Monday, February 22, 2010

The Fifth Statement

The fifth statement of Strategic Sorcery says:

Systems of magic can be broken down into symbol sets, and tech. Symbol sets are usually dependent on culture, time, tradition, and sometimes only available through initiation. Using a symbol set outside of its culture, or initiatory stream can sometimes be difficult, disrespectful, or even downright dangerous. Tech on the other hand works just because it works, and thus can be looked and examined from outside of any specific tradition. In this way you can find the most effective techniques without falling into the trap of making an eclectic mess.

Why has "eclectic" become a dirty word amongst many serious occultists? Because people have become wild, frantic, shallow, and disrespectful about the appropriation of cultural symbol sets. I have met people that claim to be actual priests of various gods and goddesses who know nothing beyond what they could find on Wikipedia. I have been to ridiculous rituals where every god and goddess that they could think of was invoked into the same quarter, as if the quantity would somehow make it more powerful. I have seen Magicians invoke the Orishas instead of the Archangels in the LBRP, and nearly get killed by the fallout. I have witnessed countless witches and magicians adopt the trappings of culture after culture in their supposed quest for wisdom, only to end up doing little more than redecorating their bedroom.

Wicca and Thelema seem to be some of the worst offenders of this. So many systems of "Thelemic X" and "X Wicca". Over the last decade I have encountered at least three brands of Thelemic Buddhism, two of Thelemic Vodou, Thelemic Taoism, Thelemic Shintoism, Thelemic Palo, Thelemic Atheism, etc. Llewellyn at one time seemed to produce nothing but books titled Scottish, Welsh, Egyptian, Hindu, whatever Wicca.
In cases where the system is essentially dead (not representing a strong facet of the mainstream culture) its bad enough, but imagine what it must be like to be a Priest of Kali who has devoted their whole life to studying the mysteries of the goddess, to serving a community and a temple; only to come accross some Western IRAB (I Read A Book) that read a book who makes the same claim.

The irony is that it was exactly what is wrong about most (but not all) of these that made me realize the fifth statement. In almost all of these examples the ritual format is purely Thelemic or Wiccan. Casting of circles, banishing with pentagrams, calling of quarters, wands, chalices, athame's, every stictch of technique, spell, protocol, and set up is exactly the same except for the names and symbols that they grabbed from whatever foreign system makes them feel more exotic at the moment. The problem is that when they grab them, they ignore the history, myth, and protocols that were built up around these symbols and names, making them at best disrespectful and at worst dangerous applications.

If you reverse this process though, the same is not the case. Tech is tech, and a style of offering used in say Tibetan Bon, might work well in Vodou or Thelema. It might not, but thats what experimentation is all about. Sam Webster is hip to this which is why rather than silly rituals invoking "Horus the Bodhisattva" to "Liberate us from the Samsara of the Old Aeon", he is applying Tibetan Tech like the visualization of Diety Fields, Generation of Mandala Palaces etc, to the Thelemic Symbol Set. Bravo Mr Webster, a fellow Chthonic Auranian.

The Strategic Sorceress may indeed engage in multiple symbol sets: its a small world after all, and cultures collide, but she will do so intelligently, respectfully, and minimally. That same Sorceresss will however be a voracious devourer or magical tech always seeking new methods and processes.

I consider this point to have a sort of sub-point which is: The further along the path the Sorcerer goes, all symbol sets become increasingly less important until replaced by only reality itself.

I may comment further on that one in the future.


Zoe Hernandez said...

Thank you for putting words to this problem in a concise way. Being a Wiccan myself, this kind of phenomenon has always been a thorn in my side. (I wasn't aware it was also a problem among Thelemites, but now that you mention it, I think I've witnessed that too.) And even aside from the issue of people who are always shopping around for the next exotic and mysterious symbol set or pantheon, I've met far too many people who know next to nothing about the gods they claim to worship! I usually chalk this up to the fact that most people are taught to be passive learners. (As in, "Scarf down this textbook and barf up the information later, no need to visit the library!") But I would hope that anyone who claims devotion to any number of divinities would want to know as much as she could about them.

Also, I'd like to say that I appreciate your occasional use of "she" in your posts. :)

Jason Miller, said...

I need to switch pronouns more often. Its something that I am trying to mindful of. Thank you for noticing and for your other kind words.

I am working on a pieve for Witchvox that will basically be a cleaned up version of these posts.