Waking up from occulted dreams

Kantbot and his friend gave me permission to quit caring about the occult.

On the most recent episode of the Pseudodoxology podcast, Kantbot has the painter Owen Cyclops on and the two of them discussed the occult.

The conversation ran for two hours, and it is theoretically grounded in Cyclops’ story of how he went from being an occult adherent and enthusiast to becoming a more basic Christian with a spiritual bent.

The distinction could be lost on someone who rejects any notion of the supernatural, but late in the episode Cyclops made a distinction that seemed astute to me. He spoke of how much of occult practice is about building a little protective bubble around yourself.

Whereas Christianity (and many of the more mainstream religious traditions) is about facing the world and dealing with it.

Actually now that I write that down I’m not quite as clear even for myself why that distinction makes for a stronger case against occult practices, but writing it down helps. So maybe I’ll come back to this.

Kantbot and Cyclopts’ conversation treats occult practice and hallucinogenics as largely two sides of the same coin. Kantbot’s chief objection to insights gleaned from these practices, especially from the highest levels of experience, is that practitioners end up making some claim of pure, universal knowledge. Or at least having the experience of such. He finds that objectionable, he said that someone could only believe they have access to God or the divine if they are afflicted with hubris.

Specifically, Kantbot seemed to object to the notion of shortcuts. It’s only through discipline he argued that someone can access important knowledge, and that comes through a slow steady build.

Occult knowledge has always been tempting to me and I’ve encoutered a number of ideas in recent years that have tempted me to want to spend some portion of my time messing with that stuff.

I think it started with the Chaos Magic episodes on The Last Podcast on the Left. These guys make a compelling case that a lot of what gets described as “magic” are just time tested methods for controlling your own moods or vibes.

Now look, I have had experiences where my “vibe” had a big impact on my situation. Sometimes I seem to come off as very cool in some settings. Sometimes I’m very not. Sometimes the very same people seem to like me a lot one day and not so much the next. I feel like the fault is mine and I’d like access to the switches that control it. I have always wished I had my vibe more under my control. And Henry Zebrowski and Marcus Parks both argue strongly that some of these magical practices can give you more control over your vibe.

I know it sounds goofy but whatever vibes are, they are something.

It didn’t stop there, though. I’ve always been interested in comic books as evidenced by much of the past content on this site. There’s a documentary on YouTube called Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods (by Sequential Art) based on one of the best (and coolest) writers in the history of comic books.

I mean: Morrison has basically lived a rock star life as a comic book writer. That alone is magic, no? That’s major vibes.

(In case you are wondering, yes usually comic book writers are roughly as nerdy as the fans.)

So, in the film Morrison said that he’s been a chaos magic practitioner much of his life and it has had powerful effects for him. He makes the claim that he finds the love of his life with a magic spell.

Not only that, but his famous comic The Invisbles was basically a giant magic spell. He described how he made himself one of the characters in the book specifically to try to influences his own experience and events he would put in the book would happen, after a fashion, in real life.

You have to admit that this is all very compelling. Huge if true!

Last example: On the Hermitix podcast I listened to John Michael Greer talk about occult practices and he also makes a compelling case. He said that there are basically two reasons people quit occult practice. First, they just don’t have the will for daily practice. They try it for a while and give up (definitely me).

Then, second, he said, something too weird happens and they freak out.

Both of these sounded like challenges.

All of these discussions got me interested again, and I was vaguely perusing occult texts and reading wikipedia pages and listening to more Last Podcast eps even though you can only listen to them on Spotify now and that is very, very not punk rock.

And something kept bugging me about Greer’s second point. Part of me was like “oh damn f’real?” but another part of me thought it sounded more like very smart marketing.

And that brings me back to Cyclops. He said that if you watch people go far enough down the occult road eventually they will have invested too much in it to turn back. As he approached that particular bend in the road he asked himself if he really wanted to be one of those guys, and he decided that he didn’t.

And honestly, that’s one of the most powerful counter-narratives I’ve heard. The people who have gone far enough down this road have a very strong incentive to tell you (and, in doing so, to tell themselves) that they have “seen things, dangerous things,” but it is precisely because they have such strong incentives that we should be reluctant to believe them.

Look I’m not ready to completely reject the world’s compelling hoodoo or tell people not to pursue it. The argument that it might be a very good way to get a handle on one’s vibes, for example, could still be right (at a minimum). But, for myself, I just know certain practices (writing, drawing) that have real utility for me and I would like to get better and better at both before I die. I only have so much more time, after all.

So listening to this conversation I decided to let this particular pursuit go.

Maybe, in some way, I was meant to hear it.