Occult of Personality is a long-running blog and podcast dedicated to the serious exploration of esoteric matters. It is well-respected due to host and producer Greg Kaminsky’s focus on quality, and in his being a well-informed interviewer. The site has thousands of listeners who “tune in” each month for the latest interviews and the number grows organically from positive word-of-mouth and social-media sharing.
We decided to turn the tables on Greg to learn about the motivation and inspiration behind his endeavors with Occult of Personality.
BLK – Tell us about Occult of Personality. What was your purpose in creating this forum?
GK – Occult of Personality, at www.occultofpersonality.net features recorded interviews with serious esoteric researchers and teachers from all over the world (but primarily focused on Western esotericism). To date, the site has over 120 interviews completed. There’s also the Occult of Personality Membership Section, which delves even deeper into the history, philosophies and practices of Western esotericism to provide listeners with more substantial content designed to take the journey of self-discovery and realization to higher degrees. Some recent guests include T Allen Greenfield, Richard Kaczynski, Joscelyn Godwin, Neil Kramer, Josephine McCarthy, David Chaim Smith, Taylor Ellwood, Paul Weston, and more. I have also posted a recording a panel discussion that I moderated at the 2012 Esoteric Book Conference.
Typically the interviews are about an hour with an additional 30 to 60 minutes for the membership section. I read each guest’s written work and if there’s a practice discussed, I do it beforehand in order to have a better understanding of the subject. While this understandably affects my objectivity, I think intimate knowledge and experience is more important to what I’m trying to achieve.
BLK -How did the site develop over time?
GK – I began Occult of Personality in 2005 (you can peruse some of my early written material here – http://occultofpersonality.typepad.com, but keep in mind that many of the links no longer work properly). I had a desire to explore ancient religion, philosophy, and symbolism. I was curious about the meanings that these systems conveyed to those with “eyes to see”. I also wondered about the various manifestations of these streams of wisdom through the ages. I had already been working with Dzogchen meditation and Buddhist philosophy for several years, but became drawn to Western traditions like Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Martinism, and Thelema. I also thought that by creating a venue for experts to share their knowledge, I could both learn from them directly and share their expertise with a larger audience. As pod-casting became technologically feasible, it seemed like a natural fit.
I’ve been blessed to have some of the most erudite and learned guests on the show, and over the years the amount of content has grown phenomenally. Ultimately, I want to help people through my own journey through of learning about esotericism and how these traditions have the potential to alter one’s life for the better. I don’t just explore esotericism as an outsider looking in; I fully embrace it as a participant. I think that is one of the strengths of the Occult of Personality – it is made by an occultist for occultists (and dabblers) and that comes through in the quality of the interviews.
BLK – Clearly you have a great personal interest in the subjects discussed in the course of your interviews. What was your initial experience with the occult?
GK – Well, since my late 20’s and early 30’s, I was into Dzogchen Buddhist meditation and interested in the mechanics of human consciousness, but never had a really significant breakthrough to the point that it changed my life. Then, one night I did have that type of experience. Let’s see, this is kind of a delicate area, so let’s start by saying that I wouldn’t categorize this experience as strictly an occult or magickal experience, per se. I think it was 2004 or 2005. At the time I was very interested in neo-shamanism and the idea of entheogens as a gateway to consciousness expansion. I obtained some Salvia Divinorum and one night, while alone, decided to try it. Beforehand, I lit candles and incense, dimmed the lights and prayed. I prayed that this experience would somehow lead me to understand my purpose in life. At the time, I was feeling lost. I didn’t like my job working at a Fortune 500 (hell, I think they are a Fortune 50) company, sitting in a cubicle all day, even though it paid well. After praying and meditating for a short time, I smoked the salvia. What happened next took me months to fully understand (and maybe I still don’t completely grasp its significance). I felt a rush up my spine and it felt like my head split open and I was on the ceiling. I felt disembodied and yet could still feel my body. I heard a female voice that was very comforting. And it was over in a minute or two. For days afterwards, I felt a sense of peace and bliss. I came to understand that I had a Kundalini experience and my prayer had been answered.
BLK – How do you feel this experience and your related gnosis has changed you?
GK – Since then, I’ve studied Kundalini response extensively and tried much more stable and safe methods to arouse the energy. That experience changed my life for the better and led me to study magick, inner alchemy, Hermetic Qabalah, Thelema, Tarot, start Occult of Personality, join an esoteric fraternity, and a Masonic lodge. It also led me to work with T Allen Greenfield, to be consecrated as a bishop in the Gnostic and Apostolic Succession, and to receive and give Points Chauds. That probably changed my life more than anything else. It is hard to describe the strong energy, responsibility, and sense of tradition which that experience instilled, but suffice it to say, I know that I’ve entered a long chain of union and it’s a blessing and a lot of work.
I’m grateful that my path has led me to such magickal experiences and to meet so many wonderful people, but there have been a lot of difficult and painful lessons along the way. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m happy and proud of the work I do, both for the podcast and out of the public eye. It doesn’t pay well, but it is very rewarding in other ways, especially when I can help other people on the path. I don’t consider myself a teacher, but do endeavor to help others learn as best as I’m able. Ultimately, this interest in the occult has made me a better person, more aware of myself and world around me and allowed me access to inner dimensions which are stranger and more wonderful than words can describe. I also feel a strong sense of responsibility with regard to the traditions that I’m connected with and a desire to make sure they continue to grow stronger by working towards that goal. I also understand that the “I” doing anything is really not an accurate way of perceiving what is happening with me or anyone else. This work has led me to radical understandings of the self, the world, and the mechanics of consciousness that I cannot describe nearly as well as my teachers. Suffice it to say that none of us is really who or what we perceive ourselves to be. That is all.
BLK – Your position of diving headlong into the subjects that you cover from multiple angles (academic/observer/practitioner) really helps set your forum apart from others. There are many sources for information for these subjects on the internet that are lacking due to an ignorance or unwillingness to explore on behalf of the presenter.
GK – The information that I found available online compared to what I knew from my own experience was another reason I started Occult of Personality. As I became acquainted with the internet and the portrayal of Western esotericism on it, I was shocked and dismayed by some of the mischaracterizations (is that a word? because spell check is telling me it’s not) and disinformation about the traditions we hold dear. Specifically the conspiracy theories about Freemasonry and Thelema were completely over the top. Now, I don’t claim that there have never been conspiracies of a Masonic nature, just that it isn’t so much the case in this day and age. I hope that by exploring these subjects in a serious and sober manner, we can dispel some (or hopefully all) of the outrageous claims about esoteric orders, magick, alchemy, Freemasonry, etc. In addition, there’s the continuing problem of a lack of discernment by those within these traditions (I include myself in that at times). I hope that Occult of Personality helps to educate and instill greater discernment for practitioners and elevates the level of discourse about these subjects. I’ve tried to do this myself by going back to school for a Master’s degree in Medieval studies at Harvard University Extension School. I think it is incumbent upon us all to try to grow intellectually as well as spiritually. The two go hand in hand, in my opinion. We can all benefit from a greater sense of discernment and maturity by challenging ourselves and our teachers in this regard.
BLK – Over the years, you have recorded talks with many fascinating people. Is there an interview subject that stands out?
GK – I think there are several. First, before I name names, I want to say that every guest is unique and brings a lot to the table. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but take a look at the list of available shows – http://occultofpersonality.net/available-shows.That’s an impressive list with a lot of wonderful writers and teachers! They make the show excellent and without them there’d be no Occult of Personality. I have great respect and admiration for everyone who I’ve had the privilege to interview and it pains me to not mention all of them, but for the sake of brevity I will just urge readers to check out the list of interviews because, in my opinion, they are all stand outs.
Now, if I have to name names … I’d have to start with T Allen Greenfield . Not only is he an authority on the subjects of magick, gnosticism, UFOlogy, the paranormal, and more, but he and I have a chemistry that makes for excellent interviews. I especially enjoyed the episodes about his book Secret Rituals of the Men in Black and Gnosticism.
Mitch Horowitz is a pleasure to speak with and he’s given us some great interviews, (most recently about his book Occult America.
Marcus Katz was also excellent, partly because he is literally revolutionizing the way Tarot is taught.
I also really enjoy speaking with David Chaim Smith because he’s such an iconoclast and gifted artist and mystic.
Josephine McCarthy is also someone that I find really engaging, thought-provoking, and just a great interview.
The shows with Paul Weston were really phenomenal because of his experiential knowledge of his subjects and deep understanding.
Neil Kramer is also a standout due to his eloquence and ability to communicate from the heart.
I was thrilled to be able to interview Joscelyn Godwin because I’m such an admirer of his work and he was one of the most intelligent and humble guests with whom I’ve had the pleasure of speaking.
Finally, readers will appreciate the amazing interview with David Beth who’s so well-spoken, interesting, and dedicated to the Work and it all comes across in the recording.
I realize that this is a sizable list already, but I could go on…
BLK – I agree after viewing the list! Having years of conducting such interviews on your résumé with such a colourful cast of characters, can you recall an answer to a question that shocked or surprised you?
GK – I do recall one answer during an interview that surprised me very much. It occurred during the interview with Paul Tisdell. I wasn’t at all prepared for his answer when I asked him how he became interested in esotericism. I urge you to listen to the recording because there’s no way I can do it justice. But to summarize, he had a near death experience followed by an initiation by discarnate wisdom masters and more. When he told me that this was the first time he’d shared these memories publicly, I was even more surprised. Although I was hesitant to put the recording online without extensive edits, he assured me that he was comfortable sharing his experiences and I’m grateful that he was.
BLK – In September of 2012, the OoP site was knocked offline as the result of a distributed denial-of-service attack. What can you tell us about this?
GK – Here’s what I know about the attack on the Occult of Personality web site: at about 9:45 PM EST on Wednesday, September 26th, a massive denial-of-service attack was launched specifically against my web site. According to my hosting company, there were thousands of hits on the site simultaneously and their network was being negatively impacted by the attack since the site was hosted in a shared environment with other web sites for their other customers. The hosting company was then forced to suspend the domain, rendering the site completely inaccessible, and then they refused to bring the site up again at all. This was the second such attack that I’m aware of, the first being during the summer. I was then forced to switch web hosting companies and completely re-evaluate the security for the site. I could have opted to rebuild in the same type of insecure, inexpensive server environment, but wasn’t willing to continue being an easy target.
BLK – As a result of the attacks, what actions were you forced to take on the new site?
GK – Now I’m using a virtual private server, meaning no other web sites are on that box but occultofpersonality.net. I’m also running all web traffic through a content delivery network, meaning my server is behind another network, and hopefully invisible and thereby impenetrable to hackers. I’ve also got a security consultant to assist with diagnosing and containing potential threats. What this means is that the extra money to run the web site is paying to ensure that these podcasts continue to remain available to listeners and the ideas they contain will continue to spread throughout the (English speaking) world.
BLK – We originally spoke to you about an doing an interview specifically to help raise awareness for a fundraising campaign for the site, but thanks to the immediate support that you received, you were able to get back up in no time.
GK – The site is not “a hobby” to me; I have a family to support. My wife launched a fundraiser online to pay all the costs involved in getting back online. Fortunately a number of extremely dedicated and generous listeners stepped up to help. I got the web site back up within 4 days.
BLK – That must come as not only a relief to you and your family, but also as a nice validation that your work is appreciated and that people find it important. In my time as an occult book shop owner, my health and life were threatened frequently by those who did not approve of my work. Many live in a world surrounded by friends, in life and online, who accept their practices and may find it hard to believe that there are still “witch-hunters” in the world.
GK – We shouldn’t have to tolerate threats and abuse for our spiritual pursuits. Unfortunately there are many prejudiced and fundamentalist believers who want to aggressively attempt to silence the spread of spiritual growth and sovereignty. They necessarily fear our message(s) because we threaten their belief systems. People who question whether this type of intimidation occurs need only to study history.
BLK – We thank Greg for his time and encourage interested parties to consider exploring the whole of Occult of Personality. The Occult of Personality Membership Section provides high-quality interviews, presentations, research articles, and guided meditations. This website aims to take the journey of self-discovery to higher degrees. For a monthly fee that’s less than the price of a sandwich, you can have access to a continually growing corpus of recordings of some of the most talented and dynamic authors and teachers in esotericism today, research articles that conform to academic standards, and more, plus the archive of older Occult of Personality interviews from 2006 – 2008. The monthly subscription fee helps defray the costs involved in producing the podcast and allows the continuation of free episodes and an extensive publicly available archive. It’s a great way to support independent media and serious esoteric research!
There is also a rumour that you may see something BLK in the membership section later this year….