Psychic Warfare from 1981-2008

11 January, 2009

An interesting post on Brainsturbator, on US Military Psi research and brain change.

The year I was born, in 1981, the US Government decided magick was real.  Well, the “US Government” is of course an abstraction—specifically, Congressional Research Service was commissioned to do a report on psychic phenomena and offered the following conclusion:

“Recent experiments in remote viewing and other studies in parapsychology suggest that there exists an ‘interconnectiveness’ of the human mind with other minds and with matter. This interconnectiveness would appear to be functional in nature and amplified by intent and emotion.”

That sounds like a pretty accurate description of magick to me.  Score one for the weirdos, right?

Of course, I don’t expect you to believe that. Ignore any claims that wouldn’t get made outside a college-level physics textbook.  There is no need to believe in non-human or “extra-dimensional” intelligence, no need to believe in telekinesis, no need to believe in any of the claims made by the magick community.  They are merely designing rituals to alter their perception and experiencing self-generated hallucinations.

The illusion of moving images is a puzzle that humans have cracked to great success, and by flashing sequential photographs at 24 frames per second or more, we get to watch movies—windows back in time.  Humans have even learned to “fake” three-dimensional objects with holographic technology.

If it can be engineered, it can be reverse engineered. If these people are “merely” altering their own consciousness and then taking their own imagination at face value, these rituals can be modeled, measured and ultimately replicated.  It is obvious, both to skeptics and to practicing magicians, that most of the words, props and staging involved with ritual is a matter of personal preference and probably not integral to the actual effects.


Gyrus interviews Harpur

20 November, 2008

My old mate Gyrus just posted his interview with the excellent Fortean hermeticist Patrick Harpur, author of Daemonic Reality and Mercurius (the latter of which he also reviews).

Here’s a snippet:

Gyrus: The threefold division of ‘body, soul & spirit’, as opposed to the dualistic mind/body model so common in our culture, seems central to your work. Could you sketch it briefly, and discuss how you feel “soul” has come to be distorted, misunderstood, or lost?

Patrick: You’ve started with the hardest possible question! I’ve just jotted down 14 ways in which the word ’soul’ can be used, and there are many more. It’s impossible to define. But this flaw is also its strength. Like ‘God’, it’s a portmanteau word, ‘empty’ in itself, yet taking on meaning in different contexts and in relation to other things.

Soul in relation to body likes to personify itself as Jung’s anima, for instance, or as the personal daimon whom Plato describes in his myth of the geezer called Er who returns from the dead at the end of The Republic. It’s different from soul in relation to spirit, which is where I prefer to use the word as the Neoplatonists used it. For them, soul was a whole realm intermediate between the spiritual or intelligible world (nous) and our own familiar sensory, material world. It was Anima Mundi, the Soul of the World, wherein dwell the daimons who link us, as Socrates remarked, to the gods.

However, this all-pervading collective realm was paradoxical: it could also manifest individually, as individual souls—in other words, as us. Since the chief faculty of soul is not reason but imagination, it likes to imagine itself in many different ways, cutting its cloth to suit the times. Thus it re-imagines itself now as Imagination itself—a powerful autonomous realm beloved of the Romantics whence all the myths come—now as Jung’s collective unconscious. It supplies the root metaphor for such modern re-inventions as the earth-spirit Gaia and Sheldrake’s morphogenetic field.

But, in another sense, soul and spirit can be thought of as symbols of the two main perspectives through which we view the world—the two perspectives which create the world we see. We experience them as a tension within ourselves between the spiritual longing for Oneness, unity, purity, light, transcendence etc. and the imaginative need to recognise Manyness, multiplicity, labyrinthine entanglement, darkness, immanence etc. It’s because, historically—ever since the Enlightenment—Western culture has emphasised the preeminence of ‘masculine’ upward-striving Apollonian reason and science that I have tried to emphasise the neglected ’soul’ perspective which is dark, moon-struck, downward-spiralling and Hermetic or Dionysian—the Affirmative way of the artist, as the medieval mystics might have put it, instead of their own Negative way, which disdains and seeks to overcome the images and myths which soul, willy-nilly, besieges us with and which we find so hard to free ourselves from in spiritual disciplines. The great ascents of the spirit into rareified mountain realms where the One dwells in blinding light can be read as a disastrous neglect, even repression, of the Nekiya—the underworld journey of the soul whose course is tortuous and mazy, moving towards darkness and death. That’s why, as far as any sort of gnosis goes, I prefer the soul’s way, death and resurrection, the painful initiatory dismembering of the shaman, to the rather unsexed and anodyne rebirth system of ’spiritual’ paths.


Guttershaman – Meanings and Patterns, part 2. The Nature of Reality, and other short subjects

14 August, 2008

Before I get started, many thanks to those who commented on the series so far. Special thanks to my old mate Gyrus, for pointing out the work of Ramsey Dukes to me. Dukes is one of those writers I never quite got around to reading until recently… and as one of the direct influences on the Chaos current, he’s important. I recommend his book ‘SSOTBME!’ highly – you can download a free copy of it at www.skilluminati.com/docs/RamseyDukes-SSOTBME.pdf . Put it this way – if you’re interested enough in the subject to read what I think, you’ll certainly benefit from reading him.

And a convivial shout-out to those who found their way here from Whitechapel.

Onward!
————-

What is truth, man? You heard the weirdo…
Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Earlier, I made the point that there’s a difference between what is (for want of a better word) real and what we can actually describe. This is an idea which many find a little troubling.

It’s not a new idea. Plato’s Cave model is a couple of thousand years old at this point, the acceptance that reality cannot be fully described a basic in Taoism, which is at least twice as old. The modern riff on this usually called Post-Modernism has been around long enough in modern society to become cliché.

I think the reason folk find this notion unsettling has a lot to do with the need for stability. Once you start considering just how much of ‘consensus reality’ is neither that real nor that much of a consensus, things get very unstable, very fast. People work harder to reinforce the boundaries of their version of reality when it is questioned – often falling back into simpler beliefs which they don’t have to think too hard about.

“Just keeping it real”…

Another reaction is, of course, to ridicule the idea. Often when the idea of a subjective element in perceived reality comes up – both in discussing post-modern ideas in general and modern magic in particular – the line of attack most used is “You don’t believe anything is real, right? So why can’t you walk through walls then?”, or similar.

It’s not that we think nothing is real. It’s just that we’re aware that local definitions of reality vary, that the context matters.
If you change language, you change the way you think. Change the way you think, you change which parts of the outside world get filtered. The outside world doesn’t suddenly go away, you just notice different bits of it.

Of course, even that notion of ‘the outside world’ is a blurry one at best. All we can ever know about reality is what we sense – and it’s known both to science and common experience just how easy our senses are to fool. Eyes have blind spots, ears have sound frequencies they can’t hear – and even a small chemical change in the brain (say a few microgrammes of an entheogen like LSD, or a lowering of sugar or oxygen levels) will completely mess up both the filters and the mind receiving the data. Yet knowing this doesn’t change most people’s opinion that what they see and sense is Really Real Reality. But there seems to be something beneath that sense data and filtering. Usually.

For example…
Just because you’re so off your face that the cars whizzing past you on the street look like Technicolor Unicorns doesn’t alter the cold hard fact that all cars continue to be real – as you will soon find out if you step in front of one. Like Philip K Dick said – reality is that which, if you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. But that still leaves a lot to play with – especially if belief itself can actually alter what you sense as being real, what you filter out… and maybe on some level, in a very small way, the underlying reality itself.

That’s the trouble with magic. It’s so much smaller, subtler, than the hype makes it out to be. The myths and fantasy tales about mages walking through walls, levitating mountains and disintegrating enemies bear as much resemblance to what actually happens as cars exploding in movies does to driving down the road. Of course from inside the mages head, what happens can have the same impact mentally as lifting a mountain with their mind… or indeed, being hit by that car.

It helps a lot to have some way to balance solid reality with subjective imagination. Magicians lacking this are often found in mental health facilities. The ones who do come to an understanding of the difference often develop a kind of ‘model agnosticism’, an ability to switch from one description of reality to another, depending on the needs of the moment – but never ignoring all those cars.

One of the most handy mental tools in modern magic is often stated like this – ‘treat the things you encounter as if they are real, not as real’. It’s a key concept in the work of Austin Spare and informs many of the less dogmatic Fortean theorists like Jacques Vallee and Patrick Harpur. There’s a need in magical practice for the mage to immerse themselves in belief – if they don’t believe in what they’re doing, the magic doesn’t work too well – but that all too often leads to slipping into the oh-so-easy mindset that the belief system they’re immersed in is Real. The ‘as if’ rule-of-thumb helps guard against this.
(Crowley’s technique of working intently within a belief system until you get a magical result and then dropping that belief system completely, swapping another one in and repeating the process is also quite instructive. Eventually.)

It’s a lot easier to deal with some of the heavier results of magical working – such as being faced with something that looks, sounds and acts very much like a god/demon/angel/alien – if you can take that one step back and act as if it’s what it looks like, not that it really is that. Though at the same time, it’s a good idea to treat the alleged apparent entity with the same degree of respect as you would if they were Really Real. That’s just polite. And much, much safer than not doing so.

————

I’m very aware that this piece is kind of loose and non-specific. That’s the nature of the beast. I’ll likely waffle on more about this in later posts.

For a longer and better consideration of the subjective nature of perceived reality, you could do a lot worse than reading Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Cosmic Trigger Volume 1’.

(Next on Guttershaman – a quick guide to spellcasting. Thoughts on the misuse of scientific terminology. And maybe some of the things I promised last time.)


Choose your superstition wisely…

29 July, 2008

Been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, but this is too good to ignore…

Birmingham (UK) city council has blocked its staff from looking at some religious websites, but not others:

Lawyers at the National Secular Society said the move by Birmingham City Council was “discriminatory” and they would consider legal action.

The rules also ban sites that promote witchcraft, the paranormal, sexual deviancy and criminal activity.

The city council declined to comment on the possible legal action, but said the new system helped make it easier for managers to monitor staff web access.

The authority’s Bluecoat Software computer system allows staff to look at websites relating to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions but blocks sites to do with “witchcraft or Satanism” and “occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism”.

Nice that they class atheism as a form of mysticism… but otherwise really dumb.


Fortean twosome

4 July, 2008

Firstly, noting the death of Lyall Watson, author of Supernatural (and my favourite of his work, Gifts of Unknown Things), aged 69. A true pioneer.

Also this… faceless ‘aliens’ at Wimbledon.

Clearly someone’s gone to a lot of trouble over this. Is it a viral marketing bit? A little Operation Mindfuck action? The Anonymous crew pulling a fast one? Hopefully, time will tell.

EDIT – well, that didn’t take long. It was indeed a marketing ploy. For a fucking car. Oh well.