Way Over Their Heads

A couple of days ago I was watching the TV show “Supernatural” and a particular aspect of the problematic nature of the occult became clear to me. In this episode John, the father of the two main characters, Dean and Sam, was enacting a ritual to summon a demon so that he could strike a bargain to secure the life of Dean, who after a car accident was on the threshold of death. The cosmology of the show is basically Gnostic, wherein there are laws that govern the powers and principalities of the supernatural realm that hunters (the vocation of John, Dean and Sam) must learn in order to do their jobs, which is to track and banish or destroy evil entities. As I was watching this ritual a picture of my children arguing and fighting with one another suddenly came to mind. The connection between the ritual on the show and this picture of my children is that often my kids will take matters into their own hands when trying to resolve problems that are beyond their capacity and thereby they ironically exacerbate the problem. Likewise, the father on the show was moving beyond his capacity and taking matters into his own hands when he conjured the demon to resolve the problem of his son’ potential death. Of course the show doesn’t present his actions in this light, but rather presented him as one who was largely in control of the situation and was able to secure a deal that in the end bought him his son at the negotiated cost of his own life. I, of course, applaud the father’ expression of sacrificial love, but underlying that, what I saw as problematic is the idea that occult practice, even when practiced with good intentions, provides genuine solutions to problems. The reality is that occult practice is really like a bunch of kids getting into something that is way over their heads and far beyond their capacity to manage.

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