First of all, it’s been a minute since I’ve written anything. I’m steering clear of politics for a while, I’d like to focus on something that affects far too many Americans: the lonely existence of living with depression. A battle that I myself, (like many of you) have fought my entire life. It’s not something that I enjoy talking about, nor have I ever written about it. It’s been a semi constant. I say semi, because it has its lulls. There are the good days, the bad days, and the days when I would prefer hiding in a bunker….on an island….on the moon.
If I may take you down the rabbithole a bit, I’ll talk about a few aspects of my life, and even delve a bit into spirituality. And, eventually, we’ll explore the ever-pervasive darkness of our new age. Which, in my opinion, could be a novel within itself.
I’ve been a student of the occult for many years now. When I say student, I mean just that. I follow no strict mystical routine, I subscribe to no particular dogma, or belief system. The term “armchair magician” seems appropriate. That being said, in my pre-teen years, I discovered the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe and Aleister Crowley. I also discovered an obscure English duo called Coil — veteran magicians, who infused elements of Thelema, Goetia and Chaos magick into their albums. I had found beauty in the darkness, and some type of power.
I had the sobering realization that damaged people could shine, as it dawned on me just how utterly damaged my mentors were. Mental illness, drugs, you name it. Yet they were geniuses. To quote a Coil song “Light Shining Darkly.”
The world of the occult is a strange place. And often not an emotionally safe one for those who struggle with depressive episodes. I’ve found myself in the back alley markets of the Near East, as Sting once said in an old Police song, “seeking the things they would not teach me of in college.”
I’ve found myself in the forgotten back waters of America. Sitting in audience with trailer park Shamans, learning to astral travel, or acquiring the relics of other long-dead magicians. Or wandering derelict ruins, speaking to spirits through vocal synthesizers, triggered by EMF fluctuations. No, friends, not a safe space for the timid, or the easily bruised.
But out of all of my experiences, be it spiritual, coincidence, or something I viewed as a mere sign, one stays at the forefront more than the rest. Late one night while doing random research on planetary hours or something mundane, I stumbled upon a quote written by some unknown, and unnamed occultist. It reads as follows:
“One way or another, the mystic’s road mostly winds through the dark spaces – in the natural world, the spiritual plane, and within ourselves. It’s very often a lonely, miserable road, and by no means a safe one.”
That single quote, by some unnamed mystic, stuck with me more than anything else I ever took from my studies. Yet, if one is familiar with Buddhist philosophy, the first Noble Truth simply states “To live, is to suffer.”
Our lives are punctuated by eras of profound joy, and the lowest pits of human suffering, with the mundane gray spaces in between. But why do some of us suffer so much more than others? Certainly my life is unique, as is yours. I understand the reasons for most of my pain, and I certainly know the triggers. But why do some of us continue to suffer when life, in general, is good?
That’s the age old question. There have been times in my life when I just found myself in the clutches of overwhelming sadness. No reason, no explanation. Sir Winston Churchill called it his ‘little black dog’ that followed him through life. It runs off from time to time, but on some dark, lonely night, somewhere in the future, it will be clawing at the door once again. It reminds me of the horror film titled “It comes at night”. Because it does…
I remember the early days after my divorce. I had left the service two years earlier, and aside from Facebook, ultimately lost contact with most of my Army Brothers. I found myself alone, in a micro-apartment on the coast of Lake Erie. Detatched from my son and my home of years. I remember how the wind would howl at night, and how the walls would creak. How the very structure screamed and moaned the horror of a thousand dark nights of the soul.
Saint John of the Cross would have lost hope in that place. And yet it was those very nights, when the wind howled and sleep was stained with the faces of dead friends, the memories of lost love, and the hatred for what “is,” that I began to find hope. So I’d like to try and help others, if I may.
Your pain does not define you. Nor do you define your pain.
It is an aspect of your life. It will affect all of the aspects of life (in some way), and every major decision should be made with respect to it. But it will never determine who you ultimately are.
Learn to be alone.
This will happen at times. Your suffering will be too much for some people. It plays Hell on relationships. Let’s face it, it’s ugly. Some people can’t deal with it, others will just decide that you’re not worth it. Keep moving, and don’t look back. The right people will appear at the right times.
Never feel guilty.
How many of you have heard this? “Get over it!” Yeah, me too. I can’t count how many times I’ve been verbally lashed, and told over and over what a burden my illness is. These people are narcissistic. Flee, and with a quickness. Which brings me to the next point.
Get rid of toxic people.
And we seem to attract them, don’t we? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t help others. Quite the opposite. The best feeling you can experience is lifting another spirit from darkness. And toxic, (I call them “Psychic Vampires”) know this. These are the users, the backstabbers, the haters. Get rid of them. Don’t explain why, and don’t feel sorry.
Social media in moderation.
When I have a low point, I find it best to stay away from social media. Far too many triggers, and too many opportunities for negative interaction. I’ve made a lot of enemies on social media. I find it to be an invasive technology, that irritates more than it stimulates. Yes, I do use it. In moderation. It’s like the home phone. It’s there, and I touch it a couple times a week.
Let’s face it, we live in a New Dark Age. Anton Lavey wrote of a coming dark age as far back as the 1970s. As much as I used to scoff at the man as a mere showman, I dare say, he was right. As I sit here and write this, the world is literally falling apart. From revolution, civil unrest, war, civil wars, political in-fighting. To the now almost weekly mass shooting. We are living in ever-darkening times. And, at this point, there is no silver lining. There is no easy way out. And people like us can literally feel it in the atmosphere.
Yet, there is only yesterday and tomorrow. Yesterday was a long time ago. Tomorrow…
The late Bruce Lee, one of my early mentors, often wrote that our profound moments of enlightenment rarely happen in the temple. Rather, they often happen while we shave, or comb our hair in the morning. These are the genuine moments of our experience. He taught that ego was a lie. The ego was said to be a shadow lording over us with a club. It’s an illusion, as is fear.
In Ninjitsu, they say “Fear never arrives.” A defiant statement, tossed into the face of the unknown. Or I think to the old Buddhist fable, referring to the “Night Mara” (nightmare, or night spirit). A gentle, old monk stands in the doorway smiling, and says “Hello, Mara, won’t you come in?” Ultimately, in order to heal, we must face our fear, and our pain. And we must do with it what we will. But it does not define us, nor does it determine our future.
And if I could only take one lesson, or teach one lesson that I’ve learned in the back alley shops, the backwaters, the temples: The individual being, and the individual mind is far more powerful than we’ve been lead to believe.