Thursday, December 5, 2013

Savage Occult: Rites of Passage and Durkheim’s fallacy

                The Savage Occultist or Post-Modern Prometheus experiences the rite of passage in a peculiar way. In fact, their entire existence follows the pattern of separation, liminality and reintegration. The idea of separation in particular holds much more relevancy to the Savage than it does for anybody else undergoing the rite of passage. While separating from society in order to enter a transitionary state and ultimately be reintegrated with a new status, they also experience a separation of time and space. As the Other, the Savage isn’t thought to exist in the same time period as those in ‘civilized’ society. The Savage is archaic and lives in a time of the past. This denial of coevalness is a problem because it relegates the Savage Occultist and the ‘civilized’ into an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. They are separated in time. Moreover, this separation in time implies a linear succession of stages that civilization supposedly undergoes. The differences as described by Emile Durkheim begin with archaic or barbarism and culminate with modern scientific civilized culture. Thus the differences are interpreted as distance or spatially. I call this train of thought Durkheim’s fallacy because the Savage is separated from the civilized ‘for their own sake’. The separation is a refusal to see the Savage and his occult practices in the same time frame as so-called modern society. Described as a “cold” culture, the Other is a relic of the past. As Johannes Fabian remarked, “Anthropologists have used the term animism (which they invented in order to separate primitive mentality from modern rationality) as a means to indicate that an opponent is no longer in the contemporary arena of debate”.[1] The Occultist Savage Other is separated from modern society by time and space for the ultimate goal of making their practices irrelevant.


So how do we resolve or begin to reintegrate Durkheim’s fallacy without patronizing the Other in the process? One possible avenue is through a relativism that describes the entities (supernatural or other) as only proper to that particular culture. Although this cultural relativism is goodhearted, it still makes the Savage a third person in a two-way discussion. Another possible solution and one that I admit makes sense especially in terms of Occult or ‘hidden knowledge’ is to leave the Savage an unknown. After all, as Bastion states, “For us, primitive societies are ephemeral, ie, as regards out knowledge of, and our relations with them, in fact, inasmuch as they exist for us at all. At the very instant they become known to us they are doomed”.[2] Like the primitive in situ, undiscovered and unknown, perhaps the Occultist should also remain a mystery.  Perhaps the Occultist should be left to their own devices and trajectory but to do so would deny them the liminal ontological change that occurs when interaction occurs with another culture. Furthermore, it is na├»ve to think in this day and age that anonymity is even possible. One look at Google Maps shows that anonymous is a modern myth.

However, a viable solution is found within the rite of passage itself. As stated before, a separation of time and space is said to occur between the Savage Occultist and modern society. This separation is legitimate but unlike Durkheim’s fallacy of placing epochs into a linear succession of primitive to modern, the Savage separates but exists in a different line of descent. As Fabian remarked, “Research into the principles of social organization must not be relegated to a mythical time of origins, nor can it be reduced to the construction of stages. Forms of social differentiation must be seen as “moments” which, from the beginning of history, and ever since human beings lived, have existed ‘simultaneously’ and still determine history” (158).[3] The difference then between Durkheim’s linear fallacy and this multiple lines of descent is in the fact that the primitive and the modern exist simultaneously and are able to interact. A relevant analogy can be found in physical anthropology. Any academic or scholar of ancient Man will verify that differences in cranial capacity, bi-pedalism, opposable thumbs and other bodily characteristics are found in various hominids through time. Although at first glance, the argument can be made that the anthropological record shows a linear succession of selection or adaptation over millions of years. And that’s completely reasonable. But remember we’re discussing the rite of passage as it pertains to Savage thought. Taking this into consideration, we search for periods of overlap or cusps where multiple hominids existed simultaneously. These liminal periods of convergence led to hybridism and mutation. When the lines of descent interacted, entities enter a liminal state and are changed. These hybrids became ontologically different than before and reintegrated a new being. Who’s to say that this can’t be re-actualized by modern society and Savage Occult thought? The result is a post-modern Savage existing simultaneously within a society that has been invaded by the ‘Time of the Other’. No longer feared or held in derision, the occult Other has reintegrated and begun a new path to explore in contemporary society.  

[1] Johannes Fabian. Time and the Other. Colombia University Press. New York. 1983. pp. 152
[2] Bastion 1881 1:63 e.
[3] Ibid

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Magus Magazine: Potentialities and the Occult

Magus Magazine: Potentialities and the Occult: Potentialities and the Occult “What is potential can both be and not be, for the same is potential both to be and not to be.” –Aristotl...

Potentialities and the Occult

Potentialities and the Occult

“What is potential can both be and not be, for the same is potential both to be and not to be.” –Aristotle-1050 b10 ‘Metaphysics’ Book Theta

            The liminal manifests itself in a myriad of ways. As a transitionary state of Being, it lends itself to the bizarre and macabre. The liminal is an intermediary between what was and what will be. This lends itself perfectly to occult work because, as every practitioner knows, what is ‘becoming’ is more important that what once was and what currently ‘is’. This being said, the concept isn’t exactly new. For example, the stoics also identified an intermediary step between thought and being. They called this state the ‘lekton’ or ‘expressible’. This was a state that was incorporeal or without presence. Lacking ontological form, the state also referred to language itself. The lekton was the event or expressible capacity in-between thought and being. It was liminal. This is exactly the same as the liminal state in an occult rite of passage. In evoking the particular state, the occultist literally communicates the ‘expressible’.

But there must be a method that transmits the expressible from the occult practitioner. Curiously, the method takes the form of ritual checks and balances. As Benjamin remarked, “Origin, although an entirely historical category, has, nevertheless, nothing to do with genesis. The term origin is not intended to describe the process by which the existent came into being, but rather to describe that which emerges from the process of becoming and disappearance”. [1] In other words, the ritual or ‘interaction’ between the existent and the practitioner is more important that the description of the event. This is because of the ritual checks and balances that forms a permanent empathetic bond between evoker and evokee. Benjamin went so far as to suggest that part of the creator dies in the ritual process. He states that, “The origin of the great work has often been considered through the image of birth. This is a dialectical image; it embraces the process from two sides. The first has to do with creative conception and concerns the feminine element in genius. The feminine is exhausted in creation. It gives life to the work and then dies away. What dies in the master along-side the achieved creation is the part of him in which the creation was conceived…In its achievement, creation gives birth anew to the creator”. [2] Although a part of the magician is lost to the entity summoned, in turn the entity gives something back to the evoker. This something is a gift. In its presence, the magician is re-embodied or renewed by the supernatural exchange.

Ritual checks and balances is also implied in Aristotle’s ‘ethos anthropoi daimon’. The usual translation of this phrase is “for man, character is the demon.” But ethos originally referred to what is proper in the sense of “dwelling place, habit”. Daimon also meant etymologically “to divide, lacerate”. So daimon was he who lacerates or divides. However, we shouldn’t consider this a negative connotation of the word daimon because only in ‘what divides’ can the daimon also be what destines or threads a fate. The word daiomai first means to “divide” then to “assign” which has the same semantic development as the root “demos”-which meant “division of territory”, and “assigned part”. So ethos anthropoi daimon translates into ethos, the dwelling in the ‘self’ that is what is most proper for him, is what lacerates and divides, and assigns and destines. In other words, for man to be himself, he must necessarily divide himself.[3]

This is reminiscent of the renewal Benjamin discussed but more accurately relates to Cabalistic thought. Gershom Scholem has discussed prophesy as it was described by Jewish mystics in the 13th century. In his ‘On The Mystical Shape Of The Godhead’, he writes that in a Cabalistic anthology called the Shushan Sodoth, prophesy appears as one’s own doppelganger: “The complete secret of prophesy consists in the fact that the prophet suddenly sees the form of his self standing before him, and he forgets his own self and ignores it…and that form speaks with him and tells him the future. [4] As it is necessary for the prophet to “divide” in order to “assign fate”, the occultist must also separate from himself to exact a successful ritualistic interaction. Also, many occult traditions embrace the idea of the double as part of their teachings. For example, the idea of qliphoth “shells of the sephiroth” is common to many students of the occult. Acting as reversals or inversions of the Judaic ‘Tree of Life’, these dark embodiments are akin to the folklore of a doppelganger.

Philosophically, the double also plays the role of non-being. It is the difference between actuality and potentiality or what ‘is’ and ‘what could be’. As Agamben has remarked, “what is essential is that potentiality is not simply non-Being, simple privation, but rather the existence of non-Being, the presence of an absence; this is what well call “faculty” or “power”. [5] The point being potentiality has an ontological status. It is something.  This faculty that is spoken of is ability. For example, a ritual specialist has the ability or potentiality to perform ritual. But he also has the ability to not-ritualize-or not pass into actuality. It is these changes from potentiality to actuality that embody ontological trajectories of the supernatural. Aristotle also discussed potentiality and actuality. In fact, he asserted that their ontological changes are a harmonizing part of nature. He states that “actuality (energeia) is light and potentiality is darkness (skotos), what is sometimes dark and sometimes light is ‘one in nature’.[6] Even in realms of the supernatural, what is and what could be are integral aspects of status. Moreover, describing these statuses in terms of light and dark is also something very reminiscent of descriptions of those in a liminal state. Victor Turner says that “in many societies the liminal initiands are often considered to be dark, invisible, like the sun or moon in eclipse or the moon between phases, at the “dark of the moon”.[7] As we’ve been discussing then, those in a liminal state are traversing what ‘is’ and what ‘could be’. Their existence explores areas of potentiality and actuality. This is also why the liminal is so conducive to studies of the paranormal and occult. Birthing entities is ritualistic settings goes hand in hand with comparing those in a liminal state to ghosts and gods. These supernatural personages are only critically understood by exploring their ontological changes as they interact

[1] Walter Benjamin. Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 1 Pt. 1 pp226
[2] Walter Benjamin. Gesammelte Schriften. Vol. 4 Pt 1 pp438 ed. Rolf Tiedemann & Hermann Schweppenhausser. Frankfort am Maini Suhrkamp 1974-89.
[3] See Giorgio Agamben’s ‘Potentialities’ for a more detailed account of Aristotle’s ‘ethos anthropoi daimon’.
[4] Shushan Sodoth-quoted in Scholem. Pp. 253.
[5] Giorgio Agamben. Potentialities. Stanford University Press. 1999. Pp. 179.
[6] Aristotle. Physics. 418b-419e I
[7] Victor Turner. From Ritual to Theatre. PAJ Publications. New York. 1992.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Magus Magazine: The Savage as Post-Modern Prometheus

Magus Magazine: The Savage as Post-Modern Prometheus: How do we explain premodern occultism? There has been much work on the subject from the 17 th century into modern day but premodern occult...

The Savage as Post-Modern Prometheus

How do we explain premodern occultism? There has been much work on the subject from the 17th century into modern day but premodern occultism is largely an examination of religious ritual. And this makes sense. The two were intertwined and much of early socio-religious organization was based on finding anthropomorphic or humanlike ‘recognizable’ characteristics in both natural and supernatural ecologies. Much of academia jeers this tendency but the premodern Savage understood representation and how to construct being maybe better than we do today. When they designated something or imbued something with recognizable traits, they gave it existence. This made language something very powerful. As Bracken has remarked, “language is the incalculable event of a being’s emergence into being”. [1] When the savage said the name of something, it was enough to invoke it into their presence.

The occultist is a Savage. I don’t mean that in any mean or disparaging way. The occultist is like primitive man, largely an invention.  We construct what we think they were like.  But it’s a paradox.  Scholars instruct us to make a “picture” even as they warn us not to make it up. [2] Perhaps we have no idea what premodern occultism was like. It’s our best guess.  And mainstream academia has no room for occultism at the table. We cannot rely solely on artifacts, ritual paraphernalia, and other material culture because archaeology doesn’t have the time or inclination to differentiate occult practice from any other ritual behavior.  Furthermore, as Karl Bucher correctly surmised, anthropology’s “picture” of savagery unhinges the opposition between mimesis, a discourse of imitation and poiesis, a discourse of invention.  Our favorite fetishes are examples of this. When we construct a representation of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, the creation is only representation of the actual entity. But if we then imitate that creation, Ra-Hoor-Khuit becomes the original and us now the representation. The creation becomes the original and subsequently “lives.”  It is a method of conjuration that then is autonomous of us. As Walter Benjamin stated, “to observe a thing, means only to arouse it to self-recognition. Magical observation consists not in any reflecting on an entity but in the unfolding of spirit in an entity”.[3]
What the post-modern Savage knows instinctively is that occult practices are about potentialities. The method makes use of what can potentially come to pass. The ritual is one of completion. Just as the four corners of a magic square signify completion, the latent potentialities in the ritual are the source of its true self-evidence. As Georgio Agamben states, “potentiality is not simply non-Being, simple privation, but rather the existence of non-Being, the presence of an absence. “[4] Embedded within the potentiality of absence is the entity’s eventual becoming.

All ritual is interaction and the Savage knows this. Or more specifically, the “quality” of the interaction. When we realize the numinous, we elicit a transformation. It’s something we feel.  It is in the shock and awe that transformation happens in us. And it’s easy to undervalue what this means. It’s easy to perform a ritual and exclaim afterwards, “I feel changed!” or “I’ve been transformed!” But when somebody really does witness a numinous event, the idea of terror moves from conceptual to experiential understanding. It is realized.  This form of occult understanding includes a new “awareness” of the phenomenon. It is the kind of awareness we get when somebody jarringly enters a room that we’ve been alone in for hours. It’s unnerving when Being is made Present. This is important to the post-modern Savage. At the moment that our spirit entity shifts from a conceptual to an experiential event, they undergo an ontological change of state. They become present. And having these entities present gives us the interaction needed to empathize with them. We can bond with them. We feel instinctively the truthfulness of somebody when they say, “I understand you” or “I share your feelings” because we feel the sincerity of the statement. We are moved by this kind of talk. If done right, occult ritual also leads to this bonding that makes an entity present to us. The interaction happens when the numinous  transforms us. It may be jarring or perhaps even terrifying but this gift of presence is of good “quality”. The interaction has been successful. It is being aware of a relationship and it carries a message of mutual empathy. Moreover, this interaction doesn’t require that these entities have human emotions or desires. Nor does Man need have their ambitions or agendas. All that is required is an empathetic bond instilled when the veil is torn asunder by being brought closer.

The occultist is a Savage and his methods an end to normal sensibilities. He is thought to live in a dreamworld. He sleepwalks in daylight. His personifications are all too human. He is tragically flawed and incapable of metaphor. His thinking is like a child. He naively confuses associations of symbol with real life. He sees people on TV and thinks they’re real. Characters in books are conjured. He is noble and he is honorable but he is dim. He believes his creations are both constructions and autonomous. He believes that things can be made by Man and God. He is hopelessly animistic. He believes in a second real world. He cannot separate real from the ideal. He cannot be socially civilized. He is a dreamer. We could teach him but can he be taught?
These are the common representations of the Savage thinker. A dreamer out of touch with reality. Somebody the enlightenment forgot. In actuality, the violence inflicted on the Savage is a gross caricature. But we’ll embrace these pictures of us. We’ll hold on tight and like Prometheus allow ourselves to be chained to a rock. The ‘civilized’ are free to feed on our liver. We delight in it! It was us that thought to steal actualizing energy (energeia) from nature (phusis) and grant it unlawfully to discourse (logos). [5] It was us that first experienced the gods and goddesses. The so-called civilized will remember us as their creations come of age. The electronic era will remember the Savage and we will be renewed once again as their creations discover autonomy.  The Savage is a dreamer. We are no difficult to Western Civilization as “it finds itself between dreams. In the true meaning of the word, it is a time of crisis-with all that implies of both extraordinary danger and opportunity”.[6] The Savage is in-between dreams. We live a liminal existence between yesterday’s premodern and tomorrow’s postmodern thought.  It’s now time for the so-called civilized to witness the Savage and our spectral world as we are re-embodied through interaction.  

[1] Christopher Bracken, Magical Criticism. University of Chicago Press. 2007.  pp. 21
[2] Ibid pp. 5
[3] Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings Volume 1, 1913-1926.  Ed. By Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings. Cambridge. MA. Harvard Univ. Press. 1996. pp. 151/166
[4] Giorgio Agamben, “On Potentiality” In Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy. Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford Univ. Press. 1999. pp. 179
[5] Jean-Luc Nancy, “Myth Interrupted,” In The Inoperative Community. Ed. Peter Connor, Lisa Garbus, Michael Holland, and Simona Sawhney. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press. 1991.  45,I 6 I n 2 I
[6] Jacob Needleman, A Sense of the Cosmos. New York. 1975. pp. 1-9 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Magus Magazine: Blood taboo, the Serpent and the Shroud: Folklore ...

Magus Magazine: Blood taboo, the Serpent and the Shroud: Folklore ...: One of the most popular motifs of occult folklore is blood. Traditionally, blood is a symbol of purity and fertility. In some ceremon...

Blood taboo, the Serpent and the Shroud: Folklore of revulsion

One of the most popular motifs of occult folklore is blood. Traditionally, blood is a symbol of purity and fertility. In some ceremonies, water is substituted for blood but the idea of blood and the chalice is a paramount occult teaching. Anybody who has read ‘The Da Vinci Code’ recognizes the importance of blood in esotericism. Although a pop culture phenomenon, which, incidentally makes most occultists howl in disgust, the idea of Sang Real or ‘Holy Grail’ as the womb of Mary Magdalene is a much older initiatory teaching. The holy bloodline of Christ is an oral narrative has been passed down in the recesses of secret society membership for hundreds of years. Tarot symbolism also preserves this secret and anybody who has studied the cards knows of the importance of the suit of cups and its relation to blood.

Moreover, the etymology of blood is ripe with esoteric connotations. According to Judy Brahn, “Old English forms related to blod, ‘blood’ are blowan, blew and blown, meaning ‘to bloom, to blossom.’  In French, fleur means ‘flow’, and fleurs, ‘flowers’.” (Judy Brahn. Blood, Bread, and Roses: How menstruation Created The World. Boston. Beacon Press. 1993)  And therein lays one of the mysteries of the original Rosicrucians. The red rose is much more than a flower. It is the flowing of sacred blood. It is blooming and the vessel that  carries the godhead into this world.

Red hair was also a symbol of blood. The Malleus Malifacarum asserted that red hair was a sign of a witch. Again, this superstition dates back to the taboo associated with menstruation. Menstrual blood is considered polluting or toxic. As Ambrose Pare remarked, “a child conceived during the menstrual flow takes his nourishment and growth…from blood that is contaminated, dirty, and corrupt”. (On Monsters and Marvels- Translated by Janis L. Pallister. Chicago. University of Chicago. 1983)

Poisonous blood also leads to the metaphor of snakes or ‘serpent’. We all know the theological importance of the serpent in the Bible. And we’ve all seen the auroboros image and are familiar with Medusa in Greek myth. But how often do we ask ourselves what these symbols mean? It’s strange to relate snakes and blood with Time but it’s probably the most appropriate meaning of the representation.  Janis L. Pallister reiterated the idea when she stated, “Indeed, we have seen that association between feminine blood and snakes implies cyclic renovation on the model of moon revolutions.” (Archaeology of Intangible Heritage. Chicago. Univ. of Chicago Press. 198

Perception of the occult is one of filth and revulsion. The reason why is because many of its tenets are misconstrued as perversions of traditional Christian ethos. For example, the mirroring of sacrificial and menstrual blood is something the occult has been teaching for centuries. Modern Christianity- especially Evangelical denominations- consider this concept absolutely horrifying. It is more than repugnant; it is blasphemous.  But the folklore behind such thought is very spiritual. When Even partook of the red fruit, the apple of folklore, menstrual blood and thus Original Sin was introduced into creation.  Christ’s redemption of this curse is with the spilling of sacrificial blood. When Jesus chooses to sacrifice his holy blood he chooses menstrual blood as a vehicle for redemption. As Colledge and Walsh remark, “the incarnate godhead redeems humankind by opposing the blood of Mary to that of Eve, and sacrificial bloodshed to menstrual bleeding” (200- Edmund Colledge and James Walsh, ed. Julian of Norwich: Showings. New York 1978. Paulist Press. ). For somebody who doesn’t understand that Eve’s folly and Mary’s purity are mirror-image archetypes, the idea that Christ chose Eve’s polluting blood is at best contradictory, and at worst heretical. Occultists don’t shy away from this idea. Those that use menstrual blood in their Eucharist cakes or in other forms of ritualization know that ingesting menstrual blood has bewitching properties. Groups like Kenneth Grant’s Typhonian Order consider menstrual blood as essential aspect of the ritual because they know that in its pollution is purity

The serpent is also a symbol for renewal. It seems counterintuitive due to the nature of the serpent and its role in Biblical narratives. Nevertheless, the serpent shares themes of re-vitalization as well. In its propensity for cyclic renovation, it is the perfect candidate for renewal. The serpent’s position as something Trickster or evil is also part of what Occultists call the veil. It is the veil that separates Man from his spiritual evolution. It is like a cataract that covers the inner eye and keeps us blind to the daimonic world around us. The veil must be sloughed like snake skin. Often times, this shedding of the past is celebrated ceremonially. For example, Francisco Vaz Da Silva has studied the House of Shrouds in Iberian folklore. He found that when somebody who was deathly ill made a miraculous recovery, they would embark on a pilgrimage to the “Casa des Montalhas”.  He states that “over centuries, those past hope who were healed would make a point of travelling to the healing sanctuary wearing a shroud or carried in a coffin. The main idea underlying this custom is that people given up as dead had come back to life and so would take off the death garb at the sanctuary in token of resurrection” (152- Francisco Vaz Da Silva. Archaeology of Intangible Heritage. New York. Peter Lang Publishing. 2008). This sloughing of the shroud is the equivalent of the shedding of serpent’s skin and symbolic of  renewal as personified in Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, the “Shroud of Turin”-long famous as a holy relic and artifact of resurrection, can be considered a form of snakeskin. For many, equating Jesus Christ with the serpent is the vilest heresy but if we ignore traditional orthodoxy in favor of esoteric ism and folklore of renewal, we have a very profound message. If we but open our minds to the possibility, then that solemn image embedded in the fabric of the cloth really is proof that Jesus slipped the veil and became re-embodied in the spirit. In this sense, the shroud is not proof of death but of life. And when we look upon the image, we bear witness to the Dying God mythology. As Jesus undergoes the trials and tribulations of the sloughing of his former existence, he is in a liminal state betwixt and between ontological statuses. His being is moving from potentiality to actuality and in doing so, becoming something new. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Should the occult abandon the natural sciences?


Here is an excerpt from an upcoming book about the 'Folklore of the Supernatural'

 Many take the occult very seriously and regard it as a real threat to the fabric of society. Perhaps remnants of the reason-driven war on the occult arts during the renaissance or the rumor-panic of Satan in our neighborhoods in the 1980s, the occult is a very feared enterprise. Moreover, academia has trouble finding a category in which to place the subject. The natural sciences back away slowly at any mention of the word. The psychologists smirk and identify a dozen neuroses that could explain any and all of the mystery of supernatural processes. The psychiatrists simply get giddy. Only the anthropologists and folklorists will explore the occult in situ and on its own terms. But even then, the subject is a complicated matter. As Folklorist Gillian Bennett remarks,

The main trouble for folklorists is that we have got ourselves into not one, but no less than three vicious circles. Firstly no one will take the subject because it is disreputable, and it remains disreputable because no one will tackle it. Secondly, because no one does any research into present day supernatural beliefs, occult traditions are generally represented by old legends about fairies, bogeys, and grey ladies. Furthermore, because published collections of supernatural folklore are thus stuck forever in a time-warp, folklorists are rightly wary of printing the modern beliefs they do not come across for fear of offending their informants by appearing to put deeply felt beliefs on a par with chain-rattling skeletons and other such absurdities. Thirdly, because no one will talk about their experiences of the supernatural there is no evidence for it and because there is no evidence for it no one talks about their experiences of it.  (1987 pp13 Gillian Bennett. Traditions of Belief: Women, Folklore, and the Supernatural Today. London. Pelican Books.)

As Gillian has correctly surmised, the occult is in an academic conundrum. Ironically, much of these questions of validity and reputability have been grossly perpetuated by occultists themselves. Since antiquity, the occult processes has been intertwined with advances in science. For example, as astronomy and chemistry became more advanced, their occult counterparts in alchemy and astrology lost favor and in turn, lost validity. But its been the occultists themselves that have continued to try and make their arts a natural science. For the most part, the scientific community has been content to leave well enough alone. It s been practitioners of the occult that have continued to be concerned with science. It’s no coincidence that famous magus Aleister Crowley named his particular form of ceremonial magic: Scientific Illuminism.
Perhaps it’s time to leave the never-ending subdivisions and cul-de-sacs of the natural science community and venture into the small towns and country of the social sciences. The occult can be right at home without being concerned with the natural sciences. And that’s not to say that the supernatural cannot be endowed with a robust philosophy or even dip its foot into quantum theory and other like-minded scientific theories. It’s just time for a change. Throughout this book, we will be venturing into these uncharted and unexpected places. We’re creating a trail that will be followed by any and all who want a fresh approach to occult study. Instead of focusing on what can be empirically proven, we will show why its unnecessary to validate in this matter. Instead of trying to prove the logic and rationalism of the supernatural, we will embrace a metaphysics based on experiential happenings. Instead of trying to convince the academic community of the occult’s relevance, we will let anomalous entities be their own informants and inquire into how these creatures re-present themselves continuously. And in so doing, we will re-discover what it means to be an occultist in the modern world. Like the black hole in the center of a galaxy or the spider at the center of its web, we will explore the series of connections and correspondences that make this world and showcase its place in the center of a truly intricate and delicate network of the numinous.   

In ‘Religion, Philosophy, and Psychical Research’, Charles Dunbar Broad introduced a theory for God’s existence that had anthropological connotations. In essence, it stated:

1)      People cross-culturally have reported experiences in which it was seemed to them that they experienced God.
2)      If people cross-culturally have reported experiences in which it seemed to them that they experienced God, then people cross-culturally have seemed to experience God.
3)      People cross-culturally have seemed to experience God.
4)      If people cross-culturally have seemed to experience God, then there is experiential evidence that God exists.
5)      There is experiential evidence that God exists.

This theory is remarkable cogent and fits well into anthropological discourse. It is especially good for occult studies. In fact, if we replace the word God for Old Hag, or Demon, or Extraterrestrial, we have a workable theory of occult experience. And the fact that it accentuates ‘cross-cultural’ experience gives it multiple avenues for social scientific research. It at once gives credence to narratives of the supernatural while it simultaneously suggests that this sort of phenomenon is experiential and found in a multitude of cultural scenarios.
What makes this form of occult study particularly exciting is that it asks us to question what is real based upon what we can empirically verify. And that’s the rub isn’t it? It’s also the main criticism of Broad’s theory. If people are seeming to experience God or the Occult, then there must be some way to test these experiences. In true Popperian fashion, we must find way s to falsify or verify the experience in the same way sensory input can be falsified or verified. If we subject the experience to ‘checking’, then what people seem to experience is not evidence of the reality presented.
Perhaps an elegant way to resolve this conundrum is through the ‘inferences’. We can accept the validity of occult experience by inferring their non-causal properties while carefully recording the causal properties and sensory data that accompany the event. 

We should probably explicate exactly what we mean by folklore of the occult and supernatural. Typically lore is transmitted verbally and passed on from person to person via stories.  Telling stories is the perfect conduit to disseminate folklore – especially of the supernatural variety. They provide a suspense that can’t be matched by reading the account or watching it on television or at the movies. The face to face interaction requires a personal exchange. It’s much easier to relay ‘how something seemed’ by being able to tell it how it happened. And we all love a good story. Whether it be a ghost story, UFO experience, or banishing ritual, supernatural stories are the best stories. And we’ll be exploring these various forms of folk belief throughout this book.
The supernatural is also, more often than not, believed narratives. There is something about believing the unbelievable that is attractive to both the storyteller and his audience. Perhaps due to the exotic nature of supernatural belief, we want to include these experiences into our worldview. Anybody who has claimed to be a UFO abductee or seen a ghostly visitor will swear absolutely and without reservation that what they experienced was real. Most have no doubt as to the ontological relevancy of these entities. The “I have seen it with my own eyes” is a popular catchphrase for this type of contemporary legend.

As well as believability, these narratives also hold structural similarities that make them especially easy to group together. There are motifs, and morphology that capture what I call likeminded essences in the narratives. Moreover, not only are these various contemporary legends similar but they also echo traditional supernatural assault traditions of the past. In the stories of fairies, angels, changeling, gnomes and other creatures of the past are the prototypes of modern myths and monsters. It’s no surprise that the modern UFO movement is so full of religious imagery. These re-presentations of the numinous follow society and take on new meaning as times change. But even though their faces may change or the narratives many show variations in plot or action, the terror that is evoked surpasses time and space.    

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Authentication of the Anomalous Part 1

Here is a small excerpt from a larger work on Rites of Passage and the Occult...Check it out!

Each initiate who undergoes a rite of passage also undergoes a corresponding change in consciousness. This change is indicative of the change in status that occurs as part of the experience. Often times, the change occurs as a time of transition during the liminal state. Literally a transitional event  within the transitional state. Sometimes this event happens while sleeping. Rothman and Sudarshan remark of this transitional period in regards to Kashmir Shaivism. They remark that “if one examines  Kashmir Shaivism, one finds extremely specific instructions for achieving various states of consciousness. We are first told that there is a junction, or transition point, between each of the three states of consciousness and the next: the waking state, the dreaming state and the state of dreamless sleep” ( 18 Doubt & Certainty by Tony Rothman and George Sudarshan. Reading Mass. 1998. Perseus Books). Proponents of this form of Shaivism state that, “you should [focus on] the center of any two movements, every two breaths. After some time when that concentration is established, then whenever you go to bed to rest you will automatically enter the dreaming state through that junction…Here you do not lost consciousness even though you feel intoxicated…Here the aspirant does not experience moving about nor does he hear or see. He cannot move any part of his body. At that moment the aspirant hears hideous sounds” (Kashmir Shaivism, the Secret Supreme. Swami Lakshman Jee. Albany. SUNY Press under imprint of the Universal Shaiva Trust. 1988. Pp 109).

The transition point is reminiscent of folklorist David Hufford’s work with Old Hag phenomenon.  Often times, an Old Hag event entails the victim being attacked by a supernatural entity. The victim usually awakes in the middle of the night unable to move or scream. Then, a horrifying presence is exerted on his or her chest. (Quote)  The Old Hag attack involved complete paralysis and is associated with night terrors. Like Kashmir Shaivism, the Old Hag  experience occurs upon waking from sleep. During the transition from dream to wakefulness, or from one state of consciousness to another, the aspirant is in a liminal state and is more susceptible to the strange or unusual.  
                Carl Jung also studied transitional moments of a liminal state. In particular, he researched the effects of complexes and neuroses when they become conscious. He wrote that, “it is felt as strange, uncanny, and at the same time fascinating. At all events the conscious mind falls under its spell, either feeling it as something pathological, or else being alienated by it from normal life. If the content can be removed from consciousness again, the patient will feel relieved and more normal. The irruption of these alien contents is a characteristic symptom marking the onset of many mental illnesses. The patients are seized by weird and monstrous thoughts, the whole world seems changed, people have horrible, distorted faces, and so on” (119- Carl Jung. Psychology and the Occult. Bollingen Series. Princeton. 1981). As transitional events during a betwixt and between state, the complex is no longer repressed and allows for experiences of the Other or Alien.
                Changes in state occur at a ritual level when the rite is used as a proxy for the mythical narrative. As Walter Otto exclaimed, “ cultic rites were frighteningly serious because they were concerned with none other than the presentation of the supernatural occurrence which the myth had expressed in words” (77 Walter Otto. Dionysus-Myth and Cult. Dallas, Texas. Spring Publications. 1981. Orig. Published 1965- Indiana Univ. Press).  Often times, the occult ritual is the most important catalyst for inducing a change in consciousness. It is within ritual that the supernatural narrative can be acted out, grasped and given legitimacy. Sometimes the climax of the ceremony extracts the numinous in the initiate and serves as the transitionary  event. Such was the case at the Isaeum in ancient Egypt.

          The Isaeum was the sanctuary and place of ceremonies for the Egyptian goddess Isis. A physical representation of the liminal state, the initiate separated themselves from the world of the profane by entering its walls. And this was serious business in ancient Egypt. When aspirants left the blazing light of the desert and entered the cool chambers of the Isaeum, it was thought they were passing from the world of the living to that of the dead. It was in these liminal spaces that their most important rituals occurred. Robert Turcan describes a becoming rite when the initiate is transformed into a god. He states that, “the initiate was dressed in a linen robe never previously worn; then the priest took him by the hand to lead him to ‘the remotest part of the sanctuary’, or penetralia. The neophyte was probably shown statues that were concealed from the gaze of ordinary followers. In the middle of the sanctuary, a platform was set up which the new initiate mounted, this time clad in an embroidered linen robe…When the curtains were drawn, he was revealed like a statue, crowned with palm leaves and armed with a torch” (Robert Turcan. 1996. The Cults of the Roman Empire. Blackwell Publishing Inc. Williston). The transitionary event and its change in consciousness becomes the focal point of the ritual.
                This state of affairs was common in the mystery cults of the Greco-Roman era. A way to resolve the immanence/transcendence dichotomy, many of the cults sought to instill the divine within thus making them immortal. As Jane Ellen Harrison remarks, “To become a god was therefore incidentally as it were to obtain immortality. Their great concern was to become divine now” (477-Prolegomena To The Study of Greek Religion. Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton. 1991).

To Be Continued....

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Magus Magazine: Evolution and Deities Part One

Magus Magazine: Evolution and Deities Part One: Hello everybody! Here is a portion of Evolution and Deities. I'll be adding another bit concering the falsity of Ontological Relativ...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Magus Magazine: Rumblings in the Rockies: 'Hannibal', the Mormons ...

Magus Magazine: Rumblings in the Rockies: 'Hannibal', the Mormons ...: Rumblings in the Rockies: Hannibal, the Mormons, and Liminality. I couldn't tell if I'd been jolted out of a dream or was suff...

Rumblings in the Rockies: 'Hannibal', the Mormons and Liminality

Rumblings in the Rockies: Hannibal, the Mormons, and Liminality.

I couldn't tell if I'd been jolted out of a dream or was suffering from some inner-ear calamity when I found myself dizzy and nauseous after answering a call from my twisted editor. He sounded scorned and manic. Jabbering about some goddamn injustice, I could hear running water and what appeared to be dozens of yowling cats in the background. A feeling of defeat washed over me and I sullenly braced myself for the storm that was about to erupt on the line. "They've done it!" He screamed into the phone. "The filthy bastards! They dropped it from the line-up!" There was a loud bang followed by coughing and several minutes of silence while I listened to my beleaguered leader curse and howl indiscriminately. Something had gone very wrong.

Of course, I'd already heard the cruel news that had Jack Vates in a savage state of mind. He had been hiking outside of Las Vegas at the Valley of Fire state park when a violent and blinding blast of light shot out from the sky and embedded itself directly into his forehead. Amidst American Indian petroglyphs and a desert terrain that was otherworldy, Vates was seized by a powerful alien force or entity that left him in complete disarray. During this divine invasion, he was directed to head into Vegas and bet heavily on NBC's new television line-up. In particular, the alien presence instructed him to focus on the new crime-thriller 'Hannibal'. You can bet on anything in Las Vegas and playing the odds in television ratings is serious business. When Jack stepped up to 20-1 odds and put the keys to his convertible up as collateral, nobody took him seriously. They pointed and stared at him pitifully. But when 'Hannibal' hit the ground running, even the Vegas bigwigs started jabbering about a 'sleeper' hit. It looked like the Salt Lake City market was gonna embrace this show and Jack doubled-down that the Mormons would at least pay enough attention to criticize. There was a terrible quickness about it. 'Hannibal's' ratings blasted off like a rocket and only CBS's 'Elementary' was in any position to act as competition. Network exec's squawked and ran around in a frenzy. There was talk of NBC stock tripling over night.

And then it happened. The Salt Lake City NBC affiliate KSL dropped 'Hannibal' from their Thursday night line-up because it was deemed 'too gory'. In what was another violent and blinding blast, the entire population of Utah were denied the chance to even watch the program. Stocks plummeted like the Hindenburg and grown men were seen openly weeping and stumbling around like the walking dead.
Christian fundamentalists were giddy about the Mormon decision and renewed their Jihad against the heathen Pagans and Jews. Both the 7th Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses went deep into hiding. The dogs were at the door. When asked about the program, Mormon president Thomas Monson snarled, "If they want to watch what the Church deems heretical, they can move the hell out of Utah! We don't need their kind." It was reported that a silent hiss accompanied this savage outburst.

And alas, the question becomes why? Oh God, why do we have to shut our mouths when they close our eyes? I've seen 'Hannibal'. The show is a crime-drama that weaves a host of occult imagery and themes into its plot and characters. In many ways it acts as a mystery that sparingly parts the veil just enough to reveal the esoteric and arcane. The main character-Will Graham, is an FBI consultant who regularly appears disheveled and is virtually always in a liminal state. A liminal or transitory state refers to the second step in a rite of passage. After an initiate is separated from society or experiences a separation in 'status', a liminal stage of being betwixt and between occurs when the novice undergoes some Ordeal or initiation. Afterwards, the initiate is reintegrated into the community with a new 'state of being'. It is a new ontological status. The person has changed and has become something else.

Will Graham embodies that liminal existence that is between our reality and an occult or unseen reality. He exhibits a distinct form of empathy that allows him to identify so completely with a murderer that he can reduce a crime scene into its parts by temporally reversing the chronology of events. Will gets into the head or fuses with the murderer so as to form a connection and thereby deduce the manner and motive of the crime. While performing these 'thought experiments', Will enters a state of being inbetween physical reality and a numinous or Other reality, In this manner he is perpetually in a liminal state.

Moreover, there is an undercurrent of psychology in the series due to the fact that Will's personal psychiatrist and colleague is serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Dr. Lecter acts as both friend and confidante to empath Will creating a kind of polarity or dichotomy of extremes in their relationship. Dr. Lecter also seems to be aware that Will's psyche is constantly pushing the boundaries of reality. This is nothing new. Many psychologists have patients such as Will who exhibit different modes of thought. For example, Carl Jung had a patient who was frequented by spirits. He stated that, "she was fully oriented to the external world but seemed to have one foot in her dream-world. She saw and heard her spirits, saw how they walked around the room among those present, standing now by on person and now by another". Just like Will, Jung's patient existed in an inbetween state.

Occultist Kenneth Grant has also done extensive work on inbetween states in Ceremonial Magick. In fact, he remarks that, "the magic of Light concerns neither White nor Black magic but an occult current that vibrates in the spaces 'between'; in the interstices, so to speak, of spiritual spacelessness that exists in a necessarily timeless void behind or somewhere outside the tree (Tree of Life)". Furthermore, Grant states that "according to a secret grimoire, 'the Beast' was called down not from known spaces but from 'cells between them', while bultu dreams beat off-beat rhythms". In both these instances the temporal and spatial aspect of being inbetween or liminal is essential to the ritual. Also, the aforementioned off-beat rhythms suggest an aspect of subversion in the rite. This subversion or discord is also apparent in 'Hannibal'.

Indeed, there is no limit to the shock and awe used in 'Hannibal' to upset the norm. Much of the imagery is a screeching assault on public morale. Deliberate use of inversions and the grotesque is meant for us to displace what we are accustomed to. Aspects of surrealism also attack our comfortability. The subversion upsets the social norm by placing Will, an unstable man in the role of stalker. Arguably a sociopath himself, Will becomes a hunter of serial killers. This juxtaposition forces us to question who are the heroes and who are the villains of the show. After all, Dr. Lecter really doesn't come off as a wild-eyed feverish monster. At no time does he jabber insanely or shriek of hellfire. Only the audience really knows the Leviathan just under the surface.

Elements of stalking the stalker can also be found amidst the initiations into spirit possession within the Chwezi culture of Tanzania. According to the Chwezi, spirits are previously initiated ancestors who fuse with members of society in a form of mediumship. The initiation ceremony is designed not to expel the invading entity but to become accustomed to a mediumistic disposition. The Chwezi chant 'Bumanga butashilaga. Bushilailelo, isamva lyvshila: "Mediumship does not die. What ends today is the spirit's anger". Subversion during the liminal state occurs on a number of levels. When novices are abducted or 'separated' from the group, it is a clear subversion of the social order. The initiation is also subversive to social norms because the rite depicts possession "as a reciprocal process of 'stalking' the spirits who themselves are busy stalking the novices".

And this was the ugly scene that caused my editor to lapse into a brooding and foul state of mind. Some pagan god with the sense of humor of wily coyote dropped an acme anvil on Jack for no other reason but to see him bitter and frantic. The outraged Mormons are still promising eternal bliss if only he repent for his crass remarks. Dozens of hate filled letters have now showed up at Liber Ra Publishing with a clear intent to intimidate. One hand-scrawled note from a farmer declared that: "There's still time to save your soul. Even if I till your body with my tractor, the Lord Jesus'll save you if you ask him". The Center for Disease Control neither confirmed nor denied the presence of a strange powder on the paper. An unmarked parcel from the "Committee for Mormon Sovereignty" contained what appeared to be a severed pinky finger accompanied by a photograph of wild badgers. And every time Jack leaves the office, he is stared at and heckled like a leper. This we can do without but business is what it is. These things happen.

-Mad Doctor Abdullah


Grant, Kenneth. Nightside of Eden. Skoob Publishing. London. 1995.

Jung, Carl. Psychology and the Occult. Bollingen Series. 1981. Princeton.

'Stalking the Stalker': a Chwezi initiation into spirit possession and experiential structure. Koen Stroeken. Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute. 12, 785-802. 


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Magus Magazine: Assembling the Supernatural: Quantum theory and th...

Magus Magazine: Assembling the Supernatural: Quantum theory and th...: Hello everybody! Here is a little ditty concerning the Paranormal and ideas of the Quantum. Give it a look....       ASSEMBLING TH...

Assembling the Supernatural: Quantum theory and the Paranormal

Hello everybody! Here is a little ditty concerning the Paranormal and ideas of the Quantum. Give it a look....


            The study of the supernatural begins with a sense of awe. Something spectral, outside the norm or different. Often times, the supernatural defies the empirical and is based solely on experiential happenings. And always it is attached to a sense of wonder. However, anthropologists, folklorists, and students of religion sometimes disagree as to whether the supernatural is in a system or if the system is made up of the supernatural. It is the classic macro/micro debate. For example, a scholar of the supernatural needs an office, a place to investigate, laboratory, tech equipment, an archive of narratives, cameras, witnesses, an audience, and ‘evidence’ or variances of the phenomenon. This structure is formed from local narratives that are collected, classified, changed, and performed in a myriad of ways. the supernatural begins at the local level then moves globally as it shifts and traded through dissemination.

            What this means is that a student of the supernatural has a choice of routes and can focus on either the local or the global aspects of the supernatural. We can either study the spirit of the phenomenon as a whole or render an inquiry into a local paranormal investigative team. Just as Capitalism has a ‘spirit’ but no plausible opposite since its everywhere, a trading room on Wall Street has many competitors in Shanghai, London etc…Wall Street is connected in many ways and it is bigger only in this sense. As Latour has remarked, it is not wider. The point is to not focus on Capitalism but don’t stay stuck in the trading room either. We must follow the connections. After all, “what is acting at the same moment in any place is coming from many other places, many distant materials, and many faraway actors” (Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social. 206). The paranormal also fits this pattern. Although researching the spirit of phenomenon is essential, we must also hone in on local teams that help make the narratives a viable piece of folklore.

            This idea of faraway entities interacting on the local arena also finds its place in quantum physics. According to Capra, “In the framework of quantum theory, distinct physical entities are therefore idealizations which are meaningful only to the extent that the main part of the interaction has a long range” (Capra, The Tao of Physics. 137). In other words, each transaction involves effects extending over great distances. This was the essence of the Einstein/Bohr debate of the 1920s. Einstein was convinced that there are no nonlocal connections. He believed that there must be some external reality consisting of independent spatially separated events. Bohr opined that nonlocal connections do exist. In quantum theory, particles transcend usual information transfer and two separated particles (even by space and time) can influence one another. John Bell settled the matter once and for all. He devised an experiment where two electrons are brought close to each other. At the instant we perform a measurement on particle 1 and set its rotational spin, the second particle automatically began to spin along its opposite axis thus giving the pair of total spin of 0. But would this happening occur if the electrons were separated by long distances? Einstein said ‘No’ because since no signal travels faster than light, it is impossible that a measurement on 1 will ‘instantly’ determine spin on the other. There must be some lag time. Bohr posited that a two-particle system is an indivisible whole. Even if their separated, the pair of electrons will continue to act on one another. Bells’ theorem proved consistent with Bohr’s theory and showed that electrons, and by extension the universe, is interconnected.

            The paranormal also shows ideas of interconnection or unification. If we postulate the probabilities of potentialities based upon measurement, we can surmise the legitimacy of paranormal phenomenon. It’s not hard. Television is full of ghosthunting investigators utilizing a potential ‘Haunted House’ as a laboratory. Experiments are run in a myriad of ways to capture evidence of some supernatural entity. Often times, the ghost or specter is used as an ethnographic informant and structured interviewing is implemented to form a dialogue with the unseen. If we postulate that consciousness of spirit has some corresponding mechanism in our ordinary sphere of influence, the system can be seen as a pair of interconnecting parts. For example, if we use a voice recorder to measure the probability of spirit talking and we capture an anomalous recording on the device, can we find a corresponding sound vibration or band-width to use as a mechanism or catalyst for the happening? Probabilities can be mustered by using quantum thinking in areas of the paranormal. Sure, its difficult to verify. But is difficulty a justifiable reason to not explore these potentialities?

            Inherently, the problem of the supernatural is one of Existence. The whole point of studying anomalous entities is to come to grips with our wanting to believe in something outside normal circles of space and time. We conjure narratives of myth and folklore. We apply reason and rationality in an attempt to explain scientifically what the anomalous re-presents to us. Probabilities and potentialities are the new symbols of the paranormal entity. More than an estimation of an occurrence or true statement, probability has become synonymous with the entity itself. Furthermore, the entity sits betwixt and between Being and Nothingness. Like the appearance of Schrodinger’s Cat, the supernatural creature cannot be said to ‘Be’ or ‘Not Be’ really there. As our perspective changes, so does the behavior of the entity. As Capra remarked, “The introduction of probability waves, in a sense, resolves the paradox of particles being waves by putting it in a totally new context; but at the same time it leads to another pair of opposite concepts which is even more fundamental that of Existence and Non-Existence. We can never say that an atomic particle exists at a certain place, nor can we say that it does not exist. Being a probability pattern, the particle has tendencies to exist in various places and thus manifests a strange kind of physical reality between Existence and Non-Existence” (Capra, Tao of Physics. 154). The particle recalls the supernatural entity in that it enjoys a liminal existence. As it is measured or as it is ethnographically studied, the particle sits without a status and is inbetween shifts in agency. Is it a limbo or purgatory existence? It is process of becoming and the state just before objective knowledge and subjective experience is unified into a new assembly? It is all these things and more.

            The quantum is a sufficient metaphor for the supernatural. After all, many supernatural creatures can only be said to be perceived indirectly. Such in the case of the voice recorder or shadow on film. Particles exhibit similar behavior. Again Capra remarks that there are “Other particles that belong to a category called resonances. They live for a considerable shorter time, decaying after a few ‘particle seconds’, so they can never travel farther than a few times their own size. This means they cannot be seen in the bubble chamber; their existence can only be inferred indirectly” (Capra 228). Supernatural creatures also show the tendency to be indirectly perceived. For example, ceremonial magicians perform highly ritualized and formal invocations of the anomalous. Sometimes the rite consists of a complex magical circle, liturgy, and intense visualization. As the invocation progresses, sometimes a change of air pressure or strange sound is all that announces the entrance of the desired Being. Like the particle, the existence of the entity can sometimes only be inferred indirectly. A resonance and a supernatural entity cannot be said to be objects or events. They are an experience or happening…..