Dion Fortune's Cosmic Doctrine
(Chapter 18 of the original Genesis Unveiled)
© Ian Lawton 2003
Dion Fortune was a leading proponent of Qabalism, but her most important work is arguably The Cosmic Doctrine. She and her followers considered it too dangerous for general public release when it was first composed, and it was only published privately three years after her death, in 1949. A full and unabridged general edition has only recently been made available.
The first thing I should note about it is that she claims that it was entirely channeled from certain ‘Masters of Wisdom’ that occupy the ethereal realms – which, given my comments on Helena Blavatsky and others in Part 2, initially raised alarm bells. Indeed, Fortune admits that her whole interest in occult philosophy derived from a reference by the later theosophist Annie Besant to the ‘Brotherhood of the Great White Lodge, the Hierarchy of Adepts who watch over and guide the evolution of humanity’, and she was herself a member of the Theosophical Society before she broke away to found the ‘Society of the Inner Light’.[i] Her down-to-earth and nondogmatic approach is extremely refreshing, however, and in fact she completely endorses the conclusions I reached in Part 2 concerning the reliability of channeled material:[ii]
Do not think that because a piece of information is obtained in an abnormal way it is bound to be true, any more than a thing is bound to be true because it is printed in a book... A spirit communication may come from a perfectly genuine spirit, and yet be valueless. Even if a man survives bodily death, dying is not going to cure him of being a fool; if he had no sense on the physical plane, he will not have any more on the astral.
This point is in fact emphasized by one of her ‘communicating entities’ while discussing his fellows:[iii]
They are different entities. They are what they purport to be... they do not tell you lies about themselves. All the same, communications may vary in accuracy and completeness. In the present case variation is more likely to be in completeness than accuracy.
This passage demonstrates another of the major differences between this work and others of its genre. The language is free flowing, easy, and grammatically sound, despite the fact that Fortune insists that these communications have not been altered in any way other than the insertion of punctuation, and that each of the 31 chapters was dictated in 45 to 75 minutes with no other work going into them whatsoever.[iv] This is in stark contrast to the stilted and halting nature of the communications channeled by, for example, Edgar Cayce at about the same time.
This is, of course, no proof of the work’s reliability, and Fortune insists it must be judged by its ‘intrinsic worth, not its sphere of origin’.[v] And in this respect it does not disappoint. Although there are many similarities with, for example, some of the more esoteric aspects of Blavatsky’s work, it contains no explicit references to advanced prior races of impossible antiquity, nor to advanced technology or pyramids being built in remote epochs – all of which were the ‘acid tests’ that I used in establishing the extent to which other similar communications were distorted in Part 2. So what does it say?
The communicating entity quoted above begins with an extremely interesting discussion of the process by which such communications are effected, comparing it to telepathy between two incarnate beings except that in this case he and his fellows are discarnate. With clear echoes of the Jungian concept of universal archetypes, he indicates that the principle is the use of ‘thought-forms’ that have an underlying geometric basis, although he emphasizes that in all the communications symbolism and analogy must be used in their attempts to describe difficult and abstract concepts that must be to some extent turned into mere words. The main trick is for the more advanced channeler to be able to separate off a portion of their higher consciousness and leave it ‘unformed’ so that it is capable of receiving any pattern of thought-form. He also suggests that – because the forms are at heart images and symbols that act on the higher consciousness – the person that is receiving the communications cannot process any images that they have not already assimilated, albeit that this may have occurred in past incarnations or on other planes. In effect, the best receivers have a huge stock of images that are not fixed into preconceived combinations, but are fluid and can be recombined to receive a complex new message; indeed, perhaps this is a true description of that horribly overworked expression, open-minded.
In more general terms, the communicating entity also provides some interesting observations on the afterlife that correlate well with our review of Michael Newton’s work in Part 1. He reports that souls that have recently vacated their physical body often try to make telepathic contact with the still-incarnate, but many cannot because they do not yet have the requisite skill. Moreover, he says that ‘ghosts’ tend to be seen in familiar guise, in terms of clothes and activity, because they are projected according to how they see themselves – and it is only the more advanced or longer-departed souls that revert to their true nature so that they are perceived by us as a ‘formless mist’, colored according to the nature of the force with which they operate, which we interpret as loose ‘draperies’.[vi]
After this introduction there are two sets of communications that describe the evolution of the universe or cosmos as a whole, and then that of individual solar systems, and we will deal with each in turn. I will summarize and paraphrase their contents as best I can, although they do become somewhat complex in places. Above all, please bear in mind that the bulk of the important words and phrases I use are those of Fortune and her communicating entities, and they are only approximations and guides to concepts that are not always easy to put into words.[vii]
The evolution of the cosmos begins with the prime movement of a current in space, which, because of the interaction of momentum and inertia, is slightly curved rather than straight. Eventually this curvature causes the current to revert to its original position, having completed a huge circle, and it continues to follow this circular path for a long time. The movement of this current causes a momentum to build up in the surrounding space, which is eventually translated into another circular current at right angles to the first. These are called the ‘Ring Cosmos’ and the ‘Ring Chaos’, and their combined movement eventually gives rise to another ring that encircles them both called the ‘Ring Pass-Not’. These three are the primal trinity, and their continued movement eventually evolves the first two into ‘solid discs’ and the third into an ‘encompassing sphere’ – as shown in the first figure.
The nature of the Ring Cosmos is evolutionary and focused on the space within it, and it attempts to extend its centre and cement or solidify any forms within it. For this reason it is regarded as the fundamentally ‘good’ and forward-looking influence of the cosmos. By contrast, the Ring Chaos is dissolutionary and focused on the outer space beyond the Ring Pass-Not, attempting to diffuse forms back into their primal state in the unmanifest. Accordingly, it is regarded as the fundamentally ‘evil’ and backward-looking influence of the cosmos, although just as with ‘negative’ karma in this context the word evil does not have the full pejorative associations that it normally would, and it is far better to think of the two rings as balancing opposites in, for example, the form of the yin and yang of Chinese tradition. This clearly mirrors the notion of order versus chaos, but in a far more complex framework than is normally conceived. The cycles of the cosmos are determined by the interaction of the Rings Cosmos and Chaos, with each being the dominant influence in turn, but all held in check by the ultimate balancing influence of the Ring Pass-Not. This ‘holy trinity’, then, represents the primary stage of cosmic evolution.
Ultimately the continued movement of these three rings sets up new stresses and momentums again, and within the circumference of the cosmos a series of twelve radial ‘rays’ emanate from the centre, while a series of concentric circles split it into seven ‘planes’ – as shown in the second figure. This is the secondary stage of cosmic evolution.
Further interactive movements within the circles and rays now give rise to tangential flows that bounce off them at various angles, ultimately setting up localized vortices of interacting forces that circle each other and produce primal atoms – although it would be wrong to think of these as the physical atoms that we all learn about at school. Depending on the number of forces interacting, these atoms take on a geometric pattern that rises in complexity from three to nine sides. Ultimately these primal atoms are centrifugally deposited to the various planes according to their complexity, so that the first or innermost plane contains the simplest triangular atoms only, the second both these and quadrangular atoms, and so on until we reach the seventh or outermost plane, which contains atoms of all types and is the only one to contain nine-sided atoms. This is the tertiary stage of cosmic evolution.
At the end of each evolutionary stage an equilibrium of forces and movements is reached, which pertains for a while with no alteration. This is one aspect of a night of Brahma in the cosmic sense, when the Ring Chaos is in the ascendancy but its desire to actively effect dissolution is held in check by the ultimate balance of the Ring Pass-Not. Gradually, though, the cycle moves on until the influence of the Ring Cosmos is once more ascendant, and evolution proceeds. So, overall, that which has already evolved is not dissolved or even disrupted during these cycles, only added to.
At the end of the tertiary stage, all the primary atoms return to the central stillness of the cosmos, and after a period of slumber and equilibrium they emanate and follow the paths of the rays. On their journey they attract and bond with atoms of the same complexity or geometric form and aggregate into composite atoms, while at the same time attracting any atoms of lesser complexity into their general vicinity as they continue outward through the cosmic planes. Ultimately this process leads to the formation of solar systems, with their central suns and surrounding planets, and these systems exist on each plane according to its complexity, with those of the seventh plane such as our own being the most complex and physical. This is the quaternary stage of cosmic evolution.
Because a solar system or ‘logos’ is initially only a reflection of the macrocosm – which is another take on the axiom ‘as above, so below’ – its evolution commences with the development of its own primary three rings and secondary twelve rays and seven planes – although in this case it is easier to reverse the mental model in line with the Qabalistic Tree and to think of the seventh plane as the ‘highest’ or ‘outermost’ and most ethereal, and the first plane of physical manifestation as the ‘lowest’. Up to this point the logos contains only disorganized atoms moving in chaotic fashion. However, at a certain point its primitive consciousness becomes aware of its own existence, and projects this thought-form onto the atoms within its own sphere, thereby creating organization and order among them.
As to the relationship between the controlling entities of a solar system and the cosmos as a whole, the ultimate or absolute in cosmic terms is reflected in the ultimate or absolute in logoidal terms, and in the domain of its own sphere of influence the solar logos is all-powerful, albeit that in the cosmic sense it is inferior to and evolved from the great unmanifest cosmic power that is the only one that can be truly described as infinite and omnipotent. Moreover, whereas the normal consciousness of the logos is aware of its own sphere of influence only, its subconscious is aware of its cosmic origins, and thereby the influences of the cosmos as a whole continue to have an effect.
As a copy of the macrocosm, the solar logos also has its own days and nights of Brahma, except obviously of significantly shorter duration than those that apply on a cosmic scale. During the nights, the logos reflects on the experiences it has had previously, which in the early stages are all cosmic to the extent that it was previously a cosmic atom, and it is these experiences that define its habitual conditions – or effectively determine the ‘natural laws’ that govern the given logos. During the days, it puts these experiences to effect in the way it evolves, and clearly this is karma operating on a logoidal scale. As its evolution progresses, each new projection by the logos causes a reaction, which it then assimilates before projecting anew – in a manner something akin to the reflections in two mirrors. In fact it is its ability to memorize this ever-growing set of reciprocal reactions that gives the logos its consciousness as opposed to mere reactive awareness.
There are three sets of ‘life swarms’ that initially evolve in the logos. The first are the ‘Lords of Flame’, and they lead the way in working down through the seven planes and acting as a force that attunes the vibrations of each; the second, the ‘Lords of Form’, follow one plane behind developing the appropriate forms for that plane; and the third, the ‘Lords of Mind’, come last. However, because the length of time for a full phase of evolution to be completed on each plane decreases significantly from the first group to the last, the Lords of Mind spend a great deal of time waiting around before they can move on down from each plane to the next, and it is during these periods that they, unlike their predecessors that have a group consciousness only, develop individual consciousness and ultimately separate personalities. Of course, it is they who are most able to assist the life swarms that come after them, either by telepathic contact or by actual incarnation in a form suitable to the plane that the swarm is on.
The ultimate goal of all life swarms is to complete their evolutionary cycle on the planes, moving down through each and then back up to finally remerge with the logoidal consciousness. However, having achieved this remerger, the ‘Divine Sparks’ of the first three swarms may have to re-emerge from time to time to assist the evolution of a particular aspect of the logos.
A third section of the communications deals with the various influences that affect the evolution of humanity, and therefore to a large extent its purpose is to inform students how the occult powers in the solar logos operate, and how they can be controlled or evoked to assist a particular occult task. As a result it discusses aspects of both sidereal, or cosmic, and planetary astrology that are too complex to cover in any detail here.[xi] Meanwhile the explanation of the evolution of humanity itself is somewhat incidental, so we are left with a number of gaps in our understanding.
Nevertheless, the communications suggest that successive life swarms emerge from the logos during each evolutionary stage, and pass down through all the planes and back up, just as the three types of Lords did initially. Each plane is associated with a particular planet, as we can see from the third figure, so the highest seventh plane is associated with the Sun; then, in order, the sixth down to second planes are associated with Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn, Venus and Mars respectively; finally the lowest or most physical first plane is associated primarily with the moon, although it is inferred that the old moon at some point split to form the current earth and moon.
Irrespective of the validity of this latter assertion, this picture is somewhat confused when we find that the first plane is the only one that is manifest in the physical world.[xii] The inference appears to be that certain life swarms of our solar logos have inhabited, and continue to inhabit, the other planets, but not in any physical sense. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize this is that they inhabit the ‘astral plane’ of these planets, but I am only making an educated guess here and these questions are not fully answered in the communications. Further questions arise from wondering why Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are completely ignored, and how this logoidal model would work in solar systems with completely different numbers of planets.
Moving on to human evolution, a number of these communications affirm the view I have already elucidated concerning reincarnation and karma. Others describe how all life swarms develop only by gradually becoming more and more manifest as they involute down the planes on the ‘left-hand path’ until they become fully physical in the first plane of earth, and then only properly evolve by moving back up the planes on the ‘right-hand path’ until they are again at one with the solar logos. This has a clear similarity with the Jain ‘wheel of time’ that I discussed in Part 1, except it also confirms my more spiritual and philosophical take on that inasmuch as only two segments involve the material plane. Again, an educated guess would suggest that as humanity we are part of one or perhaps even several life swarms, and that our repeated reincarnation as individual souls on earth over many thousands of years is indicative of the amount of time required for just one small part of one life swarm cycle to be completed, at least on the physical plane. However, again this aspect is not properly clarified in the communications.
It is also slightly worrying that, although the concepts of Atlantis, Lemuria and root races are not mentioned at all in the main three sets of original communications, an ‘afterthoughts’ section contains a number of subsequent communications that do mention these dreaded words. However each is only mentioned once, and then only briefly, with no explicit suggestions about what these races actually were, or when or where they operated, so perhaps we need not let them detract unduly from the positive lessons we can learn from the main body of the communications. Moreover, the reference to Atlantis suggests that we are currently in a similar state of turbulence to the last days of that race, tending to confirm my suggestion that ‘it is happening all over again’.[xiii]
Meanwhile, the last seven chapters of the third section deal with a number of stereotyped ‘laws’ that have been built up by previous stages of the evolution of our solar system, and which represent major influences on humanity. These are the Laws of Action and Reaction, of Limitation, of the Seven Deaths, of Impaction, of Polarity, of the Attraction of Outer Space, and of the Attraction of the Centre. Although I do not have space to examine these in detail here, they are worthy of further study – as indeed is the entirety of The Cosmic Doctrine.
Leaving the possible areas of misunderstanding about the planets and about humanity to one side, these communications contain a number of positive confirmations and genuinely esoteric further explanations of concepts and themes that we have already discussed – as well as of a number of others from ancient texts that we have not had the space to examine – all of which have often been badly misinterpreted in the past.
For example, we can now see that the descriptions of the forces emanating from the void in various origin traditions are applicable to the early stages of both cosmic and logoidal evolution, and we also get a sense of the true meaning of descriptions of deities recognizing they are alone, of order being created out of chaos, and of a host of other aspects of these traditions. It is also interesting to note that the images and diagrams used to support Fortune’s work have many similarities with the geometric spiral and concentric ring patterns of Upper Paleolithic art, reinforcing my suggestion in the last chapter that these are symbols from the universal consciousness.[xiv] Moreover, although I suggested previously that the descriptions of the various levels of gods, angels and demons in many ancient texts tend to make their proper interpretation harder and their meaning more obscure, here we find far more useful explanations of various life swarms and their relation to the various stages of cosmic and logoidal evolution, and to the various planes.
In addition, despite the gaps regarding human evolution, there is a clear esoteric message concerning how more advanced souls can incarnate to assist evolution on earth, and also concerning how neophytes can attempt to accelerate their individual evolution by making contact with and effectively dwelling in higher planes even while in a human incarnate body. Meanwhile, my suggestion that karma can operate on a group as well as an individual level is also clearly reinforced by the message of the karmic reflection of the logoidal consciousness.
As for the days and nights of Brahma, the communications repeatedly mention them in different contexts. It would appear that in logoidal terms the ‘lesser’ nights of Brahma are only resting periods of equilibrium, just as they are at longer intervals for the cosmos as a whole. It is only in a ‘major’ night of Brahma that complete dissolution of any solar system occurs, and this happens only after the logos has cycled through a full set of its evolutions. And there is no suggestion that such a solar system re-emerges at some point thereafter, or at least not on the physical plane. Meanwhile, complete dissolution on a cosmic scale only occurs after a far lengthier period, and this is perhaps the true meaning of terms such as ‘years’ and ‘lives’ of Brahma. Above all, my repeated insistence that the cyclical worldview of the East needs to be understood within an ethereal and not purely a physical framework appears to be vindicated.[xv]
It is also interesting that Fortune’s communications, and Qabalistic thinking in general, share a great many similarities with certain information deriving from Michael Newton’s subjects. For example, although most of them seem to have little understanding of such complex issues, some do seem to hint at the idea that other ‘worlds’ exist in higher, more subtle dimensions.[xvi] Moreover, they report that the ‘place of all knowing’, which is occupied by only the most advanced souls, is the ‘ultimate mental world of planning and design’ in which ‘content and form are blended’. In this respect it appears to mirror the notion of the archetypal and formative worlds of the Qabalah in which force and form are combined; however, to the extent that it is also described as ‘the final destination of all thought’ it seems at the same time to mirror the idea of the Akashic library.[xvii] Finally, they also report that each solar system has its own ‘creator’ that is responsible for all the planes or dimensions of that system, and this is again remarkably consistent with what we have just discussed.[xviii]
Overall, then, the communications in Fortune’s Cosmic Doctrine appear to have broken new ground in providing us with keys to unlock some of the most sacred mysteries of an esoteric worldview. Everything in the universe, on both the physical and ethereal planes, can be seen to have its proper place in a never-ending series of cycles, subcycles, and sub-subcycles, and to be an ‘as above, so below’ reflection of the ultimate macrocosmic whole on a smaller scale or different plane. I would argue that this framework at last allows us to really appreciate what the Vedic and Hindu teachers were trying to describe, and also many other commentators since then, and as a result it deserves considerably more attention than it has received to date. Moreover, my attempts to summarize and interpret the communications are likely to be flawed by my own lack of understanding, and it would be interesting to see if others can pick up the baton and explain some of the areas of apparent confusion that I have highlighted.
As if the material within these communications were not enough, we should not forget their demonstration of the extent to which channeled material does not have to be full of distortions, and nor does it have to purport to come from extraterrestrial inhabitants of other planets who are in total control of us. Above all, they also confirm that such information may well have been gleaned by many a learned esoteric initiate in past millennia, indicating how the messages of the incarnate spiritual teachers who originally civilized humankind at the start of the golden age, and assisted the postcatastrophe re-education process, could have been substantially reinforced over prolonged periods.
[i] Fortune, The Cosmic Doctrine (Samuel Weiser, 2000), Introduction, pp. 1–2.
[ii] Ibid., Introduction, p. 12.
[iii] Ibid., Introduction 2, p. 17.
[iv] Ibid., Introduction, pp. 1 and 8.
[v] Ibid., Introduction, p. 2.
[vi] Ibid., Introduction 2. It is also interesting to note that Newton’s subjects describe how the most advanced guides teach by flashing ‘metaphoric picture puzzles’ into their minds, which seems remarkably reminiscent of using patterned thought-forms; see Journey of Souls, Chapter 11, p. 172.
[vii] The exception being that I use the words cosmos and universe interchangeably, whereas somewhat confusingly Fortune tends to use the latter word to describe a solar system.
[viii] Fortune, The Cosmic Doctrine, Section 1.
[ix] Ibid., Section 2.
[x] Ibid., Section 3.
[xi] Nevertheless, I might note that the communications assert that sidereal astrology is related to the phenomenon of precession. Given that sidereal astrology is supposed to derive its influences from the twelve cosmic rays – in other words, from the periods denoted by our entire solar system passing through the various cosmic ray segments as it orbits around in the outer plane of the cosmos as a whole – rather than the highly localized periods of stellar procession as observed from earth that derive from its own axial wobble, then either this assertion is false or there is something in the phenomenon of precession that we have not yet grasped. See ibid, Chapter 20, pp. 116–17.
[xii] Ibid., Afterthoughts, p. 190, Footnote.
[xiii] Ibid., Afterthoughts, pp. 193, 200 and 210.
[xiv] Ibid., Figures 1–16, pp. 213–18.
[xv] Ibid., Chapter 21, pp. 122–3.
[xvi] Newton, Journey of Souls, Chapter 11, pp. 195–7.
[xvii] Ibid., Chapter 10. pp. 159–60.
[xviii] Ibid., Conclusion, p. 275.