Occultism and the Timeless Tradition

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by Christopher Penczak, Edited by Tina Whittle

I am an occultist. I practice an occult form of Witchcraft. Once upon a time that word was scary to much of the world and perhaps it still is. My sense of alleviation could be an illusion created by the various social media bubbles we create, as I see the term “Occult Twitter” frequently bandied about, though I see less of an Occult Twitter and more of an Overt Twitter filled with a lot of opinion but little mystery beyond the new and old art, or classic philosopher quotes. Being a student and practitioner of the occult is to engage in not what was traditionally hidden from sight, but things that cannot be revealed.

They are not the things that should not be revealed or forbidden to be revealed. The occult leads to the numinous, the things that cannot be put into words. They can be obliquely pointed to in art and found through the door of magickal technique and practice. It is the experiences, insights, perceptions, and connections that must be ultimately experienced firsthand. I subscribe to the motto “Preserve the Mysteries. Reveal them often!” But the revelation is in leaving markers out that point the way for those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. That doesn’t mean you need superhuman perception or some elitist physical prowess, only the ability to observe by seeing rather than just looking, to truly listen rather than hear, and the willingness to put those abilities into use. Those who look and hear but not see and listen will pass those markers by, and this preserves the mystery’s secrecy while leaving the door open for others. Traditions are preserved through the trusted techniques and symbols that can guide the way.

Witchcraft was defined to me by Laurie Cabot as a science, art, and religion and that was one of the most helpful, of many helpful teachings, she shared. Occultism is also all three. The quest is both study and application into everything! While we may have areas of interest like any scientist, our paradigm is holistic. Ultimately we are looking for a mode of the unified everything, how it all works, and what our place in it is. The experience is the science, and the application of magickal technology leads to art and culture. Myth, music, painting, poetry, and dance create the expression of that which cannot be truly expressed. But it points the way. Our religion is the perennial tradition, the timeless wisdom of the experience of humanity interfacing with the divine here on planet Earth that has a multitude of diverse expressions, but universal core mysteries.

With that universal core, there is a kinship that is created. When one has found wisdom through knowledge, there is recognition of that in others, no matter their tradition, practice, or identity. When you find knowledge alone, you can either recognize fellow seekers of knowledge and find kinship there or try to pass the voice of knowledge as the voice of wisdom. That is when we have the greatest problems.

I have found few deeply engaged occultists fighting. They may disagree—and I think we have a history full of examples of them doing so, which may indicate various initiatory stages on the path handled less gracefully than possible—but in my day-to-day experience, traveling the world and engaging, there is genuine camaraderie and kinship. We may disagree with each other, but it doesn’t lead to anger or ridicule, just the result of different roads to get there. Usually there is respect for other experiences and points of view within the perennial tradition.

True occult sharing is subtle. It points the way to something. It may present technique or share experience, but it doesn’t declare. Work is the necessary process. The whole experience cannot be given to you. Teachers may share, teach, and facilitate experiences by setting proper conditions, but if you do not engage directly, nothing will happen. I’d say typing on social media is not the engagement I’m talking about, and while the mysteries are found in everything, and I do not doubt the possibility of revelation and insight from engaging with a Twitter post, it requires a level of self-awareness and reflection to see a pattern within rather than project outward.

The occultists seek to know everything about everything and how it relates. No book is banned. No idea is too crazy to contemplate. Nothing is really off limits to discuss if it could lead to attainment. Occultism is inclusive as its paradigms have to include everything and everything, but the practice of occultism is not for everyone, so there is no proselytizing as there is no belief to convert to, but a mystery to experience. If you experience a mystery, there is no need to convince you. Anyone trying to convince you they are right and you are wrong is revealing their lack of confidence in their own experience, and rather than exploring that internally, they are projecting it externally to get agreement from others to quell their doubts and solidify certainty. Ideally working in semi-secret, alone, with mentors or in a group, the occultist doesn’t need approval from the majority. In fact much of the research should take them into territory that is deemed socially unacceptable by the mainstream, even the mainstream occult world. New grounds and new insights will disturb held assumptions, but the occultist knows that they cannot return to declare their truths the truths for all. As more venture further into the same territory, a new baseline develops, and a new frontier for exploration is established. Raven Grimassi referred to this as the Well Worn Path and the Hidden Path. The occultist seeks the next hidden path.

Temple of Witchcraft