Contemporary occultists generally agree that belief is a key component for magic. The magician must believe in the methods, the symbols, and the potential for results. Symbols and other occult metaphors require sincere invocation in order to have the desired effect. Phil Hines, among others, centralized the role of belief in the tradition dubbed “Chaos Magic.” The Chaos approach invites the magician to incorporate any element of recreation, occupation, or popular culture into their magical belief system. If focused belief is the core requirement, one can invoke superheroes through playing video games just as one might invoke an ancient goddess with chanting, candles, and incense.

Unpacking the phenomenology of belief shows that the Chaos Magic account remains incomplete. Reducing operative magick to wielding belief as a tool discounts the subjective feeling associated with a belief sincerely held. Holding a belief entails maintaining a propositional attitude toward a statement of fact. William James argues that volition plays a significant role in adopting belief, but will alone is not a sufficient condition for belief. The belief must also feel plausibly true, and it must resolve a significant concern. According to James, belief formation sits at the intersection of reason and subjectivity. For a belief to be sincerely held, the believer must feel the gravity of the settled matter.

While popular culture may hold deep meaning, the economic structures that produce it strip symbols of gravitas. North Americans born in the late 20th and early 21st century have access to a wide array of superheroes, literary protagonists, and beloved childhood cartoons. Unlike the mythos of Ancient Greece, all of these contemporary figures are owned and controlled by corporate entities. They were created to generate profit, and they appear in multiple iterations and adaptations in order to generate further profit. Sophisticated media corporations engineered increased popularity, ensuring that their intellectual property has a place in hearts and minds to motivate further spending. As North Americans we do not possess the mythos of our popular culture. We are not free to adapt stories to new media, to rearrange events, or to imagine new stories. Our heroes are given to us, but not made ours.

Beneath then surface of popular icons lies a web of deeper significance. The mythic traditions of the world provide themes, tropes, and archetypes that inform the creation of contemporary heroes and villains. Following these symbols back in time creates a connection with concepts fundamental to the human experience. Furthermore, these symbols escape tight intellectual property protection due to their great age. They belong to their people unlike the proprietary celebrities that populate our screens.

Traditions and their symbols must live alongside those who held them dear. Tying ourselves too tightly to the past invites stasis, but without any connection to the past, belief is left unmoored. Nothing essential hangs on images promoted in order to separate an audience from its money. If popular culture and Chaos Magic provides an entry point into the occult, the seeker must eventually grow beyond them.