One of the biggest problems with many practising occult groups is the phenomena whereby an originally cohesive band of people , develop a tendency to pull themselves apart as the various aims and opinions of each member clash with those of others. Before long, dominant personalities take over, while people with less aggressive natures are not heard. Schisms can appear or people become disinterested in the ideas of others. Some people might even leave and eventually the group has a high risk of folding.
Nick Sabini investigates.
First Published (on paper) 1994 in The Philosopher's Stone
A STUDY of the history of magic and religion cannot ignore important features relating to social interaction in the communication of magical or religious ideas. In brief, it becomes obvious that political factors are far more influential than the ideas themselves. A religion or system of magic arises, and either survives as an antidote to the current established system, or it, in turn, becomes the established system of a particular culture.
Established systems survive for long periods as long as they have inflexible dogma reinforced by a strong leadership or priesthood that is linked to the social hierarchy in a mutually supportive way (i.e. church and state). Dispossessed or disenfranchised members of society then find status in breakaway groups, or new systems, which may eventually become the established system if the hierarchy finds it politically expedient to embrace (or hijack) the system.
The most recent major example of a breakaway group within a religious context is that of opponents to women priests within the Anglican Church. There have been various attempts at political realignment, as some turned to Rome (which is ironic because that's where they came from in the first place), and the remainder of the rebels await a strong leader to take them who (or God) knows where.
A major feature of magico-religious systems is that of strong leadership. This says far less about leadership per se than about the need of the masses for strong leadership. Sheep, as it were, looking around for a shepherd. The occult movement, in the last hundred years has reflected this tendency in the same way as any other system.
The current pagan movement differs from most previous systems in that they are suspicious of strong leadership, and resistant to disciplined organisation. In this respect they resemble certain other idealist movements of the Twentieth Century, namely anarchism and the flower power movement, both of which petered out due to the fact that they rebelled against any sort of structure that would be necessary for their survival.
One Twentieth Century idealist movement that did survive quite well was the folk music revival. This survived because it became commercially viable but has petered out recently due to the emergence of other commercial ventures that compete by providing a more exciting product i.e. brighter lights and louder music.
One of the more promising features of the current pagan revival in Britain, and this may be the case in the rest of the world, is that there is a considerable amount of co-operation between disparate factions. However, it must be seen that there are always positive and negative features at work within any society; and a close examination of the negative features is necessary in order to find a way of eliminating them. If we do not examine the question of leadership in some detail the pagan revival is just as likely to split by internecine strife as any other group. Already we have carping articles in magazines because some individual doesn't like the way a particular festival or event turned out, or whatever.
Perhaps the most truthful analysis of the leadership problem is to realise it is not so much our disinclination towards following that is predominant, as our disinclination to follow any of the potential leaders on the scene. This is natural in a field where members, relying heavily on intuitive feelings, believe that they have special knowledge as to what is right/wrong, good/bad with regard to supernatural/spirituality.
It is a bit like a political party electing a weak leader because they really all want to be leader themselves, and won't vote for a strong leader in case they stay put for years. It is as well to accept that although there are quite a lot of indians in the pagan revival there are, if anything, even more chiefs.
So, if purists and eclectics are going to live together without being told what to do it might be worth considering a system of magic based upon the cellular system which has been used effectively by terrorists and spies and persecuted minorities for millennia. However, the idea is a macro-concept: that is, once it is clearly understood, it can be used very successfully in a variety of different ways.
The idea is basically that any individual may start their own group or cell rather than having to just be a member of somebody else's group. Part of the problem with magical groups is that dominant personalities can rule the roost while people with less forceful but equally creative natures (or perhaps moreso) tend to be silenced. People can go through their whole lives without their ideas being heard.
When this happens successive groups (for they often die out after a couple of years only to be reborn with much the same people) often keep the same style and perspective. This means that if the dominant personalities in your area are into Wicca and Cabbala, then that is all you are ever going to do. But if you are truly seeking new perspectives then you may want to find out about the Norse tradition or Egyptian magic, or something else. For all you know there may be somebody on the fringe of the group with expertise in the field that you are seeking but they may never speak up. But what if that person was encouraged to start their own group and everybody lent support to the venture. Then you get a whole new experience and perhaps a new perspective to go with it.
So we need a system that encourages people to start their own groups or cells and enable memberships to be drawn from other surrounding cells. A system of cellular magic would work on the following principles:
The cell system is not an original concept. It has been used in the past. Think about it and pass it on!
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