When it Looks Like a Curse, Don’t Go to a “Lightworker”

The only thing more pathetic than the term, “spiritual entrepreneur,” is the individual who describes him- or herself that way. It may seem a bit ironic that I’m saying this, given that I practice public sorcery and charge for such services. But there is definitely a difference between a “spiritual entrepreneur” and a “spiritual worker” as the terms are commonly understood and used.

A spiritual worker is a magical individual (rootdoctor, sorcerer, Reiki master, herbalist, card reader, etc.) who provides a set of spiritual services to a community. These days, that includes an online community. This person may work through various established spiritual traditions and usually tries to educate and counsel his or her clientele. For example, my Black Snake Conjure is not only dedicated to conjure, evocation, and Reiki. It’s also committed to fostering multiculturalism, tolerance, and sharing across ethnic and spiritual boundaries. I do this work not just for my own monetary benefit but also to teach the art of magic and, in the process, to make the world a better place.

Conversely, a spiritual entrepreneur may or may not be a magical individual but will try hard to seem like one (using the most trendy suburban Wiccan* or new age styles, keywords, and assumptions). This person promotes a spiritual technique, product, or service, relying heavily on e-marketing, focused spam via “newsletters,” usually a content-lite YouTube channel, and niche customer targeting to generate as much passive income as possible. A spiritual entrepreneur’s focus is on his or her multi-platform business first, then content, then the clients. For this person, it’s all about the “brand.” If you go to YouTube and type in one of the key words associated with spiritual entrepreneurialism, “witchy,” you will get a veritable phone book of unimaginative cliché examples. After watching one or two of those videos and looking at the linked websites, you wouldn’t be wrong to wonder whether we need another post entitled “Six Signs You Might Be a Witch” or “Crystals Dealing with Toxic Family Energy Over the Holidays” or “Working with Angels and Spirit Guides.”

In the 1990s, more serious (or at least more style conscious) magical people coined the term “fluffy bunny” to describe Wiccans who pretend that they only work with love and light (with an equally pretentious subsequent reaction, “dark fluff”). And many spiritual entrepreneurs still believe that a generous helping of fluff will more easily part a certain type of customer from his or her money. But spiritual entrepreneurialism isn’t about love or “ascension” or, actually, anything at all beyond branding. It’s the most cynical commodification of spirituality available in the West and we see it everywhere. It’s the reason why occult publishers like Llewellyn and Weiser have taken so much criticism from real practitioners over the last 20-30 years, even though they’ve published quality work along with poorly researched, padded, repetitive trash.

Most of what I’m saying here is obvious and anyone who spends time looking through social media and reading Tumblr will quickly come to these conclusions.  As in all things Theodore Sturgeon’s “garbage theory” applies: 90% of a given set of things is crap to support the 10% that isn’t. All well and good. However, it’s not so good when we need spiritual services that actually work.

Uh-oh. Maybe you’ve been cursed. What then? If you think only members of certain ethnic communities worry about curses, you’re dead wrong. Every culture has them. And I can tell you confidently that if you haven’t been the target of a curse or some other form of psychic attack at least once, you will be someday. It’s part of life.

Now imagine you find yourself in a situation where a highly suspicious chain of nasty events is taking place in your life. Maybe you’ve also come down with a case of heavy depression and insomnia. You’re having reversals and problems at work and at home. And all of this happens to coincide with a falling-out you’ve recently had with someone or with some envy-inducing advancement, like a raise or a new relationship or a financial windfall. You say to yourself, why would anyone want to curse me? I haven’t done anything wrong! But curses don’t just work for justice. You can get crossed up by any individual who resents your happiness enough to do something about it.

Most of us, if we’re leading adult lives and not living in a cave, have a sprinkling of enemies who want to see us suffer. Often, a few of those people will either have some metaphysical aptitude or will be willing to go to a sorcerer-for-hire. And many times those people will be very close to us—ex-lovers, family, or coworkers. If you’re a decent person, like most people are, you won’t want to believe it. Jane from accounting?! She’s still bitter about me turning her down but, really, is that enough for her to pay a hoodoo worker to fuck up my life? Sure. Why not? You have no idea what’s going on in her head. She may just frown at you and avoid eye-contact when you pass her in the hallway, but maybe she’s lurking on your Facebook page, spending a lot of time fixating on why you turned her down, etc. With that in mind, do you think it’s so far-fetched that if she has a few books on magic, she might try something? Maybe she starts searching for “love spells” and comes across a professional’s website. And the rest is, as they say, academic.

In a situation like this, do you want to go to a spiritual entrepreneur who charges you $300 to change your vibration with a $10 quartz crystal and some essential oil? Do you want to go to a cute-as-a-button Wiccan girl on YouTube who says she can sage the bad juju away? Really? How about getting a reading from a teenager on Tumblr who snaps it out in just 20 minutes? Because I’ve been contacted by people who’ve taken that route at first. They nearly always write the following: I’ve gotten burned by workers before. Paid a lot of money and nothing happened. Or got a tarot reading and it made no sense / was totally vague. Or so-and-so cursed me and now my life is in tatters and Jenny the Lightworker told me my chakras were just out of balance. And then I have to clean up both the mess that their lives are in and whatever half-baked work the spiritual entrepreneur did (if anything).

All the new-age stuff, all the Wiccan stuff, all the watered-down pop-occult techniques and Law of Attraction and “abundance manifesting” can work. I don’t want to give the impression that “my way is the only way.” The problem is not actually with the techniques. It’s with the branding and the people who think they can make a living off of others by doing very little beyond curating their feeds and smiling into the camera. Most of the clients I get are desperate and sometimes locked in life-or-death circumstances. Many of them have been victims of baneful magic or a deep run of crossed-up luck or some force, whether human or otherwise, holding them down. They have been unjustly harmed and they feel like their options have become very limited. Understandably, they have no sense of humor about this stuff. They’re not playing. They need help and they need it yesterday.

My recommendation is that if you are one of those people in need, do not waste your time on someone surrounded by a lot of slick e-commerce because that’s where all the energy is going. Instead, look for three qualities in a worker: (1) reasonable rates; (2) professionalism (i.e. scheduling, doing a small diagnostic reading in the beginning, providing updates, not seeming money hungry, ethical); and (3) doing more than just protecting and curating their brand / internet presence. It’s important to keep these things in mind if you want to avoid throwing your time, money, and emotion away on someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

 

 

* I actually love Wicca. I’m not putting it down. I’m putting down those who cynically use it to hook customers in support of a superficial brand.

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Broke Occult Masters and Other Poseurs

So many occult societies amount to nothing more than goth day at Disneyland.

It’s all well and good to claim that you have esoteric knowledge (or even that you have improved your life through a particular occult philosophy), but the proof is in what you have done all on your own, absent inheritance or a trust fund or a high-earning spouse. This is also a problem I have with YouTube witches going on about their practice and offering classes / e-books on various topics. I think to myself, that’s great but you are clearly a suburban housewife with sources of income that do not come from your occult work. So don’t tell me you’re a success because of your witchcraft. You’re a success because hubby works 60-80 hours a week at the firm. If you think you have a clever way of improving your lot, that’s good, but you have to practice it openly and not hide behind e-marketing facades. 

I think having a day job is an important aspect of being an occultist. It’s not a requirement. You can rely on money magic and gambling and all that and I believe make things work. But that’s not an easy life. In A Dark SongJoe Solomon, the antagonist of the story, is a real jerk. But to me that just resonates with the public occultists I’ve met who try to support themselves with their art. It makes you hard and bitter because it is so damn difficult. Sure, it can be done, but if you want to lead a posh suburban lifestyle, don’t think your money magic is going to be there like a steady income. It’s going to be up and down with no safety net forever.

The problem with many occult groups—from bullshitty prosperity new thought all the way to gravely serious initiatory stuff—is that you still have to put your pants on one leg at a time and go make a living. I believe Law of Attraction can help. I believe in most forms of occultism and magic, from the superficial to the scholarly. Magical things can definitely give you an advantage. But the material world makes its demands and we have to answer unless we want to live in a tunnel with the other Temple of the Vampire members who bought into that philosophy and mailed in their subscription payment.

I pick on the ToV a lot because I see them as the quintessentially hypocritical style-over-substance occult organization. It’s all well and good (and great marketing to a certain frustrated type of seeker) to say, “We believe in dayside mastery (i.e. getting your life and finances together) as well as nightside (occult) mastery.” But if you meet ToV members, and I know several former ones, you quickly see that they have developed a level of fake doubletalk about how great their lives are because of their mastery of dayside-nightside techniques. The reality is that they’re getting their egos fed from membership in the group and that is all. It is fundamentally important, for anyone looking to improve their lives through esoteric philosophies and groups, to look at the members carefully. They are the products of what their groups can create—if they have even benefited at all and not just misrepresented their privilege. All the fancy talk in the world will not change this fact. If the group was started by two guys in a trailer and they are now receiving a passive income from membership fees, think about that.

Being a True Believer

I like Sadhguru. He’s a very low-BS yogi. If you can’t bear to sit still for the 10 minute video (included below), I’ll give you his main idea in two sentences: we’re told to believe in certain things that have no connection to our lived experience. We should start with what we have experienced (even subjectively, in our UPG) and work from there. That’s a typical yoga perspective (work with the body first, then use that work to free the mind). But I think it’s good.

I find that even magicians, sometimes especially magicians, get rigid in their beliefs: I know the truth and the rest of you are doing it wrong. Sometimes, this comes from a profit motive (like saying, “My magic is the real shit and the rest of you are just playing—so pay me.”). Other times, this just comes from the sincere belief that there is One True Way (as I talk about here in “Everything is Worthless Except for my Own Occult System”).

We all believe things. We all have a subjective field of personal gnosis. But I think there is one reasonable belief we should all entertain: there is no one true way. Instead, we might benefit from realizing that on some level everyone takes Bruce Lee’s approach: absorb what is useful.

So I remind myself not to be rigid, to be open, to be flexible, and that just because I have tools that work doesn’t mean it can’t be done just as well without them or with different tools. 

Codex Whatever: Dark Fluff Occult Books and Personal Insignificance

The fact that there is a “dark fluff” genre of occult writing doesn’t surprise me.  Anyone who starts to look for meaning outside established channels of consensus culture encounters poorly written, poorly sourced occultnik marketing before long (sometimes immediately).  And it has forced most of us to carry on a lifelong search for better materials, more authoritative texts, and generally better sources—which does not automatically mean they must be more scholarly or academic. 

Rather, we tend to prize books that are responsibly and sincerely written according to the tradition in question.  This often means the author has done research to the best of his or her ability and access, but it could simply mean that the anecdotal parts of an occult text are framed as such and the speculation is carefully identified.

The quest for quality occult writing is particularly important to educated ceremonial magicians who care about the provenance and history of their grimoires and of the magical discourse still very much alive and well all over the world.  Like most of my articulate, reasonably sane, magically active associates, I am constantly seeking out new books.  It’s a side of the magical life I particularly enjoy—the research side, which has a magic all its own.

Two great examples of non-scholarly yet well-written and responsible occult texts might be THEE PSYCHICK BIBLE: Thee Apocryphal Scriptures ov Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Thee Third Mind ov Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy.  These two come immediately to mind because they are very explicit about what is unverified gnosis (UPG) and technique.  They set up a teaching dichotomy between anecdote and praxis to empower the reader in her own pursuits—not simply to aggrandize the experiences of the authors.

Unfortunately, for every Joseph Peterson, Jake Stratton-Kent, Jose Leitao, Peter Carroll, Ramsey Dukes, Daniel Harms, and Peter Mark Adams, there are a hundred pretenders, who seem to be writing occult literature simply because it amuses them or makes them feel special.  No one ever got rich off occult publishing.  So the question I’ve asked for years is: why pedal worthless or pirated or wholly fantastical occult books?  Why would someone take the time and effort to claim that they have an insight or that they are the inheritor of a tradition that either does not exist or that they have never encountered outside their own imaginations?

I still don’t have a good answer to this.  The best I can do is come to the sad conclusion that some people need to feel special and wise.  In terms of cynical e-commerce, I can understand groups or individuals trying to interest potential followers by self-publishing low-cost occult books that promote their spiritual systems.  That’s just another form of easily identifiable marketing.  But just as there was a massive surge in poorly written mass-market Wiccan / neopagan texts in the 1980s and early 1990s, there now seems to be a horrendous glut of “dark fluff” grimoires, especially self-published through Createspace and Lulu. 

Last year’s dark grimoires of ultimate power.

So what is “dark fluff”? 

As a sorcerer for hire and a long-time member of the Studio Arcanis community of advanced practitioners, I often get public and private questions that go like this: I just bought Codex Diabolicus Maximus by Mordred Darktoe and I want to use it to destroy my ex’s life.  Does it work?  There is so much wrong with such a question (even in more subtle incarnations like: I’m wondering what your experiences with Darktoe’s works have been . . . ).  It’s one step removed from “spell begging” (where a person who has not done his or her homework asks a more experienced practitioner for a freebie) and it doesn’t reflect well on the questioner regardless of whether or not destroying someone’s life happens to be right or wrong.

As a conjure worker, I’m no stranger to people revealing that their innermost desire is to seek small-minded revenge on someone for some perceived wrong.  Usually, the preferred punishment is far out of proportion to the crime, having to do with a breakup, an undeserved promotion, an insult, or even someone not paying enough attention.  People (maybe most people) feel powerless and insignificant in their lives.  And if they have some kind of latent magical sensitivity but not a lot of confidence, they will seek out a conjure worker to help them get emotional satisfaction on a cruel world.

I understand and I listen to such requests without passing moral judgment.  Part of my job is to bring the client’s motivations and feelings into the light of truth where we can intelligently face them together.  Only then can we fix the situation.  This is the unpublicized part of being a spiritual worker in one’s community (even if that community is online). 

But sometimes the person has so much resentment, feels so belittled by the world, that she wants the power to subjugate everyone and everything: more money, more sex, more power, more revenge, more dominance.  This person has such a wounded ego, feels so wronged by life that she’ll never get enough.  When this happens, she doesn’t come to a sorcerer for work.  She wants to be the sorcerer.  And she falls prey to “dark fluff” occult marketing that seems to speak directly to her overblown desires.

In her lust for power, she’s blinded to the reality that 90% of the information in such texts is bullshit that comes from previously published, often lesser known, bullshit.  And therein lies the problem.  She’s receiving a cascade of dark-themed occultnik bullshit; she really wants it to be real; and she’s soon frustrated that she isn’t seeing results.  That’s usually when she comes slinking around to ask me or someone like me what I think of it because she’s worried that she missed a crucial step (or, gasp, that it is, in fact, utter BS).

Sure, everyone worries that all occult things are fake.  But this is not the sort of anxiety and doubt I’m writing about here.  I’m writing about predatory marketing that magnetizes and preys on the desperate emotions of people who have come to equate power with the ability to harm—because they feel powerless and harmed.  Certainly, I believe that paying back is a virtue and I am in no way against doing dark magic for justice and remediation.  There is a time to bless and a time to curse.  Knowing which is which is part of being a practitioner.  However, having a good BS detector is also essential. 

So how do you spot “dark fluff”?

The first thing I’m going to suggest is that you know yourself.  Self-honesty is very difficult.  Realizing that you feel small and injured and that you want revenge on a cruel world is a strong first step.  You don’t need to go to a spiritual advisor to have this degree of honesty but sometimes it helps.  An insightful stranger can often tell you hard truths that you can’t bare to admit to yourself.

The second thing would be to read widely.  This may mean that sometimes you will purchase occult books that turn out to be part of the BS cascade I mention above.  We all waste our money and time on a well-presented stinker now and then.  And the painful experience of realizing an author is offering you nothing of value is something we’ve all felt.  It’s an important feeling because it sharpens up your sense of what is and is not useful.

The third thing would be to look at the marketing around the book.  Does it talk about a secret tradition that you’ve never heard of, even in online forums?  Does it promise grandiose things, like becoming a living god, torturing your enemies to death, enslaving others, or calling up demons from fancifully named planes or dimensions that have no basis in historical occult literature?  Does it sound like (or even use language directly from) roleplaying games?  Does is present an overdone gothic aesthetic?  Does it seem like it was written in the tradition of “acausal Satanism” (i.e. The Order of the Nine Angles, a group whose vague Gnosticism has made room for many ill-conceived darkly fluffy occult groups and marketing schemes)?  Does it source the works or mythos of HP Lovecraft as if they were real without at least framing them as egregoric or chaos-magical constructions?  Does the author have a pen name out of bad fantasy fiction like “Severus Blackthorne” or something pseudo-Semitic like “Hassan ben Azazel”?  Does the work rely heavily (and usually indirectly, without documentation) on the works of Kenneth Grant, especially The Nightside of Eden, tossing around well-known names like Set, Belial, Samael, Lilith, Lucifer, and  Hekate?  Or, at the other extreme, completely made up “demons” that no one has ever heard of?  Not everything here will indicate “dark fluff” but as soon as you see it, your detector should start beeping.

                                           Not you.

The bottom line.

It’s good to seek power.  It’s good to take revenge when justice is due.  It’s good to pay back in like degree.  It’s also good to do magic, to seek out mysterious realities, states of mind, and uncover secrets.  Consensus culture (especially in the west) would have us believe that the only medium for having breakthroughs is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).  But we know this isn’t the case.

When we truly realize that there is far more occult power in a Delta blues song about going down to the crossroads than in Baltar Venomblade’s Book of the Eternal Abyss, we know we’re making progress.  When we understand that marketing itself is a kind of mental magic that snares all of us from time to time, we can forgive our uninformed purchases of shit occult books and learn to find the good ones that will actually inspire, inform, and guide us further down the path of wisdom and capacity.