Thursday, July 21, 2016

How Not to Learn Magic: An Introductory Note

Lately I’ve been sorting through my collection of books on occultism and deciding which of them still need a place on my bookshelves. That’s a useful chore at intervals, if only because new books are always coming out and bookshelf space is regrettably finite; still, it has a little more importance this time around, as this sorting comes at something of a turning point in my occult career.

A bit of autobiography may be useful here. From my first tentative dabblings in magic in the mid-1970s until 1994, when I was initiated into the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD), I worked pretty much exclusively with the Golden Dawn tradition of practical occultism, as interpreted by Israel Regardie on the one hand, and Dion Fortune and her students W.E. Butler, William Gray, and Gareth Knight on the other. That was partly a choice of necessity, since the Golden Dawn system was very nearly the only thoroughly developed curriculum of occult study and practice you could get in those days—if, that is, you happened to be a geeky young man with very little money, no connections in the occult scene, and no access to occult literature except via a few not very impressive bookstores and the kind of mail order catalogues that carried Anna Riva’s Magic Oils, photocopied talismans out of the Key of Solomon, and what passed, in those rather more innocent times, for manuals of racy sex.

Even after I found my spiritual home in Druidry, I continued my Golden Dawn studies and practices. My completion of the OBOD study course in 2001, though, marked a turning point. By that time it was a good deal easier to get access to a wide range of magical instruction, and I’d also picked up a reading knowledge of Latin and French, which opened doors to a range of traditions most people in the American occult scene have still never heard of. By that time, too, I’d worked my way through the Golden Dawn system in its entirety, and while there was still plenty of work there for me to do—you can easily spend an entire lifetime working through the possibilities of any reasonably complex system of magic, and never run out of things to do—I was ready to explore something else for a while.

Exploring something else, in turn, occupied the next fifteen years. I sought initiation in two other Druid orders, and duly became a Druid Adept in the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA) and a Third Order priest in the Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA), but my vagaries weren’t limited to Druidry by any means. Among other things, I completed extensive study programs in Renaissance astrological magic and old-fashioned Southern conjure, practiced radionics using a homebuilt Hieronymus machine, devoted some serious time to laboratory alchemy, dove headfirst into sacred geometry, geomancy, and both traditional and modern astrology, got competent at two systems of alternative healing with important ties to occultism, and put ten years into earning instructor’s credentials in one of the old temple styles of t’ai chi ch’uan.

Then there were the books. My idea of a good time tolerably often amounts to a quiet room and a good book, so I worked my way through most of the occult literature of the western world, from ancient Greek Neoplatonist theurgic writings (thank Zeus for good translations!) straight through to the latest oozing-edge products of post-post-postmodern (insert one: C, K, X)aos magi(insert one: c, ck, k, que).  There were plenty of things I never got around to doing—I’ve never felt the least attraction to Wicca, for example, so I remain cheerfully ignorant about its inner teachings, and a certain discomfort with the role of clueless white guy has kept me from seeking initiation into any of the Third World magical religions available in America these days—but all in all, I think my wanderings managed to give me a tolerably good glimpse at the landscape of possibilities open to the modern occultist.

That led me to the turning point mentioned above. In the wake of my resignation as Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America last December, I gradually woke to the realization that I’d done as much roaming across the magical landscape as seemed appropriate, and it was time to settle down and get back to work on something approximating the traditions I’d originally learned. Druidry, as noted above, is my spiritual home, but fusing Golden Dawn practices with Druid Revival philosophy and symbolism was done successfully in the early twentieth century.  Even though the teachings of the orders that accomplished that fusion are apparently lost, I had no trouble reverse engineering them back into existence—the first results of that act of reinvention have already been published as The Celtic Golden Dawn, and other volumes are in preparation. Some of the things I studied during my fifteen years of wandering have also contributed to the resulting synthesis, but plenty of others haven’t, and one consequence is that a lot of books I collected in my journeys have outlived their usefulness and are being released, by way of a convenient used book store, into the hands of others.

All of which brings me to the hefty and slightly battered paperback sitting on my desk as I write these words. Its title is Introduction to Magic, and it was written by members of the UR Group, a circle of Italian occultists betweeen the wars who worked more or less under the headship of the celebrated and notorious Julius Evola. Though the book on my desk, a capable English translation by Guido Stucco of the first of the three Italian volumes, saw print at the peak of the modern occult boom in 2001, it made only the tiniest splash in the English-speaking occult scene on its publication, and pretty much sank without a trace thereafter.

Part of that was due to its chief author. Few people these days can read a book by Julius Evola without feeling, at least once, the urge to fling it across the room. If Evola is watching his posthumous career from some cold Hyperborean summit, he must be laughing mordantly, because this is exactly the reception he wanted. He loathed the modern world and everything it stood for, and his icy contempt for modernity led him to construct an ethos and a spirituality that flies in the face of everything the modern western world considers good, valid, and true. It doesn’t help, of course, that he condemned Mussolini’s government for not being fascist enough, spent the last part of the Second World War as an officer in the Waffen-SS, and became a major source of inspiration for neofascist political, cultural, and spiritual movements once the war was over.

It’s common these days for biographical data like these to lead people to insist that books by any such author should never be read, discussed, or even mentioned. As I noted in a recent post over in the other blog, though, I consider that attitude to be somewhere on the notional spectrum between self-defeating and just plain silly. For the serious student of occult philosophy, in particular, an encounter with Evola’s ideas and personality—the two are very much of a piece—is essential. This isn’t because I agree with the man; I don’t. Neither, though, do I agree with a good many of the attitudes and ideas he chose to attack. Evola is among many other things a near-perfect case study in one of the rules of magical philosophy I’ve discussed here and elsewhere: the principle that, far more often than not, the opposite of one bad idea is another bad idea.

At some point in the not too distant future, in fact, I plan on devoting several posts here to a discussion of Evola’s magnum opus, Revolt Against the Modern World. This month’s post, though, has a different theme. In recent months, several readers of this blog have raised questions about what constitutes an effective and balanced course of magical training, one that guides the student step by step toward the awakening of the higher potentials of the individual without causing the sort of emotional and psychological imbalances so often seen among failed occultists. As I paged through Introduction to Magic, trying to decide whether to give it shelf space or sell it to the used book store mentioned earlier, it occurred to me that one very good way to start that conversation is to take a close look at a system of magical training that is neither effective nor balanced.

The fact of the matter is that Evola’s UR Group was a wretched flop, and the inadequacy of its system of training is a very large part of the reason why. The Group was founded in early 1927 and blew itself apart in late 1929, having achieved none of the goals Evola so confidently set out for it; the cause of death was a series of internal crises that will be wearily familiar to those who know their way around the more dysfunctional ends of today’s Neopagan scene.  Furthermore, according to the useful preface contributed to the book by Renato del Ponte, two later groups of occultists who attempted to revive the UR Group’s teachings crashed and burned in exactly the same way. Part of that is a phenomenon occultists call the “tainted sphere,” which we’ll discuss in a later post, but there’s another factor at work: the practical instructions for training given in Introduction to Magic are mediocre at their best moments and seriously problematic at their worst.

It probably needs to be repeated here that I’m talking about the practical instructions for training, not the philosophical and symbolic essays included in the UR Group papers, which are generally of a very high quality. Evola himself was profoundly erudite, with an extraordinary if one-sided grasp of mystical philosophy, and some of the other UR Group members—Arturo Reghini arguably first among them—were his equals if not his superiors. (Reghini deserves to be much better known in the English-speaking world than he is. Good translations of his writings on the Pythagorean tradition, in particular, would be extremely valuable.) The difficulty here is that a profound grasp of esoteric philosophy is not the same as a practical working knowledge of the requirements of magical training.

Consider the parallel predicament of a theoretical physicist who decides that his physics Ph.D. from Stanford qualifies him to rebuild his home’s sewers. In theory, this is quite true:  an education in theoretical physics covers all the forces that affect a sewer system, from gravity and pressure through adhesion, thermal expansion, and so on. The fact remains that there are a great many practical tricks to rebuilding a sewer system that are not obvious from the perspective of a purely theoretical education. Thus a theoretical physicist who sets out to rebuild his sewer system on the basis of abstract principles is almost certainly going to end up, at some point, covered from head to foot in raw sewage. That’s basically what happened to Evola and the other members of the UR Group.

Turn the pages of Introduction to Magic and it’s not hard to see why. Setting aside the philosophical and symbolic essays—which again are generally of high quality—and the turgid rhetoric that seems to have been de rigueur for occult authors in that era, what you get, in terms of practical work, consists of: (a) standard advice on developing consciousness and will in everyday life, mostly cribbed from Eliphas Lévi; (b) an assortment of exercises in meditation and visualization, not well integrated with one another; (c) a few exercises with a magical mirror, for one or two persons; and (d) a simple ritual centering on Pietro d’Abano’s invocation of the archangel of the Sun, without any of the preliminary training needed to make rituals work.  As a set of basic practices, that has serious problems: it leaves out a number of things essential to the novice in operative magic, and it’s imbalanced in ways that will produce (and in fact did produce) predictable problems.

The gaps in the training the UR Group provided its members are best described by contrast with a more complete and systematic course of training, and so that discussion will take place in a later post. The imbalances are quite another matter. It was fashionable in Evola’s time for avant-garde intellectuals to adopt a pose of ruthlessness, hardness, and icy indifference to humanity, and Evola went in for that with the same thoroughness he applied to every other subject that interested him. He seems to have found the pose congenial—and of course he was hardly the only one.

A comparable figure in many ways, though intellectually Evola’s inferior, was an older contemporary of his, the English occultist Aleister Crowley.  Unlike Evola, Crowley studied magic in an established tradition, that of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, but blew out of that Order and reworked its teachings to fit his own sense of what magic (or as he insisted on spelling it, “magick”) ought to be about. Like Evola, Crowley set out to revolt against the modern world; like Evola, what he actuallly revolted against was the world of his parents’ generation, in favor of the latest fashionable ideas of the modern world—it shows some of the core differences between English and Italian culture that Crowley rebelled especially against England’s sexual repressiveness, while Evola rebelled especially against the grand Italian ideal of umanità, humanity or humaneness.

Both men cultivated the same trendy pose of icy ruthlessness et al.; both, interestingly enough, were mountain climbers; both thought they could transform the world through magic, and failed completely. Crowley just kept at it, with a prodigious lack of success—the posthumous emergence of his teachings as a major theme in modern occultism is almost entirely the work of Grady McMurtry, who picked up the disorderly heap of material Crowley left behind, reworked it into a coherent system, and reinvented the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), an order Crowley hijacked from its original founders and ran into the ground, as a vehicle for that system.

Evola, for his part, responded to the parallel failure of the UR Group by turning from magic to politics. His entire involvement with magic began and ended in the three years the UR Group functioned, and these were very early in his life—when the UR Group was founded, he was only twenty-six years old. His decision to turn to political action, and from there to cultural politics, was a sensible one. Since he was not the sort of person who could submit to another’s guidance and instruction, he was never going to get the kind of systematic education in magic he needed to accomplish his goals—and the lack of a systematic education in magic lay at the heart of his failure as a teacher of that art.

It’s a failure that stalks everyone who tries to come up with an original system of magical training without first mastering some existing system from top to bottom, and finding out what systems of magical training are supposed to accomplish. One of the goals of magical training, to turn to technical language for a moment, is the equilibration of the lower self:  in less opaque terms, the balancing out of the habitual imbalances of the personality, so that the aspiring mage can use his or her habits of thought and feeling rather than being used by them. Magical systems cooked up by people who haven’t had such a training inevitably miss this; having projected the habitual imbalances of their personalities onto the cosmos—and we all do this, until appropriate disciplines teach us how to stop—they end up reinforcing their imbalances rather than equilibrating them.

Evola’s choice of a basic magical ritual is a good example of this, though it’s hardly the only one, and it also demonstrates one of the common problems with trying to work out a system of magical training on first principles. From a metaphysical and symbolic perspective, it’s entirely appropriate to treat the Sun as a symbol of the Absolute, and so Evola pulled a solar invocation out of its original context in a carefully designed set of Renaissance-era invocations of the planetary archangels, on the assumption that his students could use a ritual based on that invocation to attain the Absolute.

The difficulty here is that novice mages don’t operate on the plane of the Absolute. They operate on the planes of form, and if you invoke the Sun on the planes of form, you won’t get the Absolute; you’ll get the kind of solar influence that astrologers, for example, know well; and if you invoke the Sun only, without equilibrating it with the other planetary forces, you can pretty much count on pushing your personality in the direction of too much solar influence, which will make you behave like an arrogant blowhard—the astrologically literate may imagine a really out-of-control Leo here.  If your personality already tends toward arrogance and self-glorifying egocentricity, furthermore, this fate is going to be all but impossible to avoid, because the energies of the ritual and the dysfunctions of the self form a feedback loop that drowns out the signals that something’s gone wrong.

It’s probably not an accident, in other words, that the thing that wrecked the UR Group was a rising spiral of clashing egos among the leading figures.  That’s what you’d expect to see happen with a group of people who are busy performing solar invocations without any other planetary influence to balance them.  Crowley, it bears noting, managed the same thing in a somewhat more diffuse and roundabout way, though here again an excess of solar symbolism seems to have played a role—one of the booby traps hidden in the standard Golden Dawn system is an excessive focus on the solar symbolism of Tiphareth, the sixth sphere of the Tree of Life, which again can lead to overinflated egos.

There are ways around that pitfall, in or out of the Golden Dawn system, but you have to know that the pitfall is there in order to avoid it. You also have to be willing to recognize a pitfall as a pitfall, and avoid the temptation to convince yourself that the dysfunctional emotional state you’ve gotten yourself into isn’t a sign of your own profound spiritual specialness. That’s not always easy—but then nobody who knew what they were talking about ever said that magic was easy.

201 comments:

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GHG said...

A minor point: Although Evola worked for the SS Ahnenerbe as a researcher on Freemasonry, I have never seen him described as an SS officer (or even member), and I do not believe he was one, although I am willing to be proven wrong.

Pinku-Sensei said...

"One of the goals of magical training, to turn to technical language for a moment, is the equilibration of the lower self: in less opaque terms, the balancing out of the habitual imbalances of the personality, so that the aspiring mage can use his or her habits of thought and feeling rather than being used by them."

This is one of the reasons why I decided to get back into the Enneagram. As a form of spiritual work, it's all about "the balancing out of the habitual imbalances of the personality." It also satisfies my requirement that it not be too obviously magical. Hiding magic behind a variation of the personality theories of Carl Jung so that it looks like self-help psychology works for me. Also, understanding it as spiritual work instead of simple self-help has clarified my comprehension. I described the Enneagram as a system of occult knowledge to one of my colleagues and she told me that it was the best explanation of it that she had ever heard. Other people who merely described it as a personality typology didn't get through to her.

Of course, all the books I've studied have a blind spot; they don't try to filter out society's imbalances. Instead, they're all about trying to get the adherents better adjusted to modern society. In that way, the program behaves a lot like EST, which is a salesperson's idea of Buddhism with influence from Scientology. I'm not sure how to fix that issue. Maybe importing techniques from systems that address society's biases might help.

On the other hand, while it's a system that works on the self, it's not one that can be used to work on others beyond understanding them. I found that out by trying to use it to devise attacks on a adversary by use of "The Leaden Rule"--people attack others by using what they most fear others doing unto them. First, it was hard to pull off that strategy based on a proper understanding of what others fear instead of what I feared. Second, my attempts resulted in a lot of "raspberry jam" sticking to me. I ended up in court when I did such a thing to the wrong person! I think I learned my lesson the hard way from that one!

neetwizard said...

Great analysis, JMG! Fortunately I wasn't drinking when I read this, otherwise I would have spilled some tea on my keyboard. Invocation of the sun? Seriously?

Urban Harvester said...

Hmm... Speaking of flinging books across the room, I haven't gotten to my second ADR homework assignment just yet (still working on the first)... I hadn't thought of reading something by Crowley. (I'd been planning on one of C.S. Lewis' apologetics books.) I recently read Gary Lachman's Crowley biography and I'm sure it would round out the impression nicely to read some of the man's poetry or something. By the way, I just finished Morris' Well at the Worlds End for my first ADR assignment and am about to give it a second 'dialectic' reading to really try to grasp what he was after (vis a vis a critique of socialism). It was a very enjoyable read and it was delightful to learn that he was connected in some way to the celtic twilight... I'd not known that, though I've admired him for many other reasons. It has been fun to look up words that I'm either not familiar with, or am unfamiliar with the way they are being used (i.e. gossip for sponsor; sooth for truth...) and I've taken to spending a few minutes with the etymology dictionary on a daily basis. The other thing I hope to tease out of the tale on a second reading is to get a handle on why Tolkien made a white wizard of the tyrant of Utterbol... :)

This is a helpful overview of how magical systems can succeed or fail, and of what their objectives are. A couple of things have clicked for me. Thanks.

John Michael Greer said...

GHG, interesting. I had read that he was an SS officer and reached a rank equivalent to colonel by the end of the war. That said, it's entirely possible the source was mistaken.

Pinku-sensei, I'd say your first mistake was choosing a strategy defined by "attacks on an adversary," rather than choosing an end state you wanted to achieve: "I want this guy out of my life," say, or "I want to accomplish this thing." If the other guy is preventing you from accomplishing something, especially, you don't include him in the intention -- if you do, you weaken the focus of your magic. If the other guy suddenly wins the lottery or gets a promotion and moves to St. Augustine, and so gets out of your way, why should that bother you, so long as you accomplish your intent?

Neetwizard, seriously. Pulling things out of context under the mistaken impression that he knew enough to do that safely was one of Evola's repeated mistakes -- and of course one of Crowley's as well.

Harvester, if you want to tackle Crowley's poetry, well, better you than me -- if Crowley really was the prophet of the new aeon, it's apparently going to be an aeon of really, really awful verse. (That might explain one of the pervasive features of modern Neopaganism...) As for Morris, delighted to see that you caught the play of Gandolf/Gandalf! I'm quite sure that Tolkien did that very deliberately, since the two of them were on opposite extremes, politically and socially speaking. There's a lot of depth in Morris' novel -- more, frankly, than in Tolkien's -- and the critique of progressive politics woven through the whole mythos of the Dry Tree is brilliantly handled. Morris clearly saw the need to go deeper than that.

Barrabas said...

I wonder what sort of planetary imbalance convinces someone that occultism is all a sort of "second matrix" trap devised by MK Ultra style intelligence services designed to imprison and enslave the unwary populace for the purpose of widespread social engineering and full spectrum world dominance by cabals of child molesting Fabians ??

ed boyle said...

'You also have to be willing to recognize a pitfall as a pitfall, and avoid the temptation to convince yourself that the dysfunctional emotional state you’ve gotten yourself into isn’t a sign of your own profound spiritual specialness'

Equilibration of the lower self.

John, you're right on the money. What I find is that my basic personality or karma just becomes more pronounced and not healed or balanced. Actually a theoretician can talk a lot, a practititioner sweats reality. When my energy was just an internal matter causng, at the worst headaches, I just kept working on it slowly. After it jumped over to a spontaneous interaction with other people's energy I started learning quickly social behaviour that a shy semi-autistic physically incompetent person never learns but an average person instinctively picks up from birth onward. Some say life begins at 50 and this is an excuse. For me it is quite true. 20 years of yoga practice laid groundwork for explosive transformation which is itself just a naive beginning. Butterfly passed over my bike on way to work couple days ago while riding. Symbols in life. This is like a second youth, as the emotional and sexual energy is comparable. My reason for turning away from religion, science, whatever was always that promises of transformation, happinesss, etc. not kept. I am cynical and was desperate when I got initiation (1998/9) into my sytem of esoteric yoga( breathing, mantras) as my personality is very limiting soocially so I need a really large inner space to enjoy, slowly it grew, then as I am practicaly in middle age I turn hormonally 20. The obtuse nerd can be ignored generally as a bore or he learns to keep to himself but when 'his heart is on fire'24/7 he learns to climb everest without oxygen. Perhaps my emotional isolation and naivete at 50 allows me to bring a freshness to this that a habitual bed and bar hopper, burnt out by 30 with dozens of shattered relationships could never hope for. I have been together 20 years with a leo sun sign, scorpion ascendant, moon conjunct saturn in pisces and we both suffer daily from each other. Suffering is the way, the tao. Easy and broad is the road to destruction. According to jyotish, indian astrology, my current phase or dasha is jupiter dominated. Some years then comes saturn dasha till mid 70s of age. So I will enjoy the loose flowing emotions while it lasts. Perhaps next phase after equilibration acheived through practice, as in tai chi or hatha yoga, will be higher magical powers occurring spontaneously then learning to control them the hard way, as I am doing now with my simple emotionalism. I consider myself lucky, blessed, most people look back on youth, college times as happiest of life and simply get old like clockwork. I read a comment of yours on your blog that turns it on its head. From helplessly clueless and suffering or just dumb in early years in an upward struggle bearing more fruits year for year. Butterfly.

John Michael Greer said...

Barrabas, good question. I'd see if Mercury was afflicted by a malefic planet, but that's just a guess; I'm not familiar with the astrology of florid paranoid schizophrenia.

Ed, one of the things about serious magical practice is that you can't afford to let the personality spin further and further out along the lines of its existing imbalances. Do that and you end up like Crowley. He started life rich, talented, handsome, intelligent, and charismatic, and ended it a burnt-out drug addict in a small town flophouse with an estate worth fourteen shillings and a name that he'd personally made a laughingstock on three continents. Not an example to follow!

Brigyn said...

Dear JMG,

I am currently working my way through the lore and ranks of the AODA. I've decided to spend several years becoming intimately familiar with the DMH system first, since I felt drawn to it - and I am prone to dabble in a dozen things at once, so I am working on learning to keep myself focussed.

I have had training as a lab chemist, and I've been interested in Alchemy since I was a child and first found out about it. So I was delighted to see that the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn contains it (and much more that strikes my interest) in a way that it is already integrated with Druidry. Having said that, I have a question about Alchemy; how physical is it? I am aware of the symbols and spiritual development that go hand in hand with it, but I am wondering as to the raw physical properties and effects of the system.

And a second question; Do you think learning AODA magic meshes well with what you later designed for the DoGD? I understand they are still completely separate systems, but do they reinforce one another, or are they fundamentally different approaches?


Kind regards,





Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

It is my considered opinion that something has been lost from those more innocent times that you mentioned (and which I recall) and I believe that sheer volume of mediation that goes on in that sphere of racy sex does no one any favours. I used to have no opinion on such things but lately I am feeling that it is a bad thing as I hear disturbing accounts and ramifications. I assume that problems such as that can infest the occult scene too? Was the "secret" an example of that sort of silliness?

Ha! I had to laugh at your descriptions of the "why" of the failings of Julius Evola and his crew. I reckon he let his ego get further ahead than his ability to teach - I've seen that happen many times. And possibly as well, a person so concerned with status probably never allowed anyone to exceed his own achievements and thus failed miserably and chose people poorly. The deliberate obfuscation is hardly surprising in such a situation. I see that all of the time and it is a weakness in our culture. The funny thing is that as you wrote about the excellence of the philosophical and symbolic essays, I had the general feeling that he used such things to attract followers as he saw them as a reflection of his own self. Not to be mean, but Julius would have been a total pain to be around! ;-)!

Now you are getting me really fired up. I have known several people who have achieved a PhD and I make a point of getting them all individually to explain to me what their thesis is about. And not one of them ever has done so and I don't have to explain to you what that actually means.

Haha! OK, that was a true tea spit on the keyboard moment: "was not the sort of person who could submit to another’s guidance and instruction". Mate, I have met those types so often that they bore me silly with their monkey business. I call them by the moniker: "can't be told's" and that seems quite apt to me. As a generalisation, I have noticed that they have to retain remarkably small worldview too.

Well, it would be nice if people could push their ego's out of the way for at least a short period of time and say things like: I don't know; Oh, I'm sorry I didn't understand that; could you perhaps show me what you mean?; what did you mean by that? etc. etc. Honestly, sometimes people seem rather hamstrung to me and the binds are of their own choosing.

I rather enjoyed this essay. Thanks for writing it!

Cheers

Chris

Neo Tuxedo said...

the practical instructions for training given in Introduction to Magic are mediocre at their best moments and seriously problematic at their worst.

I'm reminded of a blog post from 2004 in which the infamous Brad Hicks, whom I count a friend of a friend at least, revealed the secret of the much more infamous Avon Press "Simon" Necronomicon to those who might have been (as I had been) unaware of that secret, in the course of reviewing Gonce and Harms' The Necronomicon Files: the truth behind the legend:

http://bradhicks.livejournal.com/105835.html

Except that Evola seems not to have known what he was doing, unlike the Simonomicon authors:

Herman Slater and a bunch of his friends at a drunken late night party were talking about the infamous "booby traps" that Crowley wove into some of his spellbooks, [...] and on a dare they decided to write a spellbook that was so booby trapped, so obviously stupid, so obviously dangerous that anyone capable of using it would notice instantly that the spells were dangerously out-of-whack. Then Slater did what Slater did to lots of authors, supposedly: stole it and published it. And to the group's vast disgust and embarrassment, it did in fact turn out that no, there really are people so stupid that they wouldn't notice the booby traps all over it, and those people revere these spells as authentic powerful chaos magick.

Eric S. said...

This month covered a lot of ground and offered a lot to reflect on, so it may be a few days before I have a proper response. But for now, I have a few initial thoughts:

Your comments on OTO explain a lot, I’ve always been a little confused by the mismatch I’ve encountered between OTO members who have usually been sane, balanced, interesting people, and the rather –erm- colorful life of their founder, lacking in the indulgent personality and the tendency towards damaging addictions and demand for any public attention that can be had (whether fame, infamy, or ridicule). I suppose the fact that it was pieced together from the most promising pieces of Crowley’s philosophy by someone else who actually knew what they were doing explains a lot.

Regarding the Gruppo di Ur, there seem to be some lessons wrapped up in it that relate to the conversations of the previous few months as well, since from what I recall it was largely established with the intent of breathing spiritual life into a certain burgeoning political movement in 1920s Italy.

Regarding the origins of Gandalf in Tolkien: A lot of that also comes from the origins of the story of the Hobbit in Tolkien’s own role as a linguist and norse scholar. Aside from Balin and Bilbo, the entire procession is taken straight from the Voluspa, and in the earliest drafts of the story Gandalf was the name of the character that later on became Thorin. His name was later on assigned to the wizard character in the story (who originally had a different name), but later on Tolkien played with the name Gandalfr, and its meaning of “magic elf” and decided to use Gandalf as the name for the wizard instead of the chief dwarf, using another name, Thorin’s taken from the Voluspa, and basing the demeanor and appearance of the newly named Gandalf on Odin. Morris was definitely an influence on Tolkien, and there are other places where there are very specific and stated influences (especially in the Lord of the Rings where things start getting more developed), but Gandalf specifically seems to have come from the same place most of the rest of the character names in the Hobbit came from, and the Hobbit is all about taking the litany of dwarves from Norse myth (Gandalf included), tossing them into the plot of Beowulf, and dragging an early 20th century English gentleman from the country along for the ride. The fact that Morris included a character named Gandolf as well stems more from both authors having been enthusiasts of Icelandic literature. Though Tolkien may have had Gandolf in mind as he continued to develop the character later on. As for Morris himself: He really did have his fingers in everything when it came to late romanticism didn’t he? I was first exposed to him as a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and studied him extensively from that angle before I ever got into his writing.

russell1200 said...

I remember you writing in Gnosis about the geometrics of certain early fencing masters; and an internet search shows you wrote at least one book on it. Would you consider this part of your pre-Druidic time period (Golden Dawn influenced) or does it fit in well with your Druidic practice?

I really wish there was something more like the old Gnosis magazine still out there. I hadn't realized how many of the pieces that I recalled liking were written by you until I was doing the internet search; much as it bothers my contrarian nature to say so.

James M. Jensen II said...

You know, I suspect you've been writing a lot more about Uncle Al on this blog than you ever meant to. ;-)

As I've mentioned before, I have a friend who converted from Thelema to Judaism. Even before his conversion he noticed something was quite wrong with the culture of Thelema and especially the OTO.

Since his conversion, I've noticed that he's become a lot more mellow and balanced. There are a lot of factors involved in this - raising a daughter, moving out of New Orleans back to Alabama, just general maturation - but I think even he'd agree that getting out of the really imbalanced environment of Thelema was a significant part of it. (Also, getting out of the Pagan Internet Social Scene and into the pews of a Reform synagogue with some really great people was a significant upgrade in culture.)

Also, is "tainted sphere" another term for "corrupted egregore"?

John Roth said...

Interesting points about personality imbalances. I use the Michael Teaching, which at its basic levels is all about occult personality and to some extent balancing out some of the issues. It’s different, though; I haven’t run across anything similar, which doesn’t mean that there aren’t similar things out there. The only system I’ve seen that has a similar level of complexity is astrology.

To give an example. I have an Attitude of Idealist. The positive pole is coalescence, the negative pole is naiveté. It’s one of seven Attitudes, which are ways of interpreting and reacting to the events that happen to you. The first level of work here is to recognize where you’re simply confused and work to bring whatever the conceptual structure is to where it coalesces into a coherent whole. That may be simply a matter of learning, or it may require resolving fear issues that are keeping the process stuck. Another issue for Idealists is looking at a tendency to compartmentalize the repercussions of ideas or ideals.

As part of that, it’s a good idea to look at the overleaf on the other end of the axis (there are four axes, this is Expression), which is skeptic (-suspicion, +investigation). I got bit too many times with my ideals and ideas leading me astray, and started working on investigation hard. I won’t say I’ve gotten to anything resembling a complete balance yet, but a lot of people seem to read me as a skeptic rather than an idealist. I suppose that’s progress.

The next level is to look at the neutral overleaf, which is Pragmatist (-dogmatic, +practical). That’s … challenging. The eventual goal is to be able to use whichever of the seven attitudes is appropriate to the situation.

At the lower spiritual level, there is the triplicity of Attitude, Goal and Mode; the centers (similar to the chakras). At the physical level there are the Chief Features (similar to the Seven Deadly Sins, but not all that close) and Body Types. At the higher spiritual level there are Soul Age, Role, frequency, male/female energy balance and casting order. There are a lot of these characteristics, many of which are seven-fold, but some of which follow other patterns, and which come from different levels of the psyche or spirit.

As far as balancing out societal issues, that happens during the fourth and fifth internal monads. There’s a good deal of emphasis on navigating them and winding up in a good place (the “positive pole”) at the end. The fourth internal monad usually happens in a person’s 30s and is about releasing parental imprinting; the fifth internal monad usually occurs in the person’s 50s or 60s and involves releasing societal imprinting.

Michael takes an extremely hard line about choice, so there is nothing in the system about manipulating anyone else. It’s good to know someone else’s overleaves so you can adapt and interact with them productively.

blackwyn said...

I've been paging through the Celtic Golden Dawn recently to see if this is something that I'm going to invest time into. I was wondering - in light of your post - what steps, if any, you took to avoid the pitfall of egoism you mentioned? And while we're on the topic, I was wondering why you chose geomancy as a symbol system/divination system over Ogham (which you introduced in the Druid Handbook and I've been using and studying). Does (or could) Ogham have a role in the CGD system?

As for the topic of the post, my impression is that there does sometimes seem to be a lack of interest among "occultists" in the more mundane matters of spirituality such as how to live a good life. I wish there was more of an interest in, for example, Stoicism or the works of John Cassian (the originator of the Eight Principal Faults that later became - more ominously - the Seven Deadly Sins). Interesting post.

Hereward said...

I found this a fascinating essay; I was pleased to get a little more insight into your magical training (there may be a magical autobiography in there, one day!) and I was also happy to read more about the character of Julius Evola and why his magical group failed. In particular, the lesson about the unintended consequences of unbalanced ritual has really given me pause for thought.

Following last month's epistle I obtained a copy of "Revolt Against the Modern World," because I share that sentiment. To me, this consumer society is vacuous and devoid of any real meaning. I am not a revolutionary, however, believing that getting my own house in order has a much higher priority and will take me at least the rest of my natural life to make any serious progress on.

Even so, it is not without some trepidation that I read Evola having done a little background research myself (now further endorsed through this essay). This is because of my own background where, to be perfectly blunt, as a young man I held many unsavoury beliefs one mght refer to as right-wing and reactionary (other adjectives beginning with 'r' might be appropriate, too). To be fair, a lot of this was due to social environment and upbringing which engendered a certain ignorance for how the other half lives. Fortunately, university gave me the opportunity to meet various people from very different backgrounds and different countries and I soon found many of my iron-clad prejudices rusting to dust before my eyes.

However, the one part that remains, if normally covered by niceties, is the appreciation of a man (typically) who is forceful in his beliefs and can present them well, charismatically, and so can swiftly bypass my otherwise discerning mind. To put it another way: I can easily be blinded by a smooth talker. In addition, there is something mesmerising, albeit terrible, in the fascist movements of the 1930s in Germany and Italy, and I do not want to get sucked into that.

As for flinging books across the room I occasionally get that kind of urge with - dare I say it? - Retrotopia!

Roy Smith said...

John, this post clarified some things for me, and I am very much looking forward to future posts on "what constitutes an effective and balanced course of magical training".

As an aside, is there any possibility that this blog will also be appearing at some point in the future in a postal mail print edition?

Thanks!

Yellow Submarine said...

I am looking forward to your series on Revolt Against the Modern World, which I read a while back and plan on re-reading.

Congrats on your new translation of the "Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic" I plan on ordering a copy when it become available. Is there a way to pre-order it yet? The "The Secret of the Temple" looks very interesting as well. On a related note, you mentioned on the other blog that you had translated about half of Joseph Peladan's book Comment on devient mage (How To Become A Mage). Do you plan on finishing that translation? That's another one I would be interested in buying if it became available.

John Michael Greer said...

Brigyn, I definitely recommend sticking to one system of magical training at a time, especially if you're just getting started with magic. The system presented in The Druid Magic Handbook was designed to work with the same symbolism and energies AODA uses in its ritual work, so that's a very good choice for now. The system presented in The Celtic Golden Dawn takes a fundamentally different approach to magic, so it doesn't mesh with the DMH system at all -- that's one of the reasons I used different modes of divination in the two systems.

With regard to alchemy, it's important to remember that alchemy isn't a single discipline, like chemistry or physics; it's an entire constellation of disciplines, like science. (The comparison goes quite a ways -- for example, there's an alchemical method, just as there's a scientific method.) Some branches of alchemy are quite solidly physical -- for example, spagyrics or herbal alchemy, which is the branch of the art I put into The Celtic Golden Dawn; others operate on other planes. "Our gold is not the common gold," the old alchemists wrote -- but you'll notice that this leaves a great deal of wiggle room!

Cherokee, oh, I know -- what we may as well call the Evola syndrome is fairly common, and I won't deny that I suffered from it myself when I was a pompous young man. I'm startled, though, that none of your Ph.D. friends can tell you what their theses were about! The people I know who've gotten doctorates have answered my questions about their theses in as much detail as I wanted to know; I find myself wondering if it's possible that your universities are even further down the slope into decadence than ours -- hard as that is to imagine!

Neo, I read Harms and Gonce with great pleasure when it first came out. I'd looked at the Simon Necrobogusnomicon in my early twenties, and even then realized that it was as thoroughly fracked a piece of shale as you'll find anywhere in pseudomagical literature -- but it was nice to see that laid out in black and white by a couple of seriously painstaking scholars. I wouldn't put Evola anywhere near the same level; his teachings were simply what you get when somebody thinks they know much more about practical magic than they do, and tries to proclaim their poorly thought out, unbalanced, and incomplete system of training as the be-all and end-all of Tradition. There are dozens of books like that in any well-stocked occult bookstore these days.

Eric, yes, I know about the Voluspa sources for Tolkien's dwarf and wizard names. Tolkien was a far subtler craftsman than most people seem to realize, and he had a very sharp satiric streak and a willingness to play some very edgy games with names -- I think I've mentioned the orc named Shagrat here, and the deliberate and, for the period, breathtaking obscenity implied therein. I'm pretty sure, for what it's worth, that Gandolf of Utterbol comes from Italian rather than Norse sources, with the papal palace at Castel Gandolfo a likely origin; the people of Utterbol and the lands around are based to some extent on medieval Italy. But Tolkien must have smiled edgily when he settled on the name of his wizard, just as he did when he named a horse Shadowfax to contrast with the horse Silverfax in The Well.

John Michael Greer said...

Russell, the translation of Thibault's Academie de l'Espee was one of the things that popped me out of a purely Golden Dawn approach. It's a complicated story; I'd stumbled across the lore of sacred geometry, and was chasing down everything I could find on the subject. One book cited Thibault and gave a couple of plates from his manual of fencing; I set out to find it, and ended up getting a microfilm from the British Library. A couple of years of hard translating later, I had eight chapters completed, and quietly published a photocopied, spiral bound edition. Something like two hundred copies were snapped up, some of them by people who did rapier fencing in the Society for Creative Anachronism and proceeded to use Thibault's methods to clean the clocks of much higher-ranked fencers. At their encouragement, I finished the translation and got it published. I don't practice that system of swordsmanship, though there are people who do; I was in it for the sacred geometry -- but it was in the process of researching Thibault that it really sank in just how much more there was out there beyond the Golden Dawn.

Funny you should mention that, though -- Aeon Press will be bringing out a new edition of my Thibault translation, along with new editions of my first two books, Paths of Wisdom and Circles of Power, in the next year or so. I'll keep this blog posted.

James, Crowley's such a perfect object lesson in how not to practice magic! Yes, "tainted sphere" is Dion Fortune's term for a corrupted egregore. The reference is to the collective sphere of sensation generated by a group mind.

John, that's certainly different from anything I've encountered before. The Theosophists have a system of assigning one of the seven Rays to each aspect of the self, from the Monad on down, which is more or less on the same level of complexity.

Blackwyn, it was relatively easy to rework the Golden Dawn system to duck problems with ego inflation, as most of the work had already been done by Dion Fortune and her students -- dropping the equation of degrees of initiation with spheres of the Tree of Life is an important step, so you don't get the overload of solar influence that comes so often with too much focus on Tiphareth. (If you can actually attain Tiphareth, that's not a problem, but most people who become Adepti Minores don't actually rise to the Tiphareth level of consciousness, so the influence descends to their level and takes on the usual planetary coloring.) There were various other adjustments that had to be made along the same lines.

I used geomancy, first, because I like it and think it deserves more attention than it's been given; second, because it fits beautifully with the elemental structure of the CGD system; and third, because Ogham is Irish and the Druid Revival material I used as a basis for the CGD is Welsh, and those two are emphatically not the same thing! Shortly after the CGD was published, I stumbled across the original symbolic meanings for the Coelbren alphabet, the Welsh bardic script Iolo Morganwg cooked up; I'd have used them in the CGD if I'd known about them; as it is, I've written a book on the Coelbren that'll be out sometime next year, and the next volume in the CGD series, The Celtic Cabala, will use Coelbren extensively; thus there isn't really a place in the system for Ogham.

John Michael Greer said...

Hereward, glad to hear that you feel inspired to fling Retrotopia across the room. If it didn't get that reaction, I'd know it wasn't strong enough.

Roy, hmm! I hadn't considered a print edition; it'll probably have to wait until somebody steps up to the plate and offers to do it, because I certainly don't have the time and resources to do it myself.

Submarine, the Levi translation isn't yet available for advance ordering -- I'll get a link up as soon as it is. As for Peladan, one of my readers has done a complete translation herself, and we're currently working on placing it with a publisher. I'll make sure word gets out as soon as that happens.

James M. Jensen II said...

Brigyn:

I you're interested in watching our host expound on alchemy - complete with a D&D joke - there are a couple of videos up on Alchemergy's Vimeo channel of lectures he gave at their conferences in 2007 and 2008:

https://vimeo.com/87377036

https://vimeo.com/87410583

Note that the second one seems to be missing a large chunk of the talk. I'm not sure why; if it's to get you to buy a DVD or something, they should have at least advertised it!

Barrabas said...

"So the influence descends to their level and takes on the usual planetary colouring " - yes, i like that . I cant escape the nagging feeling that the " failed occulrists " you mention often form fascist cults or groups to a greater or lesser degree, or alternatively see fascist persons or conspiracies all around them . Fascism then ,must have something to do with unbalanced solar energies , and in a western enlightenment cult of reason we are all starting out from a very solar place anyhow. I remember resding that the watchers or grigori themselves bound themselves together to form the astral light or world serpent , and if you become a failed or unbalanced occultist the snake goes dark and becomes a dragon with you as its slave , the dark dragon resembling fascism somewhat . I wonder if collectively the German people after the trauma of losing their solar bid for world dominance in ww1 descended collectively to the level of unbalanced solar energy/ still born nigredo and became the fascist dragon slaves of world war 2 in one of the most unusual instances of collective mass psychosis the worl has ever seen .
When i think about this , i wonder wether the same thing didnt happen in Imperial Rome or the U.SA today , in the warp and wedt of the cycles of things , the Dark Dragon periodically gets his due , as you have pointed out " dragon times ".

Paul Kervale said...

Thanks for an enlightening post.

Something has been puzzling me about the question of balance. All magical workings must introduce some sort of imbalance. If you brought perfectly balanced forces into play they would cancel each other out and you would fail to bring about change. Presumably an adept can use unbalanced forces to move a situation toward a new, more desirable balance.

It's common for introductory books on Golden-Dawn-derived magic to teach basic techniques like talismans that evoke planetary forces, but I've never seen one that addressed the question of how to restore balance. It seems like they give you the yod, but not the vav that gets you to the final heh. Similarly, Fortune talks about how bringing a force into play also brings its polar opposite into play, which seems like the universe itself restoring balance, perhaps in an undesirable way. But I haven't found any advice from her about how to deal with these countermanding forces.

This seems like important stuff for novices. Are there any books that systematically and explicitly address basic principles like these?

James M. Jensen II said...

JMG:

I noticed on the other blog last week that you said in a comment you were studying Alan Leo's astrological work. I'm curious what you think of his "Astrology for All"/"Astrologer's Library" series as an introduction to astrology? (For the purposes of this question, you can assume the reader is capable of wading through turn-of-the-century British English prose -- admittedly an unsafe assumption in practice.)

Mark Mikituk said...

Dear John, your post this month gave me tons to think about! I am still busy formulating questions about it.

In the mean time, here is my submission for the short story contest you announced a few months ago. It is not exactly what one might call pure fantasy but rather more like fantastical realism, but there's lotsa magic in it:

http://mikitukshorts.blogspot.fr/2016/07/missile-confessional.html

John Michael Greer said...

James, I've completely forgotten the D&D joke, though no doubt I could dig up the file with those two talks and find it again.

Barrabas, exactly -- fascism (meaning here the actual thing, as in 1930s Italy and Germany) is a good example of solar influence gone toxically unbalanced. Each of the other classical planets has its own, equally toxic mode of collective imbalance; for example, the San Francisco area these days is awash in unbalanced Mercury influence.

Paul, that's actually not material for novices at all. Your basic magical training, as I'll be explaining next month, focuses (among other things) on establishing balance in the microcosm and developing certain kinds of sensitivity toward the macrocosm; only when you've got those capacities developed are you able to surf the waves of action and reaction that magic sets in motion, and until you've got those capacities, any theoretical explanation will produce far more confusion than clarity. That's why the best treatises I know of on the subject are all written in terms of abstract symbolism -- Dion Fortune's The Cosmic Doctrine is a great example -- and don't communicate what they have to say until you've developed the capacity to understand it.

James, Leo's a very solid guide. The only author I'd put ahead of him is Llewellyn George; if you can find a copy of his A-Z Horoscope Maker and Delineator from before Llewellyn Publications started messing with it, snap it up.

Mark, thank you -- you're in the contest!

Brigyn said...

JMG,
Thank you for your answers!

James M. Jensen II,
Thanks for the links, I'll go check them out. Just for fun though, I'll put off actually studying Alchemy for a while yet, as advised. ^^

ed boyle said...

John roth, very interesting comprehensive systemic comment. I reference over years a book cycles ofbecoming :planetary cycles of growth by alexander ruperti which looks at humanistic astrology in planetary cycles.

jmg,

warning well taken. This problem started once and i took a break from life, switched jobs, reduced my yoga. It started up again after two years and I just made best of a bad situation and got through first 6 months or so where basically one woman was my trigger, obsession, and learned self therapy with music, crying, then gradually generalized these feeling to more acquaintances and at end to, depending on mood absorb energy as I pass women on the street riding my bike. This is like muscle or memory training, control and perspective is important. The whole process becomes more abstract. If I repeatedly see a colleague or similar with astrologically sympathetic energy ( my sun sign is pisces) I can feel quite deeply for this person. As I have saturn conjunct venus becoming a crowley type degenerate manipulator is absolutely impossible. The colleagues may notice that their physical nearness can put me into ecstasy or trance and it amuses or irritates them, depending. Human body is like a magnet with spine like center. We know how two magnets react to one another. Why young women have more energy vis-a-vis males is a hormonal life cycle things. My physical reactions tapers off to nothing over 40 years old or so of colleagues ge.My basic shyness represented by saturn venus in piscs is compensated by a quintile (72 degrees, creativity) to moon jupiter conjunct in taurus which is most happy, expansive, postive aspect imaginable. As jmg can testify from my comments over the years I am lazy and arrogant, self satisfied. At any rate the enrgy from the shy conjunction interacts mssively with the expansive conjunction. I just had to learn to balance it out and accept continual energy growth involved. Capricorn is my asendant and saturn my final dispositor, controller of all other planets and structure of my hooscope is a 'sacred rectangle' taking in all planets except mercury fairly tighty so that a constant upward spiral of growth is typical, finding the right spiritual path and sticking with it is key. Btw as saturn cancels out jupiter my wife's saturn moon conjunct(conjunct my sun) cancels out my moon jupiter conjunct in sextile so my expansiveness is controlle by her retracctiveness(?). Blance in marriage, balance in horoscope, balance in spiritual practice, in physical sport, etc. If I had red 1% of what others had. I recall buddhist threads with all their dogm talj which bored me. I need reality. Balance between development and theory. Come back to a novel, spirituak years later and smile, 'now I get it'.
,

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Well, you are in good company, because as a young lad I was arrogant which is not that dissimilar a personality trait. Anyway, life kicked that out of me. I had a mate that was pompous and yeah life kicked that out of him too. The last time I spoke to him I asked him how his life was going and he responded by describing it as: "complex". I would be interested to hear how you kicked that habit?

The thing is that once I was thrust into the position of having to guide and/or educate others I had to come to a decision about what my goals were in regards to that situation. In such a situation as you are fully aware, a person can take many avenues some of which may be harmful to the people who are in your care.

It can be very humbling to preside over a group and say the magic words: I do not know, but we can find out. I reckon that such actions lend a person credibility, however there is unfortunately a small percentage of the population that believes in the art of spin (otherwise known as: fake it until you make it) and there is a place for that too, but it should only ever be one small tool among many.

Julius chose instead to feed his ego, that much is obvious to me and his students and crew were only ever intended to be a reflection of him. Talk about solar influence - he would have looked in the mirror and saw the sun burning brightly! ;-)!

As to the PhD's, well yeah I do not doubt it. Of course I was not persistent with them either not wanting to upset the social fabric because three of those four people have walked away from their studies and pursued other jobs which are unrelated to their expensive training. The remaining person moved to the US to pursue a related career. This is not meant as a criticism either on any one of the people, it is just that there are not the jobs for them down here and there is a lot of competition when there is a job available for them. The US economy has far more fat for such activities than down here, I thought that would have been obvious? But perhaps not, things are very similar down here culturally to the US but at the same time they are also very different.

The education industry down here has lost sight of the realities that graduates have to face upon completion of their courses. For example there are more people studying journalism than there are even jobs for. How is that even possible or desirable? Nurses are required to achieve an undergraduate degree, but they can wait upwards of a year before they find employment upon completion. There are unemployed or under employed teachers. There will be a backlash about that massive issue sooner or later.

I have learned the very hard lesson about balance in all things. Of course sometimes the hard way to learn that particular lesson is to go way off into an extreme, but in the process of regaining balance, many great realisations become possible where before they may have been considered unnecessary or even unobtainable. Dunno, what do you reckon about that?

Cheers

Chris

W. B. Jorgenson said...

Ah, suddenly what you've done in Learning Ritual Magic makes a lot more sense. I'm working through it now, I'm in the second lesson, and I was fairly surprised to see only a single, very simple ritual, with a lot of emphasis on what I will assume is leading to meditation. In any case, I figured there was a reason for it, but I wasn't sure what until now.

onething said...

I have several questions.
1. I did not get where you explained the need to read Evola; it was all negatives. What's the positive? The essays?
2. I'm struck again, as I always am, by how we are swimming in the dark in the astral. It's a whole 'nother world to be negotiated. Perhaps it would not seem so daunting if our culture had not neglected it for so long. Perhaps some of these mistakes would seem obvious.
3. You mention 'standard' exercises to develop consciousness and will...so I'm having one of those synchronicity moments – because I really know nothing about any of this magical stuff, but I've got a person in my life who lacks exactly that – and I was just thinking about her intently this morning and realized that her mental/emotional issues come down to a lack of consciousness and will. She's interested in magic and Wicca. But what if she doesn't have enough consciousness and will to develop same?
4. I'm talking about issues a bit moreso than the average person and probably inherited, so I certainly wouldn't want her to get more unbalanced (as you mention some people get), although somehow she is rather hard headed when it comes to this sort of thing – perhaps because she's more comfortable than the average person in nebulous regions.
5. “One of the goals of magical training, to turn to technical language for a moment, is the equilibration of the lower self:  in less opaque terms, the balancing out of the habitual imbalances of the personality, so that the aspiring mage can use his or her habits of thought and feeling rather than being used by them. Magical systems cooked up by people who haven’t had such a training inevitably miss this; having projected the habitual imbalances of their personalities onto the cosmos—and we all do this, until appropriate disciplines teach us how to stop—they end up reinforcing their imbalances rather than equilibrating them. “
– OK, I kind of get this but it is very important and needs a little more unpacking.

Tidlösa said...

"Like Evola, Crowley set out to revolt against the modern world; like Evola, what he actuallly revolted against was the world of his parents’ generation, in favor of the latest fashionable ideas of the modern world."

Most conservatives (the "real" ones) make the opposite mistake, and want to go back to a "traditional" society which is really only one or two generations removed from our own. I would very much like to turn the clock back a couple of decades (as far as society is concerned, I have no problems with my own age!), but at least I don´t call myself "conservative"...

Then there are the utopians, who dream about a traditional society that never actually existed, anywhere. I sometimes wonder whether Guénon and Schuon were of that type.

A question concerning astrology. You say that Nazi Germany was "solar" and the Left Coast is "Mercurial". Do you use Uranus, Neptune and Pluto in your system? I think many would argue that Nazism was Plutonic, while California is very Uranian or perhaps Neptunian.

Hereward said...

Oh goodness me, no! Although I have many quibbles with Retrotopia the overarching reason I want to fling it across the room is that it is nothing like strong enough!

Having turned back the technological clock and found a way to pay for everything (all very laudable) how do the Lakelanders run their society? As consumerism-lite, the current American Dream rebadged as the Lakeland Dream!! 'Fore you know it everyone will have a W-pad, yessiree!

I am hoping for something so much more: philosophy and rhetoric taught in schools and taken to new levels; really raising the level of understanding of the general public as opposed to just some select elite; finding a good way to share the wealth without the dogma and pitfalls of socialism, communism or any other 'ism'; getting democracy to work as we always hoped it should; discussion instead of polemic; the states of conciousness brought into mainstream thinkng (and feeling); care and love of the planet, our home etc, etc.

That is why I read your blogs, that is why I am reading Evola: maybe in the past humanity missed an important turn in the road.

Come on, quit mucking around, astound me!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Hereward,

Wow! Well the internet is a strange place to communicate with others.

I would not have written that particular comment to JMG. You have the tone of a consumer who is forever demanding more. My advice to you is to learn to be happy with what you are receiving or perhaps you should make your own attempt to meet your high expectations? Your mission should you choose to accept it is... My gut feeling though is that you are very good at demanding, but not so good at producing. It is a very common problem in todays society and it is a character weakness / flaw. Just sayin...

Cheers

Chris

jessi thompson said...

Oooh fascinating :) I may be entirely wrong, but I think of Crowley as one of the many reincarnated Egyptian priests running around on Earth trying to finish the Enlightenment process started in those pyramids and temples. I think Egypt was full of excellent spiritual magicians, but it fed the ego too much, because everybody who was anybody was a priest or priestess if a grand temple that might be jockeying for power with the family of the pharaoh. People straight out of Egypt haven't done the ego taming work and so they have a tendency to realize "I am God" and promptly spiral into insanity. Eastern philosophy provides a much better source of Enlightenment because they kill the ego dead before they do anything else, so when they rise it's straight to "I am God just like you are God and he is God and that bug is God, better not squish him". But the East's magickally practices haven't crossed over, so it's not as rich or enlivening as occultism. There has to be a balance somewhere. I think I was very lucky that a phase of intense dream study rounded out some of my ego flaws but Zi have not benefitted from a complete course of study on my own. I will look into that next, after I settle into the Kundalini routine I just started. What other options exist for a complete magickally system? Also, is all the necessary Golden Dawn material available for solitaries or would I have to be initiated?

Barrabas said...

Oh well you cant please everyone JMG , good on you for publishing Herewards criticism .
With reference to Tidlosas comment , i think playing the Hieros Gamos on the tree of life is like Snakes and Ladders . Nazis tried to blast their way to Tiphareth via the Panzer Black Blitzkrieg path of Death , from there they hoped to accelerate vertically through the paths of the Lovers , the Priestess and The Emperor to storm the gates of heaven itself . Their intended vehicle was indeed solar . Instead, after a good drubbing along the paths of the Tower and Wheel of Fortune , they ended up as Crab Food Lunatics akong the path of the Moon and perhaps even lower . ( The Hermit broke the enigma code).
Even so , there is mounting evidence that their leading hands absconded with all the technology and loot to infect the USA from inside , via the three headed hound of Drugs , Religion and Corporations , ( as well as being firmly embedded inside NASA and the military industrial complex itself .
Getting hung up on such theories , whether true or not , will not lead me to Tiphareth , rather , up on a wild ride towards the Hanged Man and Devil , wherupon i too could find myself getting dlu g from the Tower and joining millions of dead Wehrmacht and SS veterans at the bottom of the Moon pond , in the belly of the crab, howling at the moon .
Magic carries its risks, you know !

Hereward said...

@Cherokee

I absolutely take your point my friend and thank you for writing the comment.

In actual fact, that last comment was certainly not meant as an insult in any way, shape or form. It is a missquote of the standard catch phrase of (of all people!) the late comedian Kenneth Williams of "Carry On!" (ahem) fame and said in a particular way as some kind of exasperation and encouragement. Taken out of context it clearly conveys a very different message which I now regret.

As for being demanding, well I do try to comment constructively but also to provoke - myself mainly - into thinking deeply about the issues. Again, there is never any intention to offend, but in the case of Retrotopia it is a work of fiction and I think it is reasonable to criticise constructively. Which is always my intention. I am guilty of getting a bit carried away at time!

@JMG
I sincerely apologise for any insult perceived in my previous comment.

I value your writings tremendously and am trying to learn. One reason for the increase in frequency of my comments is that a year ago I started the OBOD course and through that I have recognised that while I think a great deal about issues, I am a poor communicator of my ideas (now there's a surprise!) Through comments such as to this blog I hope to improve and be able to contribute more. Thank you for patience.

Humbly,
Hereward

ed boyle said...

One more comment about social life in the group, particularly with opening chakras. Getting to know an individual or oneself for that matter, is like peeling an onion. At first cold exterior, then perhaps friendly, superficial, then quiet, etc. Basically this takes lots of time for, say two girlfriends to work through, to really trust one another, a guy may never get, in the random office group beyond chit chat. Feeling the individual energy through random contact when one person perhaps is more relaxed gets me into this layer of personality without becoming personal. Then the whole process in the group is like a maze, d+d game, or computer game. One individual's personality aspects or 'energy' gives me the keys or tools to get through to next person and so on. Later I have grown and can penetrate first individual's next defense layers, perhaps just feel energy in pssing, which makes me shudder, burns along my spine and at home or over weekend that stays with me, I mimic the person, wash, rinse, repeat.

In total this increases my energy enormously as I 'grok' a larger group of people at a deeper level over time. People exist simultaneously at all levels, they are seriously engaged professionals, intellectually curious, sexual, etc. and one feels all of that in grokking but there is no conscious goal of eventual 'groping' or anything else as too much energy and too many people are involved and one just gets by. If I overfocus, obsess on one, they notice this as a grooup and counteract, protecting, so that essentially my depth remains similar for many so I am defocussed and have perspective as a whole. One may have read of chaotic and dangerous kundalini awakenings where one needs a lot of tender loving care. I have found a good deal of TLC.

Anyway discussing this helps me understand it better. If it is really deep magical knowledge or 'something completely different' and irrelevant must be thought over. Perhaps I am a 'natural' and you will learn from, like a spiritual autist, without grounding, or perhaps one doesn't need all the books, just simple instructions and a strong moral compass. I tend to think everyone has their own path, we help each other learn and are complementary. Analyzing my life, my horoscope, etc. I believe this all going to plan for me and I have little choice in the matter, autopilot, but very interesting indeed.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Tidlosa--JMG wrote that the San Francisco Bay Area is awash in unbalanced Mercurial energy. I think he is referring to the fact that our economy, which used to be a mix of different kinds of enterprises, is dominated by businesses relating to computers, the Internet, social media etc.

I think California as a whole and over time is more Uranian than Neptunian. The state lies over two colliding tectonic plates, which pushed up the Sierra Nevada in the east and created a network of earthquake faults running north and south. Also, in a very short period of time, the human population which lived lightly on the land in small bands was nearly replaced by a much larger population of industrialized people who transformed the land with buildings, mines, highways, farms, fences and exotic flora and fauna.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@onething--You wrote that a person in your life is interested in magic and Wicca, and that she has some mental/emotional issues. On the material in this month's entry, I defer completely to JMG's expertise. However, JMG wrote that he has never had an interest in the practice of Wicca, while Wicca has been at the center of my magical and spiritual studies for a long while, so I might have something helpful to say just on that.

The first thing I would say is that a high percentage of people who are attracted to Wiccan-style witchcraft have some emotional problem that they are trying to heal or overcome. Maybe this is true of spiritual seekers in general, but it is for sure true of a disproportionate number of people who are drawn to witchcraft.

Many these days are trying to learn Wicca solely online and from books, and practice it entirely alone or with occasional visits to festivals or public rituals where they are doing ritual with strangers. This is not a very good way to learn or practice witchcraft if you are not already well trained in some other system of magic and especially if you are trying to remedy your own weaknesses. Solitary work is an essential part of the practice but it is not sufficient for a beginner or intermediate student. It is better either to practice and study under the guidance of a more experienced witch, or in an intimate group that works together regularly over a period of time and includes some emotionally mature people. The give and take with other people provides a reality check.

For a solitary practitioner, I think the best and safest approach to Wicca is through purely devotional practices. Learning about a deity, praying regularly to that deity and making offerings will usually result in developing a relationship with the god or goddess, who may then be called upon for guidance and occasional aid. Often people choose or are chosen by a deity who has qualities that the devotee lacks and would like to develop.

Some wounded people try Wicca and drift away, some stick around but don't grow emotionally, but some witches do become stronger, more confident, more aware of others' needs, and more resilient when troubles come than before they took up witchcraft.

As a rule, the cultivation of the will in Wicca starts with an emphasis on taking responsibility for your own actions and your own life. Teachers usually will not take on a student whose life is chaotic. There usually is some self-assessment as part of training and some teachers will give students assignments that require them to deal with something they have been dodging.

Wicca has an intellectual component but it is more physical and earthy than some other spiritual paths. It's good for people who want to cultivate their connection to the greater whole by doing things with their bodies: walking in the woods, gardening, dancing, singing, making things.

Boulderlovin Cat said...

“One of the goals of magical training, to turn to technical language for a moment, is the equilibration of the lower self: in less opaque terms, the balancing out of the habitual imbalances of the personality, so that the aspiring mage can use his or her habits of thought and feeling rather than being used by them.”

I can really see the need for the balancing out through what is happening to me as I work through the early chapters of Learning Ritual Magic. Working through the exercises is making me deal with some really negative emotions and how I have let some personality traits run amok without seeking balance. I was surprised to find this and wondered why these emotions were bubbling up and if I was doing something wrong. But as I kept at the exercises, I found that I needed the work so I could deal with how some of these emotions and traits have been ruling me. I find I am now starting to recognize when I am being used by my habits of thought and feeling--not quite to the point where I can always turn that around and use them instead, but working towards that goal and I am grateful for the discipline of a good system to help me work to change that. Being a novice working through things on your own, sometimes you wonder about what is happening to you. Reading this blog helps to put it into context!

John Michael Greer said...

Brigyn, you're most welcome.

Ed, good. One traditional way of thinking about magic is that it's the art of horoscope repair.

Cherokee, it's been a long and complex road down from pompous blowhardity -- yes, Leo is strong in my natal chart! Regular practice of magical disciplines meant to bring balance and self-knowledge was a major part of it, though.

WB, exactly. We'll be talking about more of the reasons why in upcoming posts.

Onething, we'll get to the reasons for reading Evola in the upcoming posts about Revolt Against the Modern World. That's the book of his I'd encourage people to read, for reasons we'll discuss; the book on magic is mostly useful for operative mages who teach students, or expect to do so, and want an object lesson on how not to do it. Swimming in the astral -- the thing is, we all do that all the time. It's just a matter of learning how to perceive that, and there are straightforward ways to do that.

As for consciousness and will, nobody has enough of those -- if we did, we'd have finished learning the lessons of the human level and be doing something else. Everybody has some, and the point of magical training is that it takes the little that the student has, and uses that little to build more. When you say the person in question is "interested in" magic and Wicca, does that mean she likes to read and daydream about them, or is she actually up to doing, say, fifteen minutes of daily practice? That's where the rubber meets the road. As for the rest -- yes, we'll unpack that as we proceed.

Tidlösa, well, yes. Everyone who thinks they're revolting against the modern world is revolting against one abstract phantom in the name of another abstract phantom. As for the outer planets, I use Uranus and Neptune but not Pluto, and there's a complex story behind that. The short form is that, just as Ceres was identified as a planet from 1801 to the 1850s, and not before or after, and functioned astrologically as a planet during that same period plus one Saturn cycle on either end, rising up and fading out, so Pluto was identified a planet from 1930 to 2006 and functioned astrologically as one during the same period, with thirty years coming in and going out on either end. I'm working, somewhat slowly, on a book on that subject.

Hereward, nah, you've missed the point of the narrative. What makes Retrotopia subversive is that it's so normal. People go about their lives and their business without any particular sensation of jawdropping astonishment, and the fact that they do it with a much simpler and more resilient technology is exactly the crux of the matter. Astonishment is easy; comfortable normality is much sneakier... ;-)

Jessi, if Crowley was a reincarnated Egyptian priest, I wonder where he'd been wasting his time for the last two or three thousand years! The necessary Golden Dawn material for self-initiation is all available in print; Chic and Sandra Cicero's book Self-Initiation in the Golden Dawn Tradition and my cowritten book Learning Ritual Magic are two good introductions. Even if you plan on joining a GD temple at some point, I strongly recommend starting with solitary training, so you have some idea of what you're getting into and can benefit as much as possible from the initiation rituals.

Barrabas, well, yes -- and you could more simply point out that the time you spend chasing after the phantom of conspiracy theory is time you could be putting into learning and practicing magic. When it comes to conspiracies, this article from the Daily Mash more or less sums up my opinion!

John Michael Greer said...

Hereward, good heavens, I didn't feel insulted at all! My ego is far more ironclad than that. ;-) (See my previous comment about Leo being strong in my natal chart.) I'm trying to do something very specific with Retrotopia, and it's not going to appeal to all tastes; in particular, those who like a sense of wonder in their utopian narratives are going to be left unsatisfied, because as already noted, the sheer normality of the Lakeland Republic is one of the core things I'm trying to work with -- "see, you don't need all that electronic cybertrash to live a perfectly ordinary, happy, and productive life!"

Ed, many people have some degree of natural psychism, which is what you're discussing here -- more specifically, you've got one common form of natural psychism; there are many others. Yes, that's something the rest of us can learn from; equally, though, the natural psychic can learn from systems of magical training how to balance and equilibrate the personality as well as the various forms of subtle perception.

Cat, excellent! That kind of thing happens very often in the early stages of the training -- both the meditation exercises and the basic ritual catalyze it, and bring imbalances to conscious awareness so they can be understood and resolved. The recognition that some of those patterns have been ruling you, pushing you willy-nilly into unwelcome experiences, is crucial; once you get a clear sense of that, you've got the foundation on which the magical will can operate: the recognition that you are not your personality, and you can therefore change "who you are" (that is, what your present personality is) wherever that's appropriate.

An astonishing number of people stumble through lives utterly convinced that they are their personalities, so that the thought of changing even the most dysfunctional aspects of how they relate to themselves and the world fills them with the terror of annihilation! Get past that, and it becomes possible to change the things that cause most human misery. "Character is destiny," as the saying goes; change your character, change your destiny.

avalterra said...

JMG,

Which post did you announce the short story call? I would like to send it to my wife.

AV

John Michael Greer said...

Avalterra, it's in On Beyond Broomsticks, from March of this year.

Dwig said...

John Michael,
I've been "lurking" for quite a while, so first I want to offer a belated congratulations on your decadal anniversary and attaining Emeritus status.

Recent events in my life have pointed out to me that I have some serious work to do on certain aspects of my consciousness and/or unconsciousness, and reading the comments here indicate that Learning Ritual Magic could be a quite useful tool for the work. One question, though: from my reading, I get the sense that the Druid material might "resonate" more with me than the GD (I'm more and more getting a sense of what I'm calling the "presence of Gaia" around and within me). Is there a rough equivalent to this book, based on Druidry? (If not, it won't be an obstacle.)

Scotlyn said...

Ed Boyle, your description of receiving energy that burns along your spine after penetrating another's "personality layers" and being able to use one person's energy as a key to the next person, nowhere indicates if this activity is mutually beneficial, or if there is consent or agreement granting you such access to the energy of another.


I have to tell you that I would be unhappy to find out someone of my acquaintance had used me (drunk & eaten me, almost) in this way without my knowledge or ability to withdraw at any time.


What you describe sounds like a practice that requires a large dollop of ethics, and I hope you don't mind me saying so.


Be well.

James M. Jensen II said...

JMG,

If I can ask another astrology-related question, I'm quite curious which house system you use, especially for birth charts. Every author seems to have their own favorite, with quite different justifications.

If I had to guess, I'd say you're either a Whole-Sign or Campanus man.

onething said...

Deborah Bender and JMG (I can't seem to separate the replies),

Thank you for your kind reply. I'm out of my depth here, but what would you say Wicca is about as opposed to Celtic Golden Dawn or druidry?

The whole question of spiritual aspirations and how they may intertwine with mental illness is a topic and a worry that she and I have discussed. And, apropos of what JMG said at July 24, 2016 at 8:36 PM, she herself is afraid that if she were to become more functional and less into daydreaming that she would lose the edge on her spiritual self. I've told her I doubt that is true.

It seems somewhat unlikely that she would find much companionship for Wicca or other practice around here is it is extremely rural and also Appalachian. But I do think that she has tended to learn and do some practice alone and I agree that isn't sufficient.

There seems to be a bit of a Catch-22 here, regarding someone who wants to heal but who is too chaotic to be taken as a student, someone who needs to put forth 15 minutes a day and who has trouble doing even more basic things than that...

Yes, she likes to read and daydream. Spending a lot of time in an emotional, imaginal realm with not a lot of clear thought, although she has many thoughts.

She reads here. Doesn't comment.

It seems to me that she knows her faults and isn't very defensive about them, although depressed about them, and so I am wondering about “bringing the imbalances into conscious awareness so they can be understood and resolved.”

Now is her Saturn return and perhaps a window of opportunity to become more responsible.

onething said...

"When it comes to conspiracies, this article from the Daily Mash more or less sums up my opinion!"

Yes, that was funny but it is silly to dismiss all conspiracy theory just because some people have not thought it through and think that there is one monolithic and happy family running everything, world around. There have always been conspiracies. The killing of Julius Caesar was a conspiracy.

SLClaire said...

Re your answer to Cat's comment, while I have a whole lot of work to do yet in this area, between the years of Zen practice and a magic practice that balances the imbalances of the personality, I have noticed that the shyness that I considered to be a basic aspect of my personality for many years ... isn't. Last Saturday evening, we went to a party at the house of new friends, a couple we know through the Zen center that Mike belongs to and I helped to start. A few other folks I know from the center also attended, but the vast majority of people were unknown to me. Before the years of Zen and magic practice, I would have felt too shy to venture away from people I already knew, thus missing out on much of the life of the party. Now, after orienting myself and eating a bit, I started making the circuit of the house and yard on my own, meeting and talking for awhile with different people as I did so. Both before and after the party, Mike commented that for some time now he's noticed that I am far more comfortable in situations where I know very few people than I had been through much of our marriage.

The interesting thing is that as I was talking with and listening to different people, a soft voice in my head, apparently the one that applies the label "shy" to me, was expressing mild surprise at my actions. For my part, I shrugged my shoulders at it and went on meeting and talking with people. This is one area in which I've been able to change who I thought I was, with many benefits as a result. Some other areas have changed or are changing as well. That has changed my life for the better, and appears to have been helpful to family and friends as well, judging from their responses.

Maria Rigel said...

JMG, when you talk about "too much solar influence", are you talking about people saying "thou art God" and all that? I always assumed the idea was put there to ensure that if you have a tendency to behave like an arrogant bastard, you were thereby invited to go ahead and make a fool of yourself. OK, there's also the classic Hermetic concept of humans being the means by which the Universe is aware of itself, which seems to have become a standard thing included in every cosmology textbook so that you are appropriately awed, as opposed to wondering: And what have faraway galaxies got to do with me? Beautiful idea, but ultimately, it doesn't exactly put bread on your table or fix your life in any way.

On the other hand, I'm still mulling about the "eye in the sky" aspect of the sun. I don't think I fully understand it yet.

W. B. Jorgenson said...

@Dwig,

There's the Druid Magic Handbook (also by JMG), but from my experience, I'd personally recommend you start with Learning Ritual Magic. The Druid Magic Handbook seemed a bit too advanced for a complete beginner to me. Maybe I just wasn't ready, but that was my impression when I started trying to work with it.

I'm planning to come back to it and work with it once I'm done Learning Ritual Magic, but that's very much the order I'd recommend. I'm sure other people had different experiences, but I'm finding Learning Ritual Magic much better for me at my level, although I recognize the Druid Magic Handbook has a lot of excellent material, it felt too advanced.

ed boyle said...

Scotlyn,

this is in fact the crux of the matter. I have to learn to be unobtrusive, responsible, cautious. However it can be quite uncontrollable. It is better that I get to a level with these younger women that I am polite, feel a light burning in my chakras, move along. If I have not seen someone for some time due to vacation or so and my energy has gotten stronger or I have lost touch with their energy I might 'swoon' as I get a lot of energy suddenly. Just imagine an averge person as a weak radio transmitter, you get into kundalini yoga work intensively, feel it internally, one day your transmitter strength is strong enough to jump the gap to these weak transmitters, a sort of total body telepathy. Like in a movie where the man heard what women were thinking all the time when he was near them. At first he went almost crazy. Just imagine. I have no idea what they think but general personality feelings can be judged, mellow, happy, whatever. Getting past superficial like when one is first in love gets to next layer of relationship of personality analysis on a cold rational basis from within the person, as if I were that person. Stanislavsky method acting unwillingly. This has helped me as a shy person to integrate into a larger group as I am very interested in everyone and their well being as a glance or so and I tune into their remembered energy again, take it home with me, contemplate them, worry about them. Older males in the group bore me as I get no energy for example. Controlled sexuality, flirting in the group, seems to be the grease that makes the world go round. In unisex groups the consciousness of the 'other' is always there in discussions, male sex jokes, etc. Some men have misogynist tendencies as they are perhaps low in sexual energy or at home it is running so well. An optimal understanding, appreciation of the opposite sex smooths working atmosphere considerably, particularly where women are powerful, male egos needn't be hurt, if deeper appreciation can be established. A little affection goes a long way. Interethnic, etc. also. Prettiness, friendliness knows no bounds, star signs however are very real boundaries which with time can be overcome, water signs are my personal favourites, pisces is soft, scorpio controlling but mysterious and somehow sexy, cancer friendly aggressive but to me superficial. This is all like food tasting where everyday I eat something different, wonderful. Fire signs combine brutality in love in parallel ( 'I love you when you're angry'), the others are not as obvious to me yet but I think those are the ones I mostly just very occassionally get a shock, after a couple of months, and give an angry look, as mostly I ignore them as being irrelevant in my social system. Your girlfriends have likely compatible signs or your husband, only most have transmitting power at similar strength. Mine keeps growing. I just have to be aware, as they do of my problem-which is thankfully very rare,(just imagine the social chaos) and keep an eye on it, that I sleep well, do my yoga and tai chi to smooth it out, have a sense of humour. I have read of twin flames in internet and on threads of one woman who seemed to similarly feel for one man after another in her office. But my sort of growing energy where my 'bandhas', butt muscles, stomach musclis contract pushing energy upwards involuntarily upon meeting someone or later thinking of them is progressive stage. Sometimes my heart just burns. Problem is missing these people is all the more bitter, making new acquaintances at such a deep level without causing offense is a terrible amount of work for me and tolerance for them. God stay me by, he/she got me into this, my dharma, karma.

John Michael Greer said...

Dwig, with regard to Druid magic, my two books The Druidry Handbook and The Druid Magic Handbook are meant to fill the same role -- the second depends to some extent on the first, which is why some people find it a little harder to get into than Learning Ritual Magic. One of these days I'll probably do a Celtic Golden Dawn Workbook or the like as a basic introduction to the CGD form of Druid magic, but that's a ways off yet.

James, I'm actually not that picky about house systems, as they're pretty clearly vague regions rather than exact territories with exact boundaries. Most of the time I use Placidus, simply because that's the default on the astrology program I use when I don't calculate charts by hand.

Onething, one thing -- I trust you're not losing track of the fact that she, not you, will decide whether she's going to become more responsible, or what have you. Trying to make that sort of decision for another person rarely works out well. As for conspiracy theories, I've written an encyclopedia of secret societies and conspiracies, so yes, I know that conspiracies exist. I also know that they're much less powerful and influential than conspiracy theorists like to claim, and that a lot of things blamed on conspiracies by conspiracy theorists can be explained much more clearly and simply by assuming that ordinary human stupidity is behind it all.

SLClaire, excellent! That's exactly it -- being shy, or for that matter being outgoing and social, is a choice that's useful in some situations and not in others; it's like a sun dress, let's say, which is really comfortable in June and not a good idea at all to wear in January. ;-) Once you realize that it's a choice, you can choose it or choose something different depending on the weather!

Maria, the "thou art God" business can be taken in many different ways, some more dysfunctional than others. (When Robert Heinlein was asked why he'd written the book Stranger in a Strange Land, which is where that phrase comes from, he famously replied, "for the money.") By solar influence I mean one of the seven traditional planetary energies, the one associated with the Sun, which (like the others) relates to certain specific personality expressions. If you pick up an introduction to astrology, and read what it has to say about the Sun and Leo, that'll cover the ground adequately.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Hereward and JMG,

No worries, JMG is clearly a more tolerant man than I.

I appreciated both of your replies and/or comments and seriously, no worries about it all, and apologies if I have offended you either of you in turn.

I don't always agree with JMG and in some matters, our very different lives impact our perspectives. For example, I live in a wild and remote spot away from large chunks of people because that suits my nature and I appreciate the distance. JMG on the other hand lives in a small town in the rust belt and he lives closer to many other people than I am comfortable with.

About half a year ago at JMG’s suggestion, I read Robert E Howard's classic series of stories: The chronicles of Conan the barbarian. And I kind of understood where the character of Conan was coming from and I could empathise with his plight and interactions with the population. At one memorable story, some locals were unwisely giving Conan a hard time verbally in a bar and he warned them that: "only civilised men would so insult other men, trusting to their civilised ways. Barbarians on the other hand are always very polite to one another because they never know when an insult may cause them to get their head bashed in (or something along those lines, I believe you get the gist of it). :-)!

Anyway, I sort of feel that as a society we have lost our abilities to a certain extent to be civilised and polite to each other. I often feel that the social niceties are worthwhile pursuing simply to smooth social tensions (look at the unfolding dramas over in the US for a real world example). And our fixation with communication through electronic devices has removed a lot of the social niceties from our lives. I believe JMG - and this may be worthwhile confirming - has stated that the use of the devices themselves may have led to a situation where people may be confused and that they may feel that the people that they are communicating with are devices themselves - it would certainly explain a thing or two. And I reckon this is a bad thing. Although perhaps I am a little bit more wild than our host? Dunno.

Sorry, I'm waffling, anyway, I reckon you get the point, but I'm happy to discuss this with you further if you so wish?

Oh as a general rule of thumb, to politely give criticism it is often wise to use the Positive; Negative; Positive tool. It goes something like this example:

Hi JMG,

I’ve been enjoying the ongoing story of Retrotopia and am finding it to be quite interesting (positive)

However, there have been times when if it was printed out, I would flung it across the room because I felt that it was not a strong enough narrative (negative).

I do understand that the normal narrative of the future that you have written about, less all of the electronic gizmos that we are currently dependent upon is the point of the story, however sometimes it is frustrating as I wanted to be astounded and challenged (positive-ish)

How is that for a quick example? I’m pretty sure you could use that tool to come up with other examples?

Cheers

Chris

John Roth said...

@JMG

I usually take "thou art God" to be a basic expression of pantheism. Taking it as any more than that can, as you say, get someone in real trouble.

Sven Eriksen said...

I was kind of hoping that you would get around to discussing the potential pathologies inherent in the solar focused paths soon, as you hinted some time last year in the comments section that this would be up for discussion at some point. Though I can attest to the corresponding pathologies on the other side of the middle pilar being just as devastating. My own experience these last couple of years have been that of being dragged kicking and screaming back and forth between Death and The Devil. At the former the world is unbearable, and at the latter the self is equally unbearable. It is true, though, what is taught with regards to the purifying effect of the path of Peh: The most baffling thing has been to experience people, situations and life in general becoming increasingly more friendly, helpful and benevolent the more I consciously allowed myself to go through this process of being torn inside out from within. I feel I can finally settle in for that equilibrium now. What a long, strange trip this is...

Oh, and John, Chris et. al.: Glad to hear I am not the only one who had to start out from the position of pompous, arrogant young man. The gods will truly have none of it, will they ;-)

onething said...

JMG,

"The short form is that, just as Ceres was identified as a planet from 1801 to the 1850s, and not before or after, and functioned astrologically as a planet during that same period plus one Saturn cycle on either end, rising up and fading out, so Pluto was identified a planet from 1930 to 2006 and functioned astrologically as one during the same period, with thirty years coming in and going out on either end. I'm working, somewhat slowly, on a book on that subject."

There's a new book called Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas which has made astrology real for me in a way that nothing prior has. He uses Pluto a lot and goes back into history for patterns involving Pluto with Uranus. Of course, not only them but that's as far as I've gotten. He seems to think that since Pluto has always been there we can now look back and reinterpret our thinking about the past events with taking it into account. Getting demoted as a planet doesn't really make a difference.

Agent Provocateur said...

JMG,

Apropos to potentially bad advice regarding magical training, Gordon White in his book “Chaos Protocols” suggested some techniques for magical initiation that he likened to depth bombing one's psyche. He indicated that as a minimum the result would give you some interesting dreams and so help convince one of the realities one is dealing with.

I can't say I tried any of the techniques (psycho active drugs, invoking the the devil at midnight at the cross roads, reciting the Lord's prayer backwards three times etc.) so I can't comment on how effective they might be. The issue for me is the whole concept of depth bombing one's psyche to begin with ... just to see what interesting stuff floats to the surface. Fracking your soul just doesn't sound like a good idea.

My sense is Crowley did a lot of soul fracking.

Similarly, Stephen Skinner has suggested that invoking demons is quite safe if one take the proper precautions. Hmm. Again, I can't say from personal experience. There is the temptation to give it a whirl just to see what happens, but somehow the notion of inviting something demonic into one life just doesn't sound right. Even if one does the invocation, binding, and banishing properly and so doesn't have to responds to the fallout of “Mommy, Daddy's been invoking demons again ... the living room is covered in bird shit” (a la one of Skinner's experiments gone wrong), I suspect there is a longer term residual effect. If one is going to invoke spiritual forces, one wants them to be positive, balanced, and not mess up the upholstery.

Nonetheless, the desire for some flash (and proof) is there.

Skinner has also expressed the opinion that only perhaps since the Golden Dawn have religious ritual (conventional religion) , techniques for spiritual development (mystery schools), and results orientated magical practice (spirits/demons, talismans etc.) been bundled together as we currently find them in a given magical school/system today. He suggests that before that time, and certainly in the ancient world, these three activities were entirely separate. Magic in particular was a rather unethical affair from today's point of view. One doesn't need to hold esoteric views on karma to understand that bad intent is in itself a mental attitude that will certainly bring nothing but harm to oneself (and others).

That all said, I suspect the practice of magic without those (or other) balancing, integrating, and enlightening elements is a ticket to some very bad places as you suggested. You have also suggested that even the Golden Dawn itself was not balanced. If so, and if Skinner is right about “magical bundling”, this suggests healthy, non-soul fracking magic is a very recent phenomena; maybe something that arose, if at all, after the sex cults lost their drawing power.

John Roth said...

@onething

The Pluto thing is interesting. I have to say I’m on the fence about which way to treat it. The fact is, neither Ceres nor Pluto is big enough to be “major,” which is why Pluto was officially demoted. They’re both relatively large bodies in belts that contain lots of bodies of roughly comparable sizes. Ceres is the largest body in the main asteroid belt, but it’s not large enough to control it gravitationally; Pluto isn’t even the largest body in the Kuiper belt.

So I can see JMG’s position from the viewpoint that all of these things are constructs in consciousness that we put there; they don’t have the same level of independent validity that the actual planets do as physical objects on the physical plane. There’s a Michael channeling somewhere that says this pretty explicitly. It’s way too long to post here, so here’s the link: http://our.truthloveenergy.com/articles.html/library/michael-on/astrology/astrological-pattern-recognition-r407/ .

From the other side, I did some work a long time ago about Pluto and generations (Strauss and Howe definitions) in the US, and came to the conclusion that certain Pluto transits were driving it through three different charts: a generic British chart, the Plymouth Rock chart and the US chart, each of which superseded the previous one. I did some final checking and decided not to publish it for reasons. That used Pluto way back into the 1500s, and explained the Civil War anomaly as well.

Scotlyn said...

Ed Boyle, I understand you are awakeming to something powerful, And you are only exploring and getting a feel for how it works. Still I am left with a feeling of danger from what you are describing, and I pass that on to you - for what it's worth.

1) you describe these encounters as giving you a surplus of energy. Are you certain you are not leaving the other person with a deficit of energy? That is to say drawing something vital from them? (I do not ask you to answer to me on this, just to consider the question for yourself)
2) If someone indicated they did not consent to this energy exchange, or you became aware it was doing harm, could you stop it? Do you know how to close down your receiver, as it were?
(Again, you owe me nothing in terms of answers, but these are important considerations to reflect on, because any interaction between two people has potential to cross boundaries and knowing how to withdraw when we become aware of tripping a boundary defense is simply good manners - and also, as Chris has pointed out, helps to avoid someone taking pointed offence).

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@onething--

"what would you say Wicca is about as opposed to Celtic Golden Dawn or druidry?" I would say that what they are about has a lot of overlap. People sometime end up practicing whichever path they happen to come across first, especially if they like and respect the people they meet who are practitioners, because having a network of friends you can do things with is valuable.

There are differences in organizational structure, some differences in cultural references and symbolic systems, and differences in "flavor" which is mostly a matter of personal taste. Talking about Wicca is complicated because classic Wicca is a specific variety of religious witchcraft which originated in the middle of the twentieth century, but Wicca in the broad sense bleeds over into the entire movement of popular neopaganism without clear boundaries.

I don't have the talent to see from a distance what makes your friend tick, and giving advice blind isn't something I want to do. In any case, it's a matter of what is important to her.

Nano said...

@jmg - "...horoscope repair" jotting that one down to memory.

Can you recommend any books on Shinto, and Japanese magic systems?

John Michael Greer said...

Cherokee, no worries. I think I'm going to imagine you from here on in wearing a horned helmet and a bearskin kilt, with a battleax over your shoulder!

John, I tend to take it as an example that somebody read way too much bad science fiction. The second part of your statement, on the other hand, I agree with wholeheartedly!

Sven, whichever combination of paths you take up from Malkuth/Naf, you're going to get a rough ride. That includes straight up the Middle Pillar -- in fact that's the hardest of all. Magic ain't easy...

Onething, Tarnas' book has been out for a while -- I read it not long after it was first published, and found it interesting but not convincing. As time permits, I'll finish up my book on post-Plutonian astrology, you can have a look at it, and then make up your mind.

Agent, if that's what White's saying, I'd put him right up there with Evola as somebody whose advice you do not want to follow. No, fracking your psyche is, well, a fracking bad idea. As for Skinner, he's quite wrong; most European magic before the Golden Dawn era was tolerably well integrated with either Christian or Jewish religious practice, and in fact one of the reasons I think the grimoire fundamentalists have gone wrong is that most of them aren't attending the mass, confessing their sins, and receiving absolution before conjuring spirits, nor do most of them believe in the god whose names they're invoking to protect themselves from demons: not a good idea, to my mind. The Golden Dawn's problems came in large part because they were one of the first magical orders to stand alone, apart from regular participation in ordinary religion; one of the useful things Dion Fortune and her successors did was figure out how to make that work with fewer problems.

Nano, if you can find it, Carmen Blacker's The Catalpa Bow is a good basic overview of Japanese magic; it's been out of print for too long, though, and hard to find these days. (If any publishers are listening, please get the rights to this and bring it back into print!) I don't know of a good English language introduction to Shinto -- that's something that would be equally useful. It's a lovely religion with many upsides and few downsides.

ed boyle said...

@ deborah bender

i feel something, other person doesn't, no vampire here.

say you watch tv, does it notice? You are talking to yourself. I hear from the next room, go away, you continue, no net effect on you, but I gather information, morally perhaps eavesdropping. Similarly a young woman whom I get to know well, works, chats near me, I observe her carefully from the side or listen to her talking on her cell phone. I hear and/or see her with my normal organs , i.e. eyes(photons) and ears(air pushed to follicles), additional to that my chakras being after many years of fine tuning, activated, perceive her emotional states as she exudes these feelings naturally, unconsciously. If I stare at the sun or listen to very loud music I can damage my eyes and ears. SimilarlybI have become oversensitive to certain women or types of women who if I stare at or listen to too long will start my chakras, then my whole nervous system, head to toe, burning. I have to get used to her energy again, avoid her, sleep it off. Read dante. He describes similar with beatrix relationship. At one point she did not smile at him as the energgy would have been overwhelming and at each stage he is overwhelmed, gets used to it, moves up to next energy level in heaven, all just analogies for higher awakening. It is obvious to me that the nervous system can take a lot of energy but some people undergoing kundalini awakening do not know what it is as they took acid or something and end up in psychiatry with damage to nervous system. I did yoga and meditation for 3 years before taking a kriya yoga course with kundalini pranayama and my nervous system was sufficiently prepared. I built up to this stage slowly over 17 years but it was a shock and at this point in my development, where I have a long marriage with a stable emotional and sexual relationship and have enough humour and distance of age(no young woman is gonna have a fling with me) plus importantly a great deal of built up physical fitness through a hard job and social support, I can get through nerve shocks which can be brutal, whole body burning, orgams so to speak. Pain is pleasure and the worse, the more. Crying, dancing, sleeping it off helps. If one women's energy excites me, another's can next day so overhelm my nervous system that I ignore the other next day. Similar to brad pitt switching over to angelina jolie. First woman was nice, second, incredible.

If I slowly gain enough energy then self control, tact comes with time. It is a heightened relationship drama experienced from one side, although I might irritate when I initially catch a woman's vibes and become focused on her for a while. That passes. I move on, put it into my collection like a cynical don juan, who tries out all the ladies. I have no real choice in this. Why did people start wearing clothes? Obvious you would say, eyes are an organ which transmit information to nervous system, stimulates hormonal reactions. We all need private space, not to be so open all the time. This is important. Suppose superman has x-ray vision, he has seen it all, but you would be wary of him if he were a young, cynical casanova. I suppose this is precisely the problem where lots of stories circulate about pervous gurus, religious leaders. Advanced spiritual practice stimulates emotional body. Living in a stable emotional context is important. Some people with kundalini awakening have visions, see flashing lights, hear bells. I get heat and now this phenomenon of 'emotional transfer'. What comes next(over next several years) will be interesting to observe.it does not seem to be magical in JMG's terminology as I am not purposely sending vibes into the room, controlling so to speak. I am a sponge. Maybe when I am stable sending vibes will be next stage. For example, 'ah she looks nice, I will send a heart chakra massage and wink, she will get a crush on me and I've got her under control'. Imagine the possibilities of abuse of trust. Amazing. God help us, like every 3rd world dictator having the bomb.

Sven Eriksen said...

@JMG

I ain't arguing. The didn't say it would be easy. They just said it would be worthwhile.

j8sun said...

JMG & Nano,

Regarding Shinto, I'm far from an expert. But I think lovely is an perfect description of Karen Smyers The Fox and the Jewel. It's not a comprehensive overview of Shinto, it focuses on the worship of one particularly adaptable deity called Inari Okami. Inari is worshiped in both Japanese Shinto and Buddhism. And you might even say in Japanese pop culture as well. She, or he, or maybe (s)he'd prefer to just be called Okami, is fascinating. I really enjoyed the detail in this book, which I'd not found elsewhere despite some effort.

Barrabas said...

Some folks have suggested that the GD stuff may be quite tainted with all the various entities both govern- mental and others that have tried to delve into occult practice as a form of mind control , power over the masses type stuff . Has this turned it dark or given it a rotten core do you think ?? . What you are doing by updating and adapting it is great in that regard i think . I also like what you said about operators who evoke without believing in the protection entities , with the aim of acquiring power over others . Be interesting to follow the life trajectory of the people in the intelligence units and other departments who delved into this stuff , couldnt have ended well for them i imagine . If by chance the core of the GD has gone rotten, then all the dabbling students could be shoving their head in the Lions jaws in magical terms i suppose ?

Shane W said...

I just got Learning Ritual Magic & Celtic Golden Dawn. Are they compatible? I'm starting to work through Learning Ritual Magic. I seem to remember you saying a while back that you should judge a magical path by the effects is has on the practitioner. Eg, if they walk the walk and seem to have it together and offer an appealing way to be in the world. Maybe I'm misunderstanding or bastardizing, but I thought you did say something to the effect of following the magical path of someone who has what you want, so to speak...

Isaac Hill said...

Still an arrogant young man here, glad to see there's hope for me yet! So after reading your Mystery Teachings of the Living Earth I came round to the idea that maybe my permaculture/gardening/herbalism & musical practices weren't magical enough to, say, reprogram my subconscious or transform myself into my highest potential, so I was like "hey what mystery school should I actually join?" and then my friend was like "RUNES" so I was like "OK seems like this might be just what I'm looking for" and so I started doing runes a la Edred Thorsson with an eye to joining his Rune Gild. For the first time ever I was actually able to get into the habit of meditating every day for a few months (I'm 4 months in at this point) - so I go to the Rainbow Gathering and meet a dude who totally disillusioned me on Thorsson(Craig, if you're reading this, hit me up I have more questions for you now that I'm not completely stoned) - he said OTO might be the way to go, but here I am and this disillusionment kinda fits in with the rune I started that week(Hagalaz.) The reason I decided on Runes instead of Druid (even though I've got more celtic blood) is because it seemed like the paganism in the North lasted longer and there was a stronger living tradition, but it seems like it's just as much a reconstruction. I am going to continue with the runes til I finish this cycle (doing one a week) but I guess I'm mainly just confused again and unsure of where to go. Anybody here have any input on the Rune Gild or what other mystery school might work?

Quin said...

Regarding The Catalpa Bow, I do believe it's in print-- it's just pricey, that's all. But definitely required reading.

Worthy of a place next to it on the bookshelf Karen A. Smyers's The Fox and the Jewel, which concerns worship of a fascinating deity named Inari. Inari is an interesting one, closely tied up with a surprisingly high percentage of traditional magic in Japan. Most famously, "Kitsune Tsukai", witchcraft that trucks in forming relationships with fox spirits.

I wish I could recommend a good book on Onmyodo, even from a purely scholarly, historical point of view. If anyone knows of one, I'd be very interested.

Nano, if you're interested in knowing more about Shinto, both the Blacker and the Smyers provide a decent brief overview, by authors who are clearly sympathetic to Shinto.

For a book length introduction to Shinto in English, the best I've read so far (and I've read a few) is unfortunately The Essence of Shinto by Yamakage Motohisa. I say "unfortunately" because this recommendation comes with so many caveats that perhaps "recommendation" is the wrong word. For one, Yamakage is also the author of a few books' worth of screeds warning of the Jewish threat to Japan; that doesn't strike me as a ringing endorsement for his spiritual enlightenment. Another is that he was the head of a particular Shinto sect with some esoteric ideas which are not quite mainstream Shinto, and if it's your very first foray into reading about Shinto, I could see it potentially being a little bit confusing trying to separate out traditional Shinto thought vs. ways of thought particular to his particular system. But then again, if it's the esoteric stuff that interests you, then it's also definitely worth wading in there: the mainstream ideas about the order of the world are well-served, while also pointing toward other interesting directions for further investigation. It might well possibly be the best book in English, by an actual Shinto practitioner, at introducing Shinto as a worldview-- at conveying a meaningful sense of *why* anyone would actually want to actually choose to practice Shinto, beyond vagaries and platitudes. It pains me to say that. I do hope that less troubling alternatives appear in due time.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

I take "Thou art God" as an approximation of the Sanskrit "Tat tvam asi". (Thou art that.)

The Abrahamic religions conflate the idea of an ultimate source which is beyond description with the idea of a deity who has a personality, attributes and titles, and is separate from the universe He created. Steeped in a culture that takes this kind of theology for granted, when Westerners first encounter Hindu and Buddhist religious thought, our impulse frequently is to personalize statements about how the source/ultimate reality is identical to the true self.

This shows up in those magical religions of the Western tradition that developed after the initial exposure of Westerners to Asian religious thought in the late nineteenth century. The previous time that Westerners got to hear directly from Asian religious teachers was before the Christian era, so when these teachers and their books returned to the West, it had an impact on occult and esoteric religions. One example might be the conclusion of Crowley's Gnostic Mass; after taking communion, the communicant declares "There is no part of me that is not of the gods."

The last line of a well known piece of Wiccan liturgy called The Charge of the Goddess is a statement by the Star Goddess, "I am that which is attained at the end of desire." Since it says, "at the end of desire," not "at the fulfillment of desire," I mentally hear this statement as "I AM THAT--(which is attained at the end of desire.)"

James M. Jensen II said...

Re: "Thou art God"

I once knew a guy who, according to a friend who knew him even earlier, had apparently once convinced himself that he was God Almighty on the basis that he was teleporting around town. What was happening is that he was blacking out while high and coming to his senses somewhere else.

Fortunately, I missed out on that part of the guy's life. What I got to experience was him no longer speaking to me because I refused to take his side in a political argument between him and and one of my other friends. Very unbalanced personality.

Nano said...

Wow! Thank you all so much for the great feedback and links. I and all my other selves appreciate it ;)

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@ed boyle--That's interesting, but I am not the person who asked you, unless you have been reading my mind.

I don't like being deeply affected by everyone I am in physical proximity to, so I keep shields up most of the time. OTOH, I don't have consistently good manners about remembering not to chuck energy at people when I'm excited or want something from them. My mother reminded me to say please and thank you and stand up straight, but she didn't remind me to keep my aura sucked in, so I didn't form the habit of doing so without thinking about it, except in crowded elevators. YMMV.

ed boyle said...

@deborah-at any rate good to explain to myself a developing phenomena. One reads a lot of strange things in auotobiography of a yogi, paul brunton story, ramakrishna, etc. that are interesting. Paul brunton met a loined cloth holy man who, when he got too persistent with stupid questions gave him a shudder through his spine as initiation. An acquaintance of the ramana maharshi told of quieting a dangerous snake. In autobiography of a yogi,ramakrishna's biographer, 'M', stopped a boring presentation by turning off lights and projector somehow so they could leave. Ramakrishna lived half a year as a female, menstruating as well IIRC, he allowed a childless old lady hold and care for an astral baby till she had satisfied this deep longing of hers. Not to speak of bilocation stories, etc. Some people excite, others quieten me by mere presence so the snake story seems very likely. The spine story would be a logical extension of my experience in opposite direction. Lights are electrical. I have read of people with hyperactive uncontrolled kundalini having problems with home lighting flickering. Ramakrishna stories are pretty wild but role playing through mind changes and projection for the old lady could explain this.

So energy control and directing this energy to useful tasks is part of modern indian lore, experience even of visiting westerners. We could call this magical.

I started with 'so ham', 'i am this' mantra from my hatha yoga book in 1995 and a basic yoga course. My energy developed to where I felt mild buzzing in head, as if separate from body sometimes in some small way, as i sat doing paperwork. After that came pranayama concentrating on spine. This builds up energy over many years. It got too much after a couple of years with pranayama, so I continued with hatha yoga, tai chi, spreading energy around which I had stored, so to speak. I think reason for my current problems lies in high physical activity plus high social contacts. Desk work keeps one calm, unemotional, rational. My blood gets hot so to speak running like mad since I lost my office job. Religion is not something for priests mumbling in temples but to be lived among human beings actively, all classes of people. The unwashed masses can be much nearer to God, without theoretical knowledge. Jesus exhortations in general, buddha's and st. Francis' lifestyle show this clearly.

'Chop wood, sweep floor' after enlightenment is a very serious admonition, not just biding time. Cardiovascular fitness plus high mental concentration trains nervous system, awakens hormones. I find deep back bends, foot to head open heart chakra wonderfully. Deep splits similarly. In the same way beautiful women are a physical technique to rip open heart and other chakras. I have as capricorn ascendant, I presume, always been a cold hard realist(not typical pisces, more a literal minded stick in the mud). Physical technique is crucial, theory secondary to results, and just useful in explanatory manner.

Phil Harris said...

Recent exchanges here have particularly interested me. These have been about recognition in public between strangers, or perhaps between colleagues normally having rather poor personal contact – or as Deborah put it, about manners and keeping one’s aura tucked in.

I have on one or two occasions recognised that I was a ‘target’ picked out by a ‘watcher’. A certain kind of person carrying a back pack in parts of crowded London can catch the interest of an organised gang. My conscious attention located and ‘warned-off’ the watcher.

(This reminds me of Robert M’s later contributions to last month’s comments about ‘more than the five senses’. Robert speculates – I paraphrase I hope correctly - that hominid evolution integrated aspects of our changing brain with our ability to scan our surroundings for predators. Indeed, I know a wonderful story by a man employed to hunt a rogue tiger that had taken to predating villagers, who at a critical moment realised that he was not stalking the tiger, rather the tiger was stalking him!)

As a youngster our local town was not safe for teenage boys on certain evenings. There was continual friction between territorial gangs and even strangers were not safe. I can remember how I could, presumably intuitively, ‘tune’ myself below the radar. I could see and sense the ‘watcher’ scan me, but the scan passed on.

On the other hand I have caught positive vibes from a person with presence. I did not know them, but felt the better from the good sense they brought with them, even in public space or in a small crowd and when they were just normally going about their business.

I also have personal experience which might relate to this latter phenomenon. I benefitted from a kind of deliberate ‘internal’ good manners. A while ago now I was told of a meditative technique to cope better with ‘difficult colleagues’. I was to visualise the colleague in an individualised setting that I knew the person would be happy in. Thus I visualised one person swimming in an ideal sea amid sunlight reflected off the water. Then I needed to retreat my view point until the person was left behind in the light. This technique worked quite dramatically with more than one person and was long lasting. The change was instant as soon as I came into sight at the next occasion. I assume it worked because it had changed me, rather than them!

best
Phil H

Eric S. said...

Regarding pursuits of systems that balance the psyche, vs. bringing about various sorts of imbalances and problems: My mother, who is a Christian is currently working through Learning Ritual Magic, and she’s using Dion Fortune as her first book of themes for meditation. There’s one passage from the Mystical Qabalah that she pointed out to me that I’ve been mulling over, in which she discusses in her erm… quaint… 1930s language… what she refers to as the “racial dharma” of the West, the idea that those living within a culture are often immersed in the potent symbols of the dominant paradigms of the culture unconsciously, and have to start within the assumptions and paradigms of that culture (in this case, Western Christianity). She says that “The modern initiate works a synthetic system, sometimes using an Egyptian, a Greek, or even a Druidic method, for different methods are best suited for different purposes and conditions. In all cases, however, the operation he designs is strictly related to the Paths of the Tree of which he is master. […] although he may use these other systems as occasion serves, experience proves that the Qabalah supplies the best groundwork and the best system upon which to train a student before he begins to experiment with the pagan systems. The Qabalah is essentially monotheistic; the potencies it classifies are always regarded as the messengers of God and not His fellow-workers.” It seems that she’s basically saying that because of the predominance of Christianity, and the absence of pagan infrastructures to work within, the Western initiate of esoteric traditions must begin by working from the context of Christianity, and that not doing so may lead to the same sorts of imbalances you get in some Golden Dawn initiates who work with the solar energies of Tipareth without first working up to them.

It’s a bold statement, and certain aspects of her argument may be boiled down to the racial essentialism that was popular at the time… but she’s also working with the idea that we all have pre-existing cultural baggage that we have to work through, before we can begin to think outside of it, and that’s a basic magical principal. But her claim there is essentially that if you try to jump into a polytheistic system without first mastering a Christian derived system, and working through your cultural baggage, it might lead to problems. Do you feel that still holds true today? Or have events since the 1930s in both the world and in western esotericism opened up a new cultural paradigm that has established a better infrastructure for work within a more polytheistic framework than there was in the 1930s? And how to systems such as the Druid Magic Handbook system, or CDG handle any potential imbalances that exist for a Druid who has not previously mastered a Christian derived Golden Dawn style system.

One of my thoughts is that it relates to the distinction between devotion and magic. Polytheist religions that are devotional, rather than magical in nature are a fairly new thing in Western culture, and they didn’t really exist at Fortune’s time? You brought up the idea that part of the problem with modern grimoire magic, or with Chaos magic, was that the religious dimension was removed, with initiates not balancing their magical work with going to mass and confessing, and doing prayer and devotion at home outside of their magical work. Would you say then, that building a healthy religious/devotional practice is a component of building a heavy magical practice? One related observation I’ve encountered, is occasional tension between occultists and devotional religionists… with the former having a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of “worship” because it puts the practitioner in a submissive relationship and negates personal will… while the latter distrusts the former because occultists often treat gods, angels, etc. like constructs or tools. Could that latter issue of not having a magical practice that’s well integrated with a religious practice be another element that leads to imbalance?

Robert Mathiesen said...

That's part of it, Phil. (Our discussion continues -- good.) In those previous comments, I was focused on something simpler: a sense of space, sensory reach, and possibilities for sudden movement, which presumably evolved as a mans of avoiding hidden predators. We constantly scan our current spatial environments, constructing maps or models of it in our minds. Where the map or model shows a place where a predator might hide, but somehow we cannot find a way to check that potentially dangerous place out, then our environment feels "uncanny" or "creepy" or "spooky" to us. What you mention is also real, and connected with what I described. Part of it is a similar sort of subliminal scanning, but of the flow of humans near one rather than the organization of space.

I had a similar story to yours. Once, when I was about 22 and a graduate student in Medieval Slavic philology in New York, I wanted to go to the most impressive of all the public rituals of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Easter Eve and Day service, which starts about 10 pm and goes on until about 2 am. (Russian churches have no pews: one stands for the entire four hours, if one wants to stay for the entire thing -- most Russsians do not, in my experience.) I have always been fascinated by the power of ancient rituals that involve all the senses and use ancient languages. Since I was not raised Christian, here was a magnificent example open for anyone to observe as a respectful participant. -- So I set out on foot through an unfamiliar part of Manhattan on foot about 9:30 pm to find the church I had been given directions to. Somehow I got the directions wrong, and ended up walking through that seemed to be an entirely deserted part of the city: not a single light in any window of any apartment tower, not a single open shop, no one on the streets ... except, on every corner, one powerfully built man in a suit standing and watching. After about 3 blocks without any change in the environment, I decided that retreat made mode sense than finding that church. I somehow "knew" that open retreat would not be allowed: I was too far inside the area already. So I made a right turn, went down a dark side street for a block, and during that block put on the confident "persona" of a messenger whose job was to take a message to someone outside the area from those at its center. I reversed direction when I came to the next main street and successfully passed the sentries (if that was what they were) for the 3 or 4 blocks needed to exit the empty area. I got back to my dorm safely, and that was quite enough adventure for that night. Later, in daytime, I went looking for that empty area, but I could never find it again, nor anything that looked like it. I have no idea what happened to me that Easter Eve, but it was a real, and rather unsettling, experience. Nor would I expect there to be so large an empty area anywhere in Manhattan at that time of night. -- The point of this story is not, however, the weird experience, but the natural human ability to sense the danger in an abnormal environment. Nothing special there ...

Robert Mathiesen said...

Such experiences seem to happen to individual people from time to time. A friend of my mother's -- call him Dan -- out west was half Native American. When I met him, he was in his '80s. As a younger man, he had boundless physical energy. One summer he was part of a crew building a subdivision in the desert, working hard all day in the very hot sun. That wasn;t enough to tire him out, so when the truck came at the end of the workin g day to take the men back to their camp, he often refused a ride, but ran down the same road to the camp to work off excess energy. He came to know that road very well indeed. And then one day, and just that one day only, as he ran down that road through the empty desert, there ahead of him he saw two green trees standing close on one another at the side of the road. Soon he came abreast of them and looked at them. They defined a sort of invisible doorway, and as he looked through it, he saw a lush green, well-watered land -- rich in visible plants, and also there were invisible creatures rustling out of sight in the thick growth. It called to him, called very strongly. He stopped and considered, and then he got a strong sense of undefined danger. So he continued on his way and returned to camp. On no other day were those trees there by the road. At the end of the job, he went back home to visit his mother, and told her the story. (She was the Native American side of his ancestry, and she was regarded by her tribe as a woman who had uncommon knowledge.) She looked at him long and hard, and finally said, "I am so glad you did not go between those trees. If you had, I would never have seen you again." Nothing more than that did she say. Ask as Dan might, he never could get anything more out of his mother about those two trees and that experience he had had. I know no more than Dan did about what they "really" are -- if "really" even has any meaning when applied to such experiences.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Eric, I think what Dion Fortune said about magical work might well have been true for England in her time, and might still be true for England. For the United States, though, it may not be so simple as she supposed. Out West, in California, large parts of the populace have not been raised in any of the old orthodox Abrahamic religions for generations and generations. Nature religion and pantheism have been popular alternates to the Abrahamic religions since the late 1800s, alongside of the various New Thought religions (including Christian Science) and Spiritualism. Indeed, at least up to the end of WW2, very many immigrants to the US have been people who left Europe because they either hated or feared it, and consequently hoped to sever all connections with their European roots. And many immigrants of that sort moved westward across the continent as soon as they could -- the further from Europe, the better. So we have a couple of centuries of deliberate rejection of the European religious heritage by a noticeable segment of the population. This might be sufficient -- I think it was sufficient -- to break the links that seemed so unbreakable to Dion Fortune in England.

ed boyle said...

On latest comments. I comeb from religious devotional side, raised catholic, several years fundy reding bible, singing hymns then learning science, humnism modern lit. So i worked through all that. Magic is strange idea to me. Religion, morality, afterlife are critical. Why control people, I am a manipulative evil politician or businessman sociopath. So I see magic in the negative where it is not devoted purely to self betterment, enlightenment. 'Lord won't you give me a Mercedes Benz' is my vision of religion gone wrong. If magic is a devotional path I can understand it. If religion is wishing for riches, sunday christian, I don't need it.

I think of colleagues somehow in such a sense as with theiir aura, caricarture like. Peaceful, forest; angry, tiger, etc. Astrology leads way in this.

My father ws very devotional, rosary prayer groups in catholic church, donations, visiting in hospital. He took his example from his deeply loved sainted mother apparently. I cannot believe edactly as be did and take ramayana, etc. as firy tales, symbolic but I follow his path very closely with intense hard physical work, devotional attitude. Is this karma or genetic?

Getting back to goals. Deep religious devotion can bring results, 'grace' in catholicism. In Iliad( current reading) the gods reward ritual prctice, prayer when need arises. As JMG emphasizes hard work brings results. I am uncertain however what his aims or goals are. Devotion, love, is to me the highest good. The happiness that flows out of this is incomparable and irreplaceable. I suspect this is why heart chakra and focus on other sex is so important. God is an abstract. Women are concrete. Love of God personified as an individual, is easier and more satisfying, teaching one how to get closer to ultimate goa of love of god, the ultimate and unity, not duality. This abstraction, tat tvam asi, is no beginner's task, so we learn devotion to one another through bhakti,(love), karma(duty)-like visiting sick. With hatha yoga that reduces blockages, systemic neuroses, this is a powerful system. Magical tricks based on greed for money, power, hatred always seen as distorting, blocking spiritual progress.

Some women I see so idealized, despite human faults, almost as a goddess. I know how irrational this is but cannot help myself. I visualize worship of them but of course this is socially impractical to actually carry out. It is however obvious useful to identify divinity on earth and now I understand how my father felt and previous very religious peoples. I frankly think that cynicism comes from sitting about, self satisfied at a desk, like roman upper class, lazy. Brutal pain in daily life as in previous eras or in my case such intense pressure on my nervous system, continual burning brings things into focus and pain and joy are very real, intense. This is 'grace'. It has to be struggled for.

Phil Harris said...

Robert
I have heard that story of the two trees before! Have you ever told it before on JMG's blogs? I certainly came across the story somewhere.

Spatial sense, constellations dependent on a point of view, memories as stories and vice-versa; we wander in a mysterious but highly informed world.

best
Phil H

Stuart said...

I don't think it's accurate to say that White encourages psyche-fracking. The suggested methods Agent refers to (another one is to spend a night alone in a graveyard) struck me as analogous in purpose to the Secret-style first exercises JMG has described the old orders giving out: do something transgressive that will have some small but dramatic results, fix magic in your metaphysics, maybe get a bit scared, and then start actually learning how to be effective and (mostly) safe. White said they're beside the point if you've otherwise had initiatory experiences.

It is true that he has less use for authoritative methods and Tree-style balancing, but maybe gets similar results from animism? Relationships with a range of saints, holy dead, spirit allies, and gods might amount to an equivalent sort of protection against inflation, I don't know. Certainly I put some more trust in order and less in pirates than he does.

I know Ted Hughes uses "depth charge" repeatedly as a metaphor to describe magical techniques used by the author of the Shakespeare plays, so it could be there's a connotative difference to the phrase in England.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

What Dan's mother told him was probably literally true if that was a gate into fairyland. It's said that that realm is hard for mortals to get out of, and if they do, often many years have passed by in the human world.

Something that enticing certainly smells like a trap.

Dwig said...

John Michael and all,

Reading of the pitfalls awaiting those who study magic to learn to influence/control others: this might be the basis of a good story or novel with a moral: a fellow works in CIA, also in advertising/propaganda; trace the unfolding of the bad karma...

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Eric S.--I regard Wicca and its wiccanate offshoots as attempts to integrate magical practice with a devotional polytheist religion. This is what attracted me.

To my eyes, it is an awkward construction, rather as if somebody tried to build a new motor vehicle from salvaged parts off a delivery van, a pickup, a sedan, and a sports car. However, integration is ongoing. Parts of my tradition's rituals can only be done to full effect by someone who is immersed in both a magical and a devotional viewpoint, though learning them can be approached with a bias in either direction.

I think most people do not desire this integration enough to get any good at it. As a result, competence in the magical aspect either becomes the province of a small subgroup within the religion, or gets pushed outside the community's mainstream religion altogether.

John Roth said...

Robert Matheson et al:

A few months ago I noted that Carl Jung mentioned that in people from the Americas where he'd done depth psychology, there was a Native American stratum that was very different from the common European stratum he found in Europeans. It looks very much that the land itself is rejecting Christianity or assimilating it into a very different form.

Robert Mathiesen said...

As for Dan's long-ago story of those two trees:

Phil, I rather think I did tell it on JMG's other blog before, some years back, and once or twice elsewhere on the web in the context of "eathing-places," that is, places on the landscape that hunger to take human life. "Dart, Dart, the cruel Dart / Every year must have a heart."

Deborah Bender, it certainly "smelled" like a trap to Dan, once he started looking more closely at it. Everything he saw and heard resembled our world, but seemed to him a little "off" in some hard-to-specify way. I do not know his mother's tribe, so I can't say what lore she might have known about such a gateway that appeared and disappeared.

BTW, it needn't have been a gateway into the realm of alien beings, afiries or other "little people." Some places in the land "eat" people, e.g., the Water Temple at Las Pulgas, somewhat south of San Francisco. I have heard that the California Native Americans thought Yosemite Valley to be such an "eating-place."

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Robert Mathiessen--I didn't know that about the Water Temple. I remember visiting it and wanting to like it more than I did, because it is a Water Temple. I just thought something like, "If an engineer builds a water temple, maybe he isn't going to pick the best spot for it." I didn't have any feeling of danger or wrongness. I sometimes pick up on the atmosphere of places, but I'm not strongly psychic. My visit was in broad daylight. Is it necessary to visit at dawn or dusk to get a sense of the place?

This is the first time I have heard about eating-places. Places that have bad vibes, sure. I have spent some nights camping in an eighty year old second growth coast redwood forest and noticed a marked difference in nighttime sounds upon returning when it was a hundred year old redwood forest and the trees were taller. You'd have to pay me a lot to get me to spend the night in a redwood forest of thousand year trees. I've heard the indigenous people didn't like them, but that is explainable by physical reasons. They are very dark and quiet, they don't rustle or creak in the breeze like an oak or pine forest, they don't have much game and probably not many edible plants, they have mosquitoes. I imagine that one could easily get hopelessly lost in one and die; Ronald Reagan was quite right when he said that redwood trees all look alike.

Robert Mathiesen said...

@John Roth about C. G. Jung and North America:

About a decade ago, I knew a student at Brown who was half Navajo (the other half was Norwegian), and also quite interested in tarot; amd we had quite a number of long chats about tarot. Once I asked her, toward the end of the academic year, whether she would be practicing her tarot over the summer in Dinétah (in the Four Corners area). Her answer was, "No, the land there won't let me." So Jung may have had a point. But his very brief encounters with Native Americans also happened in the Four Corners area, and perhaps one shouldn't generalize about all the Native North American peoples and the entire continent from that one area with its quite distinctive Native cultures.

A fair amount of Jung's work seems to me to be "stealth sorcery," not psycological science at all. I mean this as a compliment.

Nicolas Costa said...

What would be the balance I would have to find having this combination?

Virgo Sun, Leo Moon, Virgo Mercury, Libra Venus, Sagittarius Mars, Capricorn Jupiter, Scorpio Saturn, Sagittarius Uranus, Sagittarius Neptune and I'm including my Scorpio in Pluton just in case. My ascendant is Gemini and my half-sky (not sure the proper word in english) is Pisces?

On another question I have, how should I tackle the lessons in CGD? My impression was that I should do the lessons step by step as they are presented and not moving forward until they are complete, am I right?

Brother Guthlac said...

“bookshelf space is regrettably finite; still, it has a little more importance this time around, as this sorting comes at something of a turning point in my occult career.”

Bookshelf space is indeed finite on a finite planet, tho the old monasteries around the world have maintained remarkably extensive collections. I wonder whether the Nag Hammadi collection was a result of such a sorting?

“ most of them aren't attending the mass, confessing their sins, and receiving absolution before conjuring spirits, nor do most of them believe in the god whose names they're invoking to protect themselves from demons: not a good idea, to my mind. “

Quite agree, doesn’t seem to be a good idea. Curious that so many people are more interested in constraining demons rather than inviting angels. And so committed to avoiding what you call an integrated system.

“to observe as a respectful participant”

Robert, I assume that you eventually made up for the detour.

Alex Blaidd said...

Hmmm a good post to dwell on, as I bring myself back, with a sense of regret for having abandoned it for a month, to my magical practices. Though perhaps I should be fairer to myself as I moved house 3 weeks ago, but it's that nagging voice in my brain that says "you can't stick at anything" that haunts me. Anyway... I tell what I have found very useful, and it relates to the line above about using our thoughts and emotions, instead of them using us, is recently I've been reading through Eric Berne's book What Do You Say After You Say Hello? after reading his book about games people play that you recommended. That book has made quite a considerable impact on how I view certain characteristics and narratives that I run, as well as in others helping me perceive them with more clarity. Thought it's relevant as it's essentially about learning how to tame the wild horses, of feelings and thoughts and social conditioning, before they run you off the cliff.

Hereward - My thought when reading your comment about Retrotopia was actually pretty much what JMG said to you. It's sort of an anti-utopia book. Interestingly I would have been flinging the book across the room if it was what you'd described :) not because I'm against any of the ideas you put forward, on the contrary, lots of utopian (in my mind) ideas. But then that's not going to happen anytime soon :) I've had enough of reading about The Green Revolution and all that. Not cos I'm against it - I'm all for it! - but because it's not going to be the saviour of Western society, in my humble (not so humble, I'm still too young ;) ) opinion. I'm happy to read a vision of the future that is pretty normal and not too dissimilar to the present. In many ways, just a sane version of the present whilst remembering that humans will always be humans.

All this reminds of a line I heard from EF Schumacher today 'we are what we do' - so simple. Perhaps nothing truer? Certainly feels like that to me at the moment, and ties in with the comments in the post about Evola - the theory was there, the practice was lacking.

Alex Blaidd said...

Oh and something that occurs to me, just before I head to bed, is that few people seem to recognise (at least in my experience) that the mundane and the ordinary is spiritual and magical. It's not all about the grand theories and practices. It's raising children, looking after animals, gardening, carrying out responsibilities... all those earthy things that ground us in the animal realm. Too often the spiritual is solely linked to the solar, to use the terminology from this post. And then of course that makes me think of New Age thought, but I won't go there now as I'm too tired :)

Patricia Mathews said...

@Alex Blaidd: Three months after my surgery, I was starting to feel bad about not resuming my devotions to Gaia, but rather, taking my therapeutic walk to get my endurance back every morning, early. I heard Her voice in my mind's ear very clearly at least twice running, a little exasperated as if at my thick-headedness, reassuring me that by being able to walk and extending the distance, I was indeed doing Her work.

cynndara said...

A lot of food for thought here, in comments as well as the blog entry. Which is why I've been ghosting around for the last couple of years here and on ADR. But I did want to thank you for your thoughts on Evola, and I'll look forward to your discussion of Revolt Against The Modern World. I would point out that in the context of modern American audiences, Introduction to Magic could not conceivably be considered a beginner's text. One would need five volumes of footnotes on the footnotes! The book was written by and for erudite upper-class Europeans with extensive training in the humanities. I have found it fascinating, but by no means practical, as I rarely understand what is being described until after I have had the experience.

In regard to unbalanced Solar energies, I suspect there could be differences in the effects given the individual starting personality and gender. As a female constrained by social limits in the pre-postmodern age, I found that supplementary ego energy counterbalanced many social pressures. OTOH, having roots in the generic Wiccan community I also maintained working magical partnerships throughout my solar work with expressly lunar gay males. The double-reverse polarity was quite effective and I would recommend it over the traditional polarity of Solar Male/Lunar Female both for personal growth and practical magic.

ed boyle said...

Nicolas costa, i played with data you gave and got 13th september, 1984, 1 am. All your planets except moon in 10th house, are bunched between 3rd to 7th house in120 degrees. So moon plays a key balancing role here being on opposite side of horoscope in public sphere, not private.Astroodienst free horoscope. Blue lines , positive aspects look good. Read up aspects and such. Interesting hobby.

John Roth said...

@Nicholas Costa

On first glance, you only have one factor (the Ascendent) in Air, so that probably needs strengthening on an ongoing basis. The word you're looking for is Midheaven, by the way.

Much of the work of mitigation (to use the term I learned from Joytsh - Hindu astrology) has to do with balancing out planetary periods - transits and progressions to use the Western framework. That's something that has to be done in detail, at the right time. What is beneficial at one time can be harmful at another. Joytsh tends to use gems; I expect that magical sigils and talismans made using the appropriate astrological energies would work as well, and probably be a whole lot cheaper. Unfortunately, I don't have any kind of text on what needs to be done when; mitigation is one of the things that got dropped from the astrological curriculum during the Endarkenment.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

I'd like to second what Cyndara says, "In regard to unbalanced Solar energies, I suspect there could be differences in the effects given the individual starting personality and gender." When I first began to study and practice witchcraft, I chose the Dianic tradition, in a group of women working mostly with lunar energies. It was tremendously helpful at first; I improved my self-esteem, confidence, skills, and psychic sensitivity and developed connections with goddesses and earth energies. After a number of years, it began to grow stale, the emphasis on connectedness and responsible action began to feel limiting, and I felt I was suffering from something like a spiritual vitamin deficiency.

So I joined a mixed gender coven of a different tradition, and a few years later, I joined the OTO. In the Man of Earth degrees, the OTO (at least the group I joined) is mainly about exercising the will, is heavily solar and uses overtly masculine imagery. I wouldn't have been able to deal with it without the previous Dianic work. Having security in my power and discernment, I took what I wanted from their system and it was helpful. In the 1980s when the OTO was just getting back on its feet, I would not have recommended anyone join it as their first place for esoteric studies, because of its imbalance. It is a more mature organization now and that might no longer be the case.

Dwig said...

Deborah,
Your description of the groups you've been in reminds me of some work that I've been involved with in various guises, the most recent being the Learning Organization work of Peter Senge and colleagues.

The basic idea is regular and systematic "organizational introspection" (my term) to detect and correct dysfunctional patterns that arise in organizations (as they do in individuals), and to extend the organization's capabilities to accomplish its goals (including questioning the goals). It reminds me a bit of the kind of personal work described in various Galabes posts. (Kind of interesting that magical organizations can be affected by similar dysfunctions.)

This work has recently morphed into "Theory U", presented by The Presencing Institute. I haven't looked into it enough to be able to speak to the authenticity or value of the theory or the Institute; the usual caveats apply.

Dwig said...

The dialogue here at Galabes has covered several systems of magic and spiritual thought and practice, both Western and Oriental. Something I haven't seen here, though, is any detailed description of Native American spiritual beliefs and practices (only occasional references). In a way, this seems odd -- the continent that is home to many, if not most of those here gathered, is left largely "unexplored".

I've recently gotten into two books that give a detailed and sympathetic account of the culture, belief systems and practices of the inhabitants of "Turtle Island":

Kenneth Cohen's "Honoring the Medicine" is an account of a New Yorker who studied taijiquan and qigong, then came back to North America, became an student of a Native healer, learned from Elders across the continent, and eventually become recognized as a healer in his own right. His description of the beliefs and practices reminded me in many places of what I've been reading in Galabes (and some interesting differences, of course).

F. David Peat's "Blackfoot Physics" is an account of a Physicist gradually engaging with and learning from Native acquaintances (mostly Blackfoot). From what I've read so far, his learning path differs from Cohen's, but complements it. Peat is less concerned with the healing arts and more with what he calls Indigenous Science -- the Native way of "coming-to-know". (I'm about halfway through this book.)

I'm still digesting these works, so won't try to summarize what I've learned, but I do want to open the dialogue, if anyone's interested.

ed boyle said...

Cynndara and deborah,

Regarding male vs. female energies. I have pluto opposite sun in natal horoscope. They say I should have problems being authority or with authority, or aggression. I was youngest, pisces and bullied by big brother, remained inactive pacifistic type. Learning to integrate a healthy male 'aggression' without being in any way 'evil' is a big part of my development. I have two sons and a wife, all with occasional to frequent bad tempers. I have been able to consciously allow letting myself go angerwise to control others. Physical work, yoga, tai chi has all helped with this. Being repressed as a child with such a personality structure has to be dealt with as adult to mature. Yin/yang balance is critical. I enjoy female energy now very much as I was always surrounded by brothers, now sons, my father was one of many sons, my wife is very yang. So I would pass to my mother as 'daughter', to my wife as passive husband. Now I am enjoying male role. I absorb female energy massively, always with my 50 year passive yin habit in mind. I think nobody could so pull this off otherwise. With any other male, action and not passivity would be expected. I just feel, enjoy, understand women as humans. Maybe balance discovery is planned , distributed over a whole life.

John Michael Greer said...

Sven, exactly.

j8sun, thanks for the recommendation! I'll see if I can scare up a copy.

Barrabas, the Golden Dawn egregor has certain common imbalances more or less built into it at this point, but it's possible to counter them -- again, the end of the GD tradition that proceeded via Dion Fortune and her students managed to do this quite effectively, and it's actually not all that hard. You need to avoid an excessive solar focus, and you also need to balance the slight surplus of Martial energies (brought in via the Sword -- Sun and Mars are the only two planetary energies invoked into adept working tools, which is a serious mistake), and you've got something that works quite well.

Shane, nope, they're two different though related systems.

Isaac, I don't recommend getting involved with any organization before you've established a personal practice and know your way around a bit. If you'd like to keep working with the runes, by all means -- simply cast at least one divination with them every day, and if you do that for a year, you'll have the background you need.

Quin, delighted to hear that Blacker's book is still in print! Thank you.

Deborah, that seems useful enough.

James, funny. I knew a guy once who was convinced he'd attained enlightenment because lit cigarettes kept showing up in his hand and he didn't remember getting or lighting them. I suppose if that's what you want out of life... ;-)

Eric, I think Dion Fortune's dictum was very likely true for middle class English people in the 1930s. It certainly doesn't seem to be true for Americans today. There are spatial and temporal variations in what I sometimes call the theosphere, the sum total of theota (= all divine beings, just as biota = all living beings) active here on Earth.

As for devotional polytheism being a relatively new thing in modern Western culture, good heavens -- have you never heard of Thomas Taylor, or the revival of Greek paganism in Britain that he helped kindle? For that matter, are you at all familiar with the religious dimension of the Druid Revival? Both of these were devotional rather than occult until quite recently, and large sections of the Druid Revival remain not really interested in magic as such. What's new is the interface between polytheism and western magic, which got its start in the Golden Dawn and really didn't get fully under way until the 20th century.

My comment about grimoire magic was specific to that system, and was on the order of "why are people leaving out explicitly presented parts of the system?" -- that is, the parts that involve going to Mass, etc. Different people, and different paths, have different needs, and I emphatically don't think one size fits all.

John Michael Greer said...

Stuart, fair enough. I haven't read the book, and was responding to Agent's comments concerning it.

Dwig, are you considering writing it? If so, it sounds like it would be worth submitting to the current contest...

Nicolas, that's something you have to work out from the whole chart, including aspects and house placements. With regard to the Celtic Golden Dawn, yes -- the seven knowledge lectures in the Ovate Grade are to be done one at a time, in order.

Brother G., I know! When I was working with the classic Golden Dawn system, I worked with angels and planetary and elemental intelligences, and got very good results; angel magic in particular ("inviting angels" is a very good way to describe this) proved to be both beneficial and effective. Why people go wading neck deep in the muck of Gehenna, the Kingdom of Shells, when they could spend time in the presence of beings far higher on the ladder of being than humans are, is beyond me.

Alex, delighted to hear it! Transactional analysis is a very useful tool for the aspiring mage, precisely because it affords so many opportunities for dispassionate self-knowledge. Your last note before going to bed -- good. Very good. One of these days that probably deserves a post all to itself.

Cynndara, true enough -- I think the thing that makes the solar emphasis as problematic as it is is that it's usually young men, who are already quite solar enough, thank you, who go ape-shale over it. For that matter, I've known women who piled into the lunar energies to the point of going way overboard, and suffered both psychological and health-related imbalances. My own prejudice is that it's best to work with all the planetary energies and so achieve a balance entirely within the self, but if a different approach works for you, by all means.

Dwig, I don't discuss Native American spirituality because I've seen way too many clueless white guys wax ignorant and rhapsodic on the subject, and heard way too many Native American people ask, in polite but weary tones, if us Wasi'chu could just please shut the frack up about Native American spirituality. I remember a Lummi elder I met once in Bellingham, who said to a bunch of clueless white guys who wanted him to teach them the Lummi spirit-dancing traditions: "You took our land; you took our fishing grounds; you took our language; you took the bones of our ancestors; you took our children; you took our culture and our pride -- and now you want to take our religion, too. No. Go learn your own ways. Leave ours alone." I took that very much to heart, and my only contacts since then with Native American spirituality have happened when I was invited to take part or observe, by people who had the right to make that invitation.

For that matter, I apply the same rule to the spiritual traditions of other cultures. I talk about Shinto because in all my encounters with kannushi (Shinto priests), they've been very open to sharing their traditions with gaijin, and even so I don't claim to speak for that faith -- I just talk about what I've observed. In the same way, my background in t'ai chi ch'uan and related practices came by way of a school, and a pair of teachers, that received appropriate training by Chinese masters and is considered legitimate by other lineage holders within the Chinese-American community. I'm perfectly willing to embarrass myself in a lot of ways, but doing the clueless white guy routine and bumbling my way through somebody else's sacred practices without bothering to ask permission -- no, there are some things my sense of self-respect will not permit.

Shane W said...

Follow up question: what is the follow up to Learning Ritual Magic? Can you just jump into Celtic Golden Dawn w/no prior experience?

Patricia Mathews said...

Oh, John Michael,

I can tell you precisely why people don't want to be in the presence of higher beings and would prefer the muck of Gehenna. Higher beings are *pure*! And *goody-goody*! And are looking at dirty messy biological animals like us the way we look at sewer rats! Especially in the utterly too-too-vulgar things we really want and *should* be above!

NOT SAYING THIS IS LITERALLY TRUE, but how many people actually feel that way? I speak as one who went after the Goddess after a long, long detour through rational materialism because, among other things, God would have no comprehension of nor sympathy with all the (see adjectives above) things that went along with being a teenaged girl. And whose attitudes towards our most basic drives and wants and needs is "Don't. Don't even THINK about it. You nasty thing, you."

Artemis, now, she enjoyed running wild in thee woods with her buddies and not washing her face. A perfect goddess for pre-teen's uncivilized, let alone unladylike streak, now long vanished. Athena, civilized but equally unladylike, or at least unfeminine, could argue with anybody, god or man. Let's not even talk about the Norse or Celtic ("Who 'dey"?)

Dion Fortune had it right: Paganism suits two sorts of people. Those who are uncivilized at heart (as in her story "Pan's Children", though I still think both characters were on the spectrum somewhat, the girl especially), AND those who have had a toxic overdose of civilization. Which Clio knows was a lot more repressive in her day than in ours. Or even mine.

Nicolas Costa said...

@ed boyle: try with September 21st 1984 23:45 PM (GMT -3).


@John Roth: any idea on were I could find texts on how to use talismans and sigils charged with astrologic energy at least? I'm a newbie on that so I need to learn how to make them. I'll try finding out on my own info on when should they be used.


@JMG: thanks for the confirmation. And another question, how well does Zen Meditation works with the program? I learned that I'm unable to perform meditation on my own without an instructor that teaches me how to do it and there is a formal school not far from home.

Eric S. said...

My impression had always been that the Druid Revival was historically tied more to the fraternal lodge system and esoteric Christianity with occasional manifestations as a secular cultural insititution up until the 1960s. Toland was a protestant Christian deeply immersed in enlightenment thought, and Morganwg and many of his peers, up through figures like William Blake were seeking in Druidry an ideal of a pure, primordial form of Christianity rooted in British or Welsh national culture. After WWII, a synthesis of Revival Druid philosophy, Celtic spirituality from the Celtic Twilight era of the turn of the 20th century (the spiritual dimension of which seems to have been provided largely by people with a background either in theosophy, the Golden Dawn, or both such as W.B. Yeats and AE Russell), and refugee occultism from the twilight of the theosophical era, and scholarship on pagan religions from the Frazer/Morgan era began to emerge as a synthesis (of which The White Goddess is one of the better known products). I'd been under the impressions that one of the major themes of the schism between OBOD and the Ancient Order of Druids was that Nichols was interested in pushing Druidry in a more explicitly pagan direction less dependent on Christianity as the base of its philosophy than the older generation of Christian, cultural, and fraternal Druids were comfortable going in.

I'm definitely familiar with the Romantic era surge of Greek Paganism, mostly through the Romantic poets who were involved, but it always looked like a solitary hobby among a few poets and intellectuals, I'm not familiar with any sort of temple infrastructure developing around it, or even much in the way of a public movement. Either way, the thing that seems fairly new in Western polytheism is the rise of a public community infrastructure that has trade in solitary practice and initiatory tradition for family oriented shrines and temples.

-----------------

“There are spatial and temporal variations in what I sometimes call the theosphere, the sum total of theota (= all divine beings, just as biota = all living beings) active here on Earth.”

That short sentence has my mind racing. How can such variations be tracked and traced? What has changed in those variations between 2010s America and 1930s Britain, and why? Does it tie into some of the other cultural cycles we’ve discussed (such as the alternative spirituality cycle)? Are there elements to the shift you’re discussing that are tied to the spiritual energies surrounding the Decline of the West? What other elements of history, religious movements, and common experiences of occultists and religious practitioners in various eras can be best explained that way? What other elements of occult and religious practice can lead to problems in one time or place, while actually being productive at others? I hope you expand on that thought in a post here one of these days, because it opens up whole new dimensions of discussion.


-----------------

That whole train of thought leads me into a question that ties directly into this month’s topic: In terms of such subtle variations in the Theosphere, one of the themes of Evola’s time is that Western Europe of the time was already suffering from an imbalanced excess of solar energy. By placing an emphasis on the very thing that was already present in excess, he ensured that his initiates were amplifying the very imbalances their society was already suffering from within themselves. Would someone have gotten different effects by allowing the ambient solar energy already present at the time to provide all the solar energy necessary, kicking off from the tenor of the times to develop a primarily lunar and/or Earth based system? Was it the overabundance of solar energy and the deficiency of balancing forces what led Dion Fortune to observe that the Western World was in need of a healthy dose of “vitamin P,” and what opened the way for Wicca to become such a vital and enduring 20th century system?

Dwig said...

John Michael,

Point well made, and respectfully taken. I mention these two books because their authors appear to be anything but clueless -- both were invited to learn the ways, and both have respected the sacredness of what they've learned. Cohen in particular is quite explicit about the fact that what he writes is carefully edited, and has been vetted by his Elders.

From both, I get the sense that there's quite a controversy going on among the Elders of the various Nations. Some are adamant that their traditions must be kept secret, to avoid misuse; others speak of being told that it's time to engage with at least some White people.

Hmm -- just after reading your response, I went back to the chapter in Blackfoot Physics entitled "The Coming of Disease", which describes the great dying brought to all the peoples of the continent, two-legged and others, and the depredations of the Europeans as they took over the land. The chapter concludes:

"Yet in spite of all this, The People did survive. Although some languages are now endangered and others have vanished, many are still spoken, ceremonies are still performed, teachings are repeated, and a philosophy of balance and harmony has been preserved. In spite of alcohol and violence, sickness and disease, extermination and assimilation, the spirits live on. Today many Elders speak of the need for a great healing and call for red and white brothers and sisters to sit in the circle together and listen to each other."

John Michael Greer said...

Shane, the follow-up to Learning Ritual Magic is Circles of Power, with Paths of Wisdom as an additional resource on the Cabalistic dimension of the work. As for The Celtic Golden Dawn, yes, it's intended for the complete beginner; you start with the first knowledge lecture of the Ovate Grade, study the material, do the practices, and proceed from there. If you need additional advice and help with that, well, there is -- ahem -- a certain organization that might help... ;-)

Patricia, I suppose I had the advantage of not being raised in a religious family, as my interactions with angels weren't poisoned by the sort of cheap moralizing that's squeezed out so much of the actual religious content of mainstream religions!

Nicolas, as I'll be explaining in detail in an upcoming post, I don't recommend combining ceremonial magic with any of the mind-emptying meditation methods -- zazen, mindfulness meditation, or what have you. You can get all the same benefits meditating on symbols or texts, and certain disadvantages of mind-emptying meditations sometimes spin out of control when combined with magical work, while meditation with content doesn't have that problem.

Eric, er, John Toland was a freethinker who invented the word "pantheism" and wrote scathing critiques of conventional Protestantism; he was famous in his time for suggesting that Christianity would be so much more sensible if all the superstitious nonsense about virgin births, resurrections, et al. was thrown out of it. The Druids of Pontypridd, Myfyr Morganwg and Morien, taught the earliest form of gendered ditheism (all the gods are one god, all the goddesses one goddess, and the creation of the universe happens exactly the way you would expect) in the time of Queen Victoria. The fusion of Druid Revival philosophy, Celtic Twilight ideas and "refugee occultism" -- that latter's a very good phrase, btw -- happened much earlier, right around the beginning of the 20th century in fact, giving rise to such groups as the Universal Bond, the Ancient Order of Druid Hermetists, the Cabbalistic Order of Druids, et al. I could go on. There was a lot of really creative religious experimentation in the Revival from its early days -- I'm thinking here, among many other things, of the 19th century gorsedd at which Myfyr Morganwg included a ceremony invoking Kali as part of the festivities -- and devotional polytheism was part of that.

As for the Greek Pagan revival, of course there weren't temples -- you couldn't get away with that without risking social ruin. Gay men made up a large part of the movement, and they knew about staying closeted! At the same time, there were a lot of quiet get-togethers at which libations were poured in the back garden to Pan et al., and the fact that most educated Britons at that time knew at least the rudiments of Greek and could thus go directly to classical sources made things easy. As a parenthetical note, Thomas Taylor and his wife were believed, in the privacy of their own home, to revert to Greek styles of clothing and dining, and to burn incense to the twelve deities listed in Sallust (the basic Neoplatonist set) on a daily basis. Taylor is kind of a hero of mine, and if I had taken up Greek polytheism -- for which I have a definite affinity -- I'd be burning incense to him as a heros in the technical Neoplatonic sense of the word.

You're right, though, that the development of a public community of devotional polytheists with publicly known temples is new. I wish I lived near one; my visits to the Shinto shrine north of Seattle, in Washington state, were a real lesson in how spiritually and emotionally satisfying regular participation in offerings to deities can be.

(cont.)

John Michael Greer said...

Eric (cont.), I wish I had easy answers to your questions about the theosphere! I've found the concept as stimulating and useful as you did, as it seems to account for the phenomena of religious change in space and time much more neatly than other ways of thinking about the same thing. I'll consider doing a post or three on the subject as we proceed.

As for your more specific question, I think you answered it yourself very neatly. Wicca exploded out of the fringe to become a major religious phenomenon precisely because it provided the lunar complement and balancing factor to the overwhelming solar imbalance of early 20th century European culture. I see Dion Fortune's work as having played a crucial role in making that possible, as she -- especially in her fiction -- laid down the "tracks in space," the subtle patterns in consciousness, along which Wicca unfolded. That Wicca proceeded to turn into a pop-spirituality phenomenon and, to a significant degree, lose track of its original inspiration and descend into the disjointed mess of the modern Neopagan community may well have been inevitable, as part of the process by which such a balancing influx grounds itself out in the realms of ordinary consciousness. Now that its work is done, it's at least possible that a more nuanced approach that makes room for many different energies may be able to find a foothold.

Dwig, so noted, and I appreciate your response. If qualified Native American elders choose to reach out to the wasi'chu, directly or through their students, that strikes me as a very good thing. I'd still feel acutely uncomfortable hosting a discussion of their teachings here, without the participation of the elders or their students. It's a personal thing, and I hope you'll humor me in this.

I have long felt that the white people of this continent will only truly belong to it when they've passed through experiences comparable to the ones their ancestors inflicted on the original inhabitants. That's not something I talk about much; to be quite frank, it scares the fracking shale out of me -- but the awareness is always there: this land is soaked in blood, and there will be a repayment in due time.

Synthase said...

What's your opinion of Liber MMM from Peter J Carroll's Liber Null & Psychonaut as an introductory program for the beginner?

John Roth said...

@Nicholas Costa

The only text I have on making talismans, etc., in a Western tradition with an astrological flavor is Chapter 9 of "The Art and Practice of Geomancy" by JMG. I'd recommend working through it from the beginning; there's a lot of stuff there.

Eric S. said...

Thanks for the clarification, and for pointing out some of the more obscure corners of the movement. Druid history can be a lot to slog through, and it's pretty easy to get caught up in the history of a few of the bigger figures and movements.

My questions on the concept of the theosphere were much more rhetorical than direct, but I'll definitely be interested in seeing further exploration of them eventually. It does seem, from the contrast between the UR Group and New Forest Coven, both operating within roughly the same spacial and temporal window, that there could be tremendous advantages to be gained by directing some intentionality into that same process, and building a magical system that's able to tap into the energies of an era itself... similar to astrological magic, but with slightly different sources of influence, and symbolism that takes a similar path to the symbols you began tentatively exploring with the unicorn, phoenix, and dragon.

Patricia Mathews said...

Re: Native American & Anglo spirituality - I like the comment novelist Dana Stabenow put in the mouth of her Aleut heroine Kate Shugak.

Kate's Anglo sort-of stepson is complaining about not having stories like her people do, just the boring old Greeks and the Romans. Kate, whose degree from the University of Alaska included a very good professor of literature, notes he is in serious danger of cutting himself off from his own tribal mythology!

Indeed. A mistake the educated people of the Enlightenment did not make, whatever their other errors. Hail, Minerva!

Eric S. said...

You said to Nicholas:

"as I'll be explaining in detail in an upcoming post, I don't recommend combining ceremonial magic with any of the mind-emptying meditation methods -- zazen, mindfulness meditation, or what have you. You can get all the same benefits meditating on symbols or texts, and certain disadvantages of mind-emptying meditations sometimes spin out of control when combined with magical work, while meditation with content doesn't have that problem."

That reminds me of another question I've been entertaining about meditation methods and magic. In the AODA curriculum and the Druid Magic handbook, as well as, it seems in the other more hermetic systems discussed elsewhere, the meditation system taught is the discursive technique that focuses on a symbol or a text. That's usually contrasted with mindfulness meditation and other mind-emptying methods. However, in the other Druid traditions I've worked with (ADF and OBOD), the primary system of meditation taught involves receptive visualization and journey work, OBOD has the inner grove technique that over the course of the grades expands into an avenue for other types of journey work, and the techniques taught in ADF are similar though slightly more open ended. That's a technique that kind of sits somewhere in between the mind-emptying methods and the discursive method, since it involves tight focus on continuity and visualization of the inner or astral landscape being visited, and sometimes might even involve a theme or a specific goal, but is still less tightly focused than the discursive technique since the spacial and visual dimension opens the way for more random elements from the Otherworld or the subconscious to infringe, with occasional appearances by various gods, guides, ancestors, etcetera showing up from time to time. It's a little more intuitive than the tight thematic meditation.

I've been mostly focusing on the discursive work in my daily practice lately, since I've been mostly focused on working (very... very slowly) step by step through the Druid Magic Handbook and AODA curriculum, and saving the journey work for when I do my weekly OBOD work, because I'm wanting to keep the right meditation going with the right system, and the two techniques do seem to have very different intentions and results. But at the same time, the visualization-based method is something that's more familiar to me and so leaves me feeling slightly more refreshed than discursive meditation, which even after several months of daily practice is still a lot of work. Outside of tradition-specific work, though, I've been trying to figure out the exact contexts in which one or the other form might be more advantageous or problematic. It sounds like meditation techniques are something you'll be exploring soon, so I'll definitely be interested in seeing where that discussion goes.

ed boyle said...

Nicolas costa

https://www.astroview.com/choudhry_systems_approach
I learned jyotish also according to above system. Above link is for an inexpensive book one chapter of which describes remedial measures. He also wrote complete book on the subject.

Just having finished Iliad, now starting Niebelungenlied, previously read savitri, paradise Lost and Divine Commedy one cannot resist the idea that people in different times had such different religious concepts. We moderns start reading ancient, middle ages or old Vedic literature or amerindian traditions and we fall into these holistic belief systems mentally, emotionally. For 19th century brits steeped in greek classics olympic religions would have been attractive. A scifi or fantasy fan might have another choice or the literature would be already preformed from older forms like Harry Potter taking celtic plus olympic religions in a confused hodgepodge. Apparently a random eclectic approach can be detrimental, as you have suggested above regarding zen for example. This random eclecticism seems to be standard however as in harry potter and with most liberal thinking people. Last book one read forms current theology. I suppose one must really pick one system and stick with it through and through to avoid confusion. Vedic, amerind, middle ages magic or olympic ritual developed organically over long time periods, were well thought out and effective separately for personal development, total worldview. I could probably make a wall chart of which components in each system are similar to each other so that practitioners could readily translate to one another but some words are untranslatable, for example, from language to language.

I tend towards east asian religious systems, yoga, tai chi, jyotish but western psychological astrology for daily perceptions of others. I got your golden dawn book and read some. I find it of course interesting for my following the conversation here but I say my hindu mantras, rely on my line of guru authority from which training came and am perhaps in this sense as stubborn and conservative as my father, who described the catholic church as the one true church. To see your technique or any other as just as effective would probably confirm my worst cynical fears. I used to joke to myself that chanting 'coca cola' would bring the same results as a traditional mantra. Deep belief in a system, a deity is prerequisite for effectiveness or is it as live it currently, I wing it, hoping perhaps there really is something out there, to quote xfiles agent mulder. Belief grows with success over time of course and I have had much and like doubting thomas I see the proof in the pudding and then move on. I recall my experimentation with lucid dreaming from tibet and all sorts of things. Perhaps such eclectic experimentation gets us over cultural blockages, everyone has different needs.

W. B. Jorgenson said...

JMG,

I know what you mean about the continent being soaked in blood and the white population not fitting in yet, but awaiting our turn to experience what our ancestors (and, for those who believe in reincarnation, we) inflicted. It feels that way to me in a very odd way, what seems to fit the astral level of being described in Learning Ritual Magic. It also scares the frack out of me, and I very much want to ignore it. I'm curious now, having found out at least one other person has noticed it too, how much do you think the dysfunctions of North American culture can be attributed to the uneasy, back of the mind awareness of how blood soaked our home is?

Dwig said...

John Michael, I definitely respect your position on "hosting a discussion of their teachings" on your blog, and will leave it at that.

SLClaire said...

As someone who practiced Zen meditation for 17 years, while also practicing discursive meditation as it's taught in the AODA for the last 3 of those years, my experience is that they are not compatible. During those years I did discursive meditation 6 days a week, Zen meditation on the seventh. I never did both on the same day. Earlier this year I stopped practicing Zen and resigned from the center I belonged to. By that time, sitting in front of the wall in a room with the blinds down felt like being in prison. Zen meditation seemed to close me in on myself, while the AODA practices, including discursive meditation, seem to restore me to right relationship with all that is around me. Plus I wasn't much good at emptying my mind during Zen meditation. Often enough I'd find myself working through some idea or something I wanted to write when I was supposed to be just sitting. If I'm going to be thinking during meditation anyway, might as well practice a religion in which I get credit for it. ;)

John Michael Greer said...

Synthase, it's as good as anything I've seen out of chaos magic, and better than most. I don't recommend it, or for that matter chaos magic; to my mind, treating gods, spirits, and all other things as creations of the individual ego is to the extraordinarily rich universe of traditional occultism roughly what a liaison with an inflatable doll is to an actual love affair -- but your mileage may vary, and if chaos magic is your style, why, yes, Liber MMM is probably a good choice.

John (if I may), I'm delighted to hear that somebody's using that material! If you're interested in traditional astrological talisman lore, though, Chris Warnock at www.renaissanceastrology.com has an excellent supply of traditional resources on the subject.

Eric, exactly -- or, to sharpen the point a little further, to choose an approach that recognizes the primary imbalances of an era and goes the other direction, is to make use of the Royal Secret of equilibrium in a very productive way.

Patricia, good, but why stop there? We've got the stories of the Greeks and Romans; we've got the stories of the Norse and Saxons; we've got the stories of the Irish and the Welsh; we've got the great legend-cycles of medieval England, the tales of Arthur and of Robin Hood; we've got, ahem, the Bible -- you don't need to believe in that latter as the divinely inspired word of Jehovah to recognize that it's a tremendous and thundering anthology of myth and legend with profound resonances all through our culture; and here in America, we've got our own sadly neglected body of legends and hero tales -- Paul Bunyan, Captain Stormalong, Johnny Appleseed, and so on. Finally, we have those works of fiction that have become mythic in their impact on our culture -- The Wizard of Oz and The Lord of the Rings are two that come instantly to mind. All these are part of the narrative heritage of English-speaking America; all these have taken their place among the stories of our people, and should be recognized as such.

Eric, visionary journeys are also important. You'll find those included as an important part of my books The Druid Magic Handbook and The Celtic Golden Dawn, under the label of scrying in the spirit vision. For best results, in my experience, once you've got discursive meditation more or less down, it's good to do one session of scrying, then three or four sessions of discursive meditation on the events and symbols you encountered in the scrying. Rinse and repeat, and you've got an extraordinarily powerful toolkit for magical transformation -- an entirely effective replacement, btw, for conventional lodge initiations.

WB, I'm sure of it. Have you noticed that Americans always have to have an enemy whose color is red? First it was the native peoples, then it was domestic anarchists and labor activists, then it was the Soviet Union. Now it's the inhabitants of the "red states," onto whom so many ostensibly moderate, rational people are projecting their fantasies of limitless evil. I think we all know, down in our guts, how profoundly our ancestors' deeds have scarred us, and what the eventual payback is going to be.

Dwig, thank you. I know it may just be my own squeamishness, but there it is.

SLClaire, thank you for this. My experience consistently has been that mixing practices from different systems needs to be done very carefully, and is best avoided where possible.

Nicolas Costa said...

@SLClaire: Since you have experience in the subject I'm going to ask you something. I've tried Discursive Meditation on my own, I'm not having trouble sitting and pacing my breath, but I get stuck when the time comes to work with the theme.

In MBTI my type is INFP, so my mind is naturally attuned to abstract thinking and making connections in a wandering way (Extraverted Intuition) which are then subjected to my internal core of values (Intraverted Feeling). When I leave my mind to work on its own it easily goes through connections and ideas, but that's not what happens when I'm trying meditation. So my question is, how can I leave behind my mental block when I start working with the theme?

Synthase said...

Spiritual matters are something of a dilemma, or possibly even a predicament for me, (in which you have been a great help thus far, which is much appreciated thank you.) The reasons you have touched on in this post, with cultural appropriateness. Noting the idea that a spiritual practice is best based in the culture and faith in which one was raised, I have to conclude that for me it is not at all Christianity, it is the post-Christian civil faith of progress that holds total hegemony over the academy. As a recent example of this, following a gruelling harlot-in-church type of experience listening to certain archdruids talking about the end of progress in general and the internet in particular, I saw the movie Tomorrowland with my partner. Most people see that movie as a bit boring, dowdy and conventional. I experienced it as a moving call to faith, and it certainly had me working that little bit harder on my own little corner of progress.

So I see the other possibilities as follows -

Christianity as the religion of my ancestors. I have a relatively famous English dissenter (who shall remain nameless, it's too big a giveaway) as an ancestor, his portrait is almost a mirror, and I can see certain parallels in lifestyle and manners of thought in his biography. His published literature, an impeccably argued piece on the certainty and importance of the resurrection of Christ, is however on the list for the other blog's homework. I see that choice as leading to Golden Dawn.

Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt as cultural roots. Compatible with my existing practice of Stoicism, and the mythology is pretty familiar.

Ethnic roots lead to the gods of the Norseman, which again are familiar, or the gods of the Scot, about which I know nothing. The latter would seem to suggest Celtic Golden Dawn. The former pantheon is more appealing.

The spirituality of place is completely out of the question, for the same reason Native American spirituality is off limits here. There's no peace between the White man and the aboriginal, instead just the abject and total defeat of the aboriginal that looks a bit like peace in the right light. I doubt there's any reliable way to learn about it. Any attempt would be clueless white guy in it's purest form, and would certainly get the Wimp Lo response. ("Please excuse Wimp Lo. He is an idiot. We have purposefully trained him wrong, as a joke.") I've long suspected the ubiquitous 'Welcome to Country' ceremony is more about protecting them from us than it is about reconciliation. Many things oh so virtuously inclusively named in aboriginal languages are abusive, such as the beloved "Up your bum" festival, held annually. I may just be projecting, but it seems like a spiritual scorched earth strategy.

W. B. Jorgenson said...

From what I've seen, American culture is definitely like that. Red is always evil, it seems. Canadian culture is affected too, but in a different way: we are happy to talk about what happened in the US, we are happy to talk about atrocities that occurred before 1867 when Canada as a nation formed, but after 1867 in Canada... Well we admit to being less than perfect, we try our best to ignore what happened.

I think it also contributes to the radical anti-Americanism that Canadian culture has: of course they deserve payback, and are evil, but we don't, being completely different from them for [insert trivial reason blown out of proportion]. Given my family is American, I've seen this, and it's always struck me as very weird. We pride ourselves on being tolerant, just as long as you're not American.

So it's not just American culture that's scarred by this, but Canadian too.

Patricia Mathews said...

@JMG "Why stop there?" Yes! Thank you.

Pantagruel7 said...

When I read and re-read it several years ago, I thought Evola's "The Doctrine of Awakening" was a very interesting exposition of Theravadan Buddhism. I also read several of his other books, but always tried to keep them hidden so people wouldn't see what I was reading. Around the same time I was reading some Rene Guenon, especially his "The Reign of Quantity" and I felt that he was a good deal less disreputable than Evola.

onething said...

Alex,

"the mundane and the ordinary is spiritual and magical."

A favorite Native American quote of mine is "Every pine needle is sacred and every step is a prayer."

onething said...

JMG,

"Why people go wading neck deep in the muck of Gehenna, the Kingdom of Shells, when they could spend time in the presence of beings far higher on the ladder of being than humans are, is beyond me. "

I know the answer to that. We are living in a sort of hell here, albeit there are opportunities to experience a fairly wide range of reality, and lots of people actually prefer the demonic to the angelic. Despite their protestations to the contrary if you were to actually put it so bluntly.

Really, the difference between a good person and a wicked person is a matter of preferences and values. What gives you pleasure or satisfaction? Everyone does what they most want to do in any moment, and I don't think that ever changes, from demon to angel. Do you feel gleeful and celebratory if you manage to relieve someone of their wallet on the subway? Then that is what gives you pleasure. The demonic and the angelic seek different pleasures.

onething said...

I am uncivilized at heart, although I am not very attracted to paganism. But then, I have my own religion, a church of one and I am the theologian and the congregation.

onething said...

"That's not something I talk about much; to be quite frank, it scares the fracking shale out of me -- but the awareness is always there: this land is soaked in blood, and there will be a repayment in due time. "

I feel terribly uneasy about this as well.

Although I was unsuccessful at hypnosis regression and don't have much insight into past incarnations except that I have a dreadful sense that I was very wicked some hundreds of years ago in Europe and have paid dearly for it in hell, I've long had the sense that I had a very recent incarnation as an "Indian" brave and seem to have been born with a very strong sense of those values, which is possibly why I suffered from gender dysphoria as a child. I wanted to be strong, brave, fast and skillful and saw little use in being a girl.

John Michael Greer said...

Synthase, may I make a suggestion? It's a common conceit among people in today's consumer economy that you get to pick your gods, the way you'd pick a brand of soap in the supermarket. In my experience, it happens far more often that your gods pick you. Formulate the intention, "Whoever you are, I'd like to be guided to you," or something like that, and see where it leads you; you may be surprised. As for Wimp Lo, yes, based on what I know of the Native American sense of humor, that would be a real risk...

WB, thanks for the data point. I didn't know that, but it doesn't surprise me. You've reminded me of another Evil Red, though -- the Redcoats, of course, in the Revolutionary War. We really do have a historical monomania about that!

Patricia, you're most welcome!

Pantagruel, the thing is -- as I noted in the post -- it really is valuable to confront Evola's ideas. I'll be expanding on that at more length in a later post.

Onething, I think that's part of it, but by no means all. I know people who are up to their neck in demonolatry who are meek little items who would probably throw up if they ever had to kill and butcher out a living chicken. As for past lives, I don't recommend regression as a way to learn about them -- hypnosis is a very dubious way to get at information. Regular practice of certain kinds of meditation seems to be more effective as a way of getting such memories to surface.

grisom said...

SLClaire: Fellow Zen refugee here! In my case I finally got around to reading the Mahayana scriptures, and it struck me that the Buddhism they were describing was a lot more like magic than it was like Zen-as-taught-in-the-West.

JMG: Meanwhile, I just took a look at Learning Ritual Magic and was sort of shocked to see shikantaza listed as one of the very first exercises! Your instructions for the first "attention exercise" are identical to what I was taught in Zen, except for the details of posture. (Apparently many people have encountered a different kind of zazen — in the tradition I practiced in, it was emphasized that "mind-emptying" was not at all what we were supposed to be doing. Constantly. Sometimes in exasperated tones.)

"From one perspective, it is one of the basic 'five-finger exercises' of the novice magician. From another perspective (some would say an impossibly optimistic one!) it is the only thing you need to know or do." Hah! Exactly! Can you recommend any other books from Western occultism that discuss this practice and the "other perspective" (the older the better, probably)? Until now I wasn't sure whether Zen and Hermeticism were leading in the same direction, so that's really exciting!

grisom said...

Synthase: I spent something like a decade periodically trying to get through Liber MMM on my own and never managed it; I'd say the instructions are not complete enough to be useful to a total novice. If you do want to work through it, definitely get in touch with someone who's done it themselves so they can clarify things. (Also, just for fun, read some of Aleister Crowley's instructional materials so you can appreciate how Carroll parodies him -- Liber Null is really funny if you get the in-jokes!)

Urban Harvester said...

JMG,

I'm glad you reiterated your sentiment regarding Native American traditions as it is a topic that I find myself confronting from time to time - especially with regards to my magical/religious practice, and I have returned to your previous comments on it from time to time.

A while before I got into magic, when I first started wrestling with the challenge of drawing my sustenance from within the bounds of my immediate biota (rather than from the grocery store), I drew the conclusion that coming into right relationship with the spirits of the land was an important step. As I went about this, I learned of several factors in my family history that complicated matters. You once (on another forum) suggested that Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon could be seen as an attempt to map the mythology of a people onto their new land. Well Brigham Young (who was my 4th great uncle) carried the mixed bag of old Joe's hermetic Christianity, along with various strains of millenialism and progress across the inter mountain west to Utah where (when it's prophecies about the n'uuche didn't manifest in their prompt conversion) it led to several brutal wars over three or four decades and the very near annihilation of the Timpanogos band and their relatives here. I have one 4th great grandfather who led the first massacre against them not far from where I live. So when you said that about a repayment in blood, I really felt it. Both because I feel the loss of the culture of the Timpanogos, their place names, traditions, foodways, myths, and ways of managing the ecologies of the landscape, and because I feel shame for my ancestors' actions. The discomfort is made worse when I am here as a witness to the ghastliness my people has wrought on the land. The n'uuche's way of life is in stark contrast to the blight of our horrendously executed building stock and infrastructure, as well as the eutrophication of the n'uuche's namesake river and lake (now named after a French explorer to add insult to injury).

When your CGD came out one of my first thoughts after reading the introduction went to the notion that after learning it I could eventually use it as a guide to working with the myths and spirits of the land which I want to come into balance with. Part of the idea came to me from reading Joanne Harris's novels in which her heroine's magical system is enticingly informed both by the golden dawn and mesoamerican Magic (and culinary delights - Chocolat). Admittedly her characters might also represent a cautionary tale of how not to learn magic even though their magic comes through for them in the end... But your comments about being careful with native american traditions have caused me to really question this notion.

So what I'd like to ask you is, in the theosphere of this land how do the gods that choose us relate to the gods of the n'uuche or to the entities inhabiting the tracks, hollows, peaks and valleys of the land? Especially when I see what happened when my ancestors painted their gods of Christian millenialism and progress onto it... How does a polytheist approach this respectfully? Is it a matter of functional diversity in the theosphere as in the biosphere?

Urban Harvester said...

@JMG & Eric - By the way, thanks for the discussion on Gando(a)lf it is being very helpful to me!

BoysMom said...

On Angels:
I think the reason why people hesitate to get involved with angels is very simple, and it comes out of the Christian sub-text of modernity. The Christian God is ultimate good, and angels work directly for him, and are only and always good. (If they do evil, they fall, no longer angels.) Now when you consider what people generally think God wants, and what He says right out He wants, most people aren't up for good. (Currently, I'm down with loving my neighbors, but the people right here in my house, yech! Do I have to? Really? Well, that's hard to do. Some of them are being extraordinarily difficult.)

If a person isn't sure she's being good, or wants something that he's pretty sure isn't good, then angels aren't the way to go. Their boss is kinda scary, after all, and so are they. Especially with all the arguments and disagreements over what exactly good means. "For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God." after all, and angels won't go along with sin, so if you've got any doubts about what you're doing being good, they aren't the bunch to go with.

Demons, well, they're bad, but they won't go showing up with a great glowing sword and swatting you for being a little less than good (popular conception), and you supposedly can control them, or make deals with them, whichever. Or so the common beliefs go.

A lot of the posters here are more comfortable with a definition of Good and Evil that is more situationally dependent than is commonly attributed to the Christian God, whom angels are generally attached to in the common imagination, and also don't necessarily assume that angels are attached to the Christian God.

On . . . call it genetic sin, I guess: How do you all who believe a day of reckoning is coming for past atrocities allow for the fact that the most of us in the USA, at least, are descendents of members of all of the groups, our ancestors having generally been cheerfully and licitly or illicitly engaged in miscegenation as often as they thought they could get away with it? If there's one thing DNA analysis has shown, it's that everyone who thinks they're black or white or Hispanic or Native is most likely pretty much all of the above.

Urban Harvester, I reckon we are probably fifth or sixth cousins or some such. At least two several times great-aunts of mine came out west with the LDS.

SLClaire said...

@Nicolas - I type out as INFJ on the MBTI. It's possible that the J versus P preference has something to do with it being easier for me to focus on the theme when I meditate than it is for you.

One suggestion I can offer is to remember that your mind is somewhat like an untrained puppy. It likes to go running off after whatever catches its attention. You are the puppy's trainer. When the puppy runs off (and it will), your job is to bring the puppy gently back to focus on what you are training the puppy to do.

So, as soon as you notice your puppy-mind is no longer focused on the theme you've chosen, you are to bring your puppy-mind back. To do this, try to re-trace the path backward from the thought you had just as you noticed your mind was off-track, to the thought immediately before that, then the one immediately before that, and so on till you get back to the theme. Then you begin meditating on the theme again. You may well find you've been spending most of the meditation session on extraneous thoughts, but it won't be wasted time, because you'll learn a lot about what happens in your mind when you aren't paying much attention to it. And eventually your mind will catch on (at least mine did) and spend more time considering the theme and less time on distractions. Look in our host's The Druidry Handbook for more info on this; that's where I learned it from.

The other suggestion I have is to begin the meditation session by asking yourself some questions about anything in the theme that seems confusing or noteworthy, and trying to answer one or more of those questions. Asking what the words used in the theme mean in its context is one way to begin. Asking the standard questions (what, where, when, who, why, how) about the theme as a whole, or incidents or beings it refers to, is another. That may also help your mind to focus more on the theme.

onething said...

JMG,

"Onething, I think that's part of it, but by no means all. I know people who are up to their neck in demonolatry who are meek little items who would probably throw up if they ever had to kill and butcher out a living chicken."

One doesn't have to be aggressively evil to prefer the demonic. One can simply be amazed and mesmerized by it, enthralled and interested in it, and of course one can be subservient to it. The demonic realm is hierarchical.


"As for past lives, I don't recommend regression as a way to learn about them -- hypnosis is a very dubious way to get at information. Regular practice of certain kinds of meditation seems to be more effective as a way of getting such memories to surface. "

Huh. Do tell.

ed boyle said...

About JMG's comment on your god's finding you, not the other way around. I think having only brothers and sons makes me attracted to women with only sisters as godess figures. My fascination is accepted. Those with brothers have a distinct dislike of my intense fascination for the female as such. Little brother memories loom large.

I grew up in alaska but have had zilch to say on the subject. Athapascan schoolmates, alcoholics my father helped, a white euro-american town plopped in the middle of nowhere with no relationship to anything before The gold rush', now military, oil pumping, university and tourism hotspot. My father grew up in big city, mother was from oxford england. Fishing, hunting, etc. not our thing. Civilizational refugees, misfits. They fled civilization but she participated in culture there, he in stock market speculation. Typical puritans. Escape to land short lived in early marriage as romanticism. I never heard of magic just fish wheels, dog mushing, whale blubber, forced christianization, language repression, boarding schools for natives to assimilate. Maybe it was too early to romanticize in Alaska. Colonization still contoinues, the natives still have alcohol free villages accessible by plane and aboriginal rights.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

I second your concern about regression via hypnosis as dubious technique because the psyche is very vulnerable to suggestion in such an open mental state. The second time for me at the hands of a professional left me in tears for a few hours. It was a horrid experience and I do not recommend it at all. Revolting.

Anyway, so I was dwelling upon your words about divination and free will this morning. A little light bulb popped on in my head and I was wondering about just how much free will we actually have as individuals. I mean I'm not saying that I was forced onto the path that I am on nowadays, but certainly there are less obstacles and difficult circumstances in my current path than in the now distant past when I attempted to pursue other life choices. I have wondered about just how much free will a person actually has at the end of the day and also the why of it?

The other thing I was wondering about was divination because I see peoples motivations and require no tools at all to do so. Sometimes it is useful to gain that insight, but other times it is a nuisance, and yet other times I sometimes share and speak my mind on those matters and that can be a bad thing as it punctures peoples happy bubbles and I end up looking like a, well, no one really wants to hear that stuff of the deep.

But then I started considering the confluence of divination and free will and the thought popped into my head that the world being a place full of magic that this is just sort of how things are and we and our actions are a form of magic.

And then the worst bit hit me. You see in our current treatment of the biosphere, it is sort of like a giant hex and that is a bad business. And there I saw that there is a massive blow back from that particular work of magic and that was a little bit scary as it resembled a consequences and feed back loop.

So, my thinking then went, if we sort of don't concern ourselves with the magic side of that equation then we can sort of keep on doing what we are doing because we don't really have to concern ourselves with consequences because most people wouldn't even see them until they are on top of them.

Hope that makes sense. Sorry, my thoughts are all jumbled and I probably need to meditate on this a bit longer, but I thought that you may find the thoughts to be interesting all the same.

Spring is starting to slowly awake down here and I did notice that the UV has increased at the same time from low to moderate. Plants are starting to grow as they have more energy from the sun too. Go the sun!

Cheers

Chris

Eric S. said...

Re: Goetic magic, demons, angels, etcetera:

One of the things that's heavily missing in Christian Grimoire magic, especially of the goetic variety, is a way to break the binary on the various sorts of powerful beings wandering around on the non-material planes of being. If it's not human or divine, it's categorically either angelic or demonic. There's less room for the much larger category of beings that fall into a somewhat greyer area, and picking through some of the descriptions of the natures of the various demons that are featured in some of the old goetic grimoires, such as the Keys of Solomon, it really does look like at least a few of those beings don't fit very well into the angel/demon category (to complicate things further, of course, there's the habit of some of the old demonologies of tossing gods of surrounding tribes into their lists as well). That's one of the advantages of the polytheistic systems where you have divine beings and often monstrous beings like frost giants, but also a whole array of satyrs, nymphs, elves, dwarves, faeries and on down the line that occupy a middle ground (with all of those various categories of being bleeding across into each other in their own complex ways). And that diversity allows for a much more diverse and interesting approach to spirit work.

I think that's one of the biggest advantages Islam has actually, out of the Judeo-Christian monotheistic religions, since it's the only one that actually manages to within its own canon break that particular binary by bringing in the djinn, which is able to account for a broad portion of human supernatural experience that the typical angels/demons cosmology doesn't account for. It also opens the door to types of grimoire magic that make a good deal more theological sense, since summoning djinn as allies in magical work is a good deal different from summoning demons of the sort understood in Christian cosmology. It also leaves me wondering if Western goetic magic of the type we see in the Keys of Solomon originated out of Islamic goetic traditions that got transmitted westward during the crusades, especially since those types of goetic magic are often attributed to Solomon, and there is a direct association of Solomon with the conjuration of djinn to do his bidding in chapter 34 of the Qu'ran, which, when translated over into a Christian culture that didn't have a place in its cosmology for a class of beings like the djinn would look an awful lot like summoning demons:

"And unto Solomon We gave the wind, whereof the morning course was a month's journey and the evening course a month's journey, and We caused the fount of copper to gush forth for him, and We gave him certain of the djinn who worked before him by permission of his Lord."

-----------------

(One thing that whole trend of thought tends to make me think about a lot is: if, as seems likely, revitalized Islam becomes the dominant religion of post-industrial Dark Age Europe, what will we get after a few centuries of Islam becoming fully integrated into the landscape and theosphere of Western European as Islamic genie lore begins to fold itself into the faery lore of Western Europe... I really want to glimpse some of those folktales and explore what comes out of some of the magical systems that would emerge from the second golden age of Islam, because it'd probably be fascinating.)

Eric S. said...

@SL Claire and Nicholas: when I first started work with OBOD, I was an extremely strongly expressed INFP and had been for most of my life, getting extremely consistent results with that test every time I took it. After working intensely with the Bardic grade, which involves a lot of shadow work and elemental balancing work, I went through the exact same testing and found that I had become a mildly expressed INFJ. That was one of my first moments of getting lasting verifiable results through working a spiritual system, it was unsettling but kind of empowering too to have a whole new personality all of a sudden. Keep with the work and you may find things that you are firmly attached to as being part of who you are may prove more malleable than you think they are.

ed boyle said...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Middle_Eastern_mythology

Eric S. I read lots offairy tales to my kids including chinese, english, german, thai,, my wife read russian and yemeni. Djinn lore is not islam. Before religion came we had elves, etc. Whether islam will take over europe is an interesting idea which only time can tell. People are susceptible, nondogmatic. Men going around with beards, perhaps to fit in here with muslims. We'll see.

About personality changes. My wife says I am not the mild mannered man she married. I have been working for 6 years in a physical job with non wasp types, also my yoga and tai chi has radically changed my energy flow-emotional flexibility and physical stamina, flexibilty . I was arguing with the guys at work one said you can change people, partner, girlfriend and other was skeptical. I see it as more complicated. The expression of my slumbering potential could be triggered by physical, social, emotional opportunities. Our potential is unexplored, mostly.

Stuart said...

@Eric et al: I'm encouraged that the Bardic grade has that kind of power, I've been dragging my feet a bit getting started with it for some reason.

I'm INFJ and have usually tested that way, but in my life I've also been heavily governed by a self-negating tendency to express as IN_P. It's taken ten years of ad hoc magical effort to pare that back a bit, so it's exciting that you've had such dramatic results with the OBOD work.

There's a guy at stellarmaze.com you might find interesting. He has a deep Jungian first-principles take on Myers-Briggs and adds astrology to the mix, with what I've found to be fascinating and quite useful results. If you're inclined to join his commentariat, it would only benefit from some magical sophistication. ;)

DaShui said...

I saw your work has been noticed:

http://www.counter-currents.com/2016/07/battle-of-the-magicians/

ed boyle said...

http://www.martin-dierks.de/kundalini-erwecken

http://www.vopus.org/en/gnosis/alchemy/kundalini-sexual-magic-great-arcanum.htm

http://www.kundaliniawakeningsystems1.com/kundalini-magic-and-other-systems.html#.V6boSq2bFoM

l was curious what others thought of the overlaps between eastern tradition and western magical hermeticism and found a couple of articles.

One article criticizes that western hermeticists submit to entities of questionable worth.

The other article is western oriented discussing secret energy of greeks, egyptians, essenes as being only sacred through monogamous sexuality, not as I learned through yoga, pranayama, meditation. To me the ideas seem comparatvely primitive, superstitious in comparison with asian science of energy.

The first article above has comparable standard advice as from JMG that without preparation awakening goes wrong. Sexual abuse or lack of parental love combined with spiritual (kundalini) awakening results in traumatic blockages which have to be worked out. This could be expressed in direct physical burning or in evil and/or neurotic/sociopathic behaviour which is sexually abusive, promiscuous, full of anger perhaps or hatred or overly in love, submissive. Balance comes through a long development. When large energy growth happens however such overreactions, getting used to this level of energy, inevitable.

Can I square the circle in accepting hermeticism and hinduism or should I stay where I am? I see the discussion has died down a bit. Usually I have not commented so much. I hope this is ok.

Maria Rigel said...

When JMG talked about the influences of the planets and specifically the sun, I thought I'd take a little break in the series of contacts with a most interesting spirit I was in touch at the time, and meditate on the subject of the traditional planets for a little while. I had looked into this when I started my interest in magic, but because it didn't prove very fruitful at the time, I changed to other things (like reading Harry Potter... well, it works for me). I thought I'd use as the subject of my meditations the poem "The planets" by CS Lewis. I felt it would be a good choice because CS Lewis was a scholar and quite knowledgeable on the subject, and at the same time, recent enough that he'd be a good bridge for me. I had come across it before, but it was before I knew how to meditate properly on a given subject. I went straight into a meditation about Sol, and a spirit approached me giving me explanations about the vision of Constantine the Great, and claiming that the letters he used for his standard weren't the Greek chi and ro, but the Latin P and X, from the Latin word pax, meaning peace. That was intriguing, and it reminded me of something else, the church of Rennes le Chateau. If you've heard about it, you'll suspect that its priest used to be a mage. Above the water stoup at the entrance of the church there are four angels making the sign of the cross, and a message that is Constantine's motto translated to French: "In this sign, you will conquer". I have a photo of the angels, and I thought I'd contact the spirits they represent through the picture for further information. It's been quite a fun and interesting ride and they suggested a whole lot of other material to look at, including Robert Fludd and Evagrius. But I think I'll stick to modern occultists for the time being, and probably go back to contacting the spirit I was working with before this detour... it was one very switched on to modern times, and I'd rather work with him instead of the interesting, but slightly old-fashioned angels of the church of Rennes le Chateau. And after that, I'm thinking I'll pick as a subject of my meditations the comic "The watchmen" by Alan Moore. I know, I'm impresentable. But you see, the future interests me more than the past, and superheros are all about the sort of things I want to know about: justice, freedom, and who is gonna get the biggest slice of pizza.

Brother Guthlac said...

Forgive me if I am wearisome. Patricia, I do recognize the caricature of “pure and goody-goody”. And BoysMom observation regarding Christian God being scary and angels scary and all committed to “good”. Together with the cheap moralizing that JMG identifies these are based in a certain reality. Then in this discussion we also get the routine “discursive vs mind-emptying meditation” binary. Why not - even today - a practice “ tolerably well integrated with either Christian or Jewish religious practice”? On the margins of the modern “mainstream” excuse for western religion there are still linages actively integrating ritual/ceremonial, study, and both discursive and contemplative meditative practice. Perhaps not among so-called American evangelicals, but the local Reformed Order of Redmen bingo game isn't interested in exoteric Masonry either. If magicians were ”attending the mass, confessing their sins, and receiving absolution before conjuring spirits,” that means that the clergy were at least aware of and presumably supportive of such “workings”.

Might not “good” be related to “what actually works”, “what is life-supporting”? There are very few ways to compost radium brine out of fracking wells into anything that is life-supporting – at least on any time scale that I prefer to work with. Yet, some people prefer short term “profit”.


There may be some polytheists that really aren’t just reacting to stereotyped Protestantism, but in America the matrix is the matrix – and it is general Judeo-Christian. Even actual Greeks are engaged in archeological reconstruction (not so different from the Druid Revival) when they reach back to Athena and Artemis and Dionysius and Pan. [And yes Greeks and Slavs have non-Christian magical traditions as well.] In January Myriam and JMG shared an interesting conversation regarding mages and mysticism. To borrow from Gareth Knight, “Qabalistic mystics and occultists are playing a different game on the same pitch”. Perhaps. Traditional ascetic training certainly deals with thoughts, habits, addictions, urges, passions, logismoi. Even devotion and worship might have something to do with balanced and integrated changes in consciousness and will.


It seems that this month’s discussion began, in part, with the issue of imbalance and gaps is practical training. Those are both significant.

John Michael Greer said...

Grisom, er, remember that the exercise you found that looks like shikantaza is the very first beginning exercise in a rather different process of meditation! I don't know of another book that goes into more detail about the relationship between Hermeticism and Zen, though it would be an interesting subject.

Harvester, that's one of the huge questions in contemporary polytheist spirituality here in North America, and I don't know that there's a single straightforward answer to it. I would say, rather, that you need to seek your own answer, and presumably get it from the gods that call to you.

BoysMom, that would suggest that those of us who approach magic from outside a Christian perspective would have an easier time working with angels, which I admit is a counterintuitive notion! Still, it does seem to be the case. As for the collective karma of European America, I don't claim to understand it -- I simply talked about what I sense, and what I feel coming down the planes.

Onething, evidence from hypnotic regression is no longer accepted in US courts because it's been demonstrated to be wildly inaccurate. Even if the therapist doesn't use leading questions -- which are extremely influential when used on a hypnotic subject in trance -- disconnected bits of dreams, fantasies, unrelated memories, and confabulations of unknown origin pop up and contaminate the subject's memory of events. The same problems can be presumed to be present with past life regression.

Cherokee, good. Free will -- well, we all have the potential to exercise some degree of independent choice in our lives, but many people never develop that potential, and even those who do will always be constrained in some ways. Free will is always a relative thing. As for the giant hex -- yep. Welcome to the magical side of the stuff I talk about on the other blog!

Eric, the lack of third options in Christian Goetia is a modern thing, a product of the Reformation and Counterreformation. You might consider picking up CS Lewis' excellent book "The Discarded Image," which is a study of medieval and Renaissance cosmology, and seeing what he has to say about the longaevi -- the many intelligent beings that are neither human, angel, or demon, whose existence medieval Christians took for granted.

DaShui, interesting. One of his criticisms is quite valid; when I said that "Introduction to Magic" vanished without a trace, I should have specified that I was talking about the occult community; whether or not Traditionalists are snapping it up is another matter, and one concerning which I have no idea, as I don't follow that scene.

John Michael Greer said...

Ed, if you're going to work with kundalini you need to work with kundalini and leave other practices alone. That kind of energy work is legendary for going messily wrong when you try to blend systems. People die that way -- and no, I'm not exaggerating. Manly Hall among others talks about the enthusiastic Theosophists who took up kundalini yoga out of Arthur Avalon's books, or from the handful of Hindu teachers in the US who taught that between the wars, and died after a few years as the mishandled forces basically burnt out their bodies from within.

Maria, if you're interested in the future you need to learn from the past, because the past is where you find out what works and what doesn't. Superheroes simply reflect the unthinking presuppositions and fantasies of modern pop culture back at you -- it feels really comfortable, because there's nothing there that conflicts with your own assumptions about the world, and for that same reason, it keeps you from having to question your assumptions or learn anything new about yourself or the world. Still, if that's what you prefer, by all means.

Brother G., no, you're not tiresome. Your path is also a valid approach, for those for whom it's an option. For many people nowadays, though, the path of Christian orthodoxy isn't something they can honestly follow. I talk to such people fairly often; some of them have spent years trying to make themselves believe, begging God to give them faith, and at the end of the day they're left sitting there thinking "I simply don't believe this. No matter how hard I try, when I repeat the Creed I'm lying and I know it." There are apparently a great many people like that here in North America, and there seem to be more of them in the younger generations than the older ones. If they're going to have any spiritual life at all -- and many of them long for a spiritual life -- it's going to follow another path.

ed boyle said...

John,

thanks for the tip will heed. I wrote you about my agnosticism. I was considering a concept in kundalini yoga which is very important and explains my latest difficulties. Kriyas are spontaneous muscle contractions due to arising kundalini eliminating blockages.I have bandhas or muscle blocks, stomach, buttocks, pushing energy upwards. I read that yoga was just meditation in lotus or so originally. All yoga positions are kriyas which were passed on. This is equivalent to divine revelation of sciptures. The goddess shakti revealed movements to her worshippers which bring them closer to her. Temple dances have similar origin. My bandhas prove this to me as involuntary. So divine origin of yoga is verifiable in this sense. If one does yoga one will work towards the state that the person originally receiving this kriya(spontaneous movement) attained. Mantras are said to have same purpose. IOW it is not like chanting coca cola. Or like my brother-in-law questioned me about tai chi, whether it makes any difference, which movements you make. Originally this was revealed wisdom, copying animal movements. Inndian music, ragas, could be similarly originated.

When I listen to music I need to move to it. I think they made music which fit the movements shakti forced them to make through internal 'music'. I started learning tai chi as I felt the need for such movements based on my yoga practice changing my body. As I walk around in my limbs I have muscle tension I release by clenching tightly and releasi g, twisting my hands, feet similarly. Move often vry controlled like animal on prowl. Due to muscle training, flexibilty but also due to the flow of energy which increases over time. I presume wild animals have awakened kundalini. It slumbers in tame ones. The pack leaders had most energy, subdued, eliminated, civilized others. So the magic or natural divine revelation, inspiration for thought(telepathy, inspiration also kriyas, divine) and action, movements of humans, other animals is evolutionary driving source, not 'random selection' but 'will to god' so to speak.( as opposed to will to power). God reveals survival secrets to those who worship. These secrets are kriyas, martial arts, dance, etc.

onething said...

JMG,

You had mentioned other types of meditation that are conducive to recalling past lives. Can you tell me more about that?

ed boyle said...

https://www.rt.com/sport/354921-us-athletes-using-brain-stimulation/

A company uses electrostimulation of the brain on athletes to improve performance. Their brain cells are permanently improved and neuro pathways. Their performance is improved but this is not seen as doping. Compare their results with my claims of athletic improvement due to kundalini awakening, which is internal enhancement of neuronal network through increased electrical stimulation from central nervous system. Artificial electrical stimulationof central nervous system seems to have similar results. I doubtit is ascomprehensive. Side effects could be, as with kundalini awakening, quite dangerous.

mooncalf said...

Hi JMG,

You say 'if you're going to work with kundalini you need to work with kundalini and leave other practices alone.'

Just wanted to clarify, is this you're full advice, even for people who've had Kundalini awakenings but aren't doing specific kundalini yoga practices, and, in my case never did? That is apart from all the strectching, and exercise i do, that are pretty much led by the energy, similar to as Ed describes I do a lot of back bends!
I did the CGD Ovate grade, which i felt was beneficial, but right now i'm in a place where doing a too concentrated visualisation or just the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram can throw me off course. This is perhaps a common problem for everyone at times, just maybe more exaggerated. As for meditation or pathworking, it's very hard to resist looking at the tunnels - and lights - that i often see when i close my eyes, and i'm not sure I should be resisting, although usually it never leads anywhere in particular - just gets so heavy with energy that my neck is thrown some way or other and have to stop. I mean, at times I've seen a lot of astral figures just in walls or doors of an evening, at the moment just see a few figures often as i go to bed.
Since my K awakening I've furthered my interest in philosophy, become acquainted with magic etc. Just feel like it's kind of also led me to being unable to follow a specific formal tradition as such, and so i don't have the framework to make more sense of a lot of my experiences. Studying magic, but not practicing. Maybe a specific Kundalini eastern type tradition would be more suitable? Or, perhaps I should just stop making excuses and get on with the work... Translating everything into my day to day life as much as possible seems most important to me at the moment.

Oops sorry for splurging

Brother Guthlac said...

* have spent years trying to make themselves believe, begging God to give them faith, and at the end of the day they're left sitting there thinking "I simply don't believe this. No matter how hard I try, when I repeat the Creed I'm lying and I know it." *

JMG - I hear that. What is the place of belief in in the life and work of the mage, master or in training? Whichever "explanation of the weorold" we use.

What if one set aside both moralizing and dogmatizing and treated spiritual life/magic as experience? What might happen if one treated a creed not so much as a statement of dogma but as a topic, or set of topics, for discursive meditation? In that case, the very initial “unbelievability” might open new, even magical, possibilities. Haven't we repeatably here seen magic a a passing beyond habitually believable frameworks?

John Roth said...

Brother Guthlac,

Belief is a concept with a number of different definitions. A few weeks ago my congregation's senior minister defined it as "an opinion about something that can't be proved." I think most people who talk about belief are saying something closer to what Michael called faith: a belief that can't be questioned. (They think that's silly, btw. You should be able to question everything.)

If I'm reading JMG right, he's very much a pragmatist: magic works, and if your working doesn't produce results, then figure out why and fix it.

ed boyle said...

Mooncalf,

Grounding or draining of energy in trunk eliminates problems such as you have with neck or headaches and allows safe growth of energy. Grounding or draining off from spinal area goes over shoulders and hips through limbs to feet and hands. I used to often wake up mornings with my left arm/hand tigling/burning. Shoulders and hips have a lot of muscle mass so it may take time to break through that. Tai chi is good for this as it develops energy production in limbs, outside trunk, the slower you do it the deeper the trance and higher energy in arms, legs. The head and face is interesting. The pathways of energy develop ovr time over cheeks, ears, etc. until most of head, neck is covered by open paths whee energy flows from burning, tingling crown of head. This all happens slowly naturally over years of practice. If too heavy, slow down practice, sleep it off. Rome wasn't built in a day.

All this basc experience of many boring years of slow development are helping me now. In the last year and a half since I started getting energy via females my central chakras have experienced a huge energy jump but the principle remains the same.I see a woman, perhaps just a photo, or in film and my heart chakra burns, or my belly pulls in. The energy spreads to my head over neck and then goes down sides to shoulde, hips and burns legs, arms.

One never forgets early experiences. I was visiting my mother in England 15 or 16 years ago on vacation, it was Easter morning. I woke up with my hands clenched tightly and felt my hand chakras for the first time. The crucifiction, my catholic upbringing, helped me see the significance and strengthened my belief.

My first experience of 3rd eye was standing pulling my leg up towards my head from behind during yoga. After that I took a course in kriya yoga. Kriya kundalini pranayama you don't get through books. It is dangerous, must be properly taught and applied in moderation like sex, alcohol and other such very mature topics which can easily destroy one's life when overused, misused, abused. I did too much of that and had to stop and let it absorb into my nervous system over many years by yoga, tai chi as I describd above. Distribution , grounding, drain off after building up. Any spirituual routine which overloads or increases enrgy should be balanced out with sleep or grounding. If meditation gets too much in head, neck then arm and legwork next is good. Find a routine weekly which allows build up and draining off of enrgy so that your energy channels strengthen, expand over time to handle higher levels of energy. I would guess that meditation is all meditation but your experience visually is not my experience and generally I lack concentration, just enjoy feeling energy so that is my thing. If you like visions and energy workgets in the way of that then you'll have to work around that. Siitting up straight increases energy in meditation. Maybe meditate lying down if you don't fall asleep.

I hope this helps. Its not like I ever had anybody to ask about this stuff so...

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Well that confirmation has just blown my mind and I had to dwell on it for about a week or so, so as to gather my thoughts correctly. I live with that knowledge fairly lightly because I run my own race and set my own goals, but I was curious as to how other people adapt to that particular understanding of the world? It must be a bit of a shock, which few people even want to understand. I've read enough of your thoughts so that I have a reasonably good feel for the path that you travelled in your life - unless you have possibly dissembled, which I doubt.

However, I am wondering now at just how other people avoid that particular knowledge. The more I dwell upon it the more that I can see that traditional belief systems have that sort of blow back from a particularly nasty hex as an in built part of their core teachings as a protective mechanism, albeit under a different meme. The interesting question that pops into my head is: Why was this teaching abandoned in practice?

I suspect that you may have carried this understanding around with you for quite a while now. I hope that it helps you that you can share this burden? For that is what it is! ;-)!

With this in mind, I promise you a special story on one of the most important limits of all next Monday. I do hope that you get the chance to drop by and have a read.

Cheers

Chris

John Michael Greer said...

Ed, fair enough -- if your path is working for you, by all means.

Onething, we'll be discussing that in a couple of months. The people I know who've had extensive spontaneous memories of previous lives come through were all practicing the sort of discursive meditation I cover in my books on magic. There may be other forms of meditation that do that, but that's the one I know about.

Mooncalf, you're not splurging. In your case I'd avoid any systematic training that involves moving the astral light, and yes, that includes basically any magical training. You've had the great good fortune to go through spontaneous kundalini activation; let the energy teach you what it wants you to do, and leave any other meditation, pathworking, ritual, or other practice alone. Study? You bet. But you don't need a formal system of practice; you're where a formal system of practice is meant to get you, and you just need to let it teach you how to work with it.

Brother G., a lot depends on what you mean by that word "belief." A mage in training needs to have a basic trust in the system or the teacher that he or she is following; there needs to be a willingness to accept that the training matters, and will lead someplace worth getting to. It's perfectly fine, though, to bracket any claim made by the teacher and the system with a thought like, "okay, I won't argue, but we'll see what happens when I can do X or experience Y for myself." As long as there's enough trust for the student to keep studying and practicing, that's enough.

As for discursive meditation on the Creeds, it's an excellent idea, but that's not the same thing as meaning it when you say "I believe..." What happens if your discursive meditation on the Apostles Creed, let's say, leads you to the conviction that no, Jesus is not the only-begotten Son of God in any sense that matters or makes sense? Such things routinely happen in meditation, and in occult training, there's always room for that -- each student will, if he or she pursues the training far enough, evolve a uniquely personal approach to magic, and it may involve symbols and ways of understanding the world different from anybody else's.

Cherokee, it's something I talk about now and again among the magically literate. The basic concept -- that actions have blowback on a magical as well as a physical level, creating patterns of personality and character that encourage repetition of the actions, and potentially amplifying in a feedback loop to the point of madness and self-destruction -- is common to pretty much all esoteric spiritual traditions -- for that matter, it's there in the Christian scriptures, though a lot of people have gone out of their way to ignore it for a good long time. There's more to it than that -- there's a way in which the energetic consequences of negative acts pile up on what an older era used to call the lower astral, and discharge in the form of mass outbreaks of violence and craziness as well as natural disasters. I probably do need to do a post about all of that one of these days.

Myriam said...

JMG wrote: " actions have blowback on a magical as well as a physical level, creating patterns of personality and character that encourage repetition of the actions, and potentially amplifying in a feedback loop to the point of madness and self-destruction" and "energetic consequences of negative acts pile up on what an older era used to call the lower astral, and discharge in the form of mass outbreaks of violence and craziness as well as natural disasters."

Recently I've been intrigued by Rene Girard's work on mimetic theory (here is a good overview: https://woodybelangia.com/what-is-mimetic-theory/) coupled with the Self-Perception Theory of Daryl J. Bem (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/redirect/201201/we-are-what-we-do).

Seriously, we are monkeys.

I can see numerous attempts, seemingly desperate, by the powers-that-be to create a scapegoat that would unite our increasingly fragmented society, but so far (thanks to the internet?) this has had limited success. What has united most of us the world over, though, is the desire to grab as much of the world's available resources, consequences be damned, as we can.

Quoting the blog mentioned above: "Girard’s anthropology implies that human subjectivity is essentially de-centered. The Mimetic Theory replaces the notion of the individual as the first principle of social analysis with the radical notion of interdividuality, which transcends the self/society dichotomy. Desires have their locus between mimetic partners; they are not placed precisely within one or the other."

Which leads me to believe that at this point we have created an egregore monster that will take us over the cliff no matter what we do as individuals.

I was wondering if the desire of some to create the New World Order (conspiracy theorists gasp in unison at this point) might be the attempt to impose a higher authority that would redirect our basic monkey hardwiring of mimesis, thus preventing a terrible end. Like finding a new scapegoat, this seems doomed to failure.

Or maybe after we've been over the cliff, we can get on with the cure suggested in the blog above: "The cure for mimetically produced violence will be a mimetically transmitted desire for peace."

So if the key is to change our behaviour first, as Daryl Bem would suggest, then the way forward is through individual acts of peace towards both the planet and each other, and perhaps ourselves as well, not thought out ahead, just repeated, over and over again, until changes in personality and character are formed, and a new egregore is formed.

W. B. Jorgenson said...

I know you've banned discussion about elections at the other blog, but I think I have a question that is relevant here (but off topic for this week): why do Trump and Clinton have the effect of making otherwise sane people incapable of rational thought?

Patricia Mathews said...

@W.B. Jorgenson - because when anger enters the brain, reason flies out the window, and both candidates have a gift for making their opponents very, very angry. Or in some cases, their supporters. Or why very few people are showing yard signs and bumper stickers these days except for the local ones.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Yes, I would be very interested to read your thoughts on that most important and interesting matter and thank you very much for taking the time to reply. I need to dwell upon this for longer than I have. You always know when you are dealing with the natural world in that understanding unfolds with only with experience, exposure, and consideration. Understanding is a slow thing and it is different for everyone too, I guess. Wow!

Cheers

Chris

Phil Harris said...

JMG wrote in reply to Chris
‘Cherokee, … The basic concept -- that actions have blowback on a magical as well as a physical level, creating patterns of personality and character that encourage repetition of the actions, and potentially amplifying in a feedback loop to the point of madness and self-destruction … I probably do need to do a post about all of that one of these days.’

I would welcome that post. Thanks to both you and Chris.
The repeating process of civil war comes especially to mind. I am reminded, for example, this is the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution. It would be a relief to know that some kinds of continuity could be attenuated or left behind in the grave, but history is a bit inexorable.

Some unattended physical accumulations hang over us with more than metaphorical menace. I remember a coal spoil heap in Wales that descended on the village primary school 50 years ago this October. The timing was truly dreadful. The heap had taken 50 years to build.

best
Phil H

Callum said...

John, et al.,

It has been a few months since I have chimed in, but I have not missed out on the ever enlightening posts-major or the comments!

I am not able to commit to regular magical practice, or even regular meditation at this time, though I hope the next year or two will afford that ability. I do not want to approach this half-heartedly, out of respect for the forces I would be mingling with. Being earnest strikes me as important in this endeavor. :P

In the meantime, I am doing irregular meditation and trying to learn as much occult philosophy as I can between two kids, a full time wage job, and part-time college

My question is this: Generally speaking, if I am not able to give my practice my all, should I not open myself to communication with 'the other'?

I am concerned my appeals would be / are offensive to any being who might care enough about me to listen. I approach the situation completely humble (I was denied a sense of worth as a young man (read: son), so that comes naturally), and certainly without expectation (let alone entitlement). Mostly, I am looking for an experience that hints I am living in the correct direction.

The last thing I want to do, however, is turn off an entity to the possibility of working with me in the future, when I am able to properly revere and consistently devote. Really, I don't want to offend *anything that is non-coporeal... Is this something I should be concerned about? Or am I in the clear if I stay away from the "gimmie gimmie?"

Thank you deeply for any answer you are able to give, and of course for your tireless efforts within the occult community! You are changing people's lives.
My soul's best,
Callum

onething said...

"There's more to it than that -- there's a way in which the energetic consequences of negative acts pile up on what an older era used to call the lower astral, and discharge in the form of mass outbreaks of violence and craziness as well as natural disasters. I probably do need to do a post about all of that one of these days."

Yes.

James M. Jensen II said...

W. B. Jorgenson,

why do Trump and Clinton have the effect of making otherwise sane people incapable of rational thought?

My answer is that both are at this point practicing political thaumaturgy.

Scott Adams has been blogging about this for some time now calling it first the "Master Wizard" and then the "Master Persuader" lens. Granted that Adams is a materialist (so would deny that magic is going on here) and also kind of a lunatic in his personal views (e.g. he thinks both Trump and Clinton are just too old to be president, that we can beat Daesh with comedy, etc.), his background is in hypnotism, and the whole thrust of his series of posts is about how Trump is causing change in others' consciousness in accordance with his will.

Here's Adams own index of posts on the subject:

http://blog.dilbert.com/post/139541975641/the-trump-master-persuader-index-and-reading-list

The latest development is that Clinton is apparently doing the same thing now. He suspects a master persuader (whom he calls "Godzilla" -- my guess is he means Tony Robbins) has switched sides from Sanders to Clinton to help defeat Trump.

I don't know how much of his analysis is valid, which is why I'm eagerly awaiting JMG's promised magical analysis of the election, but I suspect there will be several overlapping points and themes in the analyses. One thing Adams is guilty of is thinking that persuasion is all that matters; he's said this explicitly. JMG has highlighted that there are actually some very sound differences in the issues Trump and Clinton are addressing.

One thing I'm curious of is the extent to which Trump's recent behavior and drop in the polls is caused by the Raspberry Jam principle: i.e., by him hypnotizing/enchanting himself.

JMG, could you comment on that last point? I'd love to hear your view.

Brother Guthlac said...

“As for discursive meditation on the Creeds, it's an excellent idea, but that's not the same thing as meaning it when you say "I believe..." What happens if your discursive meditation on the Apostles Creed, let's say, leads you to the conviction that no, Jesus is not the only-begotten Son of God in any sense that matters or makes sense? Such things routinely happen in meditation, and in occult training, there's always room for that -- each student will, if he or she pursues the training far enough, evolve a uniquely personal approach to magic, and it may involve symbols and ways of understanding the world different from anybody else's. “

Credo – I believe. Yup, a creed is a statement of belief, a more-or-less coherent system of making sense out of the experience of the world.

I believe based on experience that when I release an object it will move (fall) toward the ground I stand on.

I believe that periodically the eastern horizon will brighten and then the sun will appear in that direction, later the sun will appear to be more or less overhead and later still the world will darken as the sun disappears beyond the western horizon. That is based on my own repeated experience. I also believe (on mostly secondhand claims since I have not personally verified the detailed observations and calculations) that actually this happens not because of the movement of the sun but because the seemingly solid unmoving earth beneath my feet is spinning in empty space.

So-called Apostles Creed or any other, or whatever formulation, are working statements of belief. Didn’t we observe back in February regarding occult philosophy: “every one of these systems contains some set of fairly simple variations on the same common themes.”

Admittedly Christian creeds are the product of groups that really focused on “believe” as a primary “technique”. “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish…” But the number of denominations that all profess even the Apostles creed and have radically different interpretations leaves room for a certain “personal approach”.

And as I recall from the Rhyd Wildermuth thread, there is some scent of fundamentalist “believe as I believe” to be noticed in some occult venues.

As to “things that routinely happen in meditation”, of course. Likely to apply to “only-begotten Son of God” as to any of those other “common themes. Somewhere it was observed that the druid revival use of discursive meditation was not unconnected to the practice of discursive meditation among Anglicans of all people. There might be a fair bit of room to work with questions and doubts. And whoever said that this was purely rational?

Somewhat in haste. Almost to the end of the month.

Steve Thomas said...

Genuinely off topic from this month's post (to the point where I will completely understand if you don't want to put it through) but something just popped into my head and I couldn't think of anyone else to address it to...

I was reading Rod Dreher's column in The American Conservative, and he was complaining about LGBT activists attacks on traditional Christian institutions. Regardless of how you feel about it, this is a major topic in Christian circles-- the way in which the ongoing rejection of Christianity in America directly relates to the Sexual Revolution and the ongoing embrace of sexual practices which were formerly prohibited.

Thinking about that in light of your discussion of changing religious sensibilities, the following popped into my head:

1. Christianity and other religions of what is I guess the Axial Age Sensibility have been very Death-centric but Sex-phobic.

2. Religions of the previous sensibility were the reverse. Sacrifices were carried out outside the temple, contact with death could render one ritually impure, and so forth, but sexual taboos were limited.

3. Did that sensibility not emerge from a previous sensibility that was Death-centric? Spengler has the Minoans as part of the broader Egyptian civilization and I don't know if that's true, but supposing it is, and noticing the importance of immortality, mummification practices, and so forth in Egyptian et al, wouldn't it make sense to see the religious sensibility of this era as Death centered?

4. The New Religious Sensibility you've discussed seems to be sex-centric. If it is true that sexual liberation is a key factor in driving people away from traditional Christianity, that is another datapoint in favor of this idea...

So, is it possible that this is a large-scale historical pattern? That eras in which the dominant Religious Sensibility is governed by Eros give way to Thanatos, and vice versa, on and on through history, like some Wiccans' ideas of the Oak King and the Holly King?

This is already out on a limb, and may be too much. But that also makes me think about the discussion of sex in Victorian-era magic. Sex had power because it was repressed, taboo. And I'm thinking of (and possibly misunderstanding) Eros in Renaissance magic as discussed by Culianu. Is it possible that, during eras ruled by Thanatos, magical traditions derived from Eros are enhanced, and vice versa?

Or is this all overcaffeinated rambling?

John Michael Greer said...

Myriam, good. Why do you think I talk so constantly, over on the other blog, about the need to make changes in our own lives first, before we ask anyone else to make them? Mimesis is the foundation; there are things you can build on top of that foundation, but if you aren't already doing what you expect others to do, you're wasting your efforts.

WB, a simple question with a complex answer. To begin with, the basic level of thought in today's America is terrifyingly low, even -- or, if you will, especially -- among those who think of themselves as intelligent and well-educated. Most so-called thinking in the US these days is nothing more than the rehearsal of vague sound bites linked unthinkingly to automatic emotional reactions, as I discussed in the other blog a while back. When people have never learned to think -- and thinking is a learned skill -- they're not going to suddenly figure out how to do so just because the issue in question is important.

Second, of course, is the fact that both campaigns -- indeed, all political campaigns these days -- focus with laser intensity on rousing unthinking passions in their followers, which just exacerbates the first point. Still, I think there's also a third factor here, which is a whopping case of cognitive dissonance. Clinton's supporters in the Democratic party have got to be aware that for all practical purposes she's George W. Bush in a wig and a pantsuit. She's spent her entire political career supporting exactly those things Democrats claim to oppose, and yet now they're trying to convince themselves they have to vote for her. In exactly the same way, Trump's supporters are aware that he's exactly the sort of person Bible Belt Americans despise -- a billionaire New York real estate profiteer who's on his third marriage and thinks gay people are just fine -- and yet they've convinced themselves they have to vote for him. As Gregory Bateson pointed out a long time ago, cognitive dissonance makes thought impossible and plays a huge role in the genesis of madness; I suspect we'll see a lot of that latter as this campaign winds toward its end.

Cherokee, wow indeed. Once you grasp the reality of the magical dimension of things -- the role that consciousness plays in creating the universe of our experience -- it really does change things utterly.

Phil, it would be nice if some things could be left behind, but since those things are the natural consequence of certain enduring habits of the human mind, I wouldn't advice holding your breath...

Callum, not at all. The important thing, when you're dealing with what I'll call the theosphere -- the realm in which you find gods and goddesses, to use certain old but by no means outworn terms -- is to be honest. If you can only devote a little of your time, let 'the other' know that. Explain your circumstances, the responsibilities you've accepted, the duties you owe to your family and your job. Ask that what you have to offer will still be accepted. Most of humanity is in the same boat you are; they have families to support and other obligations that have to be fulfilled; and those of them that are religious find ways to set apart a little time each day or each week for their interactions with the theosphere, and that's accepted. I'd encourage you to consider the same approach.

James, good question. I think a lot of it is simply that he's not an experienced campaigner, and he's lost control of the initiative and, to some extent, of the narrative of the campaign. If he fails to regain those, he's going to lose; if he manages to recover -- and there's still ample time yet -- he could still win. But we'll see!

John Michael Greer said...

Brother G., if you drop something, it will fall, and sunset is followed by sunrise: sure. Those can be known by experience. The statements of the Creeds? Not so much -- there, you and I and everyone else are being expected to affirm something that is not a matter of personal experience. (Are you, or any other human being, in a position to report on the basis of personal experience concerning whether or not Christ is in fact the only-begotten Son of God? If God had a couple of additional sons, how would you know?) One core difference between Christian orthodoxy and occultism is precisely over this issue of belief; "Believe and you shall be saved" is the claim of the Christians, while "experience and you shall be whole" is the claim of the occultists. Can you cherrypick exceptions? Sure -- there have been some occult traditions that have gotten into dogmatism, just as there have been some Christian traditions that have embraced experientialism (cough, cough, Gnosticism, cough, cough). As a general rule, though, the difference stands.

Steve, excellent! Yes; as Yeats points out in "A Vision," there's an alternation between two opposing patterns, so that every so often what was holy becomes vile and what was vile becomes holy. That's something we can talk about one of these days.

ed boyle said...

We all have very abstract belief systems beyond common sense proofs. Animism became anthropomorphized into gods, thenn monotheism, then scientific theory. The core belief is critical to the masses. The other stuff is mumbo jumbo. We accept that on authority. Ever seen an atom, an angel? I expperience a lot, presume much, would like to see more. Maybe physics is right and god lets the world run. Maybe we can interfere with physics through magical, spiritual processes.

Which brings us to second theme just discussed above, accumulative madness, collective or personal karma. Spiritual physics. In buddhism, action without desire creates no new karmic reaction. In the church grace from god is the answer. The ancients sacrificed animals to appease the gods for sins, atonement was submission, forgiveness, reconciliation. Everyone always understood that hate breeds hate, greed is bad and actions have consequences. If I am angry, I chill out, forgive. Anger, greed, lust are in lower centers. We have to open heart and higher chakras so that the energy can flow upwards leading eventually to highest energy, enlightenment.

Thanatos vs. eros sounds like focus between 2nd and 3rd centers. Christianity focuses on heart chakra, as civilizing female influence to avoid primitive tendencies of war, pillage, rape coming from sociopathic roman, barbarians in dark ages, imperial times. When current christian practice has turned hypocritical, bases its reality on exclusion and hate like original pharisaic religion in new testament then this denies healing of bad karma offered by higher religious principle through heart and higher centers in buddhism, jesus teachings. Then belief and experience separate and people form new religious practices. Song 'take me to church' is a very pointed rejection of catholicism, acceptance of holy sexuality as high point of spiritual existence.

My experience is that I cannot believe the fine print mumbo jumbo of appostles creed but big picture is real. Kundalini energy awakens below. Sexuality is a fine start but a one night stand or flirt is not deep love and that takes hard work and dedication. However love cannot be cold or it dies. Passion must move from 2nd to 4thenergy center, from genitals to heart. So people want children. They love them from heart. It opens heart chakra, cements relationship. Romance is hard to maintain with children, but it grows in a different way, beyond two to more, less egoistic. That is how we beat death, thanatos. Eros is the little death while we become immortal through our kids, descendants.

Researched jyotish. Subhoroscope called dwadashamsha shows past karma, siddhashamsha shows spiritual abilities in current life due to past karma. This blog really stimulates my cumulative religious, esoteric experience, gets me thinking.

Subchakras between main 7 are useful. I practiced on one vacation higher heart chakra, this improves health, opens energy towards throat center, shoulders, upper chest broadly, activates thymus gland to which it belongs.

Personal capabilities unique, based on past life karma, expressed in current horoscope. I might have emotional difficulties, religious worship problems or spiritual developmental problems or advantages which I could research by analyzing my horoscope in whatever system, birth horoscope and development via planetary transits. I understand myself and what is going on in my life better this way. I hope my development remains positive though turbulent, in higher chakra areas but not excluding passion, love, even anger as grounding for otherwise arrogant 'spirituality'.

John Roth said...

@James M. Jensen

I thoroughly agree - I expect that Trump is using a form of conversational hypnosis, and it’s quite probable that Clinton is as well. That is, in fact, the basis of advertising.

I became aware of NLP back in the early 80s, and took seminars directly from Richard Bandler and John Grinder as well as several of their students. In Scott Adams list of books about persuasion, he misrepresents the connection between Milton Erickson and NLP by suggesting that NLP is derived from Erickson. It isn’t. They were going full blast before they met Dr. Erickson, and had derived a lot of their early work from studying someone else - I think Gregory Bateson, although I could be mistaken (it’s been a while).

What they did was deconstruct Erickson’s work and integrate it into their own. An anecdote may be helpful here. Erickson had had a stroke and was partially paralyzed on one side of his body. During a session, he held his head up with one hand and his head swayed gently back and forth. Grinder’s technique for learning something is to use a hypnotic technique called something like “full trance identification,” and repeat until he could reproduce the same effects as the person he was modeling. Then he’d take it apart piece by piece to find out what was essential and what wasn’t.

To cut a long story short, they found that the head swaying was an essential part of his technique. He embedded one stream of instructions into what he was saying while his head was at one side, and a different stream while his head was at the other.

This turned out to be a very general technique. Once you learn how to embed a stream of instructions into something on an apparently different subject, you can use almost anything to mark out the bits that you want to go around someone’s awareness and into their unconscious. Emphasis will do as well. The first group centering exercise I ever heard worked that way: Alexander Everett could put an entire audience into a trance and teach them how to center in one shot. You can use gestures as well - one of the training tapes I heard of them using was from a psychologist who espoused “non-directive therapy.” They showed how his gestures forced a specific decision on his patient - with him thinking that he hadn’t interfered at all with his patient’s ability to make his own decision.

The classic NLP textbook on hypnosis is “Trance-formations - Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Structure of Hypnosis”. There’s a lot of good stuff in the early NLP literature - it’s the fakers like Tony Robbins who claim they know NLP, and really don’t, you need to watch out for.

I’ll leave this with another comment from the early NLP work. A student asked about whether this material could be misused. Of course it can be misused, however, you usually can’t twist someone to far. If you do, you get a lot of very bad pushback. They made a comment about Pavlov’s dogs. According to contemporary observers, those dogs knew exactly what Pavlov was doing to them, and they didn’t like it one bit. They turned mean as a result.

Callum said...

John,

Thank you for your reply, I will seek to maintain regular practice as you have described. In all earnestness.

I have another question for you, and I would love to hear from anyone else with experience regarding this. Quick background, will try not to bore: I have direct lineage in my county going back to my namesake being born as a first generation New Worlder, in 1715. That's 30 years before Thomas Jefferson was born, let alone moved here (our most famous inhabitant). My grandfather has and made tables out of the original Rotunda and Monticello dome glass, which will remain with my family. We had kin who squatted in Monticello for a time. I am 9th generation, and my daughter is 10th generation Albemarle County. Needless to say, I have roots.

These facts have always been very important to me, and my connection with the land around here is profound because of it, as well as the resulting connection with my ancestors. (Who, now that I am open to them, I feel certain have lent me their wisdom a time or three).

Now the issue. Due primarily to absent finances and a solid job opportunity, we are moving to the Denver area very soon. ...which is very far away...

I have always felt like a steward to my heritage, which is about as 'White American' as one can get, and I think I have suceeded; my little girl has the connection, she was born here. But now we are all moving away, probably never to return as the world is rapidly changing.

Considering your answer to my previous question, it seems the thing to do is, remaining honest, explain why I am leaving and that our legacy will be passed on. Pretty much try to make it as clear as I can that we are not abandoning our history, and will continue to value those who created the possibility for me/us to exist?

I am trying to balance the loss of family ties (positive), with losing my personal baggage with the land, the emotions that have taken me for a largely negative ride through life, until a few years ago (Love is great!). I have also been considering what has been said recently regarding Native Americans and that, while I have 10 generations, they are in the hundreds, and what kind of ancestral bagagge we may have been pulling through the centuries... lots to ponder on that front.

Well, in Humanistic fashion, I think I have my answers. But a nod in my direction would be very comforting. :) I do not have the operative chops to do more than appeal in meditation at this point, fwiw.

To be able to ask questions as these, and know there will be a response to one degree or another, is reassuring (understatement). Thank you for allowing this medium of communication.

With respect,
Callum

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Steve Thomas--I think your suggestion that religious sensibility swings between Eros and Thanatos has some validity. I decided to look at Judaism as a test example. This is long; skip if not interested.

The precursor to Judaism or the earliest form of Judaism (depending on your interpretive frame) is the Israelite religion, which arose during the tribal period and solidified in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah during the time of the First Temple. This religion was not sex-phobic. During most of it there was a cult statue of the goddess Asherah in the Temple. Asherah was Yahweh's wife or consort, and She was a fertility goddess.

The onset of the Axial Age turned the religion more sex-phobic than it had been. Some prophets used harlotry as a figure for disloyalty to YHVH, whom they try to establish as the only legitimate object of worship for the Children of Israel. (The Hebrew prophets did not deny the existence of the gods worshipped by other nations.) It should be noted that at no time in the history of Judaism has virginity or permanent celibacy been held up as a good model for either men or women. Marriage is normative for all adults and married people are expected to have children if they can.

The Babylonian Exile, the return from exile of a remnant, the writing down of Deuteronomy and the rebuilding of the Temple all happened just before or during the Axial Age, and after that Judaism was a different religion.

The hegemony of Greek civilization during the Hellenistic Age prompted Jewish responses such as the writing of Job and Ecclesiastes; reworking Passover; the holiday of Chanukah and the first Teachers of the Law, a new religious role influenced by Greek moral philosophers. Judaism was not death-centric during any of these periods. The animal sacrifices were a counterpart to the offerings of agricultural produce. The main meaning of these offerings was to give a token amount back to the deity who was responsible for the fertility of fields and flocks. One may see the deaths of the sons of Mattathias in the Books of Maccabees as the first seed of a narrative of martyrdom, but those deaths are rewarded not in Heaven but by restoring an independent Jewish state.

(continued)

W. B. Jorgenson said...

JMG,

Ah, that third point, it makes so much sense to me. I don't think point one is terribly important for the people I'm thinking of (I'm used to unthinking responses from most people, but I know a few who can think and just shut down on this issue), the second one wouldn't explain why people I know who had reasonable discussions about the merits of the candidates in 2012, or in our last election here can't seem to do it now.

But, cognitive dissonance, I think that's what's doing it for people. The cognitive dissonance of supporting a candidate who, for all intents an purposes is aiming for the third term of a president you despise, for any reason, has to be intense...

This also explains why it's only people who are consistent party supporters, a fact I wasn't sure was relevant. In any case, cognitive dissonance strikes again! It seems a safe bet when presented weird human behavior it's somehow involved.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Judaism as a test example for changes in religious sensibility toard Eros and Thanatos, continued.

The Roman destruction of the Second Temple and the ensuing religious persecution was as great a catastrophe as the Babylonian Exile. The response was the writing of the Talmud. The land was no longer accessible and the priests were out of a job; religious authority shifted to a decentralized network of rabbis. The Romans had tortured and executed some rabbis in a (successful) attempt to put an end to nationalist revolts; these were the first martyrs. Later Christian Europe generated more martyrs, and a longing for the coming of the Messiah.

The Talmud codified religious customs that prevented ancestor veneration. The Talmud reinforced rabbinical misogyny and wariness about sexual desire as a disruptive force, but not to the extremes that Christianity did.

The next major reworking of Judaism began in the eighteenth century in response to modernity: modern science, the Enlightenment, nationalism, the rise of secularism as a political idea and the revival of the concept of citizenship. These reduced the prominence of the afterlife in Jewish thought.

Judaism is currently responding to the religious implications of the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, feminism, and postmodern attitudes which are beginning once again to see the natural world as sacred in its own right. The most obvious institutional change is that all denominations except the Orthodox are ordaining female rabbis in roughly equal numbers to the men. It is too soon to tell what effect this will have.

Pantagruel7 said...

"Some unattended physical accumulations hang over us with more than metaphorical menace. I remember a coal spoil heap in Wales that descended on the village primary school 50 years ago this October. The timing was truly dreadful. The heap had taken 50 years to build." That sounds like the collapse of the garbage heap at the beginning of the low-budget film "Idiocracy." It's an intriguing notion, and I'd like to hear more about it.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

"Some unattended physical accumulations hang over us with more than metaphorical menace. I remember a coal spoil heap in Wales that descended on the village primary school 50 years ago this October. The timing was truly dreadful. The heap had taken 50 years to build."

Now you know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.

Phil Harris said...

JMG wrote
“Phil, it would be nice if some things could be left behind, but since those things are the natural consequence of certain enduring habits of the human mind, I wouldn't advice holding your breath.”

Yes indeed, it is and will be always very hard work. Nevertheless in the litter of civilisations and lost life we come across accumulations from good lives and discover interesting, even useful, work-a-rounds. I guess we owe something always to the Tao as CS Lewis calls it, or as he puts it on the same page regarding educationalists past and present, (i>) “… we may well thank the beneficent obstinacy of real mothers and nurses and (above all) real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses.”

best
Phil H

Phil Harris said...

Pantagruel7
google Aberfan

best

Phil H
PS Deborah
Tears enough to fill the world I guess.

Stacey Neanderthal said...

(formerly "Space Seeder")

What's a good way to start learning about changing consciousness according to the will for someone who has no background in this, and is not conversant with the terms at all? My goal is to change my own consciousness, such that my darker emotions, such as anger, are allowed to exist but don't act against me they way have have up to now.

Steve Thomas said...

Deborah Bender-- Thank you, that's very interesting. It looks to me like the history of Judaism lends some support to the idea. Does it seem that way to you? It would also seem to demonstrate that, if this sort of large-scale movement is real, the way it manifests varies greatly depending on local conditions.

I'm still not sure if this model works, but I like it because it helps me to make sense of certain things. I'm thinking of it as a Theospheric weather system. Every few thousand years the seasons change, but what that means on the ground varies depending on the local climate and ecology. Some regions stay green and relatively warm through Winter, the way that, say, Shinto has endured alongside Buddhism (relatively unchanged? I could be wrong about that.) Some regions have fairly mild Winters-- that might be Judaism, and maybe Taosim of the Zheng Yi school. In other regions Winter is more severe. Spain and Tenochtitlan were both in the middle of Winter on this view, maybe.




Yellow Submarine said...

@ James Jensen and John Michael:

I'm not buying this line that Adams is trying to sell about Trump's troubles being due to a "master persuader"/"Godzilla"/Anthony Robbins/whatever working for the other side. After all, this hypothetical "master persuader" was supposedly working on behalf of Sanders, who lost. So much for this "master persuader" being an all-powerful manipulator, hehehe...

I think Trump's problem is that he started going off the rails and lost control of his campaign. He also made some very ill-advised statements that hurt him. But beyond that, Trump had trouble realizing that what worked in the primaries might not work so well in the general election.

There are signs that is changing and that Trump realizes he needs to pursue a different strategy if he wants to win the presidency. Not only has there been a major shakeup in the Trump campaign, but Trump delivered a very powerful speech the other day in Wisconsin, one that took a very different tack than many of his previous speeches.

Out were the bragging about himself and the petty insults aimed at rivals; in with a hard-hitting critique of corruption, special interest politics and how the Democrats have taken advantage of African-Americans while doing little or nothing to help them in the real world. It's well worth taking the time to watch. Breitbart and SNAFU had great reviews of it as well.

If he can deliver more speeches like this and stay on message, he can win and win big. After all, Hillary has a lot of weaknesses that Trump and his surrogates can take advantage of and as we have discussed on The Other Blog, she has run a remarkably incompetent and clueless campaign. The biggest difference may well be that Hillary seems to be incapable of learning from her mistakes, while Trump is already showing signs of doing so.

ed boyle said...

Stacey,

anger can be part of love/affection as well. Channel anger to positive work. Get angry about evil in the world, dirty house, belly flab and make a change you can learn to love. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Phil Harris said...

re CS Lewis
Somehow the title of CS Lewis lecture / book got lost in my comment above.
Worth a read.
"The Abolition of Man" (that is the kind of Man popular in textbooks in 19th and 20th C.)

best
Phil H

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Steve Thomas--I'm in broad agreement with you. Please bear in mind that my two comments on Jewish history covered a lot of ground. If more Jews were commenting here, I'm sure they would be adding additions, corrections and qualifications to what I wrote. Eighteenth and nineteenth century European history influenced the development of contemporary Judaism in a lot of ways other than views on the afterlife.

David Close said...

Hi JMG -

Apologies if this is off-topic. What are your thoughts on the use of entheogens, either separate from, or in conjunction with, a magical practice?

Phil Harris said...

@Deborah
I find valuable you’re sketching of Jewish history including the recent trials and modernisation of Judaism embedded in Western societies. It is btw a fascinating conjecture that historically the Talmud prevented ‘ancestor veneration’. And, 'sacrifice' as a portion of food to be set aside seems worth reflecting on, perhaps in contrast with more gaudy interpretations and metaphorical extension. The metaphorical extension of ‘blood sacrifice’ in, for example, Christianity seems if I understand it, abhorrent to Islamic sensibility, which could be interesting given the dependence of faiths on origins in earlier history. Martyrdom likewise could do with a revisit I guess.

I am very unsure of positing historical dualities between societal preoccupations – for example when addressing essentials like sex and mortality. I am reluctant therefore to assume some kind of symmetrical oscillation (rise and fall in alternation) of societal prescription that we might reliably associate with ‘phases of civilisations’. Some historical links however between societal preoccupations seem plausible in the face of enduring if episodic historical events. Hygiene and the experience of infection might go together for example. I understand that the Emperor Yu – recently likened to Noah by the NYT – decreed the boiling of drinking water, which can be a non-trivial societal obligation. And infection will to a degree oscillate episodically with trading and population density and demographics of immunity.

best
Phil H

Patricia Mathews said...

David: I'd say it's like taking an unmapped short cut in a town you don't know

onething said...

Stacey Neanderthal,

I went back and read your reply from last week. My brother has arrived and so far we are happy with him and think he might be an asset here. I stress that because the person I am more concerned about is my niece. She is 4th generation with mental illness issues in my family. It seems if you don't have it you're OK but it must have a strong genetic component in my family. I've always heard personality disorders are intractable. Borderline personality I have only encountered on the job and I reiterate that you seem too sincere for it.

My niece may have a touch of bipolar, some depression (which is worsening as she fails) but I had tentatively diagnosed her with avoidant personality.

My brother may have what is called simple schizophrenia, although I don't know if I like that term, as he is not into delusional or grandiose things at all. But he is just a little washed out as a person, not imaginative in his thoughts. Thus he adheres rigidly to his faith. He has developed rather an iron will about keeping the rules. Living on the street, having little control over the content of his food and having already lost his molars so he can't chew tough things, he is sliding into diabetes. Oh, and he keeps the church fasts, which make him vegan 50% of the days of the year. But on the street, he cannot really choose his food.

So yesterday when he got the results of the A1c test that shows him prediabetic, his response is to stop eating. Amazing will. He hasn't eaten 2 days now and is planning to eat tomorrow, as there is a neighborhood pond party!

I think he must give up the church fasts or he will soon begin to have diabetic complications.

After my horrific experience the past 4 months with my niece, who should move out next week, I realize he cannot stay here unless he is an asset and doesn't grate on us. But his behavior has been exemplary so far. I'm quite pleased and I think my husband likes him.

But I am absolutely downcast of heart today, as I got extremely angry with her. I've done it a couple of times before and it seemed OK, not sure why today was different but I feel WRONG.

onething said...

Deborah,

I've heard of Asherah, but is there any proof that she was part of the cult and that there was her statue in the temple?

James M. Jensen II said...

Just an update re: Adams and Trump

I just learned who "Godzilla" is supposed to be: Robert Cialdini.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/08/16/dilbert-scott-adams-robert-cialdini-advising-hillary-clinton/

No confirmation on whether he is actually advising the Clinton campaign; that's just speculation on Adams' part.

One interesting point is that after introducing the idea of Clinton having "Godzilla" on her team, Adams referred to Trump as "King Kong." I'm still wondering if that's intentional, since King Kong won that match-up. I actually asked Adams on Twitter but he didn't get back to me.

Ol' Bab said...

JMG said:
"Are you, or any other human being, in a position to report on the basis of personal experience concerning whether or not Christ is in fact the only-begotten Son of God?"

The best of my several vision experiences started with a very graphic large bright ring, which I was given to understand represented God. This then split into two (not three) interlocked rings, representing the aspect of God beyond knowing, and the aspect of God which can be known and experienced. The first ring faded out while the second coalesced down into a blurry human figure, but definitely more female than male. During the following "conversation" I was given to understand that Jesus, to the extent that he was an impediment to my drawing closer to God, could be ignored. (He certainly was an impediment at that time!).
I was also given to understand that I shouldn't reveal this. I have since seen that it was a warning referring to the almost universal anxiety, even horror, that it caused in others. I hope I am right that present company is less thin-skinned!

Yours always, and in thanks for all the good stuff, both blogs.
Ol' Bab

James M. Jensen II said...

Ol' Bab,

Fascinating. I hope whoever you talked to is OK with you sharing it here!

As for us, I think we'll be fine. Many if not most of us aren't Christian--so it's irrelevant to us--and anyone who's been following JMG for more than a bit has been initiated into what is arguably an even harder truth at the moment: "there is no brighter future ahead."

John Roth said...

@Ol' Bab, James M. Jensen

Interesting vision. That could match my system as well as most that have a Supreme Being. I take the warning as applying to the people in the immediate environment rather than more generally. There are a lot of people who are well aware that what we "know" of Jesus has been heavily fictionalized and interpreted to suit the desires of the interpreter.

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