|Posted on February 24, 2017 at 11:55 AM|
Glamour is one of the most subtle dangers in the occult. In many ways it is like a spiritual personality disorder that hinders your growth to spiritual maturity. The concept was first coined by the theosophist Alice Bailey. Theosophy, incidentally, is the practice through speculation or experience, of discovering the nature of God.
Glamour can be split into three different levels, illusion, glamour and maya. Illusion, in this narrow sense, is being overly intellectual and ignoring emotions and meaning; think Mr Spock. Maya is a Hindu concept and is the illusion (the wider sense shall be used here-on-in) of duality. In mystical traditions the illusion between subject and object disappears.
Bailey said that glamour is the confusion of the real and the illusion. Put simply this is where we confuse the world for how we would like it to be for the way the world is. Or more technically it is when our view of phenomenal reality is incongruent with our experience of it. It is also when we mistake mythos for logos, imagining despite all experience to the contrary that our guardian angel is an empirical being. Here the illusion of the astral is mistaken for the brighter verisimilitudes of actuality (Bracey, 1990).
Bailey also claimed that it is where the desires of the personal are mistaken for the drives of the inner self. This colourful use of metaphorical language, so commonly used in the occult, simply means that we mistake our wants for our needs. The whole of materialist consumer culture is an example of this glamour.
So often we can be caught up in the snares of false colours, where the trappings become more important than the ritual that they support; or the ritual becomes more important than the people participating or the experiences they represent. To paraphrase Jesus, “rituals are for people, not people for rituals”. This is where the need for fancy velvet robes and tools becomes an end in itself. This is where people believe that by attending a wand making workshop they are doing witchcraft. Now there is nothing wrong with tools per se, as long as you use them in full knowledge, but you don’t need them, they are symbols or have practical functions and not an end in themselves.
This glamour is where we believe that our ritual has to be done on such and such a date. Where since Eight Sabbats for Witches was published, that Halloween Sabbat must be performed on the 31st October, or on the proper date in the old Julian calendar and so on. Likewise it is the use of Gaelic names for Sabbats to make them sound more pagan and exotic. It is the belief that the ritual should follow the exact same words as Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows. This is where rote is mistaken for ritual, and the words are taken to be more important than the mythology it enacts. This kind of ritual glamour also manifests itself in irrelevant discussions about whether it is better to do rituals inside or outside, whichever is practical and you prefer, or whether a particular place has significance for you should surely be the guide here. It is also when people insist that rituals must be done robed, skyclad or plain clothed at all times. It is when people become ritual junkies, with a ritual for every occasion or where they feel the constant need for magical protection and banishing.
Dave Bracey argued that it is glamour that encourages people to give themselves imposing titles as a substitute for deeds and accomplishments. For example, it is when people call themselves King of the Witches, or Grand High Poobar of the Purple Octopus.
So is the title of High Priestess an example of this part of glamour? The answer is that it can be, especially if it is seen as some kind of high glamorous office with associated power. The term High Priestess is probably a throwback to the early 20th Century where Egyptology was in vogue. In the modern Craft the term refers to a job title that has to be earned. The High Priestess is the servant of the coven which means she is the one running around making sure everyone else is having a good experience. She is also the one that deals with any problems. In many ways she is like the hostess of a party, except that she has a lot of pastoral duties as well. She does a lot of the organizing and leading of rituals and as such needs certain skills in order to be able to do the job properly. These skills are hard won through practice and experience. So those that swan about with heavy eye makeup and jewellery who claim to be high priestesses without having put in the time and effort are certainly englamoured. It is also glamour that encourages certain American Witches to take the title Lady (name) and Lord (name) for themselves, something that causes European Witches much amusement.
This kind of glamour can also manifest in the changing of names for more glamorous ones. There are several legitimate reasons why people do this, many of them legitimate. It may be that they have suffered personal trauma in their lives and so in order to distance themselves from it, take on a new identity. These people are changing their names in full knowledge of what they are doing. Also in the Craft, upon initiation, we take on a new name that reflects our sense of self and this name is kept private within the coven. Again, this is done in full knowledge of what we are doing. However, there are those who take on names to support their fantasy view of the world. Perhaps they want to live in some Wicca Wonderland or imagine that they are ancient shamans and take on names that support these fantasies. This is when people call themselves Thor instead of Kevin, or Windy Thunderthighs instead of Sharon; mistaking fantasy for reality.
It is glamour when we mistake the messenger for the message. This is where we believe that the symbol is more important that the numinous experience it represents. For example worrying about the directions in which pentagrams are drawn when calling the Mighty Ones, rather than the experience itself. It is the belief that an athame must only ever be used in ritual, or that a common kitchen knife is what a ‘real’ Witch would use. Either or, neither is intrinsically better, it is horses for courses and whatever tradition or mythology is followed. Arguing about it is irrelevant and is symptomatic of glamour.
Glamour is when we believe the part to be the whole. It is where we mistake the persona (the roles we take on) for the self. As Campbell said, “the executive comes home in the executive’s car, eats the executive’s dinner, plays with the executive’s son and then goes to bed and makes love to the executive’s wife”. It is mistaking our ego (that which we think we are) for the entire self. We mistake the part for the whole when we think we know it all. This is certainly a very common glamour amongst Witches who tend on the whole to be very self-confident people.
It is also when we believe our myths, our metaphors and our superstition of choice to be intrinsically better than anyone else’s. For example Christians have a very different mythology to Witches, and while you may want to make judgement of how each will influence your life, it seems inappropriate to say that one way of ‘making sense of’ is any better than another. No one system of thought, practice, mythology, science or metaphysics can capture the majesty and absolute wonder of the complexity of the cosmos. Therefore all such systems of thought and meaning are contingent and situated. There is no grand Narrative.
It is glamour when people believe that they have the ‘one true path’. It is common for newcomers to the Craft who have just had direct experience of numinous to think that their way is the only way. With time they should grow out of it. The internet forums are full of ‘traditional witches’ who believe they have the authentic Craft. It is glamour where we judge a practice on how old it is rather than on whether it is effective. It is glamour that encourages some to be more interested in what other people are doing (wrong) then worrying about their own practice. In fact this is a great distraction from getting on with the Craft.
Glamour is when sickly emotionality clouds our judgment. For example, I teach people with learning difficulties and some peoples’ emotional sentimentality makes them treat these learners like children which stunt their development into adulthood.
A classic example is where people want to be healers because they want people to see them as special, very spiritual and good, rather than having a genuine concern for their patients. This is also true of those who imagine themselves to be psychic. They want to be seen as special and spiritual. They make vague statement like, “I am feeling a bad energy in this house, or an old man and his cat lived here who died from old age”, without any attempt to back it up with evidence. It is found in those people who give ‘psychic’ advice to vulnerable people without any thought to how that advice will influence that person’s life. That is not to say that sometimes people have intuitions or access to information in ways that are hard to explain, or that playing the psychic card is a good way of telling people things they need to hear or accept advice they might not otherwise take. But is has to be done with personal integrity and responsibility.
It is found in those that feel the constant need for therapy, either going from one crisis to the next, or feeding off the attention given to them by healers. It is an under or over estimation of your own abilities; hubris or false modesty. It is believing that outmoded philosophies and practices are still valid when there is evidence to the contrary. It is seeing the world the way we would want it to be rather than the way it is.
It is also when we prefer cold logic over heartfelt conviction. This means participating and buying into a system that robs us of our humanity and creativity. According to Doctor Who and Philosophy this is what the Daleks are metaphors for. It is losing yourself in the world of systems and standardisation, which reduces people to resources and a means to an end. Of course, the Daleks are always defeated in the end by acts of creativity.
This glamour is where we miss seeing the beauty and sublime in an over emphasis on reductionism. Reductionism is useful in the natural sciences to give us descriptions of how things work. But what I mean here is where we say that the Mona Lisa is just paint molecules or love is just the release of oxytocin hormones. We miss the beauty of the whole.
Glamour is akin to the difference in seeing a scene by soft moonlight and the observation of the same scene by bright sunlight. The former may be more romantic, but the outlines are more defused and we are liable to make mistakes and trip as we traverse the landscape.
Glamour is not a ‘be and end all’; it is not a separate thing, but rather clouds our experience in varying shades of false colours. It continues throughout our occult career, no matter how long we have been involved and how experienced we are. It reoccurs at different levels and through different times and situations in our lives.
There are, however, some ways to counter our englamourment.
Firstly by working in a well-established and experienced coven. There will always be someone there who will be kind enough to tell you that you are englamoured and away with the fairies.
Secondly, you have to be able to set aside your ego and be able to take constructive criticism and advice. Listen to it and don’t just react emotionally. Consider and reflect upon it seriously and if the person was wrong about you, you can always tell them so at a later date.
Thirdly, write your personal myth and examine it for reoccurring patterns. You may or may not want those patterns, but unless you know they are there you can’t change them.
Fourthly, meditate on yourself and your motives. Watch how you interact with others, think about and constantly review your beliefs, attitudes and values; do they reflect your experience of reality or are they illusionary ego/persona driven.
Fifth, keep a diary on which you can later reflect on our motives, actions and results.
Six, be involved in the real world. This means you should not just hang out with occultists and pagans who agree with your world view. Hang out with other types of people as well; people who don’t necessarily share your views.
Seven, have your views challenged to see if they stand up to the bright light of examination. Speak to people who have completely different views to yourself and read widely on science, religion, philosophy, nature, natural history, history, psychology, the arts etc.
Last of all be prepared to discard outmoded philosophies and practices that are no longer in accord with the world and are not working for you.