Monday, July 14, 2014

Dark Side of Madison Avenue - Perspectives on E. A. Koetting


One of the most vilified magicians on the internet today is found in the personage of Eric Koetting, who goes by the moniker E. A. Koetting. He is ridiculed, called names, vilified by the hosts of Western based occultists and magicians. He is also called a complete fraud, hoaxer and all-around poster child for what is supposedly wrong with the nefarious Left Hand Path. I haven’t seen a week pass without someone ridiculing his marketing hype or launching personal attacks on him. There is even a Face Book page devoted to ridiculing Koetting and disparaging his various claims. 

If it weren’t for the fact that I have had some conversations with this man and can claim to know him a little I would have to agree with those who decry his excessive marketing hype and his diabolic teachings. I happen to know that Eric isn’t really a fraud, that he does know how to successfully work his form of magick, and he can also teach others to use it, too. Eric isn’t a genius and some of his ideas and pronouncements have been shown by others to be quite false, particularly when he talks about subjects outside of his purview. Whether you hate what he is saying and promoting through his internet marketing persona or disagree with this methods, I am certain that to some people, particularly disaffected millennials, Eric is a valuable resource for learning and mastering a form of LHP magick.

Eric claims that he can teach anyone who is willing to apply himself to become a “living God” with all of the powers and perquisites that such a vaunted state entails. In promoting this kind of quick path to total fulfillment, one must assume that Eric is selling a system that he has used himself to become a living God. Since we live in a fundamental Christian religious based culture, making such a claim is strikingly inflammatory and goes deeply against the grain of the basic values of our Christian heritage. Making such claims can only be couched in forms of Satanism, since to claim to be a living God is to abrogate that status from the supposedly true God of Christianity. The rule of thumb is that if you oppose God and set yourself up as his replacement, then you are modeling the behavior associated with Satan himself. You are, in a word, emulating the Devil. Of course, from my perspective, replacing one autonomous absolute monotheistic Deity with another one, even if it is yourself, is merely perpetuating what I think is inherently wrong with monotheism itself.

Still, I am certain that this outrageous claim gives some particularly young and disaffected men quite a thrill to contemplate becoming a living God (and thereby overthrowing the religious status quo), but it also very likely to be misunderstood. If all you know about religion is what you rejected as Christianity then any contrary religious claim can only be perceived as a form of Satanism. So, it is easy to label what Eric is selling as over-the-top Satanism to rebellious, puerile and immature youths who are often enough disparaged and labeled as archetypal “losers.” Can Eric help these young men out of their cultural rut? That, of course, remains to be seen. He is reaching a group of people that other occultists aren’t as successfully acquiring.

In contrast to Eric’s marketing is the rest of the magical community who either finds some amusement in these media broadsides, or who are astonished, outraged and quite put-off by anyone making such ridiculous claims. It is apparent to me that the self-satisfied and smirkingly arrogant cast of the occult and magical opposition to Eric’s claims were never the intended audience for his advertising hype. Even so, they none-the-less engage in ridicule and ad-hominem attacks instead of soberly examining what Eric is really selling, and how his message is both a boon and a problem to the occult world as a whole. I am also quite certain that Eric couldn’t care less what these members of the various competing occult schools think of his marketing tactics and messaging, since he appears to be quite successful at acquiring a fair number of adherents to buy his classes and engage in his teachings. If these marketing ploys weren’t working then I suspect that Eric would have changed them so that they would be successful. What I or any other number of magicians and occultists think is really completely irrelevant. Eric has his market pretty well defined and amongst a certain set of individuals, he is a “rock star” and someone to emulate.

Unlike some of his most virulent detractors, I have actually read some of Eric Koetting’s books. While I have found them to be pretty much rudimentary and based on LHP themes and tropes, it is also apparent that he has acquired his knowledge the old-fashioned way - he has experimented and worked magic for many years. Even so, Eric’s knowledge of the occult and magic is evolving, and there are a number of things that he has stated which I know are erroneous,  incomplete or superficial. Perhaps that is the nature of writing things down or the fact that Eric is learning as he progresses through his spiritual and magical process. I know that I have made mistakes and have written things that I later found out were wrong, so I can’t condemn someone for making analogous mistakes or writing something erroneous.

So the question is whether or not Eric is completely off-the-wall and a total fraud, selling his lore to low information millennial magicians, or that perhaps his ideas have some foundation in modern occultism. Since I already know that Eric Koetting is not a fraud and that his knowledge has been earned by a long period of experimentation and practice, I will not join the bandwagon to condemn what he is doing or ridicule him. I won’t do this because what he is presenting to his defined public arena comes awfully close to my own perspectives and practices. There are many differences between what Eric and I do as functioning magicians, but essentially there are more points in agreement between us than differences. I found this out when I talked with him a while back, and I happen to know where we are in agreement and where we are divergent. So, rather than ridicule or vilify Eric, I will, instead, explain in my own terms why he is proclaiming the things that he does in his internet persona and how that impacts the rest of us who also work magick. I think that this is more productive because there is a bit of Eric Koetting in all of us, and that is why he provokes outrage from so many established practitioners.

What Eric has done is to simply conflate four topical areas that are typically kept distinct and separate from each other. It is the nature of that conflation and the associated marketing excesses that has produced the internet persona of Eric Koetting and his training regimen. Eric is the exemplar of a kind of dark-side or night-side Madison Avenue promotion. If P. T. Barnum were alive today he would have highly approved of Eric Koetting’s marketing style.

The four topical domains that are being conflated by Koetting are:

  • Tales of Power - these are the out of context stories that magicians tell each other about their paranormal experiences and exploits with strange powers, spirits and Godheads.
  • Self as Godhead - it is the objective for all magicians to ultimately assume Godhead, and both the right hand and left hand paths have their own methods of obtaining this sublime state.
  • Advertising Marketing - anyone who is in the business of selling their teachings will use some kind of marketing and advertising to reach potential customers.
  • Left Hand Path Perspectives - these are the ideas, practices and overall theology of the left hand path. Often, the rhetoric displays a high degree of antinomianism, inversion of basic cultural values and anti-establishment sentiments.

Most magicians engage in some or even all of these topical areas, since they represent the cultural domain of ritual or ceremonial magick. Most of the magicians I have met engage in telling tales of power. All magicians are seeking some kind of union with the Godhead, however they might define that entity.

Any magician who is selling their teachings will engage in marketing, and at the very least will promote their path and methodologies over those of other magicians. A good salesman will promote themselves without denigrating others, but as we all know from watching media based advertising, this is hardly the typical form of promotion. I suppose it’s all too easy to add a bit of hype to one’s marketing message so that instead of an honest (and boring) promotion for a product or service it becomes the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Additionally, left hand path magicians often engage in talk that sounds quite strange to those who are not part of their antinomian perspective. This is where demons are good, angels are bad, performing nefarious forms of supposed black magic is good, successfully summoning and constraining demonic spirits is an important challenge, and amplifying the self as Godhead over any other creed or deity is a basic predilection. For those who are not so disposed to the left hand path rhetoric, such claims and beliefs must seem quite foreign or even diabolic.

As you can see when these topical areas get conflated with each other then the message also gets quite distorted and mixed up. This is particularly true if the need to aggressively market one’s methodology and public persona pushes the envelope for maintaining a certain degree of factual balance and realistic representation. When you take the Left Hand Path’s left-over perspectives on elevating the self to the status of Godhead and you add a considerable layer of marketing blitz cheese to sell your ideas and yourself, and sprinkle over it a fair amount of tales of power and season it with a distinct peppery flavoring of left hand path diabolism, then you will get a marketing recipe identical to what Eric Koetting is currently doing.

None of what Eric is saying when he is selling himself and his teachings is inherently wrong or fabricated; but taken as a whole, it is quite misleading, distorted and even harmful. In elevating himself in such a manner, Eric has unwittingly become one of the magical gurus that he has talked about needing to kill in order to achieve one’s goal. The irony here is that in telling his erstwhile disciples that they need to kill their gurus, he is setting himself up as a target for his own students. In order to truly grow and achieve their potential, Eric’s students will have to overcome his amplified persona and overly hyped methodology and find their own path at some point in their magical careers.

One would assume that Eric expects this to happen, that is, if he doesn’t believe his own PR and remains down-to-earth. However, the problem with creating such a powerful public image is that it becomes all too intoxicating and seductive. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, so the saying goes, and many a public figure has succumbed into believing that they are indeed the exalted personality that they are promoting. I hope that Eric doesn’t succumb to this fatal flaw, but the odds and human nature are against him. Still, the overly inflated claims that Eric is making and his various You-Tube discussions about black magick, supposedly killing people, invoking a demon that gets out of control and possesses his wife, and other such tales of power could be construed as proof that he is losing control of his marketing hype and overly identifying with his media persona. Only time will tell what will happen to Eric and his overly ambitious program, but from my perspective, the future doesn’t look particularly good.

I think that one of things that Jake Stratton-Kent said about Eric Koetting and his media blitz is that the only thing a person needs to do in order to begin to master Goetic Magick is to select one or a few of the more reputable copies of the traditional grimoires and then begin to practice and experiment with the rituals and mechanisms found in those books. Over time, a periodic and steadfast practice will teach the erstwhile student magician more than joining or engaging with any of the much vaunted traditions, organizations or reputed teachers.

While I am also a proponent of the self-made magician, I do believe that exploring other groups or individual teachers is not inherently a bad thing. As long as students understand that their path and process belongs solely to them, and that organizations, teachers and even books are a temporary aid that they can engage with (or not) to help them accomplish their end, then they will be able to maintain their freedom and continue to achieve their ultimate goal. Getting seduced or side-tracked by some overly inflated magical master is one of the major pitfalls that all magician students face as they follow their path. 

A good teacher will tell his or her students that their special relationship is temporary and subject to limitations, and additionally, leaders of a good organization will tell their members that when they are no longer learning or growing within that group then it is time to leave and move on to other possible paths. A bad teacher or leader will insist that their way is the only way and that meek obedience is the only acceptable behavior.

So, as a final note, we should ask the following question. Is Eric Koetting a bad teacher? I can’t really answer that question because I haven’t been one of his students. When I have talked with him he seems to be quite down-to-earth and never talks about how great he is or how powerful his magical system is compared to others. That may be because he is talking with another experienced magician and not a beginner, or it might be the way Eric really thinks and behaves outside of his persona.

However, I believe that everyone sees Eric’s marketing blitz and media persona as problematic, particularly if such a ploy backfires and makes Eric an adherent in his own cult of personality. He has sensationalized Left Hand Path magic which doesn’t need any more hype than what the misinformed public has already given it, and this will cause many of us who are magicians and who follow our paths discretely to look like fools. We will probably be painted with the same brush in the eyes of the public, even though we are practicing and promoting ourselves in a very different manner.

Runaway marketing knows no boundaries nor limitations, so it is only a matter of time before Eric becomes noticed by more mainstream media and thereby manages to make us all look bad. Think of the impact if or when Eric Koetting is interviewed by FOX news, or when they do a program about him and his teachings. Of course once that happens, Eric will be quite the example of evil black magicians to the Fundamentalist Christians. No matter how it is spun it won’t look good at all, and for those of us who are public figures we will have to answer a lot of stupid questions that we would rather not answer since the truth is actually more complicated than the general public would be able to understand. I, for one, don’t look forward to this likely future event, and I hope and pray it never really happens.

Frater Barrabbas

9 comments:

  1. As his latest commercial shows......
    I enjoyed the article, Frater. Thank you.

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  2. I like your article and agree that Eric is learning as he goes but does not have the knowledge that advanced practicers with 40 years know. It is very clear that Eric is poor and needs money. Eric does lie in his videos. For example, when promoting his collected works video he is seen sitting in front of a large library of beautiful old leather bound books which he wants the audience to believe is his library as he mentions that his personal altar is over in the corner of the same room. In fact, he is actually sitting in a rare book room of a University library. It's hard to trust a man who lies continually to his audience.

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  3. What he does works, can any other schools say as much? Hypocritical thinking is a down hill slide. Who says we are created in the image of god , seek you shall find, i am within you ? All from the bible.

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  4. Michael - there are quite a few magical schools that work as well if not better than what Koetting is selling. It just depends on what works for you. I don't think that I have approached my judgment of Koetting in a hypocritical manner. Others who either dismiss or denigrate him without hearing him out? They are probably being hypocrites.

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  5. Frater Barrabbas,
    When I first read this blog, I was impressed with your insight, as I had the same feelings about Koetting. Now, in light of recent events, it seems this piece was prophetic indeed.

    I too, was concerned about the ripple effect of Koetting's marketing hype. I enjoyed his first three books, but I feel that everything changed when he published his much hyped 'Azazel'. For reasons I won't go into here, I feel that he lost his sense of honor and integrity at that point.

    Several times I was asked if Koetting was going to be a presenter at the 2nd International LHP Conference in Indianapolis, and I said 'No'. My secondary goal, aside from bringing various members of the LHP together, was to show the world that we are intelligent, classy, successful members of society. And we pulled it off.

    In light of recent events involving Koetting, I feel we made the right decision in not including him in the conference. That being said, I hope for his sake that he takes his recent experience as a life lesson, and learns from it. It is very painful when public humiliation is involved in the lesson, but he set himself up for it by making ridiculous public claims. Such is the calcination process....

    For his sake and for the rest of us who are now being inundated with stupid questions, I hope that all goes well for him.

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  6. Indeed, given how personal the whole concept of magic really is, I'm genuinely surprised at how "personally" E.A. seems to be taken, these days!

    It's easy to judge based on stereotypes, but at the end of the day, it comes down to personal intelligence and personal responsibility. I was born in 1984, I hold two Bachelor degrees and I'm currently undertaking my third degree in medicine, which means in a couple of years I will be a qualified physician. Likewise, I consider myself a Satanist of the LaVeyan definition, and I can honestly say that, while I picked-and-chose from E.A's writings as to which exercises and experiments I would conduct for my own ends, I have never made such amazing progress in my magical studies as when I first applied what he was offering. I have since purchased all his works, which I thoroughly enjoy/ed reading, studying and using (and would anyone honestly begrudge me that?), I have become a modestly successful occult author in my own right, and although by no means revolutionary, E.A's work provided the kernel which allowed me to confidently navigate my own spiritual / magical path.

    I evaluate everything on its own merits, and I really don't care whether he owns thousands of antique books on the shelves behind him, or whether it's a blue-screen (as he's probably not *actually* in a library, and in which case, his altar *would* have been in the corner of the same room... I think I've seen the video referred to, above); ultimately, he's selling me books that I like to read, and videos that I like to watch, etc. (Which is more than can be said for most other occultists out there!)... It's really as simple as that, and those who do not find his work useful (or his personality especially appealing) are welcomed to look elsewhere for their own, personal truths and realities within the magical matrices which constitute our own subjective universes.

    I'm not attempting to defend E.A. by this post (mainly because he doesn't pay me to do that:) but, rather, I'm trying to make the point that while it *can* be said that any given path - whether E.A's or not - *may* be said to be "right" or "wrong" for an individual, it *cannot* be said that it is the same, or otherwise, for anyone *else*. That is something that each must decide for themselves, and it is as spurious to rail against E.A. and his like as it is to rail against Christianity - or, in *favour* of it.

    There's been a bunch of stuff that E.A's sold that I haven't bought, and don't plan to buy, simply because it doesn't interest me. That's the power of independent thought and discriminating taste, which seems to have become lost along the way, somewhere. These days, I've progressed from E.A's work to the classics (ie Enochian, Solomon, Crowley, Rosicrucians etc), but I owe E.A a great many thanks for where and how I began my magical path. Everyone has someone to thank, and because I have nobody else, I feel I should thank E.A. What's the big deal?

    One thing that E.A. did say, however, and which stuck with me all these years (although I must paraphrase as the precise wording escapes me at present), goes something like... "Rebelling against something is only productive in providing oneself the freedom to find one's own, independent direction. Rebelling for the sake of rebellion is entirely counterproductive, and you'll eventually need to take steps along your own path in order to move in a positive direction". That notion has taught me a great deal since first I heard it.

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  7. The Complete Works of Ea Koetting - Limited Edition2013
    by EA Koetting
    Leather Bound
    $10,000.00

    On Amazon I have none of his works for the simple fact the prices for this material any of it is not worth this much or anything over 100.00.. I hope someone buys it that will be the dumbest thing they ever do. LOL

    I saw one of his works that a friend had purchase for some ridiculous amount of money, Honestly not impressed. it is OK but that might be because I like other authors those authors were all at the 2nd International LHP.

    Frater Barrabbas, truly enjoyed reading your article, it was very insightful.

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  8. Eric is actually a very entertaining guy

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  9. Since he came out of prison - his eyes have the haunted look of the witch on the way to the pyre. He has formed tighter bonds with other authors and is promoting their material too. Let us not decry our brethren on the path - we cannot afford to lose even one of our number.

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