Into the Darkness:
‘Evil is simply misplaced force. It can be misplaced in time: like the violence that is acceptable in war, is unacceptable in peace. It can be misplaced in space: like a burning coal on a rug rather than the fireplace. Or it can be misplaced in proportion: like an excess of love can make us overly sentimental, or a lack of love can make us cruel and destructive. It is in things such as these that evil lies, not in a personal Devil who acts as an Adversary,’ so says the Qabalah.
Nevertheless, there is an increasing tendency these days for groups and individuals to portray themselves as being more exciting, adventurous, or more magically competent by covering themselves with the mantle of ‘Darkness’. Such people believe they know everything there is to know about the ‘arte of darkness’ but more often than not, whatever knowledge they have, it is not enough since they are ‘loaded to the gunwales with a cargo of conceit’. Let’s make no bones about it – there is no such thing as Black and White Magic – and the realms of Darkness and Shadow are an intrinsic part of everyday magical practice regardless of path, creed or tradition. Magic used only for good purposes is only singing half the Mass!
Magic per se is neither black nor white, good nor evil, and it is often extremely difficult to define exactly what is meant by magic (or magick), as the word has completely different meanings for different people. [Aleister Crowley, incidentally, usually spelt magick with a ‘k’ to distinguish his own particular brand – which was of a sexual nature – from the traditional ritual and ceremonial kind.] To some it merely refers to the cabaret act of card tricks and illusion; others think of it in terms of ignorant superstition; today many connect it with the fictional world of Harry Potter, or the literary world of The Lord of the Rings. For many more, the definition falls between a sinister connection with black masses and dark-doings on one hand, and love potions and healing on the other. The age-old conflict between the opposing forces of good and evil may only have been the product of over active imaginations, but it has always attracted the attention of highly accomplished personalities who were generally acknowledged as having access to magical and mystical powers.
Once we fumble our way past beginner stage, however, we quickly come to realise that magic is a tantalizing system of opposites: black/white, negative/positive, active/passive, male/female, dark/light, day/night and that the opposite of ‘good’ isn’t necessarily ‘evil’ – or even lukewarm wicked! And once we reach the path of the Initiate, we find that things haven’t changed much, except that we now understand we know nothing and have to begin all over again by looking at life, magic and the Universe from a completely different perspective. In fact, darkness regularly comes to us all as the Earth spins on its axis and another part of the world gets to see the light. And we must always remember that in even the deepest esoteric book-learning there are always bits missing! Like that uppermost point that links the human consciousness with the divine, i.e Daäth or Knowledge – the Qabalistic legend of the ‘fall’ that is a parable of the shutting out of man from Paradise by the destruction of Daäth and the establishment of the Abyss … These are the realms that go beyond Initiation and which we must still strive towards in order to gain the hidden Wisdom that ultimately leads to Understanding.
Nevertheless, there are basic elements of esoteric practice that an old CoS colleague of mine always described as ‘Ooo-er magic!’ meaning that it had been modernised (or bastardised) out of all recognition, and put across as being slightly risqué or risky, depending on how one viewed the application. The impression is often given by ‘Ooo-er!’ practitioners that certain deities, who were simply Underworld or Otherworld denizens, or those that had been blessed with an unfavorable physiognomy and/or unfortunate pedigree, are hailed as the ones to follow. Often accompanied by a scornful distain for those who are nervous about interacting with such murky energies might be better served taking up macramé.
Added to this, a good rummage around in the ‘darker’ aspects of the monotheistic or Abrahamic religions is always good for a bit of ‘Ooo-er magic!’ providing those they are trying to convince haven’t bothered too much with conducting any research into the background claims of the participants, or their ‘occult tradition’. Where would we be, for instance, without the supporting cast of the Book of Revelations, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha? Like sexual orientations, a person’s magical inclinations are just that: personal. They are governed by an individual’s own ethics and morality in what Meriem Clay-Egerton always described as forty shades of grey (long before that other book came out). My Welsh slate grey, for instance, might be your deepest black; your pewter grey might be my Arctic white – again, it’s all a matter of individual perception.
It’s also an acceptable and undeniable fact that practitioners of Craft magic learn to curse as well as heal but in all honesty, healing has probably caused more unintentional damage than all the cursers on the planet, if the latter could be persuaded to get up off their collective backsides to admit that they much prefer a nice bottling or binding because it is often far more effective – and usually requires far less effort. All seasoned magical practitioners learn to walk safely on the wild (or dark) side that they occasionally need to tread but they do it with a certain amount of fear and a hell of a lot of respect. Because as that same CoS colleague often commented: ‘If you don’t feel that frisson of fear, you ain’t doing it right!’
So the next time you see an on-line promotion trawling for those who want to learn the ‘real’ hidden secrets of magic from those who walk on the dark side with some shady entity, and which reads as though it’s just come straight from J R R Tolkien (but less literary) … it probably has!
The Arte of Darkness by Melusine Draco will be published by Ignotus Press UK in the autumn of 2019