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Hermeticism vs. Indigenous Spirituality

To: alt.native,alt.magick.chaos,alt.pagan,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage
From: (white-slug)
Subject: Hermeticism vs. Indigenous Spirituality (was Re: Chaos magick ...)
Date: 1 Mar 1998 05:20:15 -0800

49980229 aa2 Hail Black Cloud!  Hail Termite and Snarling Tiger! (Pan 'O Ram Ik) says:
# ...Chaos magick is a very very tiny subset of ceremonial magick 

largely accurate by my experience.

# which is also a pretty small subset of what people around here 
# call new age....

only in a broad sense.  'New Age' typically stems from more
Christian and/or Spiritualist roots than Chaos Magick offers.

# don't think that this is some major movement or belief pattern 
# in new age.  

the eclectic syncretism of Neopaganism and the general Hermetic
culture appears to alarm folks in American native traditions on
account of its focus on novelty and self-determination or
nonlocality in fabrication of ceremonial or medicine.  there is
good reason for this alarm, though I'm unsure of its real threat,
given that the ostensive aim of the most pervasive values is a
kind of global solidarity through cornucopia and diversity. the
integrity of the person and the tribe are in many cases exalted.

# Indeed, the fact that most Chaos magickians are working on
# entirely different systems makes us a pretty fragmented group.  

magicians generally (probably best seen as Hermetics) may or
may not be involved in religious enterprise (in the sense of that
which serves some social or holistic purpose).  sometimes their
goals are completely personal, whether mystical or thaumaturgic
in a scientific sort of way (intending to create change using
what they see as a new technology in what I'd call just as
exploitive a manner).

# I often drop into the "old trditional" magickal practices for a while
# just to keep in touch with others in that stream.  And you are correct
# in perceiving that for me this is more about the paradigm itself that
# about my practices specifically.  To be perfectly honest, I have been
# at one sweat done in a Huichol tradition and I occasionally beat a
# drum at sunset and play for the sun.  And that is the extent of my
# personal "use" or "practice" of anything that anyone would call even
# remotely Indian related.

I suspect that comparison of religion goes on all the time and has
from the dawn of human traditions.  how these were integrated and
contrasted or kept separate within local geographical regions
seems to me a very important question when considering the issue
being raised here by American natives.


also, Maria von Rosen  respectfully writes:
# ...I now see a clear reason for why your figure is so controversial 
# (beyond your holding other types of ideas one might not agree with, 
# as everybody here will differ with others at times).

within the occult world (which I'd class Hermetic), the Chaos
magician may be unpopular because she challenges traditions of
ideology and ritual style, and doesn't merely accede to the rules
passed down (often without much more than chutzpah) within the
literati guilds in which it has developed.

# Because the beleif system you've come to apply in your life holds quite
# explicit ideas that values taking things out of their context so as to
# adopt them as "subsystems" under ones own, if judging by the quote.

this ISN'T actually the quality which makes Chaos magick 
controversial.  the Hermetic culture occasionally defrauds (what 
I'd call 'exploitation', especially when it is accomplished 
without social cementation on a mystical level, as with the 
various 'masters of yoga' who have appeared in its history, 
for example), but this seems to be somewhat unusual on the whole.

# save this posting and quote, and attach it to postings in which one
# argues the relation between this type of beleif system and the struggle
# against appropriation and exploitation of native spirituality. This so
# as to show clearly what the conflicts are about.

I have participated in and investigated Hermetic religious systems
for a number of years (of which I consider Chaos a minor class of
relatively recent popularity).  it seems to me that we are talking
about tremendously different cultural values exemplified by the
Christian tradition of appropriation (from mystery traditions like
Mithraism, to gnosticism, orphism, Jewish, essenic and hellenic 
facets, etc.) and the less urban tradition of solidification or 

I'd suggest that they each fulfill very important social needs 
(the urban for a way to merge diverse cultures, the rural
for a way to express a deep connection to land and people).  I
seriously doubt that either is superior, though an exaggeration
of one at the expense of the other (which I think has happened
in the Americas and perhaps in Europe) could be problematic.
from what I can see both are valuable to at least the human 
species (I hope I can influence a beneficence toward others).

Mary says to Rich:
# ...Your whole being here, and the role you get here, is somehow 
# defined by this, I figure. Your person is irrelevant.

I'd class Chaos magick as a mystical or magical as compared to a 
religious participation.

# It is this beleive system per se, in how it formulates itself, that
# incorporate attitudes and values that are pretty hostile to native
# cultures, spirituality, and their position in the world.

I don't think they are hostile until and unless they become
exploitative and misrepresentative.  these are not essential
components of Hermetic values, though they are weaknesses 
that have only been overcome through some slight rigidity
(masonic elements mostly).

# I don't know why people get hung up on your person. l

could be the language divide or that surrounding values and
what each gets from the arena in which one is operating.

# You're just a mouth-piece for these ideas, and actually I 
# figure you could drop out and instead just leave us with 
# the formulations and idaes of Chaos magick as including 
# attitudes hostile to native cultues and spirituality, 
# particularly in the present context and situation. 

I think it is important that native traditions and cultures
get a clear picture of Hermetic society (Neopagans, various
ceremonial magicians, Gnostics, others) so as not to be too
easily pitted against them by majority religious factions.

there are many commonalities betwixt these cultures, though
the Hermetic is likely more prone to adopting the alien
or foreign for the purposes of a more global projection.

do the resources and future of the tribal or personal or
global consciousness predominate?  there are some traditions 
where these are all balanced off one another, and I think
that learning which these are could prove beneficial not
only to the humans involved but also to other species.

# I figure that the ideology of Chaos magick is very much 
# spread in New Age book stores, etc, blended with all the 
# popularised versions that "teaches" all kinds of 
# simplified spiritual practises.

I'd suggest that Chaos magick exemplifies a specific characteristic
which many New Agers share -- syncretic eclecticism.  the tendency
to dare, to turn to taboo-breaking magick as compared to the
construction of at times fairly ill-thought religion or more tame
forms of mysticism, is found in Chaos and much less so New Age,
which seems to prefer the latter (often 'white-light-based' in 
it symbolism).

# ...My impression is that your belief system values the "strong 
# ego" and promotes it. I'd associate it with a strongly 
# hierarchial culture in a situation of much conflict and disorder. 

very interesting.  my impression (not of Rich, but of Chaos and
of the greater Hermetic culture) is that it is less oriented to
beliefs than to practical personal development and manipulation.
I think there are mechanisms for the development of personality
and ego which can be very healthy when carried through, though
many religious will be alarmed at them and at what may result
from their being engaged.

# it would have been good if he'd been able to stick it out and deal 
# with that aspect of his own self. Make up with it. So as not get so
# helplessly emotionally affected in a dealing with such attitudes as
# those underlying the beleif system you adhere to.

very gracious of you.  this is why I have taken such time in coming
to understand and assimilate Christian culture -- not because I
like it all that much, but because I want to be on even keel when
I run into it, especially in its most fundamentalist forms.  again,
I think you're talking about a VALUE-system of practical procedure,
more than some belief-system (which esp. Chaos doesn't require).

# ...that beleif system of yours is something else. It sounds to me
# as if it serves so as to empower the ego and the individual. As 
# such it could be likened with a gun.

when someone walks into a room with a gun what is our reaction?
why?  what is the ideal response of everyone in the room?  should
we require that they put it away?  that the gun be confiscated
and they obtain a license for the weapon before they hurt someone?
or do we watch them and see what they are likely to do with it
before we react?

# also positions itself very much at odds with many native
# spritual systems which has more to do with serving the collective 
# good than the ego. 

Satanism (which I adore and make my religion) does this perhaps
moreso than Chaos magick (the latter is more of a technique or set 
of techniques popularized by a tradition of writers and mages).
I think that the individual is ALWAYS somewhat at odds with the
group, and that we are only coming to understand the dynamics
and weaknesses of giving absolute preference to either.

"the ego" (the individual) is too often demonized and made out
to be the one which must capitulate to collective will.  this
is the force behind exploitation of a strictly democratic sense
(majority rule).

# And I can understand the horror one must feel in seing
# aspect of spirituality ment to serve the collective being 
# taken by Chaos magicians as means for individual egos to 
# empower themselves.

the difference of perspective here seems important.  there
is a refutation of the presumption you have expressed: that
spirituality is 'meant to serve the collective'.  many Chaos
magicians and many more Satanists flatly reject the focus on
any so-called 'Creator', presuming this to be a projection
of the religious imagination and the presumption of some
cosmic design a facet of the domination of the majority.

# You may argue that people need strong egos, strong people 
# guiding them

this seems a common value amongst most cultures.

# ...I'm not overly impressed with how such ideas work in 
# people and the world.

it used to be an obvious benefit to a world based on physical
labor and achievement of social protection and construction.
the physically-strong were often valued for this quality.  why
the psychically-strong cannot also be seen in this way I am
unsure, though I agree that when maturity is lacking along
with this egoic strength it can prove troublesome.

# ...I'm sure it works for you. I wouldn't gladly let such 
# values into my house or surroundings though, if I could help it.

it is important to differentiate how ideas play out in a
newsgroup and how they are expressed in the fleshworld.  those
who know me via online channels and know I am a Satanist
are sometimes very afraid to have me around.  those who spend
any amount of time with me typically trust me more than many
of their other friends.  appearances can be deceptive, despite the
language and values associated with these.  massive difference
of culture can account for the need of a great deal of learning.
what we fear the most is sometimes what we most need to survive. 

# ...You're here .... Representing the empowerment of ego in 
# relation to people placing more value in the collective, 
# representing the notion of "taking" in relation to the notion of
# "receiving". And as such you represent values and ideas in us all 
# that we must never forget to constantly confront, see clearly, 
# and chose sides in relation to.

I hope that we need not have to face the dualism of having to
choose sides, though I know it is likely among fundamentalists.
life is about taking as much as it is about giving, though that
taking can be done with some degree of tact and respect.  I do
not find persuasive, for example, the notion that many plants
and animals give over their life energies for my consumption.
we take it from them, even when we offer them thanks.

# is in the very formulation of ideology and beleif 
# system of Chaos magick that the "point" of conflict could be 
# found in relation to other system of beleifs which values the 
# collective and the "receiving" attitude, in a diminishing the 
# importance of the ego culturally.

I don't think I really understand this paragraph.  there are
many religious who espouse similar ideas and are very very
good at taking (from others, not their 'own').  what seems to
constitute 'the collective' varies from culture to culture,
I notice.  my eye and heart are on the entire globe of living
beings, and this is one of the reasons why I find value in
what will seem quite destructive and necrotic foci in my

# ...I always found myself to stubbornly hold on to the 
# visions of my dreams instead. Even when it appeared totally 
# absurd and crazy.

this is what it takes to unify people of vision: persistence
despite what will appear (at first) to be insanity.  there are
indicators, however (such as literacy and logic) which may
give hope otherwise.

# > effective, I will take on new beliefs.  The ability to change beliefs
# > is important in this type of work.  
# I can understand much of the sense in this, and yet - it ascribes _you_
# the right. It ascribes this right to the ego. It doesn't ascribe this
# right to the spiritual in a declaring you, the ego, the receiver. And
# what "works" for the ego, seen through the eyes of the ego, is what
# gives power and control to the ego. This _is_ the burning point, you
# see. This _is_ what the conflict is all about.

it sounds both a linguistic and psychospiritual difference here.
I don't know what you mean by 'ego', or 'the spiritual in me',
for example.  *I* am spiritual.  if 'I' am my ego, then my
ego (a strange self-characterization) is spiritual.  if this
is alien to you, perhaps this is the reason that many of my
generation are taking on this type of religion (the demoni-
zation of the ego and of the individual without regard for
integrity or consequence of act).

# All the minor aspects of ideas and rituals will change nature according
# to this core difference in attitude. Because it will make a _total_
# difference if the underlying aim is to empower the ego or surrender the
# powers of ego in a reducing it to a service function.

I don't understand this either.  if you could explain just these two
above paragraphs I would appreciate it.

# So as a general teaching sold in New Age bookstores I beleive it will
# just stimulate attempts to streanghten the ego for the benefit of the
# ego. And therefore just function as a legitimisation of exploitation 
# and appropriation of aspects of native spiritual character.

here is the main argument as I see it.  ideas and psychospiritual
technology are no longer considered a 'private' enterprise or
property.  if I see that you use a technology you call 'sweats'
and achieve certain states of consciousness with it, I may also
experiment with it and integrate it into my religion.  I do not
need your permission to do this, though my values are such (and
I think the general Hermetic culture has similar values) that
if I claim to be of your tradition then I deserve your opposition.

this borrowing or absconding with ideas, images, technology, is
not considered exploitation by those of my culture, nor do I 
feel it need be if we are all sincere and respectful with one 

# I don't think people of "receiving attitude" poses any threat to native
# spirituality. But "taking attitude" does, and is highly promoted in the
# culture formations being a threat to native cultures.
# Receiving a relation to a symbol in a vision or spiritual experience is
# just _not_ the same as a chosing something for oneself which one figures
# will be effective for ones own aims and goals.

I think that 'taking' implies that someone loses a thing.  I fail
to see what is lost when I understand a technology you have been
using and duplicate it in my life.

# And I figure it is here where the confusion comes about - in a not
# clearly perceiving the fundamental difference between these to very
# different ways to relate to the spiritual. One leads to exploitation 
# and appropriation, the other does not.

if there is no contest of authority surrounding your spiritual
tradition and the language which it includes, then where does
this exploitation enter in?  who is being exploited and how?  
by whom?  when precisely?  thanks.

blessed beast!
white-slug of the skull-faced clan
-- (emailed replies may be posted); 408/2-666-SLUG
cc me replies;;

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