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 Any member’s goals were superseded by those of the group and its leaders, meaning that the only sanctioned use of magic was for the empowerment of the organization.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.”
But the tides have seemed to change. We are now finding ourselves in the middle of a global community, where the pains of our neighbors aren’t so easy to ignore, and actively fighting the Powers-That-Be is cool, again. Thanks to movements like Anonymous and Occupy, neither the idea of bowing to the status quo or being concerned solely with one’s own desires is acceptable anymore, and occultism seems to finally be following suit.
For instance, I’d like to put on display a sparkling new website, The Children of Hood. The following is from their “About Us”:
“The Children Of Hood are an underground network of pagan and occult activists who act in defiance of corporate, government and military abuses of power. Each member works alone and in secret, never meeting with the others.
In recent years governments and corporations have started eroding the freedoms of the people to suit their aims; manipulating the masses via the media and other events. Peaceful protest, dissent, activism and alternative views are all being curbed and eliminated, making the population largely powerless to their “masters” – “masters” who often ironically preach freedom and democracy whilst inventing new legislation to the contrary.
Those who wish to protect their society, individual freedoms, resources, the environment and the planet from this menace are deliberately being made unable to resist by conventional means; the Children Of Hood do not use conventional means. We are a collective of pagans, occultists, witches, magicians, sorcerers, vodouists, wiccans, alchemists, druids, shaman – and anyone else who uses magic, spellcraft or ritual to effect change. Each member is anonymous, most likely unique, yet united to, and strengthened by, the entire network and our unified aims.”
Their current operation is an offensive strike against the practice of “fracking,” the use of a hydraulic fracturing method to gain access to natural gases, which is believed to have an incredibly negative environmental impact. Participants are encouraged to use any magical thechniques at their disposal to interrupt the practice, remove the influence of pro-fracking lobbyists, disseminate information, and support protestors.
The only noted previous action taken by the group was one against Monsanto, on August 13 of this year.
I would also like to bring your attention to a Facebook event: “The Magickal Battle of Britain,” an attempt to curb the planned blocking of “esoteric” websites as part of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s anti-porn campaign.
“This event is directed towards fighting oppression, censorship and control of expression. We are not concerned about which angle your approach comes from, but about where it is directed.
Freedom to express and create is essential for human development, and in the U.K this freedom has been steadily undermined in an exponential way, that is near impossible to keep track of, let alone protest.”
Maybe these are signs of an actual shift in the cultural consciousness toward positive activism. It looks as though the magical community is mad as hell, and finally ready to start putting those super powers to good use in the fight against the oppressive, corporate-backed powers of the world.
Groups like the Children of Hood and those behind the Magickal Battle of Britain are giving this ol’ pessimist some semblance of hope, and in response to these calls to arms, I say it’s time for the magicians of the world to get off their asses and start pointing their wands toward some real social change.