Conspiracy theories can strike down even the cool amongst us

previously wrote about why I think occultists are more prone to getting the conspiracy theory bug, but I think there are more reasons than I outlined in my previous post.

One recent experience was instructive. As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of the baptist's head project. Smart, insightful, dedicated magickians doing really worthwhile work, and recording it very honestly and openly. I recommend getting hold of their books and simply going from one end to the other – there's a vast amount one can learn from them. However, as I made my way through the second book something horrible happened. Chapman and Barford started to sound like conspiracy theorists. I remember my reaction as I read: "Oh god no… not them too…" I felt… let down. That henceforth my enthusiastic and committed support for them and what they were doing would have to be tempered, would always have a caveat, would now be "You should read them, they're great, but…"

However, as I said, one of the things I really liked about the baptist's head was their honesty. They weren't afraid to say 'Oops, we got a bit carried away there, we were wrong'. And thus, in the third book, that's just what they did. During book two they were receiving a lot of spiritual and visionary information, and were interpreting it as best they could. At the time they had clearly been talking a bit about conspiracy theories, and a 'us verses them' attitude towards the world ('us' being those who seek enlightenment and initiation, 'them' being those who would prevent the propagation of these ideas, presumably in order to maintain their elite status in society). This coloured their interpretations, and they created a 'story' based on the visions they received which had a strong conspiracy flavour.

Looking at their own experiences of becoming conspiracy theorists for a while, a few things suggest themselves: Firstly, and it can't be emphasised enough, doing a lot of magick can make you go a bit peculiar. The nature of this peculiarity varies by person, but magickal work puts a lot of strain on the mind. You are dealing with powerful emotions, energetic shifts, drawing complex concepts from deep within the unconscious mind. If you're doing a lot of it it may be difficult to fully integrate the experiences and keep on an even emotional keel. For me, this often expresses itself through bouts of depression or negativity, but it can also make you prone to accepting beliefs and ideas that in other circumstances you would reject as being a bit silly (there's a reason that there are a lot of people on the spiritual scene who believe they are destined to save the world, are the reincarnation of Crowley or are the second coming. For most people this is a phase they go through… for others it can be a bit more serious and devastating). A more fluid sense of self, less robust filters to reality, are necessities for effective magickal work. But they can… well, make you seem a bit peculiar the rest of the time. Occasional breaks from magick are a healthy way of retuning to the way the rest of the world actually operates.

Secondly, symbolic language is extremely difficult to interpret accurately. The baptists eventually went back to the material that they had received from the entity Tempe, and saw that rather than giving them information about about some dark and scary conspiracy, it instead seemed to be saying "You're really starting to lose it, stop misinterpreting what I'm saying, maybe you should take a break from all this." But because that wasn't the sort of message they were expecting, it wasn't the sort of message that they were able to receive. (Exactly the same issue exists with interpreting Tarot readings you do for yourself – if you are been given really unexpected information the chance of you accurately understanding it at the time are really small)

Finally, it demonstrates that any spiritual worker has to be prepared to admit that they are wrong. It is almost inevitable that, dealing with the rare and unusual ideas which we work with, pushing outside of 'normal' ways of seeing the world, allowing ourselves to be taken by strange notions so that we can explore them for a while, we will get stuff wrong on a fairly regular basis. It certainly keeps happening to me. That's fine, that's good, and that's positive. As I say to clients when explaining the meaning of the 5 of Swords, 'Defeat', card – realising you're wrong is a good thing. The only alternative is never realising you're wrong, and just carrying on being wrong about stuff.

Being right about things is a powerful ego trap. Of all the personal qualities that put me off the work and ideas of spiritual practitioner, I think a 'brittle' attitude is one of the greatest – the inability to question their own beliefs, the insistence that they are definitely right. Sometimes a conspiracy theory, an exotic explanation, a feeling of paranoia, can just get lodged in your mind for a bit. The key is not to avoid contemplating strange and exotic ideas, the key is to know how to ground out, re-evaluate, and kick out the ideas that are not obviously ridiculous.

One Response to "Conspiracy theories can strike down even the cool amongst us"

  1. Kellie says:

    Reminds me of how great scientists occasionally seem to get enamored of nutty ideas or accept things without enough evidence (cold fusion, etc). The intellectual confidence that allows them to break with the field and make their own big discoveries also means they're not held back from taking those leaps that carry them off into the high grass.

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