A newsletter about occultism, esotericism, alternative religions & politics in the US American mental terrain.
Who are you?
My name is Nic Laccetti. I’m a practicing occultist, a Christian esotericist, and a theologian. I’m the author of The Inner Church is the Hope of the World: Western Esotericism as a Theology of Liberation (Resource Publications, 2018). My writings on religion have appeared in publications such as Patheos, Killing the Buddha, and Religion Dispatches. I hold an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in New York City (where I’m from and where I still live), for which I focused on popular religion, aesthetics, and social change. By day I work in communications for the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice and on the national social media team of the Poor People’s Campaign. I also sometimes long-form blog about esotericism at The Light Invisible, my personal site, or at the Rosicrucian Tradition group blog.
What is “The Baphometic Left”?
To be honest, I don’t have a strong identification with the word “left,” even though I’m on it. But I thought a strongly-worded title that might terrify reactionary conservatives by confirming their wildest conspiracy theories, while parodying some of the constant think pieces revisioning left politics would be a good title. Other title options included “The People’s Baphomet,” the “The Baphometic Turn,” or “The Baphomet Option.” I should still publish something called that last one.
This newsletter, along with my recent book, draws together my work in movement building and my interests in popular religion and the occult. It aims to answer a number of questions: From the perspective of building a broad social movement, what is the meaning of the contemporary interest in occult and alternative religious ideas, especially among young people and those who would formerly be destined to be a part of the middle class? How can this occult revival, its narratives and its imagery, be moved toward the struggles of the dispossessed, rather than toward neo-fascist movements on the so-called alt-right? Why is there an abiding interest in the occult and in esoteric beliefs even or especially among the young organizers of our social justice movements today? (Do you know any organizers who don’t check their horoscopes?)
My perspective here is not disinterested, but dedicated to the idea that building a broad and powerful movement led by the poor and dispossessed as a social force is the only way we will be able to transform the unjust economic and political structures of our society, to end poverty, racism, militarism, and ecological destruction forever. In the Poor People’s Campaign, we constantly reiterate that we are rooted in a moral analysis based on our deepest religious values that demand justice for all. We just don’t usually talk about the weirder iterations of those deep religious values, even though they have always been a part of American culture and even though they are gaining more and more popularity today as opposed to traditional Christianity and organized religion.
Is this newsletter about Satan?
No. Well, maybe sometimes, depending on what I’m writing about. The Baphomet, as most occultists know, is not actually a symbol of Satan or even Lucifer. Eliphas Lévi, the founder of what we today know as popular “occultism,” designed the Baphomet image as a representation of his doctrine of the Astral Light.
More importantly, Lévi scholar Julian Strube has explained how the Baphomet, for Lévi, actually acted as “the embodiment of a politically connoted tradition of ‘true religion’ which would realize a synthesis of religion, science, and politics” — an emblem of “a long tradition of revolutionary heretics” in religion and politics stretching from the ancient Gnostics, to the Knights Templar, to the sabbats of early modern witches, to Lévi’s own nineteenth-century tradition of French radical socialism. The Baphomet is not Satan. But it might be a communist.
This newsletter is written in the hopes of reviving that long, semi-legendary, but also vibrant and clearly still-resonant “tradition of revolutionary heretics” that Lévi originally meant to signify with the Baphomet image, committed to an explicit program of radical social transformation.
What will be in this newsletter?
Semi-regular, informal updates on occultism & politics in American culture, reflections on the meaning of the occult revival from the perspective of working daily in contemporary movements for social change, and liberative interpretations of weird religious beliefs and American occulture. Plus links to longer-form writing on all of these things, to important pieces on occultism and esotericism from others in the community, and to writings on social movements, especially the #PoorPeoplesCampaign.
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