Into the Aethyr #4 – IAO: Isis, Apophis, and Osiris stages
Based on personal experience and observation, and anecdotal evidence from various other magical practitioners, the stages of development for magicians, mystics, and spiritual practitioners follow a fairly predictable route, at least with regard to common denominators of experience. While I address the “Dark Night of the Soul” at length in my article of the same name in this month’s issue, I’m devoting this column to lesser known stages that ceremonial magicians call, after the Kemetic gods, the “Isis,” “Apophis,” and “Osiris” stages of growth.
The Isis stage of development is familiar to everyone. It includes the initial attraction, enthusiasm, and often rapid momentum that introduce you to the new idea or philosophy. During this stage, you, the practitioner, are gung-ho and excitable and find it easy to keep your focus as the inertia of “ooh shiny” carries you effortlessly along. Ideas are popping into mind at an astounding rate, and the process of discovery is self-perpetuating. There is no boredom, no difficulty, and you’re certain you’ve found the Holy Grail of your spiritual life — many say, “I’ve come home,” or “I’ve finally found that there was a name for what I’ve always believed,” or similar description for a concept that revolutionizes their paradigms and infuses new life into their personal raisons d´etre.
No one ever quits his new religion, philosophy, discipline, or study during the Isis stage. The new adherent can be obsessively focused and talk about little else. He feels alive like never before. Clearly, this is what he’s been looking for, and he’s certain it will always be perfect. In romantic circles this is known as “New Relationship Energy,” or “N.R.E.” It’s the honeymoon phase in which the focus of your amore can do no wrong.
As we all know, inevitably that wears off and we start to gain a more realistic perspective of our new toy. Sometimes disillusionment is abrupt and cruel, while other times it is gradual and easier to accept. With regard to magical disciplines in particular, it slows down through friction against the overwhelming amount of new information and in time, comes to rest. Now begins Apophis.
Ecauldron.com has this to say: “Isfet is a form of destructive chaos, uncreation, un-naming. It is personified in Apep (Apophis), the great serpent that tries to devour the sunboat while it is travelling in the underworld at night. It is imbalance or impurity. How isfet manifests in each person’s life will be different, but many people can identify the sort of turmoil that leaves them feeling undone, as if their selfness is being stripped away and destroyed, their sense of identity: that is isfet. . .”1 [Emphasis mine.]
The stage of Apophis is, as implied above, the darkness following those initial rays of hope and discovery that we found in Isis. When Apophis arrives, the river of momentum that carried you through the landscape of discovery dries up, leaving you parched and without an easy way of travel. In a sense, it is related to the path of Gimel — the path of the Abyss on the Tree of Life in Qabalah. While not the “big Kahuna” of abysses, Gimel (and Apophis) nevertheless constitutes a sort of trial by fire, a traversing of the spiritual desert in which you thirst for knowledge (or even a sign of encouragement) — but like all deserts, it’s full of mirages, false starts, and shining promises of nourishment that never manifest. It tests your resolve, dedication, and endurance, pushing you cruelly, beating you down, and worst of all, abandoning you completely to your own devices.
If you’ve never experienced this before, reading about it isn’t going to give you any idea of the reality. All of your inspiration is gone, and your feeling of brethren toward your fellow magicians is replaced by a feeling of alienation and confusion. You’re convinced of your own ineptitude, because nothing you do furthers your progress (or even makes any difference), and you feel as though you are conspicuously failing where others appear to be doing just fine. The alienation combines with the despondency, driving you away to lick your wounds in private, and you are left feeling completely isolated. It stays that way for a long time.
This is the stage wherein the wheat is separated from the chaff. Those who did not enter their new discipline or study with a true desire to grow (rather than with a passive sense of curiosity or by simply being swept along by a friend’s interest in the subject) will fall away due to boredom and the sudden lack of automatically supplied reinforcement. These individuals are unwilling to work past the challenges or push beyond the veil to see what comes next. They accept that what they see, and have seen, is all there is, so they move along to the next thing or drop out and return to their usual (pre-attraction) daily lives.
The stage of Apophis is often likened to a “spiritual winter,” due to the barren landscape of the psyche at this time. The thing to remember is that in winter there is growth — it’s just under the surface, invisible. The roots of plants and trees grow in winter, providing a solid foundation for spring blossoms and the expansion of the visible greenery above the earth. Without this foundation, the body of the plant would be unsustainable. There must be a balance. If you apply this knowledge to the stage of Apophis, you begin to understand that without the assimilation of our previous surge of learning, we cannot hope to retain it, nor can we hope to expound upon it and gain another “summer” of visible growth.
So what happens to the ones who stick it out? That’s the real question, isn’t it? How many people make that effort? One in ten? One in a hundred? I don’t know the statistics (or any way to determine them) but I can say that the vast majority of people I’ve personally worked with eventually fall away or give it up. It’s disheartening, and it leaves the field of serious practitioners rather thin.
As you may have guessed, the stage following the darkness of Apophis is Osiris. Osiris is Kemetic god of the underworld, and of resurrection.2 In this stage, he brings new life where Apophis has taken it, and rends the veil, showing what lies beyond. Osiris is the payoff.
Many devotees of spiritual or magical pursuits find that after suffering an interminable period of frustrating inability to affect change, they will begin to feel, on some deeper level, that something is coming. Though not the only time this feeling ever occurs, as the end of Apophis nears it takes on the distinct flavor of a light at the end of the tunnel. It teases and shimmers indefinably, and after a time, draws close enough that we gradually gain insight into the nature of the upcoming dawn. Then the sun rises, and all systems are go.
Suddenly, efforts to move that previously had no effect now begin to work, sometimes with surprising efficacy. Locked doors fly open in welcome. Enthusiasm takes a tentative step forward, and finding conditions favorable, surges anew. We are once again able to learn, grow, relate, and celebrate our successes. And not only do we gain access to further study, we find that our understanding of knowledge learned in the stage of Isis has deepened and we are now able to articulate concepts that we previously found difficult to communicate. This is due to the assimilation of the winter darkness of Apophis.
Without limits, expansion gets out of control and we cannot comprehend the tangle of ideas erupting from our inspired minds. We must step back, and as we humanly may find that difficult to do in the rush of enthusiasm provided by Isis, Apophis steps in as a matter of natural progression, allowing us the “dead time” necessary to solidify our spiritual foundation and prepare for the next stage of growth.
And do you know what that means? Isis, Apophis, and Osiris cycle through regularly. Don’t let the darkness get you down . . . the dawn is just over the horizon.
©2007 Sheta Kaey. Edited by Trinity.
Sheta Kaey is a lifelong occultist and longtime spirit worker, as well as Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil. She counsels others with regard to spirit contact and astral work. You can read her blog here.