The Dark Night of the Soul

Most people get their Dark Knights confused

The Dark night of the Soul is a mystical term which was first coined by St John of the Cross to describe a period of dryness where a person seems disconnected from what these days we call our Higher Self.

The new age, including some magicians, tend to apply this term to a range of emotions from “falling under the weather” to being depressed.   People talk as if a dark night of the soul was common or inevitable and you will sometimes hear them moan “I am going through a dark night of the soul at the moment.”  Next week they will usually be happy and any dark nights have past.
Dark nights are not that common and nor is the person suffering from them depressed.  Depression does happen, but it is more of a side effect rather than the main event.  The great 20thcentury magician Ernest Butler described it as a period of dryness and this word does seem to fit the best.  It is like you are spiritually in a desert, all alone and nothing appears to work.  There is no higher self-connection as it appears to have left you completely.
It happens normally after a big initiation, or life changing event and there appears to be no rhyme or reason as to why.   This has led many, with a mystical bent, to say that it is because God has turned away from them.   The Higher-Self seems to be wanting them to learn something but is not telling the person what, and it can last for years.  
 Sometimes the victim is unaware of the process.  The dry spiritual process can happen and the person just feels bored by the whole mystical magical scene but carries on because they have no concept of a life without it.  Sometimes they might have a few years off magic because of “life circumstances”. Although this is not something that people normally associate with a Dark night of the soul it means the same thing.
When it is over the person feels like they were before they went into it but it appears to be a gradual process.  The person realises different aspects of their magical or mystical self one spiritual gift at a time.  This is noticeable of a person has a psychic gift.  They go from being able to see things to seeing nothing.  What a Dark night seems to do is to force them to use these skills even if they are not there, and when they return they come back with a huge amount of discipline.  It also causes them to value their spiritual skills.
One person described to be the process the other day.  She said that had to re-acquire all her skills one by one and it was incredibly slow and got her very depressed.   As Butler said, all you can do is plod on and be held up by your spiritual routine.
So is a dark night of the soul avoidable?   The answer is probably not, it really depends on your personality and your ability to change.   I am not so sure that it is God turning its back on the person, but rather that the person needs to make a jump in consciousness.   They have climbed to the top of a mountain and do not know how to fly.  They stand on top of their spiritual experiences and feel alone and like they have been abandoned.    How they learn to make that jump is unique to them.  In some cases it appears to be a “need to let go of the past”, others need to wait to integrate their experiences.  But I also think that it is important to realise that they have not been abandoned. Their Higher Self is just as close as it was before – all they need to do is learn to see it.  
It is not so bad once you are up. It is the dark night of the
soul  afterwards you have to worry about.
One of the reasons that the Golden Dawn loses so many people once they have completed their 5=6 initiation is that they have their lower-self crucified with the expectation that they will have some realisation of the Higher Self.  The crucifixion process is often very dramatic but it is not always answered by the mystical experience of the Higher Self as it has expected.  It is this dark night which causes the person to believe that there is nothing in the Golden Dawn and give up.  But really it is about learning to use the information you have been given to experience your Higher Self correctly.  The expectation is that this will be a bright light with choirs of angels singing all sorts of hymns.  But it is not like that and sometimes a dark night is about giving up that expectation.  The mystical experience appears to be something like a realisation of “Truth” or a reversal of thinking that somehow opens up the Divine in your life.
It is odd because in many ways it is a mystical issue, which can be answered magically.

Why magical rituals fail

Some rituals have the best intentions

Although occult books are full of yarns about magic’s success stories there are few tales of what happens when magic goes wrong  I have been noticing that a sector of my life is largely immune to magic of late.  I have tried a number of different rituals to over come this problem and nothing has worked.  As a result I have been focusing on the issue a fair bit and I am looking to find a solid rule for magical failure.
I have been playing devil’s advocate on Facebook on this question to see what people’s thoughts about the matter are and it was about what I expected.  Occultism suddenly becomes a religion when things go wrong.
Magic is about you having some measure of control over yourself and your inner and outer environment.   At some point you have be able to decide what you want, and make it happen. A ritual is designed to make this happen.   The opposite side of the coin to this is religion.  In religion you pray to your chosen god and ask it to make it happen.  
In my Christian days it was drummed into our heads that “God always answers prayer; it is just that he sometimes says “no” or “wait.”   The flaw in this approach is that you may not get what you want and if God keeps saying “no” there is nothing you can do about it.
When I asked on Facebook why people think that their rituals failed I got the following answers:

Technical reasons – your ritual was badly written or performed incorrectly.
This is not always true.  I have written rituals that worked once or twice and then failed for some inexplicable reason.   I am pretty good ritually and most of my performances are not different enough to have made any difference to the rite.  Astrological conditions can make a ritual more difficult (or improve them) but a magician is supposed to master the stars not the other way around. Generally it makes sense to avoid the tricky configurations anyway.

God tells you to Go forth and multiply

God has forbidden it to work 
Many rituals include the phrase “if it pleases the Divine” in their intention.  This means that if the ritual did not work then obviously it was blocked by God.    But when I started looking at some of the rituals that went wrong, it was clear that could not have been the case.   For example, a flat I was living in had mould and it was making me and my partner sick.  It was also falling down and the neighbours had become intolerable.  It was also too small to do regular meetings and was too expensive.  Why would God want me to stay in a house in which I was getting sick, was interfering in my work, and was too expensive?  If I am an expression of the One Thing, then I am torturing myself by saying “no.” Besides if God can veto rituals in this way then we might as well be praying to it and not doing magic at all.

The Ritual did not accord with your True Will
His is a modern variant of the “God says no” argument above.  The answer is similar it cannot be my true will to suffer and be miserable.

Your Higher Self wants you to live here

Your Higher Self has a bigger and better plan. 
Well the Higher Self should inform me why it wants me to die from breathing toxic mould and it had better come up with a damn fine excuse.  In fact I think this idea of the Higher Self being seen as a separate entity is a bad idea.  It ends up with the Higher Self replacing God, when it isn’t.

You have somehow blocked yourself from attaining your goal
Normally this block is unconscious in that you think that you should not have the thing you desire.  Now this is a good point in that the unconscious would have created the “lack” in the first place.  But one thing I have noticed is that this lack should not apply to rituals worked on your behalf.  While I might not be able to get my house ritual to work, someone else should.  I know a few magicians who could do the job for me and yet they can’t do it either.  The point here is that my unconscious must be putting a mother of all blocks on things.  The only weak side to this as being the main reason why a ritual would fail is that overcoming these sorts of problems is exactly what magic is designed to do.  Nick Farrell might not be able to overcome his problems, but if he gets the help of an appropriate angel then he should manage it.  After all Michael is the Angel of the Sun and that energy is pretty damn powerful.

Nothing wrong with prayer, just ask a male praying mantis

These are all good reasons, but you notice how close they are to religious ones? God says no, Satan has stopped you?  God has a perfect plan for your life, you have to wait upon him. You are a poor sinner, a slug who is born to suffer and  who can’t overcome a minor problem that others are good at.   This sort of attitude is nothing like such affirmations like “There is no part of me which is not of the gods” and other sayings which hare supposed to model who we are in terms of the universe.
I mentioned that I was playing Devil’s advocate when I asked my question because I expected those sorts of answers.  Other than an interesting suggestion that it might be because I was not prepared to use black magic, they were statements that had been given to me by my teachers over the years: more or less “just have faith.”
Golden Dawn chief Martin Thibeault came closer to my way of thinking when he said that magical failure did not really exist.  He wrote: “Magic is like any other form of action…it has an impact on the world but sometimes the world is not so easily moved.”
He added that a ritual was a form of worship in its own right and even if it did not work it still had value.  Martin and I have something in common that we do not believe in karma or fate. That being said  he thinks that will is the varying factor for rituals to ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’.
Now I agree with some this and so I will post a hypothesis to be tested as to why magic fails.
The world is made up of patterns, cycles and flows which make things happen.  Some of these are the consequences of our actions, others are consequences of God’s.  A magician wants to step outside these patterns and move the elements about himself.  Some things are easier to change than others.  A ritual for me to get $5 should be easier to achieve than one where I win the lottery.  Other things are harder for me to achieve because I have patterns which I find personally challenging, perhaps because of my own experiences.

Hoover dam could be damaged by one person
with a sledgehammer or an energetic ram given
enough time 

These patterns are changed using power which is bought into play by a ritual.  However like some power complexes require a little bit of power, other things require a lot of power bought into action over a longer period of time.  Thus a short ritual, done often enough, will bring about change eventually, in the same way that someone armed with a sledgehammer will eventually collapse the Hoover dam.  In this respect all rituals work, but some will not have enough power to change the flow of energy which creates the bad situation enough.  The rituals need to be repeated, or a more powerful ritual developed.
So if you have a ritual that does not work, the suggestion would be not to give up. Instead do the same ritual several times until it does.
Now, there will be those who do sigil magic, or who followed the BOTA course who will disagree with me here.  Both those systems suggest that you should do your working and forget all about it for it to work properly.    I am not sure that is right, because you end up trying to make some of the excuses I outlined above.   However I have not had much luck with sigil magic either. BOTA would say that you are giving your unconscious a negative suggestion by repeating the working.  The answer to that is that is no more negative than what it already has to work with.  Instead you are giving it a more suggestion that it has more power to work its magic.
The aim then is to keep doing your rituals until the power has reached a point where there is a tipping point and reality is forced to change.

Samuel Mathers and Wargaming in the Golden Dawn

Samuel Mathers 

One little known aspect of Samuel Mathers’ life was his love of what these days is called wargaming.   Wargaming is like chess, only it involves the accurate depiction of a battle using toy soldiers on a realistic looking miniature battlefield.
For those who are not familiar with it, it is nuts.  It looks like grown men playing with toy soldiers.  It is like when you were a kid where you had plastic Airfix models that you rolled marbles at.  It is the sort of thing that you grow out of.  In fact it is a lot more complex than that and having played wargaming for a large chunk of my life it is somewhat addictive. Most wargamers know they are a little nuts but they really enjoy the hobby so adopt a “sod you all” approach.   They tend to specialise in historical periods.  I was only interested in the Ancient to Medieval Period and at one point of my life was quite good at it.
Firstly you have to research your military history extremely well.  Not only do your toy soldiers have to be painted realistically, they have to be arranged and fight as historically as possible.  This research not only takes ages, but painting a single figure can take a long time too.  Then there are the rules.  For a wargame to work it requires a set of rules which accurately re-create how a battle is fought.  Mostly this involves scaled down movement, but it also requires a random element that decides if a unit becomes a casualty or runs away.  This enables the table top general to concentrate on the tactical picture.

A modern Ancients wargame

The Prussian Army had seen the merits of wargaming, or Kriegsspiel,  since 1812  and used it for training officers in the Prussian army. It was originally produced and developed further by Lieutenant Georg Leopold von Reiswitz and his son Georg Heinrich Rudolf von Reiswitz of the Prussian Army.  But the rules were somewhat primitive and very structured.  It was a bit more freeform than chess, but not by much,
In fact it was not really until the 1960s when modern wargaming started to look a lot closer at the rules that they became more realistic, or so a lot of modern wargamers thought.  Mathers was ahead of his time.  He had developed a set of elaborate rules which if they were known about could probably have assisted  the war effort during WW1.  In fact Golden Dawn people reported back to Westcott that Mathers was recreating many of the battlefields in his living room.  With his more freeform rules he might have been able to predict the outcomes of some of the more stupid WW1 battles.
According to Achtung Schweinehund! : A Boy’s own story of Imaginary combat. By Harry Pearson, published by Little Brown, 2007.
Mathers was one of the greatest collectors of toy soldiers in Paris.    According to the French author and figure collector Marcel Baldet,  Samuel MacGregor Mathers had more than 25,000 figures and fought battles with them to rules of his own devising.
The soldiers he collected were 30mm tin flats, rather than the more popular 3d 15mm or 25 mm figures used today. 25,000 of those sorts of figures, during that period of time would be hugely expensive, but collecting is somewhat addictive too.

30mm Flats as Mathers would have known them

Most of the time his battles were with a Parisian Doctor named Camille Laumonnier and one of the things they were famous for was an accurate depiction of the battle of Austerlitz on the Drawing room floor.
The Noble Prize winner Anatole France, who was an anti-occult journalist and writer, wrote about Mathers battles with Laumonnier.  It would be of great interest to get my paws on Mathers rules, but sadly they, along with his extensive toy soldier collection have all disappeared.  Ironically if the Mathers had been able to convince the British High Command of his rule set, he might have been able to achieve one of his greatest goals, which was to have been some use to the military.    Sadly he was ahead of his time.

Hastii la Viste (wargames Joke) 

Please note,  there are few pictures of me playing wargames and my toy soldiers have mostly been sold so I had to nick the pictures from other wargamers on the internet,  and   I got out of it because wargames rules trends changed so that there was a greater emphasis on dice luck and my dice luck was appalling.  Well that is my excuse.