Occulture: Signposting and mediating ineffable Otherness

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


This paper examines how deviance from socio-cultural norms, and the othering and rejection of esoteric ideas, authors and currents, by dominant or mainstream Western cultural and religious discourses are, in fact, necessary conditions that facilitate a broader occultural—and thereby cultural—process. Current discourse in the Study of Western Esotericism, with regards to Christopher Partridge’s sociological category of ‘occulture’, raises important questions about whether occulture is a recent phenomenon, or whether the subsequent refinement of occulture as ‘ordinary’ suggests that it is concurrent with all culture. Wherever we find culture, might we find occulture and does this point towards an underlying, universal, process in the interplay between the two? The author offers an exploratory modelling of just such a process and the manner in which it operates: through the hermeneutical reading of deviations from the orthodox cultural field. In this model, occulture serves to both signpost and mediate ineffable and incommunicable Otherness within culture-at-large, whilst, simultaneously, providing a mechanism for re-enchantment and the emergence of new cultural narratives. Central to this thesis is the understanding that the ordinary, open and democratised nature of occulture does not revoke its relationship with secrecy, most especially, the type of secrecy that lies at the heart of many esoteric traditions: the orders of mystery (or Otherness) that can never be communicated. Such Otherness cannot be articulated, or expressed, so necessarily it must transcend culture, because it cannot be transmitted through forms of communication from one individual to the next. However, in the proposed model, it can still impact directly on culture, by way of occultural intrusions into the cultural fabric, altering its topography and providing deviations from cultural norms.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWestern Esotericism and Deviance
EditorsMarco Pasi, Bernd-Christian Otto
Place of PublicationLeiden, The Netherlands
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 Oct 2017

Publication series

NameAries book series


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