Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Imagery and the Occult: Sandman as Articulation of Occult Agency.

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….


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Network of the Numinous

Network of the Numinous

            Much has been written about the folklore surrounding UFOs. Ever since the fiasco of 1947, flying saucers have been commonplace in popular media. Likewise, ceremonial magick has always had a definitive role in the study of witchcraft and demonology. Anthropologists study shamanism in all its forms to glean better insights into religious representations of the numinous. Rites of liminality are also carefully examined to show the effects of initiatory structure on social chartering. With that said, surprisingly little has been published concerning the connections and networking of Ufology and ceremonial magick. Usually left to the domain of New Age, academia has shied away from this genre largely out of fear of being considered pseudo-scientific or even psychologically disturbed.
            The attitude towards Ufology and ceremonial magick is the same derision that investigators of the paranormal suffer by mainstream science. Skeptics are quick to point out that “Aliens do not exist. And neither do ghosts or Harry Potter.” But who are we to deny ontological status to anything? I would assert that social scientists can benefit greatly from theories that are seemed absurd or impossible. As Feyerabend stated, “A scientist who is interested in maximal empirical content, and who wants to understand as many aspects of his theory as possible, will adopt a pluralistic methodology, he will compare theories with other theories rather than with ‘experience’, ‘data’, or ‘facts’, and he will try to improve rather than discard the views that appear to lose in the competition” (27). A pluralistic study of various occult processes can be very beneficial to the social scientist that wants to identify the agencies and mediators involved in anomalous behavior and phenomenon. Anarchism is an essential vehicle for determining the inertia that UFOs and the occult exhibit as they move through ontological and epistemic landscapes. Throughout this article, I will be discussing UFO folklore and how it is intimately connected to ideas of ceremonial magick. It is my contention that Ufology and ceremonial magicians both negotiate avenues of worldmaking to achieve a re-presentation of numinous properties.
            At no time during Men In Black did Will Smith perform an invocation or rite of Pan. There were no pentagrams, magic circles, or liturgical chanting. However, there were extraterrestrials and a lot of them. There were aliens of all shapes and sizes running around influencing the action and behavior of earthlings. Much like gods and demons of the past, there were a myriad of aliens representing their pantheons or planets. Were these creatures summoned? Did the lights of their saucer act as markers once reserved for angels, fairies, or spirits? It is clear that the folklore of Ufology shares many characteristics of traditional narratives of the supernatural. What isn’t as detailed are the mechanisms that connect UFO and occult narratives.
            Perhaps the area where UFO is closest to ceremonial magick is in archetype and symbol. Often times, traditional mythological and religious narratives lend themselves easily to UFO folklore. One such example is in the World Tree. The World Tree is found in countless sacred traditions. Kabbalists use the very important Tree of Life in their studies of the Sephiroth. Aztec and Mayan cosmologies make use of a sacred tree in their respective belief systems. Even esoteric Christianity uses the symbol of the tree in their understanding of the Crucifixion Cross. It is no surprise that ceremonial magicians make use of the sacred tree in their ritual practice. Corresponding kabbalistic sephiroth are always used as focal points and explanatory associatives of the ritual process. You could even say that the magic wand is a derivation of the World Tree and its importance in Druidic, Arthurian Legend, and Tarot stem from its role in initiatory pageantry. According to Valerii Samarov, “In the case of the World Tree, we are dealing with the fabula. Both the ritual and the fabula can be traced back a thousand years. They are very likely to have originated in initiation rites” (165). As the fabula or “raw material of a story” is showcased in UFO accounts, it’s not difficult to see the similarities between initiatory rites and UFO contact narratives. Many UFO narratives are awash with initiatory implications. Also, stories about the World Tree are sometimes analogous to the flying saucer mythos. For example, in many narratives of the World Tree, a hero is stuck in the underworld and comes upon a huge tree with the nest of a giant bird. There are young nestlings in the tree and a serpent(dragon) has wound itself around the tree intending to eat the young birds. Our hero cuts the serpent in half and saves the nestlings. The large bird then returns and carries the hero back to the Earth. (See Stith-Thompson folklore motif index) In this narrative, the eagle’s nest is analogous to a flying saucer and the young nestlings equivalent to ‘little green men’. Our human hero comes into contact with the saucer, performs some aid, and is transported back to Earth. This is certainly reminiscent of both contact and abduction narratives in UFO folklore. Perhaps an initiatory Ordeal, the connotations of the ‘Tree’ and ‘Serpent’ are appropriated nicely in the UFO schema.
            Another area in which Ufology and ceremonial magic find associative value is in areas of dreamwork and nightmare exploration. It is well known that much of the visualization that occurs during occult ritual is done while asleep. Dreams are both interpreted as an astral reality and tool for inter-dimensional travel. Utilized in a way similar to the imagination, dreams and nightmares are an essential aspect of occult ritual. Perhaps it’s the primal fear or mysteries that accompany the dark that makes the nightmare so identifiable for witchcraft. Davies has stated that, “the nightmare was not just a symptom, like other bodily conditions associated with witchcraft, but through its hallucinatory content was also a potent confirmation of a witch’s power” (182). Ceremonial magick, Old Hag experiences, and sleep paralysis, are all associated with dreams and nightmares. Moreover, the UFO abduction almost always takes place in the middle of the night. Most scenarios involve nightmares somewhere in the narrative. Whether the nightmares occur during the supernatural experience or after the event, dreaming is nearly always apparent somewhere in the experience.
            Perhaps the closest connection of UFO folklore with occult magick is in the entities known as ‘Men In Black’. These figures show up after UFO contact and demand that witnesses remain silent about the event. They are described as strange in appearance and behavior. In fact, some MIB are described as being ‘alien-like’ or, at the very least, reminiscent of extraordinary humans. The Buddhist bodhisattva comes to mind. The idea of “tulpas” from Tibetan Buddhist traditions has also been linked to the MIB phenomenon. Rojcewicz remarks that “there has been some serious discussion that MIB and perhaps UFOs in general are related to the Tibetan mystical tradition of the “tulpas”. A tulpa is a materialized thought-form and thus may be related in part to holographic images” (154).  This is very important because MIB would be identical to entities conjured during ceremonial magick. The UFO experience would be a form of occult ritual. Whether conscious of it or not, contactees and abductees would be either performing or subject to an occult rite.
            Men in Black have also been correlated with very obscure and sometimes very hidden, occult groups. These theories postulate that there is nothing essentially extraterrestrial about MIB. Instead, they are a very secretive group of occultists who have mastered very arcane forms of magick and who now act as ‘secret chiefs’ or ‘hidden masters’. One of these groups is called the ‘Brothers of the Shadow’ and according to Steiger, “Brothers of the Shadow are cunning and evil; intent upon keeping any student of the occult from finding out the proverbial answer. In mystical jargon this answer is the “veil of Isis”, and is synonymous with the “Great Secret” of Maeterlink…the Brothers of Shadow, like the MIB, are known for threatening students whenever they get too close to lifting the veil of Isis” (Steiger 1978). Are MIB highly educated occultists who seek to regulate dissemination of occult secrets? Are UFO manifestations a correlate of occult ritual or entities? There are many who seem to think so. Even among more popularized groups such as Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis, the UFO phenomenon is a product of occult techniques. Kenneth Grant has remarked that, “Not until his death (Aleister Crowley in 1947) did any massive contact occur between Earth and extraterrestrial intelligences, a contact which his intercourse with Aiwass had helped make possible” (18) Curiously, 1947 marked not only the year of Crowley’s demise but also the legendary Roswell event in New Mexico.
            Perhaps the most compelling evidence to suggest that UFO phenomenon is a product of occult ritual is in the fact that there are rituals designed to invoke extraterrestrials. Probably the best well known comes from H.P. Lovecraft in the Necronomicon treatise. In his Cthulhu cult, E.T.’s are summoned for both their powers and secrets. Another very pertinent example comes in the form of LAM. (see pic) This being came into contact with Crowley during the transmission of The Book Of The Law in 1904. Grant remarks that “the cult of LAM is undoubtedly growing and the reader who feels a strong inner urge to invoke this entity may proceed as follows. Gaze at a portrait until drowsiness supervenes. This gaze will naturally rest upon the eyes; these will appear to enlarge and will suck in the consciousness until there arises a sensation of being within the entity’s head. Two ways are now open: either upward or downward” (153). This rite is designed specifically to achieve contact with an extraterrestrial being. The E.T. daimon is then used to glean esoteric truths and insights.
            Since folklore of Ufology is intimately connected with occult ritual, we must explore the implications of these groups in popular culture. There are dozens of UFO groups that get together, conduct activities, and record their findings on videotape or log. These groups meet at a predestined place and perform some form of occult theatre. Whether it is aiming binoculars at the sky in an attempt to capture odd lights and anomalies, a UFO conference, or a post-hypnotic regression of an alien abductee, all these activities could be considered occult ritual. The distinction between what is occult and what is UFO research has become blurred as UFO folklore becomes a common staple in parlance of the paranormal. Nowadays, UFO sightings, occult research, and paranormal phenomenon are all intertwined in what I call a network of the numinous. The separate branches of the unexplained and mysterious are becoming re-presented and referenced in ways that compliment one another. Interestingly, each of the branches provide better insights and understanding to the entire phenomenon by being greater than the sum of its parts. It is true that in the network of the numinous, the parts are more important than the sum. The reason is because a social scientist would have to be fluent in the language of each branch and sub-branch before attempting to discern the mediators involved in the sum. Of course, there are scholars that have mastered the nuances of occult, UFO, and the paranormal but they are few and far between and may be what are considered ‘secret chiefs’ or MIB. The answer is as always anomalous and I guess only time will tell.


Davies, Owen. “The Nightmare Experience, Sleep Paralysis, and Witchcraft Accusations.” Folklore. Vol. 114(2003): 181-203.

Feyerabend, Paul. Against Method. New York: Verso Publishing, 2010.

Grant, Kenneth. Outside the Circles of Time. London: Frederick Muller Limited, 1980.

Samarov, Valerii I., “On the Nature and Origin of Flying Saucers and Little Green Men.” Current Anthropology. Vol. 22 No. 2. (April 1981): 163-167.

Rojcewicz, Peter. “The “Men In Black” Experience and Tradition-Analogues with the Traditional Devil Hypothesis.” Journal of American Folklore. Vol. 100 (1987): 148-160

Steiger, Brad. Alien Meetings. New York: Ace Books, 1978.              

Thursday, April 5, 2012

In The Light- 'Temple Illuminatus'

They laughed and scoffed at the idea of a pluriversal occult website. They thought it was ridiculous. A site that contains a blog, photos, chatroom, news-area, and networking link page? It was dumb and ignorantly naïve. I had been approached by a wino while sitting outside a café. Somewhat disheveled and swaying lightly, this bum narrowed his eyes and focused on my computer screen. “What is it?” he asked stupidly. “A wi-fi connection.” I smirked and glanced up as he fell into the seat next to me. Of course, I knew he referred to the 17th century Rosicrucian etching that declared war on Weishaupt’s Illuminati and was currently filling my computer screen but I wasn’t  about to get into that right now. It wasn’t even breakfast and frankly, he smelled funny.

Most days are slow in the publishing business. Crazy things happen few and far between but when they do its like an earthquake or the frenzied excitement that accompanies the bashing of a rodeo clown. A lot of screaming and dodging the wild. My new friend had rolled himself a cigarette and sat jabbering at me while I sipped at my coffee. Suddenly a window was thrown open above the café and a man looked down at me somewhat crazily. Good god, I thought. Here it is. This monster is gonna jump and splatter his brains all over my keyboard. There’ll be no work getting done today. He looked down at my new friend and grinning maniacally brought out an old violin he had kept out of view. “What’re you doin?” He asked. Wino appeared confused so I flicked the side of his head. “I think he wants to talk to you.” I mumbled and stared intently at my monitor. “If I say anything, he’ll drive me crazy with that damn thing.” “Crazy.” I repeated and tried to imagine how much crazier this wino could potentially get. Could this episode take a violent turn? Is he at the edge of some panic-induced fit? Will he start screaming? I started when above us came the gross sound of a violin kept horribly out of tune. I immediately got up to leave when our musician glowered down at me and asked, “Where  are you going?” I said something about wanting to find a pub when he inquired, “Can I come with you?” I sat back down defeated as the sound from above became increasingly more delirious. “He’s gonna do it this time!” Wino said. “The police will come for sure.”
“Well how long before he stops?” I shot back. “Could be never” he said sadly and put his head down.

I went inside the café to find some peace and it was against this backdrop that I explored  the website that quite possibly is setting the bar for informative research. Called ‘Temple Illuminatus’, this site goes above and beyond just articles or a forum. (Although the forum is highly useful and saturated with a variety of threads and topics) The collection of occult imagery is also beautiful and tempts visitors to upload to the database. As I scrolled through the threads, images, and research topics, I could hear the screaming of the violin from above. And outside, wino kept grabbing chunks of mud and flinging them in a rage towards the window. I realized that I was the only component in this equation of crazy that was keeping it from escalating into complete pandemonium. Naturally, I went back outside and sat down to watch the entertainment. Delving deeper into Temple Illuminatus, I finished my research just as wino charged up the stairs blind seething and promising to impair something. I smiled and sipped my latte. It was gonna be a decent afternoon