The Power of Nightmares: A Blessing on the Path

By Mark Stavish, M.A.

11 November 2021/31 October 2022

Be strong! Don’t talk of ghosts and devils. We are the living devils. The sign of life is strength and growth. The sign of death is weakness. Whatever is weak, avoid! It is death. If it is strength, go down into hell and get hold of it! There is salvation only for the brave. Everyone must work out his own salvation.” – Swami Vivekananda

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here!”

I have often posted information regarding the planetary energies of the days, their influences, along with what should be done as well as avoided on those days for maximum benefit to ourselves and others. While the planetary rulers of the days of the week are well known, rarely does it come up that there is a shift in the energies as we pass into night. That is, the planetary ruler of the first hour of night has a strong influence on the remaining twelve ‘hours’ or periods of time that compose the day.

For example, you may be wondering why I have selected the quote above from Swami Vivekananda about strength and descent into hell to achieve salvation through courage. However, when we keep in mind that Friday night is ruled by the forces of Mars, things become clearer. It is no surprise that Friday night is the night of celebrations and social gatherings under the influence of Venus, often under the notion of “blowing off some steam” from the week. It is also when we see a larger percentage of sporting events scheduled, and with it, some degree of social activity, sometimes even violence, and sexual activity. Friday night is also one of the two most active nights of the week for calls to police, emergency services, and emergency room visits as a result of some of these activities.

From a more useful esoteric perspective it is the Night of the Descent into Hell. It is the time when after the crucifixion of Christ earlier in the day, he is buried and descends into hell. For this reason, while Friday night offers the opportunity for deeply moving inner experiences of love, it also can be a period of personal suffering. This can be in the social sphere, for those who feel lonely or without companions; or on a spiritual level wherein the pathway to our inner Being must be cleared. This is illustrated in modern schools of qabalistic magic as the Path between Netzach and Tiphareth, and is illustrated with the Tarot card for Death, ruled by Scorpio and its planet Mars.

In nature, any conception unfolds in the dark until birth. Similarly our preparation for the Great Experience will be done at night. This will be the night from Friday to Saturday that corresponds to Good Friday because the birth of our Divine Child, the first contact between our true Self of Eternity and our small self of the Earth, is prepared in the night from Friday to Saturday.”

This descent can manifest in several ways, one of which is in the form of nightmares or terrors. These may be dreams wherein we believe what is happening to be ‘real’ or in the form of lucid dreams where we are aware that what is happening is a dream, a test of sorts, and we must confront what terrifies us as it is unfolding. If we fail we will often find ourselves repeating the same experience over, if we succeed we may simply regain consciousness with a certain knowledge of having done well to run towards what frightens us rather than away. It is important to pay very careful attention to what we do during these experiences, what we say, hear or symbols perceived or utilized. A series of experiences may occur over the course of several weeks, or intermittently as we may need to piece together the various experiences into a whole to grasp its inner meaning. Because the ‘Child’ can only be born of the ‘Mother’ and we are working mainly on the energies of Venus, Mars, and the Sun, erotic, maternal, or both (‘older’ women) will often appear. Again, careful attention must be given to them, their appearance and any names used.

As a result of the often terrifying nature of these experiences it is easy to mistake them for some kind of assault from Black Magic, demonic encounter, or hostile spirits. In fact, these energies are not separate from us but from deep in our own mind. By overcoming them, by conquering them with courage, we strengthen ourselves against any external negative or hostile forces or energies. We create the ‘unassailable citadel’ of Thought, Word, and Deed. This is why it is so important that we face them head on – like the energies of the Ram – and transform ourselves in the face of them. If we do not do this, spiritual realization will be outside our grasp, forever behind the ‘curtain’ or ‘veil’ until we do. For those working on the symbols and rituals from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, herein is a key to why the Sign of the Enter is important and is given to Horus and is used to project energy. However, the word Enter is used and the action is a more forceful version of Rending or parting the Veil. In the same manner, the Sign of Silence is a more active action version of the Sign of Closing the Veil.

These traumas in fact, are blessings in disguise, as they are a mini-Dark Night of the Soul, or Noco Obscura, and provide for us a certitude of insight and blessing to come – the proverbial ‘Golden Dawn’ of inner revelation.

For this reason, some schools of magic intentionally evoke terrifying and horrific forces to challenge themselves. The Tibetan rite of Chod is well known for its efficacy in this domain.

“Chod is a practice that is particularly found in the meditational schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Nyingma and Kagyu sects. The purpose of chod practice is to excite the power of fear and survival instincts in the practitioner through rituals that are either performed in, or utilize the visualization of cemeteries and the offering of one’s physical body as an offering. In Chod, the hindrances of fear and body clinging are sometimes referred to as ‘demons’ and it is the purpose of this practice to remove them so that primordial awareness can be experienced. However, like all tantric systems, Chod has inner, outer, and secret aspects and as such, the ritual can be seen as a literal exorcism of external demons as well as a profound interior practice.

Vajrayogini, a variation of the Indian goddess Kali in many ways, in her form as the “Extremely Wrathful Black Mother” is a key figure in the advance practice of Chod, and it is this form is found in the teachings of Dudjom Lingpa, and in which I was initiated.

It is vital to recognize that Chod developed outside of the usual monastic lines and is deeply connected to shamanic and yogic practices of India and Tibet. The ritual offering of oneself when internalized is designed to stimulate a self-confidence that provides fearlessness allowing one to overcome all obstacles. Machig Labdrön, the principal founder of Chod as we understand it, said, ‘To consider adversity as a friend is the instruction of Chöd’.” – Alexandra David-Neel

Historically, Chod practitioners are often associated with shamans and exorcists because of their being on the fringes of society and contact with the worlds of darkness and profound mystery. The purpose of Chod is to instill terror so that it may be overcome, and this cannot be emphasized enough. For this reason, it was often reserved for the most advanced practitioners and was rarely taught in the early schools. A very real danger is seen in the practice of Chod, one that is often ignored by Western converts who want to interpret everything in some form of “Jungian” or symbolic terms. Alexandra David-Neel gave the first known reports of Chod to the West in her book Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1935). Walter Evans-Wentz published the first translation of a Chod sadhana, or liturgy in Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines (1935).

Similar statements are also made about the role of “Solomonic Magic” and its extensive – one can even argue, near exclusive utilization of demonic beings. Through their evocation, particularly to ‘visible appearance’ the magician is forced into confronting their deepest fears and to control them. While some will argue that this emphasis is a purely modern approach, and that various schools of evocation are to be taken at their face value – the calling upon and trafficking in demonic and other invisible beings – the psychological requirements are the same even if the results are not: coming face to face with one’s fears and overcoming them for some specific and distinct purpose.

Dion Fortune states it as such:

“Whoever attempts to work with the positive aspect of a Sephirah must remember that it also has a negative aspect, and unless he can maintain the necessary equilibrium of forces, that negative aspect is liable to swamp the operation. There is a point in every magical operation when the negative aspect of the force to be dealt with , and unless dealt with will lure the experimenter into the pit he has digged [sic]. It is a sound magical maxim not to invoke any force unless you are equipped to deal with its adverse aspect. … Whenever we make ourselves the channel for any pure force, that is to say any force which is single and undiluted by ulterior motives and secondary considerations, we find that there is a river in spate behind us – the stream of the corresponding Sephirothic or Qliphothic forces that is finding a channel through us. It is this that gives the single-minded zealot his abnormal power.” – The Mystical Qabala

More concisely, William Gray states when he comments on the Abramelim Operation:

“So to begin with, whoever want to put this Abramelim system into practice must be someone willing to personalize and contact consciously their own Holy Guardian Angel, of the best side of their own nature, and then with its help summon and contact the very worst of themselves in shape of various Fiends, with the object of commanding the Fiendish Energies to serve the Angelic side if themselves. That is to say, make Satan work for God instead of himself.

He then provides the following framework, similar in philosophic structure to that used in Chod:

” ‘I have come of age spiritual and grown beyond Angel or Devils. From this point forward I will direct myself as the Angelic side of my nature suggests, but I will obtain the necessary energy to do so from the side of myself that would otherwise have been Devilish. Hitherto this may have been an instinctive and unconscious process in myself, but from now on I shall take charge of it myself intentionally and consciously. I shall use the symbology of Angels and Devils as a convenience of my consciousness and shall continue to use ceremonialism as a perfectly practical means of coordinating everything in my awareness’ … in other words, an old magical practice is converted into a present-day psychodrama for the same basic purpose: the subjection of Evil to the service of Good and then neutralizing the resultant energy back into the original Ocean of spiritual supply.” – Between Good and Evil: Polarities of Power

The last line is very significant, and of critical importance, as it is the neutralization that provides the ability to experience states of awareness which transcent varous ideas of metaphysical duality – the Primoridial State of Being. It is this purpose, this intention, that frames the psychological encounter within a metaphysical framework while simultaneously placing it outside the domain of the limited individual psyche, or psychotherapy. It also places the esoteric understanding of ‘good and evil’ and human choices outside the conventional notions of mainstream religions, particularly the Abrahamic faiths wherein a forms of dualism is ever present in both subtle and not so subtle ways.

In his groundbreaking work on possession, exorcism, and redemption, Dr. M. Scott Peck, a student of the highly controversial Roman Catholic priest, exorcist, and media celebrity Malachi Martin (SJ) writes:

“On the other hand we cannot choose freedom. There are two states of being: submission to God and goodness or the refusal to submit to anything beyond one’s own will – which refusal automatically enslaves one to the forces of evil. We must ultimately belong either to God or the devil. This paradox was, of course, expressed by Christ when he said, ‘Whosoever will save his life shall lose it.’ As C.S. Lewis put it, ‘There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.’ I suppose the only true state of freedom is to stand exactly halfway between God and the devil, uncommitted either to goodness or to utter selfishness. But that freedom is to be torn apart. It is intolerable. As [Malachi] Martin indicates, we must choose. One enslavement or the other.” – Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption

While the view stated by Peck, Martin, and Lewis is theologically valid for those of the exoteric faiths, it is not universally held by those of other traditions such as Buddhism in its various forms, including Vajrayana, Hinduism with its Vedic and Tantric schools, Taoism, or the classical and modern schools of Western esotericism. To experience reality as it is, that is, the source of All, and that means what we consider good and evil, we must move beyond their limiting concepts and drive towards Beingness itself.

As Jean Dubuis stated, “The concepts of evil, sin and original fault are a necessity of nature so that the Seed proceeding from the Naught, from the Origin, becomes the free Absolute of the Return. This necessary submission to the immutable principles of the Universe forced man to isolation in 10 [Malkuth/ physical world]. This journey will make of him a being whose self-education will bring free will and liberation. Oblivious of the laws of the levels above, man is forced to discover and experience the laws of nature to live in intelligence with them and eventually in harmony. If he does not learn these laws his life is laborious and his Progress shackled. This progress will happen only through a personal re-conquest of his lost powers.”

While psychotherapy is very important, and can be foundational to a person’s entry into the spiritual domain, it is a beginning and not an end. We can see that manifest in contemporary Western societies where the utilization of horror movies and video games to some degree are the modern substitute for ‘evocation’ and ‘chod’. Psychologists have shown that horror movies can increase viewers level of anxiety and panic (disrupting REM and sleep), as well as elicit unwanted thoughts and feelings, they can provide “exposure therapy” for addressing in a safe environment fears and traumatic encounters. This is important because, parts of our brain process the experiences as if they are real. The negative aspect of this is that it may, like ritual magic, trigger a form of Post-Traumatic Stress; the positive aspect being, the induced stress and its associated ideas can be overcome and resolved. Conversely, without a therapeutic end in mind, repeated and extended exposure to violent media as entertainment can reduce the viewers threshold and have a negative impact on their emotional and intellectual maturation. By extension, their spiritual maturation will be delayed as well.

More familiar, at least to some in the Western world, are the forty exercises of practices of the Society of Jesus, designed by the Society’s founder Ignatius Loyala. Loyola, a former mercenary, became one of the most influential spiritual leaders of the last five-hundred years, and his demanding practices legendary for their efficacy in shaping human thought along specific lines of reason and acting.

“Ignatius avails himself, in particular, of the power of the imagination; he tries to awaken in his pupils quite definite pictorial representations, all with the object of intensifying the power of distinguishing between right and wrong conduct. … It is through images that Ignatius strives to assist mankind towards perfection; for every day and for every hour of the day the Exercises prescribe exactly what representations to exercitant has to evoke, and of what aids to this end he as to make use. … The exercises of Ignatius is acclaimed to this day [1930] as a psychological masterpiece.” – The Power and Secret of the Jesuits by Rene Fulop-Miller

“What Ignatius strove to achieve was simply to expose to the bright light of consciousness the laws of the soul which determine the ‘voluntary’ actions of man.

The basic law of all human activity seemed to him connected with the observation that every act is preceded by a decision. … So he tried to trace the mechanism by which such decisions are determined. He found that discrimination on the basis of reason is not enough. Reason always calls in the emotions for advice. But the emotions are subject to man’s imagination, which must therefore be recognized as an indispensable link in the dynamic give and take of mind and soul. It follows then that the will, if it wants to control man’s reactions, his behavior and conduct, must make itself master not only of man’s reason and emotions but also of his imagination.

Indeed, only a drill officer with a profound faith in the omnipotence of discipline could hit upon the idea that the soul, exactly like the body, can be forced by an exertion of one’s will to unfold all its potentialities.

As soon as Ignatius had made this discovery, he began to drill his reason, his emotions, and his imagination until all three were subject to his will. In the end he was able to control his onetime unbridled imagination as completely as his feelings and thoughts.” – p. 284-285, Saints That Moved the World by Rene Fulop-Miller

From the above quote we could simply say, Ignatius had become an adept, a yogi, a siddha. Just as Ignatian spiritual exercises are designed to kill fear and unconscious reactions on the part of their practitioner, so is the the role of the adept is to kill fear. This the primary moral imperative of all interior practices no matter what they are called or what form they take: esotericism, psychotherapy, alchemy, magic, yoga, etc. Kill fear! This is the only way we are able to progress on the Path of Return, to master ourselves first, and with it our world.

To Know, Dare, To Will, To Remain Silent, these four lead to the One – To Be



  1. Larry Thompson · · Reply

    Aloha, great information and references, your sharing this is in deed generous.


  2. This is great stuff. I appreciate things that are applicable more than purely theoretical. I ordered the book on the Ignatius book spiritual exercises and look forward to putting them into practice. Interestingly, just the other day I watched a Catholic exorcist discuss how a disciplined mind is the surest defense against demonic influence…dovetails nicely into this post.


  3. shimrod · · Reply

    Thank you for this article, it came at a good time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: