The Dark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night of the Soul

Fra.: Apfelmann

“The Dark Night of the Soul” is the name given to that experience of spiritual desolation that all students of the Occult pass through at one time or another. It is sometimes characterized by feelings that your occult studies or practices are not taken you anywhere, that the initial success that one is sometimes granted after a few months of occult working, has suddenly dried up. There comes a desire to give up on everything, to abandon exercises and meditation, as nothing seems to be working. St.John of the Cross. a christian mystic, said of this experience, that it; “…puts the sensory spiritual appetites to sleep, deadens them, and deprives them of the ability to find pleasure in anything. It binds the imagination, and impedes it from doing any good discursive work. It makes the memory cease, the intellect become dark and unable to understand anything, and hence it causes the will to become arid and constrained, and all the faculties empty and useless. And over this hangs a dense and burdensome cloud, which afflicts the soul, and keeps it withdrawn from the good.”

Though the beginner may view the onset of such an experience with alarm (I know I did), the “Dark Night” is not something bad or destructive. In one sense it may be seen as a trial, a test by which the Gods examine our resolve to continue with occult work, and if you are not completely whole-hearted about your magical studies, it is during this period (at its beginning) that you will give up. The Dark Night of the Soul should be welcomed, once recognized for what it is (I have always received an innate “warning” just before the onset of such a period), as a person might welcome an operation that will secure health and well-being. St.John of the Cross embraced the soul`s Dark Night as a Divine Appointment, calling it a period of “sheer grace” and adding;

“O guiding Night,

O Night more lovely than Dawn,

O Night that has united the lover with his beloved

Transforming the Lover in her Beloved.”

When entering the Dark Night one is overcome by a sense of spiritual dryness and depression. The notion, in some quarters, that all such experiences should be avoided, for a peaceful existence, shows up the superficiality of so much of contemporary living. The Dark Night is a way of bringing the Soul to stillness, so that deep psychic transformation may take place. All distractions must be set aside, and it is no good attempting to fight or channel the bursts of raw energy that from time to time may course through your being. This inner compulsion to set everything aside results in the outer depression, when nothing seems to excite. The only thing to do is obey your inner voice and become still, waiting for the inner transformation, (which the “Dark Night” heralds), to take place. You may not be aware for a very long time of the results of that inner change, but when the desire to work comes again and the depression lifts, the Dark Night has (for a moment) passed. No one can help during this time, and in many cases there is hardly anyone to turn for advice. One must disregard the well-meaning advice of family and friends to “snap out of it” this is no ordinary depression, but a deep spiritual experience which only those who have passed through themselves (in other words to a magical retreat) but for many, as the routines of everyday life prohibits this, all you can do is cultivate an inner solitude, a stillness and silence of heart, and wait, (like a chrysalis waits for the inner changes that will result in a butterfly) for the Transformation to work itself out. There are many such “Dark Nights” that the occult seeker must pass through during the mysterious process of mitigation. They are all trials but experience teaches one to cope more efficiently. With fractalic greetings and laughter * Fra.: Apfelmann *

Asking Questions

ASKING QUESTIONS

 

One of the most important skills you will ever learn in your life is learning which questions to ask and when to ask them.

You will never learn how to do much of anything in your life if you do not learn how to ask questions, and not only that, but to question the answers you get in return.

For instance, “I want to learn about wicca,” is not a question. It is a statement.

“Teach me about wicca,” is also not a question. It is a command, even if you add the word please.

Think about what you really want to ask. “Can you teach me about wicca?”

Ok, you’re getting closer to the question you really want answered. “Will you teach me about wicca?”

Even closer, but the topic at hand is a large one.

Look for where you actually want to start learning.

Good questions to start working with are “What makes wicca different from other paths?” or perhaps, “What is the first thing I should learn to start my journey of learning about wicca?” These last two questions are good questions because they are specific and and give the person you are talking with an idea of what you are actually interested in learning.

Here’s another example.

I want to learn how to bake bread.

First of all I find someone that knows how (the right person).

Then I wait until they have the time to help me and a place ready to show me how to bake bread.

I try to read up a little ahead of time if I can and show up well rested and ready to learn hopefully without any preconceptions (the right time).

Now I could ask them what the chemical structure of bread is, or why it browns when it bakes or what type of butter to use on it, but none of these are very good questions to help me towards my goal of learning how to bake bread.

True it might be useful information, but I can always learn the answers to those questions later once I have learned the basics.

So my first questions are, “What are the ingredients we use?” and “How do we start?,” two specific and useful questions.

A good question asked at the right time to the right person helps the person answering it almost as much as it helps the person asking it.

If the person you are asking questions to has no idea of your level of knowledge of the subject or your specific area of interest at the moment they cannot help you nearly as well as they could if they knew these things.

Good questions are one way of helping a person understand what you want to know and what level of difficulty you want it explained at.

A Pagan Students Bill of Rights

A PAGAN STUDENT’S BILL OF RIGHTS

1. You have a right to the quality of education commensurate with the medians in similar education for others in your chosen area. Check several teachers or schools to find just what those medians are considered to be.

Corollary: You do not have the right to expect your teacher to be a “SuperPriest/ess” who will fulfill your every need, want and desire. Today, many are advertising themselves as “teachers” with little more than a few years experience themselves, much of which may be book learning. Truly experienced Elders and “Grand Masters” are exceedingly few and far between. Consider yourself astoundingly fortunate if your teacher falls into this category, but within reason, expect a teacher of Paganism to be human and fallible – resolve for yourself to learn what you can from the situation you are in.

2. The terms of your education shall be agreed upon in advance of its commencement by mutual contract between both teacher and student. Either party may at any time with prior advance notice, rescind said contract. Don’t accept an amorphous “well, we’ll just take it easy and see what happens” approach. You have the right to know exactly what to expect in terms of time, commitment and subjects learned.

Corollary: You may not drop out of tutorial with a teacher without making a reasonable attempt at telling them why you are feeling uncomfortable enough to do so. Be specific, they need to know how their behavior affected you and your potential for learning from them.

3. You have the right to expect a teacher who is compassionate, has a good sense of humor, has respect for you and others and who has a healthy level of self- esteem. A good teacher will admit when s/he is wrong in the moment and will usually heark back to their own novice days with anecdotes of their own trial and error to share with you. A good teacher knows how to maintain the delicate balance between friendship and appropriate discipline.

Corollary: Any teacher who projects as “too perfect” definitely isn’t. Beware also the teacher who is continually in a state of personal woe – these people need too much of your energy that you won’t have to give them. Walk out the door and keep searching.

4. You have the right for the teacher to always be truthful with you. Choose teachers whose styles permit you to question freely, who “lead by example” and show you as well as tell you the things you are learning. You can’t learn herbalism solely by reading books, some day you have to get out into the garden and root in the dirt. Look for a teacher, whatever their specialty, who does the equivalent in their particular form of practice.

Corollary: Beware of teachers whose main boast is how many books they’ve read, or that all of their knowledge is “book learned”. Such teachers will not be giving you anything authentic that you cannot learn on your own from the same books. A person “teaching” like this is perpetrating little short of plagiarism. To bring in the danger factor, you do not want someone “teaching” you the art of soul travel/astral projection who has never really done it themself. Don’t be someone else’s guinea pig. A teacher is a rich resource not only of the literary materials they have consumed, but of their own experiences: those triumphs, failures and illuminating moments of true enlightenment that cannot be learned from any book in print.

5. You have the right to expect your teacher to hold a broad education themselves, with specialty areas in which they might be considered to hold above-average knowledge. Anyone purporting to be a teacher of Witchcraft, Shamanism or one of the other forms of Paganism is held to a standard of excellence in their own community, and usually will have specialised in some branch or another of its components. Bonus points to a teacher who has cross- cultural initiations or similar expertise/other cultural referents to draw from. A broad educational base generally lends another primary desired quality of a good teacher: a broad mind.

Corollary: Ask your teacher to name their teachers or others in the community who know them, and talk to them before signing on to that particular teacher’s list. You may find they have an expertise in permaculture, spellcasting or soul retrieval – or you may discover knowledge that might lead you in another direction. It never hurts as a consumer of a service, to obtain references.

6. You have the right to expect discipline from your teacher. You have the right to expect that they will not let you get away with slackness in your learning, presentation or commission of your duties to them. When learning, expect no less than to apply yourself with the diligence most would reserve for a graduate school degree. A good teacher does their own research and give credit where it is due – expect the same of yourself. Be on time; ahead of time even, for lessons and coven/circle activities as your teacher should. Do one more bit of homework than is expected of you. Expect no less than excellence of yourself and you will be richly rewarded.

Corollary: You have the right to expect your teacher to be firm, but flexible within reason. Teachers should be expected to keep their committments to you as you do to them. Overly regimented structures are not conducive to learning, although sometimes in some traditions, such strictures may be put into place specifically to challenge you and help you grow. Look for teachers who walk the balance between firm and flexible for the best learning environment.

7. You have the right to expect change. Do not expect a smooth ride. Life is its own powerful teacher – learning the arts of Shamanism or Witchcraft are seriously advanced study in the crafting of your own soul. By virtue of this process, your issues will be brought out into the open and you will be expected to deal with them and act/react accordingly. How you react will be noted by your teacher and you can expect to have such reactions become the topic of discussion for your further growth. You have the right to expect during these “spiritual crises” for your teacher/s to be there for you to consult, lean on just a little bit and to provide you resources for getting through. You do NOT however, have the right to call the teacher in the wee hours every night of the week with a new crisis, to monopolize your teacher’s time for weeks on end due to a major crisis or series of smaller ones. Some support is to be expected from a teacher, but not unlimited support. Ask prior to your training what level of support the teacher is comfortable giving you and adhere to that. Know also when to refer yourself to a competent psychotherapist or healer. And if your teacher suggests you do so, take their advice without quibble. Clinginess from crisis-prone students who do not engage competent healing staff at the appropriate times is one of the behaviors that can be incredibly abusive of the teacher. If such clinginess is particularly time and energy consuming, it may cause the teacher to end their relationship with you.

Corollary: Your teacher does not have the right to use information concerning your spiritual crises against you, or to pass you off without seriously attempting to help you. Any teacher who does this you should immediately disengage from. Such a person is not the one to be trusting with your soul and your psyche as is required from a teacher of the metaphysical arts.

8. You have the right to be listened to, to have your questions answered and the right to expect a reasonable amount of your teacher’s time for the discussion of issues you might have with your training, different areas you wish to explore, etcetera. A good teacher like a good psychologist learns to listen more than talk in order to know what is important and relevant to you, the better to help them custom-craft your learning experience. Walk away from teachers who refuse you time to state your concerns, pooh-pooh your questions or who motormouth over your every utterance.

9. At the appropriate time, you have the right to expect your teacher to either inform you that it is time for you to move on into your own practice, or to be open to your suggesting something similar to them. A good teacher expects their students to mature and progress beyond them and will be quite pleased for you when this happens.

Corollary: Any teacher who keeps you hanging on indefinitely for initiation, advancement, further training et. al. with prolonged and continual protestations of “you’re not ready!” when you know you are is not behaving in a mature manner. If it gets to this point, leave and seek those who will support your spiritual growth and advancement.

Your Daily Feng Shui For Jan. 7th – ‘Old Rock Day’

Get ready to roll on ‘Old Rock Day,’ especially if you celebrate a January birthday! That’s because the ‘rock’ that you will wear will bring music to your ears, especially if you wear your birthstone as earrings. Anyone who celebrates a January birthday should know that their special birthstone is the garnet, the same gemstone that can bring big fortune and lots of luck. Long considered a regenerative and healing stone, the garnet is said to also bring strength and stamina. It is also believed to be super supportive as it invites opportunities for you to go deep within. Wearing it can also clear your mind while initiating clarity and compassion. The garnet is also believed to have the amazing ability to dissolve feelings of isolation and alienation, replacing them with intimate encounters that inspire and motivate. A true jewel, the garnet is a stabilizing old stone that is strong and sincere. Celebrate the garnet on a day devoted to special rocks because, as I mentioned earlier, that’s just how we roll!

By Ellen Whitehurst for Astrology.com