Cutting across the artificial divide of cultures

Posted on April 11, 2013
Filed Under Culture, Magic | 4 Comments


I’ve been reading a book on Tibetan dream yoga and another one on quabalistic practices. What fascinates me the most is that both books discuss dreams and how to work with them in a similar fashion, despite the fact that both authors are from different cultures. As far as I can tell neither author has cited the other and neither seems to be culturally appropriating material from the other. They just seem to be discussing dreams and how to work with dreams in remarkably similar ways. And as I read both books and do the practices in both, I find that I’m getting similar results. So it makes me think, in this case, that the cultural trappings are less important, because the foundational techniques seem to be the same, or at least have enough similarity outside of cultural contexts.

I respect cultural contexts, but I do think that its also possible to encounter techniques that come from multiple cultures and yet have enough similarity that the technique can be understood without the cultural context. In other words, I sometimes think there is an artificial divide created within the context of culture that may bar people from recognizing that a technique can occur in multiple cultures and have similar steps.

With that said, I want to make it clear that I’m not dismissing the concerns about cultural appropriation. These are valid concerns, and when a person learns a technique s/he should be mindful of the culture where it comes from. The cultural context does have some impact on the technique, and your experience of it. For example, while I can understand certain aspects of the Tibetan Yogas of Dream and sleep there are other aspects, cultural ones, I don’t get, which does effect how I work with the technique. If I were to learn from a lama directly it might be different, but I suspect even then I’d still only have a partial understanding when it comes to the cultural aspects, because I’m not from that culture.

Is there really an artificial divide? Only in the sense that if you can find a technique that is similar across cultures, then perhaps what you are really dealing with is the technique in and of itself, as opposed to the cultural perspective. Recognizing that can be helpful in learning the technique and also understanding that nothing is so original that it can’t be found elsewhere.


Leni 1 Like

As humans we come into the world with the same hard-wiring, so it's logical that we encounter the same shamanic "technologies" from one culture to another. Undersatnding these processes, which appear in theatre and psychtheray as well as ritual, is how the magician is able to move past a formulaic approach to magic and truly become adept. What I find interesting is how many ways the Perennial philosophy re-iterates itself through how many different culture frame and lenses. It's articiulry interesting in seeng how the bioregion--the local geography and climate--shapes the shamanic and folk magickal tradiitons in a culture. While we should always be sensitive to cultural appropraition when as magicians from the post-industrial West we underatke to bring indigenous technologies and tropes into our magickal practices, I think we are global inhabitants now, I think we cannot help but have a world view that transcends our nation, continent, our shared culture.

This is an important conversation, we as occultists in this century need to engage it.

Magicexperiment moderator

@Leni I agree that we do need to recognize that we are global inhabitants. I think that recognizing the bioregional aspect and cultural aspect can help us understand the context that a given technique originated in, while acknowledging our connection to the world can allow us to see how we can apply the technique to our practices, but also to our engagement with the global community