Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic invites proposals relating to magical worldviews, practices, and representations, as well as consciousness transformation, hidden meanings, the power of transmutation, and related phenomena. Characteristic beliefs and practices include: arcane symbolism, imagery, and aesthetics; unseen forces and spiritual intermediaries; synchronous patterns, non-ordinary causation, and anomalous processes. Examples of concepts and systems include Theosophy, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Sufism, Satanism, Tantra, witchcraft, sorcery, demonology, astrology, alchemy, shamanism, yoga, parapsychology, and psychic and paranormal phenomena, along with beliefs and practices relating to altered states of consciousness, overlapping with the study of mysticism as well as New Age spirituality, channeling, positive thinking, manifest intention, guardian angels, and Ascended Masters. Esoteric, occult, and magical ideas, beliefs, and practices appear in every culture and civilization; contemporary media and popular culture have embraced them enthusiastically, yet at times have reacted against them. The impact of esotericism, occultism, and magic on genre formation/content and popular cultural perceptions has been profound.
Individual papers, organized panels, and roundtable discussions welcomed. Please contact the area chair with questions/suggestions. Special themes for 2021 may include: esoteric and occult conspiracism, including belief as well as representation; esotericism, occultism, and magic in the counter-culture including revolutionary, radical, and/or extremist movements; the Immediatism of Hakim Bey and related contributions to chaos magic; political rhetoric and endeavor (e.g.: the cursing of political figures; the secular Satanism of Lucien Greaves and the Satanic Temple; esoteric Traditionalist and identitarian occult memes in the alt-right, etc.); esoteric, occult, and magical heritage of minority groups and its role in the construction of identity.
Sample Ideas for topics categorized by media:
Literature: Fiction by practitioners, such as Philip K. Dick, William S. Burroughs, C. S. Friedman. Books by practitioners (for example, Evola, Gurdjieff, Crowley, Anton LaVey, Gerald Gardner, Peter Carroll, Edgar Cayce). Influences and themes in magical realism, speculative fiction, gothic fiction, weird fiction, historical fiction. Fiction influential on practitioners, such as Zanoni, Goethe’s Faust, The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Historical representations of magicians, witches, and wizards, including stylized and mythic figures (Merlin, Morgan La Fey, Circe, Medea, Kostchie the Deathless, etc.), in genre fiction (contemporary Arthurian adaptations) or modernizations (Neil Gaiman). New Age and/or popular manifestation guides, such as The Secret. Conspiracist and/or extra-terrestrial cosmologies related to esoteric concepts (David Icke, the Seth transmissions to Jane Roberts, the Michael channelings, etc.).
Visual Art: Examples, Wassily Kandinsky, Austin Spare, Rosaleen Norton, Michael Bertiaux.
Film: Content as in The VVitch, Hereditary, Midsommar, The Skeleton Key, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Ninth Gate, The Conjuring series, The Wicker Man; Gnostic allegories such as The Matrix, Dark City, The Truman Show; explorations of consciousness such as eXistenZ, Altered States, 2001 Space Odyssey; representations of occult aesthetic, such as Eyes Wide Shut, or traumatic initiation, such as the Saw series; stylized depictions of magicians, wizards, and witches (Dr. Strange, Shazam, Maleficent, Oz, Warlock, Thulsa Doom of Conan, Jafar of Aladdin) ; esoteric/occult films such those by Kenneth Anger and Alejandro Jodorowsky; pseudo- and crypto-history in fiction (Tomb Raider, National Treasure); New Age documentaries, such as The Secret; conspiracist receptions of esoteric and occult history, such as Zeitgeist.
Television: Theme and/or content examples The Witcher, The Magicians, Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, The Man in the High Castle, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Twin Peaks, Westworld, Penny Dreadful, DaVinci’s Demons, American Horror Story, American Gods, Lucifer, True Detective (season one), DaVinci’s Demons. Strange Angel, fictionalized biography of occultist/magician Jack Parsons. Significant protagonists and anti-heroes; fourth-wall-breaking or uncanny figures, presented with esoteric, occult, or quasi-ritualistic aesthetics (Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Frank Underwood of House of Cards).
Comics / Graphic Novels: Contain esoteric, occult, and magical motifs and tropes. Some are actively esoteric; Grant Morrison claims The Invisibles and Promethea as personal magical workings; the graphic novels of Neil Gaiman embrace esoteric, occult, magical themes and characters.
Music: Specific artists (e.g., David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Ghost, Watain, Dissection), genres (black metal, apocalyptic folk, witch house).
Video Games: Theme and content, e.g., The Witcher, Silent Hill, Deus Ex, Dark Souls, Xenogears, Devil May Cry; pseudo-history Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider; historical worldviews, Civilization VI (secret societies), Crusader Kings II (cults, witchcraft, demonolatry).
Tabletop Roleplaying Games: White Wolf’s Mage (World of Darkness generally), Atlas Games Unknown Armies, Monte Cook’s Invisible Sun. RPGs have influenced the conception of magic in popular culture across media, and present extensive representation of magical figures.
Other possible topics:
Influence of esoteric/occult/magical/New Age beliefs, practices, symbols on popular culture and aesthetics (e.g., memes, clothing, tattoos, jewelry).
Influence of popular culture on esoteric/occult/magical beliefs, practices, and practitioners (e.g., Lovecraft mythos as actual magical practice, fictional gods of chaos in Chaos Magic, and real vampire communities using concepts from Vampire:The Masquerade).
Popular beliefs about esotericism/occultism/magic: fads, trends, moral panics, witch-hunts, witch-crazes, conspiracy theories (e.g., occult-conspiracism in QAnon; Illuminati paranoia, bloodline of the Holy Grail beliefs, Satanic Ritual Abuse scandals).
Reactions and polemics against esoteric/occult/magical beliefs and practices.
Dr. George J. Sieg
Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (Liberal Arts: Philosophy & English)