Friday, July 2, 2010

Blurring the Lines

“I was now working with that occult force, electricity, and here was a possible chance to make some discoveries. I felt sure spirits could not scare an electrician and they might be of use to him in his work.”

- Thomas Watson.

Norma recently asked about further discourse on magick, narrative structures, and blogs. I've been thinking about how I'd try discussing that, and I decided that I'll hold off on the topic itself and instead talk about some of the outlying or surrounding areas of interest, at least prior to discussing narrative and magick. Maybe I'll do the latter elsewhere and very soon. Instead I'd like to take a moment to point at Mr. VI's latest post, and just smile. At least for now!

The Electro-Magnetic Imagination & New Technical 'Spaces'

We imbue certain words or thoughts with 'mythic substance,' whether we realize it or not. From the get-go, Electricity was seen as an alchemical agent and it has not been until very recently that the mythological structures around the subject have begun to fade. It should be noted, however, that almost all the innovators involved in the rise of today's techne were also involved in... strange experiments. One might take, for example, Nikola Tesla who was the early Lord of Resonance. By the time of his death Tesla had over 700 patents in his name, and his brilliance is quite simply undeniable.

Erik Davis, in the excellent Techgnosis, writes:

the reason that Tesla cuts such an enigmatic figure is that he seemed to possess an intuitive, visceral, almost supernatural knowledge of the electromagnetic mysteries, and investigators are still picking up the strings he left dangling. According to Tesla's own memoirs, his inventions sometimes popped into his head fully formed, as if he had simply downloaded the prototypes from the astral plane. The notion of a motor capable of generating alternating current – perhaps his most important invention – came to the young engineering student one day when he was strolling with a friend in a park in Budapest. Moved by the stunning sunset, Tesla recited a verse from, of all things, Goethe's Faust; in a moment “the idea came like a flash of lightning.”

Davis' work explores the mysticism and magic that seemed to inform the rise of techne into man's hands, and how it's evolved over time. From electricity and weird spirits – to communications that Nikola Tesla thought he was receiving from Mars and Venus on his giant radio transmitter – the spectrum of human investigation has almost always held nigh Promethean qualities to it.

Whether those hard-nosed science freaks like it or not, phrases like “electricity” and “energy” have almost always held mythological functions; electricity was seen as a form of “ether” initially, in fact. I'm focusing on electricity in particular because it's history and innovators lend themselves easily to this topic; I could, however, also talk about the sheer number of occultists and neo-pagans involved in today's communications technologies. More and more are becoming web-designers, cranking out virtual code for a living, or working as technical support and sometimes even on the innovative side of things. (I honestly wonder how many neo-pagans work for Blizzard Entertainment...)

The reason, I suspect, is something Davis brought to my attention years ago: “new technologies of perception and communication open up new spaces, and these spaces are always mapped, on one level or another, through the imagination.”

And Suddenly It Felt a Little Bit '90s
One of these days I'm going to write the TeleNecronomicon, or Book of Dead Telephone Numbers.”
- DeusExMachina

Chaos Magick in the 1990s extended itself to a variety of structures, but one of the more pervasive elements was the then-emerging notion of “Cybermagick.” Fr. UD recently brought it back to the table in his first volume of the High Magick books. It has a much older history, however. One of the tales Darth Hilarious is fond of telling you seems to revolve around how in “the Old Days” they'd create custom programs to flash brightly light monitors at the Quarter positions to enhance elemental presences and so-forth. Which actually sounds more 1980s, and brings to mind using the Ninja Turtles to protect your Circle of Power or some shit.

But this illustrates only one of the many places where adding in technical 'stuff', Dionysian theatricality through techne, shines through. And lest you once again think this is anything new: Greek inventors were quite fond of creating “moving” statues or statues of the gods that seemed to “speak,” and the spectacle created by machina in the name of the Gods was very much in fashion even in the Roman Empire. All of that aside: during the 1990s TIAMAT-L and the Z-List formed two places where both magick and information-age technology might come together.

In any event: one of the more amusing experiments that TIAMAT-L (Testing the Internet As Magickal/Aethyric Tool List) tried seems to have evoked an Undine... A nice big Sacred Daemon of Line Noise.

On my personal end, I followed the advice of LOON's APIKORSUS and used dead TV stations (which now seem to be vanishing from the public memory) to scry. I've written about digital poppets for binding spells. I plan to stick LEDs and a microcontroller in my wand. (And now you can start realizing that I'm a complete heretic that claims to be a “traditionalist,” but totally isn't.) Give me enough time and I'll probably try to stick LEDs in Black Mirrors. Because I can totally figure out how to use that, too.

In the end I suppose, while trying to avoid making a phallic joke, it isn't the tech. It's really about how to use the tech, and what you decide to place value on. Although that last bit is heading into Nietzscheian territory. And maybe I'll head there later. Or maybe not. But I do happen to know someone who's written this. And I quite liked it.


Lady Scylla said...

I found once, at an estate sale, a set of electric plug-in "christmas window candles".

They were red, yellow, green and blue. And they had the elemental symbols painted on them. Moreover, they had those "candle" bulbs, and each one had severe pock-marking from having oil applied to the plastic.

Somewhere, probably in the 60's, a group of Ceremonially influenced people had some really odd quarter candles. From the "feel" of the objects, I'm not so sure they worked.

Mr VI said...

I don't know what you're implying Master Faust!

I'm an innocent man I tell ya

Norma said...

Loved the poppet post, thanks for the link. Can't wait to hear more about narrative and magick when/if you get around to it & if not here, perhaps you will link to where.

Jack Faust said...

@Scylla: That... sounds... Actually, I'm not sure how I feel about the image you stuffed into my brain.

@VI: Whatever. It vibrates. And took listening to Tool for the right... err, feel. Next time I'll try NIN, or Zoe Keating.

@Norma: Oh, I actually will write more about it. I'd like to find a few articles from "the old days" (2004-2006/7?!) that may have vanished off the 'net first. Because, oddly enough, most of the experiments that went on with such matters were in more "confined" spaces: private Bulletin Boards, private sites, etc. And so a lot of the shit that shaped my thoughts on the matter is weirdly... gone.

Mr VI said...

@Faust: Which tracks?