My disillusionment with the occult scene

Posted on August 1, 2008
Filed Under Experiments, identity, Magic, mystical journeys, Occult | 17 Comments

My disillusionment with the occult scene started eight years ago. I remember the incident vividly. I was telling my mentor, a magician who was a member of TOPY about some ideas I had about pop culture and magic, when he stuffily told me that my ideas weren’t real magic. I was pretty shocked to be honest. I’d never had anyone just up and tell me that (of course until I lived in State college, PA I hadn’t really encountered too many occultists or pagans). I’d had a belief that occultists were open-minded people, always experimenting, always trying new ideas out. It was a fairly naive belief, in retrospect.

In later years, on the zee list and other e-lists, I saw a lot of squabbling and flamewars occur. I saw people discourage other people’s creativity and experiments. I took a year and a half off from the online occult scene for that reason, deciding to just do my own thing. Eventually when I did rejoin it, I’d founded my own e-lists for my own purposes and made sure I picked people who I could work with. I remember with some fondness my timemachines e-list which I ran for several years. The focus on space/time magic was exhilarating because people were focused on learning and experimenting. There was nothing remotely discouraging about the sharing of ideas, no attempts to put people down or tell them what they couldn’t do. I always found that kind of atmosphere conducive to magical work.

The last few years have seen a lot of changes in my life, and with it a continuing growth of disillusionment about occultism and what it represents. Occasionally I feel that I’m an old-fashioned curmudgeon when I look at what I perceive as a culture of image, of marketing the occult world in a particular way that to me all too often seems to focus more on the act of rebellion and less on the potential of magic. Occasionally, I look around and wonder, “What happened?”But then I also ask myself, “How much of this disillusionment is just your expectations?”

And really in many ways that’s what disillusionment boils down to. It is the refutation of your expectations, the realization that you have placed expectations on something or someone…and suddenly the scales fall away and what you see may not match up with the reality you imagined…and what you see about yourself and how you’ve looked at a situation through blinders may also be very revealing. Any subculture goes through changes and the occult subculture is no different. How a person adapts to those changes or doesn’t determines how much participation that person might have in the community down the line

Over the last few months I’ve withdrawn myself from a lot of the occult community happenings. Some of that has been the elemental love working and the demands it’s placed on me in terms of really digesting what I’m learning about love, and myself. Some of it has been evaluating what my place is in the occult community, what I have to offer it, and whether what I offer is of any real value to the subculture. Some of it has been exploring life in different directions and perceptions that until now I hadn’t thought to travel in.

In recently challenging the sacred cow of Crowley on this blog, I found the opportunity to really look at what one of my issues with occultism has been, namely the focus on the image over the reality. Because if there’s one thing that Crowley represents, it is the image of the occultist that he created in both his actions and words. In some ways that notoriety has played in his favor, but in other ways, I have to wonder if he’d look at it as such a beneficial thing. It doesn’t matter beyond the fact that people need symbols and so will gravitate toward those symbols. Crowley has moved beyond the role of the magician and assumed the role of an icon and a symbol for occultism, in particular Thelema. In truth my recent posts about Crowley showed me that it is very hard, if not impossible to separate the icon of Crowley from Crowley’s writing.

That same issue is spared for just about any other writer of the occult. Most writers of the occult never achieve the notoriety Crowley had. The focus on their works is less about the image and more about the reality of what they were trying to do. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one to make in considering where occultism as a subculture is going. It’s one I’ve considered carefully the last few months as I’ve withdrawn from the occult scene (Beyond what I post here). Is occultism about the image, about the appearance of a certain style or operating a certain way, wearing certain clothes, uttering certain catch phrases, in short fitting into an idealized image of occultism? Or is occultism about what we do, how we do it, how it can be used to change lives, help each other grow, and learn about the inner workings of the universe?

I’ve been pondering these two questions for years…and in some ways my work with identity is informed by my ponderings about these two questions…because identity is informed both by what we do and how we are perceived by others and ourselves…the content and the image.

In taking a step back from the occult scene and considering the different questions I have mentioned here, I’ve also been considering my disillusionment…the role my expectations play in that disillusionment, but also the recognition of the questions I’m asking and the answers I’m steadily working toward. I have no answers…and yet I have the longing to connect with others in finding those answers. In working magically with two different people lately, intimately working with them, challenging and being challenged, I’m struck by just how good it can be to have people to work with, to talk with, to share with your spirituality, your journey, even as they share there own.  And maybe that’s an answer itself to me…and a cause all its own for that disillusionment I’ve felt. It’s all too easy after all to get wrapped up in your journey that you forget to look around and enjoy perceive the journey of others. And isn’t that, in it’s own way, a form of judgment, of valuing certain things, without appreciating what really is available to a person? Yes…it can be.

With some distance perspective changes, just as a subculture changes…what results then?

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