Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | November 3, 2014

The Occult Horizon and Evil

Many ideas that originated in religious and philosophical thinking came from attempts to escape the provisionality of all our knowledge by invoking a supposed “knowledge” from beyond the occult horizon.

The occult horizon is like the dusk line separating day from night on Earth.

The occult horizon is like the dusk line separating day from night on Earth.

Occult Horizon

The occult horizon is like the strip of dusk on Earth’s surface between the sunlight of awareness and the darkness of ignorance that lies beyond all awareness. We might be willing to explore the obscured, the hidden — aka, the occult — and we are obliged to if we want to learn. This isn’t a special category of “knowledge of the hidden”, because we have no way to distinguish one hidden thing from another, no way to distinguish the so-called “paranormal” from the “normal” until we learn about it and have the information to do so. Until then, it’s all occult. Further, we have no means at all by which to explore the darkness that lies beyond the occult horizon. It is a frontier, though, that we can push deeper into the territory of our ignorance, thus dimly lighting it and, as we explore, illuminating it.

The occult horizon is a function of finite awareness, i.e., limited access to information, not a characteristic of the world we’re both aware of and mostly not aware of. It delimits the extent of our cognitive grasp of reality rather than the extent of the reality that we apprehend, demarcating our limited capabilities as perceivers rather than indicating limitations of the objects we perceive — a characteristic of our information store, not of things that the information refers to and represents. It marks the bounds of finite knowledge and awareness, encompassing what we perceive exists and happens but excluding and ignoring what exists and happens beyond our perception and awareness as if it were not there. This is why we don’t sense or experience it as a separator or boundary or limitation, because it includes everything that is real to us. We lack any awareness of anything beyond the occult horizon, which things might enable us to compare what it includes to what it excludes.

We cannot discern an end to the extent of the territory of things that we’re ignorant and unaware of, because we have no access to information that might reveal an end to it. Nor do we have any basis for claims about the contents or character of the things that reside in that darkness of ignorance, nor of the space they reside in — not until we push our occult horizons further into that darkness. So, in a sense, knowledge is limited but ignorance is infinite, or at least covers an extent that reaches to the limits of the universe, leaving our tiny bubbles of knowledge and awareness encapsulated in a vast blackness of unknowing. This is our situation and, even more profoundly than death, it’s the source of our angst. Being left alone to drift in that darkness without a tether, a reference, is our constant, subliminal terror.


The term “evil” is an epithet, not a descriptor. It labels the presumed sinister and malevolent, lurking in the black unknown, leaving in the twilight of the occult horizon only murky clues of its menacing presence beyond. When we finally learn what was moving there, we find the explicably damaged or perverted — not evil, but broken. Evil continues hiding in the inexplicable, the unknown, shrouded by our ignorance of it. Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” was coined to articulate the surprising truth about “evil people” — their mundanity. Rather than discovering the remarkable and especially twisted, which might have explained their horrendous acts, she instead found nothing remarkable at all, the chilling monotony of lack of motive rather than the abhorrently perverse. What we learned about Nazi perpetrators did not explain their evilness. Any potential explanation remained in the unknown, beyond the occult horizon.

In our thinking and usage of the term, “evil” closely aligns to our occult horizons, referring to things beyond it, and amounts to two things.

First, it refers to projections, speculations, apprehensions, and fears about what the unknown sources of atrocity might be. As such, it doesn’t rest on information or evidence, but surmising we do precisely because we lack information and evidence. These are our constructs, conceived by us, generated imaginatively — rumors masquerading as informed opinions, when in fact information lies well beyond our reach, forcing us to base judgment on suspicion as if it were fact.

Second, “evil” is a declaration, a line we lay down over which we refuse to cross to acquire more information. This far and no further. Why? Because incursion would make us vulnerable to harm from the “evil” lurking in the darkness there or, even worse, make us susceptible to infection by it, rendering us evil ourselves. This declaration is tantamount to cementing the location of our occult horizon concerning the matter, ensuring that our opinion will likely not change.

The obvious and demonstrably detrimental characteristic of the concept of evil is that it galvanizes misapprehension and resistance to further information. It misleads, purporting to refer to one thing when in fact it refers to another. And it legitimizes and solidifies the petrifaction of bias and animus, by serving as reason to stop looking for and finding information that might mitigate them.

“Evil” is our designation for matters that we reject and decide to learn no more about, reinforcing ignorance. It describes us, not “them”, reinforcing hypocrisy. As such, belief in evil is the basis for bigotry. In these ways, “evil” is itself evil.


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