Hungry Ghost
The Ghost of a Flea, Tempera heightened with gold on panel c 1819 William Blake CARD URL:

Card #116 – Hungry Ghost

This card indicates the presence of parasitism and morbid, ravenous appetites. This could involve aspects of yourself or of others (persons, entities). A life that is not driven by meaning, by a core of self-development and the will to help others, quickly devolves into the hungry ghost lifestyle where one is forever looking for the next buzz, the next rush, hottie, payout, whatever, to fill the vast, bored, inner emptiness that can never be sated.


Be wary of absorbing toxins of any kind. The positive aspect is that this is an auspicious time to work on detoxification.

Anything that crosses the blood-brain barrier can enslave us. Last year in the USA, there were 70,000 deaths just from Fentanyl. Overdoses killed more people last year than all American casualties in the Vietnam War. There are parts of this country, like parts of San Francisco, that resemble a zombie apocalypse with people living on the streets who have lost their free will and suffered massive permanent brain damage from Fentanyl and meth. Most homelessness is not due to high housing costs but chemical enslavement combined with mental illness before or after. What we call a homelessness zone, Europeans call an “open drug scene,” which is a more accurate label. See the book, San Fransicko

I am not an expert on homelessness, and I know that the San Fransicko perspective has well-meaning critics. My point of view, however, is based on some real-life experience. For six years, I was the building security coordinator and dean of a public high school in the South Bronx during the crack epidemic. Currently, I have two close friends who are homeless due to addictions. From what I’ve witnessed through their first-hand accounts and trying to help them — chemical enslavement has much more to do with homelessness than housing costs, even though that is a significant factor in this massively multi-factorial disaster.

Do everything you possibly can to keep yourself from being enslaved by anything that crosses the blood-brain barrier if you want to have a good life.

“I can resist anything except temptation.” — Oscar Wilde

Temptations are very, very tempting, and that is probably why they are called temptations. It is foolish to underestimate their power. Before you reach for a temptation, ask yourself if you will remember this indulgence well on your deathbed. If you will, you’d be a fool to pass it up. If you won’t, and you keep reaching for it again and again and again, then you are on the path of a Ring Wraith, withering into a hungry ghost.

There are many forces within us: appetites, compulsions, complexes, and sub-personalities, and all of them are reaching for the steering wheel. We each need to develop a strong central witness personality, one capable of observing and overseeing the process without becoming possessed by a compulsion, appetite, or inferior sub-personality.

You are surrounded by black magicians — advertisers, acquaintances, and possibly unseen entities, who tempt you from within and without toward a toxic fate. But you are not just a passive recipient of temptations, you may also be a source of temptation yourself, or its all too willing partner. Don’t surrender to anything that is not in accord with your inner truth. Don’t do anything that compromises your inner dignity.

The I Ching says, “He who seeks nourishment that does not nourish reels from desire to gratification and in gratification craves desire. Mad pursuit of pleasure for the satisfaction of the senses never brings one to the goal. One should never follow this path, for nothing good can come of it.” The I Ching does not support compulsive hedonism but also does not support excessive asceticism and galling privations. It is often confusing as we try to navigate between the tendency to be too hard on ourselves and the tendency to be too easy on ourselves. The I Ching says that in ambiguous cases, we should lean toward leniency toward others and discipline with ourselves.

“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.”
— C.G. Jung

What are your addictions? The addictions could be to foods, intoxicants, compulsive sexuality, unworthy companions, grooved patterns of emotional reactivity, fundamentalist/absolutist rigidities of mind, poor quality cultural products — music, movies, porno, channel surfing, first-person shooter video games, Tik-Tok reels etc., and any sort of habituated, mechanical patterns in your life. The positive aspect is that this is an auspicious time to work on freeing yourself from addictions. You need to be your own wise alchemist, supervising what is entering your cauldron and where and on whom you bestow its contents.

“First we form habits, then they form us. Conquer your bad habits or they will conquer you.”
— Rob Gilbert

Addiction always means that you have enslaved yourself, like a Ring Wraith, to some outside object, some Precious. You need to cast the Precious into the Cracks of Doom and regain your magically empowered inner wholeness. (See: Casting Precious into the Cracks of Doom — Androgyny, Alchemy, Evolution and the One Ring)

We are easily enslaved by addictions that are ruled by the reptilian part of our brain. Almost everyone has to do battle with this aspect of human nature. No matter how many setbacks and reversals you experience, keep struggling to free yourself from that which would enslave you and drain your life energy.

In the words of the old Chinese saying, “There is no harm in falling down, only in not picking yourself up again.”

Depending on the position of the card, it may also refer to someone you are connected to who is addicted. It is rarely appropriate to lifeguard other people. Often the best you can do for an obsessed/addicted person is to lovingly withdraw energy from them while they are in a state of eclipse. Think of them when they are at their best, but extend trust only when they earn it. For more on how to relate to others according to the principles of the I Ching see: A Guide to the Perplexed Interdimensional Traveler.

According to some evolutionary biologists, marsupials, like kangaroos, are limited in their possible evolution because they lack the corpus callosum — the dense bundle of neurons connecting the two hemispheres vital to superior intra-brain communication. These evolutionary biologists further speculate that Homo sapiens may also have a brain communication problem and that it could lead to our extinction. We have poor communication between our cerebral cortex, our center of higher thinking, and our brain stem, the reptile brain that governs appetites and aggression. Anyone who has tried to break a physical addiction discovers how tough it is to get these parts to work together. Headline news is largely variations on the theme of higher thinking being impotent to restrain territorial aggression and other reptilian drives.

But there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in the philosophy of neurological materialists and fatalistic observers of human history. As William James said, “All that is necessary to disprove the notion that all crows are black is one white crow.” If any human being has ever resolved this problem, then the possibility is open for you not to be ruled by your reptilian aspects. Free will is rarer and more fragile than some presume, but you have a choice. Become a white crow. Break free from your addictions.

Some quotes on addiction:

“Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”
— George Carlin

“Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.”
— Saint Augustine

“Better shun the bait than struggle in the snare.”
— John Dryden, English poet, dramatist and critic (1631-1700)

“People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within.”
— Ramona L. Anderson

“In the course of history many more people have died for their drink and their dope than have died for their religion or their country.” — Aldous Huxley

“All men are tempted. There is no man that lives that can’t be broken down, provided it is the right temptation, put in the right spot.” — Henry Ward Beecher

“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.” — C.S. Lewis

“What makes resisting temptation difficult for many people is they don’t want to discourage it completely.” — Franklin P. Jones

“Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.” — P.J. O’Rourke

“Power is the faculty or capacity to act, the strength and potency to accomplish something. It is the vital energy to make choices and decisions. It also includes the capacity to overcome deeply embedded habits and to cultivate higher, more effective ones.” — Stephen R. Covey

“Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” — Abraham Joshua Heschel

“Habits? The only reason they persist is that they are offering some satisfaction. You allow them to persist by not seeking any other, better form of satisfying the same needs. Every habit, good or bad, is acquired and learned in the same way – by finding that it is a means of satisfaction.” — Juliene Ber

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” — Frank Outlaw

“Enduring habits I hate… Yes, at the very bottom of my soul I feel grateful to all my misery and bouts of sickness and everything about me that is imperfect, because this sort of thing leaves me with a hundred backdoors through which I can escape from enduring habits.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

“The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.” — Fydor Doestoevsky

“Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if it’s done by nice people like ourselves.”
— Unknown

“It is with our passions as it is with fire and water; they are good servants, but bad masters.”
— Roger L’Estrange

“I had not taken a bath in a year nor changed my clothes or removed them except to stick a needle every hour in the fibrous grey wooden flesh of heroin addiction. I did absolutely nothing.” — Willliam S. Burroughs

“Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.” — Unknown

“Habit: The shackles of the free.” — Ambrose Bierce


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