It has been my privilege as a reviewer over the past twenty years to have the opportunity to track the growth of a handful of writers whose new works I have been sent year after year by themselves or their publishers. For a mind like mine, that looks at all things—most especially narrative—through myriad, multilayered lenses, it is instructive and often inspiring to see psychological growth, refinement of perspective, and narrative skill with the written word develop over time.
William Douglas Horden is one of those handful of authors. Since returning home eleven years ago to find a package from Horden’s publisher on my porch with one of his first books, The Toltec I-Ching, coauthored with Martha Ramirez-Oropeza, I have read, on average, one of Horden’s twenty-plus books every year. Sometimes two or three. Many I have reviewed, although review has become, at this point, an inaccuracy. It has become my challenge to absorb, process, and distill for readers of my reviews the essence of Horden’s work, whether it takes the form of workbook, poetry, or novel.
The Divine Dark is a masterwork. In a recent conversation (he was a guest recently on my weekly Livestream, “Into the Outer Realms,” I likened this book to the statue that emerges when the marble is carefully chipped away and shaped by the master sculptor. It is a sparse work, in the sense that there is much white space on the page and the words are carefully chosen for maximum power.
This is not a narrative so much as it is a series of prayers. Of koans and sutras. It reads like the I-Ching, which Horden has studied, practiced, and taught others about for half a century. It is the work you would expect from a wise wizard whose fully lived years have begun to accumulate behind him. And I say this with utmost respect.
Before I get into the body of The Divine Dark I want to bring your attention to the appendix, which I recommend reading first, especially if you are not familiar with Horden’s work. In the first section he explains some important terms, such as psyche and vision. In the second he relates a story about an experience of a vision of moving lights while a Brazilian composer he was collaborating with played a progression of chords based on the mystic Gurdjieff’s theory of octaves. The lights Horden describes are very much like prevalent twenty-first-century UFO sightings reported all over the world. The appendix then relates the circumstances of Horden’s selection as a lineage student by an I Ching master and, at 53 years old, his near death/out of body experience.
Now for the body of the book. The Divine Dark is not a work to be hurriedly read and shelved. It is a workbook. A prayer book. A primer useful for daily meditation. It is a pathway to reuniting the earthly and celestial souls. To take the Parts and make them Whole, to take the Many and make them One, to use Horden’s words. For readers familiar with Jung, you will see his ideas on sacred marriage, the Hieros Gamos and Mysterium Conjuctionis, in elegant operation here.
In the Dialogue, which is a key component of each section, the earthly and celestial souls are in conversation on odd and even numbered starting pages, respectively. I would have treasured this idea of putting these seemingly separate aspects of “me” into conversation rather than have them make war on one another while in my late teens and twenties. I have Jung to thank for the initial shift and Horden for the last decade of guidance in my daily practice.
There are 64 chapters, correlating to the I Ching’s 64 hexagrams. They begin with 63: Completion and end with 0: Creation. Already we see the counterintuitive freedom of thought inherent in this ancient system of divination and wisdom. Like drawing from the opposite side of your brain by turning images upside down, we begin with Completion and work our way into Creation. Most systems flip this process, to their detriment.
Each chapter is formatted as follows: A unique Invocation. A Formula, which is a mixture of repeated phrases and those applicable to the chapter at hand. Here is an example:
The wayfarer rests in the mountain moonlight.
Owls glide silently through the silver night.
Moths float skyward toward the dark fire.
The very marrow of the forest sighs aloud.
As you can see, these are beautifully crafted images—doorways to the Imaginal Realm—which can be meditated on, used for astral journeys or lucid dreaming, or to connect with your totem animals or spirit guides.
Others are reminders of balanced and grounded living in connection with the One: “We accomplish great things because we align ourselves with that which is greater than ourselves.”
Then there is the Dialogue. This, to me, is the most beautiful and moving element of The Divine Dark. Comprised of varying numbers of sutra-like mini-meditations, these poetic passages could be a lifetime’s work to meditate upon and master. Here is one of my favorites: “What is a children’s choir on that side is a celestial chorus of
archangels on this side.”
As a side note, Horden has a Soundcloud account (3 + 4 :: 6 + 1 :: return) where he has created music and guided meditations. One I use daily is called “Both Sides of the Gate.”
Each Dialogue is preceded by the following across the chapters:
To speak of the Unspeakable is an act of reverence. To speak
from within the Unspeakable is an act of mystical union. To
speak to the Unspeakable is an act of creation.
The next section is the Entrance, which is repeated throughout:
We are the perfecting Eyes and Hands.
This is our Work.
We forward the Transfiguration of the World.
This is our Art.
If you are familiar with the works of William Douglas Horden, this book is a must read masterwork. If you are not, this is a powerful place to start.
TITLE: The Divine Dark: Mystery as Origin and Destination
AUTHOR: William Douglas Horden
PUBLISHER: Delok Publishing