The Socialist Roots of Occultism

Marx satan

Caution: This illustration is highly misleading. (Image by Ross Wolfe, The Charnel-House blog)

We’ve grown accustomed to exciting titles that announce “the occult roots” of anything from Nazism to electronic music. While there’s certainly a lot of attention-grabbing hyperbole in such claims, it is true that much of the vaguely deviant, oppositional, and radical segments of Western culture has a touch of the occult – for reasons we are starting to understand quite well (tag: cultic milieu, occulture, rejected/stigmatized knowledge).

But what about the roots of modern occultism itself? In the (educated) popular imagination, occultism is generally considered an atavistic phenomenon, an anomalous and anachronistic flowering of irrationalism belonging to a bygone age. Some scholarship has continued in this vein, whether we think of the brand of intellectual historians that get embarrassed by its rational and scientific deficiency, or left-leaning, progressive academics who, like Adorno, see only a reactionary tendency that must eventually lead to a mysticized political irrationalism of the kind erupting in Germany in the 1930s.


Contemporary Esotericism – a pre-production advertisement

One of the reasons for not writing here very often this spring is that I am co-editing a major volume in my “spare time”. Last week I visited my good friend, colleague and co-editor Kennet Granholm at Stockholm University, to discuss some final issues. This weekend, we ship the manuscript off to Equinox Publishing – a full 689  pages – ending a period with much editorial work. To celebrate this, I’ll kick off some pre-production advertising of the volume, which bears the title Contemporary Esotericism.