Personal musings on studying the Occult
The term occult does not mean “sinister, clandestine or evil”. It has always referred to the inner or esoteric tradition behind religion. Occult means “hidden”, because it refers to knowledge earned through initiation and trial.
When one thinks of the occult, one should not think of crudely drawn pentagrams and smears of blood. One should rather ponder the mysteries of the ancient Hermetic texts. One should think about the spiritual advancement of Neoplatonic Theurgy. The occult refers to Alchemy, and as lead transforms to gold, so can the human spirit transform. Occult refers to the arts of divination (runes, tarot, scrying etc), through which we can glimpse the human soul and read the strands of fate, mostly you can know yourself and peer into the psyche. Occult refers to the practice of magic, venerated in many cultures as a means to thwart the blows of fate. In many cultures, including Ancient Egypt, magic was part and parcel of religion and an accepted and sacred part of life.
How has this lofty beacon of light, this lofty beacon of knowledge become something to ridicule and revile? To me, the occult provides THE methods for spiritual advancement and the evolution of humanity. It unlocks the very powers of the human soul and spirit. This is what I know for sure (Note that this is my opinion, my experience and my path. All must find their own paths to greater and higher truths). I am but one custodian of this light and perhaps I may not even be a worthy bearer of such an honour. I may fail in my goals of spiritual advancement in the end but what I do know is that this Light, this Knowledge, needs to be preserved, so that future humanity can succeed where I may stumble. Spiritual growth is the birthright of all, it must not be snuffed out by the true darkness – fundamentalist religion and blind superstitious faith.
Evangelical Christian propaganda misuses the term occult to refer to criminal activity and depravity or their mythical version of ‘satanism’. Unfortunately, evangelical Christians are the ones who promote themselves as “experts” and are frequently supported and quoted by the media.
It should be remembered that the greatest minds of Western Civilization were all adherents of a mystical Christianity, they studied the secrets of Jewish Kabbalism and spiritual alchemy (both occult disciplines)
Therefore, I will always defend “The Occult” and the arcane arts as a term for the Sacred and the Sublime.
The occult is a complicated umbrella term for many practices and magico-religious belief systems. If the term is used for a special category of crime or misbehaviour there is discrimination against many beliefs and practitioners, who are law-abiding and peaceful. If we don’t refer to Christian crimes or Muslim crimes if someone happens to have a Bible or Quran in the house – we should not use this same nonsensical reasoning to claim the occult in general is evil, due to fringe activity. Usually the evidence that gets a crime scene labelled as “occult”, consists of nothing more than unidentified symbols, presence of candles, mere rumours or other silly and arbitrary associations.
Evangelical “experts” are clearly biased when it comes to commentary on other religions and they are not the “experts” they claim to be as their utterances and writings clearly reveal their lack of knowledge concerning contemporary religion. In a few cases their information dates to the time of the satanic panic hysteria of the 80’s and early 90’s. Born-again Christians who claim to be “ex-satanists” or “ex-occultists” frequently can’t get their facts straight. Their exaggerated testimonials and anecdotes are not evidence of anything. These individuals confess to crimes and witnessing crimes and yet their yarns have never led to arrests or helped police.
I am all for religious co-existence and that we can all respect each other enough to allow everyone their own beliefs. South Africans seem to think that religious freedom in a democratic system still means that the majority rules and should always get their way. Yet, this is not the case. When a government advocates freedom of religion as a primary cornerstone of its constitution and claims to be secular, it means that no one religion is favoured above others. There should be a neutral and secular public or communal sphere, where all are equal – or better yet, religion should be a private and personal affair. Freedom of religion means that you keep your religion but others also have the right to be FREE OF religion and believe as they choose. Why do elements within Christianity have such a hard time accepting this? Why do they claim to be discriminated against if they can’t be “in your face” with their beliefs?
Can Christianity as a faith and belief system not stand on its own merits? Why does it need government sanction (Christian public holidays, religion in schools etc.) and to force beliefs down others throats? Are the strands that keeps Christian believers in Churches actually more tenuous than they would like to admit?
I am not a Christian, a Muslim or Jewish and I find the world view of the Abrahamic faiths completely alien. This is not MY world view. I do not accept the Bible, the Quran, Tanakh or Torah as absolute truth or an absolute standard. I do not believe in nor care about the Bible’s opinion on Occult practices. I do not care about what the Bible condemns. Threats of hell fire are about as meaningful to me as threatening a Christian with ending up in one of the Buddhist hells.
I do not need to defend my occult interests in a Biblical light or try to discern what the Bible means or determine the proper context – I do not care. Yet, we should remember that the Bible was written in a particular context with a particular audience in mind. The Biblical authors who wrote injunctions against occult practices never even dreamed about the diversity of beliefs we have today.
Certain Christians seem to adhere to the erroneous idea that if you participate in occult practices, bad things always follow. Occult practices are “gateway drugs” into the big Satanic Conspiracy. In Christian myth you always bite off more than you can chew and end up finding Jesus. I have been involved with the occult for more than 15 years (19, I just counted) and I have yet to be attacked by demons or suffer abuse at the hands of mysterious Satanists. The only psychological scars I bear actually came from Christians and their false accusations, lies and general dishonesty as well as accusations of “having demons inside me” or unwittingly being influenced by dark unknown forces I just could not comprehend (implying I am just too stupid to realize or know what I am doing).
I came to my conclusions through reasoning, thorough research and personal experience. I am not some unwitting victim of the “occult” with symptoms identified by “occult experts” as if I have some disease.
I will continue to speak out as long as Evangelical Christians spread lies about the occult, about Satanism and about Paganism.
Francisco, Vitki, Mage and life long student of occultism.
Occult Heritage Month is a celebration not just of the various, and numerous, Occult paths, but of their beginnings and inceptions in South Africa too. It is a month dedicated to the rich esoteric history of all Occult faiths, paths, traditions and religions.
We want to hear your stories: how did you begin on your path, what are the origins of your tradition, how did your coven start out, what are the beginnings of your beliefs. We want to see your personal anecdotes, essays on religions, traditions and paths, information on how your group started and what makes it unique.
Send your stories, essays and pictures to email@example.com.