A Musing on Occult Blogging and the Distinction of Passions

That recent post I made was definitely a wild one, I admit.  It’s extremely rare that I use this blog as a platform for an outright call-out or attack on anyone or anything, and it’s not something I enjoy doing or want to make a habit of.  After all, what I enjoy most about blogging is blogging about the things I actively enjoy reading, writing, studying, and practicing, and me getting involved with drama or current events just distracts me from writing about that and my readers from reading about that.  When I make a post like that, it’s because I feel it’s part of my moral and ethical responsibility to do so.  Last time I did something like this, it was to call out the old admin of the now defunct Hermetic Agora Discord server, and after that, I mulled in a follow-up post about the social and esoteric implications of the underlying issues that led to such a call-out post to begin with.  Like then, I want to unpack and muse over this more recent call-out, too.

To be sure, November 7 2022 (when I made my call-out post about Gordon White and Rune Soup being a toxic and violent influence in the online occult community and having been so for years now) is now officially the most well-viewed day for my blog in its history, beating out the previous record set ten years prior to the day (November 7 2012) when this blog (quiet and meek as it was) was hit by an abnormally large botnet raid or scan or somesuch that sent my views skyrocketing into the many thousands.  While I’m glad that my call-out post earlier in the week was so well- and widely-received to get the word out (I’ve had dozens of friends and colleagues reach out privately to me thanking me for such a post, in addition to the many more who did so publicly at the risk of their being raided online), the absurd hit count I got earlier in the week (and which I’m continuing to get day by day to a lesser degree) is a stark reminder of something I’ve neglected about interacting with things online: “rage sells”.  Those two words are at the crux of so many problems involving all sorts of media that we have today, both online and offline, both social and static.  It’s why extreme polarization in large swaths of the population happens because of mere mainstream news banking on increased viewership from rage-inducing stories; it’s why we get far-right/alt-right terrorists merely by watching YouTube autoplay a series of videos that lead from Enya and Minecraft to Jordan Petersen and worse; it’s why social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter have warped to the breaking point the very conceptions of “relationship” and “community” for so many people that lead such companies to build algorithms to enflame people’s emotions.

“Rage sells”, and I admit, my last post was, in many senses of the word, rage (although I consider it a righteous rage against someone behaving harmfully and who is a detriment to the online occult community).  Did I want to get a good hit count on that post?  Absolutely; it’s part of me getting the word out.  Did I expect that much of an increase across my blog generally, whether that rapidly or that sustained?  Did I expect that much of an increase in my follower/viewer numbers, even after taking into account all the people that split from me (or from Twitter generally)?  No, actually!  And that simple fact serves as a reminder as to why some people act the way they do online.  Without wanting to harp on him too much (that was very much the point of the last post after all), Gordon White does just this very thing: lashing out and attacking anyone and everyone repeatedly and often who doesn’t fall in line with his conspiracy-addled rage.  Despite his encouragements to his readers that they should live their lives free from rage (which he calls “hate”—a difference I’ll get to later) in their hearts, he is still relying on preserving and cultivating such rage (both on his blog and his Twitter, projecting and deflecting the time to shift the narrative to suit his needs) in order to keep people engaged with him.  Of course, he’s far from the only one who does this, so it’s not fair (even to him) to paint him as some extreme outlier on this front.  Enflamed emotions encourage engagement; that’s basically a truth for social media nowadays, where you can find endless articles about how emotional engagement is the key to viral content marketing, study after study about what emotions trigger increased engagement and how strongly each kind of emotion influences engagement, and so on and so forth.

I mean…for a more humorous take:

I’m not about that kind of life, that kind of media propagation or content generation, and I don’t want to be.

As I said in the last post, and as I said above, I’m just here doing my thing, and my thing is writing about the occult, spirituality, religion, mysticism, magic, divination, and other kinds of esoterica, and even from its earliest days (although far more pronounced now) was centered on Hermeticism.  This blog has always been about that, and will always be about that.  And yes, to be sure, I do make a few ebook PDFs for sale as a sort of “intensely-produced content” for those who want to go beyond the abundance of stuff I write publicly, and while I’m still on hiatus, I do hope one day to get back to doing readings and consultations for people—but, all that said, I’m not really here to market myself.  I don’t go out of my way beyond a notification post when I come up with something new (which isn’t common) to sell a product, and I’m definitely not trying to corner a market or develop some sort of base of paying viewers to give me money on a constant basis.  That’s never been my goal, and never will be my goal.  My goal for this blog is to just do magic and mysticism and to share what I find in the course of studying, researching, and practicing that.  Being on social media in general is just a way to further that and emphatically not the purpose of me doing that—and that’s a distinction that a lot more people should bear in mind when they get into developing their own stuff.  It should always be remembered, after all, that “substance” is not the same thing as “content”.

As a lot of people clued into online events are aware, Twitter is going through something of A Time right now, what with Elon Musk’s recent takeover of the platform and quickly showing the world how hilariously bad he is at…well, everything that isn’t just spending money.  As a result, that’s leading a lot of people to consider different social media platforms, whether it’s returning to Tumblr, resuming interest in Mastodon or Counter.Social, or jumping to new platforms like Cohost (though, hilariously, I can’t find anyone actually mentioning anything about staying on or going back to Facebook).  I mused about social media a bit on Twitter a few days back, and realized that all that social media platforms do for us is the equivalent of each of us making our own website and us bookmarking each others’ websites, putting all those bookmarks in a folder in our browser.  Sure, social media platforms standardize, aggregate, and make convenient this whole process, but that’s basically what it is at heart.  When I made this observation on Twitter, someone commented their view that they don’t fully trust people involved in their circles who “don’t have a basic bloc, a place to put things outside of the algorithm”.  That’s a viewpoint that I wholeheartedly agree with, to be sure, and it raises a really neat distinction between someone who uses social media as a means for something that isn’t a part of it or built within it, and someone who uses social media as an end unto itself.

I admit that I enjoy seeing numbers go up (who doesn’t? it’s like points in a video game), and I do think it’s really neat that I have several thousand followers online across multiple social media platforms (including, if we go with a Web 2.0-based notion here of what qualifies as “social media”, this blog itself on WordPress).  Still, though, my main purpose for being on social media is an emphasis on being social (to communicate and relate to others online), rather than it being merely media (to share or propagate content); it’s a neat thing that I get to share my writing and project on Twitter or Facebook, but I’m not on social media in order to spread my blog.  That I have so many viewers is neat, but let’s be honest: I would still be writing about the things I do whether I had 10 followers or 10000.  I don’t write to get engagements, I don’t blog to get views, I don’t post to be famous; I write, blog, and post because I have things I just want to write, blog, and post about.  I write for the sake of writing, not just to keep myself in check with my own studies (and to give myself a reference and a record to look back on over the years), but also to help share things I find useful so that others might derive some benefit from my writing.

Still, exploiting emotion is a great way for people on social media to get numbers to go up in general, but that’s not what I want to do; if it happens, I want there to be a good reason for it besides benefitting my blog.  I mean, who am I to enflame people’s emotions in general?  While I claim that there’s a distinction between “righteous anger” and “non-righteous anger” in how it arises, can be expressed, and affects us as human beings, I still remember what CH XIII.7 talks about as irrational tormentors of matter:

This ignorance, my child, is the first torment; the second is grief; the third is incontinence; the fourth, lust; the fifth, injustice; the sixth, greed; the seventh, deceit; the eighth, envy; the ninth, treachery; the tenth, anger; the eleventh, recklessness; the twelfth, malice. These are twelve in number, but under them are many more besides, my child, and they use the prison of the body to torture the inward person with the sufferings of sense.

It’s that tenth one, “anger”, that I want to draw attention to.  The Greek word used here originally is ὀργή, which Salaman, Copenhaver, Mead, and Scott all translate as “anger”, which is an eminently reasonable translation for it.  However, looking up the full meaning and use of this word more generally, we can see that it eventually came to include notions of anger or wrath stemming from a meaning of “natural impulse, propensity, temperament, disposition, mood”.  To me, my understanding here isn’t of ὀργή to refer to what I’d consider “righteous anger”, which is a rational aversion to and desire to fix something that is morally and ethically wrong.  Rather, I’d see it as representing the anger that arises from thumos, the “emotional drive” (often discussed alongside epithumia “appetitive desire”) which is a baser, nonrational passion arising from body-centered ego (tellingly, the Perseus-Tufts online dictionary above notes that we don’t find ὀργή/ὀργάς in Homeric texts, who uses θύμος instead).

Consider a Stoic parallel: for most negative passions (πάθῃ pathē), there are also corresponding good feelings (εὐπάθεια eupatheia).  For the Stoic, there are four high-level categories of passions, a combination of whether they are valued as good or bad, and whether they relate to things in the present or future.  The passion of good things in the present is pleasure, and good things in the future is appetite/desire; the passion of bad things in the present is distress, and bad things in the future is fear.  These are inherently nonrational impulses and mistaken judgments that arise to cause us emotional disquietude, but there are also appropriate and rational impulses and correct judgment that serve to bring one to emotional peace.  Corresponding to the passion of pleasure is joy, to fear is caution, and to appetite/desire is reasonable wishing (though there is no rational correspondent to fear).  The difference here is that a Stoic may well wish for something to happen, but in a way appropriate to the thing itself and the Stoic’s relationship to it, as opposed to an irrational, mistaken mere instance of appetite/desire.

In a similar way, I claim that not all anger—one might even say not all “hate”—is the same, and that there are healthful expressions of what might be apparent as and equivalent to baser kinds even though they are nothing of the sort.  For my part, consider the line from the Headless Rite that says “I am the Truth who hates the fact that unjust deeds are done in the world” (Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ Ἀλήθεια, ὁ μισῶν ἀδικήματα γίνεσθαι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ Egṓ eimi hē Alḗtheia, ho misôn adikḗmata gínesthai en tôy kósmōy).  “Hate” here is just the word μισέω, which really just means “hate”, but what do we mean by “hate”?  Hatred is, at its core, a strong aversion or intense dislike of something, an unwillingness to suffer something.  Sometimes hate can arise from mere opinion and irrational desire, sure, but sometimes it can also arise as the logical and rational consequence of particular ethics and morals that one has cultivated and developed, and if those ethics and morals are well-founded, then hate of a thing directed by such ethics and morals must necessarily be followed as an extension of those ethics and morals.  In that light, while “hate” for some people may well be emotionally-driven, for others it may instead be logically- and rationally-driven.  And this is still something distinct from “rage”, which is merely an indulgence in one’s baser, lower, ego-driven emotions.

When I make a call-out post (as I did with DanKadmos from the Hermetic Agora, the Temple of the Hermetic One, the oppressive acts of the previous US presidential administration during the protests in 2020, racism and fascism and violence against movements like Black Lives Matter, or the like), is there emotion involved?  Sure; I’m still human and definitely no sage.  However, I don’t like wasting my time writing posts like this, and I don’t want to waste my readers’ time in reading posts like this unless there’s a reason that I think justifies the time; if I just want to bitch about something, I keep it to Twitter (if I think it’s funny enough to get a few people to laugh) or (far more commonly) I just keep my mouth shut.  I don’t write call-out posts just to get people upset and enraged, because that’s something I find abhorrent from a moral and ethical perspective, much less a Hermetic one that seeks to quell one’s temper and passions in order to attain higher and more refined states of spiritual development.  I write these posts to get people to act in a way I think helps the world and helps make the world a better place.  I write such posts not as a distraction from my usual writing here, but as a logical extension and result of the practice of living what I write about here.  It is as much part of the message and goal of what I do here as everything else.

As I mentioned in my last post, I fully expected that making such a post about someone so popular in the online occult sphere was going to be divisive, drive people away from me and my writings, cause my much-vaunted numbers to drop, and so on.  And yanno what?  That’s just fine with me.  As I’ve said before in no unclear terms, if people are willing to support horrible things, then I’d much rather they not read my stuff at all.  For all that some people might cry out about others being “hateful” towards them, consider what I said about what “hate” actually means: if you’re willing to suffer or tolerate (or even encourage or rejoice in) things that I make no qualms about being detestable or despicable to me (and with good reason!), then I’m not sure what I have to offer you or what you might hope to find here besides a few tricks nestled amidst my words.  If, after reading and considering what it is I have to say, all that still drives you away from me or makes you want to unfollow me on my blog or Twitter or what-have-you: good.  Go on with your life, and I genuinely hope you do better wherever you go than you are now.

I’m not playing this game to earn a name for myself or to build up a sycophantic echo chamber around myself; in truth, I’m not playing any sort of game at all.  I’m just here doing my thing, as I ever have.  That’s what I encourage others to do, too, both online and off: focus on what it is you want to do, for its own glorious sake as much as you possibly can, and let people rejoice at that and with you in that.  Just remember that, whatever you do, you should do all of it—and that includes the stuff that you might find distasteful but which goes along with all the rest.

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