For the paths are long, and even in death there is no ending to them. – Sandman #21
Imagery and the Occult: Sandman as Articulation of Occult Agency.
It’s not farfetched to assert that imagery is the most important aspect of occult representation. Art and iconography have always been an essential way to re-present the occult in pictorial form. In fact, modern occult art is a living enterprise designed for inter-action. It is meant to remain anew. However, it can only remain new by being continually re-interpreted, re-translated, and re-conditioned to meet current needs. This idea presupposes the assertion that the occult is a socio-religious network of correspondences and associative artifacts. Like any religious group, the occult is in negotiation with the numinous. This appeal for the sacred to remain anew isn’t exactly a “new” concept. Bruno Latour has done extensive work on articulating religious speech in modern times. (See Latour- “Thou Shalt Not Take The Lord’s Name In Vain”: Being a Sort of Sermon on the Hesitations of Religious Speech. 2001.) However, the occult is even more in need of a continual testing of conceptual re-applicability because it is completely entwined with all areas of popular culture. Sure, religion has important connections to the media, internet, and society but still can afford a demarcation that allows it exclusivity among cultural milieus. The occult could use the same invisible boundary between profane and sacred but chooses not to. The occult is the product of everything from myth and folklore to religious ideology to goth horror and the sexual revolution of the 1960s. And it has been continually made anew to meet the spiritual needs of adherents. The occult of 2012 is different from the occult of 1960 which is different still from the occult of 1904. In some cases, there is barely a resemblance. Thank every god and goddess in every pantheon for that! In its continual re-definition, the occult enjoys constant epistemic relocation. In other words, what gives it meaning is in constant flux. It moves according to where it is needed and where it can remain a fresh archetypal model.
A good way to explore this concept of epistemic relocation is in the Sandman comic book. Written predominantly by Neil Gaimon, Sandman is a comic that ran from 1988 until 1996. The narratives showcase an atypical comic hero. Sandman doesn’t solve crimes or foil capers. He is the incarnation of dreaming and his power comes from the dream world. Gaimon reasoned that, “If there was a being who embodied dreaming, he would not be alone, but would be joined by other supernaturals who would represent the diversity of human conditions…his pantheon would include Dream and his six siblings: Death, Destruction, Destiny, Desire, Delirium, and Despair” (Stephen Weiner 2004). The story arc of Sandman issues 20-25 asks: What if the Lord of the Dreamworld entered Hell to release a lost soul? In the narrative, Dream informs Lucifer that he will require a parley for the soul of a loved one. He ventures into the void just to discover that his beloved is no longer there and that Lucifer has quit as overseer of Hell. There begins the action that encompasses Bible mythos, dreaming, demonology, and an intertwining of mythological and archetypal associations. The plot turn occurs when a host of deities and demons come to claim the real estate that was once Hell. Everybody from Odin and Loki to Choronzon and Azazel arrive in the Dream to make an argument for ownership. The occult connotations are rampant! As is the cross-pollination of religious, mystical, and mythological personas that form a clear network of mediators all serving to re-present or present anew occult thoughts and processes….
TO BE CONTINUED