I’ve seen a variety of these sorts of phrases. They’re typically found in the New Age and LoA (Law of Attraction) communities, but it’s not unusual for pagans, polytheists, and occultists to fall under the trap of this type of thinking. A lot of this tends to stem from the notion that intent is everything (or at the very least the main thing) which you need in magic, therefore if you “just think positively” your magic won’t fail.
Obviously this isn’t the case, and magic is far more than just intent. And if you’ve noticed that these phrases tend to sound victim blaming/shaming, you’re not alone and you’re quite correct. I’ve frequently noticed that people who gravitate towards such philosophies are desperately seeking a sense of control over their life and surroundings, including over events they have no way of being able to otherwise prevent or handle. But this can also be used to turn on people in order to discredit or gaslight them, and be New Age bullies. Such tactics are also used in order to silence victims of abuse and oppression: “You brought this on yourself, no one can harm you without your consent.”
The other aspect of this poisonous philosophical trend is what amounts to spiritual bypassing. By focusing only on the positive in regards to thoughts and emotions, you are preventing yourself from confronting your problems, healing from past traumas, and in short not allowing yourself the necessary personal development in order to work on your issues. A fantastic example of this is quite honestly what amounts to the darker aspects of the so-called light side of the Force from Star Wars. By avoiding fear, pain, anger, and hate out of the notion that it will “make you evil” or “turn to the Dark Side” is usually how people wind up not handling those very issues and become a self-fulfilling prophesy by going to the said Dark Side. And the perfect example: Anakin Skywalker.
Part of being a well rounded witch, magician, or occultist in general is being able to confront and deal with your crap. It also means recognizing that yes, there will be events beyond your control and that of others. It doesn’t mean that magic isn’t real, that you aren’t an effective occultist, and/or that you somehow deserved it or otherwise brought it on yourself. There’s a great deal of superstition that I sometimes see even in the Hellenic polytheist communities. A streak of bad luck occurs, and people ask why the gods hate them or how they managed to piss them off. That’s not how this works; that’s not how any of this works! Blaming the gods for bad things that happen to you and other people’s bad behavior isn’t even remotely accurate, let alone appropriate.
The LoA community likes to pretend that everyone is “switched on” and that we’re all in control over the forces in our lives and what happens to us. The reality is that most of people are in neutral gear while a minority of us contend with a volume knob that can go up or down due to reasons not entirely our own. Bad stuff can happen to good people regardless of who or what they are. Not acknowledging that is essentially denying our humanity and reality at large. You’re not going to become a better magician or witch by only focusing on positive emotions, or blaming others or yourself for when bad stuff happens. But you will find that your magic will be far more efficacious if you learn how to harness your anger, control your responses to your emotions, and allow yourself to feel and process those emotions. They are valid, and so are you.
I tweeted recently that at some point as a nation, we need to sit down and have a serious chat about toxic Christianity and its relationship to the patriarchy, white supremacy, and toxic masculinity. Screenshot and link below:
Now to the meaty bits (or seitan if you don’t eat meat): what exactly do I mean by toxic Christianity?
Like with the phrase “toxic masculinity“, I’m not saying that all of Christianity is toxic. I’m referring to a very specific flavor of Christianity which IS toxic, and has perpetuated a number of problematic to outright bigoted and hateful behaviors, particularly here in the USA. This especially includes Dominionism, which everyone needs to read up on in order to understand some of the political and religious power struggles here in the United States. It’s also led to a number of people to get involved in lawmaking and try (and sometimes succeed) in passing a number of laws based on them. These laws are actively working towards making the rule of the land be mostly white cis men while taking away the rights of literally anyone else.
We can’t pretend that Christianity is the only place where we’ve had this toxicity, as certainly a number of ancient cultures were patriarchal and in them women had few to no rights. But right now, those cultures are not in a position of power, and neither are we pagans/polytheists/witches/magicians/etc for the most part. While some of us do indeed come from a Christian background–particularly since witches and magicians can pretty much be of any religion–we are still partaking of a lifestyle that is not mainstream and often targeted for abuse.
So where am I going with this, and what can we be done? What do we collectively need to realize in order to withstand the potential threats we face to our rights and well being?
First of all, we are all affected by politics, some of us more than others. And we are all impacted by our upbringing, some of us more so than others. This is a good chunk of why I have urged pagans and polytheists to work on dumping their baggage as too many have come into polytheism–especially reconstructionist and revivalist polytheism–and other branches of paganism dragging their match luggage behind them and letting it color their perspective on the faiths they are attempting to practice. We all need to work on dismantling our pasts and the crap that holds us back, and in dealing with this topic especially so. There’s a lot we have to rethink, and institutionalized sexism, racism, transphobia, and homophobia are among those things. Unfortunately there’s a great deal of religious fervor devoted to the feeding and protecting of those -isms and phobias, and that is part of why the struggle continues in the United States.
More than anything regardless of our respective backgrounds we need to discuss the problem of toxic Christianity, as it’s dooming us all. We have Dominionists in the White House, people making laws not based on science but based on beliefs that focus around misogyny and the control of anyone with a uterus (especially black women), and children in cages in actual concentration camps. Yes, they are concentration camps and yes, I am Jewish. “Never again” is now. America needs to wake up, strengthen the protections and walls between church and state, get the offenders, enablers, and grifters out of their respective offices and take back our government from toxic Christianity and its followers which infiltrated the Republican party.
We need to stop making excuses for the attitudes that enable the behavior to go on. We need to stop pretending that voting won’t solve the problem, and also that voting alone will solve the problem. We must become comfortable with multitasking and with being vigilant long after the danger has past. Our culture, lack of proper regulations, and lack of consequences for those responsible are just a few things that are letting the cancer continue to grow and eventually kill us all. Toxic Christianity and its beliefs prop up white cis men at the expense of literally everyone else while tax exempt churches make large donations to politicians who back up their views.
I know that people are exhausted of the state of the world, especially those who have been fighting the longest and hardest, but I’m talking about the very heart of the issues that allowed America’s current government administration to do all that they are doing, and with the issues that affect us globally it won’t just be Americans who are in trouble, but the rest of the entire planet. Climate change alone has become a huge part of this, and it will literally kill us all if we don’t do something. We have 10-15 years left to be able to do anything about it. Toxic Christianity won’t care because toxic Christianity wants to usher in the end times and bring back Jesus. Toxic Christianity doesn’t think women should have rights let alone vote. Toxic Christianity only likes white people, heterosexuals, and cis men. The rest of us are deemed unworthy, unacceptable, and less than human.
I realize that there are a fair amount of occultists who are Christian, engage in Christian mysticism and Christian derived magical practices (yes, they exist). I’m also painfully aware that most occultists are not engaged in toxic Christianity. However, some are. There are a few fairly famous examples that I could give, particularly in the ceremonial magic communities. Some of you who are Christian mystics, witches, magicians, and occultists are already actively involved in fighting against fascism, white supremacy, and the patriarchy. I salute you and stand by you. We need to stick together and remember our commonalities over our differences. Please continue to use your religious privilege to call out those who continue to act as if religion is synonymous with Christianity and try to make decisions for the rest of us based on those beliefs and ideas. It continues to amaze me that someone like Jesus who challenged the patriarchy, those in positions of power, and his culture in general could possibly have inspired the ideas which these people perpetuate, and the failure falls not on religion but that of humanity.
The rest of us, however, do not come from Christian backgrounds. While most pagans and polytheists were originally Christian or from Christian homes, I was not. I lack religious privilege on a fairly substantial level. I run into monotheists and atheists all of the time who equate religion with Christianity and monotheism in general and use phrases like “Judeo-Christian” when they really just mean Christian. Religion is assumed to be entirely anti-science when my very faith honors deities for whom science and medicine are both sacred. When I don’t run into bigotry against paganism and polytheism, I run into anti-Semitism. Antisemitism stems from toxic Christianity, too–as does Islamophobia. Anti-witchcraft and magic sentiments? Also from toxic Christianity. Anti-science beliefs and ideas surrounding climate change denial, anti-vaxxers, and flat earthers? Same.
And the list goes on.
We don’t need less religion or less Christianity; we need greater protections, more conversation, and the dismantling of the support toxic Christianity has received up to now. The problem lies not with specific religions, genders, or races, but in disproportionate privilege and power. Deconstructing privilege and balancing the scales begins with starting the necessary conversations about concepts such as the Paradox of Tolerance, and why tolerating intolerance needs to stop. We need to challenge ourselves and call on people around us who behave and speak inappropriately as compassionately but as decisively as we can.
Removing toxic Christianity from power both in our culture and in the American government will unfortunately not remove the attitudes and ideas it perpetuated. But it will prevent further harm to those who are among the marginalized and disenfranchised while we continue to try for a better world.
“Tainted Greek (polytheism)” AKA Ode to The Long-time Suffering of People Who Want “One Proper Hellenism”
(With apologies to Soft Cell!)
Sometimes I feel I’ve got to
Hellenesplain I’ve got to
Moan and complain about the lack of universality
The gods we share
Don’t have the same customs everywhere
And I’ve lost my Walter Burkert book
Want proper piety and purity but neither wherever I look
Once I came to this practice (I practice)
Now I’m out of practice
This tainted Greek you’ve given
I give you all a Hellenist could give you
Take my miasma and that’s not nearly all
Oh tainted Greek
Now I know I’ve got to
Achieve arete, I’ve got to
I really want my Hellenic purity
To make rituals right
You need to go on the internet and fight
Should mind my business, practice, and pray
But I’m sorry I don’t pray that way
Once I found my muse (I found)
Now I’m not amused
This tainted Greek you’ve given
I give you all a Hellenist could give you
Take my hubris and that’s not nearly all
Oh tainted Greek
Don’t talk to me about history
I cannot stand the lack of purity
I want you even though you don’t exist
Now I’ve got to actually research the stuff I missed
Tainted Greek, tainted Greek
Tainted Greek, tainted Greek
Libate maybe, tainted Greek
Off’rings maybe, tainted Greek
supernatural forces, being, and events collectively
hidden from view
The inherent problem of “public occultism” is exposing something to public view which typically isn’t meant to be exposed, and the challenge becomes how much of occultism do you choose to make public and why. It’s a double edged sword. On one hand, you bring about a much-needed body of information and people who have it accessible to those who either want or have need of it, but on the other what is being exposed to the masses isn’t meant to be exposed to the masses, and under the weight of that contradiction there will be problems and friction.
And then you just have the Internet in general, which is inherently a hot fucking mess no matter how you slice it.
If you publish anything, whether it’s a public blog, books, etc., on a specific selection of topics and discuss them at great length for everyone to read you are setting yourself up as an authority on those particular topics. And as an authority of these topics, by putting yourself out there online you are inviting people to comment and ask questions. If you don’t want this, then stop writing books, quit writing blog posts, remove yourself from social media, and don’t present topics to the masses like you have any sense of understanding or knowledge about them. The ability to present knowledge to the public is power, and with power comes responsibility. If you don’t want this responsibility, don’t be accessible online or otherwise. Period. You can’t have it both ways; you’re either an authority on subjects people care about or you’re not. If the notion of being a leader and an authority is burning you out and giving you more trouble than you can handle, it’s time to cool your jets and take a much needed hiatus from the whole thing, and I’m going to beg Nick to do just that. Nick, with all due respect as a fellow magician, it’s clear that you’re stressed, frustrated, and burnt out and judging from your numerous “get off my damned lawn” type of posts as of late, it’s high time you logged off and focused on your own personal work and development. No harm, no foul–and no shame in doing so. Please take my advice; you’ll thank me for it later. I learned the hard way about this myself after I got burnt out in the Hellenic pagan community after years of leadership. And don’t trick yourself into believing you have to be here “for others”. Martyrdom sucks, my friend. Don’t fall prey to it (like I did). Rest and recharge, or regret it later. Being a leader, whether self or community appointed or both, is a thankless and stressful task.
Let’s talk some more about this idea of public occultism and positions of authority, actually. It’s rather relevant to the next point. Nick has argued in his blog that occultism has been “dumbed down”, is too accessible online, is too contaminated by a number of issues including over-analyzing, making magic purely psychological, and people on the whole are too lazy, don’t want to do the work, don’t want to properly pay respect to a teacher’s time and energy by valuing their time, etc. A number of these points I agree with, especially the part on armchair magicians and treatment of magic as being purely psychological. I frequently liken these types to the “theoretical magicians” of the Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell novel. I personally would much rather be a practical magician, thankyouverymuch. I think a degree of this “magic is only in your head” nonsense is laziness, some of it is cynicism, and the rest is people not able to do the more fantastical aspects of occultism and declaring it impossible simply because they themselves haven’t succeeded in bringing those aspects out in their own practice and experiences as of yet. And then you have so-called “experts” in the community writing entire books dumbing-down magic and presenting it as being “all in your head”, and it’s not helping.
Sadly many of these issues outlined have little to do with the Internet being to blame and much to do with human nature. But here’s the thing: the problem with the Internet is that absolutely anyone with any degree of clue who sounds intelligent and is able to present themselves well on social media and blogs can set themselves up as an authority on the occult, WMT, or any given topic without much fact or background checking–and pretty soon you have a cult of personality. This problem is absolutely universal online and goes well beyond the occult community. The fitness and nutrition related communities online, for instance, are riddled with bad armchair advice from people completely not qualified to give any sane or sound information and people wind up getting sick, hurt, and almost dying from bad advice from loud people who gain an audience from people who swallow their shit and think they know what they’re talking about. The blogosphere and social media both have the ability to hand anyone a sound box where they can stand and voice off on absolutely anything under the sun, and as a result you have a lot of noise to wade through before you can hear some decent information. The noise amplified is in both directions and the dumbing-down and lack of quality goes both ways, not just in terms of the students but in the available teachings online and the teachers/people in positions of authority whether assumed, earned, or otherwise.
Unfortunately many of these teachers come in, have some good points to make but rather like the blog post I’m replying to make those points along with a bunch of other suspect bits or hastily made conclusions–but due to actually making sense in parts it’s assumed everything’s golden. And with just a spoonful of that sugar, you’ve just swallowed a ton of horseshit. People brand new, unassuming, and perhaps a bit too trusting in their desperate quest to Learn Stuff can fall in with the wrong people as a result. Been there, done that. And then you have the other side of the coin, which is good leaders/teachers/people in positions of authority who have their good nature and patience tried and tested with the scores of people who want the Great Work handed to them on a silver platter on the backs of rainbow-farting unicorns and sides of fries with that. As much as I disagree with some of Nick’s points–especially the ageist ones that pin this on it being a generational issue versus a human one–I can totally understand and sympathize with his frustrations. Some of the questions I myself receive from others as a result of my blog and social media presence range from creepy to WTF. And that’s what I get for putting myself out there online.
So what to do with “public occultism”? Well, make it less public, that’s for sure! Some of the best places online right now are all closed or secret groups on FB, message boards with huge sections only available to approved and registered members, and emailing lists that also weed out the noise, spammers, etc. I run a forum online called The Great Work which has about 95% of its boards invisible except to registered and approved members and is low in noise and high in content. I stick to the quieter corners online and avoid the exceedingly large groups where noise to quality ratio is not to my liking. It keeps my blood pressure low and prevents me from wasting my time online on shit that doesn’t matter.
And for all else? Just log off and focus on yourself, that’s what matters.
Morning rite and noon prayer rite went well, but today was a personal struggle. My job continues to go VERY well and I remain blessed in this regard. I’m working with really great people and I thank my gods daily for being here.
I’ve been doing something past few days which I rarely do, which is eat calories at maintenance level. I’ve been in fat burning mode, but that’s no good before I start a week of fasting. Had some chocolate this evening, painfully aware it will be my last treat for a while. But it’ll be worth it.
I’m beyond nervous and anxious. I hope not to fuck this up.
I’ve moved all of the robes, ritual gear, and tools which I need for the last seven days into the temple room.
Nonstop meetings pretty much all day, managed to slip out to get myself some coffee. Nothing like doing the noon prayer rite over making myself a cup of coffee. There’s something to that but I haven’t quite managed to put my finger on it just yet. Again, no excuses.
Painfully aware of the fact that one very major, glaring personal issue remains before I start my final week. I am desperately hoping I will be able to get it resolved after the Abramelin. Everything else has been resolved or is in the process of being resolved, not sure why this is so damned special. Ah well. Resolving to just banish the rest of the bullshit with laughter, but for some things it’s just a band-aid.
Here’s to hoping I am successful. Just one day left until I start the final week.
I’ve read the book over and over again for the last seven days, and it’s not very clear on whether or not you are fasting all seven days and breaking the fast after sundown with little other than bread. Talking with others who have done the rite who did the same for all seven days. This is not the weight loss plan I signed up for but hey, it’s not like I’ll be doing much other than conjuring angels and demons and such. I wonder how many calories that will burn? Funny how I’m worried about the fasting but it was the one part of this entire operation I struggled with the most and never really managed to get the hang of.
I am hoping I have everything all set. I am hoping I am ready. I am hoping I will be properly prepared. Good gods, I’m freaking.
Been going over my notes for the last seven days and in the meantime trying to rest up. For some reason I have zero energy today. I did an interview with RO, which was fun. I also got to gather my materials together that I will be using for the last week.
I’m not sure how else to prepare. I think I’m as ready as I’m going to be. I have no idea what to expect and I suppose I should expect that.
All sorts of HGA related dreams last night. He came in one of the forms he showed up in my dreams years and years ago. So strange.
Morning rite and noon prayer rite went well.
Busy day at work today, but very aware that I am working with some really cool people. Incredibly grateful beyond words to have this job. How did I get it again? So much gratitude.
Decided to email the wand maker and get a status, got an email back saying they would look up a tracking number for me. Did some math and looking at the calendar, figured worst case scenario is I start on the 27th.
On my way walking home from the train heard a voice in my head asking if I was ready. Came home to a box on my doorstep, containing…yes. I will be starting on the 17th for sure, and will be in radio silence until done. I am nervous, excited, fucking terrified…gods.