Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Thief's Bible

“Oh, deathly quiet pandemonium!”
- Nietzsche

“Everything has been transformed. But it has not been transformed into a charming fairy story or into an ingenuous child's paradise. The primeval world has stepped into the foreground, the depths of reality have been opened, the elemental forms of everything that is creative, everything that is destructive, have arisen, bringing with them infinite rapture and infinite terror. The innocent picture of a well-ordered routine world has been shattered by their coming, and they bring with them no illusions or fantasies but truth — a truth that brings on madness.”

- Walter F. Otto, Dionysus: Myth and Cult (1933).

If you can't keep me out of your egregore, fuck you.”

Being essentially “virtual” space, the 'astral' can be conceived of as potentially (if not technically) infinite, especially if we tie the idea of “thought space” to it. As such, certain locations and movements are best determined by mapping “signposts,” astral place-markers that allow for one to navigate in a sea of infinity.

Once your rituals are in the open, then the place-markers and capability of astral navigation into those spaces is plainly assured for any who knows how to look for them. Let me repeat myself: if your shit aint secret, then what you do is not secret.

The key to “hacking egregores” largely lies in assimilating as much raw data as possible, and backing it up with historical and other research. These are then reconstituted into rituals or ritual formats which can best allow the practitioner to come into sympathy with the signs, symbols, and spirits that they aim to contact. If one lacks the ability to track down this research, however, they're pretty much just plain fucked.

However a potential counter-balance to this stumbling block was best revealed to me by over-indulging in aesthetics – boiling the mind in the few symbols and thoughts I could find, while surrounding myself with bits and pieces from the place or time I wished to come into sympathy with.

If it is of use, it will be used.”

The thing we tend to forget about these rituals, spells, and the level of information they can provide is that there are those who simply can't afford to buy a thousand books a year. I'm keenly aware of this as I used to be one of those individuals. And, rumors of cursed PDFs by terrifying orders aside, the accumulation of occult information through PDFs benefited me.

If it wasn't useful, then chances are it won't be passed on. At first it was just blatant piracy. If it was out there – in that information soup of the inter-webz – then I wanted to take a glance at it. Over time I refined my pattern recognition techniques and combined them with at least a tidbit of historical information so that the filtering could be further refined.

And around that time it dawned on me that I could make contact – if I could manage it – with certain deities that dealt with the flow of information and develop a relationship with them. And then the whole game changed a bit, as I found myself at last facing the raw vistas of possible data to assimilate. Faced with this Gordian knot I struck a blow, and used as my sword to categories: “useful” and “not useful.”

If it is worth selling, then it is worth stealing.”

Traditional media as it has been marketed in the past is undone. You can't take back technology, or wish it away even if you want to. The torrent has emerged, and the torrent shall be used until a better vehicle for the transmission of information arrives. As such any author writing today must take into account just how well their thoughts will catch on.

The more popular they become, the more likely that their writing or videos or what-have-you will appear in the digital ether. Akin to this is the idea of “underground credibility” – which is what helps keep certain authors alive on the web sometimes even long after they've reached an untimely demise and fallen out of print.

Talismantic publishing actually largely addresses this issue; but given that the volumes are limited by quantity (which makes them valuable enough to sell), these books will never achieve widespread release except on the Internet.

Incidentally, this makes the volumes themselves all the more rare – talismanic and fetishistic – and all the more worth getting one's hands on. This is the embodiment of the idea of the Grimoire (the rare book that survived the Inquisitor's fire), and shows that we still treat language printed onto a page in a “magical” way. The entire idea of censorship helps promote this, and actually reifies the powerful belief that such things “work” or “open one up” to the Outside.

If it is secret, you must protect it.”

This seems obvious. Don't let those of us who are scumbags see what you're doing, or if we take interest we'll be all up in your business, scouting out your astral cities and playing with your world. Some locations on the astral that are opened up actually having “guardians” sitting inside them.

I have had one encounter with such an entity; it appeared in my dreams, and then as I awoke I discovered to my horror that it was actually in my room. I watched as it flicked a stack of quarters off my desk... One by one.

Okay,” I mumbled sleepily, “you've impressed and frightened the shit out of me. I'll be on my best behavior.”

No such occurances happened after that; however, I did thoroughly re-ward the ever-loving-fuck out of my house.

If you plan to make something secret, you'd better have guardians to back it up – an Astral Firewall if you will – otherwise you have no security and we'll be stealing your tech left and right. Don't complain to me if I somehow pilfer a technique out of your favorite landscape.

If it is sold, it isn't secret.”

Given that the traditional medium of the book has been turned into digital ephemera on the web, one might as well embrace the e-book and find another way to market their skills. This is precisely why I plan to sell e-books as well as physical volumes if I manage to pull of opening some form of crazy store.

Incidentally, and as far as I can tell, Jason's relying on this same spectrum of ideas. You'll notice he's selling his teaching skills, as well as books, and also working with other up-and-coming magicians? Note how RO is selling an e-book for what... ten bucks?

The point is that the old method of sales is broken to a degree, and most authors are just lucky that the majority of neo-Pagans seem too naïve or inherently good to pilfer their work.

Otherwise they'd be sitting with me in the “I'll pirate your shit if it's worth my time, and I don't feel like providing for you.”

I buy books written by authors I respect. I pilfer what I can never afford, or what's written by idiots who somehow managed get something right for once. (Occult one hit wonders of the world: I'm on to you, assholes!) Likewise to out of print volumes; however, I do try to find them at used book stores. In fact, you can view what physical volumes I've purchased (or borrowed) here.

But my point is: if you aren't worth keeping around, then no one will continue purchasing your books. They will, however, pilfer them. Because, honestly, almost everyone does it except for those who it is a strict ethical concern.

EDIT: This blog is partially in response to Fr. AIT's entry; however I don't really mean to imply him. I found myself annoyed by some of his commentators, and rather than befoul his space, chose to rave about insane shit here.


Eldritch said...

What a superb entry, this reminds me of the material you wrote on IRR.

Frater A.I.T. said...

How can anyone take offense to a post with an image of John Constantine in it? I hear dude has acquired Tulpa status....=)

Jack Faust said...

@AIT: You might find this interesting: ... Hell, anything done by Mark Pesce rates as interesting in my book.

Jason Miller, said...

You know, as a writer and professional sorcerer, I am pretty indifferent to whether my publicly available books are up there on digimob or not. Don't get me wrong, I would prefer people buy them, especially if they buy them from an occult store, but overall I want to make sure lots of people read them.

Writers of occult books make squat on the books. If you are relying on the actual sales of actual books to pay your rent you are gonna be homeless in a few weeks.

Personally I view the books as advertising that I get paid to make. I try to write great books with unique content so that people will contact me for:

1. The Strategic Sorcery Training Course
2. Ritual work.
3. Workshops that I give in person
4. Self published specialty works

Those four are where most of the actual money is made. The books that you can pick up at Borders make sure that new people keep coming into contact with my ideas AND act as a major qualification on the resume.

I also have to admit that if I am on the fence about whether to purchase a book or not (usually an expensive book) I sometimes get the PDF to check it out. If I like it though, I always buy it.

Again, I am not crazy about the idea of people not willing to shell out 10 mucks for a books (the price of my books on Amazon) but I am not getting all crazy about it like some people. The most important think is that people read it and spread the meme.
The above is

Jack Faust said...

@Jason: Honestly, I very much doubt it's simply a matter of "people not willing to shell out 10 bucks." (I realize you're not indicating this as a universal trait, too.)

What annoys me is the scorn tossed towards "downloading youth" - while the supposed "Sainthood" of certain published Adepts continues untarnished. Are we not discussing men who are supposed to "notice patterns" and "manipulate trends", who have all manner of divination and other skills? Shouldn't they see this issue beyond simple theft?

But that's just me.

Jason Miller, said...

I agree with you completely. Gotta stay ahead of the curve.

Of course this gets harder as you get older. My main mentor is in his 70s and can barely handle e-mail that O set up for him. We had a discussion over lunch a couple weeks ago about setting up Facebook and doing some social media advertising for him but I think it is gonna be a bit beyond him without a lot of help.

I also think that magic, for a lot of people even some experts, doesnt have much to do with spotting trends and patterns in the culture. For them (NOT for me) it has more to do with ancient practices and things that are not all that concerned with society.

Jack Faust said...

@Jason: I've considered the possibility of age and the "limiting of mediated channels" as part of the equation. I can't quite find it inside myself to state that ignorance is bliss, however.

One of the reasons Adepts need the younger generation around is precisely so they can be these matters and new possibilities to them; the process of learning clearly never ends, and so the reason the "Adepts" get new blood is just for the above. If they're failing to run down these issues, however, I honestly feel they're at least partially to blame.

I think that the 1970s-1990s instilled a false hope - an illusion - in the heart of neo-Pagans and ceremonial magicians alike that eventually you might be able to get by "just by publishing." Reviewing the history behind them, they should well have known this wasn't true. The fact that a direct threat to the market has emerged that the market has *failed* (along with said authors) to reconcile simply finally puts the bullet into that dream.

But that's not to say you can't get some dough, and plenty of social notice, from said books. So they still serve a purpose; just not the purpose most assume they serve. The next ten years will most likely involve the shedding of these illusions, and the gradual shaping toward the new communities and such that emerge.

It's honestly a great time to be around, and practicing.

Ahem. Carried away. My apologies.

Frater A.I.T. said...

@ Fra Jack,

You've clearly thought a lot about this, and I think you've got some good ideas. That being said, no matter how we may see it--even with Jason's evolved perspective on the subject--dudes are making less money because folks are pirating.

That's just the plain truth...and I'm not sure if it has anything to do with youth. They don't check your id at the Pirate Bay. The youth that grew up in the digital age ain't that young anymore, and torrenting is an easy technology to understand.

Sure, there are fringe benefits, like the spreading of the "meme', getting your work out and into the public mind. A bit of marketing, "the first hit is free..." This is good for any writer.

I do agree that not every practitioner who writes is entitled to live on the high-hog...but I think that cutting away what folk could be making by pirating their work is weak, especially when we benefit from that writing in our own practices. We could look at the PDF/Torrent realm as a big ole Barnes & Nobles, where people get to browse and read and enjoy a book before deciding to buy. Only, in this store the vast majority of folk just walk out of the store with the book, whether they found it to be good or not. You have integrity, and will purchase a book to support someone you've read who is putting out quality. I do the same. Jason does the same, and we all enjoy the digital "library". How many other Magicians/Sorcerers are similar? The majority of the fellows I know are stoked to get a free book...and that's it. They may have good intentions, but we know how that goes.
I do think this is a multi-layered issue, but don't think we should just give a blanket pass to folks who actively choose to pirate good works. Who don't support the folk putting in the work. I suppose that whether a book is shitty or not is somewhat immaterial; it required work to create, someone's time. That has value. We need to approach this carefully, I think, and look at it as a cultural issue. Our community is ridiculously small, and even though savvy businessman such as Jason have created a model that can survive regardless of piracy--that bends it into a possible positive, as a marketing tool--it would still be better if they had more resources available to live their lives and continue their work. Resources they have earned. I think it is just more complicated than shedding an illusion about writing a book and being on easy street. Jason has no such illusions, but I wouldn't begrudge him a dime of the money he should be earning from his works.

I don't know--very complicated issue, a swamp to navigate.

Anders said...

I very much like this post. I can't afford to fix my car or buy...basically anything. This restricts my occult reading to blogs, whatever else I can find online and whatever the library has. When I do(used to) have money I have bought books I particularly liked. This is mostly because I vastly prefer a physical manuscript rather than a sense a morality. After all, kept dry and out of reach pf mice and children books last a long time and no one is sneaking into my house and editing them.