☉︎ in 12° Virgo : ☽︎ in 11° Aries : Anno Vvi
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
To my Unknown Friend: Greeting and health.
Some things today have me thinking about a serious topic. I hope you’ll bear with me because it’s something dear to my heart with people that are dear to my heart on a subject that can be rough.
Initiation is a tough process through which to survive. If it’s done right, that is. It’s not just about the magical woo-woo. It’s about spiritual growth. I think we tend to play that down because it sounds too Christian despite the fact that nearly every magio-religious thread through history, every school of psychology, all have this same understanding of the human psyche and know that spiritual development is an important aspect of holistic individual development.
So what happens when an initiate find themselves in the throes of desolation?
Most don’t even understand the concept. Crowley comments favorably on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Eight Lectures on Yoga, but I have to wonder how many have taken the time to read the Spiritual Exercises much less the time actually to go through them despite the fact that they are Catholic in nature.
Within the Spiritual Exercises we are introduced to spiritual discernment. This is a heavy concept that relates to our own nature, our relationship with the Self, and the direction it leads. In Thelemic terms, is our life going in the direction of our True Will (consolation) or away from the direction of our True Will (desolation)? And even if you don’t know what your True Will is conclusively (and you can’t unless you’ve had that metaphorical HGA experience) you can still experience consolation and desolation.
I mean, everyone still has a True Will that influences their nature. Just because you may or may not be accidentally following your True Will is no reason to believe that you actually know it. I can walk down the street and not know that I’m headed Due North save that I have a general idea that I’m headed “northerly” in direction because the Sun is setting in that-erly direction on my left side. But I could be headed Due North by sheer accident. Until I get a working compass, I’ll not know for sure.
In a broader context, desolation can look a lot like depression and we have to be careful how we handle it since it is a psycho-spiritual affliction. And it is an affliction. But I want to stress that we have to be careful here to discern the difference between something of a spiritual nature and a psychological/clinical issue. These are, in fact, two different conditions. And they can be separated through proper discernment.
But, to be clear, desolation (and consolation, for that matter) is a spiritual state of relationship with our Self and the nature of our Self rather than a specific clinical or medical condition.
Desolation drives us to turn inward, but not necessarily in an introspective manner. It drives us spiraling into a negative emotional overdrive. It cuts us off from our community whether of family or fraternity. We want to give up, we want to run, we want to lose ourselves in the noise of despair. Desolation is a drain on every resource we have internally and externally. Some think that it’s equivalent to the Dark Night of the Soul. It’s not. It’s really not. But it can feel almost like it should be.
But desolation is part of the spiritual process and it can be (and many times is) part of the initiatory experience itself. The initiation isn’t over just because we take off the silly hats and hang our certificates on the wall. It keeps going. And going. And going. We just don’t tell anyone this. We don’t explain this to anyone. We don’t advertise clearly that we have the ability to deal with these kinds of normal issues—because they are normal. And we’re seriously not there for people when the bottom falls out. We like to say we are, but then when they hit that mark … *poof*. (Broad strokes, people. Exceptions happen all the time. I know that I was fortunate in that regard.)
We aren’t there to pick up the pieces when initiation is over. But yet the fire goes on. Will it burn our initiates up? Or will it be the empowerment they need to keep going? In most cases that will depend on the support they get all around them. And that is more than testing a handshake or a word. That is more than practicing rites and rituals. That is more than degrees and titles.
So people put on their brave face, pick up their Goetia, and start doing what everyone else is doing. While hurting on the inside because they don’t know why they’re hurting on the inside. And there’s no one to talk to because everyone is just “doing their Will” like good little ants in the colony.
What happens most often is either (a) people just drop out and fade away [sometimes literally with a bullet to the brain cavity] or (b) they smile that smile that keeps on going until they finally break through by some personal intuitive miracle or go back to (a) or create a new complex that is yet another opaque fold for them to work through in the end thereby defeating the whole purpose of initiation in the first place. We encourage this sort of pseudo-bravery with the approach of “Just do your will, dude; just do your will. No one can tell you how to handle this or what to do next. Just do what you feel you need to do.” And while that is certainly, technically correct, people that are spiritually in a state of desolation, especially, are not looking to be comforted or told what to do. They are merely looking for companionship through the darkness.
So what happens next. Let’s summarize.
What is spiritual desolation?
It is the interior direction away from our True Will in such a dramatic manner that we feel disconnected from our inner Self.
How do we deal with it?
“Nu is your refuge as Hadit your light; and I am the strength, force, vigour, of your arms” (AL 3.17).
First, do not succumb to it. Giving in to desolation will only make it worse. There is a huge difference between embracing your shadow and drawing deeper into desolation.
Second, stop, drop, and roll. You think I’m being funny, but I’m not.
Stop and realize that not all progress is about movement. Sometimes it’s about meditating on the moment and realizing that each moment is its own self-contained point-event. It is its own lesson, impetus to teach or guide or compel us into the next moment. What is this moment trying to teach me now? Standing still is sometimes the actual movement we need to determine where on our own map we are so that we know where to go in the next moment. Desolation is already trying to pull you inward but in an unhealthy manner. Spin it to a healthy meditation, an introspection that defeats desolation.
Drop everything else and focus on you. You are already the center of the universe. Not your universe. The universe. You are God of Very God. Just like everyone else. Draw on that. Find the community around you. Don’t be afraid to seek out, ask for, and take encouragement from others. “But ye, o my people, rise up & awake!” Keep in mind that in order to awake, you must first rise up. It is not the other way around.
Roll with it. Know that desolation is part of growth. It is not a fun part of growth, but it is part of it nonetheless. You will come out the other side. But this isn’t about what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. The darkness will not kill you no matter how oppressive it may feel. You close your eyes at night to sleep in the darkness of your own consciousness. You wake to the light of your own consciousness. You will survive this as well. Roll with it and learn from it. Do not give up.
And we will not give up on you either.
Love is the law, love under will.
Originally published on Facebook, 03 September 2018.