[NB] Obscurity, Clarity, Piety

“No Buddhist would consider it worthwhile to pass from the crystalline clearness of his own religion to this involved obscurity.”—Charles Henry Allan Bennett to Aleister Crowley

“As I go up and down my stair and pass the gilded Moorish wedding-chest where I keep my “barbarous words,” I wonder will I take to them once more, for I am baffled by those voices that still speak as to Odysseus but as the bats; or now that I shall in a little be growing old, to some kind of simple piety like that of an old woman.”—W. B. Yeats, Per Amica Silentia Lunae (94)

These sorts of reactions are common and repeated again and again, enough so that I am fairly sure they are an integral part of the occult experience rather than outliers. They define its parameters–involved obscurity/barborous words, crystalline clarity, and simple piety. The movement from one to the other and back again. Stability in that motion is fairly difficult to achieve.

What we tend to get, instead, amounts to a bona fide collapse of the occult endeavor or a calcification of it, either full or partial, into ‘good enough’ forms.

Collapse tends to happen toward one of the parameters, so we get folks like Bennett who turn away from occultism into a ‘rational’ practice (religious or otherwise) and the sort to which Yeats aspired, those who find comfort of well-established forms of feeling. The collapse toward barbarous words is less pretty, and we tend to call those folks mentally ill (I’m thinking here of Philip K. Dick’s moments of high paranoia).

The ‘good enough’ forms are often problematic, in part because they tend to be rooted in the visible rather than invisible world. Those forms are the vessels in which spiritual forces have nestled, not necessarily the ones in which spiritual force currently resides. While their having-been occupied means that they may yet serve again, a reliance upon them tends to encourage a conflation of the invisible with the visible, the shell with the snail.

Those good enough forms also tend to pile up, forming a proper heap. While the heap itself becomes an opportunity, it invites a kind of secondary involved obscurity, where the effort is made to sort through and establish order from within the confines of the heap. It is a subtle kind of trap, because it looks superficially like the way in which the invisible world picks up and rattles those shells for its own ends, when it is in fact a foreclosure of that process, forcing the spiritual to behave according to the expectations derived from a study of dead forms. The difference between spiritual ethnology and spiritual anatomy, if you will.

The challenge of proper occultism is to give a person their spiritual process, to set them upon their work, to give them intermediary forms and to help them recognize them as intermediary forms. To give them a sense of direction, too.

Which gets us back to the parameters and occultism at its best–locating yourself in the obscurity of your existence, clarifying that obscurity by manipulating and contemplating it, and to discover through that work a sense of order in the world that gives you faith in it and allows you to release more obscure forms of work in favor of the forms yet to be.

One thought on “[NB] Obscurity, Clarity, Piety

  1. Pingback: Faith and Study | Disrupt & Repair

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