The dead serious occultist in the age of activism

The dead serious occultist in the age of activism July 26, 2020

Jean Noblet Marseille Tarot as reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy (Photo: Camelia Elias)

I’m sitting with some thoughts for a commissioned essay on occultism. I noticed that my first paragraph included a string of negations: ‘not this, not that.’

Without giving away the core of my concern before the time is right to do so, I thought I’d briefly touch here on the paradox, or irony, if you will, that prompted my negations.

My best friend, the collector K. Frank Jensen was an occultist moulded in the image of Aleister Crowley. He died as an unhappy frater when he was 83. His trademark was ‘dead serious’. He was serious in all his occult undertakings. He had an enormous collection of Tarot cards, unique in the world, now donated to Roskilde University, and an equally enormous collection of esoterica and magic related artifacts, from old and rare books to the strangest talismans and magical objects.

I used to laugh at him. I used to laugh at what in my own Zen perception was an obvious clinging to magic ideology. Not magic, but magic ideology. There’s a difference. Being old enough to know better, he genuinely thought I had good reason to laugh at the ‘dead serious magickian’ idea. In fact we laughed at it together. Yet he didn’t like it. What made us stay best friends was his love of and dedication to his life work, and his actual reflective capacity. While he was dead serious, he could laugh at himself wholeheartedly. Also, he was not your modern occultist invested in mainstream causes, getting public about the apocalypse, and promulgating one prophecy after the other, Crowley style, in the process denying Crowley too, because, hey, not supporting Crowley’s ideology these days is also way cooler than saying that you’re still into it.

Frank was an occultist who understood the basic premise of what being an occultist was all about, namely operating behind the scenes, while observing keenly what happens on the surface of how societies move. He was not an occultist who donned the cloak of anonymity, while at the same time establishing himself as a ‘voice of authority.’ In other words, he was not an ‘occultist as politician’, simply because such a thing is a contradiction in terms.

As far as I’m concerned, I have a hard time taking the ‘voice of authority’ seriously, when I don’t actually know who is speaking behind the mask. On occasion I laugh even harder when I see that some high profile occultists working under pseudonyms have no problem listing all their credentials, consecrated degrees and area of professional work in the mundane world alongside with their magical services. What if I wanted to verify the ‘mundane world’ identity of the ones speaking vehemently for less advantaged identities, identities available to the anonymous occultist to engage with and re-fashion after all the rules of ‘activism’? Oh, the irony… I can imagine calling an institution to ask if such and such mask works there. They’d think I was mentally deranged.

Hence, the ‘not this, and not that’ ridiculous manifestation of how we can act as magicians. Not the occultist who heralds the sovereignty and will to power of an embodied entity, whose own mundane identity is very much fixed in the image of a well-crafted invented name that resonates. Not the lack of actual fluidity in the broadcasting of how to support identity and gender causes. Not the complete disregard for all that we, in actuality, are forever clueless about, obvious things such as the future. Not the misunderstanding of how discursive practices work in factuality, which is to say that they rely on the conscious manipulation of diverse vocabularies. Not the pompous prophecies that are a lot worse than even the imagination of 3-year olds. Not the privileging of old sources as authoritative, simply by virtue of pointing to their ancillary existence. Old texts are not always both old and relevant. Some old texts are utter crap, and should not be revived merely because it’s easy, as they’re now in the public domain.

I could continue, but I rest my case. It’s Sunday, and I like feeling like a god, a god that can curate her own blindspots. But how about this string of questions to the cards, if you also happen to be disturbed by irony and the ridiculous?

  • Do I have a blind spot when I engage with current worldly events? What am I missing? What prevents me from seeing the actual, full picture of what I want to engage with?
  • What position do I actually speak from, and how legitimized is it? – meaning, do I actually know what I’m talking about, given my own cultural locale and specific geography?
  • If I must point fingers at others, is my red nail polish without a blemish? – you can at least have that one shining on your finger, in case others might object to your opaque objections.

Activism is about acting in accordance with the principles of human decency. Activism is not proclamations.

Here are my own cards, in response to this question:

  • What am I not seeing when I point to how others contradict themselves in their intentions, being at odds with how they act?
Jean Noblet Marseille Tarot as reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy (Photo: Camelia Elias)

Temperance, Judgment, and the Pope fell on the table.

Given the question, these cards are interesting. Perhaps what I’m missing is precisely the intent to keep the world in balance. A noble intent. In order to do so, we must herald the good news: ‘All rise to a new consciousness.’ The Popes of the world are ready to administer the new aeon.

Hmm, I’m beginning to think that I sound like Crowley, endorsing prophets who, like the Pope, also speak with authority while donning some consecrated cloak that comes with a long string of initiations and magical names, stating a lineage properly, so we can never argue with it.

Maybe the aim justifies the means? Ouch. Off I go to reflect on my blind spot. So much for Sunday being a resting day. A good thing I’m not god, so I can keep going, keep working, keep saying nasty things… Publish some books.

Stay in the loop for cartomantic activities.

About Camelia Elias
Camelia Elias, PhD & Dr.Phil., is a former university professor. After 20 years in academia, she left her career to pursue her interests in teaching and writing on the philosophy and practice of reading cards. She works with contemplative arts, oracular language, and martial arts cartomancy and Zen at her own school, Aradia Academy. You can read more about the author here.

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