Hidden in plain sight: open-source occultism in the Age of Information

Cavan McLaughlin, Laura Thursby (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


In the Information Age, keeping secrets has become increasingly problematic, as both elected officiates and clandestine groups the world over, demonstrate on an almost daily basis. Yet mystery schools, secret societies and occult practices lose none of their popularity; indeed, arguably occulture has enjoyed somewhat of a revival. As the line between private and public life continues to blur, how do such groups, which have long held concealment at the very heart of both their identity and functionality, navigate the sharing culture of the World Wide Web? Within the discourse of Western Esoteric Studies, we frequently find that members of the occult community are oath-bound, even on pain of death and destruction, not to reveal that which Google will instantly share. This paper will pay particular attention to the rise of the esoteric group Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn (OSOGD), founded in 2002 by Sam Webster, and to Thelema, the philosophy/religion of renowned twentieth century occultist Aleister Crowley. His particular blend of “Scientific Illuminism” provided Webster with a perfect philosophical underpinning, along with principles from within the open-source software movement, to inform the manifesto of the OSOGD, an online and new Aeonic approach to the old esoteric traditions. Has the time come for the ‘occult’ to become the ‘open’ and might the revealing of all secrets be a method of maintaining the mysteries?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Supernatural
Place of PublicationFreeland
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2016


  • Occultism
  • World Wide Web
  • secrecy
  • Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn (OSOGD)
  • open source
  • Thelema
  • Mystery Schools


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