Secrecy and Consumer Culture: An Exploration of Esotericism in Contemporary Western Society using the work of Simmel and Baudrillard

Adam Possamai


Esoteric knowledge seems no longer secret in Western contemporary society. It is part of consumer culture and 'secret wisdom' is no longer the privilege of an aristocracy of culture such as mystics or dervishes; it appears to be within every individual's reach. Exploring this issue with the works of Simmel and Baudrillard, this article will attempt firstly to understand the notion of secrecy, secondly to assess its place in consumer culture - or what Baudrillard would call hyperreality - and finally to evaluate its implication - that is that the proliferation of 'secret wisdom' might lead to a re-enchantment of Western society. However, the over-proliferation of this wisdom might have a totally reverse outcome in hyperreality. It could lead to a blasé attitude among some (over)consumers of secrecy and thus, paradoxically, towards a feeling of disenchantment.

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