Exploring Occulture: An interview with Ryan Peverly

Ryan Peverly is the host of Occulture, a podcast about personal and cultural introspection through conversations about magic, alchemy, art, love and psychology. Check it out at OcculturePodcast.com, or on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube or wherever podcasts are available.

I first connected with Ryan as a guest for his Occulture podcast and have since become a huge fan as his guest list has become quite impressive hosting such fine folks as Mitch Horowitz, Gordon White and Carl Abrahamsson to name a select few.

Below I present to you an interview with Ryan.

Q: When did you first start researching the occult and how has the knowledge within said field of study affected your life?

A: It wasn’t that long ago, in early 2015. One day I was looking at Tool’s Lateralus album artwork and found the appearance of a heptagram (seven-pointed star) to be quite curious. I started researching that, which led me to the work of John Dee and Edward Kelley and their Enochian alphabet.

I got particularly interested in alchemy after reading more about Dee’s work, which led me down two different exploratory paths: 1) a curious story about a relatively unknown French author and filmmaker named Irene Hillel-Erlanger; and 2) the novels of John Crowley.

Erlanger is a fascinating thinker whose work deserves more attention. The internet will tell you her life ends up as some convoluted alchemical murder mystery. It’d make a great novel or film. It involves elite Parisian occultists at the turn-of-the-century; an experimental alchemical novel called Voyages en Kaleidoscope; and oysters.

After researching Erlanger’s story I bought a few biographies and other works of some famous alchemists. I also bought a four-book series of novels by John Crowley known collectively as the Ægypt Cycle. I remember opening the package and pulling out 10 or 12 books, not realizing that from that point on I would find myself living in an entirely different world than I had previously.

Soon after this the lenses I saw the world through shifted. They showed me something I’d never seen before: myself. Dramatic, I know, but I really did come face to face with what Jung would call my shadow for the first time. It was the most frightened I’d ever been, and I don’t scare easily. I dealt with intense fear and paranoia for many months after that. I lost several nights of sleep and found it hard to wake up when I did sleep.

Eventually this paranoia passed—or at least lessened—and the lenses again shifted to show me a version of myself that was richer, more genuine, more magical. I’ve come to know the world inside of myself much better than I’ve ever known it. If it wasn’t for the occult and all the ideas and philosophies and introspective techniques that it encompasses, I’m not sure where I’d be right now. (Definitely not here typing answers to these questions, that’s for sure.)

I still wonder if I experienced this because I was immersed in alchemical research for many months, reading about shadow integration and similar ideas. Did I manifest this experience in my own mind? Tough to say. But if that’s the case—well, that’s all the proof I need to know that magic is real and that it works.

Q: What was the motivation behind starting the Occulture podcast?

A: I’ve always had a curiosity that needs fed and a creative itch that needs scratched. But my day-to-day life was so dull for most of my 20s (I’m 34 now). I was in a relationship that was stagnant for a few years, and I lost my sense of identity in it. During that time I had so many creative ideas I wanted to pursue but never did because I was unhealthy and had no creative energy to put into anything.

Once that relationship ended I found myself with much more free time, so I focused on getting healthier. That increased my energy levels, and I was jonesing to do something creative. So I decided to pursue one of those ideas I had during my 20s.

I started a podcast called “the 45 minute radio hour”, which was a good get-my-feet-wet type of thing. There wasn’t anything great about it, but if you track down any of the episodes (they’re on YouTube here) you’ll hear a similar style and approach to what you hear in Occulture.

I did 20-some episodes of that podcast, and I noticed the content was getting more spiritual, for lack of a better term. You can definitely see the progression and growth in my worldview and general character from episode to episode. At some point during this more spiritual stretch, my grandfather passed away. I decided to take a few weeks off from the podcast in order to focus my energy on  supporting my family. Some of my family members didn’t handle his death well, so I took it upon myself to be there for them in any capacity I could.

On top of that, I was asked to eulogize him, which I took as both an honor and a challenge. Despite the podcasting experience, I’ve never been comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people. I had a terrible stutter when I was a kid that still comes out from time to time whenever I talk too fast or get too excited, and that will definitely shy you away from speaking in front of people. But the eulogy went well—better than expected—and it gave me newfound confidence in my own talents and abilities.

During this time I consulted an astrologer named Carmen Di Luccio. I was interviewing him for the podcast, but I also wanted some general life advice based on my chart. I felt like I needed to commit further to the podcast thing but wasn’t sure if what I was doing was the right path to stay on. He told me it was a good time to refocus and start a new creative project and gave me an exact date and time to launch something new. That insight, combined with my blossoming interest in alchemy and magic and other esoterica, made it an easy choice to pursue what would become Occulture.

Occulture was originally intended to be a parody of Coast to Coast AM and some of the more popular occult, paranormal and conspiracy podcasts. I experimented loosely with a Coast to Coast parody format and combined it with the featured interviews (which were never meant to be parodies), but after 10 or so episodes I decided it was best to strip all that away and just focus on making a podcast that was more of a reflection of my own ideas and creativity than a parody of someone else’s.

The show has since evolved into something that, at its heart, is about storytelling. Or, maybe more specifically, Story and the Art of Storytelling. I have a creative writing and journalism background, and I deliberately employ those disciplines and techniques to construct the show’s overall pace and production. It’s a personal and cultural narrative told through conversations about art, magic, alchemy, psychology, love and what it means to be human in the age of woke gender-fluid transhumanist vegans who trip out on Tide Pods.

Q: Who are some of the authors and practitioners who have had the most impact on your own work and research?

A: My main inspiration has always come from storytellers—artistic or creative practitioners of either the written word or moving pictures. This will seem like a lot of name-dropping, but I consciously incorporate elements from these names into the podcast and the overall style and aesthetic of my storytelling.

I don’t want to gush too much about John Crowley’s work because many others have done so and articulated it better than I ever could. But his work really has impacted me the most. I saw a lot of myself and the way I think and behave in the main character of the Ægypt Cycle, Pierce Moffett, which Crowley told me was in part based on his own life and experiences. There was something about the character’s curiosities and creative impulses that inspired me to learn more about that part of myself.

I would extend that same sentiment to the fiction of Mark Z. Danielewski. House of Leaves specifically is, in my opinion, a seminal work in modern Western canon. It’s LIT AF, as the kids say on Snapchat or whatever other ridiculous platform they’re giving away their privacy and biological data on. The book catches some flack because some folks don’t quite understand what it is Danielewski is trying to accomplish with it. That may be because it works on so many different levels and in so many different ways. It’s a horror story, a romance, a satire and a literary criticism all at once. I’ve read it many times at many different points in my life and thought of it as each of those. If you asked me what I think of it now, though, I’d say it’s an alchemical allegory of human consciousness and how the psyche works.

I could say similar things about the impact of fiction by Philip K. Dick, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neal Stephenson, Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, Robert McCammon, Albert Camus, Poe and the Beatnik generation (Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg, specifically). I reread Heller’s Catch-22 and Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces often. I wouldn’t underestimate the impact that Tool record had on me, either, or the films of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, Roger Corman and those Shaw Brothers-produced kung fu flicks.

As far as nonfiction authors and researchers go, thinkers like Anthony Peake, Douglas Rushkoff and Erik Davis continue to inspire me with their originality and passion. The nonfiction narrative storytelling of Wade Davis and Erik Larson has influenced my own approach to the presentation of material in the podcast. Of the more occult variety, writers and researchers like John Michael Greer, Carl Abrahamsson, Mitch Horowitz, Chris Knowles, Peter Levenda, Tobias Churton, Mark Passio, Walter Bosley and Tracy Twyman have a great finesse, diversity and versatility about themselves and their work.

I’m also a fan of guys like Greg Kaminksy, Dan Attrell, Alexander Eth, Frater Ashen Chassan and Rufus Opus. Greg, Dan and Alexander are fellow podcasters who are into the more traditional, ritual side of occultism and esoterica; they have a depth of knowledge and experience that I don’t have yet. Chassan and Opus are guys who aren’t just doing magical work—they’re creating art. If you’re into the ritual component of occultism and want to deep-dive some original occult and esoteric research, these guys have done some great things in the last few years that’s worth seeking out.

Q: What advice do you have for young occultists just getting started today?

A: I’m not a practicing occultist; I don’t do ritual or ceremonial magic, or witchcraft, or try to turn lead into gold in a laboratory, or whatever else. I do, however, find art to be the same creative impulse as magic, just from what I’ve experienced, read and observed. As someone more familiar with the traditional artistic process my advice to young occultists would be: don’t get stuck in the ritual circle.

Gary Lachman phrased this in the best way possible in the foreword to Carl Abrahamsson’s new book, Occulture: The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward. Lachman wrote, and I’m paraphrasing here, that occulture is really about the connection between art and magic, and occulture forces the sequestered or isolated occultist out of the magic circle and into the broader fields of creativity. The occulturist is thus able to move between both worlds of art and magic. If you’re a fan of Twin Peaks, that sound should resonate.

Really, if you’re a practicing occultist you’re also obviously an artist. Take some time to develop a sense of self, though. Learn how to increase your magical energy and then use that energy to create art. It really is the highest and most potent form of magic because, once created, art is meant to be shared with others. It’s an exercise of Self to create it, sure, but it’s ultimately an unselfish act of magic—how often does that really occur?—because it can inspire others in so many different ways. And who knows, you may get name-dropped in an interview like this someday because you inspired someone to create something of their own. That’s some powerful magic.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the best aspects of the occult community today?

A: I’m living on the outskirts of the occult community city limits, so I’m not the best person to ask about this. That’s probably because I don’t do ritual practices and am still quite new to the whole scene. I see some of what goes on though, some of what people are talking about, but for the most part I try not to get too involved in online communities because they seem to always devolve into a hive mind of sorts. I’m sure there’s a great support mechanism there, but I choose to stay away from social media as much as possible. I prefer intimate, face-to-face interactions, so my relationship to the occult community may change if I find more people into the occult that are local to me. No such luck on that to this point.

Q: What, in your opinion, are some of the negatives?

A: Well, part of the reason I try to stay away from everything is because, from the little I have seen, occultists still seem to be consumed by our pro-wrestling politics and intentionally politicized social issues. They get sucked into the divisive nature of it all. It’s fine to stand up for causes and issues you believe in, but once they become discussions in media—which includes mainstream, alternative and social outlets—that’s when you should take a step back and ask yourself if what you’re thinking or saying is really your opinion or a regurgitation of liberal and conservative talking points. It’s always struck me as odd when practicing occultists get caught up in the divisions of left-right paradigms. As someone much smarter than me has already said, both the left and right are wings attached to the same bird. Best to avoid that stuff. Trust me. Your life will be much more enjoyable.

Q: Who is the number one guest you have yet to host on your show, but you would love to have on the podcast?

A: There are so many. Alan Moore or Grant Morrison would be the easy answer here because they may be the most prominent examples of that art-magic intersection. But if I had to go outside of that it’d be Genesis P-Orridge. Genesis popularized the term occulture (despite what anyone else tells you), and it’d be kind of weird if we never got to chat, don’t you think? Genesis is also good friends with Douglas Rushkoff, whom I’ve had on the show, so maybe we can make something happen soon.

Dan Carlin would also be up there. His Hardcore History podcast is another inspiration of mine. The amount of work and preparation that goes into one episode is ridiculous and shows a real dedication to the craft. I also heard him comment on magic briefly in his last episode, and it’d be cool to hear what a sort-of-mainstream-by-the-book historian would say about that subject at length when poked and prodded on it.

Oh, and Jordan Peterson. Psychology is an often overlooked or underappreciated aspect of the occult, and Peterson exhibits a fundamental grasp of the occult through his work in clinical psychology. Would be a fun chat. I’d probably just ask him for advice on how to best be a woke gender-fluid transhumanist vegan in 2018 and to read his favorite bits from the DSM.

(If anyone reading this is associated with Jordan, I’m kidding. Sort of. Email me: occulture@protonmail.com.)

Q: What is your favorite episode of your own podcast to date?

A: It’s hard to pick one because there are aspects of different episodes that I appreciate.

Irene Hillel-Erlanger’s story that was mentioned earlier was told very well throughout episode 12. It was the first episode where the guest, Richard Armin, presented wholly original research on a specific topic. I’d recommend giving that a listen if you want to hear the mystery behind her life, death and work fleshed out in detail. The format is a bit different than more recent episodes, but the material is top-notch and, again, original and unique to the show.

Episode 61 with Danny Nemu challenged me in ways I hadn’t been challenged to that point. Danny had been on several other podcasts leading up to his appearance on Occulture, and he’d been talking about the same topic (drugs in the Bible and general psychedelia) and fielding the same sort of questions. His interviews were promoting his latest book, Neuro-Apocalypse, which had much more depth and neuroscientific awesomeness to it than I was hearing in his other interviews. So I focused the conversation around everything but drugs in the Bible (which just so happened to be the least interesting thing about the book to me). There’s tons of great stuff in it about linguistics, poetry and general cognitive anarchy. Highly recommended book, and one of my favorite episodes because it was so much fun to record.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the first episode of the podcast with John Crowley. As I mentioned earlier, John’s work was one of my entry points into the occult, specifically into Hermeticism and figures like Dee and Giordano Bruno. I’ve come to learn this is a common experience among people who’ve read his work without any previous exposure to the occult. To start the entire show with him was fitting. For him to give his time to me at that point, with no audience yet and no good reason to—well, that was something I’ll never forget and something I’ll be eternally grateful for.

Q: Who can we expect to hear on the podcast in the next few episodes?

A: Depending on when this is published, there’s an episode coming up next or recently posted with Erik Davis of TechGnosis fame, Miguel Conner from Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio, and Jeff Wolfe from SecretTransmissions.com. It’s about Jack Parsons, Babylon/Babalon and the existentialism of our current Philip K. Dick world. It’s lively and well worth 90 minutes of your time.

Miguel will be back for a solo show soon, and other names you’ll see pop up in the next couple months include Austin Coppock, Jason Miller, Nick Redfern, Chris Bennett and an impressive young lady named Katy Bohinc.

Q: What effect, if any, should occultism have on politics?

A: Eh, I’m a political anarchist, so yeah.

Q: What are some of your current projects outside of your podcast?

A: I’m sporadically working on a novel (or series of novels, I guess) that channels a lot of my own experiences and influences. It’s not something I get to work on every day, or even every week, because the podcast has become its own entity—not dissimilar to some weird sort of egregore—that commands a lot of my energy.

I’ve also been thinking of and talking with others about creating different types of content separate from Occulture. Nothing is close to coming to fruition on that front, but the ideas are unique and exciting. I hope to clear some time in my schedule to more fully realize them.

But, really, my main focus is the podcast and the greater Occulture brand (even though I hate that word brand). I believe in what I’m doing, and I’d like to grow Occulture into more than just a podcast. I have an idea for something I’ve loosely titled Occulture: Art + Magic—how original, right?—that in my mind is the next great music and arts festival, only with much more of an occult vibe to it. We’re talking music headliners that not only fit the theme, but actually play real music and return the festival scene to its underground, countercultural roots. I mean, who wants to go to Coachella to see Beyonce? I’d also incorporate things like film screenings, lectures, roundtable panels, live podcasts, poetry slams, on-stage storytelling, arts and crafts vendors, locally sourced foods, and practitioners who can offer services like tarot readings and natal chart interpretations. So if anyone out there has some extra capital lying around, hit me up.

Julian Crane

Julian Crane

Musician at Jabooda and Dubious Monk's Synchronicity Project
Author, Wizard, Social Media Professional, Musician, Foodie, Occultist, Husband.
Julian Crane