The introduction to this essay has been revised, and much will be added to the main body over the next week or so.
For as long as people have been organized under a centralized government, the personal lives of populations have been molded by the dictates of national and religious elites whose authority is replicated in miniaturized form within family structures. Despite this predictable pattern, large segments of the alternative media have identified the coordinated destruction of nations, religions and the family as the final game plan of the global "power elite", while ignoring how these same institutions have enabled the furthest extremes of political injustice. The cultural upheaval of the 60s, a favorite target of right-leaning conspiracy theorists, has been recognized for its emphasis on values such as social equality, civil rights and ecological sustainability, all of which are vital elements in any democratic society. However, there is a shadow side to its origins that has not been explored except by social conservatives whose underlying political agendas often fall in line with the neo-colonial maneuvers of corporate-military globalists.
Contrary to the story told by major media outlets, a significant component of modern cultural change was set into place by social scientists who received grants to engineer human consciousness through media experiments, as well as other forms of behavioral conditioning. In Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, the Romanian historian Ioan Coulianu traces the origins of modern state propaganda models to techniques utilized by Renaissance occultists, who saw desire as the universal common denominator capable of subliminally inducing mass hypnosis via the collective mind of entire nations. Coulianu credited the Rosicrucian Giordano Bruno for the development of proto-crowd control techniques that would later surface in the sphere of social sciences as public relations, market research, disinformation and espionage. Bruno believed that society could always be divided into its essential components, manipulator and manipulated, and it was the role of the occultist, who would later become the scientist, to enchain the spirit of the common people through the window of their imagination, more commonly recognized as the libido. Bruno envisioned these chains as “phantasms” capable of affecting and influencing human consciousness and, by extension, social behavior. The ultimate purpose of Bruno's phantasms was to replace the external coercion of the state with internal compulsion, thus creating a self-regulating system of government.
This paradigm can easily describe the guilt-driven compulsions underlying the belief systems of the religious right, just as it can the more permissive society of Alduous Huxley's Brave New World. Setting aside political differences, there is an extensive documented history of secret societies such as the Freemasons employing occult symbolism through corporate marketing campaigns. While the alternative media typically focuses on hidden symbolism in the entertainment industry, there remains a pervasive lack of discussion around the presence of occult symbolism in the logos of military contractors, agricultural companies and fossil fuel industries. What this coded media language amounts to is an avenue of social control for a shadow government comprised of elite fraternities attempting to bypass the democratic process through covert organizations. On either end of the political spectrum, the influence of fraternal orders rooted in ancient mystery cults can be discerned with careful observation.
Many mystery cults were composed of mystics who worked to provide a framework for enlightenment, a method to reach the divine through acts of mutual aid and service to others. Simultaneously, there were those within these schools for whom spiritual mastery was not a practice for managing the harmful qualities of the self, but instead a means by which to control the populace and create a class of subjugated people. Within these latter groups can be found the centuries old tradition of organized ritual abuse, whose existence is still disputed by the legal system in part because the phenomenon has been simplified as being primarily “satanic” in nature. Sophisticated mind control techniques are typically based around organized child abuse, where the developing mind of the child is shaped according to a combination of advanced scientific and occult principles. The science of trauma-based mind control is essentially an esoteric, or hidden, tradition, with widespread social control measures functioning as the exoteric (outer) expression of its ideas. In every case, fear-based conditioning is the basis of manipulation, whether those techniques are applied to individuals in a cult setting or to society as a whole.
The word "occultism" has traditionally been understood to convey practices such as astrology, divination, alchemy and spell-casting. The actual definition is a lot more multi-faceted, translating from the Latin word, occultus, to mean “knowledge of the hidden”. This definition contrasts occultism with the scientific method which can be defined as “knowledge of the measurable”. The Latin translation necessarily extends esotericism into the realm of Judeo-Christianity as well as indigenous cultures which, on the surface, have no commonalities with Western magical traditions. In truth, Western occultism was heavily influenced, and even shaped, by both monotheistic and polytheistic spiritual faiths. From its early origins in Hermeticism, occultism has drawn heavily from the field of what would come to be known as comparative religion, assimilating varied traditions into a methodology similar to what many contemporary occult practitioners describe as shamanism.
Because intensive study of non-Christian faiths was, during the early beginnings of the history of occult practice, considered to be potential evidence of impiety, religious institutions governed education and attempted to prevent the “heresy” of polytheistic faith. As a result, blanket condemnation of occultism carries with it the strong likelihood of racism even while many occultists have themselves been complicit in imperialism and cultural appropriation. As the history of occult orders is closely related to that of empires based on the practice of parasitizing the labor and psyche of their citizens, the details that follow are, in several passages, quite violent and difficult to absorb. Thankfully these more unpleasant aspects of the Western occult tradition have been balanced by the traditions of organizations that strive towards the creation of communities based around principles of social justice, while not limiting the process of enlightenment to a chosen few.
No history of the rise of religious elites, along with the mystery schools and fertility cults that formed around them, is complete without a basic understanding of how these societies were shaped by their surrounding ecosystem. Prehisorical indigenous cultures utilized sacred symbolism as a method to communicate with and appease spirits of nature. In contrast with later societal uses of symbolism, which were often divorced from their immediate meaning and form, indigenous cultures understood symbols as living embodiments of the unseen forces that shape the material world. Indigenous horticultural societies developed elaborate systems of forest gardening that preserved the biodiversity of surrounding riparian habitats, thus ensuring the continued existence and sustenance of their communities. Horticultural societies are typically perceived as a temporary development bridging the gap between hunter-gatherer cultures and agricultural societies even though many of them, such as the Native American Hopewell cultures, persisted for close to a millenium. While romanticized accounts of indigenous egalitarian utopias can be discounted as ahistorical fiction, the archaeological record does convey societal histories with far less social inequality than is characteristic of agricultural societies.
Historians have recognized that agriculture led to the rise of religious authorities because the availability of grain storage meant that power could be concentrated in the hands of whoever controlled the food supply, in contrast to earlier societies which relied upon perishable food. This oversimplified account of environmental history does not take into account the inevitable precarity of agricultural societies, whose very existence is based upon the degradation of their surrounding ecosystem, leading in turn to conditions that result in violent conflict for the control of natural resources. This process begins with the deforestation needed to clear way for agricultural fields, which over time suffer from soil salting and a loss of soil fertility, after which settlements are abandoned. In the Middle East, an area of the world once known as the “fertile crescent”, this loss of soil fertility has transformed the entire region into a desert unfit for sustaining human life. In other words, the mythology of “swords to plowshares” is an impossibility, because widespread tilling of the soil always results in a chain of events leading to famine, social stratification and violent conflict. These catastrophes of nature are then reflected in religious symbolism, in which seasonal procession is viewed as an inherently violent cycle governed by malevolent nature deities whose wrath must be appeased by the shedding of human blood. Therefore, any history of social inequality should be placed in a greater context of disruption of the ecological web of life, whereby the death of entire ecosystems through agricultural tilling results in a chain of events leading to warfare and human sacrifice.
As environmental collapse spread across the Fertile Crescent, a diverse pantheon of earth gods and goddesses were replaced by a smaller number of deities associated with remote planetary bodies. When the source of religious worship was transferred towards the heavens and away from the earth, mythological depictions of nature as benevolent provider were replaced by more frequent depictions of nature as a hostile, antagonistic force. The sky gods presided over a much larger domain, whose governance was in turn determined by sacred kingship, in which the chosen king was considered to be a representation of a given deity. Mesopotamian nation-states were the first centralized institutions to design tactics of mass social manipulation through ecstatic celebration. The religious ceremony common to the majority of Mesopotamian cultures was a sex rite symbolizing the sacred marriage of the king with a fertility goddess, variously represented as Inanna, Astarte and Ishtar, among others names. Astarte, or Asherah, the “Queen of the Stars”, was the sister and consort of Baal, the sun god associated with storms and agriculture, in whose honor human sacrifices were conducted in order to ensure an abundant harvest.
Although some well-intentioned neo-pagan authors have attempted to formulate visions of Mesopotamian empires as havens for individual rights, in particular the rights of women, the principles of the Babylonian law code describe a society in which fundamental human rights are almost entirely absent. For example, Babylonian law states that a woman who was convicted of adultery would be stoned to death, a practice that continues in many Islamic countries to this day. The Greek historian Herodotus also claimed that all Babylonian women were bound by law to sexually perform for strangers. Far from being an unrestrained celebration, sacred marriage rituals were strictly regulated and designed to reinforce the authority of the king over his citizens. The philosophy underlying Mesopotamian fertility rites was the divine right of kings, a concept that would later justify the establishment of feudal aristocracies throughout Medieval Europe.
The Mesopotamian pantheon exercised enormous influence on European society through Biblical mythology. Historians agree that Yahweh, the supreme god of the oldest surviving biblical literature, originated as an epithet for the Akkadian deity El, father of the storm god Baal. The Oxford Companion to World Mythology states “It seems almost certain that the God of the Jews evolved gradually from the Canaanite El, who was in all likelihood the 'God of Abraham'.”...If El was the high God of Abraham—Elohim, the prototype of Yahveh—Asherah was his wife, and there are archaeological indications that she was perceived as such before she was in effect 'divorced' in the context of emerging Judaism of the 7th century BCE.”
Like the Mesopotamian empires, Ancient Egypt was a theocracy supported by the subjugation of the lower classes whose agricultural labor enabled the comfortable lifestyle of the priests. Egyptian mythology contains the story of the sun god Osiris, who traveled to the land of the dead after being sealed alive inside a coffin and later dismembered by his brother Set. When his fragmented remains were reassembled by his sister-wife Isis, the only part she was unable to recover was his penis, leading her to create a golden phallus in its place. Isis then cast a spell that was used to resurrect Osiris, with whom she conceived another sky god, Horus. As a material embodiment of the sky, Horus contains the moon in his left eye and the sun in his right eye. To this day, the right Eye of Horus is a prominent solar symbol utilized by elite secret societies including the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons. The coffin of Osiris remains a common Freemasonic motif, and it is also used during initiations of the Freemason-derived Yale University fraternity, Skull and Bones. In Egyptian artwork Osiris is often depicted holding a sickle while enthroned and in the process of judging souls who pass through th underworld. Within religious and esoteric iconography, the sickle or scythe is commonly associated with death due to its agricultural use which invariably links the tool to seasonal cycles of floods, droughts and famines.