Psychedelics, Occulture and the Mediation of Entity Encounters

Breaking Convention has published the lecture Cavan gave at this year’s biennial conference.


The psychedelic experience and occulture—a sociological category put forward by Christopher Partridge in The Re-Enchantment of the West (2004)—are intimately connected. Originally coined by artist, “esoterrorist” , self-styled “cultural engineer”, and experienced psychedelic explorer, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, occulture was later repurposed by Partridge as a way to make sense of what he deemed to be the “meaningful confluence of competing spiritual and paranormal discourses [… within] popular culture and the media” (Partridge, 2015). Within the wider semiotic soup of culture, occulture is a “reservoir of ideas, beliefs, practices, and symbols” (Partridge, 2004) that people may drink from. Psychedelic culture is central to Partridge’s notion of occulture, with the psychedelic period of the 1960s and 1970s being “enormously significant for the popular dissemination of a range of […] occultural ideas”, and, subsequently, psychedelic trance music, rave culture, the free festival movement and even contemporary commercial music festivals all still inform the countercultural and occultural (Partridge, 2004).

In this presentation, I will theorise a redefinition and remodelling of occultural processes that requires (at least phenomenologically) agency from outside of the cultural field. Central to my revised model is the occultural encounter, where the interpretation is framed by way of entity phenomena—where the ‘message’ itself can be the intermediary. Within culture, occulture mediates the ineffable Other: it is read, interpreted, politically negotiated, and intercommunicated, but always signposting, always pointing back to some mysterious, alienated, non-linguistic source. Focusing on the intimate connection between occulture and psychedelics, I aim to outline how the exoteric expression of psychedelic occulture, like all forms of occulture, can be understood as the mediation of esoteric experiences of Otherness that transcend language and culture; and, will consider what this might tell us about psychedelic-induced entity encounters.