Lethe and aletheia in occultism

While thinking – reflection as well as contemplation – about being (Sein) is present and integral to both philosophy and religion – and I include occultism, many forms of which use magic, in the latter -, philosophers do not appeal to faith (Glaube). The religious do; and dependent on which faith they adhere to, non-negotiable statements about their faith which are all shared by the faithful in a particular faith makes religion completely distinct from philosophy (it is in this sense that Buddhism is a religion, not a philosophy). These unalterable statements constitute the beliefs (Glaube) or the belief system of the faithful (Gläubige).

What distinguishes religion from philosophy is that the former cannot exist without distinct sets of practices, most of which can come under the category of ritual. Others relate to charity, such as the performance of good deeds in society to help the poor, the sick and the oppressed. Religions that involve magic in their beliefs and rituals can be said to have an occult dimension – the truth of magic is hidden from public view. Occultism, while leading to aletheia in personal as well as group experiences, is to the common perception lethe; and this serves a protective role, given that practitioners of magic are usually misunderstood in society and were even persecuted in various periods of history.

Lethe provides a favourable environment for personal involvement and commitment as a neophyte. In occultism, not only is magic to be learnt and harnessed, the neophyte and his or her teacher also have the high expectation of attainment of gnosis in the former, so that spiritual progress can be made in a particular occult system. Even more so than magical prowess, it is gnosis that makes an occultist truly special, who will in fact experience it as the apex of his or her Dasein.

Mayer (2013):

Because the adherents of modern paganism try to fill gaps in their reconstructions of traditional religions with their personal (or shared) religious experiences, the concept of UPG actually permits the creation of fragments of new religious dogma out of EE.

Spirituality in nursing: patients who are occultists

Using hermeneutics, the holism of the person in the patient is what the hermeneutically-aware nurse has in mind in the care (Pflege) that she provides – nursing care being one form of existential care (Sorge) highlighted by Heidegger in Being and time as the determination of Dasein‘s temporal thrownness (Geworfenheit) in being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-sein). Sorge being primordial to Pflege, it is not surprising that when it comes to the wholeness of a patient under her care (Pflege), especially in the case of palliative care where something very personal such as the spirituality of the patient in his or her nearness to death becomes the main question of being (Seinsfrage) in palliative hermeneutics, the phenomenological interplay between the hidden and the unconcealed comes to the fore of the mutual experience of the nurse and the patient. 

This hermeneutic situation is particularly challenging when a patient is an occultist who does not follow any of the mainstream religions represented in hospital chaplaincy. Given the highly personal nature of death – Heidegger describes death as the true individuation of Dasein in Being and time, integral to the authenticity (Eigentlichkeit) of its being -, it behoves nurses to understand and appreciate alternative spirituality such as occultism. The occult, in essence, is the hidden, and challenges the assumption of aletheia in our everyday comportment to the world. The occultist believes that he or she lives with hidden forces that can be controlled to a certain extent through magic, which, apart from its arcane knowledge and practice, also places great emphasis on the will power of its practitioner. 


Of darkness within

Why in mainstream religious and spiritual traditions, dwelling within entails bathing one’s soul in light? A world-weary soul wants nothing more than sleep; and sleep can take place in the dark – the absence of light. Yet this absence is not the absence of being (Sein) as such.

The hidden, or the darkness within

If being (Sein) reveals its truth by way of aletheia or disclosure of phenomena, i.e., the visible world, then the light that makes the being of beings (Seiende) accessible to human perception also needs the contrast of its opposite: the lethe or hiddenness of darkness. The light and the dark both make up the measure of being: a notion that was once best understood by the ancient Greeks, who for them even the gods existed within this measure (metra), and like the mortals, fate was allotted to them.