Over the years I have read a lot of books on magic. I have also experienced the way that different groups work. All of them have a philosophy behind them, some even had a religion. They all worked in their way, some better than others.
Yet the big problem is that generally they conflict in crucial ways, and above all, they could not be all right.
Occultism is really a mongrel orphan child whose suspect parents abandoned it long ago. While we can see its existence in various ideas through-out history, it is fair to say that it never existed in the way it does now. All these different streams are integrated as part of your magical and spiritual life. I dont believe in Atlantis so when I read a book which talks about it, Ihave to see the point at what the person is getting at rather than the literal truth of it.
Some of this weirdness is to do with the religion of the ancients. Although the Greeks like to see mysteries being performed in Ancient Egypt or Syria it was more that they had something in common with their own religious practice. Certainly the concept of “occultism” in Ancient Egypt was nothing like what we see in magical practice.
|What happens when you don't honour the Gods and Goddesses|
The state religions of Ancient Rome were nothing like the pagan practices we see today. The Romans regarded the Gods as something you did not want to piss off. You did your sacrifices if something went wrong or if you wanted a god to look favourably on your projects and that was it. The idea of a personal relationship was foreign even among the Mystery cults. In fact that was something that is the gift of Christianity to the mass of Europeans, although there were precursors in ancient times.
Some of the techniques of the magician have come down to occultism and these are often thanks to older texts being translated during the late Middle Ages. But again they are collections of bits here and there. The idea that there was an occult system in Ancient Egypt or Babylonia only exists in the minds of those people who read texts and saw, like Herodotus before them, his mystery system mirrored them.
In my early training I was told that the book of the dead was an initiation ritual that adepts went through while they were still alive. The poor kid was wrapped up as Osiris and stuck through the funeral ritual and locked up in his tomb for three days. During those three days he would journey to the stars. It makes for a wonderful idea and indeed the Whare Ra 6=5 was a cut down version of it.
|I ain't dead it is my 6=5 ritual.|
But is it true? If you look at the book of the dead and the pyramid texts before them, it clearly was not like that. Religiously you could see why a Priest of Thoth would want to see a young initiate thinking themselves as an Osiris while they were still alive. We see no proof of this written on any temple walls or papyrus.
Instead what we see is an evolution of thought and basic ideas which get strung together during the Renaissance and sometimes ideas get confused. I am fairly certain for example that the obssession with secrecy comes from the fact that the freemasons used the model of the craft guilds which required an oath of secrecy to protect their industrial secrets from other towns. Certainly we don't see the wandering magicians and shamans in Egypt being told to keep anything secret.
|Ancient Roman Ritual or cooking show prototype?|
If we want to know what the best time, with the most developed form of occultism there ever was, we do not need to look to the past. We need to see the mongrol child as it has grown up today. Now is the best time to experience magic, now is the best time for esoteric groups. The same applies to the Golden Dawn. It certainly was not better under Westcott or Mathers. It is a much more interesting and fun experience now after the years of development that has gone into the system.