Thursday, September 5, 2013

Activist Magic -Sitting Now



Originally published September 5, 2013 via sittingnow.co.uk

The most commonly overheard criticism of magicians:  “Well if you guys have all these great super powers, then why aren’t you doing something to better the world?”  Pretty tough to chew on, especially if you’ve just been shooting off sigils to get a sweeter ride or a writing gig at Sitting Now.

Looking back over the modern history of the popular esoteric tradition in the West may give us some answers as to why most occultists find it so hard to see past their own noses.

With the overshadowing presence of hierarchical fraternities like the Golden Dawn and the O.T.O. within the occult scene of the early twentieth century, there was a heavy focus on secrecy and the support of an all-knowing inner circle.  For these organizations and others like them, a certain amount of reliance on the status quo (at least within the group, itself) was required to keep them functioning.  Any member’s goals were superseded by those of the group and its leaders, meaning that the only sanctioned use of magic was for the empowerment of the organization.

In opposition to this attitude, occultism during the latter part of the century was largely shaped by the Chaos Magick movement and groups like the Illuminates of Thaneteros and the Temple ov thee Psychic Youth.  Here, we find the focus shifted to the individual, where all authority was viewed skeptically, and one’s personal goals took precedence.  Knowledge and fulfillment of the Self and its needs were revered as the highest attainments in these circles, and effects on outer reality could be summed up in the common refrain, “Fix yourself, and the world will follow.”

And let’s be honest here.  Occultists have never really been known to get too involved with the outside world. They also tend to be a decade or so behind the cultural curve.  The insurrectionist philosophies of Hakim Bey (famed anarchist and alleged pederast), for example, were adopted by many magicians long after the punk movement had already been anesthetized by popular culture.  For all their talk of “cutting edge ideas” and “living on the fringe,” the average magic-dabbler will only take the time to lift their head from whatever self-help book they’ve been reading to ask an internet forum about whether or not “shadow people are real.”

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