Family. In keeping with memetic theory, which postulates that ideas held and transmitted through close association have a better chance of assimilation into the psyche, it is safe to assume that the input of our parents and siblings will hold great weight in how we develop. While few magickians are lucky enough to have others in their immediate circle who also claim abilities far beyond that of the average human herd, there is in truth no reason to look for such an obvious connection. Any input could be considered to swing the pendulum in the direction of mysticism, even if that attitude is diametrically opposed.
None would argue with the assertion that Crowley was a product of his upbringing. The Plymouth Brethren’s self inquisitorial zeal combined with his mother’s insanely overbearing attitude unleashed a beast both great in will and small in conscience upon the rest of the world. When reviewing the evidence there is a very strong argument that his more mystical origins may well relate to childhood traumas and the repression of any natural sexual development. Even taking into account the seeming propensity for sociopathy the early life of the Wickedest Man in the World would very much mould the creature he became in later years.
I was lucky in that my family, while generally Atheistic, were disinterested enough in what each other were doing to waste time on comparing belief systems on a deep, philosophical level. There was no embargo on ghost stories, while monster and splatter films were rarely taboo. As I aged I accumulated a vast and almost encyclopedic knowledge of the unseen world, a lust for damned ideas that was fed by the biased and poorly researched ramblings of Colin Wilson as well as a slew of one book wonders trying to usurp his tinfoil throne. All the while pretending that my interest was purely scholarly, I was soon tumbling down a rabbit hole towards the land of my not quite pagan ancestors without those closest to me ever realising what I had become.
From a media point of view there were few actual television channels and even fewer programs on the paranormal back then, though Halloween granted me a rare opportunity to share the weirder aspects of my life with a family that was generally hostile to overt displays of the occult. This mistrust came not from any pretence of religious puritanism, instead born of the intense hatred that those in the East End of London held for anything laying outside of the brutal reality they fought tooth and nail to survive. You see I grew up in a place where dreams died young, yet mine lived on regardless.
Even today Samhain remains more important to me than Yule ever could, due in part to the fact that I remember being able to briefly drop the illusion of normality that was expected of me when October rolled around. As far as a hereditary tradition, there is no direct evidence of anything even bordering on one in my background. That said both my father and uncle shared a shallow interest in Forteana, though neither had any idea that such an umbrella term applied to their occasional reading material at the time. Ufology also seems to have excited their collective interest, though on reflection it is a facet of the bizarre that I have never really cared for.
Either way they are both gone now, so it is far too late to educate them as to the wider implications promised by the movement that sprung up around that particular aeronautical mystery during the Twentieth Century. In my case it seems that the very vacuum created by the lack of spirituality during those formative years actually spurred me on to explore the unreal, to part the veil and sacrifice much more than just my sanity for a glimpse of the divine. In this manner my direction of travel is the exact opposite of those who abandon the supernatural in favour of militant Atheism, and a matter of embracing as opposed to denying the unseen world.
Of course my family know of my self identification as a Neopagan now, and have a limited awareness of my success in getting work published on subjects that will always remain beyond their reach. Though in truth there is much more that I can never tell them, aspects of my journey that will never ring true to people who can only see the nuts and bolts universe that they are slowly drowning in. Shouting fire in a room full of deaf people is a waste of time, and unfortunately that is how I view trying to explain my life choices to a family which never understood why I did not feel like one of them in the first place.