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”. 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”. 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 naïve 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). 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.