This article is a personal critique and call out of the popular chaos magic brand Rune Soup of which I have been a premium member for three years and enthusiastic about for even longer.
From the very beginning of my confused journey into enchantment I had to do a ton of research to make sense of the reality outside of my thus far materialist atheist paradigm. Whatever esoteric topic I was looking into back in the days I dismissed a lot for various reasons but always ended up reading blog posts on Rune Soup. The unapologetic approach to an animist worldview in combination with an undogmatic and open-minded embrace of practical magic really resonated with me. Within a short period of time after having discovered it I listened to the whole archive of podcast episodes, read all of GW's books, and eventually became a Premium Member of the franchise.
The All Red Flags
In the beginning of my membership I really liked the courses, the Q&As, the bonus materials, and the initial lively discussions on the member forum, but I have to admit I was kinda low key annoyed at Gordon's occasional political rants, especially when they seemed like naive interpretations of complex circumstances in European politics (e.g. "Brexit is a Royal op") or his blunt simplifications about the even more difficult situation in the Middle East and his ever growing obsession with US politics. I always brushed it aside as mere ignorance or fad. The political side of Rune Soup was mostly tucked away in Gordon's now defunct geopolitical The All Red Line newsletter and his Archonlogy and Chaeconomica blog series and I was able to separate all that from the magic he was teaching.
Having immersed myself in Helleno-Kemetic magic for a few years now I cringed a bit at GW's PGM course because besides the actually quite well laid out history part the practice lacked quite some rigor for my taste and largely ignored the necessary devotional aspects that is clearly part of this "tradition". After my long and intensive research on the Egyptian Decans I also found the year-long Decan Walk ritual quite off-putting. It seemed like a cherry-picked mishmash of ritual fragments topped with total lack of respect towards the deities involved, but again: I brushed it aside. It's Chaos Magic after all, am I right? Perhaps just a disagreement in style.
As membership numbers rose throughout the years so did the number of discussions on the forum and the questions in the Q&As. I followed the community aspects less and less because of redundant content, some annoying "me, me, me!" tendencies and seemingly rising culty behaviours of some of the members. Again I brushed it aside. Instead I spent more and more time in the Rune Soup communities on Discord which had more valuable discussions and a more healthy overall vibe to them.
I didn't really enjoy most of the content put out in the later courses. They seemed more and more meandering and less and less praxis oriented. I also got more and more annoyed about the lack of citations and attributions. The fact aside that GW always decorates his presentations with stunning digital artworks that he never credits, also much of the content in the courses seemed to be just less coherent regurgitacion of other people's work. (Dr. Skinner's books in Grimoires and PGM, Camelia Elias in the Tarot course).
When the Mansion Game was launched mid 2019 I decided to quit my membership, because the whole thing seemed chaotic and incoherent and nobody seemed to care about obvious flaws like naively mixing tropical and sidereal astrology. No, quite the opposite: criticism was not appreciated and any incoherence was waved off referring to the core principles of Chaos Magic.
It stopped suiting me, so I quit. Fair enough. Nothing wrong with disagree on technicalities. I could have just left it at that, but I still felt like a Soupie. I continued listening to the podcast, read the blog, attended our local meetups, occasionally dropped into the Discord channels.
Then the pandemic hit and everyone seemed to have lost their wits. And it was more and more difficult to ignore...
Literal Rune Soup
I don't know whether it has to do with the fact that GW got depressed from suddenly not being able to travel anymore, something he had obviously enjoyed a lot in the years before, or if it was something else...
Maybe the things that unfolded during the pandemic just made obvious what had been hidden behind a professional marketing facade. In retrospect, many of the tendencies had been there already before. Even GW says so. But that's not all:
I don't know if my memory is skewed but it seemed to me that suddenly the once for years so seemingly optimistic and empowering GW who didn't even fear taking it on with Decans or dragons drifted off into a cynically and smugly presented worldview of what could be summarized as alt-right conspirituality.
He was one of the first in the occult community who bought fully and openly into all of the Covid-19 'Plandemic' conspiracy theories and didn't shy away from sprinkling his thoughts (flipping from "zee koronawirus" being fake, manufactured in a lab, to being an op to implement a global digital currency and restrict personal liberties) throughout his podcast, blog posts, and most detailed in a long and disturbing premium member video presentation called The Vertical Line of which some slides eventually leaked to the public.
And you have to love when someone calls doctors struggling to keep people alive during a pandemic "cowards and sheep." Also, of course Melinda Gates and her globalist pals want to kill black and indigenous people. pic.twitter.com/kqTO4wqmHG— Michael M. Hughes (@michaelmhughes) January 15, 2021
Despite years of preaching animism and kinship with the more-than-human world, teaching aspiring wizards to become "invincible", and relying on magical skills when mundane solutions fail, GW suddenly spoke about deep state conspiracies and neoliberal technocratic overlords pulling strings to imprison us in a digital control grid with a fake virus "plandemic". And worst of all: apparently there is nothing we can do about it, because "solutionism" is obviously part of the problem. Full-on gnostic despair!
I remember back in the days in his Magical Geography course GW was talking about "staying with the trouble" and the need to do our shadow work with racism, colonization and white supremacy - yet suddenly he repeatedly referred to Black Lives Matter as an op, started using terms like "shitlib" and waved other Trumpist "virtue signals", picked up right-wing accelerationist jargon and embracing questionable figures like Joseph P. Farrell, Alison McDowell, Catherine Austin Fitts, a more and more radicalized Martin Armstrong, and recommending alt-right media sources (Tim Dillon?). Was this the Chaos Magic logic of "belief as a tool" applied to politics? I found all of this development quite disturbing. There was no way to brush anything aside anymore.
There’s really not much regular people can do at this point but arm themselves and try to be economically self sufficient. Every major institution is against you and will let you die.— Tim Dillon (@TimJDillon) July 14, 2020
I don't remember who said or wrote it. It went along the lines of:
how the Joe Rogan of Occulture suddenly turned into the Alex Jones of Occulture
It's funny but unfortunetely also true...
Anyway, despite the obvious differences in political leaning my post is not (only) about that. It's (mainly) about preaching one thing and then turning around and doing something different while repeating the word "coherence" like a mantra to your disciples. This was not the Rune Soup anymore that I had signed up for years ago.
What Magic is This?
To me personally, despite all the anxieties, the virus pandemic felt somehow deeply spiritual and almost like a global Saturnian purge, with all the horrors and virtues such an idea evokes. Having been a fan of GW's animist "flow model" thinking I was hoping he would address some insightful ideas on viruses as agents, or high level ruminations about this obvious "hyperobject" transversing our reality in 2020, a "virus on a mission", or how we are being reminded by the more-than-human about it's real existence, how we could embrace this time of change to do better magic, for our own healing, the healing of others, about changing the world, about making fucking solarpunk real!
Nothing! Nada! Just antivax rants about Bill Gates and the dangers of 5G! Are you fucking kidding me?
Worst of all, this ongoing right wing conspiracy babble seemed to seep into everything Rune Soup related.....wait...now that I am writing this I have to chuckle. It has become literal Rune Soup: right wing spirituality infested black goo creeping into the brains of some of its Premium Members. Or is it the other way around?
"At this point in the timeline" I cannot but see RSPM as either a gnostic doomsday cult or an alt-right echo chamber, or both.
Yeah there's the nice sounding phrase "Mutual Flourishing" being thrown around lately, but it seems to be either all about becoming gnostic permaculture preppers or using that phrase as marketing for creating a new Leonormand deck, an endeavor he also likes to call a little "sanctuary-making gambit". No marketing is even needed. It's a product already sold. The Premium Members will probably happily pay whatever for it, funding GW's new cult leader lifestyle. How mutual is the flourishing really?
Exiting the Vampire Castle
There is part of me that thinks maybe there is a magical explanation for what's happening with Rune Soup:
Somehow I am not really surprised GW is drifting off. Some of his "tech" has been quite disrespectful towards the spirits he "works" with. He used to jokingly refer to it as "bullying" but that's literally what he has been doing and teaching. It's a typical utilitarian "chaos magic" attitude that might have pissed off quite a few in the more-than-human world.
Also, in Western esoteric systems the spirit world is all about kingship, structures, hierarchies. Maybe when you regularly align yourself with that logic which is unavoidable when following systems of spirit interaction in this tradition, it becomes a habit to "subconsciously" think in those patterns. When you then start to form a hierarchical system in the material world (community, cult), in some sense mirroring the spirit logic, you might get the full attention of certain types of entities and ideas that fuel authoritarian logic even more.
Too far fetched? Too superstitious? Might be an influence, but certainly does not account for the big picture. It feels too systemic and all too human.
"When you squint down at it" RSPM in fact reveals itself as a quite neoliberally operated and marketed conspirituality brand rather than the resilitent animist in-group of operand solarpunk magicians it likes to present itself as... and despite years and years of GW ranting against exactly that: neoliberalism.
In her essay Comrade Jodi Dean sharply summarizes the logic of neoliberalism - that uncannily resembles the pattern I experienced around Rune Soup in 2020 and ongoing:
There is individualized self-cultivation, self-management, self-reliance, self-absorption, and—at the same time—impersonal determining processes, circuits, and systems. We have responsible individuals, individuals who are responsibilized, treated as loci of autonomous choices and decisions, and we have individuals encountering situations that are utterly determining and outside their control.
Instead of ethics and economics, neoliberalism’s displacement of politics manifests in the opposition between survivors and systems. The former struggle to persist in conditions of unlivability rather than to seize and transform these conditions. The latter are systems and “hyperobjects” determining us, often aesthetic objects or objects of a future aesthetics, things to view and diagram and predict and perhaps even mourn, but not to affect.
Survivors experience their vulnerability. Some even come to cherish it, to derive their sense of self from being able to survive against all that is stacked against them. [...] For them, the fight to survive is the key feature of an identity imagined as dignified and heroic because it has to produce itself by itself.
If you need more convincing, someone pointed me to this article the other day: Here's what the journalist Matthew Remski wrote in his analysis of the general phenomenon of "conspirituality" on Medium:
As social media becomes dominant, personal branding constellates around the archetype of the singular hero or “thought leader” who changes the world, one post or workshop at a time. But the influencer’s goal is not really social change. It’s “disruption”. Aspirational wellness content that can be spiced up with disruptive “transgression” becomes highly valued in a competitive landscape. This provides the template for the conspiritualist influencer: the solitary hero promising unique and personal salvation for body and spirit in times of crisis.
No, thanks! I am not only done with Rune Soup, I feel like I need a shower to wash it off.
I’m officially parting with RSPM. I’ve been really struggling with the direction of the membership over the past year and took the time to write down the things that didn’t sit well with me. Feel free to read it if you feel called to do so. pic.twitter.com/yUtM5EUfZE— adam (@madamlehman) January 15, 2021
Fortunately I found out I was not the only one who felt like this. After a public Twitter callout of Gordon's politics by Michael M. Hughes and a less pleasant shitstorm that followed there was a spontaneous initiative started by some disenchanted Soupies to get together to mourn, kvetch, and heal, and to move on and build something new. This initiative has the fitting name The Others. I joined them and I am glad I did. Feels like a new home, warm and welcoming, and full of energy to integrate the present and move into a magical future, to fix Omelas instead of walking away from it.
I honestly hope this whole mindfuck is just a dark episode of a person having difficulties to cope with the current situation and trying to make sense of the uncertainties. It is very understandable and I empathize. I wish GW the energy and wisdom to get himself back out of this mess, realize and reflect on what he is doing. It is just unfortunate to drag hundreds of paying followers into this. I know it's all voluntary and stuff, yet there's also group dynamics.
If you are a RSPM yourself, and some of the things I wrote resonated with you, feel free to reach out.
If you think I should not have published this but written GW a private email instead: there's nothing to "resolve" here. It's a few years too late for that. Plus, from some friends experiences there doesn't seem to be much acceptance of criticism from his side anyway.
Why publish it in the first place and not just keep it to myself you ask? Because I felt the need to write it down and stand up against it. And not in the shape of a Twitter shitstorm.
If you find my accusations unfair and hyperbolic, my apologies. They come from a hurt place. If you disagree and feel this post is slanderous or just ridiculous, please understand that this is my personal opinion and experience and I tried to express it in the fairest way possible.
If you believe Covid-19 is fake and Bill Gates wants to cull humanity, leave me the fuck alone.