A collection of ConjureMan Ali's thoughts about magic, the occult, and spirituality.

Friday, April 22, 2011

False Mages

The history of magic has always included the exploiting figure of the charlatan. For as long as there have been real magical practitioners, there have been those people who claimed magical powers, but in reality were fakes. In my previous post I made some mention about false spiritual merchants and teachers and in this post I'd like to expand upon the topic a bit more.

With the use of the internet these false and fake mages seem to have found an avenue of being able to reach a wide audience, while hiding behind some level of anonymity. However, it is important to note that these figures aren't always trying to sell you things like con-artist spiritual merchants, these people engage in such activities for a variety of different reasons.  I've found they generally come in three forms.

1. The Delusional- This person often makes claims of magical power for the sole reason that they are delusional. They often are very sincere in their beliefs, but are nevertheless deluded. It is at this level you'll hear claims of having such powerful psychic vision that "they've never met anyone who could see like they could," or claims of having dangerous "satanic cults cast spells on them." You see the Delusional Fake, also has delusions of persecution as well as grandeur. Are there truly gifted seers out there and are there dark cults? Sure, but more often than not people are engaging in delusions.

Now a subcategory of this group are people who suffer from mental imbalance. There are people who personality disorders and psychosis who have these delusions simply because of their mental condition.

2. The Authority/Guru- This person is called upon the Authority Fake because one of their most striking features is that they take on the role of teacher. They often show up on online groups and will make posts that seemingly put them in a position of authority. They rely on the ability to present themselves as either an initiate of something, or as holder of some esoteric knowledge. Now, unlike the Delusional Fake who come up with fantastic and chimerical claims that can give them away, the Authority/Guru Fake may have some superficial understanding of whatever they are claiming to be an expert on (note: they don't always expressly claim the term expert; they simply act in a way that puts them in that position).

This person often relies on silly techniques like using random capitalizations to make it seem like they are talking about some spiritual truth. For example, they'll take a verse and add random capitals to words like, "Love," "Truth," "Wisdom," "Power" etc. There are legitimate examples of these words being in capitalizations, but often they refer to very specific concepts (ie, using Truth in Neo-Platonic thought), but in the case of the Authority/Guru Fake, if you check the source they are quoting from, you'll find a rather interesting lack in those capitalizations.

This leads to the third attribute of the Authority/Guru, they'll quote things without citing them. They'll claim they found a certain "powerful magical work" in so and so grimoire and that its truly "powerful," but if you ask them for citation they'll fail to provide. For example, if they claim its from the "Grimoire Verum," they'll fail to provide which translations they found it in, which page, and may make the excuse, "It was in a version I don't have anymore; it was an old, little known version."

Spotting the Authority may be a bit tricky. Unlike the Delusional Fake, these people may be perfectly rational and seem level-headed. What gives them away is two-fold. First, their knowledge will collapse before someone who really knows what they are talking about. Second, they'll get really defensive when called out. If you examine their claims, they superficially sound fine, but closer inspection shows their falsehood. If they claim things like being "graduates of Abramelin," but also talk about how they've come under the sway of demons that made them do hard drugs, then you should be hesitant. A person who really has conversation with their Holy Guardian Angel isn't perfect, but they also don't fall under the sway of a "demon" that force them to do drugs. Superfically their claim may be fine, but closer inspection with a bit of real knowledge of what it means to reach that state, reveals the falsehood.

3. The Name Dropper- This person's claims are always indirect. They have a "buddy" who's a palero, or their "teacher" was this reknown Magus etc. Like the Authority, this person has enough knowledge of the field to pass off as actually having some contact with some traditions, but they often are seeking the same attention of the Authority. They are a little tricky to spot, because they don't make direct claims, but one of the giveaways, is that they seem to have a contact in any magical topic that comes up. If you talk about hoodoo, they know somebody, if you mention Goetia they'll talk about the experience of a friend and so on and so forth.

Like the Authority/Guru, this person may simply appear on an online community and worm their way into a position of "expert" by relating all sorts of information that they picked up from their contacts. What makes them clever is that they don't talk about themselves. For example, there was this one lady on a forum who went on and on about how her grandmother who she put up as a great spiritual worker from a Romani tradition. Interestingly enough a lot of the "magic" her grandmother did was identical to a completely separate and distinctly modern tradition. The anachronism gave her away.

Though I've listed three categories, I am sure there are more. It is important to note that these categories have fluid boundaries and a person pretending to be a magus, rootworker, or spiritual practitioner may fit into more than one category.

The people who pretend they are magicians generally are after two things: attention and control. For the latter, they resort to creating persona that allow them the illusion of control where in real life they have little of. Similarly, they are yearning for feeling special and so they will try to seek out attention by creating this false image of themselves.

What makes this a problem is that such individuals are pretty prevelant in the various online occult and magical communities. They pose as experts, frequent posters, and chances are you've run across them.I'd say there are actually a lot of them out there. One of the beauties of the internet is that along with the fakes we also have some actual magicians and rootworkers to compare them to. You have sincere and real practitioners like Jason Miller, Frater RO, Balthazar, Frater AIT, Argent, C.Mthe Scribbler, Gordon, cat yronwode, Momma Starr, Dr. LoveBug and others who have a great online presence and who can be contrasted with the fakes. You'll find that in comparison to a real practitioner of the spiritual arts, the fake will pale in comparison.

The best approach to online magical communities: take everything with a grain of salt


M.C. said...

Well said Conjureman; I echo the sentiment. I'd also add that there are some who have attained "authority" or "expert" status among the community who definitely do not deserve the pedestal we've put them up on. They are widely recognized and deferred to even BY real practitioners simply because for a time, before our modern magickal renaissance and the advent of the internet, they were among the only "experts" out there. Their only qualifications are a few old books that can no longer hold water and which were surpassed in quality long ago, yet we continue to defer to them as if they held some high mystical title and to question their opinions is blasphemy.

Unknown said...

Excellent post, Brother! Every field has it's charlatans; the nature of our work makes it even more attractive to unbalanced personality types.

ConjureMan Ali said...

So true, M.C. The key is always the fact that they may have a superficial understanding of what they claim to be an expert in, but always lack the depth of true knowledge.

Thank you Frater AIT, I couldn't agree more.

Balthazar said...

Very needed message this right now, Ali! I have some thoughts about charlatans and sociopaths and will be responding to this excellent piece with something of my own shortly. But Amen!

ConjureMan Ali said...

I look forward to it, B. I think this is a much needed topic of conversation. As Frater AIT said, our line of work has a tendency to draw these type of people more than most.