Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Word that Made the Fields Flourish

One of the things that makes the occultist’s life interesting, in several senses of that word, is the sheer random diversity of what’s been handed down from past generations under the label of occultism. It’s only in the imaginations of the overenthusiastic that it all adds up to one coherent and neatly defined whole. That’s not just a modern thing, either.  As far back as you want to look, occultism has been an utter gallimaufry of teachings, traditions, practices, wild surmises, and spare daydreams muddled up together, having little in common besides the fact that they’ve been rejected by the mainstream of Western culture and carried on thereafter by eccentrics like me in fringe venues like this one.

It really is a jumbled mess. The occult traditions of the Western world got their start when a subculture of ancient Greeks got hold of assorted half-understood chunks of the traditional magical lore of Egypt and Babylon, and tried to make sense of it using the tools of Greek philosophy. From there it ramified and rambled, borrowing freely from every other source within reach. There have been plenty of losses—when the Roman Empire embraced Christianity, and fell over and died promptly thereafter, a great deal of classical occultism vanished forever; when Europe and the countries of the European diaspora embraced scientific materialism, with results that may not turn out that much better, a great deal of Renaissance occultism vanished forever—but all the while there’s been no shortage of new material emerging, not to mention imports from around the globe and throughout time.

Over the last century and a half, furthermore, occultism has ended up sharing space out on the fringes of social respectability with a great many things that don’t actually have anything to do with the old occult traditions at all. Atlantis, for example, wasn’t an issue for occultists until Madame Blavatsky made it one. Her two massive books, Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, were playing a subtle game—rather more subtle, in fact, than either her critics or her more uncritical admirers seem to have realized.  Her deliberate embrace of a range of memes from the alternative culture of her time, Atlantis among them, was part of the underlying strategy of that game, which probably deserves a post here one of these days. Thereafter, though, speculations about Atlantis, varying from the intriguing to the goofy,  have been a running theme in quite a bit of occult literature.

Similarly, if the American pharmaceutical and medical industries weren’t so frantic about trying to squeeze every possible source of competition out of existence, the biochemic cell salts I discussed in an earlier post here would never have found their way into correspondence courses issued by half a dozen major twentieth century American occult orders. Because they were exiled into the dim and fabulous regions where occultists lurk, though, occultists and biochemic healers struck up a variety of conversations, and cell salts became something a lot of occultists used.

Now of course plenty of bits of rejected knowledge that found their way out to those same dim and fabulous regions were neither as lurid as the Atlantis myth nor as useful as cell salts. There was a while when perpetual motion machines and free-energy motors, for example, had a certain cachet among American occultists.  Similarly, there was an entire subculture of American occultists, of whom Meade Layne was probably the most famous, who went whole hog into the UFO business—oddly enough, beginning several years before the famous “flying saucer” sightings that kickstarted the whole business in 1947. The occult scene dropped UFOs like a hot rock in the 1960s; I sometimes wonder if they had noticed just how consistently “UFOs” resembled whatever aerospace technology the Air Force wanted to keep most secret at the time, from the silvery dots of the era of secret high-altitude balloon tests to the black triangles of the era of the first-generation stealth prototypes.

Not everything that’s gotten mixed up with occultism over the years, in other words, is occult in any but the original, literal sense of the world: occultus, “hidden.” The irony is that it’s entirely possible to go hunting for something that’s part of occultism in the full, classic sense of the word, and end up instead with something that probably doesn’t belong in the category of rejected knowledge for any but historical reasons. That’s been on my mind of late, because the research that resulted in my latest book went down exactly such a rabbit hole, and came back with a rather unusual rabbit.

I think most of my readers are aware that I’m a Freemason. Down through the years, there’s been a vast amount of chatter about the secrets of Freemasonry, but there’s a detail that—though it can be learned readily from any number of sources—generally gets left out: the Freemasons don’t have the original secrets any more. Brethren of the Craft will recall that when they were raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason, they were given substitute secrets, in place of the real secrets which are lost. To this day every Master Mason is, at least in theory, pledged to the quest for the Lost Word.

Now of course there’s no shortage of claims about what the real secrets must have been. Devil worship, political subversion, kinky sex, the legacies of a prehistoric civilization on Mars, you name it, no matter how lurid, how pedantic, or how absurd, it’s probably been identified as the real meaning of the Lost Word. After I became a Master Mason in 2001, I was curious enough to do some fairly systematic reading into the various supposed meanings of the Lost Word. Later on, when I went in for the various high degrees of Masonry—the degrees that follow Master Mason, each of which has its own teachings, secret handshakes, et al.—I ended up being taught three more words, each of which purports to be the original Lost Word. This didn’t exactly clarify things any.

So I started from first principles. The Master Mason rituals used in regular Masonic jurisdictions today come from an original that appeared around 1720—three years after the founding of the first Grand Lodge in London. Nobody knows who introduced it or where it came from, but it tells a story about the building of the Temple of Solomon, and that story includes—indeed, centers on—the business about the Lost Word and the substitute secrets, which are to be kept until the real secrets were recovered.

So around 1720, at least, three linked ideas were sufficiently important to leading Freemasons that they put them into the Craft’s most important ritual. The first was that Masons of some earlier period had known some important secret; the second was that the Masons of 1720 no longer knew what the secret was, but thought they had some hope of recovering it; and the third is that it had something to do with the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, which is described in quite some detail in the Old Testament, and in far greater detail in the Talmud.

That sent me to a variety of books on the Temple of Solomon, of which Raphael Patai’s Man and Temple in Ancient Jewish Myth and Ritual was the most useful. That’s when things started getting distinctly weird, because Patai noted blandly that there are references all over the relevant parts of the Talmud to the idea that while the Temple of Jerusalem stood, there was a significant improvement in agricultural fertility in the land surrounding it. That stopped, again according to the Talmud, when the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, and it started up again when the Temple was rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity—there are references to that in the Book of Haggai, one of the very minor prophets at the tag-end of the Old Testament.

That was odd, but it didn’t seem to lead anywhere. I decided to pursue a second tack. According to a persistent body of traditions within the Craft, Freemasonry can trace at least part of its heritage back to the Knights Templar of the Middle Ages. The Templars—the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, to give them their original name—were founded in 1118 by nine French knights who had gone to Jerusalem with the First Crusade, and dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1311 amid a flurry of charges of heresy and sorcery.

The Templars got their name because the original nine knights were housed on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, atop the ruins of Solomon’s Temple; by the time of their abolition, they had landholdings in most of the countries of Europe, including a very large presence in Scotland. The Masonic tradition has it that those Templars who were in Scotland at the time of the order’s dissolution offered their services to King Robert the Bruce, who was busy fighting a war with the English just then and needed every competent soldier he could get; they fought for him at Bannockburn and elsewhere, and in return, he let them go quietly to ground.

The tradition proceeds to claim that since the Templars had their own master builders and stonemasons—they had to, since they themselves built the castles, churches, and other structures on their landholdings—some of these Scottish Templars ended up supporting themselves as master masons in the original sense of that term, and from that source, certain Templar legacies found their way into Freemasonry. It’s a matter of historical record, finally, that Freemasonry as we now know it was in existence in Scotland most of a century before it appeared anywhere else.

All of this was familiar ground, and didn’t seem to point anywhere, until I reviewed the charges leveled against the Templars at the time the order was dissolved. Much of it was the same sort of canned libels that would be used not quite a century later in the first major round of witch trials; some of it had intriguing parallels to the actual practice of heretical Christian sects in ancient and medieval times, which deserve more attention than they’ve gotten in the historical literature to date; but then there was the claim that they worshipped a mysterious idol named Baphomet, which made the crops grow. There was the issue of agricultural fertility again.

A third expression of that same theme came almost instantly to mind. The first surviving version of the story of the Holy Grail was written down around 1190 by Chretien de Troyes, who claimed he’d gotten the story from Count Philip of Flanders, a notable Crusader who had close connections with the Knights Templar and the royal house of Jerusalem. Between 1190 and 1250—that is, during the golden age of the Templars—the Grail got a huge amount of play in the popular literature of the time; most of the Grail legends note explicitly that there are secrets associated with the Grail; and of course the reason King Arthur’s knights went out in search of the Grail, according to the legends, is that it alone could restore the barren Waste Land to fertility.

I’ll spare you a blow by blow account of my researches from that point on, as they involved a great many dead ends. What I found, to summarize, is that certain religious structures—not all of them, just those designed, built, and used according to certain common principles—were traditionally associated with crop fertility. Broadly speaking, there are two apparently separate traditions involved. One of them uses structures shaped more or less like a stair-step pyramid: large ones, like the ziggurats of Babylon or the pyramids of the Mayas, or small ones, like the earth-deity altars that used to be found near every village in China before the 1949 revolution. The other uses rectangular structures oriented toward specific compass directions. This latter tradition, which is the one the Temple of Solomon followed, is also found in the divine temples (but not the funerary temples) of ancient Egypt; in the classic temples, or naoi, of ancient Greece and the classical world generally; in the temples of India; in the Shinto shrines of Japan, and finally, and surprisingly, in Christian churches in western and central Europe between the late Dark Ages and the Reformation.

That latter tradition was the one I focused on, since it was the one that was relevant to my search. There are, of course, immense differences between the religions involved. Shinto has curious similarities with ancient Egyptian religion, to the extent that a worshipper of one who was suddenly transported to a temple of the other would be able to figure out pretty much everything that was going on; Hinduism and ancient Greek religion, for that matter, have certain similarities; and then there’s medieval western European Christianity, which is sitting pretty much out there by itself.

Yet if you look at the religious architecture of each of these traditions, you’ll find rectangular buildings oriented very precisely toward specific compass directions, often though not always on an east-west axis, and laid out according to specific geometries in which that same axis plays a crucial role. You may well find the axis extended for quite a distance across the landscape, always in a straight line, unitl it ends at a body of water or a sacred site. You’ll find the worship space itself divided into an outer area for ordinary worshippers (which may be outdoors if the climate’s suitable, an inner area for clergy, and a sanctuary that’s reserved to the presiding divinity except on special occasions, and these again are normally along the same axis. You’ll find the building surrounded by a green belt—that’s spelled “churchyard” in Christian Europe—with some kind of barrier, usually a low wall, surrounding the periphery. All of these features, by the way, were found in the Temple of Solomon.

Follow the worshippers as they enter the sacred space and you’ll see them purifying themselves with water before they go in.  You’ll find the space itself full of aromatic plant resins—from incense in most cases, but in Shinto shrines, it’s from the fragrant hinoki wood of which traditional Shinto shrines are made—and when certain traditional services are being performed, you’ll hear chanting in which prolonged vowel tones play an important role. Wildly different theologies, similar practices—and in each case a little bit of research turned up the specific historical linkages by which a body of lore could have been transmitted from Egypt, which seems to have been the original source of the tradition, to each of the others.

And of course there’s that link to agricultural fertility—explicit in all but one case, and implied, as a hope waiting to be fulfilled, in the medieval Christian legends of the Holy Grail.

The final piece of the puzzle was how a building, however precisely sited and structured, however exactly its interior was arranged as a resonance chamber, however curious the activities performed in it, might influence agricultural fertility. That was actually the easy part, as I’d stumbled across two possible causative mechanisms early on in my hunt. The first was terrestrial electricity and magnetism. There are currents of electricity and lines of magnetic force, closely associated with one another, moving through the body of the Earth, and several researchers noticed quite a while ago that these can have remarkable effects on plant growth. What’s more, back before chemical fertilizers became standard, experimenters with what was then called “electroculture” found that crops grown in soil that had a slight electrical charge in it yielded significantly better than average. A building properly sited atop an electrical discontinuity in the earth, by the way, can build up a substantial charge of telluric electricity, which then streams outward through conductive areas in the soil.

The second possible mechanism involves certain frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum. Entomologists have found that many flying insects perceive electromagnetic radiation in wavelengths on the border between infrared light and microwaves; they have little wax-covered spines called sensilla on their antennae that resonate to those wavelengths. Most plants have tiny spines on their leaves, called trichomes, that are also the right size to pick up the same wavelengths, and many of the pheromones emitted by insects and the aromatic compounds released by plants will radiate in those wavelengths if stimulated by movement, light, or sound.

To a moth, in other words, a meadow is a tapestry of colors and sensations that you and I will never know. Shimmering veils of pheromones aromatic compounds glow in a vast spectrum of unearthly colors, which communicate to the insects who perceive it through their sensillae, and also to the plants who sense it through their trichomes. This hue tells male moths that a female of their species is near; that hue tells plants that a common parasite is in the neighborhood, and stimulates the production of defensove compounds. It’s all part of the normal flow of information through any healthy ecosystem.

Now imagine a structure designed to contain highly concentrated aromatic compounds, which radiate certain wavelengths when stimulated by movement and sound. Imagine that the same structure also builds up a strong charge of terrestrial electricity, and sends it streaming out again through conductive areas in the soil. What effect would such a thing have on the surrounding fields? Nobody knows, as the tradition that guided the building of the old temples has apparently been lost, and the relevant research that would allow scientists to determine the effects has never been done.

What I think I’ve found, in other words, is an archaic folk technology linked to specific traditions of temple building and worship, which used natural forces to improve agricultural productivity in fields near the temple structure. That tradition likely emerged over thousands of years of trial, error, and lucky accident; it was in existence early in the first millennium BCE, when the Temple of Solomon was built; as a secret lore traditionally linked to religious mysteries, it was lost in various corners of the world when religious traditions changed; bits of it may still survive in traditional lore in India and Japan, despite the tumultuous modern histories of both nations; it came to Europe in fragmentary form in the Dark Ages, and later, in much more complete form, as part of the secret lore of the Knights Templar; it passed out of use in Europe during the Reformation, but lingered among the old operative stonemasons for some centuries thereafter; it was lost irrevocably by the Craft in the ghastly civil wars of seventeenth-century England and Scotland—and it might just possibly still be recovered.

That’s my hypothesis. Have I proved it? Not a chance. The Secret of the Temple, the book of mine mentioned earlier in this post, is a first speculative reconnaissance of a vast and poorly understood landscape. It’s entirely possible that my working hypothesis is wrong, and that the secret hidden behind the legend of the Lost Word is something else entirely—but I think it’s also possible that I’m correct, and that further research might just turn up the Word that made the fields flourish.

Beyond whatever practical use or entertainment value that might have, there’s also a point of much broader applicability here. The knowledge of the past that’s been rejected by the present contains a vast array of things, and not all of them fit comfortably into the categories to which modern thought likes to assign them. It took Joseph Needham, the great researcher into Chinese scientific traditions, to notice that a certain potion made by Chinese alchemists was an impure but effective extract of human sex hormones, which was being used medicinally for hormonal insufficiency many centuries before Western doctors figured out the same trick. There are likely to be plenty of similar things mixed up in the vast and crowded attic of occult tradition, and I’d encourage those of my readers who like such things to go looking. If their experience is anything like mine, they’ll be in for an adventure.

111 comments:

I Janas said...

I´m really looking forward to the book, preordering somehow made it slower in delivery. Sheesch!

Meanwhile I´ve been thinking about things that could also have a fertilty effect - for example: worshippers going for a ritual cleansing and a "green belt" around the temple plus insects that are holy (the scarab- scarabeus sacer - dung beetle) might end up in a big variety in - ahem - fertilizers brought by birds, insects, little predators and also the priests and worshippers because all find water, shelter, food and a place to fertilize the soil.

While only having had a glimpse at your book via the internet I wonder if that for a (very) small part might co-explain the Akhenaten temple fertility-failure, because e.g. most birds don´t nest in trees that are too young (under seven years or so?).

I also wonder what influence it would have on the fertility of the soil if a culture reacts to a scarab like this: "Ah a Dung-beetle rolling it´s nest, how fortunate!", instead of "AAAh -a Dung-beatle rolling dirt, where is my spray?!"

Although sound, scent and "earth-energy" attracting good harvests sound very intriguing! Looking forward to the book. (Sorry if the editing-process double-published the comment)

Stuart said...

This talk of pheromones and unconscious entrainment of erotic flows, and the timeline you describe, puts me in mind of Couliano's work. Were some of the lost fertility technologies what got directed towards city planning in the eighteenth century, and public mental structures more recently?

The meadow example is sending me back to your Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth, too.

Karl said...

ok one more try due to blogger giving code 400 errors:

interesting that this story also appeared today. Probably just coincidence.

"Deep below our planet’s surface a molten jet of iron nearly as hot as the surface of the sun is picking up speed.

"This stream of liquid has been discovered for the first time by telltale magnetic field readings 3000 kilometres below North America and Russia taken from space.

"The vast jet stream some 420 kilometres wide has trebled in speed since 2000, and is now circulating westwards at between 40 and 45 kilometres per year deep under Siberia and heading towards beneath Europe (see diagram, below). That is three times faster than typical speeds of liquid in the outer core.

"No one knows yet why the jet has got faster, but the team that discovered the accelerating jet thinks it is a natural phenomenon that dates back as much as a billion years, and can help us understand the formation of Earth’s magnetic fields that keeps us safe from solar winds."

Sister Crow said...

Happy Winter Solstice/Yule/Alban Arthuan to our gracious host, and to everyone who celebrates the Longest Night! I shall enjoy this post tomorrow, as ritual plans come first tonight.

Pantagruel7 said...

Eliot's (who grew up in St. Louis, and made his living as a London banker) poem "The Waste Land" was followed by his notes that mentioned Jessie Weston's book From Ritual to Romance, which in turn pointed to the Parsifal myths, especially the telling by Wolfram Von Eschenbach. Those "leads" led me nowhere, I'm afraid, but I was, for what it was worth, a little bit "better read" from the pursuit of them.

John Michael Greer said...

I Janas, Akhenaten's religious revolution replaced the traditional Egyptian temple architecture with temples that were basically big gathering places for people to pray to the Aten, with none of the architectural features found in the older (and later) temple tradition. It's no wonder that the result was famine! As I note in the book, the same thing happened on several other occasions when structures and practices deriving from the temple tradition were replaced by structures and practices based on the same model of religion central to Akhenaten's ideology.

Stuart, not that I know of -- though it might be interesting to correlate Couliano's reconstruction of erotic magic with the very rough outline of the temple tradition I've attempted.

Karl, interesting indeed. Thank you.

Sister Crow, and a happy solstice to you and yours!

Pantagruel, that's what originally led me to Weston, and gave me several core leads for my hunt. Of course I was also reading a lot of other material, some of it very strange indeed!

Curtis said...

All I can say is wow, that is some fascinating stuff! I wonder if some folks on the more mystical end of the permaculture scene might pick some of these ideas up?

Still making my way through the Ovate material in the Celtic Golden Dawn, and looking forward to delving into more of your books as time permits!

andrewbwatt.com said...

I've read Secrets of the Temple in the last three weeks or so — I pre-ordered it, thinking it was about something else; and found it to be a delightful but compelling read. If there's ever a reprint of it, you might consider adding this column as a preface or an executive summary, as it's a quicker romp through the field you plowed and sowed more thoroughly in that volume, and provides a useful overall guide to your thought process. All of that said, I really enjoyed the book and I'm setting up my experiments in planting the seeds electric already... It may be a while before I can build a temple of paramagnetic stone, though... Hmmm.

I've encountered my own share of weird bits and pieces in occult lore, myself. The biggest one, of course, should be the most obvious, and I'm surprised that it's not more clear to more people — but the number of people I say this to who then appear thunderstruck, is startling to me. And that is that most systems of magic seem designed to teach the practitioner to learn how to learn. "Make these things as your tools", for example, usually requires the practitioner to learn how to sew, to blacksmith, to work with wood, to work with leather, to bead or to weave or to paint or to make or glaze pottery. "Perform these rites" usually involves a high degree of literacy, sometimes in a foreign language. "Draw these pentacles" usually requires a massive amount of geometry and a modicum of artistic skill. "Learn these magic squares requires geometry and arithmetic. Calculating the planetary hours requires some sense of astronomy. "Write out these instructions by hand," requires calligraphy practice. And so on. At every stage of the good modern, and most medieval primers on magic I've encountered, I've been guided into a process of learning how to "Do X" first, so that I can then "do X well enough to make the thing the grimoire calls for." That process seems to be 'baked in' to magical training: learn by doing. And it appears to be that desire — to be an unafraid student — that seems to have led you to the extraordinary but believable discoveries you're talking about here in The Secret of the Temple and this month's column. Bravo!

Dean Smith said...

Fascinating. Being a Mason myself (After being raised I took the Scottish Rite degrees but not the York), I had always interpreted the whole lost word mythology as a euphemism for each Mason having to find out the word for themselves, and it not necessarily being the same for each one. A symbolic journey as apposed to being able to find a literal word. The individual search for meaning, God(s), or the purpose to life, the universe, and everything. Especially with the multiple words revealed in the higher degrees confusing there being any one “Real Word”. In essence the process of searching for the lost word is the word in a strange way and that word might change or evolve into something else as the search goes on. It never really dawned on me to take the Third Degree literally as sort of a real grail quest, but the possibilities to that approach could indeed yield interesting and fruitful. Anyhow I just received the book in the mail and put it at the front of the queue to read. Can’t wait to see what you have to say about this theory in more detail!

Agent Provocateur said...

JMG,

"...crops grown in soil that had a slight electrical charge in it yielded significantly better than average ... a substantial charge of telluric electricity, which then streams outward through conductive areas in the soil."

Is the presence of a charge alone sufficient to produce the effect or must a circuit be made i.e. must current flow? I'm thinking about how an electric fence works. When the charge on the fence is not being discharged, there is a strong negative charge in the ground but no (or little) current flow through it.

Once you touch a hot wire on the fence, and you are in electrical contact with the ground, you make the circuit and electricity flows through the ground (mostly via salts in the soil water) from the negative charger and then through you (ouch), the hot wire and back to the charger.

The second part of the quote above suggests actual current flow. Maybe this happens but I guess it would be very weak given fence charges do not lose their charge very quickly unless discharged by man or beast closing the circuit back to the charger.

If the issue is mostly the voltage difference not the electron flow, then there is a question of which polarity is best. Should the ground be positively charged or negatively charged i.e. do plants grow best with an excess or deficiency of negatively charged salt ions in the soil?

Modern soil science seems to suggest that plants have more nutrients in the form they can use if there is a large bacteria population being consumed by nematodes near the roots. The plant feed the bacteria with exudates (sugars leaking out the roots mostly) and the bacteria feed the nematodes. The nematode poop has organic minerals in the forms that plant can take in and use. Typically fungi help in transport of nutrients to and from the plants. Perhaps more or fewer negatively charged ions in the soil water can aid in this cycle.

This is not an idle question. My crop and vegetable gardens are surrounded by an electric fence. Even if not charged, the fence itself (not the hot wire) can develop a detectable charge by wind alone. For this reason I do not ground my water trough heater to my fence. This just zaps the animals when they take a drink of water. It has to be grounded independently.

Is this electric fence helping, hurting, or of no effect?

Could you recommend some literature on this?

Karim said...

Season's Greetings to all!

This is fascinating! So one of the uses of sacred geometry would be its effects via buildings on plants, animals and humans using the electro-magnetic properties of earth, water and air?

A contrario, building sickness (sickness induced by staying too much within certain modern constructions) would be because of the destructiveness of their geometries?

There is now a body of knowledge that ascribes many very curious properties to water for instance the work of Masaru Emoto. Could this be of relevance to your work?

I have just ordered your book "the secret of the temple" and needless to say I can't wait!







faoladh said...

There's a lot of that which might benefit from looking at Gordon White's exploration of the "Eden in the East" theory as he presents it in Star.Ships. The relevant matter, to perhaps oversimplify, involves a possible transmission of astronomical/astrological and other knowledge from the region of Sundaland (the continental shelf surrounding Indonesia) after or during its submersion at the end of the last Ice Age. His routes of transmission take it to India, the Middle East (including Egypt and Anatolia), Central/South America, the Pacific Islands, and Japan. He follows up those ideas, to some degree, in his The Chaos Protocols and the electronic-only Pieces of Eight, though that isn't the main focus of either of those books.

beetleswamp said...

If you find out more about practical applications let me know and I'll try out some mini versions in my field. At least we will know if it's scalable or not.

After a year of coping with injuries involving the lower extremities my interest in the teluric current has been piqued. Some versions of therapy involve electric stimulation to activate unresponsive tissues, and it begs the question just how much influence proper "grounding" has on living things in general.

Jo said...

Dear Archdruid, while I have been reading your other blog for some time, I have put off coming over to look at this one at all, because I find its subject frightening and challenging. I was brought up as the child of fundamentalist Christian missionaries in the highlands of New Guinea and the Aboriginal settlements of Northern Australia. In both those places I was surrounded by people who lived with the spirits as part of their everyday life and I grew up experiencing the influence of those spirits, sensing them, sometimes seeing them and generally being terrified of them.

As a young adult I left the Church, and tried to put my past behind me by becoming an enlightened humanist who could explain all the mysteries of the world through science. I moved to the suburbs and tried to stay out of the wilderness (quite an effort in Tasmania with its millions of acres of trees) because I know they are out there, and they don't really like us. When the English first arrived in Botany Bay the local Aboriginal population hid among the trees hissing "Go away, go away," like an incantation. That's what I feel like is happening when I go into the forest. They are there, and they don't want us to be there. Not surprising when you think of what we have collectively done to the planet they seem to inhabit with us.

Recently I began to research my Celtic ancestry and have read a lot about Celtic fairy folk and traditions, and the more I read the more I feel like they are the same beings, the ones I knew and feared as a child in New Guinea and Northern Australia and the fairies of Britain, and I suppose, in the folklore of all cultural traditions - they live in specific special wild places and they live in a relationship with humans that is not friendly, but sometimes negotiated, always Other. They are respected and powerful and feared, but maybe not gods as such.

I hardly know why I am here or what to ask, except that I am finally ready to admit that I know deep down that whatever these beings are they exist and have haunted me all my life. On the one hand I feel like it is the height of folly to do anything that might draw the attention of these beings, which I guess is one of the consequences of the practice of magic. I just realised that the reason I have never looked at this blog is not that I don't believe, but that I think you must be mad to engage with such frightening and unknown worlds. On the other hand, believing and trying to pretend not to is a cowardly and unadventurous way to live a life, so here I am.

I just ordered the Druid Magic Handbook from my local library - if you can recommend another of your books or any other books, please do. I am not at all sure that I want to engage with magic at all, and am more inclined to hide under the bed to be honest. But here is the thing that compels me - in the short time that we humans have decided that we are not spiritual beings, we have trashed the planet. I am still not entirely sure WHY you or anyone would choose to pursue magic (I mean, really, why? Is there a post that addresses this?) but if the earth is as suffused with elemental beings as I reluctantly believe it might be, then what are we doing to them and to ourselves as we dig up the earth and pave it over (again, not a rhetorical question)? Do you know who they are? Why they are here? Do we need them to scare us into living in a respectful manner? Thanks for reading this very long comment from a troubled reader..

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Happy solstice to you and your wife!

What a fascinating essay and I will check out your book.

You know, at the back of my mind I was getting a little tingling feeling about local lore. The Aboriginals used to know about song lines which I believe were physically located in the landscape. Plus tree plantings were often in deliberate lines and groves. It is also interesting, but one of the Green Wizards down here mentioned that the Aboriginal language tends to work towards describing where a person is in the landscape and what is relative to that location. The English language is appalling in that regard. I'll try and recall where I read about the song lines as it certainly seems relevant to what you were writing about.

I wasn't able to drop by here last month due to software failure and then two old computers died in quick succession. Too much work makes for a grumpy Chris... Anyway, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the discussion on astrology. You know when I was kid I used to love the old museum with all its fascinating exhibits and the smell of old timbers. But they had a planetarium and for an extra charge you could visit the planetarium. One of the things that was mentioned in the planetarium tour way back in the day was that the astrology signs didn't line up with the stars in the sky and of course in our now enlightened times blah, blah, blah. I think you get the picture and I appreciated your dispel. The funny thing was that I read your essay and my mind started warning me at just how huge and complex was the lore relating to astrology and at that point it shut down as a protection mechanism. I have a lot going on and can only learn so much at any one time and that lore will have to wait for another day... Soil and country fertility is a whole 'nother matter!

They rebuilt the museum too – and I have never been to the new building. The old building was taken over by the State library.

Cheers

Chris

Sven Eriksen said...

Very exciting, this. "Indiana Greer and The Raiders of The Lost Word"!

Mark Mikituk said...

Absolutely fascinating, John! I have been a very big fan of all that relates to the Templars and Freemasonry ever since I read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail for the first time a great many years ago now. I am now even more excited to have a gander at your new book when it comes out!

lordyburd said...

First of all, Happy Solstice Mr. Greer.

Secondly, this is purely speculation on my part, but could sacred groves of the ancient druids have performed a similar function?

Quin said...

Well that's quite an interesting synchronicity. I read this tonight on my way home, to commence packing for our move to a new home in another part of the Kyoto area. The address of our new home? Why, it's at 東西神屋 -- Higashi Nishi Kami Ya -- which if taken literally at its kanji, would read "East West God Room". I'll take that as a definite message from somewhere or other that I should pay some close attention to The Secret of the Temple.

Are there any examples you've found of the sort of agriculture-enhancing structures you've described which weren't also intimately tied in with the local form of worship? You seem to be taking pains to hypothesize physical reasons why these temples may be affecting the surrounding agriculture. But if that were the case, I don't see why they-- as far as I can tell from your descriptions so far-- also would need to have a worship component. After all, there are plenty of useful physical structures that people have built for agricultural purposes without bringing in the gods in such a central way. Grain mills, terraced farms, even just barns. After all, wouldn't a rectangular barn positioned the right direction and made out of the proper kinds of aromatic wood, or whatnot, then have the same effect? That is, unless there's something else mystical going on that necessarily involves mediation of spiritual forces.

(I know, I know, just read the book...)

Multi-Mode said...

In modern "permaculture" agricultural designs its quite common to incorporate precisely placed structures that have been designed to harness thermal, solar, and wind energy to increase fertility. South facing stone walls can be used as a thermal mass that allow certain perennial plants to be grown in regions far colder then their native regions. I would imagine that the thermal benefit of such a structure could also act as a giant microbactiral culture that might give the surrounding regions composting processes a seasonal jumpstart on certain biological processes in the way that a well started yeast culture helps ensures that your wort transforms into the form of ale you had intended.

Its also common to incorporate pyramids, or mounds into permculture designs... Herb spirals, hugelkultur. Of course permaculture is just a modern attempt at practical implementing a synergistic blending of agricultural techniques borrowed from across the ancient world. The Inca had a variety of potato that thrived in each microclimate of the mountains they planted in (shade spot, sunny spot, cold spot, warm spot, wet spot, dry spot). There may well have been some less then subtle energies these farmers were looking to take advantage of.

Have you been exposed to some of the permaculture writers? I can't imagine you haven't been, but I'm interested in where a fellow pagan occultist capable of critical thinking stands on that movement.

daelach said...

Besides the influences mentioned in the article, we can also look at more ordinary aspects: if a society is able to build up big temples, pyramids or whatever, this is a sign that this society has an economic surplus. Means, free resources that are not needed for immediate survival. With big temples, these free resources must be considerable.

Such a society must consist of settlers because investing a lot of resources into an immobile project would not make sense for nomads, apart from the fact that they would not stay long enough in one place to build up such a project.

So we have a society of settlers with a lot of surplus recources. Usually, this happens via agriculture with permanently good harvests (using oil is a new thing). Since these resources are the precondition for a big temple project, these temples can be seen as a consequence of fertility.

However, once this gets going, it provides also more structure to the society, and that becomes self-amplifying dynamics. Such a building project requires work share and brings the people together, raising the social capital - the important word that comes to mind here is "trust". It is not only about building a temple, but also about building a society. Masonry on (at least) two levels.

Especially since surplus resources put into temples cannot be used to wage war. As Laotse put it, setting up a big military force means famine in the next year.

That explains also why the fertility dropped when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed: because the whole supporting society was taken down. The first time, the society restabilised so that the temple was rebuilt again. This means that the surplus precondition and the social cohesion must have been sufficient to achieve that.

zentao said...

Hello John Michael,

Happy winter solstice!

I have training as well as a lot of experience over the years modifying and structuring qi flow within areas which are receptive to it - areas which are intended for meditation practice. This is part of my lineage and you are certainly correct that work done on such sacred space enhances the natural qi around the area. Just as we have internal meridians which, when their energy is enhanced through practice improve health, external meridians of the external respond in a similar manner.

Unfortunately very few are doing this in this dark age...

I was lucky enough to visit China last year and part of the trip involved hiking a trail in the mountains - a trail more than 1000 years old used by Buddhists and Taoists to travel between monasteries and natural spaces for meditation. The energy in some spots is enough to raise the hair when you enter them. The water close to such spots is some of the most refreshing that I have ever drunk and plants/animals in the vicinity seem extremely healthy. It was good to see practitioners returning to care and work with such spots.

I will dig around my various Taoist resources to see if I can find any good references for others.

Jeffrey Kotyk said...

"rectangular buildings oriented very precisely toward specific compass directions"

There's a recent work you should check out on this topic as it relates to China:

"Astrology and Cosmology in Early China: Conforming Earth to Heaven" by David W. Pankenier.

He discusses the early appearance and development of settlements aligned with the cardinal directions (there's a lot of astrological features involved).

Christopher Kildare said...

Dear Mr. Greer:

Happy Alban Arthan, blessed Yule, and a merry (upcoming) Christmas.

As always, I found all your posts in the past few months to be fascinating and informative to my esoteric studies. I look forward to reading your new book someday, as if I haven’t enough books and other readings to keep me busy . What you described about temple technology reminds me of Margaret Barker’s Temple Theology thesis, how the performance of the First Temple’s liturgy (based on its unique theological understanding) would sustain the created order, and how this First Temple theology/liturgy was lost and reestablished with Jesus’s teachings and installation of the sacraments (if I understand correctly).

I always find the Templar/Masonic connection with Robert the Bruce intriguing, partially because my family, through clan McBrayer, claims descent from him. Whether either of these claims is factual or not, it’s kind of nice to have some familiar history involved, or at least a nice story to tell.

At this Midwinter, may the blessings and protection of the Boundless Mystery and the Child of Wonder be upon you and your loved ones, amen.

Sincerely,
“Christopher Kildare”

Ray Wharton said...

Today I got back from a few weeks of sheep herding where I got to spend most of each day watching desert gullies in erosion, plants brave harsh elements, sheep fattening on what appears barren, and delving into imaginary worlds for hours at a time.

Thinking of these things around me, especially the erosion, and the imaginary world deprived of fertility by possible consequences of our eras choices a formed many mental images, but one in particular came to me vividly as I read this post.

An image of a range of mountains, the lower arid region with small water catchments and flow forms slowing water that would otherwise carve gullies. Going up the slope those forms lengthen and get closer, gradually. As the air get a touch of chill with elevation they start to join together weaving into terraces like the works of countless historic peoples, the Chinese and the Inca being especially vivid cases, but as the terraces move toward the ridges, points, and peaks the terrace walls get taller and more architectural and transition into walls more akin to castle then temple walls, at the very crests, above the ideal growing zones, those walls come together in great ribbed vaults which exaggerate the natural jags of the mountains as one would expect of dwarven cathedrals.

That image grew from watching the fertility issues of the mountain south west, and imaging the technological solutions of a people who, for narrative reasons, are strongly biased against technologies with moving parts. In a sense I feel like it is very related to the image your paint to the nested layers of these temples. With a central ares of resonance, surrounded by a green belt surrounded by walls.

I have done a little researce since reading your post about electroculture and these colorful pheromone clouds, they might refien the image further.

Another factor worth considering, at least for those cultures which break earth is the simple gathering of those stones from the fields. Though also large about of rock surface area, arranges so as to not take space from plants and soil, that is to stay in walls, have a wonderfully moderating effect on the daily extremes of heat and humidity cycles!

Del Nogal said...

Dear JMG,
though not fully related, I've recently read a book from a Swiss Dr. sc.nat., Forestry engineer ETHZ who's not afraid to bring traditional lore and old "superstitions" in the realm of science : "Les arbres, entre visible et invisible", Ernst Zürcher.(http://www.actes-sud.fr/contributeurs/zuercher-ernst)

For example, he's been able to demonstrate a correlation between important properties of the wood and its felling date relative to the phases of the moon.
In his book, he discusses how trees contribute to the fertility of the land as well as the well being of humans in their vicinity and many other mind blowing discoveries.
This man shows a real love for trees, is not afraid to investigate the boldest (in usual scientific wisdom) claims, and provides a deep insight in all the amazing knowledge waiting to be discovered or re-discovered in our relation to the trees.
He convincingly shows that the intricate web of interactions between all the living things is a continent still largely scientifically unknown, but where old traditions (superstitions) have many insights and leads to offer.
This is not lost architecture knowledge for a Freemason, but might be of interest for a Druid ;-)
As you've translated Eliphas Lévi, I've assumed you have a good command of French and might be interested by such a book.

Happy Solstice

Scotlyn said...

This is very exciting stuff! And I will be treating myself to this book with great anticipation.

I think I may need to read it before asking too many questions already answered in it, but I wonder about the role of non-buildings, or at least smaller scale landscape structures - eg, groves, stone circles, mazes and the like - in fulfilling similar functions.

The structures you are describing are obviously very large communal projects, beyond the capacity of an individual person.

Whispers said...

Greetings Archdruid Greer, Happy Alban Arthuan and Happy New Year !

This may interest you :

http://www.agnihotra.org/2015/02/22/what-is-agnihotra/
http://www.agnihotra-pratique.com/uploads/5/1/5/9/51596/agriculture-experiences-with-agnihotra.pdf

Charles DeYoe said...

Well this is certainly a novel interpretation of these things. I'm used to occult circles where these things are mostly understood to be more symbolic but I must say I'm intrigued and am extremely curious to read your book on the subject and find out where this could lead!

sgage said...

@Jo,

"When the English first arrived in Botany Bay the local Aboriginal population hid among the trees hissing "Go away, go away," like an incantation. That's what I feel like is happening when I go into the forest. They are there, and they don't want us to be there."

When I go into the forest, I feel a very strong sense of 'come in, come in, come in and learn, come in and heal, come in and breathe, come in and understand, why haven't you come more often, why don't you spend more time here?'.

But then, I am a forest ecologist.

Pantagruel7 said...

You said; "Pantagruel, that's what originally led me to Weston, and gave me several core leads for my hunt. Of course I was also reading a lot of other material, some of it very strange indeed!" Well, me too, I suppose. Among the other material I found influential back in the day (it was the 1970s), I'd have to add Fraser's "The Golden Bough" in the abridged Macmillan Paperback, reduced to a mere 825 pages! I was also quite interested in the British novelist Malcolm Lowry back then and discovered his involvement with an occultist in British Columbia named Charles Stansfield Jones or "Frater Achad." (I had also acquired a few books by this "Frater Achad." I thought back then that a chapter in "Moby-Dick", titled "Measurement of the Whale's Skeleton" was Herman Melville's parody of such writings.) Apparently when Malcolm Lowry discovered that "these things really work," he got cold feet and backed away from ritual magic into his preferred refuge of alcoholism. You've remarked now and then on this "backing away" on the part of novice students of ritual magic. For my part, for what it's worth, I never started the practice.

John Michael Greer said...

Curtis, I hope so! If my hypothesis is correct, the "temple effect" ought to mesh very well with any kind of organic agriculture or horticulture.

Andrew, excellent! Yes -- the point of modern magical training is to turn an ordinary person into an adept, and that word "adept" implies someone who is, er, good at things. Good at magic, obviously, but also good at many other things -- and thus, crucially, good at learning. I was very strongly moved, early in my magical training, by an essay by Dion Fortune that describes adepts as having the kind of resilience that people who traveled a lot (in the days before air travel) learned as a matter of course, so that they would end up right side up and smiling no matter what the world threw at them. I spent years deliberately cultivating that quality, and have benefited from it immensely.

Dean, that's the most common present understanding of the Lost Word, and it's a valid one; my thesis is simply that it wasn't the original one.

Agent, I don't know. It would require careful, controlled experimental tests to figure that out.

Karim, partly geometry, partly the substances of which the building is made, and partly -- and crucially -- the way these interact with the flow of electricity and magnetism through the earth. Yes, harmful forms of that could indeed be responsible for "sick buildng syndrome." As for Emoto's theories, hmm -- I'll want to consider that.

Faoladh, yep. In traditional occult literature, by the way, Sundaland appears as Lemuria -- and it went under some thousands of years before the littoral Atlantic lowlands that were the probable source of the legends of Atlantis, just as those old occult books said. Funny how that works!

Beetleswamp, sorry to hear of your injuries! It would be interesting to know whether resting your bare feet on bare soil, or on grass that doesn't get sprayed with chemicals, offers any relief or improvement. According to the old lore, certainly, grounding -- electrical and etheric -- is very important to health.

Jo, welcome to the Well of Galabes! I hear stories like yours fairly often from people who were raised in the more doctrinaire branches of Christianity. Yes, these beings are real; yes, they often have reason to dislike and distrust human beings, especially those who belong to the most recent conquerors of any given country -- but the hostility isn't inevitable and the breach can be healed. Next time you're on the edge of a green area and you sense their presence, ask silently: is there some way for us to make peace with one another? Then listen, and see if you get an answer.

With regard to magic, most magical work doesn't have anything to do with spirits; the core training focuses on your own body and mind, and the subtle bodies that connect these two. If you're interested in the material in The Druid Magic Handbook you should probably also read The Druidry Handbook, which covers the basic concepts of the tradition.

One crucial point to keep in mind, though: most forms of Christianity insist that the world is your enemy. ("The world, the flesh, and the devil" are the three enemies of every Christian.) The world is not your enemy. Nature is not your enemy. A lot of people who grow up Christian have a hard time letting go of the old enmity -- but recognizing that you are part of the world and part of nature, and in no way alien to either, is a very important step toward healing.

John Michael Greer said...

Cherokee, I'd be very interested in lore about the song lines -- they've gotten some discussion in the literature on earth magic, but not as much as I'd have liked. The whole subject of subtle forces moving through the earth is poorly understood and needs much more research!

Sven, hah! I can see the movie poster already.

Mark, thank you.

Lordyburd, nobody knows. It's certainly possible, though.

Quin, I don't think the temple technology has to be associated with religion, but it seems to have been discovered by priests and priestesses, and passed down via religious channels.

Multi-Mode, I probably need to give permaculture a second look one of these days. I was frankly turned off, in a big way, by the way that it was converted in some of its American contexts into a multilevel marketing scheme -- "pay me lots of money to become a certified Permaculture(tm) instructor, and then you can charge lots of money to students of your own!" -- and even more so, later on, by the almost cult-like attitudes that some American permies took up, especially but not only around the Transition Towns movement. Since I learned a different way of doing organic gardening (old-fashioned left coast biodynamic organic gardens with double-dug beds and the rest of it) I pretty much gave it a pass. When time permits, I'll reconsider it.

Daelach, no doubt.

Zentao, please do! The one thing I was able to find, with the resources available to me, was the old custom of having an outdoor altar to the earth gods in every traditional Chinese village -- basically, a little ziggurat three steps tall with a flat square top where rites were performed. I identified that -- accurately, I think -- as part of the same broad tradition found in Mesopotamia and, in a somewhat different form, in Mesoamerica as well. But I'd be fascinated to hear if you find anything else.

Jeffrey, many thanks -- I'll see if I can scare up a copy.

Christopher, I read one of her essays. As I see it, the theology was in part -- though only in part -- a reflection of the way that the temple technology I've hypothesized did in fact bring certain benefits to farmers in nearby fields.

Dylan said...

@Cherokee, JMG: One very good book that deals with songlines in Australian Warlpiri culture is At Home In The World by anthropologist Michael Jackson. This is an ethnography, not an esoteric study, so maybe it's not what you're looking for. But I thought Jackson did a careful, honest job of mediating between two cultures that are frankly not on good terms with one another.

There is some discussion of specific songlines, their physical locations, hereditary custodianship by different clans, as well as how ancestors and physical landmarks such as trees are associated in Warlpiri thought.

I reviewed this book on my blog a while back so I'll post the link for any who are interested:
http://awizardofearth.blogspot.ca/2014/09/on-dreaming.html

Roberta said...

Do lodge halls ever have this type of layout? I've seen rectangular rooms for ritual, but never noticed anything directional. How ironic that this knowledge has been lost to the very groups with hermetic heritage, in particular the Masons, yet it exists to some extant in other traditions.

Multi-Mode said...

John Michael Greer, That criticism of the Permaculture(TM) is spot on in my book. I also didn't abandon double dug beds for my annuals. But between the feel good hippie sales crap there is good information on building food forests and "guilds" of perennial plantings that have symbiotic relationships with one another. Based on some dabbling in native american shamanism and some more recent archaeological findings (Mann's "1491" touches on this), I'm somewhat under the impression that the American content may have been man made food forest that was cultivated and curated by the Native Americans spiritual traditions (I saw this curation of plant guilds occurring Doug Boyd's account of "Rolling Thunder"). Keep fighting the good fight sir, don't let the marketing BS drive you away from a pagan dreamscape of humans engaged in sustainable agro-forestry.

PS: Tobby Hemenway's "Gaia's Garden" is a great low commitment (270 illustrated pages) introduction. A druid and experienced gardener such as yourself wouldn't need much to suss out the jist of it. I would be surprised if you couldn't find it sitting on one of your bookshelves already.

Ron M said...

Fascinating post, JMG!

Your research into Freemasonry’s secrets reminds me a bit of the only book on Freemasonry research that I’ve ever read – Knight and Lomas’ “The Hiram Key” (a Christmas gift from my mother – an interesting lady she is!). By the way, I’m not a Freemason (or at least, not yet). My main reaction to that book was along the lines of “Is this all that ground-breaking? Has nobody within the Freemasonry community done serious research on its history before?” I can safely say that in comparison to The Hiram Key, not only is your new tome much more promising, it appears to have great practical applications in the “real world”. I can hardly wait to get my hands on it!

Somewhat related to your new book, last summer I read “Earth Alchemy” by Anne Parker and Dominique Susani, which claims to teach the reader techniques of becoming sensitive to and working with the earth energies that Master Builders of ancient Europe used in constructing great cathedrals, etc. A pretty high claim and one that I am not 100% convinced about (though I would like it to be true). I’ve been meaning to ask your opinion about this book (if you are familiar with it) or similar claims – and this seems to be the right time to ask you about it. If true, such knowledge would seem to fit well as part of a Druid’s or Green Wizard’s “tool kit”.

Phil Harris said...

JMG
As someone with a background in agricultural science I have been asking myself if I have a pertinent comment. It might be worth recording that I don't! Smile. Your reply to Agent P resonates with me: "Agent, I don't know. It would require careful, controlled experimental tests to figure that out."

Ancient and obvious truisms of course still apply in our world however charged with electro-magnetic energy: historically most human nutrition came / comes from harvested seeds, which are only a fraction of the plant growth every year. The partition ratio changes according to numerous 'factors'. Again historically, it was easy to over-feed a cereal crop (high levels of soil nitrogen compounds) and thereby reduce the seed yield in any one year. Conversely it was easy to drain the soil of sufficient available nutrients by carting off the total plant growth each year. An annual hay crop will do that very fast; a cereal crop might take a few years, unless the soil is 'rested', or a lot of material recycled as manures.

Carbon and nitrogen cycles still apply in the living soil (it breathes diurnially for one thing!) even when water and sunshine are sufficient at the right times!

best
Phil

Justin Patrick Moore said...

Hi John,

What a great post.

It's interesting timing that you posted this, as I had just ordered several books by Philip S. Callahan, who writes about subjects you mention here: entomology and the infrared part of the spectrum, earth energies, etc. all from an illuminated scientific perspective. I read his "Tuning in to Nature: Solar Energy, Infrared Radiation and the Insect Communication System" years ago, but wanted to return to it, as my studies as a Ham have dovetailed with my occult studies in regards to the properties of the electromagnetic spectrum. I also read a book of his awhile ago about the large white grain towers in Ireland that he thought also helped the fertility of that place. His book "Paramagnetism" also talked about the electrical properties of minerals on the health of the soil.

I will have to order your book as well so I can get your whole story on this -and perhaps practical techniques?

Happy Solstice,

Dylan said...

Amazing. Last year I read and enjoyed Umberto Eco's 1988 novel Foucault's Pendulum, which covers very similar ground to this post. The difference is that Eco spends six hundred pages ridiculing those who theorize about the Templar, the Masons, and the Grail. His protagonist ends up obsessed, delusional, paranoid, with a final wink from the author to the readers about how occult theories are fun but kind of dangerous, which makes them more fun. Ho ho.

Kind of odd, considering that only someone obsessed with occult lore could write a 600-page novel satirizing that lore.

Later I read a second novel by Eco, Baudolino, and noticed the same themes and essentially the same plot recurring. My feeling even while reading the first book was that the author was engaged in a kind of frantic self-exorcism of the material- as if satirizing it as loudly as possible would help him convince himself it wasn't real. Or maybe he just knew what would sell.

Grounding it all in something practical like soil fertility is much more interesting! (Pun intended). My question, based on a funny experience actually, is whether a group of non-esoterically-trained people could establish such a building and set of ritual practices without realizing they were doing so? That is, whether temple technology could conceivably evolve in a convergent manner?

KKalbert said...

Dear JMG: Thankyou for this post and your new book. I’ve spent a day gulping it down, and has given me the gift of an excuse, for a long and helpless fascination with some weird stuff that doesn’t fit the paradigms.

Like: the distribution of pyramids around the globe; like Viktor Schaumberg’s observations about electrical states of water and their relation to agriculture ( and other spooky stuff); like the occulted social and economic politics surrounding Gothic architecture.

You have suggested a unifying thread that puts all this weird stuff into something like a structure of ideas. This is a great Christmas treat!

John Michael Greer said...

Ray, good. One of the things that has to be kept in mind when trying to make sense of any archaic tradition is that there's never just one thing behind it all -- there are always many factors woven together to create the end result. Our modern fixation on single causes that have single results has blinded us to a lot of traditional wisdom.

Del Nogal, thank you! That's most fascinating, and yes, it's of interest -- and yes, I have a decent reading knowledge of French, enough to get a certain fraction of my world news from Le Monde Diplomatique, for example. I'm pleased to hear that Zürcher has studied the way the phases of the Moon affect felled wood -- that's a bit of lore that's still passed on in the Appalachians and the deep South on this side of the pond, along with a whole system of planting, harvesting, and doing every other agricultural task by the phases and signs of the Moon.

Scotlyn, I'm pretty sure that a standing stone made of strongly paramagnetic rock will have at least some comparable effects, not least because there have been quite a few experiments along those lines. I'm not sure, though, how big a temple would have to be to have an effect; if the place and orientation were appropriate, it might be possible for a fairly small building to do the trick.

Whispers, most interesting! In Japan, the word's pronounced Goma, and Buddhist priests in the Shingon and Tendai lineages practice it regularly. (My Japanese-American stepfamily are Shingon Buddhists, which is why I happen to know this.) It might be interesting to correlate Agnihotra to other fire-based offering rituals and see what parallels exist.

Charles, I admit it wasn't what I expected to find when I first started the investigations that led to the book!

Pantagruel, yes, I'd read of Lowry's dabblings in magic. When people say you shouldn't dabble in magic, I have to agree; if you're going to do it at all, you need to be ready to do it whole hog.

Dylan, many thanks! I'll put it on the get-to list.

Roberta, good! Lodge halls have what you might call a fossilized version of it; in a Masonic lodge, for example, the Worshipful Master theoreticaly sits in the east (it can actually be in any direction, but it's called the east) and the rest of the lodge is arranged along the notional east-west axis. Few lodge halls are built with any attention to sacred geometry these days, though, and none that I know of go out of their way to use paramagnetic stone, align the building according to the sunrise on the relevant saint's day, etc., etc.

Multi-Mode, so noted! I'll check it out as time permits.

Ron, fascinating. No, I haven't read that book, or iirc even seen it. I'll have to find a copy one of these days.

Phil, glad to hear it. That's the thing -- this is a hypothesis, and a frankly speculative one, not Ancient Wisdom Handed Down From On High. As the book says, the whole subject needs lots of further research.

Justin, Callahan was an important source for this project, so yes, I see that synchronicity is piling it on just now. I don't deal with practical techniques in the book -- I haven't had the opportunity (or the temple) to test 'em out. That's waiting for others who might be interested.

John Michael Greer said...

Dylan, yes, I find Eco entertaining for exactly that reason. He reminds me of characters in H.P. Lovecraft stories, who are desperately trying to convince themselves that no, of course there couldn't actually be a tentacled horror from three weeks before the dawn of time slithering up from the depths toward them...

With regard to convergent evolution, of course. What's more, according to occult teachings, once a certain pattern of ideas has been set in motion, it tends to function as what chaos theory calls a "strange attractor," drawing people who are thinking similar thoughts or doing similar actions into the old pattern. That can be hugely advantageous when the pattern's useful, and a source of massive disasters when it's not -- but something like that might have happened with the group you mention.

KKalbert, you're welcome! I figure I've come up to the jigsaw puzzle and assembled a few dozen pieces into a coherent pattern that connects a couple other already completed sections. There are thousands of pieces waiting to be put in place...

Scotlyn said...

@Jo may I say I'm awfully glad to see you here. As another MK I've always felt a sense of kinship with you, and also have always admired your postings on the other blog for their earthy and practical wisdom.

Brother Guthlac said...

" I don't see why they-- as far as I can tell from your descriptions so far-- also would need to have a worship component. "

Quinn, although I hear you, and agree broadly with JMG's response, I seem to remember a while back in this blog something along the lines that magic tends to work better if we act as if there are other conscious entities involved. Perhaps distinguishing "physical" components of the process from spiritual/worship components might miss significant features of the whole system. Just as "praying in a barn" might not be as effective as a well designed temple.

Who still knows, consciously, how to methodically design and site a temple? Nobody seems to be talking. Lost wisdom to be re-discovered if it ever existed. At least a few of those old shrines are still in use.

Karen said...

@JMG and Karl,

I started reading "the Secret of the Lost Temple" a few days ago. And now have just read Karl's link https://www.newscientist.com/article/2116536-molten-iron-river-discovered-speeding-beneath-russia-and-canada/. In the book, JMG describes “according to Masonic tradition, every regular and well governed lodge is supposed to have a curious diagram in it, consisting of a circle with a point in the center, placed between two parallel lines, which represent St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist; see illustration on page 22.”

JMG your p.22 illustration looks very much like a schematic drawing of an image shown in the above mentioned article which depicts two columns of swirling molten iron either side of a sphere representing the solid iron core. Very interesting and timely indeed.

Robert Mathiesen said...

One of the overlooked channels through which the ancient technology of temple building came down to the first documented Freemasons in the late 1500s, is the voluminous ancient and medieval writings in Greek and Latin that describe in extensive detail the patterns and practices of Christian worship, and the architectural features that church buildings must have for this worship to be carried out correctly according to chuch traditions. Also, many of these buildings themselves, especially the ones that are the sees, or cathedrae, of bishops, archbishops and patriarchs, also have ancient living oral traditions about these matters, which in many cases seem to have been preserved through the centuries with relatively few major changes.

The First Temple in Jerusalem would, of course, have been an example of the sort of thing JMG is writing about, at least before the reforms of King Josiah. (The Second Temple seems not have preserved all these original features of the First Temple, but to have incorporated the reforms of King Josiah, and even pushed beyond them.) Now the significance of Margaret Barker's scholarship lies, first, in showing that the entire pattern of Christian worship in the Eastern Orthodox churches, together with the design of their church buildings, appears to owe far more to the First Temple (before King Josiah) and its practices than it does to the Second Temple. It also lies, second, in
uncovering just what First Temple was designed to do in the mundane world outside the Temple. Barker makes a strong case that the First Temple was a kind of "esoteric machine" or "device" (my words, not hers) deliberately designed to get real things done in the outside world, not just a place for worship or a building to display priestly or royal power. This is where her work supports JMG's thesis, though the details of what they suppose a traditional temple was meant to accomplish in the mundane world differ considerably between the two scholars.

Unfortunately, Barker's scholarship is very tough sledding indeed for readers who do not already have some expertise in Biblical and liturgical studies. And, since she overturns very many old unquestioned assumptions in those fields, her results remain controversial among those same experts. For whatever it may be worth, I do have some amount of academic expertise in those fields, and her results seem largely sound to me.

Unknown said...

JMG Tomxyza here;
I enjoyed your writing this month. Considering the topic have you read "Seed of Knowledge, Stone of Plenty" by John Burke and Kaj Halberg. It discusses research they did and the theory they put forward for the purpose of the megaliths. If you have not seen it you will find their findings interesting. The bottom line is they viewed them as intended to access earth currents to enhance plant growth and/or sprouting.

Thanks again for all you write.

Tomxyza

Dylan said...

JMG: Very curious. I'll admit it's a stretch, since as far as I'm aware the building I have in mind is not built of paramagnetic stone- in fact it's an industrial kitchen.

For years I've been unable to walk into it without feeling an almost irresistible urge to break into song, which led me to start mapping the exact pitches of different mechanical vibrations. Somewhere in that process I noticed that the kitchen is functionally oriented according to cardinal directions that correspond to the position of the sun: food prep area in the east (commencement of the cycle), serving counters in the south (highest intensity of activity), dishwashing in the west (closure, integration, celebration), freezers and fridges in the north (dormancy, darkness, forethought). The kitchen of course has strict rules about who can enter, at what times, and with what manner of purification, and the serving room and dining room function as the inner and outer areas for the non-initiated. And I became very attuned to the way dishwashing especially in this kitchen is a highly energetic ritual activity prescribed by a well-loved and closely disputed body of oral tradition.

I still don't have the evidence or the conceptual structures to turn this poetic analogy into a real theory. For now I try to look at it anthropologically, as a convergent evolution of religious ritual in a mostly materialist culture. What makes it spooky is how all this came about completely unconsciously on the part of the group.

And as I've mentioned elsewhere, I personally have experienced even spookier things in connection with this space. That's where your introducing the concept of egregores to my thinking enabled the whole matter to take on a fresh spin.

Am I right in guessing that an unhealthy 'strange attractor' is a similar phenomenon to a corrupted egregore or a tainted sphere?

Peter Wilson said...

Dear JMG,

This is thoroughly fascinating, one of those revelations that just seems to keep on coming. I don't know how deep the well goes, perhaps there isn't a bottom, but for now to realise that the degree of lost knowledge may surpass that of what we know is a hell of a thrill.

Something else, and potentially important. Christopher Alexander plumbed the depths of his own profession - architecture - in a long quest to try to find the art and science of creating what he calls living structure. He started with his Timeless Way of Building and a Pattern Language, before moving on to his magnum opus, the four volume series "The Nature of Order". Essentially, he's tried to isolate the geometric origins (as well as the builder's intent and acts, which seems to be critical) behind living structures and places. A mage would read it, smile, and instantly understand what he is getting at.

Given that Alexander gives multiple examples of existing living buildings as well as "dead" structures in the modern world, it wouldn't be hard to test plant fertility across both of them to prove the theory, but I also suspect that plant fertility may be just the tip of the iceberg for the lost art.

Some of the lost secret, or perhaps some of the keys to finding it, may be in this work.

You've now inspired me to not only buy your new book, but to try and see if there's any correlation between the fragments of the system you talk about and Alexander's system.

OtterGirl said...

Hi JMG,

As always, enjoyed and profited from your post, and from the observations and questions of fellow commenters. Got a question of my own, at the end of a story I'll try to keep short:

After years of reading your blogs, I picked up a copy of "Inside a Magical Lodge" from my library, and, while I don't feel the call to practice magic, was intrigued enough by the historical and initiatory/ritualistic angles that I sent a letter of inquiry to the IOOF headquarters for Idaho. No response for a couple weeks, but eventually the Grand Secretary called and invited me and husband (who has minimal interest in this) to a nearby lodge for their Christmas party. We brought a toy to contribute to their Toys for Tots drive, had a little tour, and went on our way. Pleasant enough atmosphere, mostly due, I think, to the historic building. The few dozen people seemed indifferent, aside from the three men, including the secretary and his son, who I later learned had done pretty much all of the work.

Next week, I made an appointment to visit their museum. They had a curator a few decades ago, and regular hours, but not now. Yes, the Grand Secretay does it all now. The building is packed with regalia and ritual items gleaned from lodges long ago closed in the old mining and timber towns that dot much of southwest Idaho. Another town, with another such lodge, closed a few months ago. Sounds like this has been, and will continue to be, a regular thing.

Last week, on my own this time, I joined the secretary and Boise lodge for dinner at a local buffet restaurant, and then returned to their lodge for an open meeting. Of the eight or so Boise people at dinner, none showed any interest in me. To be honest, they didn't seem to have much interest in each other, either. I initiated a few conversations with the Grand Master (20-something son of the secretary), the secretary again expressed interest in husband, and I again politely indicated that he enjoys his own company. Husband had said as much at two prior meetings.

Back at the lodge, it was clear that at age 57, I'm among the young. Evidently anyone under 60 is young. Wowsers. Pretty much the same crowd as at dinner, plus two or three more men. If there was any pulse in that room, it was not detectable by me. After about 15 minutes, the youthful Grand Master got up to say that it would be great if people in this jurisdiction would get cracking on the degree program. If the disinterest in the room generally was any indication of how that would pan out, I'd say not very well. The current guy in charge of the lodge received an award, and another year on the job. There was a comment from the sidelines that hey, no one else was gonna do it. It all wrapped up in under 15 minutes, and I made my goodbyes and went home. The air in the parking lot was the freshest I'd smelled in a long, long time. The drive home felt like an escape to freedom.

There is another lodge at equal distance from me, numbering perhaps 16 members. But, given my experience thus far, I'm done with this. It has been fascinating, for sure. I don't for a minute regret the journey. My take is that at least where I live, the glory days are long gone, and a handful of the old guard are all that stands between this organization and oblivion. I hope I'm mistaken.

I very much like the idea of a lodge, but perhaps that's for (or from) another life. My grandfather was a Mason, I discovered recently, so I guess Eastern Star could be an option. But, from what I gather in my reading and looking at the local newsletters kindly archived online, they seem to be all about senior center cookie get togethers. Not that that is a bad thing. Just doesn't interest me.

So, after all of that, I'm thinking my current routine of Norse sphere of protection, brief meditation, working with the runes in divination, and ongoing Reiki practice will put me where I need to be. Any commentary and/or advice would be most welcome.





John Michael Greer said...

Karen, hmm! I doubt the medieval masons knew much about the inner structure of the Earth, but it's an interesting synchronicity.

Robert, fascinating. I'll plan on rereading Barker as time permits.

Unknown Tomxyza, not only have I read it, I cited it extensively in my book. Finding Burke and Halberg's work was a major step en route to my hypothesis.

Dylan, iirc industrial kitchens have lots of stainless steel surfaces, right? Conductive metal is as effective as paramagnetic stone, potentially even more so -- I'm thinking of the sheets of gold that covered the inside of Solomon's Temple. If the kitchen happens to be at just the right spot relative to flows of telluric electricity, yes, you could get some remarkable effects. As for strange attractors, I should probably do a post on that -- the concept's out of Dion Fortune's The Cosmic Doctrine, though that's not her term for it.

Peter, good heavens. I knew about A Pattern Language, but I had no idea Alexander had gotten into the study of sacred geometry! I'll have to find those books and add them to my collection -- sacred geometry has been a major interest of mine for many years.

OtterGirl, I've encountered lodges like that, and yes, you're better off staying away. It would be good to have viable lodges again -- and I have a soft spot for Odd Fellowship, which was the first fraternal order I ever joined -- but it may be a while before that's possible again.

BoysMom said...

OtterGirl,
I am in Idaho, Ruth Chapter #3. The closest we have gotten to a senior center cookie get together would have to be our summer potluck in the park, which as it is usually overrun with kids and grandkids, is one of our more youth filled events. No one very web-savvy has time to do a website, I hesitate to think what our internet presence must look like!

I am not quite sure what you are looking for from a lodge/chapter. We don't talk magic there, certainly. We do our ritual, we do fundraisers for several scholarship funds. Coming up January 21 we are doing a reception to honor first responders. We get involved with a variety of local charities.

We have a dual problem with aging members: first, that most of the chapter is older than middle aged-baby boomers, you understand, second, that all of us young members have conflicting activities, often career-related, so while we'll show up for the various functions as we can, we often can't hold offices. We figure that when our kids get older/our careers end or progress, we'll have more time to be involved, and a bunch of us joined as eighteen-year-old Job's Daughters and got prepaid life memberships. At the time I joined, there were two active Star Chapters in town, and we could choose which meeting night suited us best, but with only one now, we have no option. The result, though, is that if you attend meetings, the median age will be somewhere in the seventies, and I and most of my age cohort won't be there.

We have active DeMolay (I have two sons in the chapter) and Job's Daughters here, and some of the younger Stars and Masons put their energy into those groups rather than the adult groups, which I much appreciate.

You would be welcome to come check out our Chapter, though if you are attending events in Boise you are a bit far. Stay safe in our lovely Idaho snowstorms!

Robert Mathiesen said...

The best way to get started on Margaret Barker is through her website, and especially her summary page on it:

www.margaretbarker.com/Temple/default.htm

Her books are all basically collections of lectures and published articles written for or delivered to audiences who are already proficient in Biblical and liturgical scholarship, who are at home with the grammatical complexities of Hebrew and Greek (and other old languages of Eastern Christianity), and who also have a pretty good grasp of how the hundreds of early sources she cites are related to one another. If you don't have much background in these things, be ready to spend a couple of hours slowly reading a single chapter in her books, looking up many things on the web as you go through it. She is worth the trouble it has taken me to read her, but I found her hard going even though I do have much of the background that she presupposes.

For readers of this blog, three of her most interesting and useful papers are also available on line through her web site:

www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/SecretTradition.pdf

www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/TempleRootsofChristianLiturgy.pdf

http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/TheHolyAnointingOil.pdf

She does have some knowledge of ceremonial magic, though she doesn't let it show very much in her publications. But in one early book she casually cites _The Sacred Magician_, William Bloom's book-length account of his own experience as he performed the Abramelim ritual over the course of (IIRC) six months -- and she cites Bloom's work from the rather rare first edition, published obscurely under the pseudonym of Georges Chevalier.

With this background, I suspect that she is well aware of the undoubted facts (1) that the Holy of Holies in the First Temple is well suited (in its dimensions and furnishings) to serve as an apparition chamber, or Psychomanteion, and (2) that the High Priest's annointing oil (and temple incense) include in their recipes some entheogenic plants which seem to potentiate one another in the combinations used. But she nowhere lets this awareness of hers (assuming that she has it) show through in any obvious fashion. Her work already sufficiently overturns too many sacred cows of Protestant Biblical scholarship without that added provocation ... (And yet she remains a Methodist Preacher, too. She would seem to be a very complex person.)

Myriam said...

JMG,

I'm curious about whether the area around the temple or shrine that manifested an increase in crops was sufficient to provide food for the workers who built the temple, or whether the forced labour of others was employed for the benefit of the few who controlled the temple area. How far out would be the effect of a large building like the Temple in Jerusalem, for example?

In other words, would taking on such a labour intensive project make sense in terms of crop increase if one had to erect the building? Wouldn't it make more sense to put the effort into making better soils and fields? Unless, of course, the building was needed anyway for other things and the careful design and materials simply added an extra bonus.

Or were they thinking in terms of benefits through time, so that the descendants of those who continued to control the Temple, would continue be well fed?

Kelvin said...

This inventive post puts me in mind of J-K Huysman's novel of hysterical satanism, La-Bas, in which the bell ringer of Saint Sulpice, a M. Carhaix, laments the lost art of bell ringing. Might it be that the a certain tintinabulation of bells might have played a role in crop fertility? I'm reminded here of the mystic, Peter Kingsley, paraphrasing Rudolf Steiner who, according to Kingsley, said that bird song was a vital component of the return of the earth's fertility in Spring time, "Whan that April with his showres soote, The droughte of March hath perced to the roote...And smale fowles maken meloye..."

Agent Provocateur said...

JMG,

I finally found my copy of Michel Gauquelin's book “The Truth About Astrology” published in 1983 by Basil Blackwell. I didn't have it when I made my comment last month and so made few mistakes. Though Michel continued to do research and publish until his death in 1991, this book is a pretty good summary of his life's work.

I'd like to correct my mistakes and offer some thoughts on the broader theme of the recovery of lost knowledge.

The planets in question were Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and the Moon (not Mercury contrary to my comment). The Gauquelin's work confirmed the association between personality and the traditional western astrological interpretations of the significations of each of the planets. He did not find any confirmations for Mercury (contrary to my comment), the Sun, the Ascendant, or the zodiac generally.

Also, contrary to an unpublished comment for the same essay, the Gauquelin's house system is not an Equal system (space based) but was in fact time based. I assume it is closest to the Placidus system.

I suggested a good correlation between the big five personality traits known by the acronym OCEAN and the traditional astrological significations attributed to some of the planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, and Mercury in that order).

One of the first researchers in the field of personality traits was Hans Eysenck. He came up with the E and N of the big five in 1947. He added a third dimension (Psychoticism) in the 1970s. Hans and his wife Sybil were close collaborators with the Gauquelins in the later's work on astrology and personality traits. Hans even wrote a book on a scientific approach to astrology which featured a chapter on the Gauquelins' work.

Here is where it gets interesting as far as recovered lost knowledge goes. Hans Eysenck placed his original E and N dimensions in a plane and came up with 4 quadrants explicitly equivalent to Hippocrates' 4 personality types. See https://sites.google.com/site/psychologyofpersonalityperiod1/home/type-and-trait-theories/eysenck-s-personality-theory for this chart. Those familiar with the ancient Greek theory of these types, will immediately see the four elements that were their basis. These in turn are the basis for the different significations associated with the 12 signs of the zodiac (each element in three different modes) and associated planet rulerships in western astrology. Now we have come full circle.

Other theories of personality developed in the last century also map well onto the OCEAN model; hence its general acceptance. See http://www.personalityresearch.org/bigfive/eysenck.html for this mapping. Some of these also show a closed circle of lost knowledge recovery. I'd like to point out one in particular.

The Myers-Briggs system was developed from Jung's ideas on psychological types. He had studied astrology (and alchemy). Its not surprising his ideas on these types reflect this since astrology already had a ready vocabulary and theory for such types. All one needs to do is repackage it to make it more acceptable (and claim the theory as your own). Jung had three dimensions: introversion – extroversion, thinking – feeling, and sensation – intuition represented in the OCEAN model as E, A, and O respectively. Myers-Brigg added a fourth dimension (judging – perception) to capture C.

Outside the big 5, there is Sheldon's theory of personality types based on the three body types recognized by modern medicine. See https://sites.google.com/site/psychologyofpersonalityperiod1/home/type-and-trait-theories/sheldon-s-personality-theory. Now if this is not exactly the same as the Ayurvedic theory of mind-body types millennia older than Sheldon, then I don't know my doshas.

A little off topic but I thought this might be of interest.

Dylan said...

JMG, sure, an industrial kitchen has tons of stainless steel surfaces. These also have a positive effect on the acoustics. This plus the constant hum from the fridges, freezers, fume hoods, etc., which (the way I experience it) functions much the way a sustained drone does in ancient music.

I believe I'll have to get your book if I want to check building dimensions and design details. I have no idea how to survey for terrestrial electric currents.

Like I said, it's a long shot, but when I have the chance to come back to this particular puzzle I'll know where to go for clues. Thanks.

The Cosmic Doctrine is on my list now. I've just finished The Secrets of Dr. Taverner and started Sane Occultism. Dion Fortune seems to be the author I need these days.

Jo said...

JMG, first, let me say 'Thank you' for your thoughtful and welcoming response. I was so much encouraged by your words as I have been feelingly increasingly fractured internally in recent times. If the point of magic is indeed to reconnect mind and body, then that is something I feel in dire need of. Like many others in our modern world I feel like I live all in the mind and have lost the sense of being in my body and connected to the earth. I am saved by my garden which calms me down and miraculously grows food for me, but even there I am increasingly frustrated. I know that there are secrets of soil and plants and magic in growing things, and I feel like I want to just curl up in the soil like an earthworm and have it speak to me. Again, if druidry and magic can somehow connect us deeper into the planet we are part of, then I'm in.

That is one of the big reasons I left Christianity - whole swathes of church people see the earth as something to be exploited by God's special chosen ones. I realise this is not universally true, and I know many very nature-connected, ethical and thoughtful Christians, but I found it all too toxic, and certainly didn't want to bring up my children in that culture. I remember the release and relief I felt when I finally discovered evolutionary biology and sociology as a teenager and placed myself firmly back into the fabric of the web of life and could see that the monolithic religion I grew up in was just another attempt to explain and live with the mysteries of the universe, with rather mixed results.

Finally, in relation to this month's post - if electro-magnetic impulses, paramagnetic influences or resonant frequencies may have influenced fertility from those ancient and traditional sites, what does it mean for nature (and including the health of human beings here) in the modern world, which must be an absolute cacophony of all of those influences due to industrialisation, heavy metal pollution, mining, cars driving all over the earth etc? What effect does it have when we do the opposite of aligning those influences?

Just picked up your Druid Magic Handbook from the library, and will now get on and read it. Scotlyn, thanks so much for you kind comment, and sgage, well, clearly you forest ecologists are both brave and well-loved by the forests you serve and study:)



OtterGirl said...

BoysMom,

I've enjoyed reading your thoughtful replies to others over the years, and appreciate your kind response. Seems to me there a few of us in Idaho and Utah who frequent JMG's cyber living room.

My mother's people are/were LDS, dating back to the Joseph Smith days. My father's people, not a Mormon among them, are not as well known to me. Most had died before I turned up which, I guess, is a roundabout way of answering your question as to what I'm looking for in a lodge/chapter.

When I learned recently that my dad's father was a Mason, I determined that it would perhaps help me understand a bit about his life and times to partake of something similar, such as a fraternal lodge initiation. That's where my experience with IOOF came in. Even though I didn't find what I thought I wanted, the experience of investigating was reward enough. In short, mission accomplished.

I hopped on the OES website after I read your message, looking for Ruth #3, and it would indeed be quite a hike from my home in Meridian. The cache of newsletters is nowhere to be found' just a short on for Idaho generally. Hmph. Maybe I saw those on a different site.

Sounds like you have a good thing going. Your community is blessed to have you, and what sure sounds like an engaged organization, comprised of people of all ages doing what they can to keep the tradition alive.

Best to you,

Karl said...

Guess I am going to check the book out. Randomly decided to watch CNN while traveling. of course the one 3 minute segment I saw was about something in the midwest called the "corn palace".

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG - You and Phil brush up against what I think is an important part of this mystery, from the perspective of an ecologist. If you want to know what makes the plants grow (or not grow) in the long-term, look to the dark side of things. The important action is happening underground, amongst death. When you are not piling inorganic nutrients from allochtonous sources onto your crops, the ultimate "rate limiting step" that determines how fast they can grow is the rate at which nutrients bound in dead organic matter are released in inorganic form (mineralized) so that the vascular plants can take them up and make more livign organic matter with them. This process is extremely complex, involving the most diverse ecosystems on the planet: soil. There are more species of microbes in a cubic cm of average soil than there are species of vascular plants and multicellular animals on the entire planet.

Life waits on death and decay. And if the secrets of the temple made the crops grow, this is where they acted.

Agent Provocateur said...

JMG and all,

I tried to post this earlier. Maybe Google ate it but if you rejected it, please just post a short note to this effect. I'd like to correct my mistakes made in comments last month and offer some thoughts on the broader theme of the recovery of lost knowledge.

I finally found my copy of Michel Gauquelin's book “The Truth About Astrology” published in 1983 by Basil Blackwell. I didn't have it when I made my comment and so I made a few mistakes. I was relying on my memory having read the book 33 years ago. Though Michel continued to do research and publish until his death in 1991, this book is a pretty good summary of his life's work.

The planets in question were Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and the Moon (not Mercury contrary to my comment). I suggested a good correlation between the Big Five Personality Traits known by the acronym OCEAN and the traditional astrological significations attributed to some of the planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, and Mercury in that order).

After doing a little more research, it appears the link between the OCEAN model and astrology is much tighter than I first thought.

One of the first researchers in the field of personality traits was Hans Eysenck. He came up with the E and N of the big five in 1947. He added a third dimension (Psychoticism) in the 1970s. Hans and his wife Sybil were close collaborators with the Gauquelins in the later's work on astrology and personality traits. Hans even wrote a book on a scientific approach to astrology which featured a chapter on the Gauquelins' work. Later researchers divided Psychoticism into the C and A of the Big Five.

Here is where it gets interesting as far as recovered lost knowledge goes. Hans Eysenck used his original E and N dimensions to come up with 4 quadrants explicitly equivalent to Hippocrates' 4 personality types. See https://sites.google.com/site/psychologyofpersonalityperiod1/home/type-and-trait-theories/eysenck-s-personality-theory for this chart. Those familiar with the ancient Greek theory of these types, will immediately see the four elements that were their basis. These in turn are the basis for the different significations associated with the 12 signs of the zodiac (each element in three different modes) and associated planet rulerships in western astrology. Now we have come full circle.

Other theories of personality developed in the last century also map well onto the the OCEAN model; hence its general acceptance. See http://www.personalityresearch.org/bigfive/eysenck.html for this mapping. Some of these also show a closed circle of lost knowledge recovery. I'd like to point out one in particular.

The Myers-Briggs system was developed from Jung's ideas on psychological types. He had studied astrology (and alchemy). Its not surprising his ideas on these types reflect this since astrology already had a ready vocabulary and theory for such types. All one needs to do is repackage it to make it more acceptable. Jung had three dimensions: introversion – extroversion, thinking – feeling, and sensation – intuition represented in the OCEAN model as E, A, and O respectively. Myers-Brigg added a fourth dimension (judging – perception) to capture C.

Outside the Big Five, there is Sheldon's theory of personality types based on the three body types recognized by modern medicine. See https://sites.google.com/site/psychologyofpersonalityperiod1/home/type-and-trait-theories/sheldon-s-personality-theory. Now if this is not exactly the same as the Ayurvedic theory of mind-body types millennia older than Sheldon, then I don't know my doshas.

A little off topic but I thought this might be of interest.

Charles DeYoe said...

OtterGirl: while they are generally quite a bit different from Masons or Odd Fellows, have you considered OTO? It seems that Khephra Rising Camp is right in your neck of the woods. OTO isn't for everyone but I think they're a great organization and I've met a number of excellent people through it. There are a number of members who are also Masons. And their initiation rituals are nothing to sneeze at!
Just another organization you may want to acquaint yourself with.

OtterGirl said...

Charles,

Thanks for your suggestion! I've read several of Lon Milo DuQuette's books, and pretty much laughed all the way through. He gave me a sense, I think, of what OTO is about, and respect for it. What you say gives that more weight. Good to know about the Khephra Rising Camp. I'll mull this over; hadn't really considered it before you suggested it.

Brother Guthlac said...

Christopher, Robert, you're quite right. Margaret Barker is interesting and “academically sound”. If her writing upsets tables in protestant temples, it is more than tolerable in other areas. If anyone finds Robert’s links interesting (and “digestible”), Barker is included along with a vast array of other potentially interesting material at http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/. There is even an entire section classified “Jewish, Pagan, and Christian Magic.” Pity how few scholars of the esoteric will admit to it being practiced today.

JMG : Perhaps I have to wait until the book arrives. How does one with relatively mundane means identify a site of “telluric electric discontinuity” on which to construct a battery/temple according to well-established if misunderstood traditional geometry?

I will certainly need to look further into Phil Callahan and Christopher Alexander’s Nature of Order. Thanks, Peter, for that pointer.

Bill, indeed. Microbial biomarkers as an indicator of ecosystem recovery. Fungus among us, and other such. Life waits on death and decay.

JMG: In your ADR post of October 5, 2011 regarding initiations, you noted the element of “study” in the process of initiation. The very process itself is magical. As this month’s consideration of temple construction suggests, there are plenty of interesting and potentially useful and effective things in the attic to “study”. A wonder-filled jumbled mess.

Phil Harris said...

JMG
Bill points to the soil and to turnover (and to death in the dark). It is respiration of the living keeps the turnover going of course, although some is down to direct chemical ‘weathering’, oxygenation etc.
“JMG - You and Phil brush up against what I think is an important part of this mystery, from the perspective of an ecologist. If you want to know what makes the plants grow (or not grow) in the long-term, look to the dark side of things. The important action is happening underground, amongst death.”

Bill in my view you make a valid point.

My mind is on the customs we cultivate. ‘Autonomy’ - ‘the individual’ - goes with the DNA way of things. ‘Autonomy’ of course needs continuity at the unit level and is highly defended on evolutionary time scales but has the corollary within multi-cellular organisms of constant ‘death of cellular units’, and of course needs the death finally of every whole individual to make it viable. (Just a thought: thus we have Dr Dawkins’ rather odd anthropomorphic take on the process: ‘the Selfish Gene’.)

But dependencies and dependents are curious phenomena. Gardeners and farmers live by means of disturbed soil and the mostly annual renewal of seed bearing crops having a large enough net surplus. The genes have been carried with us long distances over millennia – some with very little change over the last 5000 years and more, like the Emmer Wheat that I grow a small patch of each year. Interaction with the diverse living soils as Bill says is complex. Disturbed soils change historically, generally losing ‘fixed’ carbon and nitrogen compounds in gaseous form, alongside of course humans carting stuff away to be eaten elsewhere. (Check out Cunfer, 2005, ‘The Great Plains page 219. Though he does not put it this way, this seems to me the definitive short account of the transience of most urban USA as it emerged in 20th C. Without fossil energy and synthetic N you/we for the most part would no longer be there. Cunfer is right enough though about farmers making adaptive changes.)

Temperate forests, a common enough ecological habitat, get ‘turned over’ during glacial periods but in the ordinary way of business trees have a very different and cumulative mutual interaction compared with our crops. See this fascinating exchange via parts of the symbiotic biome.
http://phys.org/news/2016-04-trees-carbon.html

As I see it, farmers and gardeners need practises to substitute for those of the forests and soil biomes in order to compensate for our short-termism, bearing in mind the trade-off between our short-lived autonomies and those of our dependents and their descendents. The threads of ‘continuities’ …err… continue. Goodness gracious; Margaret Barker and the Temple continuities – thanks Robert. And here is JMG with additional mysterious interaction – our soils perhaps physically express some mysterious oscillations (?) that in part could depend on our understanding and/or participation. It is possible I suppose we might perceive the same oscillations directly, subliminally, not just recognise them encoded in the response of vegetation?

A little realisation could go a long way – happy thought! Good customs are invaluable for the constant hard work of being human and for carrying realisations with us – enshrined one might almost say. Smile.

best
Phil H

Ramaraj said...

Dear JMG,

You have no idea the effect this post had on me. I was visiting a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, trying to figure out the significance of its architecture, symbolism and imagery. I was trying to compare it with the Hindu Temples I usually visit. Then I read your post. It hit me like a bucket of water in the face.

I remembered a conversation I had with my father some fifteen years ago. I called him up today and had another enlightening conversation. According to what I learned,the Word that made the fields flourish may go even farther back in time than the temples.

In present day Hinduism, the chief focus of worship is the temple, which is constructed according to set of architectural rules prescribed in one of several texts named Agamas. But the original mode of religious rituals in India was in the form of fire sacrifices only,as laid out in the Vedas. In these sacrifices, offerings were done to various "deities" or "celestial beings". Chief among them were the deities for Sun, Wind, Rain, Thunder/Lightning, Moon, Nutrients of the earth (which makes the harvest bountiful), Death, Heaven, Earth, Dawn, Health, Goodwill, Prosperity, Wealth, the one that watches over the cattle,and so on. The purpose of rituals is usually for good rains, good harvest, lots of calves and milk from the cattle, good health and wealth.

The ritual is conducted in this way: A fire altar is constructed on the ground according to the rules specified in texts called Sutras using earth or bricks, various objects are laid around the altar in specified positions and orientations, and the fire is lit (again,using only specific firewood and kindling). Specific positions around the circumference of the altar are considered to be occupied by different deities. The deities are entreated to come and temporarily reside on a decorated pot of water placed on a plate full of grains. The ritual is conducted with incantations and offerings to the fire (the fire,who is also one of the gods, is said to deliver each offering to its intended recipient).

After the offerings are completed, three specific things are done: One,the gods are entreated to go back to their original places.Two, the pot of water is sprinkled over the assembled people, the house, the cattle or the fields (depends on the kind of ritual). Three, the remainder of the offerings are either consumed by the people assembled, or given to various animals. It must be noted that the entire altar setup is temporary, assembled only for the duration of the ritual. There is no specific divinity associated with the site of the ritual that requires continuing worship after the sacrifice is completed.

A temple is also an altar, only this is permanently constructed. The Agamas, texts that guide temple construction and rituals were influenced by Sutras, the older texts that guide fire sacrifices. For instance, the presence of water close to the temple (a pond, usually), the specific positions and orientations of different deities and the daily rituals are all heavily inspired by the older fire sacrifice. So, in principle, my father said, a temple and fire altar are just different ways of worshiping the deities conducting rituals. An offshoot of the same Vedic Astrology is used to find the suitable timings for each ritual.

(continued)

Ramaraj said...

(continued)

Some fifteen to twenty five centuries ago, the older modes of fire rituals were slowly supplanted by the temple worship. The exact reasons behind this are unclear. This period coincides with the rise of Buddhism and Jainism, foreign invasions and appearance of several rationalist movements(Of which you are a far better authority than me). Whether this "Changing of the rituals" (Acknowledgements to your phrase 'Changing of the Gods'-:)) was a result of this discontinuity is not clear. (A "Changing of the Gods" happened in Hinduism too around this time). But it seems that,around the same time period, the ancient Hindu people transformed from nomadic, pastoral lives to agricultural settlers in villages. So it is possible that the altar also 'settled' in one place (It is my conjecture and I have no evidence for this now).

In Hinduism, the link between construction of altars (and temples) and agricultural fertility is a fact known for years. Fortunately, most of this knowledge is still available and taught to temple architects and priests.

In my family we do both fire sacrifice and idol worship at our home every day. We only occasionally visit temple. I noticed that all of our neighbors did the exact opposite. They exclusively worshiped only at the temple, and never at their homes. This intrigued me, and I asked my father about the difference between the two modes of worship. Now because of your post, I have figured out another piece of the puzzle.

Thank you, thank you.

I could not find any sources online on this topic to share with you. The links below offer some info. If I find any good source, I will share it. A search for 'sulba sutras' and 'agamas' will yield some information.

http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part11/chap1.htm
http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part5/chap22.htm
http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part5/chap21.htm

Ramaraj

Robert Mathiesen said...

Ramaraj's womderful comment reminds me of Frits Staal's role in publishing a book in 1983 documenting a twelve-day traditional performance of such a Vedic fire ritual, called Agnicayana, in Kerala, at the village of Panjal. The title is _AGNI - The Vedic Ritual of the Fire Altar_. The other authors are C. V. Somayajipad and Itti Ravi Nambudiri. It was published by Asian Humanities Press (Berkeley, Calif.), and it is in two volumes.

latheChuck said...

Off topic, but relevant to the Winter Solstice...

Today, Jan. 1, I attended my Lutheran worship service. As usual for this time of year, our worship space was decorated with bright red poinsettia plants along the windows on both sides. There was a cut white pine at the front (by the piano), decorated with tiny white lights, silver balls, and a few sleigh bells. The service was over and everyone else had retired to the social space for snacks and coffee. After replacing a bad light bulb in the ceiling, I folded my ladder and looked around the room. I recalled a previous year, in which neglected poinsettia plants had wilted between one Sunday to the next, and I had felt bad about that.

So I checked the soil in one of the plants. It wasn't dry. In fact, it had standing water above the soil! "Oh, no!", I thought. "The pots have no drainage. The plants will surely drown if I don't rescue them. And I should check the water under the tree, as well, to make sure that it doesn't dry out."

A moment later, as I started draining water out of the first poinsettia pot, I heard the jingle of a sleigh bell from the direction of the tree. I looked up, wondering who else was tending to some chore in the worship space, but there was no one in sight. There was just a bell, swinging gently from a low branch.

Later, I took a closer look at the bell. It was hanging deep inside the tree. No one would have stooped to hang it in such a remote place. I must have heard it tumble from a high spot, bouncing from one branch to another inside the tree, until at last the hook caught on a twig and it came to rest. Why did it fall? I'm sure there must be some rational explanation, but for now I'll work with the hypothesis that the tree (though doomed) was glad to be remembered. Or maybe it was speaking on behalf of the poinsettias?

Raymond Duckling said...

On stainless steel kitchens, gold plating, etc.

You might find it interesting that AC electricity, when moving through a solid conductive, has a tendency to "lick" the surface of the object - much unlike the common analogy of water in a pipe that travels faster in the center of the pipe. This is called the "skin effect", and is one of the reasons why gold plated wires are used in electronics. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skin_effect

Please note AC is deeply related to magnetism. You can produce AC by moving a conductive coil through a magnetic field (as in an alternator), produce a magnetic field by applying a AC current through a coil (electromagnets), or produce kinetic energy by a clever contraption using both static magnetic fields and AC current (elecric motor). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday's_law_of_induction

Sister Crow said...

Dear Jo: Welcome to the path! I've been walking the Pagan way for 30 years, and The Druid Magic Handbook is one of the best texts I've come across in all that time, so you're in good hands. If you have little or no esoteric background some of it is bound to be confusing--it's dense and covers a lot of ground--but read it through a few times and just let the material sink in before starting to practice or to read other texts besides the Druidry Handbook, which of course is a companion volume. I keep going back to TDMH, and finding that I understand a little more each time (Druid magic is a bit different in style than what I'm used to). Should you decide to pursue AODA Druidry, there's an active forum for members to ask questions and share experiences. I hope we'll see you there, someday.

Also, if you're feeling fractured, the Sphere of Protection ritual may well help you feel more balanced, rooted and protected; it's doing wonders for me. I didn't start feeling the effects until I'd gotten through the first four gates, so persevere even if you don't feel like anything's happening!

I am sorry that your experience with nonhuman entities has been so negative. One of my memorable early experiences was a Wiccan group ritual in which I was calling South, and I ended up in joyful tears because the Fire Elementals were REALLY there, and REALLY real. Another time I got the shale scared out of me by some Dharma Protectors at a Jukai ceremony--genuine invocation was not something I was expecting from American Zennies!--but they relented when I told them I was there for friendship's sake. Peaceful intentions, respect, and scrupulously good manners can't possibly hurt, though they won't get a person out of everything, I'm sure.

heather said...

Hi Jo-
Your initial comment and its questions sound very much like my journal entries as I began my study of Druidry a few years ago. After reading JMG's "A World Full of Gods" and "Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures", I too had become convinced that there were in fact hidden powers, forces, consciousnesses, spirits, beings, gods- I hardly knew what to call them- and found them very frightening. I too felt the strong desire to avoid attracting the attention of things I did not understand at all. I can only imagine how much stronger this urge would have been if I, like you, had had firsthand and unfriendly experience with some of them.

What convinced me to take the first, exploratory steps were two thoughts:

1. Whatever they were, they might already be aware of me. I have no real idea how humans in general, and I in particular, register on the consciousness of myriad and diverse other... consciousnesses, but it seemed that it might be only polite- and prudent- to begin to try to understand and acknowledge these Others.

2. JMG indicated that there did seem to be such entities who were willing to enter into positive relationships with humans, offering help and guidance and accepting offerings, without making demands that I would find unacceptable. [Sorry, my firstborn is off limits... ;) ] This seemed like a good idea, as I was looking for a way to make less of a mess of things.

While my study is still very much in its infancy, I can tell you that I have found it to be very healing and integrating. It makes so much sense to me in so many ways, and I cherish the thought that I may be becoming a little bit less of a selfish, destructive idiot with each day of practice. I am fascinated by tiny glimpses of the patterns and forces and systems and flows that knit things together, and hope in time to learn to co-operate with them for the good.

I hope you find what you are looking for.
--Heather in CA

heather said...

latheChuck-
Your story made me smile. One beautiful, breezy day this past autumn, I was hanging out laundry and thinking about my gratitude for the warm sun and gentle wind, which were making it possible for me to avoid using the dryer. I went inside for more clothespins, and when I came back out, there was one gorgeous, colorful maple leaf on top of my basket of laundry. No maple tree, and no other fallen maple leaves, for 100 yards around. I felt very pleased with the exchange.

Now I need to go water my poinsettias.
--Heather in CA

llamawalker said...

JMG,

Very thought provoking! I was recently reading the Prophet Ezekiel amongst other Hebrew writings and the 3rd Temple prophecies. In them they speak of a flowing stream whose source is under the temple mount. I believe this spring was found in the last decade.
On the thoughts of oriented buildings as some type of electrical capacitor and crop stimulation I thought that the pyramids would surely have been a huge thermal mass being exposed to the sun with subterranean sections deep below. Dependent on the rock composition and temperature differential this might promote current flow. I do seem to remember scientists being baffled by the large amount of mica(?) found in the base of Mexican Pyramid structures. A look at the lay-lines in the Nile region vs. orientation of the Giza Pyramids might be insightful.
-Llamawalker

BoysMom said...

I had the chance to get to an Eastern Star meeting last night, first in about a year. The overwhelming impression I got of the building was that it is clean. Not in a physical sense: in fact, I made a note to call my chapter's representative on the building board and ask what it's going to take to get the velvet curtains taken down and cleaned, and the carpets need to be shampooed badly. Is this cleanness the usual for Masonic Temples? (You know, I wish I'd been more aware when I was a teen and went to most of them in my state in my roles in Job's Daughters.)

More on topic for this post: we have two meeting rooms in the Masonic Temple. The Red Room, which all the ladies use from Job's Daughters up is oriented with the East to the South. The Blue Room, which all the gentlemen use from DeMolay up, is oriented with the East to the East. In my Church, the Sanctuary is oriented with the main doors to the East and we all face West during the service.

And now, I am off to shovel snow. It's been coming down for two days and no signs of stopping. I am mildly surprised by how many people prefer to complain about the snow instead of being happy at the mountain snowpack.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

My head has been spinning for the past month or so with the words of William R. Catton, Jr. in his book Overshoot. I read it and then decided to re-read it because it was important enough to do so.

In the section I read today, Mr Catton quoted an unusually popular sociologist, C. Wright Mills who earnestly wrote: "Fate, is shaping history when what happens to us was intended by no one and was the summary outcome of innumerable small decisions about other matters by innumerable people." How astute was that observation and I have been meditating on that observation since I read it the first time around.

Well, as to songlines, I will read some fluff after finishing Overshoot just to give my poor brain a break and then I'll track down some sources on songlines. I have a few starting points and references and will go from there. Of course the sources will be down here and I'll share with you whatever I learn that is of interest. Ah, a quest! :-)!

I do apologise for not popping by for a comment or two here, but my brain is so full from that book and it is taking a while to process. The implications...

Incidentally, Beli seemed well pleased and is an invigorating presence to have around.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Dylan,

Many thanks for the reference and I will check it out. Of course the myths and stories may well reveal much too. That is an honest assessment of the situation and I can't dispute what you have written.

Thanks for the assistance!

Chris

Dylan said...

@Raymond Duckling: Thank you for those insights, and for your recent update over on the other blog. (I responded to that train of thought there).

I have no formal background in physics or electrical engineering, so please correct me if these inferences I draw from your Wikipedia links are off the mark:

1. A chamber containing a lot of stainless steel surfaces, along with closed AC circuits kept running 24/7, 365 days a year (for the fridges and freezers), could induce an electromagnetic field of its own, without needing to be situated on a naturally occurring electromagnetic current in the earth. This despite stainless steel's relatively poor conductivity compared to other metals.

2. The skin effect means that the conducting surfaces need only be very thin in order to set up an electromagnetic field within the chamber, and possibly extending beyond it.

3. The skin effect also means (maybe) that the flows of current within the field extending beyond the chamber would be shaped by the layout of the conducting surfaces within the chamber- each stainless steel surface would channel and direct the flows, acting as a miniature map of the larger field.

And as I'm trying to think through all this logically, the image of Frankenstein's monster floats unbidden to the surface of my mind.

Dylan said...

Jo, Heather, et al: I am so glad to be able to listen in on this conversation. Most of my comments here, though not as eloquent, have been my own way of wrestling with that same fear and desire for integration. Heather, your comment sounds very sensible. I will think about that.

Scotlyn said...

I think this is topical... A truly ancient, constructed ritual space - http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/05/the-astonishing-age-of-a-neanderthal-cave-construction-site/484070/

lordyburd said...

Subject: Advice needed on the practice of Geomancy
To Mr. Greer and the esteemed commentators of the Well of Galabes,
Greetings
Your advice would be appreciated on the following matter. I have started practicing Geomancy as instructed in ‘The Art and Practice of Geomancy’. In order to improve my skills, I punctually follow the recommendation of casting daily readings. After a few months of this, I am afraid I am not seeing any substantial progress. Though the book instructs the diviner to review daily readings to evaluate what he missed, what he got right, and what he got wrong, I am afraid I can’t make much sense of them. More often than not, if the reading suggests ‘Orange’, my day turns out to be ‘Pot Roast’. At that point, I start morbidly speculating on whether I am a talentless hack, or whether Geomancy is ‘mumbo jumbo’ like almost everyone around me believes it to be.

Sincerely Yours,
Mohsin Javed (LordyBurd)

P.S.
If soliciting advice is not permitted on the Well of Galabes’ comment, section then I will gladly send this request to the appropriate email address.



onething said...

" most forms of Christianity insist that the world is your enemy. "

I can't speak for western Christianity, but the use of the term "the world" in the Orthodox Christian texts (many of which are so ancient that they predate the split) does not refer to nature at all, but to human society, kind of like the way the Rastas refer to civilization and its twisted laws and ways as "Babylon" and the good, safe, personal and spiritual spaces up in the woods and forests as

Raymond Duckling said...

@Dylan

I am not an expert either, but your assesment seems correct to me. Every surface in the chamber would generate its own electromagnetic field, but it would be tiny. More over, given that the shape and placement of the objects was probably designed with no considerations to that regard most of them would end up cancelling each other. But my opinion is that you should be able to generate a measurable field with the same amounts of metal and electricity, if you were to arrange them in a more deliverate way. And yes, the "shape" of the resulting field can be affected by how you arrange the metal plates.

@Onething

That comment about "the world" in Christianity also sounded wrong to me, and I am a Roman Catholic. Most Catholics I know would agree that World as one of the Enemies of the Soul is the same world that is used in the French expression "Homme du Monde". That's not just any human society but, more precisely, sophisticated/civilized society.

So, it is not the natural world (though Flesh is also counted in the unholy 3, and we already know there is some degree of biophobia in Christianity), and it is not the world of human relationships either. It is the project of Civilization/Empire that is suspect, either in the form of material wealth, political power, academic achievement, etc.

onething said...

as Zion.

Kyle said...

I just finished the book, and wanted to compliment you on another fine work. The way you weave together such bizarre and disparate sources reminds me of a conductor tying together a massive orchestra with his baton. Some books may have a longer bibliography, but I doubt they're half as diverse. Well-researched, and a delight to read. I wish I had something more to offer the discussion--guess I need to build a mental bibliography of my own.

Kieran O'Neill said...

Thanks for this post -- it is indeed a very curious rabbit you've brought back!

Also thanks for mentioning electroculture! I've wondered about just how widely-known that was ever since discovering it by experimentation as an enterprising eleven-year-old concocting a science fair project.

Quin said...

An astonishing synchronicity involving the "East West God Room" that I've just moved into. Perhaps this is more on topic with the omens conversation from last month than with this month's topic, but if nothing else an extra synchronicity tossed on the fire always makes it crackle higher.

The East West God Room is in a residential neighborhood with houses which are not, strictly speaking, connected, but abut each other so close as to often have only inches between them. So the neighbors are close-- very close. We moved our things in on the evening of the 27th. On the 29th, my pregnant wife started to have physical problems that were symptomatic of early labor-- between the move, wife finishing up at her job, and some bad luck we'd had on the 28th, it was all a bit too much for her physically. Our midwife immediately put her on a regimen of round the clock bedrest and regular herbal remedies, and I took care of her all through our New Year's holidays.

We started hearing Buddhist drums from next door several times a day soon thereafter, and I noticed a lot of cars outside and people carrying flowers. Turned out that the elderly man living in the house abutting us to the south-- who we'd seen just a couple days before-- had died almost exactly when we moved in. Not sure the precise timing, but as we'd seen him on the 27th, and the timing of the funeral, it seems he died on the 28th or 29th. Honestly, I was somewhat concerned about this, as it seemed so perfectly timed to my wife falling ill. My mind was going through all sorts of overly dramatic scenarios.

My wife gradually came back to health, and we went for her first walk yesterday. As we stepped out we ran into the neighbors from the house abutting us to the north. And it turned out that the daughter in the family had given birth to a child-- also on the 29th.

So, just to summarize. Room just feet to our South: denizen dies on or about the 29th (not sure precisely, unfortunately). Room just feet to our North: denizen born on the 29th. East West God Room in the Middle: denizen falls ill, hovers on the verge of giving birth, on the 29th. (Also, just checked and I see that it was a new moon on the 29th.)

I'm not entirely sure what to make of it all yet, but I thought it might be interesting enough to share. Certainly the directional aspect of this synchronicity has caught my attention.

Tori Minard said...

Hi, JMG and fellow readers.
I'm wondering if there could be negative effects from buildings and other structures built without regard for any energies they might generate. Like, well, our whole civilization. Do we have enough metals in our buildings to affect current flows? I'm particularly thinking of all the rebar in concrete.
Science is not my strong suit, so I know I could be way off base.

Bill Pulliam said...

Re: all the discussions of electromagnetism and such... it should be clear by this point in this blog's life cycle that this is not where magic operates. At least, not its fundamental level; magic certainly might have effects on electromagnetic systems, but that is not the root of the phenomenon. Similarly, my pointing out that the magic would happen underground in the realm of death and decay does not mean that I think it would have worked by directly, physically stimulating decomposition. That may be one of the results of it, but it is not the fundamental mechanism.

What is the fundamental mechanism? Well that is kinda the topic of the last 2.5 years on this blog...

Here's a hint: Lay lines are not really detectable through purely physical means. In spite of many reports to the contrary, they do not actually show up on electromagnetic sensors consistently. To detect them, you have to put a consciousness in the loop. There are tricks to connect this consciousness to a physical "readout" that will visualize the detection -- a dowsing rod is the obvious example. But the dowsing rod does not detect the thing. The consciousness holding it does.

Another hint: It is ludicrous to think that "consciousness" is something that only arose 300,000 years ago with the first Homo sapiens, or even a few hundred million years ago with the first "brains."

And yes I have stated as fact some rather untestable hypotheses. But we are not discussing science in its narrow modern technological definition. We are discussing magic!

John Michael Greer said...

Apologies for the very long delay in responding to comments here! I've had two book projects to finish up on deadline, and between that and other responsibilities, I've fallen way behind. No rest for the wicked, I suppose. ;-)

Robert, many thanks for the additional material on Margaret Barker. Definitely someone to look into as time permits.

Myriam, those are good questions that, as far as I know, nobody can answer at this point. My guess, though, is that the temple technology was used along with, rather than instead of, other ways of improving crop yields, and that the politics surrounding it varied dramatically from one society to another.

Kelvin, "hysterical" is the right word for Huysmans' book -- though it's certainly entertaining. As for your hypothesis, hmm -- that would be worth looking into.

Agent, fascinating. Thanks for this.

Dylan, this whole subject is full of unknowns -- my book may provide you with some help, but to a large extent you'll be venturing into new ground. I'll be interested to hear what if anything you discover.

Jo, you're most welcome. As for the cacophony resulting from badly designed and placed architecture -- no question that's an issue. I suspect that this is one of the things that contributes to the sky-high rates of stress and mental illness in big American cities.

Karl, sounds like an omen to me. ;-)

Bill, the underground realm may be an important part of the picture, but I'm not going to jump to any conclusions at all this early in the investigation!

Brother G., some people are naturally sensitive to strong magnetic fields. That awareness can be cultivated by attending to odd sensations in the presence of magnets, and similar exercises -- which is probably how it was done back in the day. Nowadays there are expensive instruments that do the trick, of course.

Phil, good. One of the things that became very clear to me in my research into all this is the need to abandon the standard modern notion that every effect has just one cause. Whole-system effects of the sort we're discussing here will have many different causes, all weaving together to create an equal diversity of effects.

Ramaraj, thank you! This is utterly fascinating -- and not completely surprising; I commented in my book, in fact, that India was one of the places that the temple tradition and its technology were most likely to have survived. I'll welcome any additional tips you can turn up for me; in the meantime, thank you for some very useful information.

John Michael Greer said...

LatheChuck, good. Rational explanations are overrated. ;-)

Llamawalker, I haven't yet tried to incorporate the Egyptian pyramids into this exploration, since they didn't use the same temple technology I was researching -- and it's worth noting that the Egyptians abandoned the pyramid as an architectural form at the end of the Old Kingdom, so it's possible there were serious problems with whatever effect they may have produced. Still, it'll be worth looking into.

BoysMom, in my experience it depends on the lodge(s) that meet there, but if you've got officers and members who take their obligations seriously and make an effort to do the ritual precisely, yes, the sense of subtle cleanness is common. The opening ritual has some of the same functions that a banishing ritual has in ceremonial magic, and everyone who takes part in it benefits from that.

Cherokee, I get that. As I think I've noted, I consider Overshoot one of the three books that had the biggest influence on my thinking.

Scotlyn, quite possibly. I wonder if it would be possible to get a good diagram of the structure, with compass directions marked?

Lordyburd, in that case geomancy may not be a good choice for you. The personal factor always plays a role in this sort of thing.

Kyle, thank you!

Kieran, most interesting. There are a couple of sources referenced in the book's bibliography that'll point you toward the early 20th century research.

Quin, it sounds to me as though someone was ready to be reborn in a hurry!

Tori, I don't think you're off base at all. Yes, that could be a huge issue, especially in buildings that use a lot of metal (most modern office buildings and large apartment/condo buildings) or that are wired for electricity (every modern building). Exactly what the effects are would have to be determined by a great deal of study and experiment, but I suspect that what's called "sick building syndrome" may have a lot to do with this.

Bill, good. The only point I'd make in response is that I'm far from sure that what I'm discussing in this post, and the book, is magical in nature. It could well be a wholly physical effect -- or it could be a combination of several different effects, some physical, some metaphysical. More research is needed...

LarasDad said...

@ Agent (& JMG) re electricity in soil:

The primary soil characteristic that would be affected is CEC (cation exchange capacity), although there are a slew of other factors that are more sigificant such as soil type and PH.
What you want is to increase the negative charge of the soil particles, as per this quote from this Australian gov't website

Cations are held by negatively charged particles of clay and humus called colloids. Colloids consist of thin, flat plates, and for their size have a comparatively large surface area. For this reason they are capable of holding enormous quantities of cations. They act as a storehouse of nutrients for plant roots.

Hope this helps.

lordyburd said...

Subject: Advice on the Practice of Geomancy

Dear Mr Greer
Thank you for replying. If you are correct, I will not pretend how bitterly disappointed I am. I put a lot of effort into this. And I really enjoyed the daily meditations on the geomantic symbols.

Sincerely
Mohsin Javed

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- In the non-magical realm, I can suggest another possibility for the Word that made the fields flourish: Community. Perhaps it is a simple function of the fact that a community that is strong and cohesive enough to build, maintain, and defend a grand temple is also better able to collectively and effectively cultivate its lands. Agriculture was a labor intensive practice. Indeed it would be a synergy... a temple as a central focus of the community builds community strength, and a strong community will build a stronger temple. When something intervenes to disrupt this synergy, both the agriculture and the temple may fall into disarray. It could have even been the fields that made the temple flourish -- agricultural innovations and/or especially favorable weather could have yielded the surplus food and labor needed to build the grand temples.

Scotlyn said...

re the Bruniquel cave site, most searchable plans/drawings of the site appear to belong to paywalled "Nature" articles.

However this open blog post, which contains an equally fascinating alternative interpretation of the find, contains floorplans with a compass bearing on at least one of them. Have fun!

http://lawpundit.blogspot.ie/2016/05/bruniquel-cave-ring-construction-in.html?m=1

Scotlyn said...

There is also a compass-marked plan in this French language write up of the find http://caussade-speleo.com/la-grotte-de-bruniquel-un-site-archeologique-exceptionnel/

Regardless, I'll admit I'm fond of the suggestion that Neanderthals were as interested in ritual, etc, as ourselves, although, obviously there's no where near enough evidence to come close to settling the issue.

W. B. Jorgenson said...

Tori & JMG,

I'll ignore the magical side of things, as one thing I know for sure is at this stage in my magical training I don't know enough to make informed comments. But, even just from a material perspective, buildings wired with electricity likely do have negative/unusual effects on us. If anyone is interested I can post some links with details on trans cranial magnetic simulation in a future comment, which is basically applying a powerful magnetic field to the brain. It has some weird effects: it can render people unable to speak, trigger depression, cure depression, temporarily block memory formation, and other effects I can't remember at the moment.

Now, what intrigues me about it is that as far as I can tell, no research has been done on prolonged exposure to a low level magnetic field, and I'd be surprised if it had no effect given what powerful magnetic fields do to the brain. The reason electricity matters is that moving electric currents generate magnetic fields, and so any building with electricity is going to have some low level magnetic field constantly there. I won't pretend to know what effects it might have, but given the wide range of what happens with trans cranial magnetic stimulation it would surprise me if there was none at all.

W. B. Jorgenson said...

JMG,

I have a question about the sphere of protection, if you wouldn't mind answering it for me. I've been practicing it, I can feel the effects, and also I feel better during the days if I do it (missing a practice hit that point home to me), but I've recently started feeling something odd: it feels like it's pulling something off me when I expand the circulation of light. Do you have any idea what that may be?

Agent Provocateur said...

@ LarasDad,

Interesting link, Thanks. No specific mention of electrical fencing but, given that typically the negative pole of the fence charger is grounded, at least I have the right polarity for a good effect if there is one.

I note the article affirms the positive value of lots of organic matter (OM) in the soil. Nice confirmation of what all organic farmers already know. OM has always been the mantra of organic farmers.

@ JMG and all,

Sorry for the double post. Now corrected.

On the general theme of recovery of lost knowledge, I would highly recommend Professor Jordan Peterson's "Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief" (Jan 1999) which he has made available in pdf format for free at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242860067_Maps_of_Meaning_The_Architecture_of_Belief. A TVO course on YouTube based on the book is also available for free.

"Maps of Meaning" is a 403 page steady slog of often difficult (and repetitive) prose. Nonetheless, I think he has done a masterful job of putting into context and tying together the underlying significance of some primary ancient rituals, symbols and myths (Sumer and Egyptian mostly), biblical, Celtic/Nordic and other (now) literacy symbols and myths, alchemy, modern totalitarianism, and elements of modern psychology. Along the way he discusses such all time favourites as the origin of evil and the meaning of life. Altogether, its not a book for the faint of heart but definitely worth the read.

Peterson's thesis is a very good example of taking ancient (and often rejected) knowledge seriously on its own terms. The ancients weren't naïve idiots. Yes, they lacked our "objective" knowledge of the universe, but they did a far better job of addressing and representing life as we all actually experience it.

latheChuck said...

Just a technical note on electromagnetic fields, from an electrical engineer: the EM fields produced by ordinary house wiring are extremely weak, relative to the fields that are easily produced intentionally. One reason for this is that fields produced by alternating current (AC) reverse polarity every 120th of a second, so the fields are reversed at the same rate. Alternating fields induce currents in conductive materials, sapping the power passing through the lines. This reduces efficiency, so minimizing the unnecessary fields is a design goal. One way this goal is met is by arranging the wiring such that current flows in pairs (or trios) so the field produced by each wire exactly cancels out the field produced by the other wire (or wires).

One exception to this scheme is automobile wiring, which is direct current (DC) and current goes to each device in a single wire, but returns through the metal frame. Another is some old-fashioned series-wired decorative lights (e.g. Christmas lights) where the wire formed a large loop, and if any bulb burned out, all went dark.

The closer together the wires are, the more quickly the field diminishes. Decades ago, single strands of wire would be tied to exposed rafters or pulled through separate holes in wall studs ("knob and tube" style), so the wires could be several inches apart, but for many decades now, both strands of wire are contained in the same plastic or metal jacket, very close together.

Geomagnetic fields, though, can be concentrated by iron, so if geomagnetic field strength (or its fluctuations, caused by solar flares) is biologically significant, it would be focused by large lumps of iron, preferably oriented parallel to the N-S field lines.

Scotlyn said...

Not post-topical, but I reckon blog-topical... A Muslim scholar reviews an exhibition at the Ashmolean, "Power and Protection" on astrology and Islam. http://www.onreligion.co.uk/blogs/islam-and-horoscopes/

Karl said...

I finished the book - a short review and digression:

I found the book highly engaging and well-organized. I think you did a good job of keeping focused on the topic and not getting dragged off on tangents, particularly Templar history (as a side note I finished Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco over the last month so I have a better appreciation of how deep that rabbit hole goes). The illustrations were minimalist but helpful, and the overall flow of the book was good. I think by the end you must have gotten tired of writing "more research is needed."

Digression: For whatever reason, the synchronicity I noticed before continued - one instance was when I tried to research an old TV show I remember seeing about this mysterious beacon or tower network set up in Europe. And I ended up with an entry in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature which mentions Alfred Watkins. For whatever reason, I found this 2 pages before I read your discussion of him in the book.

The second instance was when I had a Youtube playlist going as background music while I read. I had never watched/listened to this particular set before. The image slideshow that was going along with the music was almost all abstract geometric designs for 2 hours, except for the 2 minute window I happened to check how much time was left, and the slide just then was a painting of Angkor Wat..very weird.

I Janas said...

Dear JMG,
the book was a faszinating read, the first that had me chasing back and forth in a non-study book with pencil in hand.

And (mayboe of course) I´ve got questions that I´d like to discuss with like-minded - what would be a good term - searchers? For example: how come that there was a light phenomenon reported in the Temple of Solomon and in the Elisic ones but not the ones in India that operate today?
Could it be that Rosslyn chapel was "just" a proof of theory building instead of some kind of "last one of it´s sort"?

Where would be a good choice? The green-wirzard forum or rather elsewhere?




Thanks again for your work

faoladh said...

@Karl: I fear that you've missed Eco's point entirely. He is saying that the hole of Templar history is in fact much more shallow than it looks. That the mutually reflecting mirrors in it make it look deep to those unequipped to understand how reflection works. He alludes to that when Amparo deconstructs the supposed Templar message as a laundry list, and when she calls Casaubon's attention to the reality of the child growing in her. The only reason that all of the nattering occultists gather at the Pendulum is because of the game that Casaubon, Diotallevi, and Belbo are playing. None of them have the Word, and so they are automatically attracted to anyone who claims to have it, no matter how ludicrously (or perhaps that should be "ludibundly"). Since the game being played is designed to build a pattern, it creates a plausible Word. And since the game is dramatic, everything around it becomes drama. That's what Diotallevi comes to understand, and why he chooses to leave the childish game for a more traditional mysticism. The book is a meditation on the limits of individual knowledge.

RPC said...

A thought to add to the mix: what role did fire play in this mix? A fire, after all, results in a rising column of ionized air. It seems from Ramaraj's comment that fire sacrifice is an element in the Hindu structures. We know that Solomon's temple featured pretty continuous burnt animal sacrifices. The sanctuaries of the Greek temples were open to the sky, though I don't know if fire sacrifices were part of their ritual. The exception would seem to be the Christian churches, but I wonder if the incense braziers might not have played an analogous role. In all these cases, there may have been a significant electrical flow between the earth and sky. Might there have been an effect on weather (precipitation) as well as the Telluric currents you've already mentioned?

Dylan said...

@W. B. Jorgenson: Yes, I'm interested in your links on trans cranial magnetic stimulation. I've wondered about that from time to time but figured it was one thing too many to worry about.

Sounds like I'm going to have to delve all the way back to high school physics class if I want to hypothesize further about electromagnetic fields. Not that I'm unhappy about that :)

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

I HAVEN'T READ THIS POST. THIS IS (PROBABLY) OFF TOPIC.

I'm looking for the path. I think it's the moon path. I tried Franz Bardon's IIH ( a couple of times ) and couldn't do it daily. I'd like some advice.

Should I do the moon path for a full year before starting anything from the sun or earth paths or is it ok to stagger them or do some concurrently? I know that you have recommended space between two different schools of thought such as the druidry hand book and IIH.

I know that I want to end up as druid, but I'm uncertain where I should start. My read of Bardon ( and you said that one should do it all and not skip pieces ( also, that if one is going to practice two different systems then there should be space between them )) is that I need to do it fully and not miss days or fall short. I'm not planning on skipping pieces, but I'm having trouble doing it all every day.

Please advise.

Thanks in advance,
Tim

I Janas said...

Dear JMG
maybe not for posting as it might give away too much of the book:
What I wonder is: if the kathedrals et. al. might be antennas - who is going to answer?
If I consider your Monsters-book I´m far from sure just building a "triple-roomed barn" with daily songs and aromatics (incense or Hinoki-like) would be a good idea to test the outcome in a wasteland.

Also, would you think that Andrew Sinclair in "The discovery of the grail" would be an interesting source?
While browsing it, I´ve seen a sentence that one templar turned a benedict monk later and also that there seems to be a connection with the cistercian order. I´ll have to read the book completely to see if it fits with the search. The benedict order (according to my family, fat reliable source ;-) appears to always have been proud of their gregorian chant choire..
Do you suppose said monks would be interested in joining the search today, when the source of the data might be Naassenes?

And: in the book: When god was a woman, Merlin Stone 1976, 1993 (for different reasons than flourishing fields) she describes the Levites and their clothes and that they alone may enter the holy of holiest - and I begin to wonder (also because I somewhere read that a temple-guardian risked one peep with one eye unto the holiest and later finds that without realizing that eye turned blind) if the thing in the holiest might be something connected with radiation? And the Levites might have found a way of protection?

Another thing - there is a japanese fairy tale: the story of the old man who made withered trees to flower involing a Yenoki tree (source: Japanese Fairy tales compiled by Yei Theodora Ozaki, altough readily available on the internet) and a tibetan fairy tale about a poor husband who in the night finds in a temple under a Buddha statue an opening to a cave wherin reside two demons (german: Unhold) who have access to three bags that are unlimited in oil, wine and meat-supply. (Der Arme und der Reiche - Mythen und Legenden anderer Völker des Fernen Ostens D. und M Stovickova 1974) The story goes on to tell that the husband snatches ?? one bag and prospers; the evil neighbor later trying to reproduce the feat gets snatched by the "Unholden".

The last thing makes me wonder if the underground spaces gets too little attention in your book? Probably to little data? (no offense meant!)

Would you mind reacting to the Antenna & monk question? Thank you for your continuing work!

I Janas said...

Dear JMB,
now that I´ve made my way through "When god was a woman" I wonder if Chin-Chin didn´t know that the layout of the temple did matter.

I have to find the correct citations but I got the impression that maybe the surrounding religions of Solomon were mostly what Stone reflected in her book, and not too favoured by Solomons religion and maybe the layout was more or less "subconsciously" adopted and maybe not transferred as a key ingredient to land fertility. By that it might be that Chin-Chin knew the rituals and passed them on but not the importance of the lay-out of the rooms.

I fleetingly looked at a (german) wikipedia entry about Shingon and the stress that is put there on spoken mantrans during inititation and that and the comment you made in your book that the Shinto-Shrines preserve a practice that would be familiar to an ancient egyt makes me wonder what might happen if Shingon rituals would be performed in rooms laid out according to the suggestions in your book.

Organizing that - and thinking through the possible consequences on all levels is beyond my reach. So is checking if this hunch has any plausability at all. Can anyone else help?