Similarly we have Robert Bauval's Orion correlation. As far as I know no academic would even look at the research. Regardless of whether the correlation is true or coincidental it should have been looked at since the work was brought to the academic gatekeepers as a well-developed theory, not a “loony new-age” idea. Refusing to look at research keeps these ideas below the threshold of debate, entrenching set ideas and reinforcing set positions and textbook sales.
When we do find a supporting academics who at least research the subject and seriously consider the evidence; luminaries such as Jacques Vallee, or John Mack in UFO research; they do produce often startling and paradigm shifting research which is often worth the hassle we get from the rest, however these true pioneers are rare and often caught in the quagmire of backwards thinking from the mouthy establishment which are more interested in protecting the status quo, watching each others backs or the "validity" of their latest book. A kind of “old boys network” kicks in and established myths become self perpetuating in a strange sidereal way as illustrated in Borges "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" where a false and synthetic archaeology and history begins to supplant real history.
So, it will be a long uphill battle to get these subjects ever studied academically. However I also believe that even with acceptance the academic approach will cause problems. I think that should magic and psychicism ever become accepted there are limits to where academia can go. Perhaps we should ask ourselves what role academia plays in magic?
Should it should be there to record occult history, recording the acts (and claims) of magicians throughout history and if this is the case, what purpose does this serve? Most people are not interested in magic as I have shown above, and occultists will already know the histories of other magicians. Also the academic “fact” ignores the mythic element - as a magician I am more interested in the mythic Merlin rather than any historical person who may or may not have even existed.
- Lack of Accuracy, in that he doesn’t make incorrect assertions such as Dion Fortune founding the Servants of the Light
- Lack of Relevancy: He waste time discussing pointless questions such as how many occultists are in the UK or devoting an overly large part of the book to the very minor Amado Crowley
- Poorly referenced with a reliance on anonymous anecdotes.
Speaking academically I think his use of anonymous people such as "Starbeam" rather damning. A historian relies on a paper trail and spends a lot of time looking at documents and other evidence rather than hearsay which is effectively what it is. I have no way of tracking his sources and for all I know he might have made them up. This means that no future work can build on this “history” of magic and I cannot see how this contributes to the sum of human knowledge given its inherent unreliability - not even necessarily because bits are wrong, but simply because we cannot verify them. His PhD supervisor must have cotton-wool for brains if he accepted this.
However magicians also have a great deal of insight which comes about from their own personal gnosis. This is something which does not have a paper trail and whilst of massive value to us as magicians not something academics will be able to work with. That is one of the reasons why we are all told to keep diaries.
Perhaps we need to ask with work such as this; which many people find valuable; is this value coming from Andrew Chumbley as a scholar or Andrew Chumbley the Magician? My money is on the latter, the working practices of the magician are imperative. However the pedantic bastard running in my soul also wants to ask whether we are not better working with the sources afresh rather than working with someone else’s vision. Well, I think the answer to that is actually yes and no. Yes, since one forges ones own path, however there is value in others paths which show people what to expect, what sort of things work and so on.
Until then however and speaking as a psychical explorer I don’t really feel the need to seek academic justification to my beliefs and actions. Maybe we have all achieved an initiation of sorts in we known such things as ghosts and spirits exist and have encountered them, have worked with them and even made deals with them, whilst academics are either debating their existence or denying it entirely.