A Process Epistemology of Wiccan Occult Knowledge
Issue: Vol 6 No. 2 (2004)
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
One characteristic, among others, of the contemporary Pagan religion of Wicca is its affirmation of occult knowledge. Some Wiccan traditions hold this knowledge to be secret; others, in particular Feminist Wicca, have a more open attitude. Despite these diverse approaches to the accessibility of occult knowledge, all Wiccans link it to embodiment. Many Wiccans associate it specifically with female embodiment through the concept of Women’s Mysteries. However, the broader definitive qualities of Wiccan occult knowledge are non-gender specific, namely that it is creative, non-rational, subliminal, and contextual. The twentieth-century philosophical system of process thought understands knowledge to have three levels: the deep, non-rational level of causal efficacy that affords one a grasp of the relationality at the base of all reality; the sensory level of presentational immediacy; and the humans-only abstract level of symbolic reference. The first of these, causal efficacy, can be associated with the qualities listed above for Wiccan occult knowledge. Wiccans access this level of knowledge through ritual, which takes them across the veil of rationality and abstraction into a brief and faint awareness of deep interconnections among all things. Some Wiccan ritual practices, in particular those of Feminist Wicca, then cycle back from this deep non-rational level to a more cognitive appropriation of the knowledge gained there. The process concept of causal efficacy offers philosophical insights into Wiccan occult knowledge and metaphysically grounds the Wiccan claim that at a deep level all reality is interconnected in a Web of Being.
Author: Constance Wise