W H Y M A G I C K ?

Andrew Sweeny Goes "Back to Hermes"


FRANCE-BASED CANADIAN THEORIST OF NONDUAL MYSTICISM, ANDREW SWEENY, is up to something.  His upcoming Parallax Academy course on Magic, Meditation, and Symbolism starts online in March 2023.

As a nod to John Vervaeke's new series, After Socrates, Sweeny calls it Back to Hermes.  Hermes, of course, is the quasi-deity & patron sage of the hermetic arts.  Ostensibly this is a more feminine, lunar, nonlinear, ritual, reclusive and arcane complement to the rational, male, solar and social Athenian tradition of Western wisdom epitomized by Socrates.

Magick (it's trendy with a 'k') is a tricky concept.  It seems to cover everything from stage trickery to the astral fantasies of childhood to the entire notion of causing change to occur in conformity with will.  Regardless of how narrow or broad we make the definition, however, the magickal, hermetic and occult styles are often marginalized within developmental and transformational communities. 

It is very fashionable to discuss the overlaps between Zen Buddhism, Christian theology, existentialism & new cognitive science but don't start talking about the occult! 

Andrew is challenging that sentiment.

The challenge may be important because many people sympathetic to metacognition, poly-epistemic rationality, cultural transformation and full-spectrum well-being, initially got interested via the colourful, edgy world of contemporary occult studies.  Furthermore, many of the goals and principles animating the new scientific interest in psycho-technologies & collective meaning-making are broadly shared with historical esoteric, alchemical and hermetic lineages.  Yet it is often not taken seriously as a leading-developmental philosophy and praxis.

Magick has a dubious reputation.  Partly this derives from centuries of anti-occult propaganda by monotheistic state authorities.  It is also partly to blame on the bad behaviour & poor organizational strategies within hermetic networks.

Nonetheless, we can still observe that these transcultural, countercultural and intergenerational hermetic networks affirm an embodied transrational cognition, a hybridization of left/right brain modalities, the complementarity of science and imagination, aporia, developmental levels of understanding & the use of therapeutic and transformational ritual. 

They also bequeath to us many curious tools such as tarot decks, grimoires, contemplative symbols, perspective-altering practices, etc. which have yet to be fully explored by the leading edge of transdisciplinary, metamodern and neurocognitive approaches.

For many people, the concept of magic is unpalatable -- describing a primitive fascination with trickery, superstition and naively pre-scientific enchantment.  Nonetheless, our best models of ongoing cognitive development seem to require that we cycle between our established frameworks of knowledge and the open-ended wonder of "right brain" spaces outside our pre-set reality tunnels.

If the hermetic arts point toward a way of being-in-the-world that is more participatory, multi-perspectival, intentional & better at clarifying desires through mental, emotional and physical enactments then... well... that's pretty good, right?
Here's what Sweeny says:

We will ask ourselves: what is true in magic and mysticism, and what is new-age bullshit? How can we practice symbolic contemplation without self—delusion and fantasy, or falling into various states of 'egregore possession' or ego inflation?  What exactly is gnosis, magic, and mysticism and how to distinguish between them?  What are the practical uses of symbolic contemplation and work with archetypes?   How do we become symbolically literate?   

Andrew does an excellent job of stressing the ancient Buddhist notion that "right view" must be our starting place -- meaning that sane transrational exploration of these psycho-technologies must avoid passivity, gullibility, fatalism & the over-reification of alluring ideas.  He is admirably skeptical and working to tease apart the functional from the merely fantastical.

Yet he is also clearly comfortable playing in the woolly conceptual sandbox with such notable weirdos as the self-aggrandizing 19th-century poet-philosopher, yogi and secret agent Aleister Crowley or the surrealist film-maker, graphic novelist and founder of Psychomagic, Alejandro Jodorowsky.  The course will doubtlessly be full of brilliant reprobates and serious marginalized thinkers.   

That will turn off some people but engage others.  The kinds of insights, concerns and psychosocial technologies needed to populate a wisdom-oriented civilization come in various flavours.  Different temperaments, curiosities and terminologies provide diverse on-ramps and inquiry paths for different factions across our emerging communities.

So if you are partial to (or curious about) how participatory self-unfolding looks in the hermetic style -- check out this course.


The teaser video for Andrew's upcoming course.

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emerge is convening a field of metamodern praxis