts and feelings. These influences, in turn, can be sensed and interpreted by someone who’s taken the time to pay attention to them and learn how to read them.

Does this mean that there’s actually a vast field of subtle substance streaming outwards from the Sun, interpenetrating all things, picking up influences and communicating them to attentive minds? That’s an excellent question to which, as far as I know, nobody knows the answer. It may be that something exists that corresponds closely to the traditional concept. It may be that something very different is responsible.  It may be, for that matter, that “the astral light” is a convenient catchall term for several different effects that influence the human nervous system in various ways, and can be perceived and used by those who learn to pay attention to them.

We simply don’t know.  What we do know—“we,” here, meaning operative mages—is that if you approach “vibes” with the concept of the astral light in mind, and treat them as though they’re perceptions of a vast field of subtle substance, etc., you pretty reliably get certain useful results. Since, as previously noted, operative mages tend to be more interested in using magic than in proving its existence and efficacy to hostile skeptics, they don’t tend to worry too much about the matter.

The same vibes or feelings, by the way, are affected by time as well as by place. It’s not just that the color or flavor or whatever you want to call it changes over time as new influences overlie older ones; there appear to be cyclic processes that move through the astral light like tides, affecting different “vibes” in distinct ways. Most magical traditions thus include systems that allow these cycles to be tracked. Now of course that brings us up against another of the classic hot-button topics in this field, because the most widely known of these systems in the Western world just now is astrology. It’s not the only option by a long shot; operative mages, depending on their choice of occult philosophy and practice, may use the planetary hours, the tattwas, the velocia, or any of more than a dozen other systems; still, astrology’s the one the skeptics have heard of.

The standard pseudoskeptical arguments against astrology would in some ways have made an even better example of last month’s point than either homeopathy or acupressure, in that they’re among the most impressive displays of circular logic in contemporary pop culture. Why doesn’t astrology work? Because there’s no way for planets millions of miles away in space to affect events here on Earth. How do we know that there’s no way for planets to do that? Because scientists haven’t detected anything that would cause such effects. Have they looked? No, because there isn’t one, and we know that because astrology doesn’t work. Mix in an impressive degree of ignorance about the history and practice of astrology, and you’ve basically got the party line. It’s bad enough that schools of astrology routinely assign Objections to Astrology, the 1977 screed by Paul Kurtz et al, as required reading for students; there’s no better way to demonstrate that most critics of astrology literally know nothing about it.

Still, we can leave a more detailed discussion of that for a later post, because the value of astrology and its kindred systems in magical training doesn’t depend on whether the movement of planets through the astral light does in fact set up complex wave patterns that propagate throughout the solar system, with predictable effects for those of us surfing the astral light here on Earth. (That’s a standard explanation for astrology in the sort of old-fashioned occult philosophy I favor.) The point to systems of timing in magical training is that they focus attention on what, resorting again to metaphor, we may as well call the texture of time.  The standard scientific notion of time as a featureless continuum with no qualities of its own works well enough when you’re focusing on the kind of phenomena physicists study, but the closer your field of study gets to the subjective phenomena of consciousness, the less valid that notion becomes.

Pay attention to the vibe or feeling of different times, in fact, and it becomes hard to miss the fact that some times are better for certain activities than others. The conceptual language of magical timing systems focuses attention on that aspect of human experience, and helps the mage in training learn how to sense the changing textures of time and act in accordance with them. Mind you, a good case can be made that at least some of the cycles tracked by these systems have a reality that goes beyond their value as pedagogical tools, but again, that’s a point I don’t expect anyone to take on faith; the best way to explore that—the standard way in magical training of the old-fashioned sort, in fact—is to start using some such system on a daily basis, and see what kind of results you get.

So these perceptions I’m calling vibes or feelings vary with changes in place, and they also vary with changes in time. What else? Changes in activity, of course, and the kind of activity that matters most to the novice mage in training is ritual.

It so happens that certain patterns of human action—certain combinations of gesture, movement, vocalization, mental imagery, and focused intention—have effects on the vibe or feeling of the place where they’re done, at and after the time when they’re done. That’s one of the two factors behind ritual magic. The other is applied psychology, and this latter is probably the more important of the two; a vast amount of what can be done through magical practice depends utterly on the use of emotionally charged symbols, dramatic action, and an assortment of other means to reorient the unreasoning levels of the human mind. That said, what occult philosophy calls the astral light is also involved, and ritual, like so much else in occult training, functions as a pedagogical tool to direct attention toward that intangible but important factor.

Here’s how it works.  When you take up one of the classic systems of ceremonial magic, among the things you get assigned early on is a simple ritual, which is performed daily. The specific ritual varies somewhat from tradition to tradition, but it’s usually intended to produce, in the terms I’ve been using in this post, a balanced and healthy vibe—I suppose, given the recurrent reference to Sixties slang, I ought to say “a really groovy vibe, man” instead. It doesn’t have any more specific or practical purpose. You perform it daily, usually right before your daily meditation, and for the first few weeks or months, what you get out of it can be explained wholly by the psychological side of things.

Psychological devices, though, tend to lose their immediate emotional and cognitive impact with time and repetition. (There are other, subtler shifts in psychology that come from repeated ritual, but that’s a subject for a different post.) After the first few weeks or months, whatever emotional charge you got at first from doing a magical ritual fades; the cognitive effects settle into a rut; the ritual becomes familiar, and then dull, and tolerably often it strays over the line from merely dull into nightmarishly tedious for at least a little while in there. It’s usually around the time that this latter point is reached that you begin to notice that after you’ve done the ritual, something really did change in the place where you did it, and the change lingers there for a while before fading out into the background.

This is usually the make-or-break point in magical training. A certain number of students, no matter how enthusiastic they may have been up to that point, start to sense something happening in their ritual work that pretty clearly isn’t inside their heads, slam face first into the fact that what they’re doing is no longer just dress-up games and make-believe, and run like rabbits for the nearest exit. Even those who have the necessary gumption to stick with the training tend to freak out at this point; teachers of magic know to expect the panicked phone call or email from those of their students who actually do the work, and get used to reassuring those on the other end of these conversations that no, they’re not crazy, even though they just experienced something that our culture insists is impossible.

Once that point is passed, ritual becomes something more than an elegant system of do-it-yourself psychodrama—though it remains that, of course; psychology is an integral part of ritual. Once that point is passed, more broadly, magical practice in the richest sense of the word comes within reach, though there’s a great deal of learning and practical work that still has to be done to turn reach into grasp. It’s a lot of work, like anything else that matters. The one consolation is that it’s accessible to anyone who’s willing to put in the time and effort—or more precisely, anyone who’s willing to keep doing so in the face of the make-or-break point just mentioned.

It can be helpful to think of that point as the moment at which the astral light stops being a theory and turns into an experience. That’s a shock for people raised in modern Western industrial cultures, for reasons that go all the way down into the grimy crawlspaces of our collective worldview. Once you have to face the possibility that the astral light or something like it might actually exist, after all, you then have to face the possibility that it might be...


We’ll talk about that next month.


Tom Bannister said...

Wow DUUDDDEEE!!! (just kidding). I'm gonna have to read this post several more times in my lifetime probably to take it all in. Just a few immediate impressions though.

Speaking of 'the vibe' it interests me how much committed staunch materialists will denounce astrology and homeopathy and anything that isn't strictly quantifiable in one sentence then a few hours later you'll see them watching a sports game talking about things such as the 'game's atmosphere' or whether a players in 'form' or not or even better they'll talk about whether a player will 'work his magic!!!'. I could make a similar observations about staunch materialists who go out to rock gigs and talk about 'beautiful sweet music' or have holiday homes in pristine environments, or take drugs or large amounts of alcohol to reach other states pf conciseness, Or of course they have fantasy computer game accounts or read fantasy novels. Not all of this is strictly related to your post I know. The point is, in my opinion, we all covertly believe in magic (or just in non materialistic forces) whether we admit it or not. whether we like it or not, its an essential part of who we all are.

Also I take note of your last few paragraphs about trainee mages. I am currently slowly working my way through the book you co-authored 'Learning ritual magic'. Its been about a year and bit and I'm still on the first lesson. Still I'm persisting, but yup, it is quite a struggle to keep myself at it.

Michael Gorsuch said...

Thank you for this post, JMG!

This is actually one of the most explicit explanations of the Astral Light that I've read to date, and I very much appreciate that. I look forward to where the next posts go.

Going back to some of your past works, specifically your fairly recent work Geomancy, how do you see the concept of the Anima Mundi / World Soul relating to the Astral Light? Are they speaking of the same thing - that's roughly my interpretation, based on experiment, but I'd like to know your position since you wrote the book ;)

Also, on that note - while I know you have recommended your Druid-specific works on magic in comments, I'd like to throw my vote and voice behind Art and Practice of Geomancy as being a wonderful, fully contained system as well. Or, at least that's been my experience.

Rumighoul said...

Happy Solstice to you John.
For myself I have always been open minded and eager up to a point to try out such experiments as you describe here, desirous to prove it to myself, when they are presented in an appealing way. The "point" at which I get a bit stuck consists in the fact that my conscious mind is interested, seemingly open minded, but my subconscious seems to react with a lot of self doubt, and a kind of self-mocking sense that (for example in this case) all I am "picking up" of the vibe of a place is auto suggestion or just a different attitude to "ordinary" sensation. It's as if I have a mini Richard Dawkins in my subconscious that kicks into action whenever the forbidden line is crossed.

And I think after that, in an effort to beat that cynical reaction, I try to make a probably overly strained effort to perceive or achieve what I imagine I'm supposed to, and maybe get a bit fatigued.

It strikes me that I go at it in the wrong way, trying too hard I suppose in the classic beginner way, and that what you are suggesting is that reflection on the concept of Astral Light, taking the general idea of it seriously in an experimental way, figuring out what it means TO ME and my surroundings, perhaps allowing it to just be a psychological trick at first to redirect attention, is a gentler way in that can be persevered with more easily?
I'm really glad you are doing this blog!

jean-vivien said...


wow ! This was a scary cliffhanger ! You have the art of making people gobble what they would normally not even approach. You should try to open an insect food court !

First I'd like to express my appreciation of seeing my comments on last post answered by an elaborate, and correctly written, post of its own. My feelings after last post probably tuned in to the general vibe of the readers of this blog... At least those who jumped from a long time reading your other blog to here.

It seems that you are merely pointing out a lot of the things we all experience during our daily lives, but would never dare call 'magic'. And organizing them into a coherent formal system could be as useful or futile an occupation as tuning your sports car. As to deciding between futile and useful, I trust you will leave that to each of the readers' own discretion. I also trust you will point towards ways to making it useful, and to detect the futile from a distance... If the futile slips through a little, that is okay by me because sometimes the futile can have its importance.

Now on a more interrogative note. In a bit of reticent curiosity, I tried to read a bit of a text written by one of the most famous 20-th century occultists :

So far, after hanging out on this blog, I have identified two sorts of magical practices. An operative one - dealing with your emotions by incantations, trying to convince your body to redirect energy or astral light on the specific parts affected by sickness, manipulating stories or the imagination... And a more "revelatory" one, like using basic scientific techniques, a microscope (cf MindfulEcologist's blog), learning History, interpreting the Cabbalah in a very formal way... The Crowley text prompted me to draw the distinction. When I opened it, I expected to find some sort of extravagantly simple cooking recipes to cure athletes' foot or love problems. Instead I found a weird mix of strong images, fairly sophisticated formalism and some... inference of meaning by image, with no other way to put it. Which is no worse an occupation than watching your NFL on TV, as far as deriving meaning goes.

Are you going to structure your blog along this distinction, or are the two aspects mingled together with no way to unravel the tangles ?

John N. said...

Much to ponder here.

Regarding vibe, it's happened before that I'll be in a book store, and all of a sudden, for no accessible reason, one book in particular catches my eye before I even see it, if you know what I mean. More often than not, it'll be something that I've been wanting to check out, or is helpful in some way. I first read about that phenomenon as "following the coincidences", described by James Redfield. Lately, I can tell if I (and not just house mates) got mail in the mailbox, because I can "feel" it.

I must confess I've been practicing rituals and the associated practices for 16 months now, and I'm a little disappointed I've never had a panic or a breakthrough. I have a better handle on self-awareness, I can feel vibration outside my body, I can feel qi in my hands as I gesticulate, sometimes the archangels seem to have a "presence" that borders on lifelike, and I've come out of an astral temple completely in a daze, but none of this freaked me out at all. It was very gradual. I don't know what to make of it except to keep at it.

Having read Monsters recently, I'm looking forward to hearing more about the inhabitants!

Tracy Glomski said...

Speaking of timing, this might be a good time to wish you a happy Alban Arthuan. :-) May your season be filled with all the best kinds of light, astrally and otherwise.

magicalthyme said...

Happy Yule, everybody. I officially started my ritual practice today, on Alban Arthuan. Peace and blessings to all. Mary

Indrajala said...

About the 'vibe', I think aesthetics and architecture have a definite impact on it. Here in Asia if you visit a historical site like a temple or palace that was built with exacting fengshui in mind, it definitely "feels" very different in a good way as you walk through the gate. Likewise, if you respectfully install an image of a deity in clear sight somewhere, especially enclosed, it produces a presence.

Interesting post! I look forward to next month's.

disposium said...

Well, I must say, this is turning into a sweet, sweet blog, and now I finally have a reason to look forward to the 21st of the month. Though I've pretty much decided to follow the Vajrayana path, with its systems of subtle anatomy, subtle energies, unseen realms, visualized deities... Hey, it's a sort of alchemy... and I'd be lying if I said the idea of developing the sort of 'reality' bending siddhis of which many a book mentions in passing isn't a powerful inducement. The Bodhisattva Vow, to pursue such a life for the benefit of all sentient beings... another powerful inducement, there... Because I've got the feeling that when the poop hits the fan (see your other blog), communities will need Bodhisattvas aplenty, be they lamas, mages, or the wise wee old lady down the lane with her shack full of odd pickled things for what ails you.

Cherokee Organics said...


Exactly. How does that individual plant fit into the greater whole is a question that is often overlooked. As a culture we are very good at examining things in isolation and quite poor at understanding the connectivity and relationships of things. I reckon we literally don't or refuse to see it – possibly it may cause us to ponder the seriousness of limits to our actions. This is not true for all human cultures, just our dominant culture.

It has taken quite a few years of observations and actions here to begin to become attuned to this way of thinking and there is still a long way to go yet. It would be nice to have a guide sometimes.

Ritual is interesting in that the more that it is followed over a period of time, the more the subtle insights are revealed. And they're there too. It gets back to observation, practice and the changing of and individuals perception.

Yes, inhabited - that sounds about right. Spooky. I'll tell ya a story about here.

Years ago when I bought this farm, I did so because it was cheap, but it had other things going for it - like a good vibe. However, after 100 years of forest extraction, let’s be honest it was pretty sad and flogged - which also made it cheap. Still some of the trees were tall and that spoke something to me about the potential.

So I started bringing in organic matter (450 cubic metres so far over the years - it was possibly something more than a hobby!). It is interesting to note that fertility accumulates within an area - if allowed.

Then I read a while back that the ancient Aboriginals used to believe that if the rituals and ceremonies were not undertaken both correctly and at the right time, their very souls were in peril. In a boom and bust variable environment like here I have come around to the realisation that they were indeed correct to take this approach which incidentally guided their entire lives and activities. They literally saw the world differently to our culture.

So I took a less rigid approach to the activities here and instead observed the environment and asked the question: what needs to be done and when. Every year it is different too and I'm sort of learning by feel and also trial and error.

What is interesting is that as time goes on, energy accumulates here and with it so too does the sheer volume of life.

For several years now I've been opening the farm for a local group and this year the place must have turned some sort of corner in terms of the vibe because there was no negativity in any of the comments. At one point I was rubbishing on about some bit or other about the place – like I do – and I realised that the group had stopped what they were doing to listen with their full attention. It was eerie, but hopefully they took away some good ideas for their places, at the very least it upped the ante which is a good thing given the potential good outcomes.

On another but still related note, I'm not entirely sure Beli went away from here. I still get goose bumps when I think about it - even as I'm writing this. I'd appreciate a bit of assistance with that matter as I'm unsure whether this is a good or bad thing? Dunno, but certainly I have little to no experience in such things. On the other hand if you think this may be a benign influence here then who knows what the outcome may be. Certainly it would be very unwise to turn away help here given the warming climate and serious risks with this place. Dunno, but it certainly wasn’t the case last year.



Steve Thomas said...

This is probably the clearest explanation of how ritual works I have ever seen.

I was thinking that my own progression with magic hadn't followed the format you outline. I had very powerful psychological results from the beginning, but also extra-psychological results too-- an immediate rush of synchronicities. Then I remembered emailing you via the DOGD mailing list after I performed a Druidical pentagram ritual on the summit of a mountain, saying, "I don't know if this was real or not." As I recall, you said something to the effect of, "You did the working, and you got results," and then you pointed out that the next step is figuring out how to discern which aspects of an imaginal experience come from within our own minds and which come from without.

I suppose that's part of what's meant by the outer plane check? Asking "How much of this is coming from something which is somewhat-objectively there, and how much is coming from my own psyche?" And I wonder if there aren't middle grounds in that area, where a particular group might share a set of inner-plane perceptions that color their experience of reality, that those outside the group would not? Is this part of what is meant by "egregore?" And couldn't that egregore grow up to the size of a city or nation or global civilization?

onething said...

First of all, I am surprised to consider that the Sun might be the source of the astral light.

If it is, then I do believe there would be other astral lights as well, deeper in.

I'm gratified that this magical understanding considers the material to be the outer plane, as I have come to that conclusion as well, yet it seems, or I had thought, that people mostly consider the ethereal realms to be "higher" and upper as it were.
As to vibes, I am not sure how they relate to the astral light? If I pick up a vibe in a place or situation, I tend to think it is due to the emotions and attitudes of the people there, or if no people are there...well, if it is out in nature, that includes many living beings all together.

I did have an experience once that I cannot forget. It was in Crimea, and we went to a place where the Tatars live, saw a few things, went to the bazaar and then my husband and I went to an old kind of graveyard, no one was around, I don't recall if he was with me or I was alone, but I walked through this area and it had a small, rectangular pool, like a mini of the Taj Mahal, and I picked up a sensation of such peace as I have never felt anywhere. I note that Muslims prize peace.

About the sun, I've been musing the past couple of years if perhaps the ancients were right when they thought that a great soul could go and inhabit a star. Not that I want to inhabit a star, but could it be possible that a star could have a consciousness inside it just as my body does? If consciousness is prior to the body and survives it, then why must a body have a flesh metabolism? Is the sun not a body? Do we not refer to planets and suns as bodies? If we can accept that a consciousness may be disembodied, then why might they not be able to inhabit very different types of bodies?

John Michael Greer said...

Tom, oh, granted -- the people who insist that magic isn't real are like people who go around saying loudly "I don't have a voice and you can't hear me talk." Magic is inseparable from consciousness; it's just that the materialists have constructed a straw man labeled "magic" which they then flog with enthusiasm.

Michael, good. Yes, the anima mundi is the medieval and Renaissance term for what later occultists call the astral light.

Rumighoul, you do have a miniature Richard Dawkins in your mind. Part of enculturation in any society consists of absorbing, on a nonrational, unthinking level, whatever voices of authority were directed at you during your childhood. Identify that reaction as pure cultural programming chattering mindlessly to itself in your head, and dismiss it as such every time it appears, and it'll fade.

Jean-Vivien, you're welcome. No, I don't intend to structure my discussion along the operative-revelatory distinction; it's a valid distinction, but I find a less formal approach better in a pedagogical context like this one.

John, definitely keep at it! The freakout phenomenon doesn't happen to everyone; it's very common but not universal.

Tracy and Mary, thank you, and a happy solstice season to you both!

Indrajala, I could have used feng-shui as another example, since proper location, orientation and proportion also have definite effects on the way the astral light is experienced. Of course it doesn't hurt that the Asian buildings you're described were normally built to an astrological timetable and blessed with repeated rituals from the first breaking of the ground to the day of opening!

Disposium, the Vajrayana works with all this stuff, in its own way and according to its own very rich traditions. Manly P. Hall, an American occultist of the last century whose works have influenced me quite a bit, studied with Shingon Buddhist teachers -- that's one of the two Japanese Vajrayana schools -- and found a great deal of common ground.

Cherokee, if he stayed, he's there for a reason. I'd encourage you to ask the same sort of question you ask of the trees and the land, and respond accordingly.

Steve, good. Remember the whole discussion about the way we create the world out of the disconnected fragments of data given us by the senses? That's true here too. Nothing we experience is entirely outside our heads, or entirely inside them for that matter, and the continuum between them includes a lot of feedback loops and other complex system phenomena, which can indeed involve more than one person.

Onething, the sun exists on all levels of being, just as you do; it's not just a blob of gas, according to magical philosophy. The source of the astral light is the sun on the astral level, just as each other level has its own sun and its own continuum. We'll get to that in due time -- and to the physical sun's role in occult tradition as the body of a conscious being.

Chris G said...

The question may be too obvious, or narrow, but I wonder about attracting "good" or "evil" disembodied intelligences through the ritual activity - perhaps quite unintentionally.

Isn't that the oldest story of the
novice? I also fear it is riskier when undertaken without guidance from an experienced practitioner. Are there resources to find an experienced local guide?

Chris G said...

My second question is about synchronicity. It's probably fitting then that I lost the big long rambling screed I'd started writing here when my mobile phone crashed, so I'll be more to the point.

It seems that the blessing and curse of synchronicity is that it's a lot more subjective and "free verse" or stream of consciousness than the traditional magic schools. There are these waves of energy coming out and the shape I give them is being guided by an awareness of some connection between apparently physically causally unrelated events.

For example: Soon after I started reading ADR I was intrigued. I was trying to figure out why our country couldn't respond to species extinction, or global warming, or persisted in
being duped into war every ten or twenty years or so. I say intrigued but not until later was I willing to acknowledge my own belief in human limitlessness and see that the belief was a considerable source of the cultural error ++ that the seeking after limitlessness was indeed creating these new limits - ecological damage, mass violence, etc! Later, as a caregiver to the elderly I saw this myth operating in a rather ... silly and perverse way.

But anyway, its certainly been beneficial to me to see these juxtapositions in spacetime of physically amd causally unrelated events; but it's also somewhat haphazard or misshapen. That is, the form my psychology is giving to the vibes of astral light is just whatever I seem to have before my attention at the time. That is, it's neatly spontaneous. I often feel "protected" or allowed to make errors, but i have a feeling that I shouldn't push my luck. And while I'm mostly happy with where fate has placed me, I have a feeling Id be better served to be more
"proactive" about the direction and form I'm putting on the astral light I receive.

Not to mention I'm curious about meeting some of the more robust forms than the ones that play with light switches and alarm clocks.

PhysicsDoc said...

I tend to read your posts late at night when the house is so quite I can hear my dog breath in the other room. I find the topic of this Blog fascinating and you are a talented writer, but the rabbit in me would likely never get past the first ritual.

Rumighoul said...

That sounds good if Mr Dawkins can be made to fade away... ;-)

The odd thing is I've had unmistakeable experiences of other things like Chi during Tai Chi practice which I did briefly a while back - and have worked out answers to the question "how would I explain this to a strict rationalist like my elder brother?". And I basically came up with something similar to what you said in the comments last month to someone - "There is no conceivable way I can prove this to you because you can always dismiss me as mistaken, gullible, dishonest etc, but if you really want to know (and that's the point - rationalists don't want to know of course), stop theorising and try it yourself, that's the only valid experiment".

I wonder what the difference is - I think as something like Tai Chi is a structured practice maybe, with an instructor guiding me, that silences the self doubt. Whereas trying something much more free-form like your "vibe" experiment calls for me to discipline myself much more.

Scotlyn said...

The act of paying attention sooner or later reveals that which is wishing to engage one's attention...
...or, as I learned in Sunday School, "Be still and know (that I am God)"...

Happy Solstice, and many Happy Sun Returns to yourself, JMG, and to all here.

Patricia Mathews said...

I was going to ask you about the anima mundi, since I first ran across the phrase in Alan Richardson's OUR WESTERN WAY Part 2. It helped me quite a bit, but he defined it as Earth's planetary spirit, and a mother-like one who enfolded all her children under her cloak.

I'm Wiccan, and from the beginning have worshipped the Lord and the Lady as the Earth Mother and Pan of the Wild things, despite being a hard-wired city mouse. But thereby hangs a tale - shall I move this to a second post for length?

Patricia Mathews said...

ANIMA MUNDI part 2 -

A week or so ago, someone on the Steve Stirling fan list put up a link to a "Medieval Personality Test". 99.9% of these are for kicks and giggles only. "You are a Siamese Cat." This one hit the target in the bulls-eye the way the far more precise (but less accurate!) Mmes Myer and Briggs never did. It came out "Melancholic."

It also gave some very cogent suggestions for teaching and training the Melancholic, and for self-training. It's a Roman Catholic source, but I could look back and see where it has worked with Mam Gaia, but not the Old Testament God In A Green Dress shown in Star's Reach! Bracing as she may seem to a more rugged and stable sort of person, she's an invitation to despair for a Melancholic. Richardson's Anima Mundi set me right with the Goddess again.

I'm sorry Melancholics respond very well to love and encouragement; despair is our besetting sin.

Now you define it as a Solar Light. I would be fascinated to hear your explanation. Also to see if this is Dion Fortune's Solar Logos, for which I never have found a comprehensible definition.


Patricia Mathews said...

Oh and a Blessed Solstice to you and to all.


Michael Gorsuch said...

Hi JMG -

This is just fantastic. I do hope you spend some time discussion various attitudes towards the Astral Light (and its other names) in various cultures / time periods.

One of my biggest challenges with it is that it easily becomes yet another medium for Man to dominate. I use the capital 'M', because that is how so many of the texts of the late 1800's - early 1900's use it.

The time I've spent with Geomancy (and related traditions) has helped reframe that relationship into a participatory one. It's an ecosystem - I can read and nudge the Astral Light, but I'm also a part of it. Even more important, _everything_ is a part of it. It's not just another tool, it's the foundation and the medium that connects us all.

daelach said...

The main beef I have with astrology isn't that materialistic arguments cannot explain the mechanisms behind it - but it just doesn't work the way it ought to. We can pre- and postcalculate the stars and planets with high precision. Everyone can, just get the fantastic free open source software "Stellarium" which turns your PC into a planetarium.

And still, as the saying goes, predictions are hard, especially when they concern the future. So it boils down that events get "explained" only after they have happened. Or the predictions are so ambivalent and vague that they don't pass as information at all. There are other factors at work here, psychological and logical fallcies: cold reading / Forer effect, selective attention, data cherry-picking, ad hoc hypothesis and so on. All in all, it's a hazard's guess.

Actually the main problem with astrology is that it tries to exclude the necessary hazard factor; instead, it hides this factor in the data cherry picking, and that dishonesty is what I'm having a beef with.

That's why I prefer rune casting, and tarot cards pretty much work the same way. Yes, the cast is hazard, and that's how it should be since the point is to use hazard to force one's consciousness to assume perspectives outside the box.

"The runes suggest that you might try to see the things from this perspective and to relate that broader vibe to your situation - just do it and see what you can get from it".

It's like creative brain storming. The solution might have been there all the time, but you didn't see it before because in your reality tunnel, it was invisible. The funny thing is that when this yields new ideas which get implemented afterwards, the "prediction" can indeed come true - with a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I see two main advantages with an approach explicitely being based on hazard:

1) I don't have any conflict with my everyday consciousness. There is nothing I need to "believe" to make it work.

2) If I think the runes fall arbitrarily, then I know it is me who gives meaning to the cast, so I am responsible for what I create. On the other hand, enough people start "believing" in oracles and say "the stars told me to do so" - which results in shedding off one's responsibility for one's decisions.

Another drawback with astrology: you can't influence the way the stars go, so I think it will be difficult to go beyond divinatory use. You can, however, use runes and even tarot cards for operative magic. Just do it the other way round. Of course, if you stick with astrology for divination, you can use something different for operative magic. But why having the double work of learning two systems when one general purpose system would do the trick?

That's another advantage with not overly relating to timely vibes. If I need a healing ritual, I need it there and then, not weeks later with the right moon phase and star constellation. The point then is not to wait for the right vibe, but to actively create it when needed.

daelach said...

As for ritual magic - I'd like to share a little story here. Several years ago, I was on a holiday in Sweden. On the way back, I had one afternoon left since I arrived to early for my scheduled ferry departure. So I wanted to explore the beaufitul city of Göteborg. In the trunk, I had a folding bicycle for that purpose, and I wanted to leave the car at a highway rest area outside the city.

However, the weather forecast for the afternoon was really bad, and a look at the sky confirmed the impending rain. So I came up with the idea of a Thor ritual, asking to postpone the rain just a little while. However, I didn't have any ritual equipment with me. The resulting ritual was one of the most chaotic ones I ever had.

First, I needed something to sacrifice. What I found was some Scotch whisky and cigarillos - certainly not historically authentic, but in my opinion suitable for Thor. A little hobo cooker for getting a fire going. And I needed a war horn. I looked through the trunk and found an empty 1.5 litre plastic cola bottle. I used a saw to cut off the bottom, accidentally cutting myself into a finger, resulting in a heavy bleeding. That didn't distract me, I took it as an unplanned blood offering. I like fire, blood and steel as ritual ingredients anyway. Some ritual music, mhhh.. I opened the car doors and put on some heavy metal music.

So I got the whole thing going, with the little hobo fire, the cola war horn, whisky and cigarillos, my finger still bleeding, right next to the rest area toilets. Everything full of spider webs there, and I dislike spiders. Well, ok, reference to the norns, just be welcome. I didn't care that all this was in full public.

Afterwards, I rode into the city and spent the afternoon there. The sky kept looking as if it were starting to rain every moment, but it stayed dry - until I came back to the car early the evening. The very moment I opened up the trunk and put in the bicycle, it started to rain cats and dogs..!

I had no idea afterwards what I exactly did during the ritual, everything was just spontaneously improvised. Anyway, I dislike precisely memorising elaborate rituals, formulas and incantations because that distracts me so much that I never get "into the flow". I've attended rituals that were presicely choregraphed and yet didn't bring the vibe - as well as chaotic rituals where the group leader was a bit confused sometimes, but it just was funny, and he brought an excellent vibe into it.

However, that doesn't mean laziness. Instead of learning the form by heart, the time goes into understanding the content. I see magic more as an art than a craftsmanship. But of course, many roads lead to Rome.

WATANABE Liaoyuan said...

Hi John,
Hmm.. It sounds that the astral light is similar to the concept of "legal persons" or "God". As they are not falsifiable nor measurable, but they DO exist from some points of view, and many people make a decision according to that existence.

Scotlyn said...

Daelach, I love your story! Just want to say that the 1st years of my TCM training involved much rote learning, memorising pulse qualities & channel pathways, etc. which we Western students weren't very fond of, wanting to "freeform" & create straightaway... Our Chinese professor explained that "mastery is, always and ever, mastery of the basics"... The rote learning was necessary in order to bring about a comfort level with our working conceptual tools that would become second nature. At which point, he assured us, our practice would become the free-form art we desired to excel at.

Ten years on, I find he is so right. There are days in the clinic where, as you say, I cannot recall precisely what I did, but it works astoundingly. And days when I get stuck... I find it helps to go back & review my pulse qualities or something similarly basic...

A wee two cents... For what its worth...

Justin Patrick Moore said...

John, it's good to see you tripping out on the astral light, er, I mean writing and rapping about magic on this blog.

Raymond Duckling said...

Dear JMG,

I loved your response to Rumighoul, as this is a familiar issue. I do wonder if you have some extra advice for those who have been imprinted to regard magic and the occult not as ridiculous and pointless, but as a very real and very, very dangerous something. How did the operative mages of... let's say the Renaissance, pulled it off? And how would those unconscious expectations color the way Anima Mundi manifest itself to such initiates?

So far, I have relied on the fact that Easter traditions are alien/exotic enough to not be automatically regarded as evil by my unconscious side, so I kind of sneaked through the back door (which itself was cracked open by my first encounters with rationalism in my late teens). But there's always the self doubt in the background. There are things I've got involved with and regard as perfectly ethical, but nonetheless would go through great lengths to have my mother not to ever find out (am 38, in case you wonder).

SLClaire said...

For as long as I can remember, I've had confidence in my intuition. One of many ways it played out was when I would be meeting or being met by someone I didn't know at an airport. I didn't worry about it because people who are looking for people give off a vibe, in your words. Part of it is observable in the physical world, in the way they look quizzically at people, for instance. But I have always felt there was more to it than that. I once made use of it to find two folks from Ukraine, one of whom I'd met once but barely remembered, at LaGuardia in the early 90s, when airports were far more open places than they are now. This was for work, a lot was riding on my finding these men, and my plane had been delayed so instead of my going to the gate where their plane was to land, my plane came in after theirs. I had a limited amount of time to find them as we were to catch another plane to our final destination. The best I could do was head in the direction where their plane had landed and rely on my intuition to find them. We found each other pretty quickly, and I suspect at least one of them was using his intuition as much as I was using mine to find each other.

Recently I went through one of those dry phases you mentioned with the SOP. For some time I found myself almost unable to form the Sphere and was worried about it. After awhile something seemed to shift and it came back more strongly than before. The interesting thing is that since this happened I seem to be sensitive to the vibe given off by the suburban landscape around me - and that vibe is not at all pleasant. It feels sad and somehow wrong, like the landscape is crying. One time I felt this I'd meant to walk through the landscape to the nearby county park as I've done many times, but the vibe was strong enough that I turned around and came home, where it felt much better after 12 years of working with the land. A couple of days ago, when my husband and I were walking through a different subdivision, the trees caught my attention and wouldn't let go. Many had been topped, and I could feel what I would call distress from those trees in particular. Even as I write about it, I can feel it again.

Eric S. said...

Since you began to touch on daily practice here I do have to ask about slumps and regresses. I’ve occasionally experienced times of stagnation where nothing happens even after having had a strong practice going for several years. When that happens, life can sometimes sweep in and by the time I get back in the circle I have to rebuild everything from scratch. My most recent slump came just before the first essay on this blog came out and got spurred by a really nasty fallout with a spiritual mentor. I stopped practicing rituals and meditations, got discouraged by the pseudoskeptics who suddenly seemed to be everywhere, and finally felt the dulling of my “astral senses” start to cut into my “apparent” senses. My wakeup call came when I realized I couldn’t even remember my dreams anymore, and I finally got scared into fighting for dear life to get my practice back to where it had been when I tried to do my OBOD grove ritual and upon closing my eyes to meditate saw that where my inner grove had once been, there was now a swirling abyss filled with toothy leech-like creatures. I’ve rebuilt the grove and have a dream journal going again, but it’s not the first time that’s happened to me (never quite this dramatic, and definitely never to the point that nightmarish snake creatures took over my inner grove, but there have been slumps). Are cycles like that normal? I’ve asked about it to a few other people, and most have told me that slumps like that are normal and happen to everyone on occasion, but a part of me wonders if I just keep hitting that threshold point, not making it through and falling back down to square one.

Another, shorter question: What is your opinion on the usefulness of recorded guided meditations and rituals as training wheels to build a routine when starting with a new magical system or recovering from a slump? Can that be helpful? Or does it defeat the purpose since someone else is doing most of the work?

BoysMom said...

This is, I suppose, where being Christian gives me a distinct advantage over a materialist. Of course there is a realm inhabited by beings that have spiritual rather than physical form.

I recollect from Astronomy years ago Aether, which was a historical conception of the medium which is between stars and planets. Is that concept similar enough to Astral Light to be useful as a synonym?

One college professor I had in an architecture class was very fond of talking about what he termed the genus loci, which boiled down to the vibe of a place. (Why yes, I took all sorts of things that weren't relevant to a music major.)

The general disdain for astrology is probably related to it's popularity. All most of us see of astrology is the newspaper column.

I had thought you'd recommended a book on Christian ritual at some point to someone else, but cannot find it now. Would you repeat the recommendation, if my memory is not at fault?

Peter Robinson said...

Thank you JMG. As a recovering skeptic, I'm finding your blogs to be an important part of my rehabilitation.

I'm still having a little trouble with the concept of astral light and the ability of people to feel it and react to it at a subconscious level. I wonder whether some of the effects, especially the "vibes" experienced in certain places, could not be explained by the mind interpreting inputs from the "conventional" senses at a subconscious level.

As an example, the sense of smell is not well developed in humans but can have powerful, subconscious and emotional effects. It is known that humans can detect the scent of a close partner from their clothing and reliably distinguish it from the clothing of strangers, without being able to explain how they do this. Is it possible that the "spirit of place" that everyone has experienced might come from the processing of these normal sensory inputs by the subconscious mind?

If this is indeed feasible, can a person train the mind to bring these subconscious processes up to a conscious level so that they are aware of them and can use them? There has been research done on the ability of the visually impaired to use their sense of hearing to echo-locate themselves and navigate their surroundings. This suggests that the mind has innate abilities in sensory processing that can be brought up to a conscious level and used for beneficial purposes.

I suspect that I may be venturing down a path that you plan to cover in detail later. If so, I am probably doing it in a confused and ill-disciplined way because I am still struggling with the concepts here.

Nano said...

Beautifully written.

I'm starting to wonder what Gods and Goddesses may come out of this fantastic work.

Looking forward to more as always!


Happy belated Solstice.

Gardener Green said...


Due to certain recent experiences and the power of your writing I have decided to submit an application for membership in AODA. I am hoping there is a Grove somewhere near me in the Port Townsend area of olypen or in Seattle.

Is 70 too late to start the path of the Mage?

I have 2 books of yours on order. The Druidry handbook & Celtic Golden Dawn.

Val said...

I'm very pleased that this post brings up something I can try out right away. I'll be paying especial attention to the vibes wherever I go - a habit that seems akin to listening to the still small voice within that whispers to take one route rather than the other (and if you take the other, you often unfortunately find out why).

I wouldn't have known that the astral light radiates from the Sun in
particular; but now that I consider it, that does seem consistent with the idea of spiritual influences descending from the stars, as in astrological magic.

My personal favorite non-falsifiable quotes are "I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free," and "I am the eye with which the universe beholds itself and knows itself divine."

Andrew Crews said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Crews said...


One more quick thing. When it comes to vibes I feel something serious has shifted in the past few months when it comes to your writing or perhaps people's receptivity of it. For a better or worse, good luck!


Roger said...

For the most part I'm one of those inhabiting the grimy crawl-spaces of our collective world-view. Why? Such a world-view serves my purposes. MOSTLY, that is. Mostly it works and, frankly, it's just easier to go along.

But consciousness is an astonishing bit of work, isn't it? It serves up what you least expect.

For instance, when I was about five years old I was in a grocery store with my mother. I was bugging her for a pack of candied cigarettes. She bought them (to get some peace) and so, with my prize, I wandered off a bit. And then I saw a kid in a wheel-chair.

Like the little kid I myself was, I unabashedly stared at the other kid. Even to my five year old eyes he looked in bad shape. He became aware of me and met my gaze. I felt sorry for him and I choked up. I gave him some of the candy. But he couldn't lift his hand so I put them in his lap. And he smiled.

So what you ask? Sounds like something that's happened about a billion times already. Right? Well, maybe. But it's etched in my mind. Very hard to convey that brief encounter in words.

So, a "religious" experience? Maybe "magical"? I don't know, I mean, I was a five year old. I don't know who the kid was or what became of him. He's lost in the sands of time.

Anyhow, to me, that experience (plus other factors too) calls into doubt the complete-ness of the crawl-space world-view. It's too rigid, it ignores too much especially of the subjective human experience.

Breanna said...

BoysMom - in late 2011 during JMG's series on peak oil and magic, somewhere in the comments someone asked for a Christian resource. JMG recommended Gareth Knight's "Experience of the Inner Worlds." I bought it for myself for Christmas that year and spent all of 2012 working through it. Each chapter ends with a meditation exercise and the book leads up to some basic ritual work towards the end. This year of practice had an enormous impact on me. I have not quite known where to go next, and have been busy with my baby son born late 2013, but I highly recommend the book.

I would also be eager to hear further recommendations along the same lines. I would very much like a larger organization to work with and learn from, or a mentor or...something. I get the impression that not many mages are also busy mothers, but I hope I can be.

Andrew Crews said...


A few things,

1. You have me wondering about all the magical and astrological reasons Hitler rose to power in Nazi Germany. The astrological position, the priming of crowds, arm movements, legendary charisma, symbolism and powerful emotional objects.

2. I really struggled with Homepathy and my gut reaction to it. That has passed and I am excited to be receptive to the infinite array of experience I may have discounted.

3. Energy while moving a lever or in an engine can be readily accounted for and is quantitative and acceptable to materialist. Energy in a complex system like an economy is accountable only to the observers choices. Once the number of choices approaches large numbers things become abstracted by observers and "unreal" to materialist. It makes me wonder if astral light, the net social force of so many invisible and unaccountable things body language, vibes, positioning of cosmological objects affecting tides, seasons, who is to say these abstract forces don't exist?

Truly inspiring,

I am going to start some rituals and see what happens.


onething said...

My own thoughts on the dangers of disembodied entities in the astral is that it is mostly a matter of vulnerability. One should not be a fool, but a certain cautious confidence seems to be in order, at least for me. I suspect that the way things work in that realm is more emotional/psychic, than, say, physical, i.e., you can't use a deadbolt on your door but if you are fearful and have little wisdom, and of course if you would be nefarious yourself given the chance, then you may be prey to entities who are malicious. But they are like bullies. They back down if you don't cower.

I believe that in general there are natural barriers of a spiritual/energetic nature in the astral realms which render "good" and wise beings inaccessible to predation. Here, we may build gated communities, but there are also barriers of a different nature on that side as well.

Step cautiously, know your kind, and hang with your kind. When our chickens were half grown and big enough, we let them out. They explored their new world with great caution, at first staying close to home and then in widening circles

Having read many accounts of near death experiences and finding them almost universally positive, I was talking with a woman at a job who asked about the fact that some of them seem to experience hell. She gave me a book. So, now I've heard of a very few cases in which the person seemed to get taken by demons and go to an extremely dark place. I've got two thoughts on this. First, they were usually religious. One was an 8-year-old boy whose father was a preacher. Because of being taught to fear the astral and to fear a terrible judgment, I believe they were made psychologically vulnerable and were easy pickings by the local bullies. Second, in each case they eventually had the presence of mind to call for help and it came immediately.

So, while I would not recommend an attitude of arrogance or insolence, there is no need for a good soul to be terrified either.

Lucretia Heart said...

This is an interesting take on learning about 'the astral level of reality' from the materialist western practitioner who discovers there is MORE through ritual.

My own experience is that I had so many spontaneous astral experiences (undeniable and often with witnesses around) since childhood which seemed to follow me around and waxed and waned-- yes-- like the tides, I turned to magic to learn to harness and control things a bit.

I was so scared of these experiences as a child, none of the adults around me could explain what I was experiencing (and I lost many friends who shared these experiences and were too freaked out to hang out with me afterwards.) I soon learned other people didn't see auras, or the pure-auric non-material beings who inhabited human places (ghosts) or natural places (faeries).

Luckily, I was an early reader and came across books on the paranormal and magic(k) and began to grasp how it might work. Then I learned how to set up wards and stop leaking 'stuff' all over the place and keep drawing things in, apparently!

Crucially, the theories I read about and the magic techniques I tried often worked (though not always) and I began to lose my fear. Now I help others with their own experiences that they can't deny... the first time they live in a haunted house, for example, and don't know what to do with all the physical activity that has no physical cause.

But it all started because I was a desperate teenager scared witless by the explosion of 'unexplainable activity' all around me.

When in adulthood I began teaching students about magick and got the panicked phone calls (or even people showing up at my door at 3 am) I realized that even those who think the concept is cool will freak out when personal proof presents itself.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...


Regarding subdivision landscapes "crying," I know exactly what you mean, as I have felt that many times, sometimes to the extent of feeling physically ill, myself. In general I try to stay out of subdivisions. Most corporate campuses have that bad feeling, too. It's definitely not pathetic fallacy, either.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hello JMG,

Good solstice to you.

I'm finding this all most interesting, though I'm much too undisciplined to ever do anything resembling the structured ritual work you mention. Semi-regular meditation, fairly constant prayer and weekly silent worship with the Quakers is about as much as I can manage.

These practices do have an effect in one's life, but I don't think it's the same as what you are talking about.

jean-vivien said...

Yes, as Andrew commented, something has shifted in your writing... because when you jumped onto this new blog, you created a place where people could feel free to experience your writing about occult themes, whereas the other blog has a distinct focus. And the powerful vibe coming from it is in no small part due to the coherent, sensible and earnest way of tackling what would normally be considered whacky. Somehow, applying the same intellectual rigor to both blogging projects has enabled people to leap from one blog to the other.

As for BoysMom's question, I have to ask you people, if there are Christian rituals, and if the experience of the occult is a common trait shared by a lot of human beings, then how is it that some people experience it in terms of a community of beings whereas others do experience it as an integral, all-encompassing entity ? That is, how to explain the divide between monotheistic/polytheistic spiritualities ?

In fact, is occult perception an experience of things outside of human scope ? And then do other living forms on Earth, like animals or plants, experience it as well ? Is it specific to mammals, does it even define us as humans against other animals ? I have often wondered, could dogs have a religion (since they do exhibit group behavior as they are pack animals)

As for the scientific approach of it, I think Ruppert Sheldrake is a pretty serious contender.

Kutamun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
russell1200 said...

I thought the 60s vibes were literally vibrations. All matter gives off vibrations and you want to attune your own vibrations into synchronicity with your natural surroundings, which then elicits the feelings of harmony and peace. The bad vibe is in disharmony with its surroundings.

The groove (as in being in) seems to have started as the musical equivalent of the same phenomena. The members of a jazz band being both separate, but also working in concert. It is not my favorite expression, although I understand its importance.

So do you feel that the vibrations (vibes) are a different way of relating the same idea as your astral light, or they a different concept altogether, or something else? It doesn't seem that making them synonymous with feelings is helpful.

Val said...

@ Adrian & SLClaire -

I can't say I can recall a sense of the landscape crying in subdivisions and corporate campuses; rather, it is I who want to cry when I'm in them.

I've never thought of myself as particularly intuitive. But, now that I consider it, experience suggests that I tend to have fairly accurate first impressions of people. This is not universal, I've noticed.

Does life like a dome of many-colored glass stain the white radiance of eternity? Are the tigers of wrath indeed wiser than the horses of instruction? Sketch out a hypothesis, design a battery of tests, and write up your conclusions in Nature or The Lancet. The Dawkins crowd'll love it!

averagejoe said...

Thanks JMG, a fascinating article this month. I'm intrigued as to what sort of “change” takes place before fading, in terms of some examples? My wife tells me she had a similar experience when carrying out a Buddhist chant to herself on a bus, of all places. She had no idea what “change” happened, but from that point forward felt she had started a new chapter in life. I suspect I fall into the category that would panic if I had something happen! Happy to accept that these things are possible without trying. Perhaps this is similar, or not, but there has been the occasion where I have felt someone/thing was present in my house, and on turning to look found nothing there, and convinced myself I was imagining it. Now I’m not sure. My son and wife both have felt a similar ‘presence’ in the same place, at the top of the stairs. Perhaps that is something from another world. I’m a lot more open minded these days!

Cherokee Organics said...


I'm not complaining or whining, but it has taken me about 8 years of observations and interactions here just to begin to understand and get a feel for the country. Certainly mastery is a long long way away if it is ever actually achievable. Perhaps journeyman?

I assume that this matter is just a step along another long road too?

I'm also assuming that meditation on this matter will be helpful and that from your reply that this was one immediate and useful action that could be taken?

The thing is I don't know why the energies wouldn't dissipate into the earth as per the previous times. I got frustrated and then simply calmed my mind and went, so be it. What else can you do - you can't force things?

It doesn't feel like a bad thing and certainly I wouldn't turn away help, but truly I have no idea what it all means and it still gives me the shivers up my spine when I think about it. I'm a bit of a lightweight in such matters...



daelach said...

Another tip for this time of the year: New Year's Eve is approaching, and that is the night where you can make as much noise as you like, even in appartment blocks. Actually, the whole fireworks is aimed at driving away bad spirits. The drawback is that fireworks will bring in another bad spirit, you can even smell it. It is bad for the environment, so I refrain from it.

So what I do every New Year's Eve is taking my war horn, quite a big one - and in every room, I first blow the horn for stirring up anything that might be there, then I open up the window and blow the horn again several times to get it out. No environmental damage, no waste of ressources.

Of course, other days of the year might be more appropriate in terms of solar or lunar dates, but I don't live in an ideal world and have to to what I can with what I've got.

@ Scotlyn: Yes, that's another perspective, and with Tai Chi, I had a similar experience. Doing it the wrong way can make back and/or knees hurt.

@ onething: There is a reason why there are protection rituals. It isn't just something psychic - that's a lesson some people just accept, and others learn it the hard way. The good thing, however, is that it doesn't have to be half an hoour of banishing whatever. Just some simple things can do. Except of course for people who believe that it has to be that lengthy.

E.g. I'm using just the Algiz rune for protection. It's simple enough to work even in dreams. Just remember to straighten up thumb, index and middle finger while folding in ring and little finger, and project that on whatever comes up. "Works like a charm". (:

Phil Harris said...

I too wonder about dogs (and wild geese) among others. I have relationships, however fragmentary with some of them – but then uncertainty goes for much of my human interaction as well, which passes for normal.

Our remaining dog, admittedly a somewhat idiosyncratic terrier, is very keen on ritual observance (smile) and has even made up some symbolic actions that I need to follow. (Yes, he follows me obediently most of the time, but prefers to understand the framework provided by specific signs.)
Oh, and he can’t help singing along, especially with songs like Monteverdi choral, although I am not sure whether this is a not very pleasant obligation for him, (dogs must just get on with it if they feel it) rather than sought after pleasure and harmony.

SL Claire & AA Fisher – Landscapes Bad Vibes
In early 2006 (well enough before the financial crash) I happened to be walking past (long story) the then new-to-me HQ of RBS located in the country just outside Edinburgh, Scotland. The Royal Bank had morphed since the time when I regularly worked in Edinburgh from a modest retail bank into a world giant with all that leverage from creating money by lending to pyramid purchasing schemes etc. ; or something like that. Their new HQ, screened by trees, was close-by the airport and Glasgow motorway and had built itself a private bridge to the road connections. The place gave me the shivers on a sunny afternoon. The word that bubbled-up was ‘hubris’. I had an accompanying vision of the torrent of invisible information exchanged via machines with similar control functions in a global network, but in my mind at the time the link to the USA was emphasised.

Phil H

Violet Cabra said...

jean-vivien, doesn't Christianity and other monotheistic religions recognize many etheric beings that aren't G-d? The angels are separate from god, so is the serpent in the garden, all the evil beings described in the Book of Revelations likewise aren't G-d, instead being actors in a divine narrative.

Even the Koran with its intense monotheistic focus, has a sura devoted to describing the etheric beings of the djinn and their plane of djinnestan.

The Djinn are made of "smokeless fire" and are invisible to the human eye.

Even in the most monotheistic religions there is an Astral plane teeming with inhabitants. Whether the inhabitants are numinous or not is the question, not whether or not they exist.

Scotlyn said...

Stumbling blocks to learning and practice have been touched on, and may I say, I've realised the spare mental and spiritual landscape of my evangelical rearing have left me with an abiding suspicion of candles, incense, images, rituals & all such "paraphernalia" (a word I'm hearing in my grandmother's dismissive tones) that, in my child's mind were associated with idolatry. I folk thought of such practices as spiritual intermediation, whereas *we* eschewed such intermediation to "deal direct". Compared to a daily meditation, which is challenging in an expected way, ie more practice needed, I'm finding that getting my head around ritual practice is altogether different kind of challenge. Ritual, and me, are going to have to work at this some more to make headway.

Raymond Duckling said...

Thanks everybody for your answers, even if those were not directed particularly to me. At the very least I am glad to have elicited this discussion.

Yes, not everything you can stumble upon in the other realms is benevolent, the same way not every person you can stumble upon in the street is. Thanks for confirming that your predisposition can color what your experiences would be.

Also, I can see how many Christian denominations fixate so much on evils and Evil. People sent as "sheep amongst wolves" to dabble with stuff they are poorly equipped to deal with. Then the answer they give you is always more faith and more prayer. I suppose it works, eventually... but is there no healthier way?

Dan the Farmer said...

I think it was Kepler who said: "Oh that Galileo guy! Yeah, going on about the earth orbiting the sun! No wonder the church had to slap him down. I'd never say anything like that! I'd never say that the earth actually goes around the sun! I'm just saying it makes the math so much easier if you pretend it does..."

Or maybe it was Copernicus...

John Michael Greer said...

Chris, that's very much a modern source of panic, for reasons we'll be discussing next month. For now, let me ask this: what makes you think they aren't aware of you right now? As for your second question, yes: you and everyone else are already practicing magic all the time anyway; the point of training is to learn how to do it competently and consciously.

Physicsdoc, that's the majority response in every age, of course.

Rumighoul, it's an interesting tic in Western cultures that magic from other cultures is less objectionable than magic from ours. There are plenty of people who are more or less cool with yoga, t'ai chi, shamanism, etc. who back away nervously at the thought of Western magical traditions being practiced here and now.

Scotlyn, and a happy solstice season to you and yours!

Patricia, the astral light is not the only thing that radiates from the sun. It's a common mistake, from my perspective, to think of metaphysical realities as simpler than physical ones -- in fact they're far more complex. By all means continue to think of, and invoke, your deities in the way that works for you; we'll get to a fuller explanation as this discussion proceeds. (As for Mam Gaia in Star's Reach, people with a bitter history tend to have harsh gods, thus the tone of the religion I invented for that story.)

Michael, excellent! That reflection gets you tonight's gold star. You're quite correct that there's a lot of blather about dominating the astral light via will, but that rests in a total misunderstanding of the nature of the magical will -- something I'll get to down the road a bit.

Daelach, er, you might want to doublecheck your facts. I take it you've never gotten a reading from a capable horary astrologer -- in my experience, you can get just as precise a prediction from that as from, say, runes -- and there's an extensive tradition that makes use of astrology for operative magic. As for operative magic more generally, well, if you've got something that works for you, by all means; I get very good results with the sort of structured ritual practice that takes memorization, and regular practice, of established forms.

Liaoyuan, the one distinction I'd offer is that God and the astral light can be experienced by human beings; I'm less certain about legal persons.

Justin, heh heh heh...

Raymond, a lot of people who were raised to fear magic have learned to use the fear as a tool to heighten focus and concentration. That might be worth trying in your case.

SLClaire, I wish everything that's experienced in the course of magical training was pleasant. Unfortunately we don't live in that kind of world, and that means becoming aware of things like the ghastly emotional and energetic tone of suburbia. Just one of those challenges...

Eric, one of the things that I don't like about some systems of modern nature spirituality is that they don't provide the kind of basic protective ritual that's standard in magical traditions. You may be running into problems caused by the lack of such a foundational practice. It'll be interesting to see what happens when you start work with AODA, as you've mentioned you plan to do; our basic ceremony, the Sphere of Protection, should fill that gap. As for recorded meditations and pathworkings, I've never found them particularly useful, but your mileage may vary.

John Michael Greer said...

BoysMom, no question, having a religious background helps make sense of this stuff -- religion is one of the classic human responses to what I'm discussing after all. The book you're asking about is Experience of the Inner Worlds by Gareth Knight -- far and away the best intro to magic for Christians I know of, from an author who's both a devout and orthodox Anglican Christian and a very capable mage.

Peter, that is to say, it's possible that "the astral light" is a way of summing up a variety of disparate perceptions, as I suggested in my post. That may be the case; but as a pedagogic tool, the concept of the astral light works very well, and I'd encourage you to question any attempt on your part to demand that the universe conform to a set of materialist dogmas.

Nano, all hail Discordia! I don't expect any of them to come out of this work, but some may come through it.

Gardener, AODA is mostly a solitary path -- the work that matters is done in the privacy of your own working space (and to a very real extent, in the privacy of your own nervous system) -- and the handful of groves we have these days aren't accepting new members just now. No, 70 isn't too late -- as long as you're on the right side of the grass, you can study magic.

Val, listening to the "vibes" very often takes the form of paying attention to that still small voice, yes.

Andrew, yes, I've noticed that. There seem to be a lot of shifts going on right now. To quote Ghan-buri-Ghan, "Wind is changing!"

Roger, exactly. The rationalist-materialist worldview suffers from tunnel vision; one of the virtues of magical training is that it lets you get out of the tunnel and dance beneath the open sky.

Andrew, I probably have to discuss the occult dimensions of National Socialism here sooner or later, because, yes, that's a good example in recent history. That's a very interesting point about energy, and one I'll be reflecting on. Thank you!

Onething, no argument at all. Do you recall the bit from Marlowe's Doctor Faustus where Faustus asks Mephistopheles how he got loose from Hell? The demon answers, "Why, this is Hell, nor am I ever out of it." That is to say, it's the easiest thing in the world to summon demons; all you have to do is descend to their level, and there they are.

Lucretia, in my experience that's one of two ways that people get involved in magic -- either they're surrounded by events they can't explain, or they feel the gaping void where magic ought to be in the world and go looking for it. In either case, the 3 am phone call is a common phenomenon.

Adrian, and a happy solstice season to you and yours! No, it's not the same, but that doesn't make it invalid at all. Different people are called to different paths, after all.

Jean-Vivien, the monotheist-polytheist divide involves very complex issues, and we'll get to them in due time!

John Michael Greer said...

Kutamun, good. Why do you think I used the image of the dragon as a symbol for civilizations in their declining phase?

Russell1200, you'll find a lot of occult writings from the early to mid-20th century discussing vibrations in exactly those terms -- that's where the hippies got the idea. Vibrations in what? Why, the astral light, of course!

Averagejoe, that's a very common kind of experience, and one that people in most cultures treat as perfectly ordinary. Welcome to a wider world!

Cherokee, meditation is always a good first step. Getting past the frustration is important, too -- when something manifests that strongly, there's a reason for it, and if you're invoking a deity or another beneficent power, that's not a problem, it's potentially a very good thing. That said, yes, it's pretty much a matter of seeing where things go from here.

Daelach, years ago, I was a member of a Druid grove that used to celebrate midsummer sunrise in a park in Seattle. We'd welcome the sun with the call of a horn to the four directions. Very primal, and a lot less noxious than, say, fireworks!

Phil, dogs and cats are both legendary for their (rather different) interactions with magical energies, so if your terrier has a taste for ritual, he's well within the normal range of canine behavior.

Scotlyn, I'd encourage you to consider using that discomfort as a tool to help you focus and concentrate. That sort of thing really can help.

Raymond, of course there's a healthier way!

Dan, it was actually more complex than that. In Galileo's time it was standard for astronomers to treat their models as models, conveniences for calculation and nothing more. What set Galileo apart was that he insisted that his model was the absolute physical truth about the cosmos, which was considered distinctly arrogant. That's not what got him in trouble with the Catholic church, though -- that happened because he put the Pope's comments on the controversy in the mouth of a character in his dialoges whose role is that of the clueless idiot.

Gardener Green said...

Thanks JMG for the encouragment. I will go ahead and join the AODA and start the work myself. I was a practitioner in the Vajrayana tradition for 17yrs (in the Kagyu lineage) but I no longer resonate with it.

Between now and New Years I will clean and purify the house. Then will close down, disconnect from the world and concentrate on this path for a month. And 'no' I will not over do it or force it but pace myself at a modest rate. Learned about the 'Middle Way" from Buddhism.

My neighbors, a couple of really sweet guys with 4 acres of land about half of it wild, will let me use a corner for an initiation ritual on Feb 2. You know the one. They smiled and said yes without asking me anything about it.

PhysicsDoc said...

I have to admit that my scientific training makes me a skeptic (what cannot be objectively repeated cannot be real), which makes it ironic that I am so frightened by this topic. Part of it is growing up in a Christian culture, part of it is the fear of losing my grip on objective reality (which has happened several times in my life both with and without the aid of drugs, and they were bad trips), and part of it is the fear of the unknown. It seems that esoteric religions tend to hide things and avoid full disclose to the initiate. You may be making an exception to this observation. Finally it occurs to me that like any human property the ability to tap into the Astral Light may be a talent or ability that some people have to a greater degree (a high ALQ?) and I am not saying I have a high ALQ. I may just have had bad trips. Just some thoughts.

John Michael Greer said...

Gardener, glad to hear it. Welcome in advance!

PhysicsDoc, in my experience, most skeptics are skeptics because they're afraid of the "demon-haunted world;" the scientific training came later, and often as a mental defense against the fear. Still, as previously noted, magical training isn't for everyone.

onething said...


Re protection rituals: Why yes, I had sort of forgotten that. How are they supposed to work, though? Isn't it simply a kind of announcement that you are protected and no one should mess with you? Not that there aren't beings who have got your back. I think there are. Is it to call upon them?

I think that arid environment of Protestant churches is a reaction to the old fight with the Roman Catholic church, and perhaps they did a bit of throwing out of the baby with the bathwater. They saw a lot of false authority and rituals can certainly be empty of power.

I grew up in the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches, and noted with great surprise in last month's post that a typical church service fit exactly JMG's description of the magical use of ritual. A Russian Orthodox Church service is full to overflowing with sense impressions, and it is done purposely, to occupy your mind and senses and bring them to a certain feeling and focus. Thinking of it in a kind of Buddhist way, they talk about the senses and how wild and unruly they are. Also the mind. So if you are sitting in a church pew, the mind and the body are constantly likely to wander and get itchy and restless.

In the Russian church you have many images-icons, candles, and movements of clergy that occupy your eyes, you have incense (powerful emotional attractor) for the nose, music (nothing is spoken, everything is sung, including the gospel) for the ears, and generally you stand so as not to be an audience but a participant. The entire thing is an acted-out drama in which the entire congregation is supposed to go on a group mystical experience.
No, I hadn't read that. Most interesting. Fits my own philosophy. Certainly it seems that the hell world is nipping at our heels....

PhysicsDoc said...

Interesting observation but I am not sure it applies to me. My interest in science began as a young boy when I was profoundly affected by seeing the beautiful rainbow of colors emanating from a diffraction grating and prism, and when I saw for the first time microorganisms in pond water under a microscope. When I was older seeing Saturn's rings through a telescope moved me as well (something you mentioned in an earlier post). All of these and other experiences were in some ways magical to me because they revealed a hidden side to the universe that I was not aware of before. Later I developed the formal training in mathematics and physics which has its own beauty and mystery. So anyway I don't think that I went into science in anything but a positive way due to innate curiosity. It is that same curiosity that makes me read your Blog posts.

daelach said...

@ Andrew: In case you are interested in the occult aspect of Nazi Germany, there is an excellent book by the late British historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke; his Oxford dissertation was the basis for his famous book "The Occult Roots of Nazism".

As an interesting side note, German (FGR) law after WW2 implemented some laws aimed at countering some of the magic aspects you mentioned. Demonstrations have been a basic civil right in Western (and today's) Germany since 1949, but the demonstrants must not be uniformed. It is illegal to publicly display or use symbols of movements or parties that have been juridically banned due to their hostility to the Basic Law (roughly a Constitution).

This is not limited to the extreme right, it concerns also the extreme left, e.g. some communist movements. Every time an anti-constitutional movement gets big enough to appear on the radar, its symbolism is outlawed together with the movement itself so that it cannot take hold of the masses.

@ PhysicsDoc: There are countless things that also you will take for real although they cannot be repeated, let alone objectively. Every time you do something the very first time, this experience has a quality of its own because its the first time. Subsequent repeating thus can never reproduce that specific factor. That's why I enjoy going into a city the first time - I'll never see it again with the same eyes, i.e. the eyes of a stranger.

Or the specific quality when you do something the last time, e.g. when leaving a place for good, that cannot be repeated, too. I myself am especially fond of the time before the last time because it's the last time that it isn't the last time.

More broadly speaking, that is the whole complex of the qualia.

Or what about dreams - how many times do you have to have a dream before you think about what it might mean? Let's take art, or music: do you really demand that some piece of art has to impress let's say at least 90% of the population before you can allow it to impress you? In that case: how should new art works spread at all?

And btw., the term "esoteric religion" is self-contradictory. The biggest point of religions is to give narratives to societies (and not just individuals), and that is only possible if every member of the society in question knows the narratives. Esoterism, on the other hand, is about hidden knowledge, and magic can be. The main reason why esoterism and religions nowadays get lumped together is that from a materialistic viewpoint, both get dumped into the big trash can of "non-materialistic", which is the materialistic label for "wrong".

Kutamun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pauline Bicker said...

Hi JMG, I have read all essays from June to December. Thank you. I can understand clearly with your descriptions of all. I look forward to reading next month's essay. I found myself remembering how I learned, reaching the same conclusions or understanding concerning much given in your discussions, I did not know or realise that this it was magic. I now acknowledge that magic was part of my life. I am learning magic with DOGD I know some of this; in the moment, although, still more in retrospect. :) Thank you JMG

Scotlyn said...

Good morning...thank you as always for sound advice...

After foot-dragging, I chose this morning to.climb the hill before sunrise, to greet the sun and, otherwise, follow the Druidry Handbook Alban Arthuan ritual "by the book"... Of course the wind laughed at my intentions re incense and candles... I accepted the world's wind as Air and the world's sun as Fire, and we laughed with joy as the world is renewed. It is good.

daelach said...

@ JMG: I still think that good astrologers are rather good at reading people, not stars, which is a great art in its own right.. but anyway, to each whatever makes his boat float. Instead, I felt somewhat astonished when you seemed to think that I'm using runes for "prediction", and upon further thinking, I came up with something more relavant to share here:

The concept of time behind that. The reason why I'd like to share this is to open up something so basic as time to different ways of perception, and that of course yields different results.

In our culture, we have "past, present, future", i.e. a time line. The most basic rune cast is devoted to Urd, Verdandi, Skuld - the Norns. That is often mistranslated as "past, present, future", but the reason why it isn't about "prediction" is that "prediction" doesn't make sense with the Germanic time concept.

Urd is not "past" in that sense, it is everything that has become and therefore is there right "now". Verdandi is not "present", but the process of becoming in the sense of what influences are working on that which already has become, i.e. Verdandi is working on Urd. That's the reason why our deeds will live forever in Germanic ethics - because they are the Verdandi that leads to a corresponding Urd "later on". Skuld is not "future", it is "that which shall become", but in a kind of teleologic sense, not a timely one. It isn't future, it is destiny - or will. I guess that's where the "vibes" come in; faint streams of what has not yet been woven into the portion of the web which we call reality.

I'll give an example; let's suppose I want to make a table. I have gathered the wood, the glue and the tools before me. That's Urd. My actions of getting the stuff together have formed that Urd. Now I'm sawing and grinding, that is Verdandi working on Urd. Skuld is NOT the fact that I will have a table a week later; Skuld is the direction, or the purpose, in which Verdandi is working on Urd.

The big difference: You can't access the past because it is, well, past, and neither the future because it is not yet there. Only the present is eternal. In the Germanic time concept, however, Urd is tangible because it is there, Verdandi also because it is working on what is there, and even Skuld is in reach because things like "aims" belong to the realm of consciousness, i.e. of magic.

While the Western time concept moves two out of three time modes to virtuality, a rune cast in the proper cultural frame has three out of three things in accessible time modes - and therefore, things can conceptually be modified via magic.

Now I don't say that this approach to time is "the right one"; what I wanted to share is the possibility to actually have different approaches at all. The Buddhist Wheel has many interesting aspects, too, since it allows to predict the future by knowing the past. Actually, that's a major point of the other blog (TAR).

Since our time line of "past, present, future" is notably suited to the myth of progress, being able to switch over to other perceptions of time (especially the Wheel) greatly weakens the hold of that failing myth. E.g. the whole "it's different this time"-discussion boils down to the strictly linear understanding of time.

jean-vivien said...

merry celebrations JMG and everybody else

AngelusCruentus said...

What would you recommend as the best start-to-finish guide for actual practice for those who don't have access to formal instruction?

EnonZ said...

Hi John,

"your mind then assembles those reactions into a coherent pattern, according to a template that’s partly biological, partly cultural, and partly individual, and that’s your world"

I just serendipitously learned a useful word to describe this coherent pattern, umwelt ("self-world"), while reading a book by Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist ('Inside of a Dog, What Dogs See, Smell, and Know').

Randall Munroe even has an umwelt comic.

My immediate gut reaction to this post and this blog is that you have to be pulling my leg. However, this seems to be a good time in my life to re-examine assumptions and even pull some up by the roots.

mirela said...

I've been wanting for some time to ask you for your thoughts on something that happened to me about 30 yrs ago, and this post (particularly the bit about the astral plane being...inhabited) has given me the courage to ask (because, frankly, that experience left me very much afraid of anything to do with magic).
Short version: I was dating a guy in high school who was very much into astral "stuff" - I didn't believe in it, just went along with what he said as an amusing game, not unlike the science fiction/fantasy books I enjoyed reading. Various small things happened that should have told me this was real, but I dismissed them as "coincidence" until the night of a really, reaallly weird dream. I was wide awake, but somewhere other than my bed, and some kind of energy was pouring through me. It was as if I were a wire in a circuit, or a conduit full of water. The feeling was not exactly painful, but was very powerful & exhausting. I knew I could make it stop by letting go of whatever I was holding onto, but if I let go, the consequences would be terrible. I didn't know what, exactly, just that it would be very, very bad. I have no idea how long this flow went on, but when I awoke in the "real" world, I was drained and exhausted as if I had spent the whole night running. I went to school, though, thinking my boyfriend would have some interesting interpretation of the dream. I found him waiting for me in our usual spot, but before I could even say a word, he hugged me and said "Thank you." I said "For what?" He said: "For all that energy you sent me last night. I would have died without it." Note that I had not yet told him about the dream. So, I ask you, can you tell me what that was all about? Is it possible these "battles" he liked to talk about are real? Can a defeat in the astral realm actually lead to death on the physical plane?
There is a postfix to this story. Not sure if it is relevant, but will add it: we went our separate ways after highschool, and did not stay in touch. In 2004, I was feeling nostalgic and tracked him down online. We met. All he wanted to talk about was politics (he was a huge fan of Bush/Cheney, who I regard as evil). Not interested in any of that "stuff" from high school. Weirdest thing: he has turned white. As in, lost all pigmentation. High school was dark red/auburn hair, freckles on arms/legs, dark hazel/green/gold eyes. Now his hair is white, his skin is white, and his eyes are the palest green, almost white. Yes, I know there's a disease that causes one to lose one's pigment, but I can't help thinking about the old wives tale about hair turning white from fear. (I asked him about the change in coloring, and he said "it just sort of happened" and didn't elaborate) Is it possible he ran into something too strong & lost a battle & it frightened him away from spiritual things? Or did it take over & somehow transform him (he was very much a pacifist in the 1980s, and very much in favor of military strength in the 2000s)? Or am I making too much of something with a simple biological explanation?

Scotlyn said...

@ onething
You have touched on something... catholic churches were unnervingly attractive and fearful for me as a child (and many of my friends were Catholic) in that they pleased the senses in a way our deliberately pared down churches refused to countenance... The fight I waged in later life against my faith centred perhaps on this theme, adjacent to my discovery that I loved "the world", that I wished to fully inhabit my "flesh" and allow my senses to be thrilled, and, finally, that none of these were synonymous with causing harm or sin.

The sense of drama, colour, scents, beloved learned re-enactments, such as you describe in the Orthodox tradition, shall be for me - for a time - as a garden of forbidden enchantments, I shall steal into....

WW said...

While I'm not altogether sure I care to know more about the occult dimensions of National Socialism, I did recently read Pauwels and Bergier's gloss on the subject in The Morning of the Magicians. (I was rooting around in the history of science section of my public library after the relevant ADR a few weeks ago when it presented itself, and how could I ignore that?) Some of the "wow" is gone from the synchronicity now though- If I devoted this kind of attention to country music, of course I'd expect more trucks, dogs, drunks, etc. to pop up, and so it goes with esoteric themes.

Juan Pablo said...

"Hi JMG,
I'm a long time reader of yours, but this is my first post.
As someone that has been involved with anthroposophy in the past, this post resonates a lot with me. Is it due the shared theosophical roots?
In any case, thank you very much for sharing all this.

Eric S. said...

Hmm. You may be right there. The closest thing OBOD has is the light body exercise since envisioning white light does have a protective element to it. However, since that practice is designed to stimulate the astral light in the body, its more effective for eliciting a tingling wormy sensation and a slight feeling of weightlessness but not much of a protective field. OBOD does cast a circle but that's an act of recreating the cosmos rather than an act of protection. Given the unsettling presences and images that tend to seep in at the beginning and end of a slump the lack of something like the sphere of protection or lesser banishing pentacle in my daily practice could be part of the problem.

The only thing that's been holding me back from joining AODA right away is apprehension about the potential effects of trying to balance two different practices simultaneously. Is it possible to work through two systems at the same time without them compromising each other?

SLClaire said...

Thanks JMG, and also AA Fisher, Val, and Phil Harris for your comments. I was wondering how/when the spirits might speak to me.

I live in suburbia, don't expect that to change, but I did learn from these experiences that I need to spend more time in at least one place with a healthier vibe besides our land. It turns out that one of the places I go to semi-regularly for another reason is that place. It's probably why I was drawn there to begin with. It's within a long walk or short bicycle ride, easily accessible but out of the way enough that few people know of it. My husband and I are also planning to resume occasional camping trips in 2015 and I'll look at those with the vibe in mind. And I'll keep practicing the SOP and the other AODA work I'm doing.

jean-vivien said...

@EnonZ : what I like about this blog and the comments is that it plays nicely with the metaphorical chair you thought you were sitting on :
adding a leg here and there, painting it with stripes or dots.... and sometimes even making it vanish almost entirely, for the benefit of your mind's bottom.

jean-vivien said...

@daelach : thanks for the interesting insight. So when you study History, as subject of study, the past becomes Skuld, the immediate future holds the Verdandi, and the Urd is held by both the immediate past discoveries plus the knowledge passed on since the period you are studying. That is, as long as you consider History as experiencing and not just as dead facts. Both aspects can prove necessary, and the two visions of time can complement each other, which couldbe why there is no exact mapping between past/present/future and urd/verdandi/skuld...

Cherokee Organics said...


Happy winter solstice to you.

Many thanks for your clear reply, I appreciate that and will continue to ponder the meaning with this new knowledge. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the help here. It is needed everywhere really, but I certainly won't turn it away from here.



daelach said...

@ onething: Most protection rituals I know involve some kind of powerful symbolism or calls upon benevolent beings. It isn't even just about "evil" beings since the whole dualism of good and evil is a delicate topic of its own; let's just say you'd want to avoid presences that are incompatible with you, so a protection ritual boils down to creating that sort of vibe which incompatible beings wouldn't find attractive.

I like mundane examples as analogies: The freezing winter cold is not "evil" although it can make you die. You wouldn't just "announce" that you are protected from cold, you would put on warm clothing or turn up the heating.

I once had a lucent dream of some kind of guardian spirits; there was a door they were guarding, but those who saw the door could pass freely, and those who should not pass it didn't even see it, they saw a wall instead. That didn't make any sense to me - why putting guardians there at all? Until I figured out that the job of these guardians was not to keep people in, but to keep things out. One yould pass the door (if one saw it), but the protection provided by the guardians then would diminish according to the growing distance.

@ jean-vivien: that's an interesting mixture, but yes, if you apply the Wheel to it, then something like this is the result. And you are right in that each time perception has its own advantages and shortcomings, including the lack of 1:1 translatability, so the pragmatic approach is to change between them as needed. The flexibility to change between mutually exclusive world views offers a new degree of freedom in that one is not any longer confined to a specific reality tunnel. The price one has to pay for increased usefulness whith taking what works, however, is "truth". But once paid, that had been an illusion all along anyway. The September blog posting (3rd paragraph from the bottom) also comes to mind here.

John Michael Greer said...

Onething, I wish I could argue.

PhysicsDoc, interesting. Do you think your scientific education was responsible for making you terrified of spiritual phenomena, then?

Kutamun, why, yes, that's true. ;-)

Pauline, you're welcome and thank you! Everyone does magic all the time; it's just that most of us don't realize it.

Scotlyn, delighted to hear it.

Daelach, of course there are many models. Astrology is specifically keyed into the cyclical model of time, and if you approach it from a traditional Neoplatonist standpoint, with time seen as the moving image of eternity, past, present, and future are all eternally in existence and all accessible. Don't mistake the current bad habits of industrial culture for the Western view of things more generally!

Jean-Vivien, and likewise!

AngelusCruentus, it depends on what specific tradition appeals to you, and on certain other variables -- this is emphatically not a one-size-fits-all pursuit.

Enon, the gut reaction isn't there by accident -- there are three hundred years of history behind it, and a lifetime of tolerably intense training imposed by your culture. If you're willing to push past that, though, I think you'll appreciate the landscape.

Mirela, if I had a dollar for every story like this I've heard, I could probably buy takeout pizza for the readership of this blog. Whether these things are real or not depends on your definition of that much-vexed word "real" -- but they happen; people experience things like this all the time, and if you were to pick up a copy of Dion Fortune's book Psychic Self-Defence and read it, I think you'd be interested to note just how familiar a story this is to those of us who teach this stuff.

WW, good. Once synchronicity stops being a "wow!" and becomes an ordinary part of life, you can learn to surf it, and get some very interesting and useful results.

Juan Pablo, welcome to the comments page! Partly it's a matter of shared roots, partly a consequence of the fact that Steiner and everyone else are studying the same realities and thus coming to very similar conclusions, and partly that I've read quite a bit of Steiner myself over the years.

Eric, it's not a good idea to begin two systems at the same time, but it's perfectly possible to maintain an existing practice while beginning a new set of studies -- that's how I was able to do the necessary field testing for The Celtic Golden Dawn while maintaining my practice of the very different work AODA teaches. The important thing is to let at least a couple of hours pass between doing a working from one system and doing a working from another, so your subtle body has time to return to a neutral state.

SLClaire, glad to hear it.

EnonZ said...


Before I read your reply today, I went out of town to take part in an American Indian feast by invitation. The invitation was entirely unexpected and serendipitous. Lots of eating, lots of drumming and dancing. I won't go into specifics out of respect for the privacy of my hosts; I'll just say that this small community has been much battered over the centuries by their encounters with more than one European nationality.

Nominally Christian, the indigenous religion is still very alive. I tried to let go of my itic, rationalistic stance and allowed myself to get caught up in the rhythm of the drums and the movements of the dancers.

I don't like the term 'energy' - to me that refers to a carefully defined material entity measured in joules. But I gradually became aware of a very powerful something slowly gathering. Not unfriendly but powerful. A ritual magic that helps keep this culture alive despite what history has dealt them.

AngelusCruentus said...

I have a fun 'vibe' story that's exactly the sort of thing that saved me from the Scylla of Christian fundamentalism and the Charibdis of logical positivism...

I once got a call for a temp job at an office building in a downtown area. The moment I approached the building I got sick to my stomach. Something about it just seemed horribly OFF. I put it down to the jitters of inexperience and ignored the sensation.

Well, there was no parking anywhere. No visiting parking in the lot, and very proscribed street parking. So I asked first thing where I could move my car to. They told me to drive it out of their lot and park in the street. I pointed out the signs said 3 hour parking and I wouldn't get lunch til after 4. They said it was fine, the route was never patrolled, hurry up and get to work. So, inexperienced and naive, I just parked there.

I was quick to learn that the company was one of those that bought up debts for pennies on the dollar and then collect them at ten times their initial value, what with compounding interest and all. I didn't much like it but I needed the cash and all I had to do was lug work like printing labels, checking addresses, filing envelopes, that sort of thing. The sick sensation stayed with me the whole time. Everyone in the building had dead eyes but I kept swearing up and down to myself that I was imagining things. I kept my head down and worked.

Naturally when I got outside there was a fresh ticket on my car. Between that and the sensation I finally took the hint and fled. Between the half day and the price of the ticket I ended up having to pay to go to work for that day. But you know, I think I must have got off lucky...

Janet D said...

Good Lawd Almighty, JMG, your clarity in writing is a beacon in the night for me. I'm starting to feel like I need to tithe here or something. I'm definitely finding more intellectual and spiritual depth and sustenance here than I did in most of my years of attending various churches (with a few notable exceptions) and 18+ years of formal education (with no notable exceptions, despite attending a major and well-respected state university near where you were raised - graduated in '88), and I shudder to think of the money spent on those usually empty endeavors.

Re: suburbia "vibes". I remember a long-ago joke, back when Bellevue, WA was just starting to come into it's own as an exclusive, upper-crust suburb of Seattle: "How do you know you live in Bellevue?" (pregnant pause) "You're safe in your neighborhood at night, but you've lost your will to live." Tee hee.

I can certainly say I feel that for my current area as well. The energy just feels stuck here. It leads me to a question for you, JMG. Can a physical area have it's own vibe (or perhaps that vibe develops as a result of people's choices?) such that it becomes kind of an energy vortex? As some of you know, I live in SE WA State, in the area that came into being largely because of the nuclear bomb (we're one of the main sites where the A-bombs where researched / designed / built during WWII). It's the strangest place I've ever lived (and I've lived in a number). It still feels very fear-based and sterile here, and I'm not the only one to feel that. I remember distinctly once thinking about this area & what it would take to change/enliven it, and then having a very strong "impression" (or whatever) that the energy here was stuck and that I could leave and return in 20 years to find it exactly the same. It made me wonder whether the making of the atomic bombs & the kind of people that brought, as well as now the enormous clean-up of all the waste has lead to a kind of negative or 'stuck' energy pattern that will be here until....something happens (spiritual cleansing? 10,000 years pass?...something major it seems).

Sea spray said...

I'm a longtime reader of the Archdruid report and just found the Well of Galabes, so far it's proving extremely thought provoking.
This talk of astral light reminded me of the book "The field" by Lynne McTaggart. In it she examines many things which conventional science rejects but may be related to the "astral light" you're talking about. From what i can remember one of the things she looked at was a group of researchers found that people could slightly affect the outcome of random number generators and the manner of this effect made me wonder if it could be a way of detecting the "astral light". For example large events such as 9/11 had an effect, sometimes even before the event in question happened.
Have you read that book and if so what do you think?
I'm looking forward to reading more about how i might be able to improve my own sensitivity over your next posts!

daelach said...

@ JMG:
You wrote: "Astrology is specifically keyed into the cyclical model of time".
Mhhh yes. For one, there are the obvious solar influences with the seasons which especially agricultural societies have found very useful. I'd count that rather as astronomy, but that distinction is a modern Western one. As for the rest of it, if we're talking about a narrative here, i.e. about making sense of things from within a cyclical time model, then astrology is quite well suited indeed. The doubts I have with astrology don't apply to astrology as a narrative because that's not what a narrative is all about.

As a side remark here: What our so called "stock market experts" are doing with their "trend lines", "support lines" and so on is basically also an oracle. Given that the vast majority of them didn't see the bubbles coming (otherwise, they would not have happened), I wouldn't be astonished if an astrologer could predict the stock market at least as well as the analysts, or maybe even better because an unrelated oracle would avoid the bubble-prone herd instinct. Just like the ritual magic at churches isn't recognised as such. Christians would be shocked to label ritual consumption of a cosmic zombie's flesh and blood as occult practice. Neither do people recognise the "progress narrative" as narrative.

My conclusion is that narratives that take hold on a society as a whole are often not recognised as such any longer, and differing narratives get labeled superstition. No wonder that Christmas has been transformed to serve the narrative of "limitless growth".

Thomas Daulton said...

Hi JMG, thanks for the nicely-written essays this week (here and at ADR).

In the ontology you've described here, the thought occurred to me suddenly that the real-life world we experience directly might not be the outerMOST plane of reality. The realm of mathematics, "pure science" and similar abstractions might be visualized as a realm further out than this one. That would explain why inner contemplation tends to lead people of many faiths and approaches down a few paths which become more similar and converge -- whereas if one pushes science or math too far, it's easy to become "Lost in space" and lose touch with reality on an infinite number of tangents. Would also explain why we instinctively describe these fields as "cold" -- they lead farther away from the lifegiving sun which is at the center of this conception. It's a very interesting metaphorical map, which turns on its head the modern notion that science and math are the basic building blocks of reality, woven into the very fabric of existence at a quantum level.

Just a would-be writer playing with words and concepts. Is that just sophistry?

Nicolas Costa said...

Happy Alban Heruin from the other side of the globe.

A concept I've picked up from my years playing the great Mage: the Awakening Tabletop RPG is that of Resonance. One of the most basic spells every Mage in the game can perform is a simple effect that opens their perceptions to that Resonance in the area that surrounds them. Each Mage of course has its own version of what they experience, partially colored by which Arcana* they employ to perceive that Resonance. To me that concept conjures images of bells being struck and their sound-waves reaching from within to outside, affecting those things that are near. Or of a still pond suddenly seeing an influx of particular stones, causing the waters to move in reaction to it.

I've been starting to practice the Elemental Cross this last 21st, thanks to my Martial Arts training in my teen years the movements and recitations are hardly an issue and I could perform the motions the first day already. I'm having a bit of a problem with the breathing portion, I can't seem to synchronize it with the motions. And a lesser problem with the imagination portion, all I'm getting is an empty circle instead of a full sphere, and imagination is not an issue for me (INFP here and we easily daydream even in work, with really vivid imagery).

* In M:tAw (short version) there are ten Arcana, each one has power over one aspect of the Tapestry, another concept which is basically the whole of existence, seen as a vastly complex interweaving of the ten Arcana and Mages study each of these Arcana and learn how to affect the strands of that Tapestry. The ten Arcana are: Death, Fate, Forces, Life, Matter, Mind, Prime (conceptually it is the Magic of Magic, the Metaarcana which has power over the subtle aspects of magic itself), Space, Spirit and Time.

PhysicsDoc said...

I was thinking about your comment about a demon haunted world, and if I interpret that to include personal demons and related psychological issues then I agree that science was a safe refuge for me-a place where I could avoid what scared me and do something I enjoyed.

onething said...

Thomas Daulton,

I, for one, do not find your thoughts inconsequential at all.
I'm rather a contemplative, and think often of the structure of reality, and how "physical" things like dimension/planes relate to perceptual, subjective experience.

It certainly would seem that mathematics and other scientific facts are deeper within the structure, not the outside. Perhaps they seem cold because space is cold and far away, and perhaps they seem cold because while they delve into the deeper building blocks, they are actually not the deepest, but merely underlie this outer physical. And perhaps they seem cold because they do not acknowledge the deepest causal - which is probably mind - and are therefore disconnected from the real source, kind of free-floating as it were. There is also a lot of speculation, which is perhaps unavoidable but scientists can get caught in belief systems also. For example, I've read some accounts of at least three qualified scientists who refute the big bang theory, and I find their arguments pretty sound. I don't know which is right, but I can see that people get into inertia and attachment to particular theories when they have some history and momentum. They can be loathe to chuck it all. Tangents happen.

I can imagine one more, outer dimension. I live on the surface of this planet and it's pretty much "outer" but still we are kind of immersed here. I visualize an outermost outer, a sort of surface of everything altogether.

John Michael Greer said...

Chris, and a happy solstice season to you and yours, most especially including the local wombats!

Enon, good. I've been moving away from the term "energy" for the astral light and the other noumenal realities experienced in magical work, because -- as you noted -- it simply confuses communication. The astral light isn't energy in any sense known to physicists; if it's what occult philosophy claims it is, it's as distinct from energy as energy is from matter, and has laws and regularities of its own that are not the same as those that govern matter and energy.

Angelus, that's a good story. Better still, you got the message, and didn't brush it aside and walk into what was clearly a disaster waiting to happen.

Janet, of course a place can have its own vibe -- in fact, all places do have distinctive vibes, and learning to read that plays a large role in some dimensions of magical practice. It's quite possible that the astral legacy of nuclear weapons manufacture is a major factor there in Richland; I'll have to talk here in a future post about the magical implications of modern technology, which are not pretty, and nuclear anything is about as unpretty as you can get.

Sea Spray, I haven't read the book -- will have to put it on the get-to-this list.

Daelach, I'm wondering if you've mostly met the sort of astrologer who embraces the modern worldview and imports it into astrology, resulting in the kind of "person-centered" (usually, in practice, ego-centered) fluffy stuff that's so popular these days among the overly entitled. I don't run with those -- operative mages rarely do -- and so my experience is unavoidably colored by hanging out with old-fashioned astrologers who still remember that the eighth house talks about when and how you'll die. The cyclical worldview is alive and well in those scenes!

Thomas, no, it's not just sophistry. You're talking about what some call the subnatural (as distinct from supernatural) realm. More on this in a future post.

Nicolas, your mind is fighting back. That's very common; like a badly trained dog, the mind resists discipline at first, and has to be yanked back by the will's leash over and over again until it finally gets used to the changes that magical training brings.

PhysicsDoc, and there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes life sucks, and it's helpful to be able to retreat to someplace safe and do useful things there for a while. I certainly did that all through my childhood with books!

Kutamun said...

Gday again , punters
This one from Eliphas Levi , " dogme et rituel de la haute magi"- vol 2
T WO things, as we have shown, are necessary for the acquisition of magical power – the emancipation of will from servitude and its instruction in the art of domina-tion. The sovereign will is represented in our symbols by the Woman who crushes the serpent's head and by the radiant angel who restrains and constrains the dragon with lance and heel. In this place let us affirm without evasion that the Great Magical Agent – the double current of light, the living and astral fire of the earth – was represented by the serpent with the head of an ox, goat or dog, in ancient theogonies. It is the dual serpent of the caduceus, the old serpent of Gene-sis, but it is also the brazen serpent of Moses, twined about the Tau, that is, the generating lingam. It is, moreover, the Goat of the Sabbath and the Baphomet of the Templars; it is the Hyle of the Gnostics; it is the double tail of the serpent which forms the legs of the solar cock of Abraxas. In fine, it is the devil of M. Eudes de Mirville and is really that blind force which souls must overcome if they would be freed from the chains of earth; for, unless their will can detach them from this fatal attraction, they will be absorbed in the current by the force which produced them, and will return to the central and eternal fire. The whole magical work consists therefore in our liberation from the folds of the ancient serpent, then in setting foot upon its head and leading it where we will. “I will give thee all the kingdoms of the earth, if thou wilt fall down and adore me,” said this serpent in the evangelical mythos. The initiate should make answer: “I will not kneel to thee, but thou shalt crouch at my feet; nothing shalt thou give me, but I will make use of thee, and will take that which I need, for I am thy lord and master” – a reply which, in a veiled manner, is contained in that of the Saviour. We have said that there is no personal devil. It is a misdirected force, as the name indicates. An odic or magnetic current, formed by a chain of perverse wills, constitutes this evil spirit, which the Gospel calls legion, and this it is which pre-cipitated the swine into the sea – another allegory of the attraction exercised on beings of inferior instincts by blind forces that can be put in operation by error and evil will. This symbol may be compared with that of the comrades of Ulysses transformed into swine by the sorceress Circe. Remark what was done by Ulysses to preserve himself and deliver his associates: he refused the cup of the enchant-ress and commanded her with the sword. Circe is Nature, with all her delights and allurements: we must overcome her in order to enjoy. Such is the significance of the Homeric fable, for the poems of Homer, those true sacred books of ancient Hellas, contain all the mysteries of high Eastern initiation. The natural medium is therefore the ever active and ever seducing serpent of idle wills, which we must withstand by continual subjugation. Amorous, glutton-ous, passionate, or idle magicians are impossible monstrosities.

Maria said...

Hi JMG, I feel like I've turned a corner in my magical practice. A bit of background: I think I've always had the "leaks" in my aura that Lucretia mentioned -- most likely due to very poor early training and experiences -- and information has tended to come at me from the astral in overwhelming and usually unwelcome ways. I was also easy pickings (for lack of a better term) for energy vampires. I still think of the astral light as energy because I get physical symptoms -- headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue, to name a few. I'm still not clear on how that works.

But, after about a year and a half of practicing the Sphere of Protection and the Circulation of Light, I started noticing that the 24-hour all-you-can-steal buffet for energy vampires, narcissists, and other undesirables seems to have gone out of business. I can see their behaviors (and get intuitive information if needed), but it's like there is a glass wall between us and they can't get at my aura.

The most noticeable change is that I took a job about a month ago, even though I knew that the woman I would be working alongside is a negative-energy generating organism. I see her behaviors, but I have the mental space now to ignore them, go along with them, or fight back when necessary. No physical symptoms, no upset -- and funnily enough, she's told me flat-out that she likes me because I fight back.

What really made me realize that something major had shifted was a young engineer who was installing new software on my computer. He was sitting in my cubicle, not 4 feet from Ms. Negative Energy, and when I walked up he said "I like your cubicle. It's nice here. Peaceful." I laughed and said "Feel free to stop b any time." It was only later that I realized my control over my own aura seems to have permeated the space where I work. She can't ride roughshod over me energetically.

I can't begin to tell you what a huge step this is for me. I'm thinking maybe I can get on with my work (on the inner AND outer planes) without being hampered by feeling exhausted and ill all the time.

I'm so much less afraid. And for someone whose earliest memories are of fear, this is an enormous gift. Thank you.

daelach said...

@ JMG: Let me put it this way - after millennia of countless oracles in various cultures, astrology among them, accurate predictions are still remarkably difficult in case they concern the future. So difficult in fact that the TADR blog posts from October 2012 went under the headline "how it could happen although major global events were concerned. We can precalculate the position of the stars, but not their meaning - which renders the whole predictive approach pointless.

Nevertheless, it makes a good narrative since prediction of events is not what a narrative is all about. Or people can use astrology as symbolism to relate to certain vibes. In fact, winter solstice is quite a simple example. This way, astrology becomes an outer pointer to inner worlds.

John Michael Greer said...

Kutamun, good. It's surprisingly rare to find people these days who are willing to get past the ornate style of writers like Levi and notice just now much practical guidance is to be found there.

Maria, you're welcome and thank you! Yes, that's one of the common effects of regular practice of that sort of ritual work, and as you've noted, it can be a huge relief. One of the keys of magic is precisely that of being able to be positive rather than negative toward one's surroundings -- to broadcast, if you will, rather than being limited to receiving what's broadcast by other sources.

Daelach, and yet astrologers do in fact routinely make accurate predictions in a range of fields. The key to understanding astrological prediction is that it predicts tendencies -- "the stars incline, they do not compel" -- and thus make the best predictions when dealing with anyone or anything that reacts blindly to tendencies. National or global politics are among the more difficult topics for astrological prediction, since so much there is a matter of individuals making decisions, and so little is just a matter of automatic responses to the currents of the astral light. Look instead at horary astrology or life predictions based on the natal chart, and accurate predictions are quite common.

nwlorax said...

Dear John Michael et al:

You are going to get into ecologies and biomes of Spirits/bodily challenged Intelligences next post, I think. One could consider the traditional 6/7 planes as being akin to trophic levels in a biome. I'm not insisting on it, just suggesting it could make for interesting meditations. And where does one spirit ecosphere end? Under the deep sea muck? In a zone from the Earth to Ceres? Just a thought.

jean-vivien said...

Peak Oil makes an interesting case study in perceptions and how we act upon them... like any great danger which human beings face and choose to ignore. Science lends itself especially well to a study in magickal terms.

It is interesting that our civilization's sponsored mode of knowing reality, that is science and technology, gives credit to the Peak Oil theory... and yet politely refuses to heed the conclusions. It goes to show that there might be magick at work, even though we are not collectively aknowledging it. Since my statement refers to the institutions of science, and the political institutions that interact with them, magick has to operate on the institutional level.

The gap may also present itself between layers of such big institutions. The existence of the scientific method does not preclude how the institution growing around it will function, just like the existence of Christian individual rituals does not preclude how the religious institutions representing Christianity will function. Magickal schools may translate differently in terms of magickal practice, depending on which level you consider, individual or institutional.

It may also be that there is a gap between the revelatory magickal practice of Science and the operative magickal practice of Science.

Even more interestingly, one of the first Peak Oil site I encountered - and by far the first influential one I have encountered - was LATOC, run by Matt Savinar. This respectable fellow shut down his website to publicly get into the Astrology business... At the time, I was horrified, but it is after all no more stupid than any other occupation, especially when it comes to dealing with Peak Oil... Apparently Science does not give us many clear guidelines right now, so trying out alternatives is just a good way to ensure a healthy dissensus. If people get off their practical bottoms because it channels the Astral Light better on their magickal bottoms, or because the magickal charts tell them to do so, then the better for everyone.
The insights of Peak Oil should be operative and not just revelatory. Spending hours crunching oil production data points is akin to spending hours trying to decipher the Cabbalah. But when I read that Big Data can help infer the location of probable oil fields (in hospitable places like the bottom of the oceans), I fear that we are confusing magickal revelation with magickal operation, and thus leaving the door open to misled alternative magickal schools like populist political regimes, whose main strength is to focus on operation rather than revelation, and who do blur the distinction between collective levels of magick and individual levels.

daelach said...

@ JMG: Of course the natal charts are accurate, that's called "Forer effect" (cf. Wikipedia on that one) and has been well proven. The funny thing is that your natal chart will by and large also apply to me, it's just that I may pay attention to different portions of the text and of course attribute them a different meaning than you. That's how human consciousness works, spotting patterns even in random noise. Gambler's fallacy, Forer effect, Texas sharpshooter, confirmation bias, selective attention, just to name a few - the list is long. I've been studying human consciousness as well as the art of manipulation for about ten years now..

As for tendencies - yeah, if the predictions are vague enough, then there will always be something happening to match the "prediction". The big drawback is just that they only come up after it has happened and say "see, that's what the stars meant". That's why it's useless (as prediction).

Well, even I can make predictions for next year, based upon how my breakfast eggs cracked up. I see several wars for next year (since WW2, there have been around 250 of them, so it's a safe bet). And I see some aircrafts crashing down (with several umpteenth-thousand of them, some are bound to come down the hard way). There will be some natural disasters somewhere (on a big, geologically active planet with weather, that's self-evident). All in all, quite some bad things will happen (it's a big planet, and a lot of bad things happen all the time). On the other side, there will also be touching episodes (same reason).

However, if you speak of general tendencies, I agree that even though they don't contain information, there can be some practical use. I mean, something like "mumble mumble planet X in mumble opposition mumble.. AH! I see greedy people who will harm you" is trivial because there are always such people. But the useful point is to actually remember that when the next share fund vendor is knocking at the door instead of letting oneself being lulled into the next bubble scheme.

Any good oracle, and astrology is no exception here, is aimed at making people step back and see the bigger picture in their life. So I'd say that also astrology can be helpful to avoid not seeing the wood for the trees - if properly applied. An incompetent astrologer may do harm indeed, but so may also an incompetent dentist. Since the latter doesn't count as argument against dentistry, the former can't count as argument against astrology, either.

Anyway, my rock-solid short-term prediction is that in three days, a lot of people I know personally will be doing badly, but since only three out of four breakfast eggs cracked, I can foresee that they will recover the day after. (;

AngelusCruentus said...

Something else that this post put on my mind...

The "vibe" of our current time is giving me a case of the screaming heebie jeebies. Sometimes it's all I can do not to claw my own skin off. I'm sure you've seen that another major commercial airline has disappeared as if into thin air - you'd think the government would be keeping track of airliners, what after 9/11 at all.

Do you think this sense of rising panic is common to all times - after all, apocalyptism has been part of the psychological landscape since ancient times - or is it possible that we're really in for some uniquely Kali Yuga turbulence in our lifetimes?

earthworm said...

On the Archdruid Report JMG said: You might also want to check out Rob Roy's book Stone Circles, which is about people who build their own Stonehenges. That's an ambition of mine someday...

...but I thought this aside might sit better here than there:

Near the Whispering Knights (off from the Rollright Stones) - some ad-hoc biodegradable barrow-like structures - weaving wildlife magic in Oxfordshire:

Ostensibly for wildlife and aesthetics, the process has a feeling that there is something more subtle going on (outside/independent of the stated aims).

I've often wondered whether it is a case of some of the old sites being 'confluence points' (for want of a better term) that people noticed and used, or that over time and the layers of activity increased the 'broadcast signal strength' (for want of another term!). Maybe both?

changeling said...

Hi JMG, I have read all essays from both of your blogs. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I look forward to reading next essays.

In the meantime, may I ask your opinion about Franz Bardon and his system?

Varun Bhaskar said...


I've had some manifestations back when I was stumbling through this in my younger days. I believe in the phenomenon of astral light, or prana but your post did get me wondering.

If prana is not a type of energy that is studied by science (electro-magnatism, radio waves, light, and etc...) but still interacts with everything around us, then shouldn't it be detectable by other means?

What I mean to say is that each of the energy types listed above interact with matter in specific ways. Radio waves,for example, can be produced and detected with specific technologies. The same is true for most other kinds of energy, and even the ones not immediately accessible to our five senses can be made so through the use of an intermediary. If prana is a type of energy shouldn't it also be accessible in a similar manner?



John Michael Greer said...

Nwlorax, not quite yet, but yes, those topics will be on the agenda further down the line. First we need to talk about why it is that the thought of nonhuman intelligences makes so many people in the modern world turn pea-green with terror.

Jean-Vivien, good! There's also the difference, and of course it's a huge one, between science as an abstract set of processes and science as a very human activity powerfully shaped by the usual human motives. That's equally an issue in magical lodges, as anyone who's participated in one can tell you in gruesome detail.

Daelach, as I hinted in the first paragraph of this month's post, I'm not particularly interested in trying to convince soi-disant skeptics that this stuff works; if you don't want to benefit from the predictive capacities of divination, that's your problem, not mine. That said, I'm familiar with the psychological quirks you've mentioned, and they don't account for my experiences and those of many others, any more than the handwaving used to dismiss continental drift before the late 1960s actually accounted for the phenomena Wegener discussed. Of course you can reject that claim -- but then I'm writing for those who are willing to approach these subjects with an open mind and, at least potentially, a willingness to try things for themselves.

Angelus, the vibe of a given era very often reflects what's coming in the near future. If you ever have a chance to read first-person accounts of Europe in the late 1930s, the sense of panic is palpable. Thus I don't think we're going to get anything uniquely Kali Yuga-ish -- but something on the scale of the Second World War? You bet.

Changeling, Bardon's very solid, and his system works well in my experience. If you're going to do it, though, you need to do the whole thing, step by step, as laid out in his books; the people I know who've gotten in trouble with his system are those who skipped steps because they thought they didn't need X or Y or Z.

Earthworm, yes, I think it's a safe bet that there's more going on here than the blogger is willing to mention publicly. There's a lot of magic woven into various corners of the green movement these days, especially but not only in Britain.

Varun, I don't think prana is energy at all. The astral light, to judge by the traditional descriptions, seems to be a third factor, alongside magic and energy, and detecting it seems to be a property of those curious processes we call intelligence and life. More on this as we proceed!

Eric S. said...

I only have two more lessons left before I’m firmly enough established in the core practices for the grade I’m on that I can add another one, so I might be able to join AODA around Imbolc without getting overwhelmed. That whole topic of interactions and conflicts between magical systems does seem to open up some interesting thoughts though. It seems to me like working with AODA and OBOD’s systems together, with the two sharing some basic similarities as common offshoots of the Ancient Order of Druids would I expect be much easier to manage simultaneously without as much time and separation between them than say, trying to balance Druidry with a practice rooted in a completely different world model such as qabalah.

It also seems as though some practices are much more open and suited to mixing and borrowing than others OBOD for instance, leaves a lot of open space and wiggle room for adding, subtracting, mixing and personalizing. Other practices don’t. That spectrum of flexibility vs. rigidity and synchronicity vs. purity of practice; ceremonial magic sitting on one end with its emphasis on preciseness most folk magic on the other end as a grab bag of adaptable techniques from a wide range of cultures; is an interesting trend to reflect on by itself.

On a related note, this article has been floating around discussions for a few weeks and seems highly relevant to this blog. It seemed to me to hint in its comparison of Hoodoo, Renaissance magic, and modern ceremonial magic at the way magical traditions look under the influence of the unicorn, phoenix, and dragon respectively. I wonder if viewing things that way, magic could be divided into 3 basic kinds of magic that can be utilized for different purposes and to align with different types of astral energies?

Eric S. said...

Re: Energy. It certainly breeds confusion, but it's also a word that has seeped into that hole in our language. You'll even hear the most devout materialist go into an old bookstore and describe it as having "a quaint, calming energy about it" or might get caught referring to a particularly harsh fight as "a drain on emotional energy." It does go to show that if you open a hole in your language something will seep in even if it's inappropriate.

daelach said...

@ JMG: You are right to point out that our discussion has gone a bit sideways; I apologise if I should have taken it too far. I didn't mean to waste your time, so: sorry.

Coming back to a more productive contribution from my side (I like this blog a lot), I think I can give something to readers who are half in the dragon age, but still curios. Doubting one's magic tends to spoil it, so what I've written above with hazard as valid basis for oracles will rather not apply to people who are into magic anyway and who don't have doubts, they may well ignore that.

But people especially with a "scientific" background who want to explore new worlds may have it way easier if they don't have to cope with disbelief since the hazard approach doesn't require any belief. PhysicsDoc, you may feel addressed. From thereon, such people can work their way forward. The more "spooky" phenomenons will come out later anyway. In both regards, I can speak from my own experience.

The reason why I think it is worthy for such people (like - myself, in former times) is that the dragon age is ending anyway. What I personally hope for, and what I try to promote as I can, is that the Second Religiosity may not take on the typical life-denying form that goes along with the decline phase. Life will be less extravagant, but the reduction in quantity may well bring an increase in quality. Plus that when our gizmo technics will not be around any longer due in that quantity to the resource shortage, we still can have magic. Let's do what we can here.

daelach said...

Just to share another story. JMG, I don't belong to the materialist/rationalist corner, please don't mistake me on that one. I know I may sound self-contradictory, but as you said in September: complete, but inconsistent. That may be what you referred to when you wrote "try things for oneself". I did often enough, and it worked:

So, an example of what's possible with such "vibes". I had an ear inflammation, that's a chronic disease with me due to some malforming of the middle ear. The doctors have given up on fixing the cause, it's only about alleviating the symptoms. One day, I had such an inflammation despite the ventilation tube in the eardrum which usually prevents that, and that meant serious trouble. I went to the doctor, got antibiotics which should have fixed the problem within two or three days. After four days, it was still the same. The antibiotics didn't seem to work, and that meant even more serious trouble.

I got out my beloved runes. Ansuz is related also to wind, and to speech, so I assumed it would be good for the whole ENT (ear, nose throat) domain. I had a rune meditation on Ansuz for some hours. I never train it that long, but I can hold the focus that long if need be nevertheless. I didn't command Ansuz to help me, you can't give orders to runes, let alone without being a master. Plus that I don't consider myself a "master" despite years of experience; I guess I'll never be one. If nothing else, that stance prevents delusions of grandeur, control illusions so common with people new to magic, and it keeps me humble.

Instead, I kindly asked Ansuz for help in my rather helpless situation. I had the strange feeling that this rune had the vibe of a cat, and you can't give orders to cats, either. The very next day, I felt that things got considerably better, and from thereon, the inflammation went away. A classic healing "ritual", and afterwards, I felt deep gratitude towards.. hm.. the universe. I know it was not my personal power that brought the healing. I had just touched on something far more powerful than I am.

Would it have healed up without the rune meditation anyway? Maybe. But then again, it should have become better much earlier, which had not been the case. I've had a lot of other strange events with rune magic. Whatever that X factor is, I don't really understand it, and neither do I understand the mystery of the runes, but it seems I can work with them - or, rather, they kindly allow me to work with them.

One hint for people who would like to work with runes specifically: I got a much deeper understanding of runes and also of Northern mythology when I first visited the Norwegian mountainscape - Jotunheimen. So wild, so coarse, so mighty. Not the refined, scholarly magic of the Renaissance era, rather a primitive magic - but it makes up for its lack in finesse in that it has the raw power of a whole mountainside behind it. That's why my favourite protection ritual is nothing more than chanting Algiz, it's just enough. But don't mistake "primitive" for "easy" or for "doesn't require work". It does, and it requires commitment.

I've gone as far as having the 24 Futhark tattooed on myself. And I made a rune set myself, of yew tree, that's certainly not a cosy one, rather a very "dark" one - but a powerful connection to other worlds. Especially after I fed my own blood to every single one of the 24 rune pieces to give them a life of their own - but only after years of experience, and you have to know what you do.

But the reward of such activities is that new worlds beside the pure rational, cold scientific one will open up.

Im already looking forward to next month's blog posting with the astral (or, as I call it, the non-local) being inhabited. It is, as I know from my experience, but I'm curious how the topic gets introduced. (:

Maria said...

"Broadcasting instead of being limited to receiving" seems like a good working analogy to me. I've been working on healthy energetic boundaries, especially since the end of summer when I gave the clerk at the local convenience/feed store/post office a headache just by walking into the place with a blistering headache. In the past my boundary work had been all about fearfully putting up protections, but when I realized I was broadcasting and it was having unintended consequences, I began to think of it more as "this is where I end and others begin." It seems be working a lot better.

Cherokee Organics said...


Many thanks for the well wishes. The wombats continually delight and amaze me and I witnessed a mum wombat with her baby trundling along dutifully behind her a week or so ago. I leave water out for all the birds, insects and animals here right through the summer.

Last night I spotted a wombat giving "what for" to two kangaroos who dared think to sup upon the wombats chosen herbage. The kangaroos quickly departed! They've all been watching the fox cubs though but seem mostly unconcerned about the new presence.

Speaking of which, the fox cubs turned up at the same time as Beli - I'm still not sure what this all means but certainly at the moment there is enough food here for them all without them causing too much mischief.

I had an insight the other day that I wanted to share - although it probably isn't news to you: Ritual and ceremony reinforces hard earned wisdom. My thinking in this is that people learn and think in terms of narratives and stories. Wisdom however seems to be much harder to transfer so therefore ritual and ceremony reinforces the lessons and insights that wisdom provides. How else do we pass wisdom from one generation to another? Sure there are other methods, but they're struggling at the moment given the world as it is.

PS: I just got a good photo of a wombat chewing some of the herbage here as dusk is settling in.



changeling said...

JMG, thanks for answer. You can say that Bardon's books have something like good vibe for me, it's why I picked them up. I am beginner, unsurprisingly - it was your' explanations of modern magic that convinced me to start experimenting.. so I will be cautious to fallow exact instructions.

mirela said...

re: Psychic self-defense. Got it. Read it. That was....creepy. AND explains a lot of weird stuff that I ran away from 30 yrs ago, bolting, as you say, like a rabbit for the warmth and safety of my burrow. I took refuge in the Baptist religion, and when that didn't work, spent ~20 years as a devout atheist/skeptic. Funny, I don't remember the high-school boyfriend EVER mentioning any kind of circle of protection or any thing else of that nature. Children playing in a minefield, we were.
This little rabbit is currently sitting next to her burrow, looking around in a sort of dazed fashion - the Universe doesn't allow one to hide forever & I have been dragged out over the last few years and forced to admit that yes, this "stuff" is real. And it works. I had "discovered" on my own, a version of the so-called (and badly misnamed) "Law of attraction" which definitely does NOT work the way it is presented in the New Thought church I had wandered into. They were a great group when I first found them - sat around reading books and discussing them. Then a minister took over who is of the "sit on your rear and visualize while denying the reality that is right there in front of you" sort. Haven't been attending much lately. The "Law of Attraction" should be called the "Law of alignment of synchronicity" or something. It works great, if my last few years of experience is any example. One simply has to recognize HOW it works. (Won't drop $1,000,000 in your lap. WILL cause you to go shopping at a different grocery store than usual for no apparent reason and bump into someone who is looking to hire someone for just the sort of job you've been looking for, to give a recent example). It just never occurred to me that this fell into the category of "magic". Thinking about it though, what else would one call it?
So, after reading about astral attacks, vampires, et al, little rabbit is quivering and eyeing the warmth of her burrow, but I'm pretty sure I see a bulldozer parked over there at the edge of the field, and if that thing revs up and starts plowing through the landscape, things will go poorly for those rabbits trapped in their burrows.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to hop over to the book vendors & buy a couple of your books & start working on learning more about circles of protection.....

Blaker said...

First time commenter, reader of ADR for 2 years now, and now reader of this much needed blog as a reformed academic scientist and aspiring druid. I write this comment on our newly acquired couch that formerly was seating at a Masonic lodge (there has to be some magic left in it, right?). This month is the second one where the significance of land points has been mentioned in the comments section. JMG keeps hinting that he will be elaborating more on these as the blog moves on. I am thankful for that as I am to work with those land points and the astral light in some capacity, I believe. Starting with the land where my house sits which may very well have been a land point/astral light connection for the American Indians (we are a high point on a street that has the winter solstice sunrise at one end and the summer solstice sunset at the other end). At least, that type of work is what I think I am picking up as communication from the astral light plane and does seem to be confirmed. I don't know the specifics of where I am heading as I haven't found a step-by-step guide written down. So I trust what I receive as the next step from that astral level and am often provided a sign of confirmation or support in the outer plane. The best description that I can come up with of what it is that I am to do is to act as something of an acupuncturist for the land, if that makes sense to anyone. Now, I'll be honest and state that I feel incredibly exposed writing this down and sharing it with a forum right now. While I started to explore the astral light as a teenager, the long process of training as a research scientist buried thoughts of the astral light deep within me. But the entities at that plane have a tendency to not want to be ignored and they caught my attention by storm in the past few years. This blog and the thoughtful comments by this community have been tremendously comforting for this transition.

mirela said...

@Blaker - "... the entities at that plane have a tendency to not want to be ignored"
I'm with you on that. The preacher at the Baptist church I attended long ago said "Jesus won't force you to let him in. He will sit quietly by the door and knock." I disagree. My experience is, if you ignore Him/it long enough, God/the universe/whatever will eventually kick the door down, come storming inside, whack you upside the head with a two-by-four and say "Hey, I'm talkin' to you! I'm real and you'd better start paying attention."
Well, it has my attention. Not sure exactly what I'm supposed to be doing, though.
JMG - any suggestions on how to figure that out? I ask the Universe for guidance, I get static. Maybe I'm just too slow/dense/scared to understand the message?

John said...

The capacity for magic seems restricted most often by fear. Would you talk about ways magic can work with this aspect of consciousness?

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- OK, I'm not sure why, but even though you only came to PUF that one time, you still seem to be snooping on my workshops there. Recent ones have been about learning the local trees (including the basics of all that intricate botanical terminology and leaf anatomy), and why magical "energy" does not behave at all like physical energy and the two are very poor metaphors for each other...

About the energy thing, one thing that physicists and mathematicians do deal with that does behave somewhat similarly to "the astral light" is information. In interaction with consciousness, information can achieve things that "mindless" physical processes could never achieve. My example is a deck of cars. The number of permutationsof a 52 card deck are mind-boggling, something like the number of atoms in the observable universe. The odds that two shuffled decks of cards have ever or will ever be in the same sequence are vanishingly small, even if humans eventually populate the entire universe for billions of years, and kept shuffling decks of cards that whole time.

Yet, using consciousness and information, I can place two decks in the exact same sequence (any sequence I desire) in just a few minutes. I have caused the impossible to happen, using a little bit of physical energy plus another little bit of information, plus the ineffable essential of consciousness.

Maybe not an identity, but perhaps a better metaphor.

About astrology -- I somewhere came across an interesting theory about why geocentric astrology would seem to work, when the solar system as a whole "looks" heliocentric. I am paraphrasing and probably elaborating and conflating here, and definitely anthropomorphizing... but the basic idea is that all of this is mediated through the "vibe" of the Earth itself. The other planets are basically "Mam Gaia's" siblings/packmates/etc., and of course she would be sensitive to their apparent movements as she perceives them. And we, living on her, will be affected by her perceptions. A Jupiter-Venus trine may be nothing special from Jupiter's perception, but from the Earth it is a lovely geometric arrangement that the vibe of this planet responds to. And of course, we are wholly a part of this planet, so this vibe affects us.

jean-vivien said...

@Janet D.
Regarding the magickal impacts of technology... On this day of celebrating New Year, I receive quite a few text messages on my cell phone. A lot of them wished me a happy new year... without mentionning my name or the sender's name. It made me wonder, but maybe I am being paranoid here : it has become perfectly possible to just write a generic Happy New Year message and then just check on your contact lists whom you want to send it to.
That may look like a gain in efficiency. But if you reflect on the evolution of interpersonal communication, before that there was the telephone. You had to actually call one person at a time, and interact specifically with that person. Before that was the postmail : you had to get a pen, the paper, the enveloppes, you could write the same words on and on but you had to do it once for each person, so you probably took some time to adjust your phrasing or add a few extra words for the recipient.
My point is, technology has tricked us into confusing the power of more or better communication with people with the more mundane ability to just treat everybody else as a technological item (one line on a contact list) indiscriminately.
It is a common mythological theme, having a God or a Goddess disguise into another deity, or something looking inocuous.
Now there is also an experience I have had, whenever we have to lead a group to attend a leisurely event, like shows in the streets, etc., even though they have the ability to call the organizer on the spot, people don't use that ability, and just get lost behind. So technology is a very twisted deity : it bends people's minds, so that in the end those people do not even have the mind power to use that very technology. Our attention is constantly being split across so many technological distractions... it gets very difficult to take initiatives with a mind which lacks structure. This might also be why TV series have taken on the quality of ñotion pictures but the Gargantuesque duration of twenty consecutive Odysseys. Since you have to compete even more harshly for an audience's attention...
There is indeed a price to be paid for our contemporary gizmos, you can choose to call it magickal or psychological, the practical results are the same.

Now take an overpopulated subcontinent which has been very rich, but is getting constantly poorer every year, whose last historical precedents of conflicts were related to one kind of dictatorship or another, and whose population has repressed not only their own sense of initiative, but also their very capacity to deal with each other as human beings.
It is not very hard to do the maths : when the things we repress in ourselves will want to resurface, it will be like stirring the bottom of a pond : a lot of mud will be stirred up, and a dark magician wearing leather boots and a brown jacket will have a very easy time banking on the inequalities that have increased while we were checking our emails on our smartphones.
It is not like disatisfied, qualified young men of my country (one of the 5 biggest industrial economies, by the way) are already leaving to join an extremist bloody warband thousands miles away... uh wait... It makes me wonder what kind of atrocities will have to be committed on our soil before our collective insamity is being weeded out. Hopefully the decreasing rewards we get from this lifestyle will prompt us to change our ways before those changes are forced upon us by the next world war or fascist regime.

jean-vivien said...

And speaking of Trickster deities :

Chinese people walking over each other just to grab what turned out to be fake money... on New Year's day, no less ! It could be the sort of parable this blog's audience, or author, could have made up. I wish it were, actually ! If there are violent beings inhabiting the astral light, inhabiting the concept of Paper Money looks like a promising strategy for one them to let out the violence repressed within people.

Sometimes reality writes better examples than those we can imagine. And the possibility of a resurgence of fascism in overpopulated Asia doesn't seem too far-fetched. Not just the usual authoritarian regime, but the kind of dictatorship where people happily commit cheery stuff like genocide onto each other. Again, I am probably wrong, the diminishing rewards of the industrial way of life will probably force changes before things get that bad. That would be one of the best possible outcomes...

Merle Langlois said...

I'm glad you're finally starting to get a bit more advanced here, even while appreciating the thoroughness and general mode of expression you're using. Chan Buddhism has a pretty odd relationship to the astral light from what I can tell. Chan practice seems to use the astral light, but they don't talk about it as such, and it's not a specific goal of practice either. Yet anytime I've had almost any meditation experience or even just visiting the temple or seeing other members I'm getting some kind of vibe, often very strongly.

I know I'm jumping the gun here, but I'll be happy when all the kids on here discussing magic from neophyte pre-daily practice points of view start practicing daily and using jargon.

Val said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cherokee Organics said...


Is it my imagination, but I reckon ultimately that the ADR blog is a vehicle to here?

Dunno, but to my mind the ADR blog is like the town crier ringing the alarm bell whilst the townsfolk assemble their response to the crisis.

This blog on the other hand is where a coherent narrative for the future can begin to be assembled from the wreckage that is looming on the horizon but is still yet to come?

It is like a preparation for the cycling of the ages to a new state and it provides the tools to assist with that inevitable change?

I'm not really sure.



Phil Harris said...

For Jean-Vivien

Ghosts will return to sad France
Like 'the idea on horseback'.
And I remember perhaps my earliest visit to the cinema
Dien Bien Phu in violent grey in post-war England.

The peasants are long gone
And I can only hear them in my mind.
We sold the idea of the farm
And are come at New Year to a new grey place.

Even ghosts will know a term
Buddha, Christ, the others
Even young men at last
Having failed their mothers.

So France that is beautiful
Before motherhood
Like a river an ancient magic
Seen from a bridge
Still wandering in early light

Call creatures from ghostly air,
Summon breath that was creation
From cloud-capped centuries,
Bright eyes and light footfall

To populate us now.

best wishes to all
Phil H
January 3, 2015 at 7:19 AM

Ing said...

I spent time in a consciousness-raising community that was heavily influenced by Jung's work and used meditation, active imagination, shadow work, and dreamwork, along with other techniques to lead to inner development. If it hadn't been for that work I would have fallen out of this conversation due to lack of discipline, although not for lack of interest, long before it moved to this blog. (Granted, I read more than I contribute as it takes me quite a long time to digest, but I am hanging on). We were taught to look for the force behind the object and that's one thing I think about when I read about the astral light not being energy. I wonder if trying to understand the realm of archetypes and psychoidal alchemy are attempts to work in the same realm from different angles using different language. Also, I've been introduced to the extracellular matrix of the human body within my herbal studies and can't help but see that as within so without. I'm interested in your thoughts and also to see if these correlations in my mind are borne out in experience.

Blaker, I very much appreciate that you've shared your experience here. Your description of an acupuncturist for the land resonates with me and I'm interested to hear where this path leads you. I also am mostly in a state of not knowing but trusting what I receive (as well as trusting myself to receive) enough to orient my studies and actions.

Chris, I feel similarly about the relationship between ADR and TWG. It would also be cool if some who hadn't seen the need or taken concrete steps to better their future lot found ADR through this blog.

Val said...

Lately I've been working on my own vibe - consciously trying to cultivate positive vibrations and send them out there, reinforcing them with daily rituals. In the past two days the following has transpired:

A man with whom I have a slight acquaintance, and have spoken to in the street for maybe ten or twenty minutes at a stretch on a couple of occasions, spoke with me again as I took my daily walk. He talked with me for well nigh 90 minutes; it was all I could do to tear myself away, after several attempts.

Just now, again on my walk, an elderly black lady gave me an unusually friendly greeting as I passed, for no discernible proximate cause.

Immediately after that, a cat that has been hitherto stand-offish positively *ran* toward me to be petted (I was happy to oblige).

I think something's going on here. I think I'll keep it up.

I've also been paying attention to the vibes of places as I walk through them. Since I respond strongly to visual and other sensory inputs - probably something to do with being an artist - I've had difficulty discerning whether I'm responding to the beauty of a locale, or to more immaterial factors. I'll keep paying attention and see whether I can figure out what's going on with that.

I have a feeling that the above-mentioned practices may also be ginning up my intuitions about people - who's OK, who's to be avoided, and so on. Again, I'll keep paying attention and see what turns up.

jean-vivien said...

For Phil :

Muddling day by day,
a people dreaming
back to its heyday
the present left wanting...

What future carried
by those who forgot
what their souls buried
the days they still got.

Elders are ignored
For want of a lot.
Limits exceeded
With no conscious plot.

Values in the mud
Simple truths hiding
like pebbles in sod
From the ground popping.

Cheers !

Today I was carrying a big piece of wood in the street and a random guy just popped by to help me carry it for half of the distance. Given his physical "ethnicity", I suspect he has had to practice carrying stuff a lot in his life... 300 meters's help were probably not much to him but it was godsend ! I am starting to notice how manual work will foster solidarity and tie people together, in a society that basically debases it. Though the need for artisans and at the same time the poor reputation of those jobs has had the effect of making craftsmanship a very profitable line of business in our Capital. Those jobs are still physically very much harder than saitting in an office, though.

Greg Belvedere said...

I have never gotten into doing magic rituals, but I do see myself as someone who practices magic in other ways. Do you think someone needs to engage in ritual magic in order to identify as a mage, or do other forms of magical practice qualify one as a mage? I'm not too concerned about labels, as you write I'm concerned with what works. But I must admit I'm curious what you think.

I have definitely encountered non-incarnated entities through various methods. Regular prayer and meditation work. I'm a fan of the kind of Alchemy described in Catherine MacCoun's On Becoming an Alchemist. It is less about regular ritual (though it does have some basic exercises) and more about performing a certain operation when you encounter a certain situation. I try and apply some of the things I have learned from esoteric writings (Dion Fortune's Psychic Self Defense is a good one). Simply reading Meditations on The Tarot (several times) has yielded good results. I find a deep study of the Marseille Tarot very rewarding. Alejandro Jodorowsky's book on the subject is also very useful and his artistic inclination is a good counterpoint to the heavily Catholic view of "Meditations". The Marseille deck that he restored is very beautiful.

I have also trained in martial arts. In the last month I have started learning and practicing Bagua. I find this a very good way to work with the I Ching, which I used for divination for an extended period of time but have not cast in a long time.

I often wonder about the "black magic" of mass media and advertising.

BoysMom said...

At Church (yes, I know half of you are squirming uncomfortably already) we take Communion. This is something that pretty much crosses denominational bounds, that is, we all do mostly the same ritual, and I think this is also a form of magic as has been defined here, which most of the participants wouldn't recognize as magic. There are an awful lot of people--a billion or so?--deliberately engaging in the Communion ritual. What sort of effects does that have? (I'm a fish: I don't comprehend the water, right?)

Mike said...

Hi John,

I've been reading your primary blog for a long while and stumbled onto this one maybe a month ago. As a rule I don't comment, so this is a bit unusual.

Let me tell you what this is about. In the late spring of last year I had an experience that I could not explain. The subject of this particular blog might help in understanding what happened. Given you're the author of this blog and by all indications a knowledgeable fellow when it comes to these things, you might have a better idea than I about what happened.

Like I said earlier, this was in spring, May to be exact, late in the afternoon. We had just purchased an outdoor grill and an outdoor table to go with it. Since it was an outdoor thing and it needed assembly it was my job to put it all together and make sure it all worked. In the meanwhile my wife searched for a recipe to grill something on the new grill. I went and got all of the appropriate tools and started putting things together. Mind you, normally I don't get to use hand tools in my work. Programming computers generally does not require screwdrivers, wrenches, mallets, hammers or other such implements. So for me this was a welcome task. The deck in the back of the house is where the grill would go so that's where I was putting it all together. We decided grill would go in the corner away from the house and also away from the back door and the deck stairs. That way it would not get in anyone's way. I laid out all of the major components for the table on the deck and then started following the assembly instructions. Along the way I had to open the little bag of hardware, nuts, bolts, washers and such, and counted everything out. I was in my happy spot putting this all together. As I went along assembling this table I would count out the pieces of hardware and place them next to the place where I would need to use them. I did this when I first attached the legs to the table top. The table was upside down. I also did the same when I attached the shelf that is below the top. I then started counting out the bolts that would hold the casters on the table legs. I started on my near right, I went to turn to get something and then I saw something that startled me.

On the table leg to my left, there were four bolts bolts standing upright partly screwed into the pre-drilled holes that are intended for them. My first reaction was "I didn't do that". I would not have done that simply because it would need to be undone for me to attach the casters. Next I said "Well thank you, whoever you are". I wasn't speaking to anyone in particular. There was no other human being around. I was alone on the deck. My next reaction was to show it to my wife. At first my wife didn't understand why I had shown it to her. After a more detailed explanation she insisted I must have done it and forgotten that I had. I knew I didn't do it and that I wouldn't have done it. Her question was "Well then who did it?". I answered her "I simply don't know". Jokingly I added, "Maybe it's a ghost". I showed the same thing to my son. He just shrugged his shoulders "That's weird dad". I finished putting everything together including the grill and we had our dinner that night.

We have a running joke that whenever someone misplaces something "It must be dad's helper" that's responsible.

I still can't explain how those four bolts were upright and partly screwed into that table leg. Either I very quickly put them in there then completely and thoroughly forgot that I had done so thereby startling myself, or someone else did it. Who that someone else could be I have no idea. There were no humans or other animals with me on that deck while I was assembling that table. In fact someone else could not have easily fit into that space without us bumping into each other.

I can't explain what happened, I wonder what your opinion on this is.

Thank You,


Gardener Green said...

I have started a study program of ritual magic using “The Celtic Golden Dawn” book. I am pretty much a novice to ritual magic and it goes slow. Learning and committing the ritual to memory is not a problem. I was an I.T. programmer for years so dealing with structure and patterns is no problem for me. My problem is committing the Word Vibrations to memory. I do not want to do the ritual and constantly have to refer to notes or the book. However tonight being the full moon I will go out and Cut some sprays of Rosemary to keep on my person while studying hoping it will improve my memorization.

On another subject, for many years (about 18 to be exact) I studied the Book of Changes. It always seemed to me that the ‘Oracle’ statements made more sense as advise then as divination. Sort of like seeking out a Wise old Sage for advise on troubles or a problem. Though at times I would get a reading with a powerful predictive slant.

However my chief interest was less the oracle statements for the hexagrams or the line oracles but rather the Hexagrams themselves. I was able penetrate very deeply into the this mysterious arrangement of lines and Hexagrams. So I was basically investigating the total sequence of the 64 Hexagrams. I discovered some very powerful internal structures to the Sequence.

I dropped my studies of the Hexagrams in ’96 when my wife died and I took up the Vajrayana practice instead. But now that I am starting into a study of magic I find a strong compulsion to go back and dig into the Hexagrams again. I have come to the conclusion that the Hexagrams and the 64 sequence is powerful form of ritual magic.

So to give a brief look at some of the high points that I find significant: First, it is not just any arrangement of Hexagrams. If you draw them all out in Sequence you will quickly realize that it is a Sequence of 32 ordered pairs. But the ordering between the pairs themselves is a much deeper relationship and definitely not random. I wont go into that now as it would require about 10 pages to explain.

The point I am getting to is that by treating the Hexagrams as an ordered sequence I discovered that the moon cycles will map perfectly onto the sequence. And if you treat each Hexagram Line in the Sequence as a day then the whole sequence becomes a Lunar calendar of 13 lunar cycles. A 384 day lunar calendar that is so accurate it only needs to be adjusted once in 10 years. However, of course, it isn’t a seasonal calendar but very likely an astrological calendar. There also seems to be a correspondence to Jupiter and the 11 year cycle of solar sunspots.

Now to make a short story long I am optimistic that penetrating deeply enough into the sequence and hexagrams I can find the keys to use it in ritual magic. Wish me luck!

Lilith Aurora said...

I appreciate this blog quite a bit, saying this as someone currently devouring various atheist literature and going through a skeptic spell...after a long passive pagan rut. It's my attempt for now to hold my two competing impulses/theories (toward occultism and pure materialist atheism) simultaneously and not force anything,which is the best option I can see, given the circumstances.
I am tempted to give these exercises you mentioned a try, as it seems so convenient a practice for someone with virtually no privacy.

-Also, I completely agree when you say most skeptics who dismiss astrology have no idea what they're even referring to when they use the word. I find that frustrating, reading through some of the words of Christopher Hitchens. It's not apparent he's even aware that astrology takes forms outside of monthly sun-sign columns.

John Michael Greer said...

Eric, well, there are certainly common themes in the practices of OBOD and AODA, and a lot of common ground philosophically as well. Still, there are also significant differences, as you'll find. As for the piece by Aaron Leitch, the one weakness to his argument is that he doesn't seem to be aware that there are nonwestern analogues to Western ceremonial magic -- Taoist magic in China, esoteric Buddhist magic in Japan, and the more intellectual Tantras in India are examples. I'll be discussing this in a future post.

Daelach, for what it's worth, I don't think that a life-denying dimension is necessarily a part of the Second Religiosity; it so happens that this was the case with the last round of civilizations to fall, but that's because that was the rising religious sensibility of the time. My working guess is that this time we'll see something rather different.

As for rune magic, I don't practice it -- it's a common experience in the Druid scene that people who get along well with Ogham can't use runes at all, and vice versa; I have very good results with Ogham -- but I know people who are very, very good at it. It's potent stuff; I'd use the word "primal" rather than "primitive," but of course your mileage may vary.

Maria, excellent. That'll become easier as you continue with the practical work.

Cherokee, precisely! Ritual is a way of storytelling. Magic itself can be seen as a storyteller's art -- the art of telling stories that are so compelling they become reality for those who listen. You have to get past the conscious level, the level of chatter; storytelling does that, and so -- by most of the same means -- do the emotionally charged symbols and ritual psychodramas of magic.

Changeling, glad to hear it. The world needs more competent mages; work through Bardon's system, and you'll be one of them.

Mirela, welcome to the real world. I know, it's very big and very scary, if you're used to the inside of a burrow -- but as you've noted, you were here all the time, you just didn't know it.

Blaker, good. There's actually an extensive literature, most of it British, on earth acupuncture -- what do you think those standing stones were for? You might see if you can find Needles of Stone by Tom Graves and any of the earth-energies writings of Paul Devereux for starters. Yes, we'll be talking about that here, too.

Mirela, you'll get a lot of static until you learn to tune your receiver! That's what the basic disciplines of meditation and protective ritual are for.

John, the best advice is still Frank Herbert's. Memorize that, and repeat it to yourself with intent -- willing it -- when you feel afraid. See what happens.

Bill, well, great minds think alike! As for why geocentric astrology works, I've always assumed it has a lot to do with the fact that we live on the Earth, not on the Sun, and the movements of the planets relative to our position are what matters -- which is ultimately not that different from what you've suggested.

John Michael Greer said...

Jean-Vivien, I hope you're wrong. I really do.

Merle, since the point of this blog is to talk about magic to people who don't realize that they're already living in a magical universe, it's going to have to go a step at a time, and cover a lot of very basic ground. I know that's less than thrilling to experienced people, but there it is.

Cherokee, it's somewhat more complex than that. We'll talk about the difference between exoteric and esoteric practice in an upcoming post...

Ing, that's certainly one way to look at it. Jung, as of course you'll be aware, was massively influenced by the European occultism of his time, and used to cast his patient's horoscopes to help him figure out how best to work with them. I have yet to see anybody point out just how much of his basic schema of the self derives from astrological sources, though!

Val, excellent! That's a good solid training exercise, the sort of thing that would be assigned to a student who showed promise, back in the early 20th century occult schools here in the US.

Greg, ritual magic is only one branch of occultism, and back in the day it was practiced by a minority. The sort of thing you've described was far and away the most common approach, so you're in good company. I really do have to do some posts on the different branches of occult study and practice, don't I?

BoysMom, you may be interested to learn that the Gnostic Celtic Church, the sacramental branch of the Druid order I head, also has a Communion ritual, which I and other GCC priests and priestesses perform regularly. Yes, it's a very old and very powerful form of magic. What are you doing when you participate in such a ritual? You're taking material substances, bread and wine, which are brought into a special relationship (however defined theologically) with a primary source of spiritual power -- we'll discuss the implications of that term "spiritual power" in a later post -- and you're taking those things and making them part of your body in the most primal possible way, by eating them. In Christian language, you're making your body one with the body of God. Potent stuff!

Mike, these things happen all the time -- it's just that people in the modern industrial world are taught to ignore them. When they happen, respond to them with gratitude; pay attention to the "vibe" and see if you get a sense of something you can do in return. That's how most human beings in most of human history have maintained healthy relationships with the unseen. More on this as we proceed!

Gardener, the Book of Changes is packed full of magic -- and yes, there are time cycles woven into it, on many different scales. If you have access to a traditional Taoist practitioner or temple, you can learn a lot; you can also learn a lot by close study of the Changes and regular divination.

Lilith, a lot of people in the Neopagan scene are turning to atheism these days, for complex reasons. I'd encourage you to reflect on why you find atheism appealing -- what the attractions are. (I'll be discussing some of that later this month.) As for Hitchens and astrology, no argument there -- it's a source of wry amusement to me that so many atheists, no matter how passionately they claim to be committed to reason, behave toward astrology in exactly the same way that fundamentalist Christians behave toward Darwinian evolution: they know nothing about it, but still feel entitled to insist that it's wrong, wrong, WRONG!!!

daelach said...

@ JMG: I'd like to hope you are right when it comes to a more positive Second Religiosity; on the other hand, I think that there is a good reason why it came that way the last times. The whole time perception as laid down e.g. by Augustinus is one of decline, which is typical for a falling civilisation because, well, the fall implies that everything is going south. A religion must relate to the life of the people in order to take hold on them.

When each generation has a harder time in this life than the generation before, it will take quite some effort to change the measures according to which life is good or bad. If we succeed in doing so along the lines of "a simpler life isn't a worse one", shaking off contemporary consumerism, then I see a chance. But first, that isn't a given, that's to be worked for, and second, succeeding in doing so isn't a given either - it's a chance.

So your guess is that "it will be different this time"? You know, had that come from anyone else but you, I would have been laughing. But since you have made fun of that phrase over and over, I assume you have good reasons - which of course I'd be interested in. Does it have to do something with our culture's current evasion of the ecologic question, which, in the long run, will turn out as a dead end (pun intended), forcing us to come to terms with our natural livelihood?

Funny btw. that you mention the Ogham. I took a look at it as neopagan tree horoscope many years ago. I never acquired more than an impression, certainly not an understanding, because I had the strange feeling that I just was not able to relate to it. Trees don't seem to talk to me.. but I like them also when they keep silent. (;

It seems that while the distinction between Celtic and Germanic culture in ancient times is a complex matter in itself, there is a notable difference at least in the contemporary characteristics. Similar in some ways, but with a different vibe to it, thus attracting different people - who make the vibe different. Sounds like circular logic, but that's how reality is created. "Different", of course, doesn't mean better or worse.

As for "primal", yes, that's a nice expression, avoiding the somewhat negative connotation of "primitive", which I didn't want to imply.

Concerning the power storytelling, a little entertaining event was when my wife and me were in Norway; in the evenings on the camp fire, we used to make up a whole mythology which involved, amongst others, trolls and cheese trucks. The trolls, obviously, were after the cheese. A young troll would become adult the moment that it would capture its first cheese from a truck, that's the trollish initiation. My wife was especially concerned with the small trolls who cannot use force to get by the cheese. When we were at a restaurant in the mountains, the supply truck stopped by, and we had a funny chat with the driver - people in Norway are not in a hurry; and finally, my wife got a yoghurt cup right from the truck without even having asked. We had talked that into being.

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG, Dalelach, about runes, ogham, primalism, etc...

Personally I have not found most ways of writing ogham to be aesthetically pleasing to me, and of course if you think your magic is "ugly" it's not likely to work for you (assuming that beauty is one of the things you prefer to manifest, of course!). Which put me in a quandary, because I wanted to have inscriptions on our front porch in runes and ogham along with greek, latin, and sanskrit (to cover our biological, cultural, and linguistic ancestry). But then I discovered with a tiny bit of research that there are a million ways to implement the basic concept of ogham script, so I was able to find/devise one that I found pleasing to my eye.

As for primal stuff -- when you work with things that connect to your deep ancestral roots, be prepared for what it might mean if it works. I tacked up Algiz on the corners of our property for protection when I began to feel a more vulnerable vibe rippling through the landscape. Not long after, I began to become aware of the presence of generally humanish and vaguely grayish entities around the place. I did not immediately make the connection. But when I almost clearly saw one basically standing sentry near one of the places I had put up the runes, it all made sense.

Our perimeter is evidently now being patrolled by dead vikings.

So, depending on how one feels about having dead vikings around the place, this could be considered a good thing or a bad thing. But it is the sort of thing one should be prepared for if one is going to be involved with these ancient systems. Though nothing really dramatic has manifested from our new protection service so far (generally with protection, nothing happening means it is working!), in my past experience these situations do contain the the potential for very impressive activities if circumstances justify and an intervention is necessary. In other words, if you are not prepared for a tree limb to come crashing down and cause a car to swerve into the ditch, possibly seriously injuring the occupant, if deemed necessary to protect you from someone who might mean you harm, well... don't hire dead vikings for your security squad!

And of course in our polycultural mishmash of modern America, I felt it was only polite to invite the dead vikings inside to join our samhain feast. They didn't make too much of a mess.

Professor Pan said...

What a terrific article, JMG!

Right before reading this I was re-reading Crowley's The Book of Thoth (1944) as research for a Tarot course I'm teaching in February. This passage in particular stuck out and resonated very closely with what you've written:

"The idea of the Universe in the mind of a modern mathematician is singularly reminiscent of the ravings of William Blake . . . But the mystics were all wrong when they were pious, and held that their mysteries were too sacred to analyze. They ought to have brought in the idea of measure. This is exactly what was done by the magicians and the Qabalists. The difficulty has been that the units of measurement have themselves been somewhat elastic; they even tend to be literary."


Keep up the great work, and I hope these posts will all be gathered into a nicely bound book one day, where it will occupy a prime spot on my shelves.

daelach said...

Bill.. that with the greyish entities gave me a shiver!

I own a clear mountain crystal which I acquired from a shaman after a serious working. I sometimes look into that crystal, and it takes a while, but then it seems to open to somewhere. When I keep the focus on the crystal but at the same time also concentrate on my peripheral vision, I can see things that seem to get projected out of that crystal. More often than not, I get the peripheral vision of a face of a grey, old man with long hair. He's just here, watching.

Yes, I'd feel more than happy with some dead vikings if they are on good terms with me. I think I'll offer some good mead to any viking guards that may be around. Maybe something happens afterwards. If not, I can repeat it at Walpurgis and Samhain, just in case. Thanks for the hint! (:

Oh, man.. there's something else, now that you've mentioned it. Every year, I use the occasion of New Year's Eve when I can make noise as I like for purging my surroundings. What I use is a big war horn. I guess that would drive away anything - except dead vikings who should instead feel attracted to heed the call..!

mirela said...

Re: "welcome to the real world"
Thanks, it's good to be here. I confess I regret hiding for so long and am sure I'll be forced to eat some crow in the coming months as I begin practice and reflect on some of the skeptical snarky comments I've made to various people over the years.
Began my practice this morning with a 10 minute meditation (hey, I have to start somewhere) and reading the introductory chapters of your Mystery Teachings from the living Earth. I've spent a good bit of the day laughing at myself for being so enthusiastic about my "discoveries" regarding what is apparently a very basic kindergarten exercise!
-sigh- oh well, a dose of humility now and then is a good thing, I suppose.
So now that you have my attention, I'm going to sit down and shut up and put some work into tuning that receiver.

John Michael Greer said...

Daelach, it's only different this time if you treat last time as the norm, which it's not -- the fall of classical civilization isn't the only example we have to go on, you know. When Egyptian civilization went through its first dark age, at the end of the Old Kingdom, for example, the Second Religiosity centered on the worship of Osiris, an intensely life-affirming faith. It really does depend on the religious sensibility that happens to be rising at the time.

Bill, doesn't surprise me at all. The Norse tradition has done a remarkable job of naturalizing itself on this continent, and having the Einherjar show up for guard duty is just par for the course.

Professor P., thank you. There's indeed a book in all this, though it's going to be a while, and will take a lot of close editing!

Mirela, oh, granted -- I went through the same thing when I first got enough of a clue to start at the kindergarten level. It's where we all have to start.

Bill Pulliam said...

Daelach -- about 20 years ago I was shown a face like that in a ritual. Now I see it in the mirror.

From the teaser he finished with, I'm sure JMG will talk a LOT more about our Friends Without Bodies (et al). After a while they stop being so shocking. Remember JMGs overarching theme, the world we perceive is constructed in our minds. And I also remember what I once heard second hand, a true pearl of wisdom:

"Just because they don't have bodies does not mean they are any smarter than we are."

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- so now I am wondering if I should post signs saying "Warning: This property patrolled by dead Vikings. Trespassers will be blood-eagled." But I'm not sure I want to have to deal with finding the corpse of one of my ginseng-poaching neighbors who slipped, fell, and wound up with his lungs ripped out by a sharp branch...

Lilith Aurora said...

One thing I have never been able to get my head around in any religion is the connection to god/goddesses. There's an empty feeling in relation to that and a great disappointment. In some ways, I feel I'd be better off thinking that was because there were no gods than I'd just failed somehow to contact or be contacted by them.
Magic and ritual as a form of energy manipulation is demonstrable through experience and something that has affected me and many close friends I've made through the Neo-Pagan world. So, it's more difficult for me to denounce that. That includes astrology.
I do find myself wishing, more often than not, that there was a clear presence of God or divinity in my experience, and that I was as certain as I used to be in an afterlife. I question my wishing more than anything..
The impulse toward atheism, for me at least, is riddled with depression and a certain anger. Disappointment, but also a relief in contemplating that no amount of effort on my part to experience a connection with 'higher beings' something not human or animal, or whatever you want to call it, could be anything other than fantasy. So, if there's any appeal, it would be to relieve me finally of the responsibility to attain such a relationship that I've never felt anyway.

mallow said...

I've been doing the first dogd ritual then meditating on and off for a while now and afterwards have been seeing white kind of misty shapes that float and dance around in the dark, sometimes like waves. Is that likely to be my eyes plying tricks on me, an over active imagination or could I be seeing some form of the astral light?

John Michael Greer said...

Bill, I think the original of that was a saying of Swami Beyondananda: "Just because they're dead doesn't mean they're smart." Or, I might add, well-intentioned. As for the warning signs, yeah, I'd be very slow to put those up, for exactly that reason.

Lilith, that's very common, and as I see it, it has its roots in the ways that people raised in Western industrial cultures are taught in childhood to suppress and deny their own experience of metaphysical realities, and nonembodied beings. Keep probing the depression and anger, and underneath it you'll find a wound that has never healed. I'll be talking a good deal more about this as we proceed.

Mallow, good question. It's usually best, when dealing with such experiences early on in training, to leave the question open, and see what happens as the work progresses; if they fade away, that means one thing, and if they develop and expand into a mode of perception, that means something rather different.

Gardener Green said...

It is apparent to me that I have to move my Alter. The current space simply feels wrong. I need to create a special sacred area to do my 'work'. The trouble is I can't decide between 2 rooms.

The Downstairs North bedroom currently my office has a South facing wall which when cleared would be ideal for wall hangings and magical items. It has a North and West facing corner windows which would be behind me while I was engage in the 'Work'. Then there is a South bedroom upstairs (Guest room) with a South facing Window which when on my cushion would give me a view of the sky and the big Fir trees on my neighbors property. This room is quieter from outside noises and has the added advantage of hearing the rain and wind which would keep me more in tune with the natural weather rhythms. Also during the summer there is a North window at the end of the hall and with the door open would give a good cross breeze when it was warm. Both rooms have a good feel to them.

Interesting; as I write this I am feeling inclined to the upstairs room even though preparing it would be a lot more work and time.

Also I am making a Mage Staff out of Madrone. It has been my favorite tree all my life. The staff as I work on it is getting a distinctly Feminine quality about it. I now talk to it constantly as I work on it. I can find nothing though on the magical qualities of Madrone. Is there some way to, let us say, get under the hood and find out what is there?

Ozark Chinquapin said...

Thank you for this blog, JMG, I had come up with similar ideas based on my own experience and putting together things I have read, but nowhere have I found is stated so simply and clearly as this blog post. I thought for a long time that my experiences were just very unusual, sure I knew of the various "paramormal" fads out there but since my expereince never fit into any of those boxes any better than it did into the materialist ones, I've only recently begun to realize that there are some coherent ideas out there that could at least put my experiences into a more meaningful context.

I want to share a personal experience here. I have a good number of spontaneous lucid dearms, always have. I used to always assume that however interesting they were, they were "just a dream". Since becoming more aware of the vibes and the astral light, I have occasionally thought about them in this dream state, and I've found that while in the waking state I only perceive the astral light as vibes and never noticed anything as distinct as an entity, in the dream state it feels much more detailed, and one occurrence this past summer stood out in particular. I had had plenty of dreams before for a while where I felt as if something was pressing into me, a feeling of pressure. I noticed that in this dream, and was aware enough that this feeling felt like it was coming from a presence, a being. I felt it and asked it mentally something like, Who are you, what do you want with me? I then felt as if its astral light interacted with mine and started seeing lots of images and words that seemed to come not as normal dream images from my mind but as information flowing in. The problem was that it seemed kind of jumbled, like my mind couldn't really understand it or interpret it, and even though I tried to remember it, I couldn't remember any specific content. What I do remember is that after this "sharing' happened, the presence felt satisfied and I felt it leaving on its own.

There's nothing in my experience that could prove it wasn't just all in my head, but it certainly felt as if dealing with another. Also, I stopped having dreams with that particular sense of pressure after that, it seemed to have resolved something.

jean-vivien said...

Holy s**** !!! It is 13:11 on the 7th, GMT +1, and an unspeakable deed has just been committed in the big capital city where I live.

One or two hours before I am writing this, 2 masked and heavily armed gunmen have entered the infamous satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo's office and opened fire on people who were gathered for the weekly editorial staff meeting.
Needless to say that I am shocked as hell... it is easy to imigine one country's countrymen turning on each other, but I would never have imagined the violence most likely to occur, that is a simple, deadly faceless terrorist attack perpetrated just like that on innocent people. Probably because we unconsciously filter away from our consciousness the most likely and immediate dangers.
This will add more tension to a society which did hardly want or need any more.
This is nightmare... I wish it never happened, but it is a bit late for that.

jean-vivien said...

... and the word of the day on the gmail client page : Word of the Day - evanesce: to disappear gradually; vanish; fade away. - 12/30/14

Yikes !

RPC said...

Bill Pulliam,
"Our perimeter is evidently now being patrolled by dead vikings."

Goodness, if they've graciously deigned to leave Valhalla to patrol your patch of land, I hope you're leaving out some mead now and then! (You can drink it after a few hours as long as they get first dibs.)

Phil Harris said...

Yes - all over the News here: gut wrenching stuff. The assasins aim for a nerve in all of us.


Phil Harris said...

Daelach and JMG and Bill and Guardians

On a gentler note in a violent world - I have cliimbed on the rock face of Buachaille Etive Mor - The Great Shepherd at the entrance of Glen Etive. This is an impressive mountain as you approach Glen Coe over the eastern moors. (Glen Etive was the home of Deirdre of the Sorrows in Celtic folklore).

One time as we approached in the car, I said to my wife: "You can see the face".
"Yes", she replied, "I can."
And then I saw the face she meant, a grey long haired elderly man with prominent eyebrows and a long nose. It lasted for some seconds and then was gone. I am glad he is there.

Phil H

onething said...

But - BoysMom,

Some churches regard the communion as a sacrament, and others are very casual about it, using it as a memorial ritual with little interest or power.

What do you think?


Hithchens is very hard not to like. Just about impossible not to like. And he's witty. And yet his theological stance is not very profound. He once did a debate with his brother, who is religious, and it was not on a high level at all.

Perhaps a connection to personal gods is not for you. Perhaps you might like something more abstract, like a universal mind. The Buddhists don't focus on a personal deity at all. I have a very ambivalent relationship with a person who resonates perhaps most closely with the Sufis which is probably the most opposite to Buddhism. And yet I have such a regard, bordering on awe, of Buddhism. Precisely because it is so out of the ballpark. It is often considered atheistic, and yet it more defers the question, I think. Supposedly, someone asked Buddha, But what about God? And Buddha said something to the effect of, Get enlightened first, and then worry about God.

I've thought about that. All of the walking wounded on this earth, using religion as a crutch, as an avoidance mechanism even - where better to hide from God than in church? - when they can't even think straight. Enlightenment, after all, is not the end but the beginning, before which one hasn't much sense and is not even very sane.

I would not, if I were you, feel in any great hurry to judge myself for failing to find a connection. Hang loose and don't jump to conclusions. What a long, strange trip we are on.

I appreciate your honesty and it is a tribute to John Michael that he was able to elicit it.

For me, at least, there are two doors. One is being connected, but the other is logical thought. My faith is upheld by both. My logical thought leads to the conclusion that the origin of existence is inexplicable and astounding.
I suggest the website Metaphysical Speculations for a tour through the logic of Mind as the fundament of all things. Bernardo has thought long and hard about these things and has gotten to the point that he is quite comfortable in this philosophical realm and explains the somewhat abstruse logic of turning our worldview upside down quite well. Given time, your mind might rewire.

Henry Vistbacka said...

Hello JMG. I have two questions.

1) Which one(s) of your book(s) is/are closest to the themes of this blog?
2) For a while now, I've been wondering about the methods you use to keep focus to be able to do everything you do, to meet your deadlines, and keep from getting sucked into the endless vacuum of interesting information. From your writings one gets the sense that in addition to your regular blogs, your books and speeches, you also take a lot of time to read books and follow through the links that people drop here, and I imagine you do some random surfing around also? And on top of all that, one also gets the impression that you also have a life outside all this. So yeah, how do you manage your way around all this, and not get too drawn into random forms of procrastination? Of course this ability is connected to your practice in general, but I'd appreciate as much details on this particular area as possible.

Nicolas Costa said...

So, today I was practicing meditation in the subway on the way to my work (this particular subway line is never too crowded and it takes about ten minutes to complete the trip, so I have a convenient set time and nothing really important to distract me) and since I'm already doing well with the relaxation and respiration I made my first attempt at doing the whole process of meditation.

When I arrived at my stop, which took the usual time all my extremities were tingling, and not in a subtle way. While the sensation in my legs faded after some minutes it took a few hours until I couldn't perceive the effect on my hands. Is that a usual effect of meditation?

I also had a stronger image of the light spheres used for the Elemental Cross (I'm attempting to visualize the images during different moments of the day, even if I'm not performing the Sphere of Protection so my mind gets used to the process).

BoysMom said...

Onething, I have never seen a Christian Church take Communion as anything other than a sacrament. However, being a United Methodist, I can see how an outsider might think it is casual--our variations are derived from our circuit rider era history, and we'll get quite loud if anyone should suggest we alter them! We are one of the more casual appearing Churches in my experience, but it is a formal ritual.
I don't understand the use of rituals in magic, but I've been involved in rituals all my life, between the Church and the Masonic Family Organizations, which is why I asked Brother Greer.

Val said...

In the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram, and in other Golden Dawn based rituals, one calls down the light with "Let the Divine Light descend!" Would this be the astral light, or is that something else?

I can't imagine the Divine Light being morally neutral; surely divinity is good, at least as conceived by the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (HOGD). Whereas the astral light I'm not sure of; is it an emanation or medium whereby malefic influences can be transmitted as readily as benefic influences, as with the pneuma of celestial bodies in traditional astrology? I'm not really clear on the relationship or (possibly) distinctions between the two.

mallow said...

Nicolas, as a fellow beginner I can't tell you anything for certain but I get that tingling and heat too and it does seem to correlate with visualizing things in rituals more clearly so I think the two things must be closely related. You can do funny things with the tingling sensation if you want to try it - you can send it up and down through your body. It's good fun and pretty harmless I think. It's easier to feel it in your hands and feet than in the middle of your body but I suspect that bringing the feeling into the middle and into your head too is part of what rituals and meditation do. It's interesting to see where it gets stuck and how you can unstick it. Don't know what it means though.

Strangely enough, when we were teenagers my sister and I used to go out and never be properly dressed for the weather while waiting for taxis or walking home. She never complained about being cold and couldn't understand why I did. She thought everyone could do what she did, which was to imagine a ball of heat in the middle of her stomach which then kind of radiated out to keep her warm. I think that's the same, um, stuff, happening. How she naturally knew how to do that I don't know.

Emmanuel Goldstein said...

Very interesting discussion of astral light; Your description of it reminds me a lot of the description of neutrinos, which stream from the sun, and pass through the earth and everything on it. I wonder if there's any relation between them--and how would anyone find out?

The idea of ebbs and flows in the astral light resonated for me as well-- For about 9 months, I have been keeping track of 'psi-weather:' moods that seem to pass through like emotions, but without any apparent root in what is going on around me. Sometimes I can link it to events that are happening elsewhere, sometimes with great intensity. For example, I was driving a car a number of years ago and suddenly encountered a wave of fear and panic. I screamed and almost wrecked the car. Later I found out that this occurred at the time the 747 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Mostly the psi-weather is not that intense, and most often not linkable to external events. Could variations in astral light make a person occasionally more sensitive to intense emotional events like this?

Thanks to all comment-writers as well as JMG for a fascinating discussion!

Nicolas Costa said...

mallow: I have a different technique when it comes to cold. I imagine my skin cools below the current temperature, like an armor forming around my body. Doesn't works when it gets too cold (and humid) but I can easily walk with summer clothes while most people around me are already wearing winter clothes.

On the other hand, summers kill me with the heath and I haven't found so far a way to bear the summer climate.

jean-vivien said...

[A long one, not sure it's relevant, feel free to cut me and tell me so we can check it later]

I still tend to pick all this occult stuff from a long distance. But after this overly interesting week, I have come to a shocking realization. That nations do run on magick as much as economics.
Over here, we have witnessed a historic rallying of people, states media and corporations.
Of course you can spot subtle cracks : the presence of leaders not very famous for their qualms about sacrificing civilians, some other important ones absent, video footage with a bloodless head getting shot at gunpoint range. Germany featuring one scarier rallying of its own, muscled rethorics from our Head of State.
Yet overall it was an astounding display of solidarity, generous applause for police forces more used to getting smashed bottles on the head than to be offered roses.
To the point that it felt like one actor had been eclipsed from the stage, only creeping back now to the headlines. One of the key personality traits Charlie defends, that is, a basic sense of criticality and irreverency.
Seeing how everybody including their former ideological enemies was rallying behind Charlie had me marvel at what it had taken to unite the nation so.
I cannot shake the feeling, weird as it may be, that we have lived through what was akin to a collective human sacrifice. I have noticed that on funerals and hardships, humans tend to change their group behaviours towards a more socially constructive than usual set of habits.
All the tensions running through our society were somehow channelled as positive energies around the emblematic death of people very symbolic to us. Could anything else have achieved the same result right now ?

Magickal traditions can include imagery revolving around life and death. And I see that somehow the more people you want to unite, the stronger the magick has to be employed. Alas, employing death is a shortcut well tried throughout History.
The most fashionable legitimate way for a government to openly and deliberately orchestrate this is a good old war. For terrorist groups, martyrdom is war's asymetric equivalent.
Right now this line of thinking is fortunately unacceptable because we still live in affluence and prosperity. Yet the feces are getting closer to the rotating devices, with the Saudi reign's waning legitimacy, peak oil, bubbles imploding, nations in debt and all the familiar etc. And the theme of how we handle magick on a collective level bears more relevance each day.

Last week I was wondering what the news were trying to teach me. Now I would articulate it this way : the positive ways to channel our collective energies require either working all together, through a lot of efforts, or redirecting our group eneryg towards smaller conceptions of the collective.
Otherwise we are easy game for taumaturgists who take darker shortcuts to focus the same energies.
I still have trouble seeing a response redefining collectivity. We used the Internet to this end, with event and community websites, but mostly for entertainment purposes or very specialized professional communities.
Since we have such a History of organizing around big national Institutions, I suppose we will collectively have to take the more costly path, collective theurgy, not without its rewards.
Do people over here on this blog have insights as to where to start in that direction ? I would bet that it starts first with the individual, the way Green Wizardry works.
And it is one thing to make your body tingle, as for an entire nation... that is why I cannot fathom how surfing the Astral Light would be relevant, but as usual here, I expect to be surprised.

Cherokee Organics said...


Beli, may just have pulled one out of the hat. 63mm (2.5 inches) of rainfall so far in high summer. It is not unprecedented, but it is certainly very very welcome. Respect.

Hope that your winter is mild and that you are keeping warm up there in the cold northern hemisphere.



Bill Pulliam said...

So, I had an idea for a collective nickname for all those various "inhabitants" that your teaser suggests you will be discussing soon (inspired by the 1990 Terry Bisson short story):

The Meatless

Val said...

I have a practical magic question. Can anyone recommend some spells for getting rid of fruit flies? They're swarming in my place and driving me up the wall. Truly they are the spawn of Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies!

On the material end of things, I've posted a similar question at the Green Wizards Cafe forum. I want to try a double-pronged approach, material and magical. I wouldn't be astonished if they need to be exorcised (see ref to Beelzebub above).

BTW, there happens to be something rather creepy about the vibes of the house in which I and my family rent a flat (maybe the fruit flies are connected with it..?). So an all-purpose cleansing wouldn't hurt either. I'm open to any and all constructive suggestions.

mirela said...

Well, here's a fun one...
In the short time since I've crawled out of my little burrow, synchronicities have been coming thick and fast. Today brought yet another link in the chain....
A few weeks ago, decided to go shopping at a different from usual grocery store. Conversation with stranger leads to job interview leads to new job which I started last week. New job is tutoring schoolkids. One of my students I find hard to reach - she's horribly bored by the material she's supposed to be reading and it is difficult to cajole her into doing the writing she needs to do. I asked her what she likes to read about. Found that the local public library and University library both have age-appropriate books on the topic. I decided to go get one for her, so today hopped on bike and instead of stopping at public library (less than a mile) continued on to the University - about 3.5 miles. About halfway there, I see an object on the road. A book. Glance down at it as I'm zipping by. If I were a cartoon character, a series of !?!?!?! would have appeared in the air over my head. Could I possibly have read that right? Circled back around & picked up the book. Yep, I read that right: The Druids,by P.B. Ellis.

A Deeper Meaning I see here is this: I'm not the only person in this town with an interest in Druids. (hooray!) I've been really hoping I'd find someone around here I could talk to about this stuff. SO, if you're out there reading this, and you've lost a book (purchased 17 Jan (yesterday!) at Half Price Books (receipt is still in the book)...I have your book. My email is mirela211212 at gmail dot com. I'll be happy to return it to you, tho I'd appreciate it if you'll let me hang on to it for a couple weeks so I may read it. (I regret to inform you it has been somewhat damaged - pages 1-83 are creased and have tire tracks on them).

Heather in CA said...

I'm a rank beginner at magic, so I can't advise you there. (Do fruit flies fear the astral light? Or on the contrary, are they attracted by it? ;) But when it comes to battling fruit flies, like the vast swarms that invade when you don't get to canning the tomatoes you harvested yesterday (or was it the day before?) quite fast enough, I have, ahem, some experience. And I can't be bothered to go log in over at GW, so please forgive, JMG et al. A shallow bowl, a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar or juice or wine or whatever, a few drops of dish soap. Cover with plastic wrap and poke some holes in the top. Your flies will all be trapped and drowned in a couple of days, guaranteed. Now if you could suggest a spell to help me not be so flaky when it comes to processing the harvest… :)

And @Mirela, I really, really hope you find the person who lost the book. Will you update here if you do? I am thrilled by the dawning realization (given permission in my mind by this blog and JMG's work more broadly) that the coincidences and synchronicities I have always noticed and then worked to ignore may in fact be meaningful, just not simple to understand.

I am waiting breathlessly for this month's post. Way more exciting than Christmas. :) Thank you to the commentariat from whose perspectives and experiences I am also learning, and who give me much to think about while I bide my time until the 21st. I so appreciate the context this blog provides to help me understand my experiences and expand my thinking.

--Heather in CA

Unknown said...

Have you considered working with "the ancestors"? I suggest it because whatever you might believe about their current state of existence, you don't have to worry about whether they are "real". If you have a positive connection to any of your deceased ancestors, this might be an alternative to working with ancient (or contemporary) deities that seem distant and unreal.

How does "astral light" relate to Qi? My assumption is that Qi has to do with living things, whereas "astral light" as you describe it seems to refer to something that connects the entire fabric of the universe together, so they must be rather different, but I would be curious for any clarification you have. I'm not really familiar with 19th century occult terminology, as I'm more interested in Renaissance magic, and even more so Hermetic magic from Late Antiquity (partly thanks to the fantastic work of Jake Stratton-Kent).

*Not sure how to create an ID on here, just call me DAP...

Kutamun said...

Hi Mirela ,
Maybe the book was for the girl you are teaching ??