The following is a transcript of a talk delivered on behalf of Hawthonn at the Horse Hospital, 30 May 2019. It was part of Strange Attractor’s Towards a Progressive Magick event with Amy Hale, which culminated in a performance by Hawthonn. Thank you to Mark Pilkington for arranging the evening, and to all who attended. The transcript presented below is a heavily edited version of a longer piece, which I hope to see published in time.
MATERIA MAGICA NOVA:
TOWARDS A CRITICAL MAGICK (BREVIS)
A talk delivered at Strange Attractor presents:
Towards a Progressive Magick,
30 May 2019 at The Horse Hospital, London.
I. The Genius of the Crossroads
In a recent paper on the ethnography of esotericism, Susannah Crockford and Egil Asprem observed that: “The valorisation of individualism in new age spirituality suggests the influence of neoliberal ideology. Emphasising self-reliance is a way of naturalising a political economic project —removing the social safety nets of the welfare state. ‘Self-help’ and ‘self-care’ are not neutral discourse; they encourage acceptance of particular political and economic projects through the sacralisation of individuality and by attributing responsibility solely to the self. Examining contemporary esotericism requires a serious engagement with the ways that esotericism is not only a marginalised victim of history, but itself plays a role in legitimising dominant ideologies (e.g. neoliberalism) and reifying global power asymmetries.” (2018: 18-19)
It was reading this passage in particular that seemed to sum up many of our feelings about the relationship between the esoteric and the contemporary political landscape. It made us particularly consider how the ‘sacred’ – by which we mean that which is traditionally beheld as transcendent, untainted, ideal or otherwise partitioned from the mundane: the province of illumined magi and ‘aristocrats of the soul’ – has been used to enforce a variety of dominant ideological and political positions, from neoliberalism and ultra-libertarianism, to notions of racial purity and gender essentialism, and the enabling and proliferation of fascist ideals. We became particularly interested in how we could create forms of practice which subvert these implications of the esoteric worldview. Although we would not declare theism and tradition as irrevocably tainted by fascism, the idea of exploring ritual through an anti-spiritualistic, anti-essentialist position, intrigued us.