Earlier this year I was involved in the seminar The Occult Turn. Working from my project The Following doesn’t exist I supplied the seminar with a free and open WiFi by facilitating and allowing people to connect together through the WiFi spots, the project intends to practice generosity and to form an idiorhythmic community of ‘followers’ that, from this digital point of departure, are free to trail off wherever and whenever they wish.
The framework of the podcast platform is modelled after a study into the philosophy of fourth-century desert hermit mystics known as the Ammas or Desert Mothers and after dominant thinking in contemporary feminist methodology. The reason to combine these streams of thinking and put them to use in a curatorial framework was to seek other ways of producing by problematising the universalising inclination of curating itself. In doing so, committing to not only account for curatorial work through language but insisting on a situated and embodied understanding – such as a mystic ‘understanding’.
One of the speakers at the symposium, Kirsty Pattison, specifically addresses the links of ‘intelligent magic’ to Greek Theurgy, the religious ritual element of mid-platonic and neo-platonic philosophy. Theurgy is the practice through which one aims to establish a mystical union with God (‘the one’, or read: that which is bigger than us).
The Amma’s mystical practice grounded for a large part in neo-platonic philosophy – a popular philoshpy in Alexandria in the 5th and 6th century – sought this unification through a life of solitude and ritual in the deserts around Alexandria.
Although most of the research for The Following doesn’t exist focused on the Amma’s methods of living together, as both a small society and as individuals (idiorhythmic) and their ideas about silence and listening, theurgy has formed an important reason to look into the philosophy in the first place.
For the majority in today’s western society, a unification with ‘the one’ is not directly on top-priority on the list of things to do on a daily basis, exactly because God’s death made our daily lives more important to us than our promised afterlives. But as I noted above, ‘the one’ might also be read as ‘that which is bigger than us’ – and there is a whole lot of that still; climate change, the rise of big data and geopolitical turmoil.
Then, the turn to the occult is a combination of embodied forms of understanding while being a way of letting ‘the other’ speak.
“Escape happens”, as Eugene Thacker notes in his first volume of the horror philosophy series.
 That’s Nietzsche obvs.