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.

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Goetia and Theurgy, magic black and white?

From Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus

I was recently reminded of an article I was commissioned to write a long time ago. The topic is Goetia and modern western ritual magic. With the deadline approaching it is time to start brainstorming a bit. So be patient: rambling speech ahead!

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The Divided Lands of Mesmeria

As part of a course I am teaching together with Dr. Marco Pasi we have spent the last three weeks discussing the significance of Mesmerism and animal magnetism in the overlapping contexts of Enlightenment science and esotericism. It is an interesting topic in many respects. For starters, the status of Mesmerism is not uncontroversial in esotericism studies. Why?

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