Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The term apophenia was coined by a psychiatrist called Klaus Conrad in a 1958 publication on the beginning stages of schizophrenia (as it was then understood). He defined it as “unmotivated seeing of connections [accompanied by] a specific feeling of abnormal meaningfulness”. It comes from a Greek word meaning ‘to appear.’ He described the early stages of what he termed delusional thought as self-referential, over-interpretations of actual sensory perceptions, as opposed to hallucinations.
Apophenia has come to imply a human propensity to seek patterns in random information, such as occurs with compulsive gamblers. To which today we could add Q-Anon and other fantasy perspectives that have grown in prominence during the pandemic.
But so often, in ourselves and among other people who approach occultism, delusory ideas rise to prominence. Which begs the question: what, in a context where we have literal invisible friends, is a delusion? In what sense is my visionary encounter with a Being of Light, or a disembodied voice, or a choir of angels, not apophenic?
The clinical idea of apophenia, of course, arises from a mentality that says there are no meaningful coincidences, only things or situations onto which we project meaning. When such a sense of meaning becomes obsessive, or leads to compulsive behaviours such as gamblers believing they are seeing a winning horse or winning hand of cards, or with people prone to psychotic or manic states believing they’re receiving important communications, it can become destructive.
But when the meaning we perceive is lastingly significant, we have a different situation. The catch of course – a big catch – is knowing the difference. Also, if the meaning does last, we might need to accept that at a certain point, that meaning has lost its importance for us, and is no longer fit for purpose.
One factor critical for serious occultists is the Oath we each take at the start of our careers. Plus, of course, subsequent extensions or amplifications of that Oath. It anchors us, since during it, we commit to do our True Will, which means we formally and powerfully bind ourselves to our own core truths. If we keep up the prescribed work, we avoid becoming stuck in congenial places where we dodge uncomfortable challenges to our view of the world.
The Oath is critical in stopping us from going off our own deep ends. It ties us to a path that keeps us from apophenic fantasies, whereby we might become recipients of messages for the rest of humanity (or as many as will listen). Its role in keeping us from becoming esoteric nut-jobs is often underrated.
If we stick with the process, the sequence of the elements we pass through does bring apophenic moments, as well as preventing us becoming stuck on the nicer ones – or even on the nastier ones. We’ll find connections, relationships, synchronicities, significances and so on. These are all part of the road we walk. But we gradually realise they arise out of a long personal process, and don’t have universal or eternal importance, even if they reflect universal or eternal principles. And we come to grasp that this process is cumulative and self-adjusting, and what is true for us now might not be so valid in four or five years, or while we’re working on a different stage of our system. In pathological apophenia, people double down on the patterns they see – they don’t abandon them.
The Oath is also critical on a collective level. Everyone who enters into the Temple has taken an Oath, and so the Temple is conformed by those Oaths. Beyond the various astral configurations in it, the Temple is founded on, and activated by, our promises to seek Truth. It’s there to aid each of us in finding the True Will and the deep connection to the Holy Guardian Angel. If that questing ceases or becomes lax, or it’s done dishonestly, then the Temple ceases to be a Beth ha-Emeth, a House of Truth, and becomes something less.
What I’m talking about here is the opposite of apophenia, then. Serious apophenics could point to a photo of Bill Gates, George Soros and Elon Musk all standing around with Ronald McDonald, and assert this obviously indicates Ronald is the actual Grand Master of the Illuminati. They’d know; while what I find most important is not knowing: those moments when a grand assumption, or a nest of such assumptions, is seen to be arbitrary and unhelpful. Thoughts and words are paralysed and made irrelevant under these circumstances.
This real discoveries may be deeply disturbing, or simply embarrassing. I used to know someone who confided one time that he’d been hugged by an Archangel after performing an LIRP. “What was it like?” I asked. And he just looked embarrassed for having admitted it. “Hugged” was the only word in his vocabulary that came close to what he’d felt. But I doubt it was like having human arms around you.
The making of an occultist doesn’t happen when the Oath is taken, nor does it necessarily come at the point obscure or odd esoteric teachings begin to make sense. The real thing, the pivotal point of the initiation process, comes when we grasp that we’re always dealing with the unknown, and voyaging into a region of uncertainties. It’s an experience of humility, combined with a specific exhilaration that we’re making the journey, not stopping because we’ve learned something outside our current belief system’s scope. Space opens up, and details become minor facts.
Apophenic perspectives, false webs of connection, then start to drop away, as we realise everyone has their own selection of attitudes they follow. They’re all arbitrary, even if they might be useful tools in the world; and the way past them is highly individual. The Oath, honestly followed, and reaffirmed after periods of dryness or disillusionment, helps ensure that.
And it sustains and nourishes the Temples in which we train.
Love is the law, love under will,