What Does “The Dark” Even Mean

Here’s an excerpt from Jason Miller’s Magick Monday Newsletter – which he delivered one day late, but right on time for the Winter Solstice.

What Does “The Dark” Even Mean Anyway…. 

In my course Q&A’s I often get asked questions about “The Dark”. People want to to know about “Dark Gods”, “Dark Magic”, Dark Arts” etc. I always ask them what they mean when they use that word. Turns out people use this term in wildly different ways. So I think its worth taking a moment on the Darkest Day to think about this.

Now, I myself am not invested in “Dark” or “Light” as if there is some kind of war that I need to take sides in. I don’t believe in a Left Hand Path or a Right Hand Path, or for that matter a Middle Path between them – I reject the premise entirely. That said, dualistic models abound and while they all fall upon when you look at them close enough, they serve enough of a purpose that its worth examining.

After years of asking I have identified five major categories of what people might mean when they talk about “Dark” anything.

1. DARK UNKNOWN: What is just beyond the light of the campfire is dark. What is beyond the light of suns and stars is dark. What lies beyond the end of life is dark. Darkness therefore is a classic representation of that which is unknown, and therefore possibly dangerous and kind of exciting. In a way, all magic can be considered Dark Arts because we deal with subtle forces that are not well known or understood by society or science.

2. DARK AESTHETIC: This is more about style than anything else. Some say this is style over substance, but I don’t think that’s a wise dichotomy either. Art has a significant role to play in magic, and sometimes the substance of a thing is deeply effected by its style. Do I think an overabundance of skulls, tridents, and goat horns can get corny real fast? Yeah, but I didn’t always feel this, and who am I to say what someone else finds powerful?

3. DARK REBELLION: Sometimes Antinomianism is what people mean by the Dark. Things that society frowns upon or which moves against the morals, laws, or restrictions that religion or society sets up. Whether this is good or not depends upon what you are breaking I suppose. Some of my greatest heroes are people who stood up against unjust laws or oppressions. If however you are out to take what you can from whoever you can because you are “beyond morality” that’s not a Darkness I think is smart or good.

4. DARK PASSIONS: We all have a dark side. Buddhists would call these kinds of passions, lust and anger and such, poisons. The thing is that there are different ways of dealing with Poisons. The Sutric Buddhist renounces or antidotes those poisons with their opposite and has a long but relatively safe path to enlightenment. The Tantric Buddhist uses those passions mindfully and transforms them into medicine. It is a shorter, but more dangerous, path to enlightenment. Same enlightenment though, which sometimes gets lost. Suffice to say that much of the thanaterotic (death and sex) imagery of Tantra more than qualifies as “Dark”.

5. DARK MALIFICA: Simply put, magic or other actions that are meant to kill, harm, or forcefully dominate get called Dark. If you think this is unfair, please keep in mind that it is the very practitioners I ask about what they mean by Dark that tell me this. It may not be what you mean, but it is what a lot of people mean.

I came of age during the Satanic Panic when all the books were painting any kind of curse work or forceful binding as something that “Real Witches and Magicians would never do”. This is of course untrue, as even the most cursory look at history will show. When authors and teachers stopped this white washing and started talking more frankly about baleful magic, I thought it was a good thing. I still do on most days. Some days though I get shocked at what people want to do to others for some very iffy reasons.

Malefic magic has its place. Everyone encounters a few situations of difficulty and danger that might justify some of this work. If you don’t, count yourself lucky, because some people live lives where, through no fault of their own, they are confronted with violence and manipulation on a regular basis. There are also many who are denied access to fair justice, and while vengeance is not a virtue, neither is leaving aggression unaddressed.

Unfortunately I often encounter people who don’t just know malifica, they are oriented to it. This to them is the mark of what a strong magician is. If they want a promotion at work, their first thought is not of making themselves shine brighter, or even enchanting the deciding manager – they want to know how to take out the competition. These are also the folks whose business magic is not centered on creating great products or excellent marketing, but on dominating the customer. Similarly when these folks want to do some magic for love, they gravitate toward the spells meant to trap someone and hold them true, rather than spells attract someone that might love them for who they are, or gods-forbid do some work on themselves to make them more attractive. This is generally speaking a bad way to be oriented..

It’s not bad for a moralistic reason, though it has always struck me as a crappy way to live life. It’s bad because you wind up regularly surrounded by spirits and powers that are also oriented towards this. When it comes time for you to have some peace and calm, or to build something constructive, you are surrounded by spirits whose idea of a good time is chaos and tearing shit down.

You do you of course, I just want you to think about what you actually mean when you use the word “Dark” and more importantly what others mean.

For me, I am not interested in embracing extreme dark or light, Its all part of a life. More importantly whether you are confronted with extreme darkness or extreme light – you tend to be blinded.

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Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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