The word “occult” only dates from the 16th century, according to my etymological dictionary, to describe what is veiled, hidden, concealed, unseen, or occluded. As such, “occult” signifies the contrary of revelation or the apocalyptic, which signify dramatic dis-closure or dis-covery, as the casting aside of a veil. Everything that, with the ascent of perspectivising consciousness, became “background” or “underground” fell into the shadow world of “the occult”.
What is presently called “the occult” grew up with the development of the mental-rational consciousness structure itself — as its shadow — but which has come to lead a semi-autonomous life of its own, even though it is a tacit or implicit aspect of the mental-rational consciousness itself.
A few months back, I posted a piece on ironic reversal at our “end of history”. In it I noted the irony of the neo-conservative thesis — an irony that seems to have been lost on its true believers — that the “end of history” could be nothing but the absolute self-negation of the modern era, modern society, and modern civilisation; that “the end of history” could be nothing but the same “post-modern condition” that they pretended to deplore when it was enunciated by others. The “end of history” thesis served to affirm and justify Margaret Thatcher’s “there is no alternative” and “there is no such thing as society”.
The ironic reversal (or enantiodromia) implied in all this is, of course, that this “end of history” along with “there is no alternative” is the self-negation and deconstruction of the liberal democracy and its values, the historical victory of which it pretended to celebrate, for it could only result in a form of totalitarianism itself. This was the irony also recognised by Nietzsche when he wrote,
“Liberal institutions cease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: later on, there are no worse and no more thorough injurers of freedom than liberal institutions.”
It says something about our narcissistic culture that “disillusionment” is considered a disease, and not cure, convalescence, and self-recovery. What’s to value about being “illusioned” in the first place? It’s the condition of illusionment that is the disease.
Disillusionment is, in fact, the very meaning of “apocalypse” as disclosure or revelation of truth. The deeper the illusion, the more shattering the truth when it finally asserts itself. This is why acknowledging truth is sometimes very painful. “The cure for the disease is in the disease” is the great Rumi’s cryptic remark about malaise and disillusionment. Illusionment is narcissism and is connected to what Ernst Becker called “the denial of death”.
Those who resist and refuse disillusionment-as-revelation are precisely those we call “denialists” and reactionaries. Embrace disillusionment. Even when it feels like death it is the dispelling of the Cloud of Unknowing. One can even say that the “malaise of modernity” is, in fact, the experience of disillusionment.