Dear Unknown Friend,

In Genesis God says, “You shall not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for on the day when you eat from it you will die”, and the serpent says, “You will not die”. Here God is categorical; the serpent is just as much so.
Is it simply that the serpent understands by “death” what God understands by “life” and that he understands by “life” what God understands by “death”?

The answer to this question is the Arcanum of the thirteenth Card of the Tarot, “Death”, which represents a skeleton who reaps only what pushes up from the black soil and rises above it—hands, heads, etc.

Forgetting, sleep and death are three manifestations of the same thing — namely the “thing” which effects disappearance. It is said that sleep is the younger brother of death. It is necessary to add: forgetting is the brother of sleep.

During the sixteen or eighteen hours that we are in the waking state there are layers of our psychic being which are asleep. During the waking state one is “asleep” to many things—facts, people, ideas, God…

from the Tarot of Marseilles

And if the Buddha is considered—and venerated—as “fully awake” to the facts of human life such as sickness, old age and death, it is because those who are not Buddhas know that they are asleep with regard to these facts— not intellectually, but psychically and in their will.

Beyond clinical death there is a psychic death and a moral death. There are things which are missing from our psychic and moral being. The absence of faith, hope and love cannot be remedied either by arguments or by exhortations or even by a living example.

An act of divine magic—or grace—is necessary to accomplish the infusion of life into that which is dead. And if Christ is worshipped as the Risen One, it is because those who bear death within them know that it is only divine magic which can raise what is dead within them and that the risen Christ is the guarantor of this.
Forgetting, sleep and death have symbolic expressions. Black is the image of forgetting, tufts of grass are the image of sleep, and a skeleton with a scythe is the image of death…Black is the symbol of which St. John of the Cross speaks — this threefold night of the senses, the understanding and the will, in which the union of the soul with God is accomplished. We are “plants” when we are deep in sleep.

How and why do we remember the past, how and why do we wake in the morning, and how and why do we live several decades? Let us meditate on this without the intermediary of what may be borrowed from others. In meditation—and these Letters are only meditations—let us ask ourselves: “What do I myself know?”, and not the question: “What is generally known?”

Mechanical memory:
Peace pipe
Logiical memory:
Moral memory:
Vertical memory:
Shema in which the last Hebrew character, reading from right to left, is derived from the pictograph for an eye

There are four types of memory: mechanical or automatic memory, logical memory, moral memory and vertical or revelatory memory.

  1. Mechanical or automatic in which the remembrance simply happens.  This sort of memory supplies me, on the occasion of each impression that I receive, with a host of images of the past from which I can choose. Thus when I see a pipe, I can choose between images of the past which present themselves to my mind, e.g. “an old sea-dog whom I saw at B. in 19…”; or “a book on Red Indians where it was a matter of the peace-pipe ritual”,  etc.

  2. Logical memory is  more active than in the case of automatic memory. Here I have to think in order to remember things. Thus, for example, if I want to remember the Hindu Trinity, amongst whom I have forgotten one of the three terms, I ask myself: If there is a Creator and a Destroyer, Brahma and Shiva, which third principle ought to be found between the Creator and the Destroyer? I concentrate on the empty place between the two and I make an effort to fill it logically. “Ah, it is the Conserver principle—this is Vishnu—of course!”

  3. Moral memory is an authentic magical act. Here love is at work when it recalls things from the past. Here it is admiration, respect, friendship, gratitude, affection and a thousand other things which have deeply moved you People who  are able to give everything a moral worth and to see a moral sense in everything will not forget anything; they will have a normal, if not excellent, memory to a very advanced age.

  4. Vertical or revelatory memory. It is the link between the “higher eye” and the “lower eye”, which renders us authentically religious and wise, and immune to the assaults of scepticism, materialism and determinism. It is this also which is the source of certainty not only of God and the spiritual world with its hierarchical entities but also of the immortality of our being.

Mechanical memory
Logical memory:
Vertical memory:
The Hebrew character from the Hebrew for Shema could mean 'look'. The pictograph that formed the character is probably derived from the eye of the Egyptian God Horus
The more something is mechanical, the more it is removed from immediate understanding.He who wants to explain the phenomenon of smiling, for example, by the contraction of muscles in the region of the mouth and cheeks, and this latter through electrical impulses transmitted through the nerves from the centre called the “brain”, will in no way give an explanation of the phenomenon of “smiling”, for the simple reason that he disregards the joy of which the smiling is a manifestation.

We must seek for the key to memory at its highest development — “moral memory” and “vertical memory”. What is the force at work in the subjective magical operation of remembering, such as it is revealed in “vertical memory” and in “moral memory”? The following reveals it to its highest conceivable degree:

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus…when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days…Jesus wept… Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said: Take away the stone… So they took away the stone…Jesus cried with a loud voice: Lazarus, come out. The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth.
(John xi, 5-44)

Here is the force of recall in its most elevated manifestation. It is love, for “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”. The operation of recall to life—or resurrection—comprises three stages: that of coming, that of taking away the stone and that of recall, i.e. “crying with a loud voice”.

Firstly, coming is the first effort in the whole operation of recall. Then, the taking away of the stone is the effort which vanquishes doubt, depression, fatigue and, lastly, despair, which bar the way to the recalled, like the stone placed before the tomb. Lastly: “To cry with a loud voice” is the culminating—and the supreme—effort of the operation of recall through the force of love, as was the case with Lazarus. Work and suffering are the things which render our voices audible to the spiritual world. These are the factors which create “vibrations” sufficiently “loud” in the spiritual world in order to render our voices audible.

This is why the rosary-prayer repeats the Ave Maria two hundred  times and the Pater Noster twenty times. The effort of the rosary-prayer founded on suffering makes it a powerful means in sacred magic.

Saint Francis heals the leper
Allow me, dear Unknown Friend, to say that there is no freedom outside of the miraculous and that man is man only in so far as he lives from the miracle.

All that is not mechanical—physical, psychic and intellectual—is miraculous. We have no other choice than between the machine and slavery, on the one hand, and the miracle and freedom, on the other.

The miracle of St. Francis is not only the healing of a leper but also the love of St. Francis for “Lady Poverty”. Did not the miracles of Jesus Christ, after the resurrection of Lazarus, culminate in the cross on Calvary where, in the full agony of torture, he said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke xxiii, 34)?

All that one does is miraculous; all intellectual, psychic and physical functioning according to “nature”, i.e. according to human automatism, is mechanical. The Sermon on the Mount is the teaching of doing and of the triumph over functioning.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you…and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Luke vi, 27-28; Matthew v, 44-45)

To bless those who curse you is a miracle from the point of view of the “normal and natural” functioning of the reactions of the human machine.

The world is due to a miracle, i.e. that it was made by the creative Word, and not that it was due to any functioning, to any automatic— even highly intellectual—process:
Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch (1877)

All things were made through the Word, and nothing that was made was made without him. (John i, 3)

One can will forgetting of many things which do not relate to the subject of concentration or contemplation. One knows that when one prays the Pater Noster one forgets not only one’s daily affairs but also all other prayers for the time that one prays the Pater Noster.

Saint John of the Cross, Patron: of Contemplatives, Mystics and Spanish Poets born: 1542 died: December 14, 1591

 The three stages on the way towards the soul’s union with God—those of purification, illumination and union—are simply the history of a single growing effort of concentration of the entire soul upon God. St. John of the Cross says of the effect of the experience of actual union of the soul’s powers with God:

…all the powers of the soul together, because of the union in the inner cellar, drink of the Beloved… This draught of God’s most deep wisdom makes the soul forget all the things of this world, and consider all its previous knowledge, and the knowledge of the whole world besides, as pure ignorance in comparison with this knowledge. (St. John of the Cross, A Spiritual Canticle )

I may add that the masters of Raja-yoga, Bhakti-yoga and Jnana-yoga teach the practice of complete forgetting of the phenomenal world with a view to attaining perfect contemplation. The teaching of forgetting is found also in the mystical Cabbala and in Mohammedan mysticism, e.g. that of Sufism.

.The three stages of the way leading to the soul’s union with God—purification, illumination and union—are repeated after death: purgatory is purification (catharsis), which precedes illumination or heaven, and heaven is the state of the soul when it arrives at union with God,

Saints do not seek union with God; they are united with God. This is why they act — their faces being turned towards the earth and not towards God — in the name of God on earth. They act, being united with God, in the guise of organs of his will.
It is the same with Angels, for example. Guardian Angels could never be guardians of human beings if their looks were turned towards God

The three stages of the way leading to the soul’s union with God—purification, illumination and union—are repeated after death: purgatory is purification (catharsis), which precedes illumination or heaven, and heaven is the state of the soul when it arrives at union with God,

Birth can be either “holy” or “natural”, i.e. it can either be an act of obedience to divine will or rather it can be effected as a consequence of a “call from the earth”. A soul can be sent to the earth or it can be attracted by the earth. “Holy birth” is the remembrance of the divine, which is the force which accomplishes incarnation. It is not thanks to forgetting of the divine that the soul is then incarnated, but rather thanks to its remembering. It is in the state of “habitual union” with God that the soul is incarnated.

One could then speak of a “mission”, or an “election”…and rightly, because such a mission is the only one which really exists. For the true mission is not what the human being proposes to do on the earth according to his tastes, his interests and even his ideals, but rather what God wants him to do. Arbitrary “missions”, although due to the best intentions in the world, have only contributed confusion to human history.

Sun of the Divine Will by Kuba Ambrose
‘Worthy is the Lamb Who Was Slain’ by Kuba Ambrose

The Gospel maxim is “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew v, 37). Here we return to the question that we posed at the beginning of this Letter, namely: What is the “surplus” that the serpent adds to the “yes” and “no” understood as life and death? The serpent promises a crystallisation, that the human being will resist death and become “death-proof”, immune to death. This crystallisation is effected through friction, i.e. by the electrical energy which is produced by the struggle between “yes” and “no” in man.

There are schools — occult or other — which teach and practise crystallisation and there are other schools which teach and practise radiation, i.e. the complete de- crystallisation of the human being and his transformation into a “sun”, into a centre of radiation. “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew xiii, 43)—

George Gurdjieff, Armenian philosopher
A Caucasus brigand

The “schools of crystallisation” are quite numerous and widespread. I have in mind the school of G. I. Gurdjieff, and I am going to cite the work In Search of the Miraculous by P. D. Ouspensky.

Someone asked about the possibility of reincarnation, and whether it is possible to believe in cases of communication with the dead. In order to be able to speak of any kind of future life there must be a certain crystallisation, a certain fusion of man’s inner qualities. What people call ‘reincarnation’ may be possible after death, and, in other cases, what people call “existence on the other side’. In both cases it is the continuation of life in the ‘astral body’. an ‘astral body’. This is quite wrong. The ‘astral body’ is obtained by means of fusion, by means of terribly hard inner work and struggle. Man is not born with it.

Take for example a brigand, a really good, genuine brigand. I knew such brigands in the Caucasus. He will stand with a rifle behind a stone by the roadside for eight hours without stirring. Could you do this? All the time, mind you, a struggle is going on in him. He is thirsty and hot, and flies are biting him; but he stands still. Another is a monk; he is afraid of the devil; all night long he beats his head on the floor and prays. Thus crystallisation is achieved…Such people can become immortal.”
Pyotr Ouspensky, Russian teacher
A Monk praying

According to Gurdjieff, immortality is neither a birthright of the human soul nor a gift of divine grace —it is made by  crystallisation of a new body within the physical body which can resist death and survive the destruction of the physical body. 

The Tower of Babel

 That is to say, the soul created by God does not exist; it must be created by the human being from within the  physical body. The robber and the monk, and also the occultist, can become immortal through the energy that they produce by their efforts.

Ouspensky writes of a  construction, from within the physical body, of a tower  rising from mortality to  immortality, from earth to heaven. Now, the Bible knows of the method of building “a tower with its top in the heavens” and of making “a name for ourselves lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Genesis xi, 4). It is the construction of the Tower of Babel.

Are we talking here of ghosts? This is exactly what Gurdjieff teaches about psychic crystallisation effected from within the physical body, and which can resist the death. This is the “astral body” of which Gurdjieff said that, “if it is formed it may continue to live after the death of the physical body…if it is not re-born, then, in the course of time, it also dies; it is not immortal but it can live long after the death of the physical body”.

A ghost is  a consequence of  crystallisation of a desire, a passion, or a purpose of great intensity, which produces a complex of energy in the human being.
The “self” of such an occultist would be allied to this double, the bearer of his memory and intellect, and could incarnate himself anew — avoiding purgatory and the union which is the lot of the human soul after death..
The body of Gurdjieff, lying in state

Gurdjieff is simply a representative of the cause of materialistic science. He was, moreover, a good-natured man, endowed with an exquisite sense of humour, a good son, a good friend, and very intelligent with respect to common sense. It would be wrong to see in him a “prophet of darkness” or an instrument of a special “Satanic mission”. No, he was simply a good representative of the “wisdom of this world”. He was not any more a “Satanist” than the celebrated Russian physiologist Pavlov or any other representative of materialistic science.

You see now, dear Unknown Friend, why the Church was hostile to the doctrine of reincarnation, although the fact of repeated incarnations was known to a large number of people faithful to the Church with authentic spiritual experience.

The deeper reason is the danger of reincarnation by way of the ghost, where one avoids the path of purification (in purgatory), illumination and celestial union.

For humanity could succumb to the temptation of preparing for a future terrestrial life, instead of preparing for purgatory and heaven, during earthly life. One ought during earthly life to prepare for this meeting with a fully awakened consciousness, which is purgatory, and for the experience of the presence of the Eternal, which is heaven

Dante's Mount Purgatory
Dante's plan for climbing Purgatory
It is worth a hundred times more to know nothing of the fact of reincarnation, and to deny the doctrine of reincarnation, than to turn thoughts and desires towards the future terrestrial life and thus to be tempted to resort to the means offered through the promise of immortality made by the serpent.

I may add that in the last analysis it is a matter not only of the moral danger of evading purgatory and the experience of Eternity, but also of replacing one immortality by another, namely that of God by that of the serpent. For there are two deaths and two immortalities

It is not phantoms and ghosts which are the source of certainty of survival or immortality. The source of this certainty is found elsewhere. Where, then?…in the experience of the kernel of the human being and his relationship with the breath, light and warmth of God.

Imagine the reaction of a St. John of the Cross or a St. Teresa of Avila to a discourse, armed with all the arguments of modern science, addressed to them so as to prove to them that the soul is only a mirage produced by chemistry and electricity! I think that they would have sent the author of such remarks either to a psychiatrist or to an exorcist!

I certainly know the logical, philosophical and psychological criticism of the Cartesian argument, cogito ergo sum ( I think therefore I am) and I accept it without reserve in foro scientiae (before the court of science), but it was not the force of this argument in the tribunal of science which gave René Descartes certainty of his transcendent Self.

The kernel of his being, but rather the experience in the tribunal of consciousness (in foro conscientiae) where, whilst thinking in the admirable way which was characteristic of him, he went out of discursive thought and found himself as the thinker of thoughts! It was therefore not a logical argument but a real and intimate experience of thought – in the process of thinking – which gave Descartes complete certainty of the reality of the “I am” which manifests itself in the “I think”

René Descartes(1596-1650)
Immanuel Kant

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (a soul of childlike purity, endowed with a remarkable honesty and diligence) made Descartes’ spontaneous experience a new method of inner effort aspiring to knowledge, namely the transcendental method.

This method amounts to the effort to transcend the thinking in which the thinker is ordinarily immersed, by going out from it and elevating himself above it, in order to observe thought. His works Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Judgement are the fruits of the application of this method, which judges things belonging to the metaphysical domain — for example, God, the immortality of the soul, and moral freedom.  He wrote:

“I would have to alter the foundation of my very being, or to annihilate myself, if I were to say that God does not exist, that I am not free, and that I am not immortal. The very structure of my being is such that it postulates categorically the existence of God or infinite perfectibility, freedom or morality as such, and the immortality of the soul or the possibility of infinite perfectioning.”

Similarly, in Hindu Jnana-yoga the yogi arrives at the transcendent Self by critically observing firstly his body and arriving at the experience, “This body is not the Self”, then critically examining his psychic life — desires, feelings, memory images, etc. — to arrive at the experience, “This psychic life is not the Self”, and, lastly, critically examining his thinking itself, from which he detaches himself; and experiences the thinker—just as Descartes and Kant arrived at the experience of the transcendent Self by rising from thought to the thinker.

From this comes their certainty of “I am” (Descartes) and “I am free, I am immortal (and) I am in the presence of God” (Kant).
Jnana Yoga

You see therefore, dear Unknown Friend, that the great thinkers of the West — just as the Hindu yogis — have arrived at the experience of the kernel of the human being, the transcendent Self, the experience of which gave them certainty of immortality.

These are the three stages of the way of the human soul after death—through purgatory to heaven, and from heaven to God. Saint John of the Cross shows that it is authentic faith which is revealed, acts, and increases in purification; that it is hope which is simultaneously both the agent and the fruit of illumination; and that, lastly, it is charity which achieves union of the soul with God.

This is the eternal way, and no one can invent or find another.
Just as we believe in God, so also does God believe in us—but with a divinely greater and more elevated faith; his hope with regard to this immense community of free beings that we call the “world” is infinite, just as his love for these beings is infinite.

We do not worship God because he is able to do more than us, or because he knows more than us, but rather because he has more faith, more hope and more love than us.

To return to the Card of the thirteenth Major Arcanum of the Tarot. Here we see that Death reaps hands, feet, and lastly heads, which appear above the level of the black soil. He does not reap growing grass or whole human figures. He acts as a surgeon rather than as an exterminator. He sees that the vital world is not invaded by “emissaries” from the physical world. He amputates  members that become unusable so as to free the whole human being. He is the last expedient to save life.