Occulture: Reading the Revealed Face of the Concealed

Cavan McLaughlin gave the closing presentation at Occulture Esoteric Conference, Berlin.


The neologistic compound ‘occulture’ is rapidly becoming the word du jour in occultist circles. The word is also heavily utilised amongst scholars of esotericism since its introduction as a sociological category by Christopher Partridge in The Re-Enchantment of the West (2004). Partridge repurposed the term, which he initially came across in George McKay’s Senseless Acts of Beauty (1996), but subsequently traced its coinage back to artist, “esoterrorist” and self-styled “cultural engineer”, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Occulture, as Christopher Partridge asserts, is ‘ordinary’; it is concurrent with all culture, the two are interrelated and analogous, indeed, occulture is an inseparable part of culture. Nevertheless, occulture is extraordinary, and it is revealed precisely by its deviance from normative culture—in its transgression of orthodox cultural meaning, dominant cultural narratives, and, even, so-called “normal waking consciousness”. Most of the time, we are unaware that we are ‘reading’ our cultural environment, the narratives around which our lives are informed and organised have been so normalised that they usually run unawares, in the background. Occulture, however, is conspicuous. When we encounter a rupture in some aspect of normal or orthodox cultural meaning, we are forced to notice it and try and make sense of it: to interpret it. Although it is found everywhere within culture, its very distinctive and differential presence invariably draws attention to, and is the expression of, something beyond culture. Occulture, is the revealed ‘face’ of the concealed.