Category Archives: The Opinion Pages

Editorials, Columns, Op-Ed, Letters and more …

The Hermetic Library Tumblr gets a gander by a library science student as part of their final project

The Hermetic Library Tumblr gets a gander by Frank the Sheep (any relation to Frank the Goat?), a library science student, as part of their final project over at “The Hermetic Library“. The final project, apparently for LIBR 500: Foundations of Information Technology coursework, specifically looks at library engagements in social networks, but focused specifically on libraries as they engage others through Tumblr.

“For library tumblrs therefore I will be evaluating how the library uses the platform, how it fits with the overall mission of the library, whether the tumblr is still functioning, and if anyone is following it as a way of measuring of how successful it is/was.”

 

The evaluation of the Hermetic Library tumblog specifically, observes:

“Fitting clearly with the library’s over-all focus are numerous images and quotes with esoteric and pagan themes. Notably, in contrast with other library tumblrs, the majority of the posts are in fact re-postings, with clear links to the original poster. This takes advantage of tumblr’s ability to be a curator of multiple sources of information, so that people interested in the themes that the Hermetic Library specializes in can follow those interests from a large selection of sources, choosing who’s work they may want to follow back to see more of the same artist, text, or website — but leaving the effort of finding and selecting the material up to the tumblr administrator. There are an enormous amount of material in the past few months, but in the beginnings (Sept 2009), the tumblr relied much more on the library’s own material and updated every few days only. This tumblr follows the lead of several design and art tumblrs I’ve seen that post several images a day without commentary. It is up to the follower to pick and choose which images grab them the most out of the collection.”

Actually, my recollection is that I created an account with Tumblr in March 2011, and experimented with it briefly, then left it to languish until October 2011 when I began to use it in earnest. Posts prior to March 2011 are actually retroactively added, as I’ve been working through the old posts from Facebook which start in Sept 2009, when I took over the site, and have been adding them to the archives on the blog. As I add older posts to the archives of the blog, I sometimes select to also post them to the Tumblr to enlarge the archive there and also again to Facebook for the nostalgia. So, while the frequency definitely has changed and also fluctuated over time, and will continue to do so, the marked drop-off in frequency at Oct 2011 and March 2011 are artefacts.

It’s been interesting to decide how and where and in what way to engage in social networks. I actually started with Facebook, Twitter and Delicious when I took over. I never utilized the Delicious feed, and in fact stopped using Delicious for my personal bookmarking also, so took mention of Delicious off the site. Originally, I was posting first to Facebook and had that automatically reposted to Twitter. Several changes later, I currently post primarily to the self-hosted WordPress blog for the library which then feeds to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and elsewhere. I do also occasionally post directly to Facebook, but my primary direct engagement with people is through Twitter. I also take advantage of the peculiar nature of Tumblr and re-blog quite a few images and quotes, which re-blogs are then re-posted to Facebook. This points out something very specific, and that also explains a bit of the change in the Tumblr presence between March 2011 and Oct 2011: I try to figure out the way that people are engaging in a specific social network and then whether I can include that in my workflow for the Hermetic Library. I actually have a number of other social network accounts which I don’t use because I don’t yet have a purpose for them that fits with what I want to do, in both form and function, or that I just don’t engage with those specific networks otherwise. For example, Google+ just doen’t fit in with my workflow at all, not personally nor for Hermetic Library, so I don’t post there; if it ever does then I’d use it, but I won’t force myself to use it or go out of my way to engage there. Another example is, say, Pinterest, where I created an account recently, but haven’t used because I have not figured out how or if it fits in with my overall purpose of engaging people around the materials and subject matter of the Hermetic Library. In other words, I have avoided engagements in social networks that don’t fit what I’m trying to do, and have focused on creating a presence within the prevailing custom of those in which I do engage.

Another interesting lesson for me, which I learned for myself from the way I engage on my personal blog, is that the frequency, quality and quantity of posting will fluctuate, and to be okay with that. Things change. The way I engage in any particular social network, both personally and as part of the mission of the Hermetic Library, will change over time. I’m okay with that and actually I think that’s completely natural, as forcing some artificial and immutable standard of schedule or form would actually lead to more likely burnout and be detrimental to the sustainability of all or any engagement in social networks. In other words, I think change is part of sustainable social network interaction, and also one of the points of social networks is that they are not rote, remote and mechanical but actually more varied, organic and personal. However, change also freaks people out, so I’m prepared to hear complaints about things sometimes from people who get used to some specific form of engagement when that changes; but, at the end of the day, sustainability is more important to me personally, and also, frankly, I’m going to continue to engage in what I’m enthusiastic about and that will change.

 

“If I were to suggest anything for the library’s use of the tumblr it would be to post less frequently in favour of occasionally posting images with commentary and that can be linked back to library materials, as well as re-posting thematically appropriate content. This would engage followers with the library in a more direct way and support the relationships and cross-references they wrote about in their mission page.”

Yeah, it’s an ongoing experiment in how to participate on Tumblr in a way specific to itself. For example, I’m not using Tumblr to microblog, as I have Twitter. I’m not using Tumblr to blog, as I have WordPress; and in fact the blog is much more focused on a lower frequency and content curated from the site or specific to the site’s subject matter. I’m not using Tumblr as a website, I’ve got that in spades. The question for me has been, how to engage Tumblr specific to itself and the custom of those using it while also furthering the overall mission of engaging people in social networks on behalf of the Hermetic Library. So, currently anyway, I engage Tumblr as a somewhat outer concentric circle, around the core engagement of the website itself and the closer engagement on the blog.

Another example of this is also how I curate differently even within Tumblr itself between what I post or re-blog and what, within the idiom of Tumblr itself, I “like”. When I first started to engage on Tumblr, I didn’t offer a link on the sidebar to those posts that I “liked” but then added that later. However, I have a clear distinction for myself that what I “like” on Tumblr can be both less closely related to the subject matter or the site and, also, less safe work work. For example, I try to re-blog directly nothing more than artistic nudity and avoid directly posting overt sex. Even still, I do avoid overt pornography either way.

I was actually posting over 30 from the queue for a while, but stepped that down to 24, so one an hour now. But, it seems to me that’s part of what Tumblr is, for people who use it, and I’ll probably continue that method of engagement even if it is more indirect than otherwise could be if I were to curate more specific postings with commentary. After all, that’s more closely how I engage on the blog, and so there is a place where I do that already. I’m not looking to have each method of engagement exactly or simply mirror the others, but in fact am looking for the opposite, to differentiate.

Havel’s ‘Respect for Mystery’ versus the Techno-Gnostics

Havel’s ‘Respect for Mystery’ versus the Techno-Gnostics” by Joseph P. Duggan is a recent post over at The American Spectator which discusses a modern ‘techno-gnosticism’ while imagining a scene at the pearly gates made possible by the recent synchronous deaths of Václav Havel, Christopher Hitchens and Kim Jong-Il. This article is ostensibly about one of the people I’ve personally considered one of the great modern minds, and a definite influence for me, but I think it also has value for those interested in “scientific illuminism” as a potential warning to avoid a scientific attitude, or scientism, or techno-gnosticism, or, if you allow, a scientific management of humanity; that devolves into merely another superstition or fails to be life affirming or supportive of the overall human experience, or ignores illuminism.

“Most recently, this conscientious thinker was preoccupied with a disorder of the mind and soul as old as Descartes, vexing contemporary civilization no less today than it did during the Communist era. This is a mindset I call ‘techno-gnosticism,’ more or less the same ideology of scientism that Walker Percy and Neil Postman eloquently criticized. Among the consequences of this mindset are the global financial crisis and the collapse of post-Communist hopes for a ‘Europe whole and free’ into the reality of a Europe fractured and bankrupt.

One of Havel’s final testaments was his lecture at the Prague Forum in October 2010. He lamented ‘the swollen self-consciousness of this civilization, whose basic attributes include the supercilious idea that we know everything and what we don’t yet know we’ll soon find out, because we know how to go about it. We are convinced that this supposed omniscience of ours which proclaims the staggering progress of science and technology and rational knowledge in general, permits us to serve anything that is demonstrably useful.’

With an intimation of immortality, Havel observed: ‘With the cult of measurable profit, proven progress and visible usefulness, there disappears respect for mystery and along with it humble reverence for everything we shall never measure and know, not to mention the vexed question of the infinite and eternal, which were until recently the most important horizons of our actions.’

Who can say God lacks a sense of humor? Not the honest searcher Havel, sometimes agnostic but always a friend to religious believers. He finds himself in the queue in the celestial waiting room on the same day as atheist gnostic know-it-all Kim Jong-Il. If St. Peter likes a good laugh, he will grant Christopher Hitchens credentials to report on the scene for media fleeter than Fleet Street’s.” [via]

“Deep in reflection in the city that gave us Kafka and the Golem, Havel said at the 2010 Prague Forum: ‘I regard the recent crisis as a very small and very inconspicuous call to humility. A small and inconspicuous challenge for us not to take everything automatically for granted. Strange things are happening and will happen. Not to bring oneself to admit it is the path to hell. Strangeness, unnaturalness, mystery, inconceivability have been shifted out of the world of serious thought into the dubious closets of suspicious people. Until they are released and allowed to return to our minds things will not go well.'” [via]

“Two decades ago, Neil Postman saw things going not well at all. In his book Technopoly he described the metastasis of technology’s relationship to man from usefulness to power (technocracy), thence to a sort of totalitarian monopoly of the mind (technopoly).

Postman dissected scientism and technopoly into three ideological components. First is the idea that “the methods of the natural sciences can be applied to the study of human behavior.’ Second is that ‘social science generates specific principles which can be used to organize society on a rational and humane basis.’ The final pillar of technopoly is that ‘faith in science can serve as a comprehensive belief system that gives meaning to life, as well as a sense of well-being, morality, and even immortality.'” [via]

An Open Letter to the Occupy Movement from the Alliance of Community Trainers

You may be interested in this open letter to the Occupy Movement from the Alliance of Community Trainers, which includes Starhawk. I think everyone is getting in on the action by trying to tell the Occupy Movement what it should or shouldn’t do, which I think when done well is part of the overall culture trying to critically analyse this new and energetic movement.

“The Occupy movement has had enormous successes in the short time since September when activists took over a square near Wall Street. It has attracted hundreds of thousands of active participants, spawned occupations in cities and towns all over North America, changed the national dialogue and garnered enormous public support. It’s even, on occasion, gotten good press!

Now we are wrestling with the question that arises again and again in movements for social justice—how to struggle. Do we embrace nonviolence, or a ‘diversity of tactics?’ If we are a nonviolent movement, how do we define nonviolence? Is breaking a window violent?

We write as a trainers’ collective with decades of experience, from the anti-Vietnam protests of the sixties through the strictly nonviolent antinuclear blockades of the seventies, in feminist, environmental and anti-intervention movements and the global justice mobilizations of the late ’90s and early ’00s. We embrace many labels, including feminist, anti-racist, eco-feminist and anarchist. We have many times stood shoulder to shoulder with black blocs in the face of the riot cops, and we’ve been tear-gassed, stun-gunned, pepper sprayed, clubbed, and arrested,

While we’ve participated in many actions organized with a diversity of tactics, we do not believe that framework is workable for the Occupy Movement. Setting aside questions of morality or definitions of ‘violence’ and ‘nonviolence’ – for no two people define ‘violence’ in the same way – we ask the question:

What framework can we organize in that will build on our strengths, allow us to grow, embrace a wide diversity of participants, and make a powerful impact on the world?” [via]

You may want to read the whole letter at An Open Letter to the Occupy Movement: Why We Need Agreements [also].

I’ve posted here about some of the connections between the Occupy Movement and materials at the Hermetic Library, and also a little bit about the way that the Occupy Movement touches on ideas of sacred space. That open letter is from a collective which includes one of the well-known founders of the Reclaiming Tradition, which tradition is quite explicit about being engaged in the real world struggle for justice:

“Our tradition honors the wild, and calls for service to the earth and the community. We value peace and practice non-violence, in keeping with the Rede, ‘Harm none, and do what you will.’ We work for all forms of justice: environmental, social, political, racial, gender and economic. Our feminism includes a radical analysis of power, seeing all systems of oppression as interrelated, rooted in structures of domination and control.” [via]

There’s going to be a lot of thought and work done to figure out what both the success and the struggles of the Occupy Movement mean; and, for those who support it, how to keep it alive; and, for those against it, how to confront it. There will also be a lot of thought and work on what the Occupy Movement is and isn’t. Hopefully, the Occupy Movement is agile and adaptable enough to survive, and maybe help from the experience and skill of a much larger community of those who have been seeking justice can increase that movement’s chances to survive and continue to grow.

Scarlet Imprint goes digital

Just got word via the Scarlet Imprint Newsletter that they’re now going to be offering digital editions of their books. They’ve redesigned the Scarlet Imprint website to be cleaner and clearer and have started to add a few titles in digital format. So, check out the digital edition of Datura, a collection of occult and pagan poems and essays, available now in ePUB and MOBI formats and look for the rest in the months to come.

On a more editorial note, Scarlet Imprint has already been doing a great job of providing a variety of editions in various price ranges, from excellently crafted collectors editions to the affordable Bibliothèque Rouge format. With the addition of the new digital formats, Scarlet Imprint has gone even further to recognizing that there is no reason to limit the reach of good content by hiding it behind artificial scarcity: a variety of editions from heirloom quality art bindings to affordable paperbacks and even digital editions are great options for people to have. Being able to fetishize and totemize the physical manifestation of one’s books is not mutually exclusive to wanting convenient and searchable access to the information content, and frankly, I personally find these two things to be additive and synergistic.

Condolences and solidarity on the passing of Michael Hart

I wanted to take a moment to express my personal condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Michael Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg. Additionally, I wanted to express continued solidarity with the vision and mission of Project Gutenberg to increase literacy, preserve works, and support the expansion of the rights and resources in the public domain. I feel that Michael Hart was a true hero not just of Internet or digital culture but of wider culture itself. He was a man of service toward the greater good, and that is something that we should all take a moment to celebrate as well as continue to remember and emulate in the future.

May he be granted the accomplishment of his true Will.

You can read more about Michael Hart, and his recent passing, in many places, but here’s a few: RIP, Project Gutenberg founder Michael Hart, E-book pioneer Michael Hart dies, and Michael S. Hart via Project Gutenberg.

You may wish to remember and honor Michael S. Hart’s life by making a contribution to Project Gutenberg.

Zombie philosophers gang war!

Last night, I think I got served. Here’s an exchange between Jeffrey S. Kupperman (publisher of The Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition) and I about starting rival motorcycle gangs:

@Demon_Writer: I’d start a Platonic motorcycle club/gang called the Logoi, except for the not having a motorcycle thing. Or a gang.

@jgbell: Stupid rules always get in the way of having fun anyway. I’m in the same boat! * looking enviously at @IlluminatiMC *

@jgbell: And @LogoiMC in 3 … 2 … 1 …

@hermeticlibrary: My biker gang of dead white guys can beat up your biker gang of dead white guys.

@Demon_Writer: Zombie philosophers gang war!

@hermeticlibrary: Now I just have to come up with my rival biker gang name …

I helped grab the twitter for @LogoiMC so no one would squat in before Jeffrey got around to it and turned that over this morning. (I really should have held it hostage for coup! I may be too nice to be the leader of my own gang.) But, now I’m in a pickle. Can’t let this go unanswered. Must represent!

So, what is the motorcycle gang for the Hermetic Library to be called? Shall it be the Pneumatikoi MC? Perhaps the Eleutheroi MC? Then again, what about a Liber OZ inspired Anthropoi MC? οί ελεύθεροι άνθρωποι? Or something else entirely?

And, does any one or more people want to take a run at creating a design for the gang’s colours and patches? I’d think seriously about putting Abraxas on a motorbike (on a penny-farthing?!) for this, but I fear it would look like cosplay for George A. Romero’s Knightriders … but, maybe that’s going so far as to come around the other side to being cool again.

I like the motto “My biker gang of dead white guys can beat up your biker gang of dead white guys.” But, I’ve also got stickers over in the swag shop with “This machine kills Old, Dead White Guys” which would be perfect for this also. No reason to settle on just one, of course.

 

I have the vaguest memory left over from being in The Orpheum, a specialty music shop, on the north end of Broadway atop Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA back in the 90s. One of the guys that worked there, and I think lived in the house behind the place, had on a leather jacket with a motorcycle club patch on it. I’m pretty sure it was for the Illuminati MC. Did they exist then? Anyhow, that patch immediately caught my eye. When I asked about it, the guy, who I only really knew because I was hanging out in the store regularly, asked if I wanted to join. I thought about it, asked if I’d actually need a motorbike which I didn’t have; and, reflecting on how I’d probably end up killing myself way too easily riding; I declined. I think about that moment every once in a while as a missed opportunity of epic proportions.

Anthropocene

The Economist [also] online has recently added a couple articles from their recent issue about the impact of humans on the planet, and the suggestion that we might be moving into an Anthropocene Age, an age of man.

“Rather than placing us still in the Holocene, a peculiarly stable era that began only around 10,000 years ago, the geologists say we are already living in the Anthropocene: the age of man.” [via]


Of course, this reminds me of the human centered philosophy of Thelema, and the works of Aleister Crowley, not the least of which is Liber OZ, Book 77, of which a key statement is:

“There is no god but man.” [via]

Then again, one thing that seems to me to be missed when most people talk about this is that with privilege comes duty, but in these articles about a speculative Anthopocene Age there is effort to make clear the responsibility that entails for human actions on Earth.

“The Anthropocene is different. It is one of those moments where a scientific realisation, like Copernicus grasping that the Earth goes round the sun, could fundamentally change people’s view of things far beyond science. It means more than rewriting some textbooks. It means thinking afresh about the relationship between people and their world and acting accordingly.” [via]

Thinking fresh can be a great idea, and this is definitely a secular as well as scientific example of the reversal of not just a way of thinking but also a way of acting.

“For centuries, science has progressed by making people peripheral. In the 16th century Nicolaus Copernicus moved the Earth from its privileged position at the centre of the universe. In the 18th James Hutton opened up depths of geological time that dwarf the narrow now. In the 19th Charles Darwin fitted humans onto a single twig of the evolving tree of life. As Simon Lewis, an ecologist at the University of Leeds, points out, embracing the Anthropocene as an idea means reversing this trend. It means treating humans not as insignificant observers of the natural world but as central to its workings, elemental in their force.” [via]

The notion that humans are a kind of elemental force should have resonance with anyone who’s studied esotericism, and the notion of the fifth power of the sphinx, the power to go, as an initiatory power; which in turn can be corresponded to the fifth element of the Western elemental model. This in some ways brings the story full circle by turning the secular and scientific notion of a new Anthropocene Age toward the scientific illuminism which is part of a New Aeon current. In an Anthropocene Age it might quite clearly follow that the age is one of rapid change due to instability in the way the world works; but, that can be an advantage, like the inherent and intentional instability of modern fighter aircraft in order to increase maneuverability, that merely is part of the increased opportunity for the advancement of the human race as part and participant in the world, seen and unseen, human and more than human.

You wouldn’t hit a guy in a fluffy bunny costume would you?

It seems to me that the wider Pagan and Occult community has been using Wiccans as human shields. Nowadays it’s not “you wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would you?” it’s “you wouldn’t hit a guy in a fluffy bunny costume, would you?”

Somewhere mainstream culture has internalized the message that Paganism is equivalent to Wicca, and it seems like that might just be a matter of convenience that those Pagans in the mainstream have enjoyed the mistake. This is especially true whenever there’s some new ridiculous bit of hysteria which paints anything Pagan as Satanic or whatever epithet meant as a shortcut to thinking is applied within the time limit of a sound bite.

These days it seems to me that Wiccans are beards for not just dark Pagans but are being put into the line of fire for everyone in the wider community. Heck, Pagans are a varied and diverse group of strange bedfellows, so to speak; not to be so easily signified by a small sample.

(Maybe Pagans are an equivalent to the Anti-Federalists, a rabble rebellion collected together under a label for convenience because they’re allied in demanding to be heard, seeking personal rights and freedoms from the tyranny of conformity imposed by privilege and power and the mainstream. The joke that any two Pagans have 3 opinions is a kind of truism.)

 

Not too long ago there was an uproar over the dabbling done by O’Donnell in what she claimed was witchcraft. The general response I remember hearing from Pagans in the media was, “That’s ridiculous because whatever it was she was doing wasn’t real witchcraft! Witchcraft is all about fluffy bunnies!” That whole thing about the dabbling of O’Donnell as a witch seriously bothered me, and at the time I just didn’t mention it anywhere or to anyone; but I find myself thinking about it again.

Of course, the more recent and truly stupid insanity of the pedophiles in Wales that made the news is an example of what the community is really afraid of being linked to, characterized by and treated like. And, to be sure, in that case the acts of insane people have been used to colour the character of something they happen to be abusing in their implementation of the insane. I mean, they wore clothes and eat food too, so let’s all become nudists and breatharians in response to the implied and contagious evilness of clothing and food. The colocation of insanity or criminality with X does not make X insane or criminal. Insane pedophiles are insane pedophiles, and there’s nothing more that needs to be said than this tautology to demonstrate that their opinions on anything else is suspect. And yet, it seems like the logic of the media hype engine is the opposite: that somehow the opinion of insane pedophiles is suddenly the most authoritative on any topics about which they might be ranting than other more generally sane voices who might be trying to speak. I blame the media … and: Oh, the humanity!

However, beyond whatever distain I might have for the criminal and the insane and the liars out there, like Welsh pedophiles and politicians like O’Donnell; it’s the reaction from the wider Pagan community that bothered me about these things even more. The reaction from the community was essentially a broad and universal shock, shock I say, at being accused of anything resembling any unwholesome activity whatsoever, being accused of anything more suspicious than a fluffy bunny petting. It’s the Wiccan Wookie defense. Nothing to fear here, lookee cute bunny! Cute, 6-foot tall, very hairy bunny … with a crossbow; but, hey, it’s fluffy, so, you know, it’s a bunny! (For the life of me, it never occurred to me until just now that Wookies were actually Púca. Or, maybe highly evolved Snuffleupaguses … Snuffleupagi? Snuffleupagans! Pagan Furries FTW! Just, you know, wholesome and sane … *ahem*)

Okay, so here’s where the inane, weak, unsubtle thinkers are going to go off the deep end because I need to make a strong distinction between the baby and the bath water. Throughout I’m not suggesting a defense for heinous acts like pedophilia or politics, to which, if current events are any indication, criminal and insane people seem so attracted. I’m rather talking about the willingness of the Pagan community to jettison anything remotely dark or uncomfortable in order to avoid looking anything like that which might be confused with things criminal or insane. I’m not saying that real Pagans are into pedophilia or politics. Rather, I’m saying that the fact that there are pedophiles and politicians in the world is not a reason to reject the edgy parts of Paganism as if those parts didn’t exist. I’m saying that these two things are not the same, and are not related and should not be confused; and to the extent that they are confused, it should behoove everyone to help those intellectually challenged among the population to understand there is a difference. Or, at the least, it should be the intellectually challenged who should be identified as the problem, not the edgy pagans being falsely identified as something they are not by hysterical morons.

In understandably denying any connection whatsoever to ridiculous or heinous acts, the community feigns, with a straight face, the nigh incomprehensibility of engaging in anything which might require more than a G-rating. And that’s just disingenuous, because if anything the reality of Paganism is worthy of a solid R at the box office, or it’s just more New Age noise. Whether it’s a Gnostic Mass or a Great Rite, even symbolically, there’s something going on that someone somewhere would get uptight about. Moreover, once on the slippery slide away from truth, all other real and true expressions become suspect.

Look, here’s one thing: people kinda know when someone’s not being honest. They may not be able to prove it, but I think there’s some sense where people just generally know something’s not on the up and up. They may be motivated to suspend disbelief for some reason, but I think deep down people know even when really practiced liars lie. So, when Pagans go out in the world and pretend that there’s nothing edgy about Paganism, I think people’s internal alarms go off. I think it does more harm even in the successful denial than would the unsuccessful attempt to disabuse the morons about their faulty reasoning. It’s like speaking truth to power, one has to speak truth even when speaking truth itself is edgy and dangerous. (Mind you, I’m not counseling the kind of suicide in the face of overwhelming mobs against which even Martin Luther King Jr realized nonviolence would painfully fail; but that there’s need to stand up against irrationality and injustices and singling out.)

 

Also, while I’m talking about this, I should be clear that I really haven’t experienced anything that I myself would call evil. Even though, no doubt, there are some reactionary idiots somewhere who would even claim eating marshmallow Peeps™ is a form of pure EVIL™; and gods know I’ve enjoyed my share of brutally microwaved Peeps in my instant s’mores (Mea culpa! Mea culpa! Kyrie eleison!); I don’t really know from first hand experience that there’s any or a lot of what I might think of as evil action going on. (Frankly, I’ve experienced things far more likely to be characterized by an observer as dark or evil that had nothing soever to do with esoteric practices in any way than I have esoteric practices that might be characterized as such.) But, that doesn’t mean I think it’s not possible, or even likely, that somewhere there’s something going on. (I mean, who am I kidding? I was pretty much oblivious to the pervasive cocaine use in the bathrooms of my high school, so what do I know?) Throughout history, one person’s angel is another’s demon; but there seem to also be people doing various kinds of edge-seeking who are unfairly demonized. I’ve experienced a lot of edge-seeking and intentionally iconoclastic behaviour, but not really anything evil by any definition I’d use except in jest or intentional hyperbole. But, even still, I do recognize that there are true evils going on in the world. Again, I’m not defending true evil here, but rather defending edge-seeking work.

I can imagine that there are people engaged in activity they intentionally and seriously hope is evil and that I would consider calling evil. I also imagine that of these people there are a vanishingly small percentile who are contentious practitioners, where the rest are thrill-seekers of some kind or another seeking to do things that shock. In regard to those looking to shock, if it weren’t one thing it would be another; it’s the ends not the means that matter, or rather its not the method but the image. For the thrill-seekers, the trappings are just accidental.

Then, again, there’s also, I have no doubt, a subsection of those thrill-seekers who are desperately in need of professional help, who are engaged in activities due to mental imbalance; but moreover those people would be mentally imbalanced no matter what activity they were doing, so the specific activity is actually entirely irrelevant. Crazy people are crazy. Period. For these people it’s crazy turtles all the way down, and they’re all out of turtles.

 

One of the most recent documents added to the collection at The Hermetic Library is a story by Yeats called The Sorcerers. This purports to be a personal narrative of an encounter with some “dark” practices. Within the story, Yeats talks about those engaged in evil acts, and details some practices of animal sacrifice and communing with “evil powers”

“The sorcerer then took a black cock out of a basket, and cut its throat with one of the daggers, letting the blood fall into the large bowl. He opened a book and began an invocation, which was neither English nor Irish, and had a deep guttural sound.” [via]

Practically a scene straight from Maya Daren’s Divine Horsemen, but, you know, Irish.

 

Okay, I’m definitely not claiming that this story related by Yeats is fact. Who knows? He was a writer so he wrote, right? Whether the experience was true, partially true or fancy isn’t my point. It’s what got me thinking about this again, and why I ended up writing this. Here’s a story with animal sacrifice, and yet I found myself questioning the idea of posting that section of the story as a quote to the public forum of The Hermetic Library’s facebook page. I realized that there might be reactions from reactionaries. I ended up posting that very quote to the feed, in part because I was thinking along the lines in what I’m writing now. So far, there’s been a predictably juvenile response to the fact that the words “black cock” appear in the quote; but other than that I’ve not seen the reaction I thought might appear.

This self-editing seems pretty widespread. I know I’ve sometimes skipped over posting some interesting quote or another from a new document I’ve added to the library because of how it might be hysterically perceived, not just in the context of EVIL™, but in other ways by those reacting to a quote who mobilizing their righteous indignation without bothering to explore the context or complexity or, frankly, maybe even without reading the actual quote itself. People have gotten indignant about one quote or another and that usually says more about them than it does about any particular quote per se.

 

(Some of this is learned defensive behaviour, and it’s a reaction to how some pretty insistent people use quotes as a way to push particular agendas. So, some of the reactivity I’ve seen to quotes I’ve posted seems to be about assuming that I’m expressing a hidden agenda in my choice of quote. This is one of the insidiously damaging things that I see happening in the online community as a result of the behaviour of those who use quasi-contextual or at least heavily curated quotes as a maneuver to prove something or other else they want to force home. These quote pushers are not people interested in discussion, but are rather interested in using quotes to stop discussion; as appeals to authority mustered to silence those ideas that they don’t want to hear expressed or to force conversation in a particular way. Or at the least, they use quotes to convince themselves of the righteousness of their crusade. It’s about intent and motive, and those can be obfuscated by façades of reasonableness and tactical syntax.

There was one time, for example, that I posted something from a period piece by Crowley, and was accused of valourizing misogyny. My thought is that not posting anything that might be seen as mysogynistic would be to, in effect, white-wash over that, and would actually in the omission do more to valourize or at least normalize that as non-exceptional, as not worth mentioning. But, moreover, it is by posting and hopefully thereby talking about such things that a more accurate and broad perspective is formed, and a parallax is created between one expression of thought to another.

In another case, I posted a particular quote with a link to the source and someone responded saying, “Where did you get that idea?” Um, try clicking on the helpfully provided link to the source to find out, I thought, and read it yourself. But it was clear that the response was assuming that I necessarily by posting agreed with the statement and was pushing some kind of agenda. They were triggered and taking revenge in their response.

Really, this is the basic stuff of academia, people. I become increasingly convinced we don’t need universal service, but rather universal University. If only I had faith in the success of University to do the job … Hell, even at a place like Evergreen they could mostly only create a conducive environment, not ensure a result. There were still those who couldn’t, wouldn’t and didn’t. Woe to the hope for joy at a lesser institution!)

 

At last year’s Esoteric Book Conference, there were presented some images from the Richel-Eldermans Collection, which had been intentionally left out of the publication of The Occult Reliquary as a preemptive measure to avoid potential hysterical reactions those images might have caused even with context. And, notice, even here a fortiori I’m not going to describe the content of those images but leave that to the greek chorus of your imagination to describe, or, you know, take a trip to The Museum of Witchcraft to see them for yourself, you lucky you!

We seem as a broad group to have internalized a lesson about the need for secrecy in the face of potential witch-hunts of one kind or another. It’s not just the self-identified witches that need to be concerned about the public turning into a mob looking to burn someone, figuratively or literally.

But, at the same time, I think the existence of this cloak of cuddly white-light does a horrible disservice to ourselves. Not the least of which is the fact that any time the cloak is shown to be just that, there’s more chance of a more violent reaction by those predisposed to violent reactions in the first place.

Anyhow, I recognize that the overall need still for forestalling hysteria by keeping cloaks on some issues, but I also find myself lamenting the way that the white-lighters are both used as beards to form an ablative shield against the cultural bullies out there, but also are then used as whipping boys within the community as examples of scorn. That’s the kind of double standard that’s going to bite someone in the ass at some point because it’s a duplicitous deception as well as being cruel to the poor little bunnies.

The dirty truth about any truegeek cultures has always been that they are predisposed to eating their own young with viciousness and dark delight of shocking proportions. So, even if accusations of evil aren’t true in specific, they are true in some general tangential way. Geeks of any kind have historically been just plan mean to newbies, and that reveals a streak of nastiness that cannot be denied. In this case the young being eaten aren’t babies, but still there’s a kind of ritual sacrifice going on that’s more than even hazing.

(Oh, and, yes, I did just, with tough love, characterize pagans as geeks.)

As unfortunate as the bearding of Pagan culture might be, I think the community has to also recognize that it is both forcing the Wiccans into the fray all the while treating them, generally, as little children. It’s a children’s crusade against the mob. What I mean is the way that all these fluffy bunnies are the target of scorn and derision by the “serious” Pagan community but when push comes to shove, we seem to shove these same fluffy bunnies into the line of fire. The fluffy bunnies may be pawns in the game, but they’re our pawns; the fluffy bunnies are the first wave of integration between our sub-culture and mainstream culture, and we need them to be there as allies and emissaries. The fluffy bunnies represent the extent to which culture has changed, so I suggest that sacrificing them is tantamount to sacrificing progress.

Indeed, in another part of Yeats’ The Sorcerers:

“He would not tell me more, for he had, it appeared, taken a vow of secrecy.”

It really should be clear that secrecy has a manifold purpose in protecting people from people not just the secrets from people or people from secrets. So is it really so inconceivable that edgy things happen somewhere in the community? Is it really so hard to fess up and face up to the bullying? When it comes to edgy expression within the wide pagan community of experience, I think the Lady and Lord, while wearing rabbit-fur lined cloaks, doth protest too much.

It’s a disservice to the potential for culture change inherent in the counter cultural confrontation of both willful ignorance and self-righteous morality to raise the level of discourse around consensual practices which can and must be seen in distinct relief to the practices of insane and sick people. It’s a disservice to hide our naughty bits behind the fig leaves forced on us generically by the pervasive paternalistic judgments of Judeo-Christ-Islamic culture.

I mean, I know I’m not the only Pagan that yelled a figurative or, in my case, literal “Fuck Yeah!” at the scenes of gritty and realistic ancient Paganism in the HBO series ROME, amirite? Not all pagans are Wiccan, and neither are all witches Wiccan. The Wiccan rede is not universally subscribed to, and it is just incorrect to characterize all pagans as holders of that belief.

We’re an edgy lot; and should be out, loud and proud about that. Besides, it’s getting really itchy and hot in this fluffy bunny outfit.

 

This is a re-posting of You wouldn’t hit a guy in a fluffy bunny costume would you? from John Griogair Bell’s Blog.