My disillusionment with the occult scene

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?

A Confession

I have a confession to make.  I'm not really a magician. I realized this the other day, when in the process of decluttering my house, I decided to take my Golden Dawn and Crowley books, as well as copy of Agrippa's Three Books of the Occult into Powells to trade them in for credit. I'd read the books and done the practices years ago, even re-read Book 4 by Crowley recently and the most profound thought I had was, "This is taking up a lot of space and gathering a lot of dust." So when I turned those books in, which could be considered classics of western occultism, I realized my focus about magic had changed. I realized I'd become someone who happens to do magic, and uses it when appropriate as opposed to being someone who is defined as a magician. Of course I still have plenty of occult books that, as far as I can tell, I probably won't get rid of. I've got my William G. Gray, my Franz Bardon, my Pascal Beverly Randolph, my various books on alchemy, Taoist practices etc...but I've also been gradually filling those bookshelves with books on NLP, communication techniques, semiotics, cultural studies, multimodality, Neuroscience, physics and other areas of interest that are relevant to my spiritual practice.

It's not even so much that I no longer have books by Crowley or the Golden Dawn that doesn't make me a magician. Those are just books. They don't confer status, beyond what meaning people read into them. It's the change in focus, the change in attitude, the realization that my spiritual path has grown to include a wider range of studies and interests than traditional ceremonial magic could offer. Instead of limiting myself to one particular paradigm for how life should be lived, I'm interested in discovering the variety of paradigms available and have been for a long time.

I explored the paradigm of Crowleyian and Golden Dawn Western Ceremonial magic a long time ago. I got stuff out of it, but I moved on to other paradigms of western ceremonial magic that I found more useful (and still do to this day). And I continued moving on, but when I reread Crowley and his fervent desire to rehabilitate magic, I realized I wasn't a magician, because the result of his attempted rehabilitation of magic hasn't even remotely occurred, and yet it seems that so many people still operate on that current. I'm just not one of them. I haven't been for a long, long time, so why continue pretending to be something I don't feel fits me?

I happen to practice magic, along with a lot of other practices. I think that works as a better descriptor of the place of magic in my life and the current I'm exploring.

Magic and Role Models

The Occult and Role Models Humans are social creatures, and we inevitably seek people to model our behavior off of. Magicians and mystics are no different.

My experience with the occult, from some early Robert Anton Wilson, Jung, and general mysticism, has largely been from Taoist sources. Interested in meditation, Chi work, and philosophy, it was a natural for me - and Taoist lore has a rich source of colorful tales, characters, and practitioners. My experiences, thus, are a mixture of Western psychology, and an Eastern mysticism containing everything from mental exercises to tales of drunken poets.

Taoism of course provides a lot of fascinating role models, from legendary to more contemporary figures - writers, magicians, scribes, humor writers, and more. There's an emphasis on people who pass on teachings, advise others, find teachers, and so on. Role models are, in short, a part of it's tradition, from the mystics to the doctrinaire religious teachings.

However, this influence on me was not something I noticed until lately, and considering how I would look at legendary figures and modern translators as role models led to me asking the question about role models for other occultists.

At least in my experience, I find little consideration given to role models in occultism. People certainly have them, as noted it's human nature, but I rarely see it discussed. However occult practice involves creating change, it involves symbol and association, and thus I'd say the role models an occultism choses are of paramount importance to what one achieves.

As discussed here on this blog, not everyone is exactly thrilled with Aleister Crowley. I give him his due, but I do consider him to be overrated merely because his reputation seems to be far more than deserved. However, I'd ask another question - how many people is he a role model to, and is he a good choice? I'd say he was smart - but I wouldn't want to be a copy of him.

Or for that matter other mystics - Phil Hine, Grant Morrison, David Lee, Isaac Bonnewitz, and so on - how many people out there are basing their lives on them? How many, for that matter, know it?

If you're an occultist, ask yourself who your role model is - and you can be sure you probably have one or two or more, even if you don't like to think you do. Why did you pick them? Are they a good choice? Are you living up to them? Are you exceeding them?

Examining one's occult role models lets you understand yourself, your choices, and what you become.

That, of course, is a major part of magic.

- Vince Stevens

"Sometimes Magic is like a Bad Acid Trip"

"Sometimes magic is like a bad acid trip" solis93 said to me yesterday as we were talking on the phone about editing, Hermeticism, and magic in general. Yes, yes in fact magic as a spiritual path, as a mystic path, is sometimes like a bad acid trip. I'm not talking about service to any gods here either. I know some people believe that's hard work, but what I'm talking about is a whole different ballgame, because in the end the Gods themselves will hold us back if they can. They have power, and yet they are, in the Eastern conception of them, bound by that very power, attached to what they represent, and what they mean, and so that power becomes weakness for them, because they can never move beyond what they are. They can never transcend the state they are in. Service to them, while useful, ultimately is designed to free people of them, because it exposes the limitations of the very power the gods have. Do I speak blasphemy to some of you? So be it. Blasphemy it may be, in the end, and yet we are all on journeys that are journeys for us to walk the path we walk and so the gods becomes tools, becomes servants to us, much like a king becomes a servant...He has power, but also obligation, and service...he is never free, he can never not be king. No one will let him retire. He has to die to free himself, and that death, while a transformation, nonetheless is the ending of any lessons he could learn. The same is true of the gods. Until they die, they are never free of the service. Even when they hold you in service to them, still they exist in a more profound slavery to you! For, in the end, unwittingly perhaps, or perhaps with conscious awareness, they are really instructing you on your path, providing you the means to move on...to transcend, to transform. And so even in service to them, you are ultimately in service to yourself, to the HGA, to the highest self, to omnil, 0 and 1, all things and none, Kia, nothingness and everything, that which is so profound about yourself that should you reach it, you will look back at the bad acid trip and laugh, because it was just a small step in a long journey. The gods serve you even as you serve them, like an infinity sign, bound together in a continuing cycle of suffering and desire...it will never end, unless you move further up the spiral, and yet to move up is to submit, to be destroyed and then created again, rising like the phoenix from the ashes, even as the ashes form the alchemical seed of transformation that moves you profoundly across the universe.

When I talk about magic, in this context, I'm not talking about just obtaining a result. I'm talking about doing the internal work, about doing service to yourself and others by doing this work. When I meditate and I delve inward, I'm on a path of discovery...not to destroy the ego, but to help the ego...not get rid of the self, but give the self different perspectives, free the self of the behaviors that hold the self back. This is work that is humbling because it shows you so much about yourself and the insignificance of it all. And yet in that insignificance is significance...0 and 1, The seed. And from the seed, and the roots, in the internal depths, arises the plant, the power, the path, the flowering of life, unfolding, revealing, creating the external to match the internal so that the internal can learn from the external...no dualism here...we all come together and we all fall apart. In the moment we experience identity, we experience every variation thereof and from that find profound patterns that reveals the secrets of no-thing.

The internal work is the highest test of the self, the test of your identity, your transcendence, that who you are. The methods we use to do that internal work, whether through meditation, through ceremonial magic, through any of it really, are all designed to teach us, to help us learn. But this no denial of the body, or desires, but rather an embrace of them, a coming to a healthy place with them, a recognition of where they fit within us, and how they teach us. To deny them is to provide more suffering than we had before...but to accept them, define boundaries for them, even as we submit, is to come to understanding.

Through understanding arises opportunity...growth...Eheieh