Well, Nick Farrell has done it again: produced a blog that pissed several people off and started much discussion. Not that there is anything wrong with that 🙂
Nick’s topic this time is the failure of public occultism, and his thesis is nicely summed up in the title, ‘Ten Reasons Why Public Occultism Is Dying’. Technically this is a little bit of an oxymoron, but you know what he means, so best not to nit-pick, wot? Some of the responses to Nick’s blogs have been great, but a few have attacked him personally. Not so great. No soup for you! I had my own ideas when reading his blog and these are a few of my thoughts. I am going to start by quoting the sainted Dion:
The pseudo-occultism of the present day, with its dubious psychism, wild theorizing, and evidence that cannot stand up to the most cursory examination, is but the detritus which accumulates around the base of the Mount of Vision. All such worthless rubbish is not worth the power and shot of argument; in order to form a just estimate of the Sacred Science we must study originals, and try to penetrate the minds of the great mystics… whose works bear evidence of first-hand knowledge of the supersensible worlds.
This is from ‘Sane Occultism’, back in 1938 CE when, interestingly, Dion was about the same age as Nick and with about the same many decades of experience in these matters. In a Facebook post regarding a reply to Nick, a wise occult historian made notice of an important fact: the ‘golden age’ of public occultism was actually between about 1870 and 1930 CE. Dion was writing at the tail end of this era, a time when several occult schools were closing or getting ready to close. She had directly experienced both the stellar peaks of British occultism and the less salubrious forms – and by Jove there were plenty of them.
I imagine Nick has had similar experiences. His and Dion’s views are certainly similar in parts. Nick expects that in a short time ‘public information on real occultism will slowly disappear’ and ‘the whole thing will fade, with occultism being part of the shadows again’. He writes:
The idea that if we put information out there humanity will work at it and watch it develop is a fallacy. It turns out, that the magic which is so freely available, is not the real thing at all. All a book, or a webpage can present is a fact, or opinion – a shadow on the wall. It does not make us the singers of the woven words than owning a cookbook makes us a great chef.
Dion said the same thing repeatedly in many books and articles, as have many other folk. Because in actuality the mysteries behind occultism have always been ‘in the shadows’, have always been ‘underground’ and hidden. There could be a hundred Orders in small city but the actual heart of it all is always behind the veil, large scale public occultism or not. This is the ‘first-hand knowledge of the supersensible worlds’ Dion refers to. It is the ‘True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order’ referred to by Paul Foster Case. It has been said that the secrets of Masonry (and other systems) could be shouted from the rooftops, but they would not be known as such and seem meaningless to those unprepared to receive them. My own experience is that this is spot on.
With reference to any ‘fear’ that public occultism will die, that the mysteries may be lost and wot not, I am reminded a of a chat I had with a couple of aboriginal elders a number of years back. I asked about the changes, the decimation of their culture, the challenges they faced with addiction and ingrained prejudice. Did they worry about their traditions getting lost? They replied that what they and their people knew came from the Land, and even if they were all removed from the Land, or killed, it would still be within the Land. And could be taught again to any who lived with the Land.
So, I am not all worried about authentic western traditions surviving; where they came ‘from’ is beyond all stain, damage and division and this source will always be ‘there’. Individual schools and Orders, traditions of practice may, and will, come and go. The song will remain.
And it seems to be these individual orders and schools that Nick has concern for. Most of his post addresses problems of approach, either the schools approach to the occult systems he obviously has so much respect for, or modern students approach to the schools and systems which are not respectful at all, at all. One of these schools is, of course, my love, the Golden Dawn 🙂 Nick writes:
‘The “real stuff” might continue but it is going to be even more exclusive than it has been. The great experiment in semi-public occultism which the Order of the Golden Dawn started has been a failure.’
Certainly, this appears to be the view of the Secret Chiefs of the AO who instructed members of the Order to cease active work and let the temples close post WWII (as described in these posts). Of course, the ripples from the GD are still actually moving outward. Nick himself was trained through one of these, the Inner Light tradition. Each day new folk are reading the published material and though ‘the Golden Dawn’ itself may be dead, the spirit behind it may easily be moving and using new vessels that have sprung into existence based on the literary and mythic presence the order still has. It all depends what we see as the limits of the ‘experiment’.
Many of the other problems Nick describes are not confined solely to occultism but are a cultural phenomenon; the quick fix mentality, the impact of internet and social media in the devaluing of expertise, the conflation of systems, the creeping presence of pop-psychology, the lack of respect for elders, etc. As the sheriff in ‘No Country for Old Men’ laments, ‘It’s the tide. It’s the dismal tide. It’s not the one thing.’ How do we change the tide? That’s a whole cultural task, not possible for little MOTO to work through 🙂
The question for me is not so much about occultism having a public or hidden face, but how we help folk to move beyond the sensible, beyond the veil into the heart of it all. Nick suggests he knows how: “I have had a few breakthroughs that have provided me with all the answers I needed to make magic work and why it doesn’t.” Nice.
This is assuming he is here talking of spiritual, transformative magic, not operative magic that will win us the lottery. So, that’s great, then. Nick suggests he won’t be sharing this publicly, like he has generously shared much in the past: ‘unlike the other revelations which I have tended to share with the wider occult community, I don’t have much impulse to share any of this outside my own magical order.’
Without any disrespect for Nick, I can’t quite work out the point of sharing that you’re not gonna share something really important. From my perspective, and I would say from the traditional esoteric perspective, these ‘keys’, as mentioned before simply cannot be shared, they have to be experienced. Good teachers and schools can point the way to that experience, but that is all. I imagine this is what Nick is writing about here.
Moving folk towards this inner experience, which must be undertaken by themselves, is one of the holiest and sacred tasks anyone can have. It is an awesome task and an intense privilege. I rate it as only slightly less awesome as helping someone die well. Sadly, most of the western occult systems are, to quote the Rev Dr Cynthia Bourgeault ‘merely fine-tuning the ego’. For me, as always, a way forward is service. We remove ourselves from the equation as much as we can, and we become more who were really are. To quote meself:
…modern 21st century magic should be about moving the mage from the centre of the circle, controlling all the forces he invokes (which is like, so medieval) to an awareness that at the centre we are interdependent on the entire circle of life, on the One and the universe that forms around us.’