by Steven Craig Hickman
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
—Arthur C. Clarke
When, under the authority of the sciences, one speaks of the uncanny and weird effects of particles acting at a distance in quantum mechanics; or the anomalous existence of temporary particles that come into and out of existence; or the entanglement of particles across vast worlds one never mentions the word magical. Instead we mask it with both mathematical equations and technological measurements and speak of the power of science as true, while the old magical universe of sympathy is shriven of its ancient power. If magic is at heart the discovery and manipulation of sympathy: action at a distance – then isn’t science after all a theory of magic that disguises it’s magical praxis?
Have we not been hiding our modern magical world view under the secular guise of a demythologized and abstracted magic? Are we not techno-sorcerers enabling the ancient arts of black magic, or the manipulation of matter and the release of ancient daemonic powers from the abyss-energy fields of darkness? Is modern secular society after all a mere magician’s ruse that has initiated several generations into believing magic is not magic, but something else? Is science a pure abstraction from the principles of ancient Neoplatonic theurgists, released from the images and myths of those symbolic relations and purified of its religious trappings? Are the sciences nothing more than a pure abstraction of magical praxis under the guise of a demythologized pantheon of dark powers we term dark matter and dark energy? Have we truly left the ancient worlds behind, or merely staged our own cartoon version reducing the height and breadth of their symbolic worlds to a mathematical puzzle and technological praxis? With all our supposed sophistication isn’t science a mere stage show for the ritual magic of techno-capitalist power, a power that seeks to master the universe like the dark sorcerers of old for profit and control?
Nick Land reminds us that in the “literary and cinematic craft, horror is indistinguishable from a singular task: to make an object of the unknown, as the unknown“. What is it then to actually experience an object of the unknown, as the unknown? If the noumenal suddenly winked into existence, showed its true form or formlessness to our perceptive faculties what shock of unworlding of our reality systems would take place? When faced with the enigmas, anomalies, and strange or weird features of the unknown what effects transpire in our minds and bodies? The dark sorceries of elder days would call such unknown forces up from their abyss allowing them to be manifested in the craft of magical statues that would sing and become operative of daemonic spheres beyond the zones of human will or intelligence. Later Christian thinkers such as Marsilio Ficino when studying these Egyptian theurgists would feel both a sense of terror in discovering such oddities, as well as a fear and horror of those who could and would burn him at the stake if he believed in the efficacy of such tales of magic. Even more so was the fear and horror that such magical praxis was truly efficacious. It was this forbidden knowledge of such ritual practices that would shape Western magical thought for the next few hundred years.
In the ancient world of the Chaldeans and Egyptians the manipulators of matter were considered demonolaters. Those who sought to raise the powers of demons into the visible universe, rather than call down the angelic gods of the spheres. Such dark sorcery was seen as criminal and to be eschewed by therapeutae and theurgist alike. In our own age the cosmology of Aristotle and the ancients is dead, and has been replaced by the modern sorcery of the sciences which through the power of technology and abstraction have under Protestantism purified the world of its ancient symbolic mythologies. The Age of the Enlightenment might be better termed the Age of Disenchantment. The severing of our connections to the symbolic web of sympathy and the magical worldview of the ancients and their cosmologies of concentric circles and the Great Chain of Being has led to a universe unbound. The slow but methodical cleansing of the world of its human ties and symbolic meanings, the deconstruction of our linguistic associations and mental entrapments to a magical world of animated systems has been at the heart of a centuries long campaign against religious and superstitious illusion and delusion. Yet, even as mainstream culture and its new Secular mythologies gained control of the educational and propaganda systems of reality control systems there was and has always been a criminal element of underground and counter-cultural currents and forces that have disputed this new dispensation.
The revival of these ancient traditions in 19th century France with the work of Eliphas Levi who would undertake a review of the extant work within Catholic figures such as Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Giordano Bruno, Cornelius Agrippa, John Dee, and so many others would awaken in many counter-currents a knowledge of these ancient links to both Greek, Arab, and Jewish sources, along with others in the 19th Century who would awaken the magical traditions of Eastern thought under the auspices of Theosophical and other esotericisms. All this would lead into strange and bewildering forays into the dark lore of the past and its religious-magical worldview. For mainstream bourgeois culture this way lay madness and criminality, but for the counter-revolutionary it opened the doors of perception onto a world strangeness that no longer bound the mind to the limits of Kantian restrictions. For these voyagers into the Impossible had brought back the world of noumenal experience where the dark hinterlands of gods and demons still lived in the wilderness of ancient thought.
H.P. Lovecraft in his Supernatural Horror in Literature would describe this node of experience: “Horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected, so that it is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or “outsideness” without laying stress on the emotion of fear.” This sense of the Outside and daemonic, the abysmal darkness of the unknown and unknowable register of powers and forces just below the threshold of consciousness that at certain moment impinge upon our waking minds as shocks of pure and utter terror are as old as magic itself. In such moments one suddenly awakens to the ontological terror of existence, suddenly feeling the ground below one’s feet give way as if the world one exist in is but a subbasement or lower level of some unfathomable systems of the Real. Magic like a program to be run works with the computational complexity of our ontological predicament, it calls forth powers from both the lower levels and higher levels of some simulated program. It’s this realization that we are but bit players in a simulated universe, programs of some vast digital universe which shocks us into an alienated sphere of thought and feeling. Knowing that we are not real but delusions and illusions of some complex system of programmed realties unsettles our minds. And, yet, the knowledge that we can with the right rituals and codes call down powers or raise daemonic agencies makes us realize that this thing we call reality is larger and more mysterious than we suspect or can suspect. That we are part of the very unknowing of things, and that our access to it is by way of non-knowledge rather than knowledge.
In our own time we’ve begun divesting ourselves even further of the old symbolic cosmologies and their links to Christian and religious fear and terror. One could say the old gods and demons, or the pagan flora and fauna of ancient Celtic and other pre-European and Eurasian worlds, not to mention the realms of Africa, India, Middle-Eastern, and Far Eastern thought and praxis dealing with magick is being rerouted into new forms and systems. Much of the cyber-punk and post-cyberpunk science fiction incorporates a hypermagical techno-capitalist vision both dark and light that weave the threads of posthuman and transhuman Neoplatonist theurgical praxis, whether self-conscious of these ancient worlds or not.
The cultural crack-up of Western mainstream reality systems has become apparent to any and everyone who has any intelligence at all. Across the years we’ve seen the martialing of underground artistic systems from the early modernist era of the Celtic Twilight, Dada, Surrealism, etc. which would lead to the postmodern worlds of abstractionism, situationism, and the various counter-worlds of rebel music from the Rock-n-roll era to the end games of punk and cyber-punk nihilism. In our own era speculative realists and materialists seek a way out of the capitalist divide of universalist Enlightenment and Secular progressive culture in the extreme view of techno-anarchism to jet-pack communism. Both absolute individualism and absolute collectivism seem sparking new and strange amalgams. The old guard is on the defense within the mainstream liberal duopolies of the last vestiges of democratic civilization, even as capitalism itself abandons politics and reformist liberal measures for the freedom of off-shore and off-planet libertarianism of Exit.
Humans as humans will probably not accept the future coming at us (i.e., throughout history we’ve tended toward conservative and traditional lines, fighting change and the future, etc.). So that the civil war among ideologies of progressive / conservative will in the coming century reach a breaking point. This, too, could lead to many dire effects. One need only look back at the long dark ages after Greece and Rome that were brought to us by the conservative Christian/Catholic feudalistic authoritarian rule based social systems… because we’ve become enamored of an Image based Culture now we’ve lost the ability to empathize and feel the truth of our past. Specifically the generations that lived through the horrors of WWI and WWII and the genocidal world of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc. see all this as a Hollywood movie (even with films from that era). For the new generations the norms and rules of social interaction are closer to anarchist now, in that they don’t believe in the liberal progressive world view anymore than in the conservative libertarian worldview. The generations growing up since the 1990’s are evolving into other forms that have yet to take on a political shape that one can truly know and understand… they’ve lived in the nihilist acid bath of the post-punk era. One might say this is the remix era of the fake, a decadent moment of too muchness. This generation will have to step out of this and formulate its own politics against our liberal and conservative past. It’s this I see going on. The whole world I grew up in is dead, we’ve all become zombies now. A great sacrifice is in the offing… the whole Enlightenment universalist ideology is dead and something else has yet to take its place…
Breath through of break-down is the prognosis for the near term, with fragmentation and the slow break away civilizations of minoritarian revolt and displacement across both first and third world nations. Globalism is dead even as capitalism itself seems to rise above the planet re-inventing itself in a Galactic push outward toward Mars colonization and off-world technics of techno-industrial mining, harvesting, and exploration. Chaosmos. A new order of the ages is being formed even in the midst of this transitional stage from the secular to the post-secular civilization. The birth pangs of a hyper-civilizational process that is at once undermining old and new forms in an acid bath of formlessness, while at the same time allowing advanced intercultural civil war and strife to play out its genocidal madness. It’s as if we are at the intersection of a Time-War of which we are both ignorant and as well its progenitors; as if the future past is infesting our present with its retroactive programs, reprograming humanity to enact a transitional phase shift of which it is itself the product and producer.
We need new experimental maps that can reweave the old and new forms of social navigation in our time if we are to break free of the current malaise of our civilizational slide into suicide and genocidal madness. My blogging up to now has stayed with the base line philosophical heritage, even if it has pushed the limits of that world. We need more, we need to push past the safety nets of thought that bind us and keep us within the secure circle of civilization as we’ve known it. Yet, we need to swim back at the same time and understand the counter-praxis of all those intellectuals of the past who formed counter-hegemonic theories of reality against the mainstream cultures of their era. We are no alone in this endeavor, many have died and sparked the hatred and animosity of mainstream reality makers across the past two-thousand years. When ancient Rome aligned State Power and Religion under Constantine a fierce reality system would be shaped that would shape the forces of Western Civilization for thousands of years. Only in the past two-hundred years has that old regimes of religious and state power been challenged by another extreme: Secularism. And, yet, in our own moment the secular atheistic worldview seems teetering on the edge of apocalypse. Why? In some ways because it did not go far enough, it kept the old forms of elitism, power, and structures in place that bound the greater populace in systems of entrapment and closure that were as prison like as the Feudal orders of the older Catholic autocracies. It is this challenge to the false democratic worldview that has cloaked power and elite oligarchs under the guise of liberty and equality that is coming apart at the seams. Even as the duopolies of State and Corporate fascism which prevail in the world today under the guise of democracy are falling under the pressure of their own success, the other cultures both within and without are breaking down and exploding under the oppression of this dark world of capital enslavement.
In many ways it was the severance of cosmology and the sacred that brought about the methodical demythologization of religious worlds that ultimately ended in the Enlightenment. What we’re seeing in our time is the reweaving of our new cosmologies with a re-evaluated notion of the sacred. One sees in the great festivals of our era, especially in America (Burning man – though commercialized) which has always been god haunted, the resurgence of many of these ancient systems under new guises. The whole of the counter-cultural thrust of the sixties and New Age movements was this desperate attempt to break out of the clusterfuck of reduced existence that corporate fascist technocracy had instilled. And, strangely it was the very core of that tyranny and its secret systems of control (the CIA, etc.) which in their bid to develop psychological warfare (psyops, MKUltra, etc.) that unleased the various pharmakons of the enthenogenic revolution in consciousness which is still with us in many strange twists and designs. Whatever comes our way will be due to the repressive and oppressive reality systems of our current failing globalist vision of existence. Reweaving new narratives and stories will be the aim of our new more positive agenda, along with the diagnostic and destructive critique of the monomyth of reality constructed by the Cathedralism of American Globalists.
Where will it take us? The old mythologies of secularism of which Democracy and Communism and Fascism were the outgrowth are dead and dying, but nothing is in the offing, no plan, no initiative, no map or program. Both the Left and Right are bankrupt and they know it. Isn’t this what the Singularity truly means? This movement into the impossible and unknown, uncharted waters of non-thought? Are we not moving into a realm that has no map, no navigational system to guide us. All the ideologies spawned since the Enlightenment are of no use, the maps of anarchist or communist, democracy or autocracy will not help us now. We are alone, unbound by the old legacies of Western philosophical anchors or religious-magico systems. For man this is a good thing, for it means we must invent out of our own ignorance a new way forward. Experience the new as a force of chaos and creation. We must for the first time in history invent the possibility of possibility. If magic was a form of binding, then maybe what we need now is a meta-magical system of unbinding. One that can unbind our minds from the illusions and delusions of both ancient and modern systems of enslavement, and allow us to create and invent something new beyond the human enclaves of this prison world we live in. As Wallace Stevens once said it’s time to let the “black waters of the impossible seep into the possible.” Humanity is just a computer virus in the galactic hive-mind, a planetary blip in the re-tuning of the cyberfeeds of universal silence.
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