The discourse of the Pagan Bubble

Paganbubble On the wild hunt blog, Teo Bishop posted about living in a Pagan Bubble, and mentioned his concern when he realized his step dad didn't understand what he was writing about when he read his blogs. I thought it was an interesting post, because it highlighted how a specialized community can have a discourse that doesn't allow just anyone access into the community. Such discourses exist not just in Religion or spirituality, but also in academic disciplines, subcultures, and any other type of community that is created. And much like Teo, I had a similar experience once where my mother told me she'd bought one of my books and read it and found that she didn't understand it.

A while back I wrote a post about discourse and the self-secret language that people develop and learn when they want to enter into a specific community. While I recognize the concern that Teo feels about the discourse and resulting Pagan Bubble that appears, I'd argue that such a bubble is an inevitable conclusion of entering into any specialized community. There is a level of discourse, of specialized language, that needs to be learned in order to effectively enter into the community. And I think this is a good thing in the sense that such a discourse encourages a certain level of knowledge and experience, while also providing people a shared sense of communal identity.

At the same time I recognize Teo's concern that such a discourse ultimately creates an insular community, where people are isolated because they aren't able to relate to others. There is a need to have a dialogue between communities, an inter-faith dialogue in the case of Paganism and other types of spiritual beliefs, and as such we can't become too insular. Plus if we do live in such a bubble we cut ourselves off from inspiration. My own solution to this has been to cultivate an interest in a wide variety of disciplines and some other discourse communities, which in turn provides me perspectives outside of the Pagan Bubble. For example being a small business owner provides access to a different discourse community, which has intersections with a variety of other discourse communities as well.

I think the way to pop the Pagan Bubble is to simply be involved in the world around you, and in interests that aren't always Pagan-centric. Indeed I think if I spent all my time focused on being around pagans, I'd find some of the insularity and limitation that Teo is concerned about, if only because exposure to one perspectives limits us to a rather myopic view of the universe.

What's missing from academic inquiries into magic

I'm currently reading A Cognitive Theory of Magic (affiliate link) by Jesper Sorenson and the Anthropology of Magic (affiliate link) by Susan Greenwood. So far, they are fascinating reads, but in looking over their bibliography I find myself annoyed because in their effort to comment on magic the only sources they have pulled from are academic sources, and they have not even done a complete survey of that body of literature. But most importantly they have not also drawn on what occultists actually have to say about magic. Greenwood, being an actual practitioner, has no real excuse for not doing this, but Sorenson also doesn't have an excuse because he hasn't even drawn on contemporary academic examinations of magic. Actually neither of them have, instead drawing on the academic work of scholars from the early to  late twentieth century. Certainly it's good they are drawing on those sources, but both authors have done something I see occur in a lot of academic work on magic, namely limited themselves in drawing on very specific sources, while ignoring others. It's an academic tactic I'm familiar from my own days in the institution and paradoxically there's also this cry to be "rigorous" and thorough in drawing on available sources.

However even looking at the academic works of people who practice magic, we see more of a focus on pagan academic studies than occult or esoteric studies. And while that is still a good development, the pagan focus as it pertains to magic is more of a religious approach and less of a practical approach.

The aforementioned authors are focused on discussing the practical application of magic and where it fits into civilization, or lack thereof, but there's always this curious lack of inquiry into the actual occult texts that are available. I've seen it in other academic texts as well. There's lots of commentary on what other academics had to say about magic, but little to no commentary on what occultists might have to say on the subject. To claim authority in defining magic there necessarily needs to be familiarity with the entire field of study, which means drawing on a wide variety of sources that aren't academic, but also involves doing a thorough reading of the available academic literature. I'd like to see more of that kind of rigor in academic works on magic.