Journoccultism: Newspaper Scrying from Machen to Fort
Ferguson C (2019) Journoccultism: Newspaper Scrying from Machen to Fort. Approaching Esotericism and Mysticism: Cultural Influences, The Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History and Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland, 05.06.2019-07.06.2019.
Abstract From the vantage of its most famous associates, the so-called ‘occult revival’ appears to be a deeply bibliolatric enterprise. From the writings of Lévi to Blavatsky, its literary canon heaves with reference to ancient, mysterious, and exclusive tomes whose teachings and circulation have been necessarily restricted until the contemporary moment of revelation, and which even now remain difficult to access. Yet as modern occultists have apotheosized the (typically ancient, and usually singular) book, so too have many made their living as men and women of the press, writing for ephemeral, accessible, and mass-produced newspapers that aimed for as wide an audience as possible. The significance of such journalistic pursuits, not simply for the dissemination, but also for the textual poetics and visionary techniques of the occult revival remains unreckoned. Building on the recent IAPSOP-fuelled periodical turn in esotericism studies, my paper examines how the newspaper itself came to be theorized as a magical print interface in the early twentieth-century transatlantic cultic milieu, its valueas a prompt to esoteric consciousness coming ultimately to rival that of the printed book or rare manuscript. Focusing on the writing of Arthur Machen and Charles Fort, I demonstrate how these “newspaper scryers” aligned the reportage techniques and reading habits required by popular journalism with the esoteric and anomalistic worldviews they respectively pursued, anticipating in the process the later occultural “cut-up” techniques of Brion Gysin and Genesis P-Orridge.
Keywords Arthur Machen; Charles Fort; Occultism; Journalism; Forteanism
Place of publication
Approaching Esotericism and Mysticism: Cultural Influences. The Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History and Åbo Akademi University. June 5-7, 2019.
Approaching Esotericism and Mysticism: Cultural Influences
The Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History and Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland