Over on the Wild Hunt, Jason wrote a post recently about the fact that the book industry Study Group has recently moved some of the books that are considered Paganism/Wicca from the Occult/New Age section over to the Religion section. He sees this as a good thing, and I would agree, if it wasn't for the following:
Throughout those years I remember often voicing a common complaint: “Why are books about Pagan religions shelved next to crystal healing and channeled hidden masters instead of in the religion section where they belong.” I felt, as many others did, that it created a two-tiered hierarchy: “real” religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and those religions relegated to what was once known as the “occult” section.
I'd ask why is there an assumption that crystal healing and channeling hidden masters couldn't be consider a form of religion in its own right, or at the least part of the religious practices? Or perhaps also why the occult is so stigmatized and seen as a bad thing that hurts paganism, especially given many of the religious and spiritual practices are occult oriented? Isn't the occult a real "religion"?
Now I'll admit that I don't consider what I practice to really be a religion, but at the same time I wouldn't mind seeing occult books given a bit more respect in general...and my concern is that while books that are considered overtly Pagan or Wicca will now be labeled as a religion, other books will continue to be relegated to a label that is less than flattering, and will also provide further fuel for what I think of as the segregation of magic from Paganism. It seems to me that occult/magic practices are considered the bastard child of Paganism, something to be dusted under the rug because it hurts the image of Paganism as more of a mainstream religion. Yet I'd argue that those very practices define the spiritual work and that the various books on Paganism and Wicca that reference magic and the occult shouldn't suddenly be removed from a section, unless you are going to remove all the books found in that section, or at least categorize them more effectively.
My question is: Why is there such an emphasis on removing the occult from Paganism? I think its because Paganism is making some strides and getting some good recognition and the last thing the people, working on making Paganism more mainstream and acceptable, want is to be associated with magic and the occult. But when we remove magic from the picture we are removing something essential and while Paganism may look more acceptable, denying its roots, and looking down on certain practices just creates a rift that does more to hurt the community than actually help it. We shouldn't strive so hard for acceptance if we aren't willing to ask that everything we do be accepted, as opposed to only the parts that are considered "safe"