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#1
Old 01-03-2013, 07:20 AM
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Are there any non-retarded documentaries about Occultism?

Every single documentary I have ever watched (or tried to watch) about Occultism, Spiritism/Spiritualism, Hermeticism, Western Esotericism or related currents has been utterly worthless tripe.

So far, it has all been lurid, sensationalistic, pearl-clutching shite, broad-brush hack jobs depicting "the occult" (as a whole) as hella dangerous, a rampant threat to public safety, worst thing since non-sliced bread, etc.

So, are there any non-retarded documentaries on Occultism and/or related currents?

Say, based on solid scholarly work, preferably more descriptive than polemical, and/or at least free of hysterical sensationalism and retarded conspiracy theories (but I repeat myself)?

Last edited by Steken; 01-03-2013 at 07:22 AM.
#2
Old 01-03-2013, 07:43 AM
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I haven't looked into the subject personally, but a non-sensationalistic approach would (likely) be too boring to get funding or wide distribution. You may be limited to reading books about the subject.
#3
Old 01-03-2013, 07:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steken View Post
Every single documentary I have ever watched (or tried to watch) about Occultism, Spiritism/Spiritualism, Hermeticism, Western Esotericism or related currents has been utterly worthless tripe. . .
Should you, perhaps . . . I dunno, take that as a sign or something???
#4
Old 01-03-2013, 08:36 AM
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When there is a non-retarded form of occult, then it will be time to do a non-retarded documentary about it.
#5
Old 01-03-2013, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Noone Special View Post
When there is a non-retarded form of occult, then it will be time to do a non-retarded documentary about it.
One could make a sufficiently neutral documentary about any spiritual/other-worldly belief structure, and the adherents of the presented belief structure, such that it would only seem retarded to an audience that thinks the beliefs are retarded. For anyone open to or interested in the beliefs or anyone simply sociologically interested in the subcultures that arise around such belief structures, a decent documentary could be nonretaredly produced.

I'm sure at least a few such documentaries exist- at the very least a few presented from a sociological perspective, probably a few presented as biographies of major figures (any decent documentaries about Aleister Crowley?). Such documentaries wouldn't have to be expensive, thus wouldn't need so broad an audience.

I am, however, inclined to agree with DrFidelius that these subjects are better explored through books.

Last edited by bienville; 01-03-2013 at 08:57 AM. Reason: retarded typo
#6
Old 01-03-2013, 09:00 AM
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Not buying your logic. A documentary about "utterly worthless tripe" doesn't have to be "utterly worthless tripe", and a documentary about retards (and the history of retardation and retarded folk throughout history etc.) wouldn't have to be be retarded. Surely that isn't too hard to see.
#7
Old 01-03-2013, 09:15 AM
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Missed bienville's reply and the edit window. But pretty much that, yes.

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Originally Posted by bienville View Post
One could make a sufficiently neutral documentary about any spiritual/other-worldly belief structure, and the adherents of the presented belief structure, such that it would only seem retarded to an audience that thinks the beliefs are retarded. For anyone open to or interested in the beliefs or anyone simply sociologically interested in the subcultures that arise around such belief structures, a decent documentary could be nonretaredly produced.
Quite right. And even if one disagreed with the views of the people featured in the documentary, the documentary itself could still be interesting. I'd say that's true about any historical subject, really.

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Originally Posted by bienville View Post
I'm sure at least a few such documentaries exist- at the very least a few presented from a sociological perspective, probably a few presented as biographies of major figures (any decent documentaries about Aleister Crowley?).
Perhaps! I have only seen one myself, but it was full of the usual "zomg!! Crowley was Bush's granddaddy!!!!!!11!" nonsense. Not quite what I was looking for.

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Originally Posted by bienville View Post
I am, however, inclined to agree with DrFidelius that these subjects are better explored through books.
So far, that has certainly been my impression...!
#8
Old 01-03-2013, 09:27 AM
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OK, I'll put The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern back on the top of that giant "to be read" stack....

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The Place of Enchantment breaks new ground in its consideration of the role of occultism in British culture prior to World War I. Rescuing occultism from its status as an "irrational indulgence" and situating it at the center of British intellectual life, Owen argues that an involvement with the occult was a leitmotif of the intellectual avant-garde. Carefully placing a serious engagement with esotericism squarely alongside revolutionary understandings of rationality and consciousness, Owen demonstrates how a newly psychologized magic operated in conjunction with the developing patterns of modern life. She details such fascinating examples of occult practice as the sex magic of Aleister Crowley, the pharmacological experimentation of W. B. Yeats, and complex forms of astral clairvoyance as taught in secret and hierarchical magical societies like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Many of the best writers were involved in occultism--& their work has endured. (Bram Stoker, not the "best", was a member of the Golden Dawn--& he wrote Dracula.) Actually, the Golden Dawn story would make wonderful British period TV. Love affairs, magic & art--dramatic Yeats & Crowley up to no good....

Yes, drama might be better than a documentary...
#9
Old 01-03-2013, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bienville View Post
I'm sure at least a few such documentaries exist- at the very least a few presented from a sociological perspective, probably a few presented as biographies of major figures (any decent documentaries about Aleister Crowley?). Such documentaries wouldn't have to be expensive, thus wouldn't need so broad an audience.
In my old Thelemic days*, I recall wandering across a few biographies of Crowley, but I never bothered to read any--I was more interested in reading his works directly.

* I retain a certain fondness for the old goat, and for the belief system, even now that I've went all bloody rational.
#10
Old 01-03-2013, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Bridget Burke View Post
OK, I'll put The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern back on the top of that giant "to be read" stack....
One scholar I know of has criticized the Crowley-in-the-desert chapter for being overly "psychologizing", but still -- excellent book, highly recommended.

I am yet to read her earlier book, The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England.

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Actually, the Golden Dawn story would make wonderful British period TV. Love affairs, magic & art--dramatic Yeats & Crowley up to no good....
Hella yeah! Absinth and corsets and astral projections? Watch out, Downton Abbey! Seriously now, I'd watch that shit in a heartbeat! (Just me?)
#11
Old 01-03-2013, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by bienville View Post
One could make a sufficiently neutral documentary about any spiritual/other-worldly belief structure, and the adherents of the presented belief structure, such that it would only seem retarded to an audience that thinks the beliefs are retarded. For anyone open to or interested in the beliefs or anyone simply sociologically interested in the subcultures that arise around such belief structures, a decent documentary could be nonretaredly produced.

I'm sure at least a few such documentaries exist- at the very least a few presented from a sociological perspective, probably a few presented as biographies of major figures (any decent documentaries about Aleister Crowley?). Such documentaries wouldn't have to be expensive, thus wouldn't need so broad an audience.

I am, however, inclined to agree with DrFidelius that these subjects are better explored through books.
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Originally Posted by Steken View Post
Not buying your logic. A documentary about "utterly worthless tripe" doesn't have to be "utterly worthless tripe", and a documentary about retards (and the history of retardation and retarded folk throughout history etc.) wouldn't have to be be retarded. Surely that isn't too hard to see.
True enough... Of course any subject material can be approached seriously and impartially.
My remark was more in the "why bother?" context....

(IOW, "That was a joke, son" )
#12
Old 01-03-2013, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Noone Special View Post
True enough... Of course any subject material can be approached seriously and impartially.
My remark was more in the "why bother?" context....

(IOW, "That was a joke, son" )
Hehe, fair enough!
#13
Old 01-03-2013, 10:12 AM
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The history of occultism goes back way beyond Aleister Crowley and his ilk, and, I would venture to say, is more interesting and significant back them because it was not nearly so far out of the mainstream. I would recommend the classic historical works of Frances Yates on Renaissance Hermeticism, in which she argues that occult belief systems actually played a large and largely positive role in brining the modern scientific world view into being. (None of this requires you to believe that the occult beliefs were actually true.)

If there has ever been a TV documentary that deals well, and extensively, with any of this stuff, then I have not seen it, but that is par for the course for TV documentaries. They are really are not a very suitable medium for dealing with intellectual history, because the issues are too abstract to make for good visuals.

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Originally Posted by Noone Special View Post
True enough... Of course any subject material can be approached seriously and impartially.
My remark was more in the "why bother?" context....
Why bother? Because occultist ideas, false as they might be, have a major (and not always negative) effect on the history of thought.

Last edited by njtt; 01-03-2013 at 10:14 AM.
#14
Old 01-03-2013, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
I would recommend the classic historical works of Frances Yates on Renaissance Hermeticism, in which she argues that occult belief systems actually played a large and largely positive role in brining the modern scientific world view into being. (None of this requires you to believe that the occult beliefs were actually true.)
Yates is great, and certainly a very important character in the history of the field, but it seems that most modern experts are rather careful with her ideas. (Her thesis has politely been described as "overextended.") A better introduction would probably be Wouter Hanegraaff's Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture:

Quote:
Academics tend to look on 'esoteric', 'occult' or 'magical' beliefs with contempt, but are usually ignorant about the religious and philosophical traditions to which these terms refer, or their relevance to intellectual history. Wouter Hanegraaff tells the neglected story of how intellectuals since the Renaissance have tried to come to terms with a cluster of 'pagan' ideas from late antiquity that challenged the foundations of biblical religion and Greek rationality. Expelled from the academy on the basis of Protestant and Enlightenment polemics, these traditions have come to be perceived as the Other by which academics define their identity to the present day. Hanegraaff grounds his discussion in a meticulous study of primary and secondary sources, taking the reader on an exciting intellectual voyage from the fifteenth century to the present day and asking what implications the forgotten history of exclusion has for established textbook narratives of religion, philosophy and science.
The best book of 2012, if you ask me. (It also goes into the Yates thing in further detail.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by njtt View Post
If there has ever been a TV documentary that deals well, and extensively, with any of this stuff, then I have not seen it, but that is par for the course for TV documentaries. They are really are not a very suitable medium for dealing with intellectual history, because the issues are too abstract to make for good visuals.
You're probably right! We'll see if the thread bears fruit -- I'm hoping against hope that there's at least one good film out there.
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