Friday, April 1, 2011

When Ignorance Is Bliss

I decided to post a quick piece on the oft quoted line “When ignorance is bliss” for the appropriate day of April Fool’s. This was taken from my book “Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick” and it concerns the question about who is a spiritual seeker. Both concepts are appropriate for the day, so I am including them here for you to read. May we all be wisely foolish, and foolishly wise. It is often stated that spiritual seekers are one part romantic optimist, and three parts, lunatic.

It’s my theory that people who are true spiritual seekers are actually sensing something about the world that many others don’t, and what they sense is the domain of Spirit encroaching on our mundane world. How else can we explain why someone would reject their own creed and family faith for something wholly and completely alien to them? Why would someone need to seek for something that is not defined nor part of a normal religious cannon if they did not sense that there was something actually out there, waiting to be discovered? Seekers are more sensitive and intuitive, and they are not afraid of where their thoughts and feelings may take them. Seekers seem to be almost fearless in their pursuit of what must be for them, a thing both unknown and unknowable. For most people, their encounters with the spiritual domain are limited to when they are born and when they die, and perhaps an occasional encounter when they have a near death experience or someone dear to them dies. Most people seek to avoid contact with the unknown, the paranormal, and the supernatural, wishing to bury themselves in their humdrum daily affairs as a method of self-protection. But for those who are seekers, whose spiritual path includes a discipline of working magick and seeking gnosis, their encounters with the paranormal are more frequent, even deliberate, and become a part of their not-so ordinary existence, and often these experiences can and do have a profound, transformative, and life altering effect.

The path of the spiritual seeker is one that is difficult, dangerous, and often filled with disappointments. There are no guarantees that seekers will find the fulfillment that they desire, but it's guaranteed that they will experience rejection and ostracization from their peers. To seek what is indefinable and mysterious is perceived by others as folly at best, and at worst, they are threatened by it.

There is an old popular saying, originally penned by the 18th century English poet Thomas Gray (Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton), “No more; where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.” This saying has been eulogized by later poets, quoted by various pundits, and even partially quoted by rock stars (Ignorance is Bliss - by the Ramones), but it boils down to one main issue - that it's better to be ignorant of one’s fate than partially aware or foolishly motivated. The search for spiritual knowledge is a very serious undertaking, and must be carefully promoted, lest one engage in self-delusion and even madness. Seekers choose to assault the underpinnings of their sense of what is real and objective, in order to realize what transcends reality and objectivity, the domain of Spirit itself. So we must be warned of the hazards on the path of the spiritual seeker, and pursue our objectives in a guarded, disciplined, and careful manner; knowing that once we begin this path, we shall find it of infinite breadth and endless in scope. The following poem by Alexander Pope amply illustrates this point. (One is reminded of the drinking associated with Omar Khayyam’s poetry.)

“A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring

These shallow draughts intoxicate the brain
But drinking deeply sobers us again”

(An Essay on Criticism by Alexander Pope)

A religion that accepts and promotes spiritual seeking is also advocating that their adherents undergo spiritual evolution. The constant exposure to paranormal worlds and the domain of Spirit causes the seeker, in an earth-based religious tradition, to undergo continual transformation, and thereby realize the very highest states of consciousness - those of the subtle and causal levels of being. Such a faith would believe that the barriers between Deity and humanity are very porous and thin, since the congregant often assumes the qualities and characteristics of their personal deity - the God/dess Within. It naturally follows that those individuals who engage in an earth-based spirituality will ultimately evolve into enlightened seekers, known as the magi of a new Aquarian age, and this event will come to pass by default, as a consequence of the simple nature of consciousness.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. Thanks Frater Barrabbas for this post, it validates some suppositions I have made just recently and in the proper perspective.

    I am curious about your thoughts on something particular that I found to be a bit odd. My assumptions about true seekers is that they generally have a sense of awe or splendor as they proceed through the Path. (That whole "Alice in Wonderland" feeling) Afterall, these things we encounter are not mundane or ordinary. Someone I know claimed that their experiences with the Path do not invoke that sense of awe. I am wondering do you think that after some time working along the Path, that True Seekers just become adjusted to the extraordinary/difficult/unknown and therefore the extraordinary moves into the realm of mundane in the true seeker's perspective. From my point of view, "awe" is a requisite response and it is the emotional trigger to spiritual evolution.

  2. @Phoenix - Thanks for your comment. I believe that you are correct. After 38 years, I still experience awe, mystery and shivers up my spine. I am also amazed that no matter how much I know or have experienced, there's always something new to experience or learn. I suspect that kind of phenomena will continue to my dying days. So I suppose that makes me a true seeker.