Mitch Horowitz: What is the occult?

Boing Boing guestblogger Mitch Horowitz is author of Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation and editor-in-chief of Tarcher/Penguin publishers.


When discussing the occult, a natural question arises: Just what is the occult? In short, the occult encompasses a wide range of mystical philosophies and mythical lore, particularly the belief in an "unseen world" whose forces act upon us and through us. Here is a piece of my introduction to Occult America that expands on that question....

Occultism describes a tradition--religious, literary, and intellectual--that has existed throughout Western history. The term comes from the Latin occultus, meaning "hidden" or "secret." The word occult entered modern use through the work of Renaissance scholar Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, who used it to describe magical practices and veiled spiritual philosophies in his three-volume study, De occulta philosophia, in 1533. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the first instance of the word occult twelve years later. Traditionally, occultism deals with the inner aspect of religions: the mystical doorways of realization and secret ways of knowing. Classical occultism regards itself as an initiatory spiritual tradition. Seen from that perspective, the occultist is not necessarily born with unusual abilities, like soothsaying or mind reading, but trains for them.

Such parameters, however, are loose: Spiritualism is impossible to separate from occultism, whether believers consider channeling the dead a learned skill or a passive gift. Its crypto-religious nature draws it into the occult framework. Indeed, occultism, at its heart, is religious: Renaissance occultists were particularly enamored of Jewish Kabala, Christian Gnosticism, Egypto-Hellenic astrology, Egyptian-Arab alchemy, and prophetic or divinatory rituals found deep within all the historic faiths, especially within the mystery religions of the Hellenic and Egyptian civilizations...

...The sturdiest definition of classical occult philosophy that I have personally found appears not in a Western or Egyptian context but in Sino scholar Richard Wilhelm's 1950 introduction to the Chinese oracle book The I Ching or Book of Changes:

. . . every event in the visible world is the effect of an "image," that is, of an idea in the unseen world. Accordingly, everything that happens on earth is only a reproduction, as it were, of an event in a world beyond our sense perception; as regards its occurrence in time, it is later than the suprasensible event. The holy men and sages, who are in contact with those higher spheres, have access to these ideas through direct intuition and are therefore able to intervene decisively in events in the world. Thus man is linked with heaven, the suprasensible world of ideas, and with earth, the material world of visible things, to form with these a trinity of primal powers.


  1. As far as any Egyptian connection goes, I recommend Erik Hornung’s “The Secret Lore of Egypt: its Impact on the West” and if you want to go deeper, Robert Ritner’s “The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice.”

    To summarize though: Egypt was so associated with mystery in the classical mind, that it was used to pseudo-legitimize anything at all mystical. “Astrology” as we know it comes from the Greeks, who brought it to Egypt. The concepts of alchemy are not Egyptian in origin either.

  2. The first sentence of Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Views:

    “Several years ago there was published in Rome a salutary edict which, in order to obviate the dangerous tendencies of our present age, imposed a seasonable silence upon the Pythagorean opinion that the earth moves.”

    Many such “Pythagorean opinions”, such as the periodic table of elements, have proven right over the centuries. By the time there was firm scientific evidence for the basic Pythagorean program, everyone had forgotten the basic terms and concepts of the debate.

    The occult’s most interesting angle, for me, is as a way of illuminating the origins of the scientific practice in certain older traditions, such as the Kabbalah, Taoist and Western Alchemy, etc.

    I believe that much of the baby we unknowingly tossed out with the bathwater of Christianity is to be found there.

  3. One of the more interesting, and cautionary, aspects of occult beliefs is that the way they are presented (as secret or hidden to all but the select few) can often make them more appealing and credible to many people than they otherwise would be. (Especially to people who are newly in on the “secret”, or who hope to be.)

    That can be a big trap, and one that various groups, from intelligence agencies to closed-source developers to ideological echo chambers have fallen into at various times. Because being let in on a “hidden truth” helps you feel special, you can easily get over-attached to it (since your self-validation becomes dependent on the validity of the “hidden knowledge”). So you might easily (and perhaps even willfully) fail to notice that this “truth” would not stand up to broader or more critical scrutiny.

  4. The quote at the bottom is one of fundamental principles in “New Thought” and Science of Mind philosophy as taught by Earnest Holmes (and it is *not*, repeat *not* scientology).

    Everything in the mundane world is twice created; first the concept in mind, then the manifestation in the mundane.

    Nice entry.

  5. chem:the ancient egyptian name for themselves,

    Al: Semitic for “the”

    consider: al chemy

    mystry: the ancient Sumerian name for themselves

    consider: chem mystry

    Also consider: Mystery

  6. hmmm.
    Agrippa made my head hurt. Kind of like trying to jam a square peg into around about teatime.

    Anyway. Occult means, to me, the unlocking of terma.
    Whatever it is that you ‘need’ to reveal to yourself is what you will find.

    To my eternal dissoloution I hold that you can’t be taught nuffink by no-one else. They can sure point and gesture, make funny noises with thier mouths and stuff; but (!) any system you learn from someone else will eventually have to be abandoned or destroyed if it is to be completely effective.

    Hell. Even the stuff you make up (okay so maybe you ‘discovered’ it) will have to be let go of if you’re going all the way.

    Language is a throttle through which your ideas and technique can be transmitted. Better not-to-speak as there is nothing to be said. Which is why my dialectics eat themselves.
    yum yum.

  7. For those interested in this topic, also check out A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion by Catherine Albanese. The author shows how the occult, channeling, astrology, etc. have always been part of the American religious experience and continue to shape the way lots of us think and act.

  8. I just finished “The Lost Symbol” so I would say Mr. Horowitz is right on time!

    One thing I always wonder about esoterica is the nature of the enlightenment one is supposed to get from this. Wouldn’t today’s openness of the pursuance of wisdom far outstrip whatever secrets of wisdom the ancients held? Is the pursuit of ancient secrets merely for the fascination of the subject alone? I would think that a Crowley-like greed for enlightenment would be misguided in today’s age of tremendous access to knowledge. Are not more of us enlightened today than before?

    To again quote Futurama, and Bender in particular, in response to Fry’s feeling of oneness with the universe: “We ALL feel that way ALL the time.”

  9. But what’s the difference between the Mystic and the Occult?

    Tee-hee. That’s one of those trolling questions like “Which is better? A PC or a Mac?” or “Does X have the Buddha Nature?”

    As far as I could tell, Mysticism was the study of mutants, people who just wake up with magical powers and takes the attitude that stuff in its field of study is not documentable – too Zen. Occultists are more along the lines of magical technologists with big grokking manuals.

    So speaking in tongues would be mystic but drawing pentagrams to contain demons would be occult.

  10. I like a good ghost story as much as the next person but if you want to say this shiite is real your gonna get some pushback on that. For me though 99% of this “philosophy” is boring as hell. Trying to read crap like Mdm. Blavatsky’s theosophy or Crowley’s delusional rants is like pounding sand into your brain. It’s bullshit wrapped around bullshit flavored bullshit.

    Case in point:
    “Everything in the mundane world is twice created; first the concept in mind, then the manifestation in the mundane.”

  11. What has always appealed to me is the concept of occult as ‘hidden knowledge,’ with occult practitioners breaking the bonds of superstition and authoritarianism, which have historically held societies in check.

    The difference, as it has always been, is between those who would pursue alchemy as a means to become rich or powerful, and those who realize that alchemy is a metaphor for the self.

    Today, it would be most helpful in transmuting information into knowledge and eventually, wisdom. We are drowning in the former, and sorely lacking in the latter.

  12. Noen @11, is there some reason you felt the need to spout off like that? It’s not as if you’re adding anything new or useful to the discussion; you’re just flinging poo.

    Skepticism is useful. Describing something as “boring” and “bullshit” is mere heckling, and not useful.

  13. anonymous @ #5:

    You’ve just provided an example of the sort of “folk etymology” that people use to justify whatever it is they want to. Which has been going on since the Greeks encountered Egypt.

    Etymology aside, I do know that Egyptians did put chemistry to work in metallurgy, ceramics, and to some degree medicine. And none of what they did scientifically, mythically, religiously, magically , literarily, or in any other way, bears any resemblance to the “Hermes Trismegistus”, zodiac, Chinese or Greek elements, and male/female principle stuff that is all over alchemy. (Which was written in the 3rd century AD.)

    It’s like today when people want to sell crystal singing bowls to new agers, instead of focusing on what a nifty sound they make, claim that Egyptian (and/or Atlantean) priests used to use these for healing 30,000 years ago. Because by some sort of twisted logic, that is supposed to lend it legitimacy.

  14. Spiritualism was a very popular movement in nineteenth-century America, particularly after the Civil War. Some students of this movement feel that Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln shared these beliefs.

  15. @11 and 13. heh.
    I whole-heartedly welcome disbelief and criticism of the field.
    One of the major failings of this stuff is the practitioners inability to make it stand up and dance. Anderson et al. are right and we should be dragging it into normality.
    Do you remember the first time you though “Holy crap this stuff is real?!?”
    It shouldn’t be that way.
    I sure as hell didn’t expect it with my philosophy and my rationalisation. It wasn’t until a little later that I realised that those tools were exactly the ones I needed. All the obfuscation and indulgent secrecy is what people have a problem with.
    I’m not saying it’s clear cut for the socialised mind but perception is perception. We all do it and even the far out stuff isn’t really all that weird. The fact is; it actually is actual reality.
    The stuff that you are.
    Buddha Mind, The elves, The Source … jumps up and smacks you really hard in the face when you look for it.
    We are the Music Makers and we are The Dreamers of Dreams.

  16. Avram / Moderator
    “is there some reason you felt the need to spout off like that?”

    Well I always thought of BB as science and fact oriented. So I’m fine with presenting the Occult as history or social phenomena. I’m very much not ok with it being presented as fact.

    “Describing something as “boring” and “bullshit” is mere heckling, and not useful.”

    Hardly any different then the many religious discussion we’ve had here. But I am magnanimous in my disdain. Christian hermeneutics (along with all the other mainline religions) is also “boring” and “bullshit”.

    Let the debunking begin.

    “It’s like today when people want to sell crystal singing bowls to new agers, instead of focusing on what a nifty sound they make, claim that Egyptian (and/or Atlantean) priests used to use these for healing 30,000 years ago. Because by some sort of twisted logic, that is supposed to lend it legitimacy.”

    The logic is that of fetishism or “I know very well but…” When a person or thing is fetishized it is taken to stand in for the true object of desire. Thus for some the true object of desire is the “Wisdom of the Ancients” but this is unobtainable, therefore an ‘object petit a’ is created. The singing bowl is thus infused with the powers of the original object of desire.

    You’re going to find a lot of fetishism in the Occult. Just as we do in trad. religions.

    “The fact is; it actually is actual reality. […] We are the Music Makers and we are The Dreamers of Dreams.”

    Actual reality is particles in fields of force. And while thinking and dreaming are things that the mind does there is no “mind stuff”. Go ahead and dream your castles in the air, they always come crashing down and reality will come along and give you a well deserved dope slap, if you’re lucky.

  17. lol. right.
    Get a little deeper into it and I think you will find that information is more fundamental than the stuff you are attempting to describe.

    I’m not really into Physics any more but I did study it for a few years and am not just spouting super natural.

    The copenhagen interpretation is gagging your ability to see past the lines of force. The problem to be solved is how Mind, Space and Time interact to produce the interpretations we use to describe and think about the world.

    Big Mind, as Suzuki would call it, approximates the type of conceptualisation that Higgs induces in the raciocination of the physicists attempting to describe it.

    It’s not new to appeal to the mind of the observer as part of the system it is trying to describe and neither is it new to compare that to the idea that the mind is both the object and the ‘containing’ environment it perceives. Whilst I disagree with Capra’s methodology it goes without saying that the exprience (of no-experience…) in Zen will ultimately be described by a more complete Physics.

    That physics is going to have to go a long way to reconciling the field of quantumn entaglement and self-generating meta-structure that Mind (Big Mind, the pool of Mind, the collective unconcious… whatever) signifies.

    When the unholy and un-scientific word ‘Magick’ is uttered, people immediately spring to the assumption that it means.. I dunno, witches flying on broomsticks or pulling demons out of your ass, and *poof* another open mind vanishes into it’s own pit of doubt and denial.

    Primary reality is mind. Everything else is speculation.
    ….if I’m lucky. P-shaw Stimpy.

  18. Mysticism is religion in a funny party hat. Why do people insist on chasing this nonsense? I think from two causes:

    A fear or dissatisfaction with life in general and a desire to escape the mundane world or gain personal power by muttering the secret words. I believe this is much more prevalent in transitional times, when people are fearful of the future, and not happy with their status in the present.

    This is of course, magical thinking. That is doing rituals which normally you would laugh at, in the belief that you can affect the world by magic where you cannot by your ordinary efforts. Most people have some superstitions, but it becomes dangerous when you begin to live your life by those ideas. It is dangerous when you choose to buy a fetish and stick pins in it to get your way, rather than advancing through education, and work.

    The other cause is credulity. This is bred by our incompetent education of our population. Rational skeptical thinking is not encouraged. I don’t mean the idiotic skepticism of evolution. Instead I mean people need to look at the claims of the charlatans and ask ‘is that reasonable?’. How many times do you think that the concepts of mysticism is questioned in schools, or in public? Chiropractors still thrive, people buy ‘magnetic’ bracelets, Homeopathy is still around, and the media is full of rubbish about vampires and the ‘supernatural’.

    The mystical movements did not just ‘arise’. They were often invented for the profit of their creators. If you want a fun read, see if you can find a copy of “Bare-faced Messiah: True Story of L.Ron Hubbard” – a biography and expose.

    I’m with James Randi all the way on this.

  19. @23: Why do people do mysticism? Speaking from experience, there are two reasons that are linked together. One is a general unhappiness with the way life is going. That’s why many of these ideas are (rightly or wrongly) repackaged and sold at a profit in the Self Help section.

    The second reason is a hunger for “supernatural” experience, to the extent that one feels incomplete without whatever it is you’re practicing. Depending on the practice, I’d suggest that such a hunger is a lot less destructive than, say, alcoholism, drug abuse, long-term depression, or any of the other ways people try to deal with this situation.

    Does mysticism have value? Almost certainly not, especially if you’re measuring value by things like increased salaries and public repute. However, if you’re interested in living a happy, healthy life, there are worse things to do than mystical practice.

    In fact, I think that’s the best guidance for anyone interested in occultism or mysticism: does what you’re doing help you lead a healthy, happy life and leave the world in a better place? If so, it’s worth doing. If not, it’s not worth it.

  20. 2k
    “The problem to be solved is how Mind, Space and Time interact to produce the interpretations we use to describe and think about the world.”

    I think the problem really revolves around language. You see, I have no beef with this if by “mind” you mean my conscious awareness that is the product of low level neural activity. But I doubt that’s what you mean.

    “That physics is going to have to go a long way to reconciling the field of quantumn entaglement and self-generating meta-structure that Mind”

    Nope, you are not going to be able to get to your collective unconscious by way to fudging with QM. Will not work here.

    “Primary reality is mind. Everything else is speculation.”

    Known as Idealism. That’s fine if you choose to believe in it but it isn’t any more valid than any other religion. It’s 19th century bunkum.

  21. It’s 19th century bunkum.

    Sometimes, these discussions are like listening to blind people claiming that visible light doesn’t exist. Just because you have no direct experience of a phenomenon doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Just because there’s not scientific proof of something doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. The philosophy that anything unproven doesn’t exist is the death of scientific and philosophical inquiry.

    Likewise, you have set parameters for decision-making that are self-referential. If you can’t cook it up in a test tube or a linear accelerator, it must not exist. But that’s just the result of your selection bias for parameters. A review of history suggests to me that someday the current selection bias for scientific study will be viewed as a quaint relic of a closed-minded age.

  22. An important thing to remember about alchemy is that only part of it “became” chemistry: the part that was concerned with analyzing and transforming substances. The other component, as it were, was concerned with these substances as symbols of spiritual purification: hence the identity of the Philosopher’s Stone and the Medicine of Metals: of achieving immortality and of transmuting base metals into refined gold.

    What separates astrology from astronomy? Nothing more or less than the notion that the motions of the stars have a deep connection with our lives. This egotism, this hominid chauvinism, this geocentrism and anthropocentrism — this insistence that the whole universe must be about us — is also what separates alchemy from chemistry, gematria from cryptology, and numerology from number theory.

    A spoiler:

    The end result sought by occultism — enlightenment — ends up being merely the realization that it’s not all about you. As Buddha coulda told ya, a long time ago.

    (And the Great Work, the Will of God, the True Will, turns out to be coextensive with the Tao — nothing more or less than the universe universing itself.)

  23. @11 noen

    crowley said it best:

    “By doing certain things certain results follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.
    —”Liber O””


    “I am not concerned to deny the objective reality of all “magical” phenomena; if they are illusions, they are at least as real as many unquestioned facts of daily life; and…they are at least evidence of some cause.
    —The Goetia”

    I assume these aren’t the “delusional rants” you were reffering to.

  24. “Occult” is a term merely suggesting the secrecy or “hiddenness” involved. There is no such thing as the “occult” anymore because little to nothing remains “occulted” in much of the Western Esoteric tradition (eg. we are on a message board discussing what were once known as principles of high knowledge).

    Mitch is mistaken when he suggests a connection between traditional occultism and religion. Most practitoners of magic (Western Occultic tradition) opposed their spiritual/magical beliefs to religion because they viewed religion as a tool of oppression (often used by the state–see Machiavelli & Bruno). Keeping practices hidden ensured the persistence of high knowledge among those who deserved to know it. He is also misleading when he suggests that “Spiritualism is impossible to separate from occultism, whether believers consider channeling the dead a learned skill or a passive gift” primarily because Spiritualists sought to make their abilities known to the world through public demonstrations of mediumship (see Daniel Dunglas Home). Spiritualism comes from the Swedenborgian mystical tradition, and the Spiritualist “agenda” (at least for those who considered themselves proper Spiritualists, most followers of Andrew Jackson Davis) was the explanation of the relationships between spirit and matter.

    For “occultists”, ie. followers of the Western Esoteric tradition, this need to explain or demonstrate is unnecessary because it is already given, already known, possible to be learned and experienced and used individually. It IS alchemy. It IS magic. It is a different way of understanding the way permanence and change operate and may be affected by human volition.

    There are tremendous differences between mysticism and magic that neither Mitch nor the above commentators make clear, and usually, traditions may be placed on a spectrum between these. Look for the attributed source of agency in the tradition, practices, and performances. If the source of agency is outside the self entirely or partially, it leans mystical, if the source of agency lies within the self or within human endeavors, it it leans magic(k)al.

    Perhaps the issue here shouldn’t be “What is the occult?” but rather

    “Who has the power and inclination to use the word “occult” and with what motives are they using it?”

    In this case, as in most cases these days, it is being used to peddle yet another book about the “secret” or “hidden” sources of the Founders’ philosophies. Everyone needs their Secret Chiefs. While I endorse the effort to provide alternate narratives to the one attempting to press its own Christian history of America, I can’t do so at the expense of definitional and historical accuracy. Mitch, I admire your work, but some of this perhaps deserves a more thorough treatment. I hope I find it in your book.

    For further primary reading, please see Giordano Bruno. He was, as they say, the man. Read the translation of De la causa, ‘Cause, Principle, Unity and Essays on Magic’. And Andrew Jackson Davis’ The Great Harmonia.

    @29: Crowley knew.

  25. “Sometimes, these discussions are like listening to blind people claiming that visible light doesn’t exist. Just because you have no direct experience of a phenomenon doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Just because there’s not scientific proof of something doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.”

    That depends on the claim. If I’m making a claim about something that can’t be observed, we’re basically outside the domain of science. For example, if I describe the afterlife in ways that make it a strictly one-way passage, science by itself can’t tell us whether the claim is true or not, since there’s nothing available for us to observe. (But one may still have philosophical questions about whether my claim should be taken any more seriously than any other, contrary claim.)

    If, on the other hand, I’m making a claim about phenomena that *can* be observed, and especially about ones that we supposedly can bring about ourselves, then scientific validation becomes much more relevant. For example, if I claim to regularly have mystic contact with the dead, who can tell me things about the future or other things I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to know (but that can eventually be independently verified), this is a claim that should be testable, and we should be particularly suspicious if it can’t be confirmed through testing.

    Some claims of the occult are more of the former type, and some more of the latter type. (And some folks make claims that are presented to sound like the latter, but are revised to the former type when pressed.)

    The “light” analogy is clearly of the latter type. Even if some of us can’t directly observe light, others can, and we can reasonably deduce the existence of light from the consistency of those observations, just as we now can detect other invisible forms of “light” (such as ultraviolet radiation) from indirect observation.

  26. Western culture embraced science for it’s ability to facilitate control of nature and for the esthetic beauty of the natural laws it revealed. The price of that infatuation was a bias toward the sensory world, where objective measurements could be taken. But even that bias couldn’t keep science from creeping inexorably toward the invisible and transcendental. It turns out you can’t understand particles and forces without understanding the abstract, invisible fields that underly and give rise to the observed phenomena.

    Mystical philosophy has all along maintained that a corresponding transcendental aspect underlies the observed activity of human consciousness. The transcendental field of consciousness, unlike the force and matter fields of physics, can be directly experienced. Exploration of this field has experiential as well as theoretical aspects, thus the need for traditional occult training and spiritual practices.

    The mind can experience it’s source only by becoming stronger, more flexible, less chaotic. The end result, the “Enlightenment” for which occult practices strive, is real, with it’s own distinct subjective characteristics and with distinctive physiological correlates. Occult practices have transformational power and provide a profound understanding of life not otherwise available. That’s why this philosophy has been maintained and revered for millennia.

    Are the invisible foundations of human consciousness less relevant, less worthy of examination, than the invisible foundations of the physical world?

  27. I’m going to point out some tough points here, but please don’t take this as a total condemnation.

    The thought that came to mind in reading this, was the current conflict between religious ideology in government and public policy versus “science.” Inherent to modern science is openness. Sure quarks and muons are a “hidden reality,” but the goal of science is to reveal these things very publicly and put these observations and theories out for use, discussion and testing.

    In contrast, we (in the US) face a movement that takes “hidden truths” to be reality. Think Sarah Palin and global warming or Glen Beck and the idea that the Constitution is actually a fundamentalist Christian document. Consider George W. Bush’s apparent belief in the apocryphal “End Times” ideas and the decision to invade Iraq. These may not be “occult” beliefs in the model of gnostic secret societies, but the aren’t that different.

    The goal of science is to lay out the organization of reality regardless of belief. In the semi-occult beliefs that are so popular here in the US, you must start with a certain belief system and then “adjust” your view of reality in order to see these “truths.” When the Soviet Union took this approach (with Marxism serving as a form of religious ideology) of starting from ideology and it’s “revelation of reality” then applied it to food production, medicine, etc, they ran their nation state into the ground.

  28. Science has it’s strengths–it yields an organized body of testable knowledge and provides for adjudication of intellectual disagreement, within it’s realm. But it has limitations too. It can’t readily address many important issues: what is purpose of life, what actions are ethical, where can we find love and happiness in our lives. Scientific inquiry is the right tool for a great many jobs, but not all jobs. Other tools exist: philosophy, theology, common sense. So one question relevant to this discussion is, do occult or mystical traditions offer any useful tools?

    Consciousness, being subjective in nature, is hard to tackle directly by science. As a result, human consciousness, though central to our lives, is still little understood. Putting aside the myriad examples of charlatans and dogmatists anyone can point to, a fundamental question remains: how can intelligent, sincere people go about understanding consciousness? If consciousness was a physical object you could take out and measure and weigh that would be convenient, but it isn’t. So what do you do?

    The obvious answer, the one that has occurred to sincere seekers of knowledge throughout the centuries, is you explore you own consciousness subjectively and see what you can figure out. In doing so they aren’t practicing objective science. But does that automatically make it worthless or invalid?

    To me, the following assertions explain the enduring interest in occult matters. Challenge them with evidence if you wish, but to dismiss them out of hand, as some are prone to do, is merely arrogant dogmatism.

    At least some of occult exploration is done by sincere and capable people. They use the best methods at their disposal, some of which are effective, perhaps even ideal. They find that the human mind is capable of much more than we normally ask of it. They find that tapping the full potential of the mind requires training and discipline. They find that many qualities valued by humans–love, meaning, connecting our individual lives with a larger wholeness–can be fully realized only through expanding and ordering our minds, our selves.

    This enterprise of exploration seems to me reasonable, even admirable, and it’s conclusions at least plausible.

  29. Deep breath.

    RItuals and routine obviously have no impact on the mind doing them.
    The most intelligent people I know (Mathematicians that make my head curl) are into numerology.
    If you really think that you are causing the sun to rise in the sky you are missing the point. no-point.
    Jung pioneered the Western version of the spirit walk in Active Imagination.
    Your mind is a castle in the sky.
    All systems are built from other systems. The galactic spiral arm is a compression wave, the stars are made of energy and matter. The energy and matter is itself structured by all encompasing fields. Which maintain their values through the constant referal to the system as a whole.

    There are idiots out there who think that their cat is Hitler (read McKenna).
    Then there are people who use methods to interact with the sub structures that their mind is composed of.
    To take the synchronicitified route; the most fundamental archetypal structures are resonant with similar structures ‘out there’.
    You doubt I have a scientific urge because you have pigeon-holed me for my unuttarable crime. That or you are just jostling me to see what will come out and… I guess I would have to thank you for that. so Cheers either way.
    I came through atheism and science to where I am now. There is no god when there is nothing but god. (and I very rarely use the g word because it causes palpitations and concentric thinking). Far more interested in the mind.

    Please. Read Jung.

    or do some zazen at least. If you really commit to it I bet you’ll get something that literally blows your mind first time.
    If Jung already didn’t.

  30. Hey 31, like the cut of your jib.

    My notion of the spectrum throughout which points of interest are scattered is that there is an underlying principle or ‘stuff’ to give it it’s technical name. (yeah yeah, I guess I mean Tao)

    The differences in labeling tradions or should I say; traditions of labeling, seem to give rise to a multiplicity of techniques and interpretations.
    Elsewhere in this thread the difference between the instant enlightenment and the bag of tricks was drawn.
    I’m reminded of polishing the mirror. Eventually you have to stop. You may get really, REALLY good at polishing that mirror but concentrate on that technique too long and too hard and it ends up superseding the goal.
    Practice is great and all but surely that too will have to be burnt up along with the rest of it.
    As a zen snob myself I feel like I’m getting away with it with my no-technique but I have to laugh at even that.
    Positive destruction. ne?
    So anyway. What I’m stumbling over are these many faces on the path, some jeer, some smile and stick the knife in, others cut deals with you, some just laugh but they are all still faces. The meta-trope? Un-occult? Quantumn collapse into perception of one kind or another seems to me to imply that there is some un-collapsed wave out there, in here… somewhere.
    Over the rainbow.

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