Friday, March 04, 2016

Have You Heard the News? Occultism is Dying. Again.

When I began actively blogging again I wrote a piece on the insidious, Borg-like power of the New Age movement, a movement that seemed both ubiquitous and invisible.
The New Age's power seemed to partly reside in its formlessness but also in its ability to invade, subvert and assimilate a host body from within. I don't know how seriously people took me at the time. They may have taken me more seriously when I pointed out that the memberships of some New Age groups on Facebook are larger than most Christian denominations in the US at present.

The New Age has apparently assimilated yet another target; the most recent Occult Revival, which seemed poised to present a credible alternative to the New Age just a few years ago. The Occult Revival was being fed by many streams, the neopagan movement, the popularity of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, the mystique created by occult symbolism in fashion and pop and the growing disenchantment with both organized religion and secular rationalism. 

But what I'm hearing now is that this latest occult revival is dying, perhaps an inevitability given the promises made by the popular misconceptions of the occult and the boredom that has always lurked beneath the glamour and promise of occultism (or Ceremonial Magic, more accurately). At the feet of the best of teachers Ceremonial Magic is work, at the worst it's pure drudgery with nary a miracle or wonder in sight.

But this list got my attention, I'm sure you'll see why. From "10 Reasons Why Public Occultism is Dying":
1. The contamination of occultism by dumbed down “New Age” systems, fantasy and fraud.
2. Contamination by Intellect.
3. Contamination by Psychology.
4. Contamination by fundamentalism.
5. Contamination of training systems by “non-occult” leaders.
6. The failure of modern students to study or give the work priority.
7. Failure to financially support teachers, writers, or orders.
8. The collapse of the Order and Teaching system.
9. The Internet has made occultism too accessible.
10. The quality of occult information has become less and not more.
Now I don't mean to be facetious here but it seems the author is claiming that the occult (by which I think he means "Ceremonial Magic") is dying because it's the occult. Is there a reason it isn't dying? I'm reading all this from a distance so I'm not one to judge, but from my outsider's perspective I'd have to say no. But look more carefully at the first reason, since it speaks directly to what I've been saying all along:
1. The contamination of occultism by dumbed down “New Age” systems, fantasy and fraud. Occultism and magic cannot be boiled down to seven basic laws or principles or simplified. New Thought, the Secret, NLP, Chaos magic, New Age have all given a completely false impression of what magic is. However rather than resist this, the various occult movements have adopted some or all of these principles. Eastern ideas, such as karma, have been repackaged and placed inside Western occultism to fit New Age thinking. This dumbing down of occultism has made it acceptable to spiritual tourists. They provide a common language between many different shallow occult groups which are about show rather than serious work.
Well, yeah. But New Age grows in popularity because it fills a need in its followers. And the author surely isn't earning a lot of good will by throwing chaos magic into the mix, since as far as I can see it's the chaos magicians (like our Gordon and his Scarlets) who are forcibly injecting pop occultism with a much needed dose of scholarship. Or is that the dreaded "intellect" the author speaks of?

Another author picks up the cudgel ("Is Public Occultism Fading Out?") and also bashes the New Agers and chaos magicians with it. But first he too laments the lack of interest in Ceremonial Magic, which from an outsider's perspective often looks like a bunch of Magic the Gathering gamers LARPing out the ritually bits. Unfair, I know.

But I'm just saying it like it is.

Pagan festivals, on the other hand, actually are often a bunch of Magic the Gathering gamers LARPing out modern rewritings of rituals that, more often than not, included some kind of blood sacrifice, if not actual fucking and flagellation (while bathed in the blood of said sacrifices). And those were the socially acceptable rites:
Some have suggested that it is not magick that is fading away, so much as popular interest in Golden Dawn-style ceremonial.  And that is true to a large extent. “Western Mystery” (read Ceremonial Magick) conferences hardly ever happen these days, and if they do they are small and informal...My current Ceremonial Magick 101 class does not have a single ceremonial magician in it...But it’s not just the CM community that seems to be in a slump.  Attendance at Pagan Festivals has been down over the last couple of years.  
And here we get to the bashing of New Agers and Chaos Magicians:
 Yet the same venue has no problem filling seats for New Age classes.  In fact, my wife and I have both noticed that the shop itself has, over the years, progressed from being an occult shop where Pagans hang out to a semi-Pagan/New Age shop where New Agers hang out.  And this has been in reaction to the market, not a decision made by the owner.  You see, the biggest and fastest-growing occult fads out there today are the New Age (yes, still) and Chaos Magick – both systems of E-Z Occultism that encourage you to just make it up as you go along.  No study.  No work.  No effort.  Just play.
Again, I'm saying this as a friend but maybe the New Agers and chaos magicians are filling a need in their audience. Which is why they have one.

I don't know why Ceremonial Magic needs to be like endless algebra homework, particularly when the audience is not exactly perceiving a huge payoff in benefits from the effort.  Mostly what they see is a bunch of confusing busywork and a bunch of sects constantly at war with each other. I'm sorry to be so blunt, just trying to help.

I don't think I've ever put it quite this way but I think "the Occult" is actually the worst vehicle for the occult.  It's not only its worst vehicle it can be its worst enemy. The Occult is like an endless rulebook when people really want to play the game. And what's the game? 

Ah, the game is Magic, kids.

But Magic is not an end unto itself, it's a power tool.
You use it to build whatever it is you're building, whether that's a David Bowie album, an Alan Moore comic or a Gordon White alt.history book. It makes whatever you're building bigger and louder and more lasting. I think the record is pretty clear and consistent that that is when it works best. 

"Occult Revivals" only work so far as they inspire artists to create magic and magicians to create art. We remember the occult revival of the 60s and 70s for Rosemary's Baby and Simon, King of the Witches and Don't Look Now and The Magic Mountain and Led Zeppelin IV and Station to Station and The Norliss Tapes and The Night Stalker and the Illuminatus Trilogy and VALIS and Tomb of Dracula and Doctor Strange and the art of San Francisco poster artists and Hypgnosis and Roger Dean and so on and so forth.

"Occultism", on the other hand, usually ends up a weird power game where people fuck with each other's heads (a best-case scenario) and every one eventually goes home feeling bad. The history here is fairly unambiguous.

Jung said religion was a shield against the experience of the Divine and I'm wondering if occultism isn't a shield against the power of Magic. Occultism is the illusion that we can impose our will on powers that were ancient before we were even human. I don't think that ever ends well. I'd say it's better to enter into Magic with a profound sense of humility and gratitude. Try it and let me know how it goes.

Occultism has waxed and waned many times before, it's true. However, things do die, or become so esoteric as to be essentially invisible. But as Terence McKenna said, "If it's real it can take the pressure." If not let it die.  And go make Magic. 


  1. Great points, Chris. John Michael Greer wrote about what he called the twilight of the neopagan era. It's well worth the read, as it discusses what Greer sees as historical cycles for interest in magic and the occult:

    I think traditional Golden Dawn-style ceremonial magic, of which Nick Farrell is a practitioner, is losing its appeal to millennials in particular. They have grown up with the easy access of the Internet, and see little reason to delve into Regardie's giant brick of a book. Cabalistic systems like that of the GD or Thelema require an enormous amount of reading and high-level thinking, as well as just a ton of freaking *work.* It's daunting stuff, but that's as it should be.

    Chaos magic shook the cobwebs out of traditional Cabalistic magic, and that was a good thing. It injected a renewed sense of experimentation and playfulness that the ossified systems needed.

    What I see as the future of magic is more open-source systems like Josephine McCarthy and Frater Acher's Quareia project. It is one of the better approaches to magic I've seen in a long time.

    There is much to be gained from studying the older systems—it's the equivalent of reading classic literature before studying modern fiction. It is always important to know where magic came from and how it evolved before, say, jumping headfirst in chaos magic.

    And you nailed it when you described how magical currents must be intertwined with art, and how magic infuses the best art. I can't separate the two in my own work, and the artists I admire are all creating powerful works of magic.

    Thanks for another provocative post.

  2. Thank you for your very thoughtful comment and for the links. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and if CM isn't producing a quality product the people won't come back for more. I simply think it's too tied up in archaic customs to really speak to most people anymore. I admire the desire for some kind of tradition but do the traditions still work?

    1. Whose traditions? Theirs? (points)

      What traditions?

      They never worked to begin with ! Pure Voodoo!

      They only ever worked because people stopped believing in the power to create individually and believed what everyone else was telling them. People exterior to their own wonderful True and Faithful Self.

      We allowed them to work their falsities on us for many reasons.

      Perhaps for the experience of falling down and getting up.

    2. Voodoo-or whatever you chose to call it- works quite well and has for quite a long time. It goes back a very, very long way and clearly connects right back to the ancient Mysteries.

  3. Uh, actually it's Christianity and organized religion that is now in steep decline. The Evangelical Christian wing of the G.O.P. was dealt a fatal blow in 2012, and it shows big time in 2016, with the Christian Revivalist Ted Cruz winning two states thus far. And I think Secret Sun is right, the 2012 stuff seems to be happening in 2016. Damn, I think even all of our calendars are wrong! So perhaps instead of a Christian State, maybe someday soon we'll have a Thelemic state? Think not? Stranger things have happened!

    1. I dare you to put down the news and newspapers and go into yourself for the news of you.

      One can get so wrapped up in the outside of you, that one can so easily forget that voice and feeling within that says ....


      and you will never set yourself free counting on all those things to aid you in your life.

      You do not need Ted, you do not need O.R. and certainly you need not worry what state anyone else is in.

      This life is ALL ABOUT YOU!

    2. I wouldn't count the Christians out quite yet. They've overcome worst crises than this. Though I'm not quite sure how any of that corresponds to what I've written here. As to a Thelemic State, if one came to pass here I'd emigrate and watch the implosion from a safe distance.


  4. Magic - people want an easy fix and do NOT want to change what they cling to most half heartedly. They want to believe in something or some god EXTERIOR to their own great magical self.

    Having to take a look at onesself on the INSIDE is something most people would dread and ignore in a heartbeat.

    Not everyone but my gosh I would say most. More than most.

    So and so did this to 'make' me mad. So and so did this so and so did that ...they do this and they do that and I do not like it. I say tough. It is their world they live in not yours.

    From my personal experience freedom is a bitch to understand but once a person, at whatever pace they can kindly offer themselves, moves through it, it can be power. Sheer power for their own self.

    Good, bad, is only an opinion and perspective and just because people are rich doesnt mean others have to bite their head off for it. Sure people are rich. You could be too. I could be too. If that was my goal.

    NLP is a strong tool and nothing to be joking about. Yes its like a hammer - bash a skull or build a house.

    But so are words.

    Ceremonial magic is nothing more than a placebo for the REAL magic of focused faith of a noble imagination.

    It is a placebo and IMO can only aid in the feeling of focus. It doesnt do a damn thing to create on its own!!!!!!!! That is ALL you baby!

    The planets? The sun? The anything?

    It is all in your perspective. This Earth? Has billions of eyes on it. Each set to a different thought and belief on what Earth should be like.

    Which tells me, the only one that matters is mine! (or yours! its all about you!) I can not change anything without first!, changing my perspective of it. Now that !!!is true power.

    the Secret? (the movie you mentioned) is a good movie but it just skims the surface.

    It can be a very trying experience to create reality with your thoughts, beliefs and emotions when you have to first change how you treat yourself and change the story one tells inside the mind over and over again on a daily basis. Change that, and boy o boy does the world change.

    Hang on to that and you have found your magic.

    I would never classify The Seth Material or Neville Goddard into any of those froo froo woo woo magic occult categories. I am glad they were not thrown into the mix.

    For me they are real they are Teachers and they are right on the mark.

    Throw a little NLP taught by someone who gives two s@*t^ and you are on your way to saying no when you mean no instead of saying yes because YOU have told a story inside your mind that solidifies any number of things like guilt for the cave-in.

    Ceremony, Ritual, whatever.

    Brushing your teeth is ceremonial.

    It comes down to two things and two things only.

    Mechanical versus REAL.


    Snap out of a mechanical life and get into your own life. Now that is magic.

    "You get what you focus on there is no other main rule."

    There used to be a saying so long forgotten and so terribly denied it goes like this:

    "Ye are gods."

    1. Your comments are thoughtful and well-taken. However, I don't go for the "ye are gods" business. Any illusion that I was a god was ripped away in the merciless currents of the Atlantic Ocean as a young boy. I think if you really have experience with magic you are humbled by forces far beyond your own ken and are grateful for their attention and assistance when it comes.

    2. " I think if you really have experience with magic you are humbled by forces far beyond your own ken and are grateful for their attention and assistance when it comes. "

      what do you mean by "their" ?

      Your Inner Self can never be ripped away from you. Ever. Oh how others will try. If that were the case, you my friend would simply not be here.

      It really would have been ripped away. And it is obvious to me you do not really believe that but you might cling to it from time to time and that is perfectly okay hell I cling to stuff I probably woudl be better off revising and setting free. But nope, its mine mine mine !

      You are still here in your godliness expressed in flesh and I for one am thankful for it. I really do enjoy you being here.


      I find it truly magnificent that whatever you went through which seems horribly awful by the way you mentioned it, you were like Superman ripping right back through it claiming what is yours! Life! Experience! You to me are Superboy!

      I feel I can say this because I think I can relate to the feeling of having my godliness ripped out from me.

      Oh but we stand Christopher! And we keep talking, and we keep walking and we keep living.

      I hope we enver have a definition for god because then god is limited and god is finite.

      All That Is and are we not "Is" ? I AM is here.

      We is here.

      We be. We is. We Are!

  5. Occult you say? Try getting someone from Truther, Inc. like Alex "Teh Documentz" Jones to talk about Chisholm v. Georgia.

    "In this extensive sense, not only each state singly, but even the United States may without impropriety be termed "corporations."
    -Chisholm v. Georgia, SCOTUS, February 1793.

    Goodness gracious! You'd think he was being asked to recite a dark magick spell.


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    1. Well, having read a number of articles researching this piece what I determined these occultists were really bemoaning was the death of ceremonial magic, which I hope I made clear. CM and its orders and its hierarchies and so on. But this also applies to the popularity of CM-related topics like Golden Dawn, Thelema, AC, etc. But I'll be honest here- when all this was brought to my attention I didn't know CM was all that alive to begin with. Occult orders and such seem to be encoded with self-destruct buttons. If the Golden Dawn couldn't survive, how could these imitators? I think the real secret societies- the ones we don't really know about- are up to a lot more potent and nefarious kind of magic than what these groups have to offer.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Chris,

    One writer states: "My current Ceremonial Magick 101 class does not have a single ceremonial magician in it." Well, yeah. If I were to host a Fundamentals of Blacksmithing class, I somehow doubt the place would be flooded with Master or even Journeyman Smiths, unless they were there to judge my bona fides.

    That ties in with what I see as the real complaint, from an earlier quote: "7. Failure to financially support teachers, writers, or orders." It's always about the Benjamins. Oh, sure, a teacher should be compensated. Hell, you didn't get through the door to see Augustine or Aristotle unless you coughed up the cash. But I know from direct observation what the going rate at a top Ivy League school is for lecturers, and lemme tell ya, it ain't paying the bills. Nothing below a tenured Professor does. But I have a hunch that more than a few of these complaints come from Illuminated Masters who think they're up there with those ancients in both wisdom and compensatory rates.

    But as you infer, they may not be selling what people are buying, else they'd have to hire doormen to keep out the penniless and the cheap, as those NeoPlatonists did back in their day. Anyone who wants to pay his mortgage on his occult teachings better give up on the Ceremonial Magick and start selling those Great Spirit Lucky Number candles, because someone is selling a boatload of 'em and making a fortune. That, or stop trying to sell to the Great Unwashed and go find a few blue-blood patrons, like they did in the old days. Maybe they won't get rich, but spending a few years holding court as the resident guru in some spinster's half-forgotten summer house on a sprawling estate isn't a bad gig to have.

    1. I was actually a bit stunned by that list because it seemed a comprehensive accounting of everything that CM actually is. I don't know if that was the author's intent. But yeah- I've been doing this blog now for 9 years and have had some very nice folks send donations now and again but when I think of the time and energy and often the money invested here, it's basically a deficit operation. I do so because I think the information is important. Because it's not self-supporting I am selective about the information that I post here, which is a bit of a shame since there's so much more I could be posting- especially on the topics of experiential magic and synchronicity in the real world- but can only do so much with my time. So I don't know how many tears I can spare here. I do wonder if all this does boil down to CMers complaining they can't make money at it in the same way the born-again debunkers in UFOlogy and the paranormal are just walking case studies in sour grapes. I also look askance at the hierarchal pretensions of ceremonial magic, all too reminiscent of Victorian Freemasonry. And the sniping at chaos magic was a bit of a tell for me. It almost reminds me of a microcosmic replay of the Jupiter priesthood sniping at some upstart Mystery cult. I don't have anything against CM personally- I think there's room for everyone. But times change and things that worked in the 19th Century tend not to work in the 21st.

  8. Yeah Chris I think the point you make about modern-day occult rituals as a protection against real Magic and Occultism, is a valid and profound one.

    A point can be made that we make use of Magic and the Occult all the time, we just don't know it. Not necessarily in positive ways, or always in positive ways. Or if it even makes sense to speak in terms of positive and negative. And I mean even secular atheists here make use of the Occult and are used by it!! but it's working at an unconscious level, in the background, all the time. A shaman for example, just draws it out and harnesses it for a known end or purpose. As Colin Wilson once wrote, men make use of a kind of ritual magic to seduce women, visualization and obsessiveness here has a willful magical deliberation to it. To win the woman over by force of mind.

    Synchronicity too is evidence of how we use the Occult all the time, but don't know it consciously, and don't know how we go about it. The Magic is there anyway. It has to be because the world and Nature is by nature magical. Even as scientists explain it all away.

    In a very real way, Chaos Magic is the norm, we just don't know it. Modern secular and so-called 'religious' society represses the Occult, but it bounces back in the most bizarre ways and in all kinds of outlets.

    1. Well, as Gordon White says Synchronicity is Magic, full on. He's not alone in that. And Synchronicity is highly useful. So there you are.

    2. You should check out my 2 part chat in the woods on YouTube about the difference between chance, cycles and synchronicity.

      Right not I'm trying to categorize the three as what they actually are when they show up on my life.

  9. I've never practiced the occult, although I am aware of it. It did have a vivid dream in 1995 where I was floating above a city that was Golden with hints of bronze, which was what I call retro-futuristic, with a sky that was of gold with hints of red. I began spinning while viewing it from above. It was very real, the most real dream I've ever had. Soon after, I began to have very violent and frightening "sleep paralysis" experiences. The sensation of sinking was terrifying, and got worse and worse the longer it lasted, only ending when I forced my eyes open and awoke.

  10. I forgot to mention something a bit X-rated: It felt like there was something pressing down on me in a rhythmic undulating way. In the past year, on occasion I've been lying in bed when suddenly it felt like something was caressing my private area, and it was so intense I started going into convulsions. I did not touch myself in any way.

    1. You should read some of Jeff Kripal's books. This is right up his road. Very typical, almost stereotypical. Seriously- look him up.

  11. Chris I absolutely adore your blog and this post. I can't express that enough.

    "Jung said religion was a shield against the experience of the Divine and I'm wondering if occultism isn't a shield against the power of Magic." - Right on.

    "Occultism is the illusion that we can impose our will on powers that were ancient before we were even human." - Excellent, helpful insight.

    I mean, even the fine gentleman who goes by the moniker 'Occult Fan' chose it for his music/writing endeavors out of resonance from a video game, a la , and not out of actual fandom for Ceremonial Magic or whipping blood-soaked pagans. (Not complaining nor knocking it)...

    I am wondering if you would speak to what might be the possible deficits (serious) of joining other orders which aren't so 'on the way out' (it seems) such as the Masonic order (even blue lodges) - do you see any dangers to doing so? I am sure that you are not part of said group, but you obviously understand that we humans are destroyed by the Atlantic, that these powers, be it oceanic or 'the nine' or otherwise are far-more ancient and are higher on the pecking order, I wonder if there is a social/soul/sovereignty detriment to doing so?

    I know you will not have 'all the answers there', but you are informed enough to give some sort of helpful response, if you would be so kind. It may just save someone from making a solemn mistake. No pressure.

    And again, answer or no, What a MARVELOUS article. You deserve to be paid and living in the shade for all you've written, if there were justice true. Hey, you know, maybe do some magic and see what happens? ...and Very Sound Point on humility. Much respect to you.

    1. I think the main danger is boredom and cringe. All the Masons I know are very frustrated and waiting for the old farts to die off so they can try pumping some blood back into it. People joined orders to gain access to information, but it's all out there now. And the secret societies that will do something for you don't take people in off the street. Keep doing what you're doing.

  12. Thought I'd call myself a chaos magician till I took my last breath. The only label I've never minded, that is until my darkening of my 2-3 year now "Night of the Soul".

    Crowley warns of either the "End of a Time/Age" or the ending of an age that begins in an infinite state where "Heath crazies", "Fascism" and "Occultism" in all it's forms are high. This is referring to the 1937 forward in The Book of the Law. The way I read it may be different then his blind followers but he also warns about the decay of religion, and imo depending on the tone I hear, he is absolutely saying this is a "Bad Thing".

    I no longer consider myself a magician, a mystic at best. But religion is a wave, magick etc... Is short temporary burst of BS imo.

    Never thought I'd say this. Go join the two main "Chaos Magick" groups on YouTube, spend a day looking around, if you don't see it may I suggest burring your head in the sand and pretending it's not a bunch of idiots. All magick groups are horrible, full of ego and "know it all's". At this point I'm ashamed to have ever called myself such. The Omnipotent Creator is and will forever be full of mystery and for anyone to claim to have a fraction of a fraction figured out without question marks still looming is the "Buddha you meet on the Road", and I hope you know what to do when you see the Buddha on the road.

    1. Sorry spellchecker! Should say "infantile" and also I meant the two main facebook groups not YouTube. You will never see so much infantile bs in one place in you life less you join a discordian group on facebook that is equally infantile and not in a witty humours way.

    2. Oh, I hear you loud and clear, Mr. Chronozon. You don't have to tell me twice- did that a long time ago. You seem like a wise and learned soul, spellcheck be damned.

    3. The straight passage from Crowley's Book of the Law forward.... Chris how else could anyone take what he is saying and turn it into anything other then what he is saying. Maybe I'm that connected or tottally nuts but it seems absolutely prophetic and straight forward...."epicene", genderfluid, transsexuals, asexuals, etc...etc... Is this not 2016???

      "Observe for yourselves the decay of the sense of sin, the growth of innocence and irresponsibility, the strange modifications of the reproductive instinct with a tendency to become bisexual or epicene, the childlike confidence in progress combined with nightmare fear of catastrophe, against which we are yet half unwilling to take precautions.
      Consider the outcrop of dictatorships, only possible when moral growth is in its earliest stages, and the prevalence of infantile cults like Communism, Fascism, Pacifism, Health Crazes, Occultism in nearly all its forms, religions sentimentalised to the point of practical extinction.
      Consider the popularity of the cinema, the wireless, the football pools and guessing competitions, all devices for soothing fractious infants, no seed of purpose in them.
      Consider sport, the babyish enthusiasms and rages which it excites, whole nations disturbed by disputes between boys.
      Consider war, the atrocities which occur daily and leave us unmoved and hardly worried.
      We are children."

  13. One more comment: There was one instance after a particularly violent and disturbing sleep paralysis experience that was truly terrifying. With great effort I attempted opening my eyes. When I finally did, there it was,a grey monstrous figure, crouched and quietly pondering my helpless form. It was staring at me intently, with eyes full of the purest hatred and malice I have ever seen.