My son recently turned eight and I decided it was time to knight him. No, seriously. So much of the studying of culture and mythology that I’ve been immersed in has brought the deep loss of rites of passage to my attention. With so much early developmental mind mapping coming from technology and television, I’m doing as much as I can to introduce ancient and classical myths orally and experientially. I would like birthdays in my family to be symbolically marked by more than a stack of material gifts. This year, largely inspired by my own personal commitment to re-education in myth and meaning, I broke tradition to initiate a new tradition.
To be clear, I myself am not a knight of any official capacity whatsoever. Not many are after all. So, what made me feel able to perform such a ceremony? Well, I’m his damn father for starters. Secondly, I realized on the day, if not me, who else? The answer was obvious. The inspiration was sudden and came on the back of a week of my own contemplation of the loss of Rite of Passage rituals in our contemporary culture. Continue reading “Rekindling an Archetype: DIY Knighting”
We should be cautious of prophecies that claim that we are on a path of infinite political “progress,” infinite “economic growth,” or, conversely, headed toward civilizational collapse. Things are more complicated, and there always remains opportunities for the creation of interesting new cultural movements and for personal ascent (though perhaps not for those who are determined to fit themselves into some outdated societal mold).
A century ago, the German intellectual Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) argued that civilizations are organic, that they take root, blossom, and then wither and die. According to Spengler, the West is now in its dying phase. His thesis, however, was rebutted by another German thinker, Jean Gebser (1905-1973), who argued that human consciousness evolved through the emergence of new stages of consciousness. The previous stages remained in the psyche but were superseded. Such stages (the archaic, magic, mythical, mental, and integral) were characterized by new developments in language, art, and even in perception — hence our ability to see the color blue (something that humans have only been able to do for a few thousand years or so), and the appearance of perspective in art (which man did not understand and possibly could not really detect at one point). Continue reading “Barbarians, Gender Ambiguity, and Possibilities For a New Culture”
Mitch Horowitz is one of the most respected contemporary historians of the occult and related spiritual movements, such as New Thought (the movement that gave birth to the idea of “positive thinking” as a practice to change oneself and one’s life for the better). We recently spoke with him about the influence of occultism, Freemasonry, Hermeticism, and esotericism on the modern world (especially America), and what he believes authentic spiritual practice requires.
Phalanx: You’re the author fo the widely-acclaimed Occult America, as well as the more recent One Simple Idea, which explores the positive thinking movement from its origins in New Thought. Can you tell us what drew you to these subjects, and why you feel they’re relevant to our understanding of the world?
MH: I felt that the figures and ideas in these cultures were getting lost to mainstream history, as most of the historicism was being written by people who had no sense of the values that emanate from the spiritual search. Also it occurred to me that we cannot understand ourselves when we draw neat lines between “alternative” and mainstream culture. Ideas tend to enter our society, and all societies, from the fringes. This phenomenon is true not just for trends or popularizations, but it goes to the foundation of American history. Continue reading “Committing to The Spiritual Search: An Interview With Mitch Horowitz”