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“The Principles of Sonic Occultism: Sound as Magic” by Tarl Warwick

Though the occult use of the arts is a practice that stretches back as far as prehistory, there is a disproportionately small amount of information about the topic. The details of candle spells or moon rituals can be summoned with a keystroke, but the use of creative expression for magical effects is still little discussed, as mysterious a subject as any in the world of occultism.

Therefore, a title such as Tarl Warwick‘s The Principles of Sonic Occultism: Sound as Magic is surely a tantalizing one, and more so for music fans with an interest in paganism. The book jacket’s statement that it aims to make the use of sonic occultism “easier for the practicing witch or warlock” intensifies the allure, suggesting the secure delivery of useful secrets.

It happens that the content of the book is far less focused than the title might indicate. Warwick digresses often. His mental store of interesting information certainly salvages many of these digressions. However, they accumulate over the course of the book, resulting in a strain that might cause the reader to wonder when the title’s promise will be fulfilled.

A second burden on the reader is Warwick’s diction, which reaches beyond his range and convolutes much of what should be simple. It is obvious from his many YouTube videos that he writes in the same way that he talks. This is a common but mistaken approach to writing that overlooks the vast psychological differences between reading and listening. On video, Warwick is an engaging speaker:  insightful, knowledgeable, and easy to follow. However, when his manner of speaking is translated to text, it can become jumbled:

“The fact that there is an involuntary hemorrhaging of energy and willpower to whatever purpose I happen to design is meaningless in the absence of an objective reason not to use it how I see fit. That is not to say that I abuse these forces; from a purely pragmatic perspective in the absence of any moral hangups at all it doesn’t make sense to harm those who have formed a rather large captive audience to donate energy to occult rituals—as such the rituals are not designed to impart harm to anyone participating, even if it is possible to do so.”

The patient reader will find that Warwick does eventually deliver the principles that are announced by the book’s title. Before that, though, he takes a sizeable portion of Sonic Occultism‘s 130 pages to make a more general examination of the subject. The relationship between sound and human spirituality is vast enough a subject to fill several volumes or more. However, Warwick limits his scope to what he already knows and thinks about the matter, writing more in the mode of an informed opinion piece than researched scholarship. In time, it becomes clear that Warwick is motivated not just by a desire to explain sonic occultism but to also express his views on music and occultism more generally, along with a handful of other topics with minimal connection to the book’s main idea.

As such, the chapters progress in a not-entirely linear way, first taking some pages to divide occult music into various categories, and then a taking few pages more to talk about the spirituality of music among certain ancient cultures. Further chapters return to present times to address the emotional effects of music on the masses, with discussion of the importance of these emotional effects to spirituality. It is in these chapters that Warwick begins to sketch the outlines of what is essentially the premise of the book.

Unfortunately, as the final ideas do not arrive until the end of the book, it is difficult to recognize related information when it is presented. The difficulty is only compounded by Warwick’s tangential lapses. The same problem is evident in the list of “basic core principles of sonic occultism” that are given on page 60. Each of these principles are written in a way that depends on the reader having absorbed previously explained concepts. Without an understanding of these ideas, the listed principles are cryptic.

Tarl Warwick

The information does become more clear on a second or third read of the book. Additionally, it is only fair to mention here that, in the arena of occult literature, presenting information in a cryptic way is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, this type of material enjoys a tradition of veiled meaning and coded language. That is, after all, part of the reason that the genre takes the name “occult.” Still, there is an implication of conciseness in the title and jacket copy of the book that some readers might be frustrated not to find.

The book becomes a bit more explicit in its final chapters as Warwick endeavors to give actual techniques of applied sonic occultism, with an interlude to explain the matter of discerning between “real” and “fake” sonic rituals.

Warwick begins, in the chapter “The Harvest: Paranoid Predictions as a Beacon,” with a relatively clear overview of his general concept of sonic occultism as it might be practiced, and attempts to give some directions for engaging in such a ritual. Warwick’s method, as he describes it, involves using music to siphon energy from audiences. Exactly how this is done is not spelled out fully, though. Mention is made, in the “Harvest” chapter, of public doomsday anxiety and the act of “inserting ritualism,” in the form of recorded music, to tap into that anxiety and transform it. Yet, a nuts-and-bolts explanation of the “ritualism” itself is not given. Warwick follows with an attempt to shed more light on the matter by citing examples of the same process in the field of politics—specifically Hitler’s exploitation of the 1933 Reichstag fire to expand his power, and the eerily similar events that came after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. These examples do help to illustrate the redirection of unified public emotion for inappropriate purposes, but how this technique transfers to the creation of music is not obvious.

It is at this point that Warwick laments his inability to put the technique into concise words:

“I am only able to explain this process and the general ideas behind it from my own perspective based on my own experience; one of those sad situations where explaining the process itself would either result in a massive, rambling wall of alliteration or else a short, cryptic, new-agey paragraph or so of mumbo jumbo nobody would understand. The process is simplistic but it is impossible for me to specifically delineate how the occultist will know to harvest. It is, though, easy to designate how the harvest is accomplished—merely through normal ritual linked in some way to the event or events causing the cultural paranoia, fear, anger, or any other strong emotion, taking this force and transmuting it, psychologically, into some other form.”

Despite Warwick’s assertion that it is easy to describe how the emotional energy of the masses can be harvested, we still remain at the starting point:  knowing that it is possible to produce a ritually oriented piece of music that captures and transforms public emotion according to the occultist’s will. What we still do not know is by what mechanism this music achieves such a feat.

Another possible point of contention might be that there is nothing particularly occult about using media to hijack public emotions. This point, while faulty, is important to bring up because it speaks to Warwick’s overall approach to the occult arts, and provides a better understanding of the specific techniques that Warwick attempts to explain in The Principles of Sonic Occultism.

During the presidential election of 2016, Warwick became something of a go-to expert on what has been called “meme magic.” After producing a few YouTube videos addressing the synchronicities and spontaneous-order events that clustered around the so-called “Smug Pepe” meme on the internet, Warwick appeared as a guest on Red Ice Radio and one or two lesser-known podcasts to take questions on the subject. By the time the election was over—an election that seemed to have interacted with the Pepe phenomenon in bizarre ways—Warwick had released a pamphlet titled Occult Memetics, intended to provide understanding about “meme magic,” such as had fueled these strange events.

Since then, meme magic has become a contentious subject among occultists. Some critics reject the entire idea as having nothing to do with the practice of occult magic, and insist that memetics is nothing more than a form of propaganda. Oddly enough, the jacket copy on Warwick’s pamphlet claims that Occult Memetics “delves well beyond merely propaganda itself into the nature of reality and its core form.” This disagreement sums up an emerging issue in contemporary occultism that goes to the heart of what occultism is and how it works. While the issue of whether memetics is truly an occult art is too new to hope for resolution any time soon, it does bring to mind the overlap between magical practices, hypnosis, and psychology. The borderlands between these subjects is often a fuzzy zone where esotericism and the soft sciences can seem to switch places or at least become inverted. Amidst it all is the fact that we are unfamiliar with the furthest reaches of our very own minds. Even rigorous scientific research has shown that our behavior as humans is driven by our unconscious mind to a startling degree, while that same unconscious mind edits our sensory information with a heavy hand. As the years go on, we learn more and more about how little we understand ourselves and how tenuous our understanding of reality actually is. As a result, the world demands re-evaluation, and impossible things take on fresh plausibility.

Warwick should be congratulated for being in touch with this frontier of occultism. If his book is imperfect, at least he has something worth writing about. There are only a scant few who are innovating in this area of the dark arts. Among those few, even fewer have any real concept of what they are doing. The content, if not the form, of The Principles of Sonic Occultism, along with Warwick’s success on YouTube and as a publisher, prove that he is not only a person of estimable intelligence but also a sound strategist in business and life. But this only makes the weakness of The Principles of Sonic Occultism more unfortunate. A person with Warwick’s gifts should be better at organizing his ideas and more skilled with the written word.

In a late chapter titled “Speech as Magick: Hitler and the Principles of Elocution and Charisma,” Warwick stresses the importance of speech and gesture and details the occult value of those skills. He talks of his own experience improving his abilities as a speaker, developing them over time through the production of thousands of YouTube videos. If it is true that these skills are important and useful for an occultist, the same is immeasurably more true for writing. Writing is an occult skill of its own, possibly even the master of all occult skills. As capable as he may currently be, taking some time to hone his writing could help Warwick achieve a level of formidability.

In the meantime, The Principles of Sonic Occultism is not so imperfect that it should be dismissed. As one of a tiny number of books that address the occult use of sound to achieve real-world effects, its contribution is significant. And at eight dollars for the paperback, it should be an easy choice for any collector or researcher.

Article by: Matthew Carey
Author: Tarl Warwick
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
File Under: Metaphysical / Occult / Music Theory
Publication Date: December 25, 2015
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1522923442
Pages: 130
Format: Paperback

  • Noah Jansen

    This is a topic I have wanted to explore ever since delving into more abstract music creation but have lacked any semblance of direction in its execution. At that price I can’t -not- pick it up as one of probably many bumbling chaos-noise-musickians… Another review I’ve read also points out the author’s wandering and sometimes petty nature; thanks for laying it out, the net takeaway sounds like it’s ultimately a beneficial read.

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