General and Channel Related
Should I study Esotericism or the Occult - isn’t it forbidden and dangerous?
Your religious tradition may prohibit the study and/or practice of the occult. However, I engage with the academic study of these topics. Further, I haven’t experienced any negative effects of studying these topics or having books on these topics in my home.
Is magic real?
I suppose that depends what you mean by “real.” I’ve never experienced anything that would lead me to believe in supernatural or paranormal causation. Both historical and contemporary practitioners of magic(k) report various kinds of success, though, you would have to ask them what that means.
How did you start studying Esotericism?
I grew up on a steady diet of mystery themed television programs like “Unsolved Mysterious,” Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World and Leonard Nimoy on “In Search Of…” which left me with the sense that the world was a rather strange and mysterious place. I eventually came across the spirit diaries and Enochian language of Dr. John Dee and was gifted a copy of the Sefer Yetzirah by a local Catholic Priest as a teenager and have been studying Esotericism, in some capacity, ever since.
Why did you start Esoterica?
To provide accessible and scholarly content on topics in Esotericism. The content online and in print is often unreliable. I hope the project goes some way of remedying that situation.
What does your channel icon represent?
It's a Maya glyph of a hand grasping a fish with the phonetic value being "Tzak," meaning "to conjure a mystical vision." The hand grasping the fish is also keen, the slippery fish isn't easily held so the grasp is always-already slipping away pointing to the concrete (grasping) and the illusive (the slipping away) aspect of mystical experiences. You can learn more about it in my episode about Maya Bloodletting Mysticism.
What is the music in your opening?
It's from Chopin's Nocturne in B-flat minor, Op. 9, No. 1
Why should I and How can I support your work?
There are very few people online or IRL doing the work of providing university level content on topics in Esotericism and the Occult. If you want to support my work, please consider taking a look at my Patreon or making a one time donation.
Can I interview you for my podcast or youtube channel?
Probably, contact me. However, I will not appear on content that promotes conspiracy theories or bigoted content.
Can you recommend some books for studying Esotericism or the Occult?
Almost every episode of Esoterica contains a reading list of solid, scholarly readings at the end. Consult an episode on a given topic and I’ll likely have recommended readings there.
Can you help me with my school work or academic applications?
Sadly, I simply don’t have the time to provide academic counseling or advice. I do have a trusted college who does such counseling, contact me for details. However, I do wish you the best of luck!
What is the value in studying Esotericism?
Philosophy and religion all have esoteric currents that have proved to be influential in world history. Further, the study of esotericism, occult and mysticism is, for me, often awe-inspiring and such experiences of daily awe have been shown to be psychologically beneficial.
Can I recommend a topic for the channel?
Sure, though topics recommended by Patrons are more likely to get produced. Wink, wink :)
My comment was deleted from Youtube, why?
Comments on the channel which are bigoted, mean-spirited, promoting conspiracy theories / false history (q-anon, atlantis, ancient aliens, etc.), or confession-based are subject to deletion and the commenter being shadow-banned.
What are your credentials?
I have a Ph.D in philosophy and a MA (DRS) in Religious Studies, specializing in Hermetic Philosophy.
Are you a practitioner of Esotericism, Magic(k), Kabbalah, etc.? Why not?
No. I have religious reasons but also I don’t find the promises of such practices nor the worldview implied interesting or tempting. “Salvation,” “Enlightenment,” “Gnosis,” etc. just don’t interest me personally as spiritual goals, not to say that they aren’t interesting concepts as such.
How can you teach Esotericism if you aren’t a practitioner?
I teach esotericism from an academic perspective. People reliably teach Greek Mythology without believing in the Olympian gods or Medieval history without being medieval people themselves. People also unreliably teach esotericism and the Bible who are believers. One doesn’t doesn’t imply the other.
Can I invite you to join X esoteric organization?
At this time I am uninterested in joining any esoteric organizations.
Do you offer private tutoring?
Usually no. I sometimes make exceptions. Contact me with interest.
Do you offer offline or other classes online?
Not regularly. Sadly, I don’t have the opportunity to teach esotericism at my university job but do, from time to time, offer in person classes. I also hope to begin doing in person Esoterica seminars in the future.
Where can I study Esotericism at the university level?
There are very few places. The University of Amsterdam has a virtually unique program. In the USA, Rice University does offer some classes.
Do you teach Esotericism at the university?
Sadly, no. I am most relegated to intro level philosophy and religion classes. Hence, the Youtube channel.
I’ve found an old book, amulet, or artifact of an occult nature, can you help me with it?
Possibly. Please contact me for further consultation.
Will you select/create a sigil or magical symbol or translate/check the translation of a phrase for a tattoo?
No. If you are consulting others for their expertise on magical images or languages which you lack proficiency in, you may want to rethink getting them tattooed on your body.
Do you offer consulting for films, video games, role playing games or other media?
Yes, please contact me for further details.
Can you provide me with mystical, spiritual, magical or occult direction?
No. I work in the academic study of esotericism, not in the practice of it.
I’ve had a mystical experience, can you help me understand it?
No, this is probably a job for a faith leader or experienced occult practitioner of which I am neither.
I’m experiencing paranormal activity, such as haunting or spiritual/demonic possession. Can you help me?
No. However, I am happy to assist professional paranormal investigators, especially parapsychologists. If you are experiencing intrusive thoughts, undergoing self-harm or contemplating suicide please consult a mental health care professional or the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255
Given your political beliefs, why should I trust your presentation of these topics?
You shouldn’t. Trust the content based on the scholarship not based on what I believe. If you dislike my content based on my ethnic, religious or political stance then, in the words of a wise sage, “Bye, Felicia!”
I disagree with your political and religious beliefs and/or hate your ethnic origin but I’m still learning from your content. What should I do?
Question why you hold such bigoted beliefs. Self-doubt is the first step on the journey to self-knowledge.
I hold white-supremacist and/or anti-semitic points of views and still find your content a resource - can I still contact you?
Sure, know that I find your views reprehensible but education and communication are among the best antidotes to bigotry, in my experience.
Are you going to get to X topic?
Have you ever had a mystical experience or paranormal experience?
I’ve had what I would call mystical experiences during meditation practice and under the influence of psychedelic drugs. I don’t think such experiences are indicative of further metaphysical truths. I’ve never had an experience that I could consider supernatural or paranormal. I would like to.
What is your philosophical, metaphysical worldview?
I would consider myself a dialectical materialist in the tradition of Structural Marxism. With a little whiskey I am soft on Lukács.
Do you believe in God?
I don't find the conception of god(s) either metaphysically convincing or mythologically desirable, i.e., I have no good reasons to think such beings exist and, given what I have learned about the lot of them, I hope none of them do.
What are your religious beliefs? Are you a rabbi?
I am Jewish, belong to the Reconstructionist movement, and closely align myself with the teachings of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, z”l. I’m not a rabbi but I am married to one.
Aren’t woke postmodern cultural (((marxists))) like you destroying western civilization?
I’m not “woke,” whatever that means, and I reject “post-modernism” and “post-structuralism,” for that matter. Also this conspiracy theory is boring.
Where are you? Where are you from?
Currently in the Motor City, Detroit Michigan. I was born and raised in Mississippi.
What are some of your hobbies? Are you into gaming?
I am a calligrapher, brewer (mostly sake these days), HAM radio technician, Dungeons and Dragons DM, medieval coin collector, and I enjoy lifting at the gym. I like retro-gaming but I don’t have much time for it, sadly.
What’s your favorite drink and favorite absinthe?
Rye whiskey is my tipple of choice, my goto is Rittenhouse. My favorite absinthe, aside from Pre-Ban, is C.F. Berger (Verte Suisse 1898) from the Jade Line.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Mostly Baroque (big fan of Corelli and anything Harpsichord) and black metal (Wolves in the Throne Room, Panopticon, Krallice, Abigail Williams, Ash Borer, etc.) I would go to a Tool or Nine Inch Nails show but only if the crowd were composed solely of Taylor Swift fans.
What are some of your favorite books?
Kohelet, A Season in Hell, the Iliad, For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s hard for me to read fiction, but I’m making an effort. I want to work up to reading Bill Faulkner.
Who are your favorite philosophers?
The Stoics, Scotus, Hegel, Spinoza. Used to be really into Bataille and Guattari, not so much anymore.
What are your political beliefs or political philosophy?
I would have supported the POUM during the Spanish Civil War
Do you always dress the way you do in episodes?
Nope. Aside from my “extra in Peaky Blinders'' mode, I also have jeans and random black metal shirt mode. Those are the only two, though.
Can I visit you if I am visiting the Detroit area?
Maybe. Contact me and let’s talk.
Do you do calligraphy commissions?
Probably not. But sometimes.
You are a homebrewer - what are your favorite brews and tipples?
I enjoy making mead for special occasions. I used to make a lot more beer but not so much these days. These days, I enjoy making sake. Drinking wise? I’m a fan of Belgians on the beer front, burgundian reds and sauvignon blancs on a hot day. Big fan of calvados and armagnac in the autumn and winter, arak and absinthe in the summer.
What is your stance of psychedelic drugs?
Drug prohibition is an idiotic and socially harmful policy. Recent studies have established what has long been known - psychedelic drugs, like many drugs, can be recreationally rewarding and an important avenue for spiritual/psychological self-exploration and improvement when used responsibly and in controlled settings. I suspect that mystical experiences under the influence of such drugs are just as valid as any other.
The Events of October 1 1997
On Wednesday, 1 October 1997 Luke Woodham committed matricide, made his way to Pearl High School and would go on to kill his ex-girlfriend, another young woman, and injure seven others. In the days that followed, six young men would be arrested, including myself, and were charged with participating in a satanic conspiracy with Woodham - part of the wider Satanic Panic of the 1980s-1990s. The charges against me would all eventually be dropped. This FAQ answers some questions not covered in the Esoterica episode on the wider Satanic Panic. Please note that Dr. Sledge will not take questions about the events of Oct 1 1997 via his website, on public venues like podcasts or Youtube.
Why did Woodham give you his ‘manifesto’?
Woodham instructed me to pass the documents to a mutual friend. That friend, who had graduated by that time, would also be arrested and would prove to be the only conviction in the case, aside from Woodham, though for “conspiring to prevent a principal from doing his job.”
Why didn’t you give those documents to law enforcement and, instead, go to the media?
I attempted to turn the documents over to the police while I gave my statement at the station in the ensuing chaos following the shooting. I later came to think that the police would mishandle the case and, rather than make another attempt to turn them over, went to the media. This was, in many ways, a mistake on my part and I regret it.
Did you defend Woodham’s action in the media and disrupt a prayer/memorial service to do so?
No - I never tried to defend or excuse these dreadful crimes. I tried to explain them as a symptom of larger societal problems. I was invited to speak at the memorial service and my message was “if society does not change further such violence would continue to occur,” or something to that effect. These sentiments were taken to be a threat rather than as social criticism. Looking back, that was clearly inappropriate timing and messaging given the trauma and grief that everyone, including myself, was experiencing.
Did you “pin a note” to the school threatening further violence?
No, that perverse note (printed and not hand-written as in some accounts) was posted to a memorial at the school sign on the road leading to the school days after the arrests were made and “The Alliance of the Immortalz (sic)” claimed to be the author. I have no idea who did but they should be ashamed of themselves for such a grotesque prank.
What was the “Kroth” and were you a member of a Satanic Cult?
To this day I have no idea what the “Kroth” was, where this concept emerged, what “kroth” even means. I have never been involved in any ‘cult’ of any kind. To my knowledge, no evidence of this “satanic cult” has ever emerged and it played no role in Woodham’s eventual trial. While Woodham would eventually testify that demonic activity was at work in the crimes, there is no such mention of ‘cults,’ ‘demons,’ ‘the kroth,’ or ‘satanism’ in his initial confession. I am skeptical that the ‘kroth,’ or any other such cult, ever existed.
How long were you held in police custody?
About 60 days, some of that illegally held in an adult jail facility. I was eventually given reasonable bond as charges were being dropped and the ‘satanic cult’ aspect of the case was falling apart due to lack of evidence, for instance, it turned out that several of the members of this ‘cult’ didn’t even know one another.
Why were the charges against you dropped?
The same reason they were dropped against virtually all of those charged - lack of evidence and the presence of exculpatory evidence. In my case, no evidence of my involvement with the crimes, any criminal conspiracy, or any wrong-doing was ever established. Further, law enforcement interviews with Woodham exonerated me from any involvement in the events of 1 October 1997.
Why should I trust your explanation of these events?
You shouldn’t - you should trust verifiable evidence and critical thinking. Much of the information about this case online stems from media accounts from the 90’s which uncritically reported the ‘satanic panic’ narrative as fact. My argument is that due process and rational evaluation of the totality of the evidence of the cases eventually showed the ‘satanic cult’ narrative false, resulting in the cases being ultimately dismissed. Whether or not you accept that should depend on a reasonable counter-argument based on a critical evaluation of the facts of the case.
In 2003 did you “purchase an untraceable machine-gun online”?
Kinda. After watching a documentary about WWII anti-fascist partisans who built firearms in bicycle shops, I thought I would try my hand at the same out of purely technical and historical curiosity. Of course, being in the United States, if I wanted to merely purchase a firearm I could have otherwise easily done so. But, I ordered some WWII-era surplus parts and, using a receiver stencil, created a barely-functioning Sten MK III sub-machine gun. It was stupid and illegal but, because of the judge’s leniency, I only spent a summer in jail for it.
Is there any connection between Esoterica and the events of 1 October 1997
While I had an interest in John Dee’s ‘angelic’ or ‘Enochian’ language and alchemy in high school, I had very little interest in esotericism, otherwise. All the talk of ‘satanism,’ demons,’ and the like around the trial led me to become more interested in just what all this meant. This interest would, in part, eventually lead me to the academic study of esotericism.
Why are you sharing this with us?
While I can’t go through every detail of the case in an FAQ, I’m doing so in an effort to be transparent to my viewers but also to show that medieval conspiracy theories - such as the elaborated theory of ‘witchcraft’ - can have a direct impact on our lives, as the Satanic Panic did on my own. That said, I want my work on Esoterica, for instance, to be about the content and not about my life or beliefs. One day I may be interested in discussing the events around October 1 1997 in a more public way but I hope you’ll respect my privacy in this regard until that time.