by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle
The occult Witch is not looking for religion, or to be told how to do something. We are looking for traditions, yes, but we are looking for the “why” behind them, and that “why” must make sense beyond “that is the way we have always done it” or “that is the way it should be done.” We are seeking answers to the mysteries of the universe, even when we don’t always know the questions.
I was recently reading a more academic book on Egyptian cultures, specifically the concept of justice, Maat.* The author made a refreshing point that as modern people, with our materialistic and reductionist views, we can’t really understand the perspective of the ancient Egyptians and their thought processes. While of course there are elements common to the human experience, there is a lot of time, space, and understanding that separates us. Even the perspective of the chronologically closer ancient Greeks diverged from ancient Egyptians, emphasizing reason and logic. Language, art, and writing shape our world views, and when we look at the ancients today, it’s through biased filters, and we could be more wrong than right overlaying the legacy of our Judeo-Christian world, with its materialistic science and methods of obtaining information, onto our attempt to comprehend that culture. Even the complex Egyptian soul—with many becoming one and separating again in death—is alien to most of us who were raised with a body-and-soul, cut-and-dried, split-dualistic paradigm of the afterlife. Teaching multiple soul theory to new Witches is one of my greatest challenges.
I agree with the author whole-heartedly, but in the end, academics and occults are going to work with what they have, with their different tools and paradigms, and often come to different conclusions. For the occultist, the laboratory is their own life and consciousness, apply the magickal paradigms to greater and lesser effect.
Ancient Egypt is often mythical as a birthplace of the secret science of occultism, or one of them. Makes perfect sense. Here we have a land where various aspects of knowledge appear holistic and interconnected, much like traditional Hindu society. Science was not separate from religion, art, music, agriculture, medicine, architecture, politics, and law. They were interwoven.
We feel the disconnect of this and yearn for it again. Occult tradition teaches us that there was a golden age and motherland where thing were perfect, and we fell, devolved, or wandered away from it and forgot. We grew separate and fragmented. Today, we feel that myth is true because we do feel separate and fragmented now—internally and externally.
Much of religion is seeking the remedy of heaven, to be saved or reassured that all will be well if we do as we are told. It doesn’t work that way for us. An occultist will know that it is all about alchemy. Separate and reunite. Dissolve and coagulate. Break apart, purify, grow richer in experience, and then return richer, purer, to the whole. From the alchemical occultist’s perspective, we were meant to divide and separate, to learn separate things and return together to share those lessons and knowledge to make us all more whole and better off in the next collective union, the next Golden Age, before we do it all again as something new.
“For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union.” – The Book of the Law
That is why we seek a deeper understanding of how things are interconnected in consciousness. If we see a pattern in one myth or philosophy, we seek confirmation of the same pattern in different cultures or philosophies. Then as artists, we seek to synthesize this pattern in our own consciousness as we don’t live in those past cultures, and it would be a bit difficult and ridiculous to reconstruct those cultures unless you go all the way. You can’t immerse yourself in the Iron Age while still using your computer, cell phone, global travel by air and international cuisine options. It becomes something else then, and once you let those things into your perspective, it seems foolish to ignore the theological and magickal wisdom of other cultures if you are not ignoring the benefits of technology. But that is when you are an occultist seeking the mysteries and not simply seeking religion.
While most of us advocate for a secular society where all manner of paradigms are legal and basic cooperative and individual rights, values, and structures are established and maintained, we are not seeking to integrate one specific form of esoteric practice and paradigm in the government, society, and world. We do seek a society that values the integrated paradigms as much as separation and specialty, where art and myth hold as much esteem as finance or science, where medicine includes consciousness leading to illness and the medical procedure can include poem and song. We seek a world where the secret virtue of all things and the reciprocal circulation of Life Force is more acknowledged and honored. We seek greater paradigms that take everything into consideration, not just the material reductionist view.
There will never be one theory of everything, but the theories and paradigms that consider more and more will come closer to explaining the Nature of the universe and how to navigate our relationship with it.
* Maat Revealed by Ana Mancini