Interview with an Occultist

Tom Lowenthal
Nov 13, 2018 · 3 min read
An artist’s illustration of the Mansus which a mortal can never truly see but in dreams, via Weather Factory

What advice do you have for aspiring occult practitioners?

For me the most important part of founding a secret society is a genuine curiosity. Some people yearn for power or want to perform impressive summoning rites. Don’t get me wrong — ambition is a powerful drive and summoning is a very useful tool. But at the end of the day, I founded the Order of St. Hydra out of a real personal interest in the Five Secret Histories and their Million Semi-Real Branches. And I think that’s reflected in the way people participate in the Order — from how we organize our expeditions to the Places Best Left Unvisited Among the Lone and Level Sands, to our attention to detail when it comes to destroying evidence and dispatching those who meddle. We’re like a family here. When I summoned Ezeem, the Second Thirsty, the ritual was motivated by my love of language, and my interest in learning Phrygian, the lost language of the witches which no mortal still speaks. Who doesn’t have a pile of books that they just keep meaning to read if only only they can conjure an immortal tutor who still recalls the old ways? And my immense thanks to Miss Morland for always having the right books in stock when I came by. I hope she’s enjoying her retirement.

Running a secret society seems like a pretty complex undertaking. What are your tips for making it run smoothly?

When it comes down to it, running the order is much like any other pursuit of a drive which threatens at every moment to destroy you with the intensity of its radiance. You get up in the morning filled with excitement and dread. It’s important to take care of yourself. I know that some folks like to turn to opium or other tinctures for a fleeting glimpse at contentment. I prefer to paint — I think it’s healthier, and the glimmerings of inspiration I get from painting often help me in my occult studies. Besides, I prefer to keep my head clear at night so that I can follow the Way of the White Door through my dreams to the borders of the Mansus where I can ponder the Riddle of the Stag. It’s all about prioritization and time-management.

Do you have any regrets, mistakes that aspiring practitioners should avoid?

My biggest regret I’d say was subverting my sole fragments of understanding of the Grain influence into the secrets of Moth. It can be tempting to unlock those higher-order secrets by subverting the schools which least drive your passions. But as you grow and progress, it becomes more important to have a rounded understanding of all nine hidden paths. When a patron offers you a commission to write about Winter, you’ll be sorry you occluded your understanding to advance your understanding of Heart!

Anything to watch out for; pitfalls to avoid?

Everyone knows about external threats like hunters and the Suppression Bureau. But what people are often much more afraid to talk about is the importance of maintaining your mental health — especially when you’re treating with secrets no mortal mind was meant to contain. Hunters may be glamorous, but mental illness is the secret killer, and you have to know how to practice appropriate self-care. It can be easy to let the dread build up or even fall prey to fascination, but only if you aren’t careful. Know what brings you contentment. And more importantly, learn to respect the passage of time, and come to anticipate the season of despair or know when a delusional episode is coming on. And then you can get the help you need before your episode becomes debilitating.


[Ed note: we elected to grant this source anonymity on the basis that occult activity is unlawful and subject to the vagaries of the Suppression Bureau. Learn more about our editorial policies here and here.]

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