The Two Aspects of Occultism Today
There are lots of ways to divide the approach to occultism in various forms today. For this post, I’ll describe it as the technological/spiritual, and the religious.
The technological/spiritual sees magick as means to achieving goals. Often, part of the technology involves the use of spiritual practices. Thus, although magick doesn’t require a religious basis, for many people it includes a deeply spiritual basis. In fact, one of the goals can be attuning oneself with the Divine. This can be called “finding your true will.” Your true will is seen as being totally in harmony with the Divine, and once you discover what your true will is—your direction in life—you should do just that. Not following your true will can lead to unhappiness and frustration.
The religious aspect of occultism, as found in Spiritism, Wicca, and other religious formats, does have a religious structure that can be more or less vigorous. One of the major differences between religions that may be seen as more occultic than others is that they often avoid intermediaries—priests, ministers, rabbis, Imams, etc.—and seek a direct relationship between the Divine and the practitioner, what is commonly known as mysticism.
In both instances, both religious and spiritual but not formally religious*, there is still the concept of some sort of relationship between the Divine and the practitioner. But what happens when this relationship is perceived as breaking down?
Experiencing the Dark Night
The concept of The Dark Night of the Soul is the feeling of desolation, abandonment, and total aloneness that can occur when a practitioner no longer experiences or hopes for that direct relationship with the Divine. The God or Goddess no longer communes with them. You may feel as if you are the only person in the universe who feels this pain and suffering, the loss and lack.
The “Dark Night of the Soul” comes from the title of a poem, and then a treatise written about the poem, by the 16th-century Spanish poet known as Saint John of the Cross. The poem tells the story of the passage of a soul from within the body to union with the Divine. This, of course, is very dualistic, tracing back to the dualism of Aristotle. However, for the topic of this post, this dualism—along with all the categories and steps similar in nature if not content to Dante’s Inferno—can be ignored.
The story of this passage is called “dark” because, as Wikipedia states, “darkness represents the hardships and difficulties the soul meets in detachment from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator…The main idea of the poem can be seen as the painful experience that people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God. The poem is divided into two books that reflect the two phases of the dark night. The first is a purification of the senses. The second and more intense of the two stages is that of the purification of the spirit, which is the less common of the two.”
The experience of the Dark Night of the Soul is horrifying. It can tear you apart mentally, physically, and emotionally. And if you make it through that part, the spiritual separation from the Divine, the sense that nobody has ever been as alone from the God and Goddess as you are now experiencing, is far worse.
The Abyss and the Dark Night
On the Tree of Life image above, the space between the upper triad and the remaining seven Sephiroth is called The Abyss. Sometime this is seen as being part of the horizontal path that connects the lower two Sephiroth of the upper triad, but the vast emptiness between the upper three, known as the Supernals, and the lower seven, implies the vast chasm between human and Divine. Crossing the Abyss—moving from the greater physicality below to the spirituality above—and reaching to the Divine is a goal for many mystics and magicians. But what if you get caught in the Abyss, separated from both humanity and the Divine, lost to the ways of the spiritual and the physical? For you, there can be
Just a vast emptiness in body, spirit, and soul that nothing could possibly defeat. It’s a feeling of …nothing, of total loss, of being
It’s a feeling of being devoid of hope. Devoid of help. Of being lost in a void so vast it can only be called an abyss. The abyss. Being lost in the abyss is the Dark Night of the Soul.
Been There. Done That.
Yep. I’ve been there. I’ve felt so alone that to try and empower myself I hung in my room a sign I made quoting a song by Simon & Garfunkel:
I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.
I stared at it while trying to go to sleep, trying to believe it was true. I packed away all of my books and my magickal tools. I didn’t need to search for the God and Goddess. I didn’t need magick. I just wanted to be like everyone else. But I had changed. I couldn’t go back. I was left floating. Alone. In the Abyss. Traveling through the Dark Night of the Soul. And yes, I had thoughts of ending the pain and misery of being alone.
I pretended that I was doing better. I wasn’t. What saved me was an occult book store. I walked by and saw an interesting book in the window. I went in and started looking through it. The author made a statement about what another author had written. “Wait a minute,” I thought. “That’s wrong.” I immediately went home and started unpacking my books, looking for the one I felt had been misrepresented. As I pulled out my books, I started looking through them. I re-read things I had read once years ago and ignored since, and was reintroduced to their beauty and wisdom. One book led to another. By the time I got to the book I felt had been misrepresented, it didn’t matter. I was back on my path again. The next step was opening the box with my tools. I had forgotten the time and energy I had put into creating them. I felt their impact on my psyche and soul once again.
And I started doing my daily work. I forgot how much I had missed it. I learned quickly. I remembered that walking the path is every bit as important—perhaps more so—as achieving a spiritual goal!
The bookstore and book merely triggered my solution: Do the work. Focus on the work, not achieving the goal. The goal will come. Just as relationships with friends and loved ones have their ups and downs, so too will your relationship with the God and Goddess go through such cycles. When it is in a down phase, do the work. Eventually, you will not only find yourself back on the path, you’ll find yourself racing ahead. And then, when you are in an up phase, remember to do the work.
If you stay on the path you will eventually achieve your goals.
Leave the path and you’ll be lost and achieve nothing
until you regain your path.
*I recognize that there are other approaches that are beyond being merely non-religious and are completely secular, but these tend to have an insufficient number of practitioners to be impactful on the general occult world at this time or are practiced by dabblers looking to play at the latest fad, and who will change to another fad in the immediate future.
Have you experienced it?