Two Abuses of the Renaissance Sage’s Eros-Magic, Part 2: Mind Control: Ioan Couliano and a Vision of the Internalized Archon

Wrong line

Never allow anyone the luxury of assuming that because the dead and deadening scenery of the American-city-of-dreadful-night is so utterly devoid of mystery, so thoroughly flat-footed, sterile and infantile, so burdened with the illusory gloss of “baseball-hotdogs-apple pie-and-Chevrolet” that it is somehow outside the psycho-sexual domain. The eternal pagan psychodrama is escalated under these “modern” conditions precisely because sorcery is not what “20th century man” can accept as real…

–James Shelby Downard and Michael A. Hoffman II

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Many millions of people believe we are more or less living in The Matrix, an illusory reality in which our minds are imprisoned in bodies by “archonic” forces whose motives are less than philanthropic. The idea that the earth is flat has recently become a marginal fad; apparently none of its proponents are familiar with how gnomon shadows differ in length at noon, which can be proven with a phone call to friends in another daylit city…Tens of thousands of Americans (maybe more) sincerely believe “crisis actors” play both the victims and relatives of victims in mass shooting and terror events, funded by the Bond villain George Soros and other globalist-leftists bent on disarming the populace. Perhaps hundreds of thousands believe that the UN’s “sustainable development” plan Agenda 21 is a nefarious, full-spectrum plot to strip cities of autonomy, despite the fact that it’s a non-binding agreement and has no lawful status anywhere in the US. Millions of evangelical Christians think a conspiracy exists in public education and the entertainment industry to make their children gay or bisexual.

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Here’s a truism: It’s natural for people in a society to exhibit fear at the possibility of losing control, whether it’s a loss of their “destiny,” a loss of life-narrative, or loss of self-determinative identity. In America, the WTO, NAFTA, GATT and other trade agreements led to the evisceration of many industries as corporations moved manufacturing elsewhere. There is no longer any job security—and with that, one’s identity as a productive citizen. To conspiracists, your acquisitive desires, which persist despite your job loss, are not your own, but the capitalist culture-makers’ mind-control machine, that has colonized your mind from birth.

When people compensate for these existential fears by believing their self is being manipulated—or has been created wholesale, even—by forces determined to use it and throw it away like packaged goods, we should not judge them too harshly, because there’s a case to be made that their agency has in fact been compromised…just not to the degree of their brains floating in vats.

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Truism: Trust in government has steadily eroded since the late 1960s. A direct and expanding line wends through the era of the JFK Warren Report to the Pentagon Papers to Watergate to the 1975-77 CIA Senate hearings to Iran-Contra to 9/11[1] to every “whatever-gate” since. With each revelation comes a further confirmation that the US government harbors enemies of humanity, and the American people and their freedom specifically.

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The right and the left have their own versions of this evil scheme: the right, that transnational think-tanks such as the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations have put in the fix on the American way of life for the benefit of the Elite; and the left that simple Republican Brand® greed has ended up doing the same. Both have their version of industrial society as a restaurant in which you and I are on the only items on the menu.

On the right, critics since the 1960s have condemned the depictions of “aberrant” behavior in movies, music and television; to them, portrayal alone signals normalization (and even endorsement) of behaviors…The left hammers both cultural conservatives and evangelical Christians for imposing their morality on the rest of the population via legislation, boycotts, etc.

Yet both sides in the culture wars have endured enervation in their long fights. Call it outrage fatigue.

Just the way the Power That Be want it, naturally. The PTB are playing the Big Game for the long haul.

Both sides have also their own versions of what constitutes cultural conditioning—programming—and what it means to be programmed. Analyses of herd psychology had its popular heyday in the years after World War Two, when we were given barbarous lessons in what groupthink can achieve via the Nazis and the USSR under Stalin.

This diagnosis of our enemies’ pathology was expected; to turn the critical-historical eye upon America and pathologize the “winner’s” culture was both unexpected and outrageous. But turn some eyes did, in the works of C. Wright Mills, Lewis Mumford, and the Frankfurt School expatriates. The conformity of the “organization man” and the “authoritarian personality” and Mr. Type A got a fierce pummeling in the 1950s, and the conservative-liberal establishment didn’t like it one bit.

The young Boomers took these critiques to heart before attempting to eat their own left-leaning mentors in the mid-to-late 1960s.

Truism: It is human nature to seek scapegoats; they’re much easier to use than to uncover the convolutions of events that explain why things have turned the way they turned out. To have a system as scapegoat is even easier. One has to employ tight arguments and an evidence-chain as systematic and far-reaching as what is attacked, otherwise the critique is just unfalsifiable hot air.

Today, it seems, a statement’s unfalsifiability has become not just tolerated, but almost a virtue. You can just abandon reason altogether! This is partly because the production of knowledge has become nearly transparent. It thus suffers under the burden of an infinite regression of sourcing:

Where’d you get that fact from?…Uh-huh.

And who funds them?…Of course!

And what’s the funders’ ideological bent?…Just as I thought: it’s (all-caps) fake news!

Under normal circumstances, laying bare the epistemology of facts/factoids in this manner would be a welcome development. People deserve to know how news is made and what sources politicians use to make their arguments and policy.

But to accept the “chains of evidence” for policies yet neglect the workaday methodologies used by both sides in the think-tank wars is dangerous. The social sciences are in crisis; even some of the foundational theses in psychology, economics, and sociology have been discovered to be gerrymandered or outright false.[2]

Knowledge has become shaky. The impartial and disinterested patina of High Science is very impressive to the public, until the sausage-making of High Science itself comes under study and the sociology and politics of scientific publishing and peer-review are shown to be driven by $$ and some very invested egos. Legitimate vs. illegitimate process has become equated with legitimate vs. illegitimate knowledge, and rightly so. This dichotomy directly impacts us in the realms of medicine/pharma use, the “vaccine wars,” GMO food production safety, etc.

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In our new era of source scrutiny, if only one link in the knowledge process is “tainted,” the whole edifice is then seen as tainted. The most glaring and touted example, just noted: The funding pool for scientific studies is a finite resource, and will be fought over in any field of enquiry. This means science is not immune to the market economics of capitalism.

Thus all knowledge becomes suspect as having either been purchased by a corporation for a specific result or produced solely to generate further scientific journal citations, and thus more funding or tenure-track for those academics willing to risk falsification of results in order to GET A SECURE JOB in a very insecure economy.

The long, cooling shadow of the Frankfurt School’s deconstructions of the “capitalist superstructure” once again is palpable. You can make the choice right here: believe there’s a conscious conspiracy to engineer mass consciousness towards technocratic solutions and cull the herd via compulsive high-tech science “cures,” or you can view bogus scientific studies as the product of market forces and a collapsing social structure as the truth behind the Ongoing Crisis.

But the foregoing is what we might call how the content of news is made. There’s also its form of its delivery; and to the psychology of its economic foundations—advertising revenue—we look back to the early decades of the 20th century, when Pavlov conditioned his dogs with the bell to salivate on command and Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays took Siggy’s obsession with sex and bent the public’s frustrated sexual desires into a surrogate—material acquisition—thus birthing one of the advertising industry’s mightiest axioms. T.H. Huxley took Darwin’s big idea and told us we were only hairless simians; Marx told us we were economic hairless simians seeking freedom from wage slavery; Einstein told us it was all relative; Pavlov made the economic hairless simians function like cause-and-effect machines, and Bernays bound up those causes and effects with the Eros drive his uncle had propounded.

Truism: this prison planet worldview smacks of ancient Gnosticism, particularly the two schools of Valentinus (100-160 CE) and Basilides (100-145? CE). Both believed the universe to be a botched creation of a lesser deity, YHWH, who through hubris broke with the Eternal and compounded a cosmos of matter and entropy, a mockery of the Pleroma (holy plenitude) and the principles that governed that distant heaven. The stars and planets of our cosmos are the true governors (archons) of individual human fates, and humans are utterly bound into an “invisible” evil prison from which only knowledge of Sophia and the Divine Spark within can save us.

Cue Morpheus and the two pills.

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HISTORY OF AN IDEA

The prison idea first began, perhaps, with Plato’s cave-myth 2,400 years ago. And some strains in Hindu mysticism posited that everything was a single ever-changing illusion, which Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment “emptied” of essence in the 5th century BCE.

In the European legacy, we’ve endured Descartes’s thought experiment involving a trickster demon creating our subjective reality (and its 20th century variant, the “brain in a vat,” which still labors on in The Matrix). Within the past decades we’ve had Daniel Boorstin’s idea of the “pseudo-event” replacing meaningful discourse in American politics, and Jean Baudrillard’s ideas of the simulation being the coin of post-industrial communication.

Some arcane variants of this prison idea propose that mass literacy changed the human population’s neural patterning on a large scale, making it easily amenable to manipulation.[3] This assumption makes it possible for some critics to posit that literacy limits the thinkable and stunts our emotional intelligence or intuition/intuitive powers; the linearity of our cognitive ego-constructs therefore belabors our unconscious perception of others’ verbal inflection, cues, body language, scents, etc. The strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis—that vocabulary and syntax can limit semantic conceptualization—continues to live on in conspiracists’ diatribes via the charge that Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) is a form of subtle mind-control. The deterministic hypothesis also lives on, albeit of a deprogramming kind, in Alfred Korzybski’s General Semantics.

More radical critics of modernity elevate traditional, oral cultures over the literate. The “noble savage” is alive and well and can be found hawking ayahuasca ritual tours for $2,500 a pop in South America.

On the other hand, media theorist Marshall McLuhan claimed in the 1960s that the “West” was entering a post-literate age, and that image-based mentation (as opposed to alphabetic-linguistic) was actually on the rise.[4] With the proliferation of television, movies, personal computer, and Internet consumption, it’s hard to argue against McLuhan’s hypothesis. Iconography has returned via memes, emojis, acronyms, IM shorthand, computer gaming, corporate logos, YouTube videos…

Computer world

But if we go back 530 years to the Italian Renaissance we discover an obsession with images and symbology comparable to today’s. The Hermetic scholars Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, and Giordano Bruno concerned themselves with images’ ability to form and bind thinking by means of “infecting” the human imagination.[5]

Images are static upon the page, but they can become living things in the mind. Ficino and Bruno constructed magical systems using phantasia that “imprinted upon the human soul.” These images inherently used our natural imagination to enliven them with unconscious mental affect. The binding element was Eros, according to Ficino and Bruno. The love of self is bound up with the love of other in an erotic-somatic sense (sexual love), but the archetype-eidos of Eros precedes all manifestations of it in the individual’s world; this is a pure affirmation of the Platonic conception of Ideas as filtered through the Neoplatonists such as Iamblichus.[6] For Ficino, Eros is the background upon which any archetypes can operate at all, for even the sensations of horror and revulsion and hate (emotions tied in with Jung’s shadow archetype in depth psychology, for instance) are at the deepest level founded upon “self-love” by way of the need for the preservation of both body and mind.

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THE STOICS

To understand the ecology of Renaissance magic we must understand parts of the Stoics’s philosophy and its winding path to the Renaissance scholars via the Neoplatonists of the 1st-5th centuries CE.

The Stoics of the 3rd century BCE believed in a universe composed of one primary substance, the pneuma (breath, spirit/soul, “wind”). The pneuma of the universe was steered by the cosmic hegemonikon (controlling center/mind) and its Logos (reason), which had created everything by means of varying the degrees of pneumatic tension of each entity.

The universe was a pneumatic continuum in differing degrees of boundedness or “tightness.” All objects and their qualities, potentialities, appearances were pneumatic phantasms.

Human beings were considered somewhat unique because their own hegemonikon, centered in the heart, could control one’s actions, emotions, and thoughts by means of its share in the logos—and this also structurally reflected the cosmic hegemonikon’s logos.

Thus the microcosm of the human being reflected the macrocosm of the universe.

The Stoic theories of phenomenology and epistemology were complex and interrelated. Since all is pneuma, the world’s tightly constituted object-appearances (phantaston) would ripple through the less-dense air to impinge upon the eyes, ears, skin, etc. These would impress themselves upon the hegemonikon as images (phantasia) with a sort of physical weight.

Our hegemonikon would thus gradually become filled with images of the world; language was simply a prop to arbitrarily label things and actions, but even in this arbitrariness it could create an intelligible system of relations.

Propositions of language could be true or false to the phantasia inside a person’s hegemonikon, depending upon the disposition of the outer pneuma-phantaston at a given instant (this theory anticipates Wittgenstein and Russell’s logical atomism by 2,300 years).

Agreement between the phantasia within and the outer world led to truth. For instance, “the cat sits on the mat” is a proposition whose truth depends upon 1) what time it is uttered,[7] 2) the agreed-upon existence and appearance of cats, mats, the act of sitting, and 3) the presupposition of both an observing human hegemonikon and the cosmic hegemonikon that in principle underwrites the truth of the entire scene. The proposition can be spoken in any one of the world’s 6,000 languages; every one of them is phonetically arbitrary but possesses a deep structure independent of language that is a direct revelation of the cosmic hegemonic logos (in this, the Stoics anticipated Chomsky’s theory of transformational grammar by 2,300 years also).

So the phantaston-to-phantasia has efficacy: it affects the disposition of the human hegemonikon in a physical manner. Much papyrus was used and ink soaked in disputations over the reality or non-reality of the lekta (“meaning”) of linguistic propositions, but being proto-epiphenomenalists, the Stoics waved away lekta as a side effect of spoken vibrations or written words. They were more concerned with the fact that the impressions could be true or false to the will of the cosmic hegemonikon (obviously, this dismissal was a huge inconsistency in their philosophy).

Their belief in pneumatic resonance and agreement between the soul (another way of saying hegemonikon) and the world soul was the important part.

For this agreement there was a special class of experience: the phantasia kataleptike (unshakeable impression/irreproachable image). The Stoics would class certain sense-experiences with this phrase, but classing it such would be dependent on conjunction of phantaston, the personal hegemonikon’s physical disposition (e.g., if we have a high fever or have ingested hallucinogens then we cannot completely trust our concurrent sense-impressions as kataleptic), and the cosmic hegemonikon. That is to say, there must be an alignment between the outer, objective world, the observer’s state of mind, and the will of God. As scholar Ioan Couliano put it,

For the Stoics, the functional relationship between the cardiac synthesizer (hegemonikon) and the pneuma was clearly determined: the hegemonikon “is like a receiving post to which all impressions received by the senses are communicated.” On the other hand, the Stoic philosophers also develop a theory of phantasms produced by the hegemonikon. For Chrysippus (the greatest philosopher of the Stoa, who clarified their doctrines), the clear representation of the sensory object formed in the cardiac synthesizer is called phantasia kataleptike or “comprehensive representation” and leads naturally to a rational adhesion (synkatasthesis). The main difference between Aristotle and the Stoics consists in the fact that the latter think the pneuma is the soul itself, whereas the former believe it to be only a kind of ethereal intermediary between the soul and the physical body. That is why the Stoics conceive of fantasy, according to Zeno and Cleanthes, as a “stamp upon the soul,” a typosis en psyche.[8] (explanation added).

To align one’s hegemonikon entirely with that of the cosmic hegemonikon was the Stoics’s ethical goal; by aligning oneself with its “will,” one could accept all that occurred in life with equanimity, tranquility, and preserve the integrity of one’s piece of the whole, our personal hegemonikon.

By this route, an individual could at least attain towards the state of the Stoic sage, a person who has done the will of God/Cosmos. At death, the coherence of this pneumatic logos-entity could survive for a time before dissolving itself into everything, like a drop of water into the pneumatic sea. This condition depends upon the clarity and tranquility of the soul, in a striking parallel to Vedantic and Buddhist state of samadhi:

Later, Epictetus is to state that phantasms are influenced by the state of the pneuma that receives or conceives them. He resorts to a comparison: “just as houses at the edge of a body of clear water are reflected in its limpid surface, so also are external objects reflected in our psychic pneuma, with the obvious result that they are influenced by the present state of the pneuma.” In order that the image is reflected in the mirror of the pneuma may be precise and faithful to their subject, the pneuma itself must be tranquil and pure. So it is that Epictetus, continuing and developing the moral preoccupations of the Stoics, combined them with the doctrine of spirit: to have a clean pneuma, a well-polished cardiac mirror, becomes the equivalent of being virtuous. Here Stoicism find itself in the company of the whole Platonic tradition, whose most important practical outcome is to obtain, by a suitable technique, the separation of the soul from the body so that the former may not be sullied by the latter. Beginning in the second century A.D., a technique of this kind is known as theurgy, which primarily designates a purification of the soul for purposes of soothsaying in the benefic exalted magic but also for pursuit of a better posthumous destiny.[9]

 

NEOPLATONIC ADAPTATION

Theurgy may be defined as ritual action intended to make contact with another sphere of existence by utilizing forces higher than the human to elevate one’s consciousness and being to that same level. It is the framework of magic as we know it.

Many Romans adopted the Stoic philosophy as a living ethic. Its ideas survived and flourished in Hellenistic Alexandria, where hundreds of cults and religion battled each other for adherents as the Roman Empire disintegrated. The religion of Mithraism utilized Stoic astronomical dogma as one basis of its beliefs.[10] Plato’s Academy survived and adopted distinctly Stoic elements. As Couliano notes,

Credit for having synthesized in an original fashion the Platonic, Aristotelian, and Stoic elements that make up the theoretical basis for Renaissance magic is due to Synesius of Cyrene, who, having been a disciple of the Neoplatonist martyr, Hypatia of Alexandria (d.415), ended by converting to Christianity and becoming a bishop…That is why the theurgic preliminary to any process classified among the practices of spiritual magic will be “cleansing one’s pneuma” or hegemonikon, or a “cleansing one’s heart”…While theurgy assumes the place of honor as far as (the Neoplatonic follower of Plotinus) Iamblichus is concerned, Synesius holds the pneumatic synthesizer responsible for soothsaying and magic…We have already seen that Epictetus compared the pneuma to a basin filled with water, a liquid mirror. Plutarch of Chaeronea is the first to speak of a “pure mirror,” nothing more. For Synesius this double-faced mirror provides the opportunity for two parallel surfaces to meet on neutral territory. In so far is it is the intermediary between the intelligential world and the sensory world, this mirror, if perfectly clear, will make it possible for inner judgment to contemplate the world above epitomized by the reasoning part of the soul, and will give the latter the opportunity to perceive and to judge the sensory objects whose image is transmitted to common sense through the external senses.[11]

We may then say, following Couliano’s thought, that the theurgy of the Neoplatonists is a clarification into practice of the Stoic program of achieving hegemonic purity, plus methods of aligning oneself with the gods or God.

In the Platonic hierarchy of truth, an artist’s representation of reality lay at the bottom and the Form of the True at the top, in the realm of Forms. His dialogue Timaeus presents an Egyptian-influenced vision of the virtuous souls’ destination in the stars at death. Intermediaries between the heavenly world and human beings were daimons, beings that delivered messages, portends, and prophecy, most of the time while a person was in a altered state of consciousness.

But even these living meldings of “phantaston with phantasia” had their corresponding perfect Forms in the Otherworld:

Since the phantasmic synthesizer affords the possibility of an encounter with a world peopled with divine powers, and since, according to Platonic dogma, this world is homologous to the intelligential world, there is a way of acting upon the synthesizer to invoke numerous presences. This invocation, resulting in the company of gods and demons, can be carried out by using certain substances, forms, and colors to which the higher beings are sensitive.[12]

This is the basis of ceremonial magic as it was known in the Renaissance. It is only in Eros that we share with everything, much like the pneumatic relation between person and cosmos, that we are also a part of the daimons (the intermediaries invoked by theurgy), and they of us. They slumber in our consciousness, and awake in our dreams. They invade our conscious life and speak in daydreams.

To control and strengthen these manifestations is the goal of the magician, and these spirits each are stamped with qualities that one can come to know through study and the imaginative faculty. Magicians intone chants physically through the pneuma, make physical images using pneumatic phantaston that resonate with higher powers, and internalize the resulting forces by means of pneuma.

A text called On Radiations by Iraqi philosopher Al-Kindi (801-873 CE) is the source of a theory that, when wedded with Stoic ideas of the pneuma, produces a full account of how magic physically, emotionally, and spiritually operates:

The fundamental idea of (On Radiations), only one among the 270 that the historiographer al-Nadim attributes to its author, is that each star has its own nature, which it communicates to the surrounding world by means of rays. Now the influence of stellar radiations upon terrestrial objects changes as a function of the mutual aspects that the stars and the objects produce. Besides, (pre-existing) substances receive the qualities of rays in different ways according to their intrinsic properties, which are hereditary (whence it is apparent, for instance, that the son of the king will have a natural disposition to rule and the son of a laborer to follow his father’s calling.)

Al-Kindi believed that in addition to the stars, the elements emitted rays. Thus everything compounded of the four elements emanated its unique presence. This was a novel idea:

According to al-Kindi, we find ourselves in the midst of an invisible network of rays coming from the stars as well as from all earthly objects. The entire universe, from the most distant stars to the humblest blade of grass, makes its presence known by its radiations at every point in space, and every moment in time; and its presence, of course, varies according to the intensity and mutual influence of the rays of the universe, so that there cannot be two things truly identical to one another. Besides the psychic emotions (joy, sorrow, hope, fear) are also transmitted to the surrounding world in the form of invisible radiations, which also mark their changes, according to the arrangement of every (pre-existent) substance.[13]

The Stoic idea of fate as determined by initial conditions plays a part as well, a binding force for individuals and all objects.

EROS AND BINDING

Ficino’s and especially Bruno’s “Art of Memory” play the primary role in the creation of externalized phantasia (or as the Indians and Tibetans call them, tulpas). The “memory theater” was a mnemonic system meant to enshrine the associative constellations between the stars, the elements, colors, seals, herbs, properties etc. in the mind of a magician and combine all of them into unique sigils as a sort of shorthand formula for their recollection, activation, and projection. Based upon “tagging” the parts of a building or room with individual ideas, these associations could be internalized and became living presences in the magician’s psyche. A “walk” through one’s memory palace could then instantly call up an entire rite. The magician was to meditate upon these walks for hours, for days at a time, Erotically imagining them as the architecture of both psyche and the world-psyche. In this way they could eventually be projected outward physically via the pneuma or vibrated through it in coherent form towards a target, creating the desired situation, whether it be love of a person, the death or sickness of a person, to find treasure, etc., from combinations of the symbolic-sigillic elements. The magician’s control over their personal hegemonikon’s phantasia could use the intervening pneuma between itself and the Cosmic Hegemonikon to either evoke a pre-existent “familiar helping spirit” or physically form a daimon with which to communicate and do their bidding.

To what uses these creations were put was up to the purity of the magician’s hegemonikon.

The architects of our subconscious bestiary today are not so pure—or so say today’s conspiriologists.

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THE TABULA RASA GETS A BRUTAL DOWNLOAD

Of course, systems such as Ficino and Bruno’s were dismissed, debunked, and plowed under by the empirical sciences from roughly 1650 to the present. Modern empiricism, born from Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke’s ideas of the human mind as a blank slate, matured through the positivism of Comte and the Encyclopedists (Isaac Newton’s nocturnal alchemical and Hermetic studies became an untidy historical secret until recently).

But as Couliano revealed, the system of eidos-image/emblemata/logo, Erotic binding, and “infection” of the mass imagination goes on today through media that was unimaginable in scope and sensible power by the Renaissance magician…but still recognizable in its purpose: control of humanity, by means of stimulating physical and psychological change in individual millions of hegemonika.

Human desires can be channeled by means of Eros and imagination. As PR guru Edward Bernays touted, “sex sells!” Capitalism demands you be dissatisfied with both your body and mind, and presents a million puerile cures.

Hypnotic association of the soul/psyche with one’s physical body lay at the heart of this spell. Our science hammers into us from birth that we are only atoms and void (much like the first beliefs of the Epicureans and the Gnostics). Our agency, via Eros, is tied up with this body-identification, having been rehearsed over our formative years, making our separating any deeper self from the association very difficult.

The magic that was meant for the sage’s personal illumination has been used to bind us.

As noted in Part One,

1) the techniques of magic and alchemy were kept secret by practitioners because public revelation of them meant the methods would be put to secular uses and disaster/enslavement would inevitably result.

2) We are in the midst of disaster(s); therefore,

3) secret techniques of magic and alchemy have been used by secular forces to bring us to this point (“secular forces” who nevertheless are purported to covertly believe in some “ancient religion,” whether it is worship of our “Sirian/Lyran/Vegan alien masters,” the Egyptian Ennead, Sumerian/Akkadian gods or demons, etc. and are doing these beings’ bidding until they return to earth).[14]

Many conspiracists throw around this invalid, messy syllogism. One could well argue the second proposition is false, or that the first is not a necessary truth at all (mass knowledge of the mysteries does not result in disaster, and it is safe for all to know about them), or, most cogently, that the frickin world doesn’t need the forces of perverted magic to become a disaster or tyrannous hellhole.

The paranoids are ignorant or disparaging of “mainstream” history, psychology, sociology, the history of natural magic and alchemy, information theory, complexity and chaos theory, game theory, etc.—the list could go on. Conspiracists such as David Wilcock, David Icke, Michael Hoffman, and Chris Knowles accept the conclusion/a worldview and then look for the evidence of secret societies manipulating events to fit. Improbable coincidence or synchronicity is usually invoked as the marker, both that one has stumbled upon something occultly important (to fit one’s worldview), and as the signature of the secret “game masters” trying to communicate their staged events’ meaning to the “enlightened” few.

The sense that one’s personal agency has been compromised, that one is a prisoner in either body or socially or societally, is purely subjective and dependent upon one’s unique psychological history. This fact is usually to always suppressed by the conspiracy-monger. Yes, we are processed and yes we are manipulated, to certain degrees, but the efficacy of that processing is never predestined or assured. It is possible to be exploited by the Powers that Be, but one only has to critically study the capitalist methods of consent-creation, fear-induction, and the responses many individuals have as individuals to see that the gilded bullshit is perceived by many as just that: gold-plated turds.

 


[1] 9/11 was not just “the most horrendous terrorist attack in American history”; if you’re going to say that, you must simultaneously say it was also the most horrendous bureaucratic intelligence failure in American history, entirely avoidable, and belongs on the list of catastrophic, trust-eroding scandals.

[2]

[3] This too has a precedent in Plato’s philosophy: he decries the reliance upon what we would call “book learning” instead of dialoguing and thinking itself as superior forms of philosophizing, which had a different connotation back then. With advances in understanding epigenetics, it is now hypothesized that the ability to comprehend text may be passed on genetically (in distinction to Noam Chomsky’s Platonic idea that language-comprehension is an inherent human property).

[4] With the rise of the personal computer, the internet, and “peak television,” it’s hard to argue with him. Iconography has returned via memes, emojis, acronyms, shorthand, computer gaming,

[5] I am going to frankly ignore cognitive science findings on human’s imaginative ability because 1) scientists do not use “imagination” in the sense the Stoics, Neoplatonists, medieval philosophers, and Romantics did, and 2) they have no agreed-upon idea how a modular-memory concept of imagination might be explained by the brain-area and algorithm-modeled approach they use.

[6] Iamblichus’s elevation of Eros was also inspired by the cosmology of the Chaldean Oracles, who viewed it as the binding force.

[7] Although strictly, time did not exist for the Stoics; since all was one living being ultimately, everything was in process and stages of transformation. The pneumatic vibrations of the cosmos at any given time determined the events that would follow any given instance. They were obsessed with emanations from the stars and seven classical planets that determined fate.

[8] Couliano, Ioan. Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, University of Chicago, 1987. Pg. 113

[9] Ibid, pg. 113.

[10] David Ulansey believes the ultimate mystery at the center of the Mithraic cult is knowledge of the equinoctial precession, which was celebrated in the bull (Taurus)-slaying scene inaugurating the age of Pisces that the Mithraics lived under but was soon to end. This knowledge, Ulansey claims, came from Stoic astronomers of Phrygia.

[11] Couliano, pgs. 114-115.

[12] Ibid, pg. 115.

[13] Ibid, pgs. 119-120. Here we have a forerunner of ideas like the Akashic field and David Bohm’s implicate order in physics, but it is underpinned by some wild blend of Neoplatonic Oneness and Heraclitan flux, that is, a hieros gamos of chaos (the ever-changing intersectional networks) and stillness (the binding force behind the elements).

[14] This is part of the thesis of “William Bramley’s” infamous ancient aliens/Illuminati history book, The Gods of Eden, which in turn is based on the works of Zechariah Sitchin.

A Perverse Horology…

Sundialgnomon

Rocks are computationally equivalent to humans.–Stephen Wolfram

The basis of the universe-as-machine metaphor stretches back into antiquity. Natural regularities observed from the beginning of human history form the background for this belief:

-The round of day into night.

-Moon phases.

-The seasons

-The solstices and equinoxes relative to the sun’s rising/setting over local “markers:” trees, mountains, building edges, etc.

-The wandering planets’ regular courses.

-Birth-growth-flourishing-senescence-death.

The “clockwork universe” idea became a dominant analogy for scientists after Laplace’s determinism gained widespread currency early in the 18th century, but you might say it originally began with the ancient astronomers who timed the days, months, seasons, years, ages, and precessions. They modeled these relationships with orreries and planetaria. The gnomon/sundial gave rise to the daily hours and their division. From the Babylonians to the Romans, each hour had its own deity, overseen by greater deities that managed them: a celestial bureaucracy.

orrery

       To the ancient mind, the stars and planets were connected to events on earth; Sirius’s heliacal rising caused the Nile’s inundation of its plains for the Egyptians, either by direct spiritual force or by a resonance. The universe was not “dead matter” blindly obeying laws—it was a living being full of lesser daimons communicating etheric signals about and through the eternal laws that regulated this superorganism’s body. Some persons were gifted enough to see these beings and the relationships.

We were parts of this continuum, and reflected its regularities. As above, so below; as below, so above.

clepsydra

       Water clocks like the Greek clepsydra existed in ancient India, China, Babylon, and Egypt; these were probably tied to measuring the precise durations for human activities like cooking, smelting, and religious services. The Antikythera mechanism of 100-105 BCE is probably an orrery. The clepsammia (hourglass) was invented in Hellenistic Alexandria; it most likely took only a few months or even weeks for its inventor to match with a sundial the size of the two glass bells and the amount and quality of sand to get an accurate measure of the 60-minute hour, and notate the completed object’s sand quantities/dimensions.

hourglass

       In 1090 CE, Chinese inventor Su Song built an elaborate water clock for the purpose of determining the heavenly bodies’ positions during the royal concubines’ births if cloudy weather occurred during those times.[i] In the 14th century, John Dondi built a very complex clockwork orrery; a spring mechanism was wound and clicked at regular intervals to show the movements of the planets and sun about the earth. The need to time monastic worship activities led to water clocks and eventually bell-tolls connected to complex gear mechanisms, such as the clock in the Prague town square, built in 1410.

prague

       All of these involve representing natural phenomena into a single mechanism that link the two levels/worlds, local and celestial, mesocosmic and macrocosmic, as a time “keeper.”

Two centuries ago, a metaphor linking living organisms and machines—especially clocks—began to be used loosely in the scientists’ discourse. To what degree this mistaken equivalence has impacted the “Western noosphere” of lived experience is still unknown. But the signs point.

——————

In ancient myths, there were near-countless “frames” or metaphors with which to characterize living beings (and the cosmos as a whole).

Magicians in antiquity had to observe and tune themselves with the rhythms of nature in order to manipulate it. Some of the pre-Socratic philosophers cast aside elemental “animism” (as well as the Greek city-states’ deities and cosmogonies) in favor of abstract principles or forces as the “first causes” that could then be viewed disinterestedly.[ii]

Personification and projection into natural phenomena had to be eliminated from the subject/object relationships for the supposed clarity of the “primary principle” to come into view.

And this is what these philosophers did; it was the beginning of the long march towards materialistic scientism.[iii]

WorldtreeVesicatree

       Before the pre-Socratics, countless analogies in world cultures were imagined for the universe’s origin and its regularities: the cosmic egg, the triune cosmic egg (underworld/middleworld/upperworld), the cosmic tree, the wheel of the Zodiac, the Heavenly Millstone which described both the constellations spinning about the Pole star and the equinoctial precession. Yet they were more than analogies; they were the actual primordial forms of the familiar earthbound objects that reflected them. The canopy of the Milky Way was the milk-vortex of Vishnu, the Milk of Hera, the Silver River, Tiamat’s Tail, Heavenly Ganges

Tiamattail

       Each of these “tropes” fit their source: The Millstone and Wheel of Heaven mirrored the iris/pupil of the human eye, the sun disc, the moon disc. The mythemes originated through isomorphism.

But isomorphism is only one aspect of these images. They functioned to explain the cosmos. The Millstone’s grains—that is, the Polar stars and planets—created human fates instead of flour. In solar myths, the sun was the heart of the deity, the symbol of eternity. In Polar myths, the North Star was the destination of the soul in the afterlife, set in the cave-like darkness that mirrored the underworld, around which the Great Bear and all the other constellations revolved.

Community priest-leaders insisted on preserving their explanatory mythemes, especially when the tribe migrated. Contacting other peoples inevitably altered their beliefs. Upon the discovery of parallel functions and visual motifs in another culture—their speaking each others’ symbolic language, as it were—the mythemes could be syncretized. And for a tribe for whom some aspects of their mythology was “impoverished” in explanatory power or soteriological depth, the new belief systems could fill in the gaps or deepen the understanding of their own deities. They absorbed aspects the “alien” culture’s symbols and rituals that their own lacked.[iv]

The equivalency between motifs and stories was due to the natural phenomenon that underlay the mytheme and gave rise to specific names and tales.

At the Council of Nicaea, the son and father were legislated to be of the same substance, for once and all. The ideas of cyclical return, daimonic intermediaries, and reincarnation were forbidden. Thus was a kinetic element to universe denied, and the idea of a world-soul was stripped from the Catholic Christianity. Universe and consciousness set once and for all as an unchangeable entity; any evolutionary principle to the universe was forbidden.[v]

Chainbeing

       During Middle Ages Europe, the Great Chain of Being and the ancient idea of celestial spheres were the dominant Western metaphors for the heavens and earth, humanity and animal and landscape–the direct result of the Council’s decisions. This was by all measures a universe that operated like a machine, but was suffused with the will of God.

The triad heaven-earth-underworld, which is as old as shamanism, was preserved in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Dante’s Hades mirrored, in a descending, spiraling action, the three-dimensional nested-domes that surrounded the earth in Aristotle’s philosophy. But by the 15th century, the Neoplatonist interpretations of Plato and Aristotle’s cosmos solidified into dogmatic teachings in the monastic schools. For Aristotle, psyche/psuche—soul—simply meant an entity’s innate ability for self-movement. This was just a bare-bones definition that the Scholastics expanded to include the innate, ghost-like personality via Neoplatonic ideas of astral influence. Contradictions in theology set in, leading to the famous Scholastic quibbling over minute deviations in doctrine. They perceived the contradiction of a universe of eternal laws, the existence of sin and evil, and our possession of free will. Humans were still the fallen images of Adam Kadmon, the prototypical human, but far above the “animal” world in the chain. We were bound in sin by the second Adam, in Eden, but redeemed by the “third Adam,” Jesus. In a sense, Jesus’s sacrifice to show humanity the way destroyed the absolute determinism (mechanism) of original sin: the merciless wheel of causal sin was “broken upon the cross.”

As astronomy progressed with Galileo, Brahe, and Kepler, the signatures of a “universal clock” came more clearly into view. John Harrison’s 1761 timepiece allowed the near-exact determination of longitude as well as precise timing of celestial events. By the late 18th century local time-keeping was nearly perfected, just as an ensoulled cosmos was being officially “invalidated” by our increasing comprehension of physical laws. Gravitational “fields” and electricity came to replace the anima mundi, the universal soul.

—————-

So is the universe a form of machine, tied to clockwork regularities, as many scientists like David Deutsch and Stephen Wolfram insist? Does any hard evidence exist equating the mechanism with biological activity?

Mechanism can be abstracted into the concept of the algorithm: a predictable stepwise transformation/change in a system from one time interval to the next. Although quantum theory can challenge our ideas of time and chaos theory demonstrates the non-linearity of certain systems, (that is, challenging singular, isolated cause-and-effect relations), many science boosters nevertheless retail narratives from the premise that biology=machine. Merely because a resemblance exists.

This equality rests upon the deeply ingrained world of Newtonian causality which holds only at one level of consciousness: our observations of the objects that exist above a certain scale of size and complexity.

We’ve measured the age of this universe: 13.8 billion years. Our best telescopes can peer backwards in time to the purported beginning. Yet space is seemingly endless.

As I said, a vestige of the “world soul” mytheme lingers in the ideas of electromagnetic and gravitational fields—but these latter are responsive to measurement and manipulation. At one time, this manipulation required human ritual that put the shaman or magician in touch with independently existing forces/forms that responded to command. Now we’ve mediated them via physical electronic devices. Today, atoms function with no purpose but to exchange electrons. Humans exist only to propagate offspring and thus their genetic heritage; any higher purpose is an illusion created by our finely tuned brains, the “most complex object in the universe.”[vi] Through a bait-and-switch promoted by scientists like Lawrence Krauss, these gurus have replaced the “whys” of nature with “hows” in order to sidestep questions of teleology. The best they can do for the cosmic birth is that an accident occurred due to a statistical hiccup in the “quantum flux” of nothingness.

In other words, a free miracle.

The same with humanity’s origin: despite today’s mytheme of incremental natural selection, it is only honest to say that the origin of the process is ultimately unknowable. Natural selection is just one part of the evolutionary story; the origins of metabolism and reproduction (both of which are suitable to algorithmic modeling) are still mysterious. No one knows how the hell it happened. But a Krauss will tell you the two processes were simply another set of accidents in the causal chain that birthed the universe/nature. We’re supposed to take this on faith, because Krauss for certain cannot explain it; all he can say is “it must have happened that way!” We are purposeless, but exist (as a radical transhumanist might add with a flourish) to “take control of our evolutionary course from blind chance and achieve a form of immortality.” That’s quite a telos for beings that inherently possess no telos, and prompts the question: is a purpose wrestled over billions of years from the existential void of a meaningless universe actually a purpose, or just more deluded error? Why is the wrestling away of our mortal fate from “blind nature” purposeful, when our own thrown existence is not?

Which leads us back to the origin of the question: the machine as measuring device.

A clock or robot’s origin: human. They are purposive in relation to us, created for a function, whether that function is to crunch numbers or create another machine.

The contradiction that nihilistic science creates is that machines have a purpose for us, yet the “wonderful machines” of nature have no purpose for some Other, whether God or angels or an alien race. Atheist scientists like Krauss think it is illogical or invalid to extrapolate from the human-machine relation to the Creator-nature-humanity relation. He gives no compelling reasons why this should be so. Philosophers like Nick Bostrom argue that we probably live in a simulation by posthumans or extraterrestrials and that if that’s so, all bets are off against God or the supernatural not being “real” in some sense, because even our observable rules of physics could be programmings that only simulated beings such as ourselves would be able to perceive. The creator(s)’ universe may operate on entire different sets of rules.

———————–

What this all comes down to, for me, is the concept of ownership. We appear phenomenologically to ourselves and others as embodied beings subject to misadventure and random occurrences and the entropy of aging. The important words here are “appear” and “embodied.” Thinking about one’s sense of disembodiment such as in a dream state, reverie, or hypnagogia takes place in a time interval; in other words, in order for the loop of self-consciousness (introspection, recognition that one is not in a state of direct embodiment) to occur requires time. Thus a split or doubling occurs. We then can attempt to make of consciousness an object that can be studied—and the body as well. We find ourselves possessors of these experiences, whether we consciously loop into doubling-back and introspection or not.

This process is mirrored in the relationship between the macroscopic world of planets and stars and the clock that sits on the mantle. The clock is our reified doubled-consciousness—the symbol of self-consciousness. But it is only that, and has no relation to the markerless unfolding, outward and upward, expanding and contracting, of an organic being.

 


[i] Richards, E.G. Mapping Time: The Calendar and Its History, Oxford University Press, 1998, pgs. 56-57.

[ii] Plato desperately tried to hew to an ultimate goal for philosophy—transcendence of the imperfect, material world—in his dialectics but was many times sidetracked by Athenian cultural affairs (politics and morality, mostly). With Aristotle, forget it: all talk of ascension by means of rationality found in Plato, which had been modeled on Egyptian funerary/resurrection systems, was banished.

[iii] Strictly, Democritus, Leucippus, Epicurus, and Lucretius were materialist-atheists during the beginning of the Hellenistic Period with their dictum “all is just atoms and the void.” Democritus of Abdera was first to postulate that tiny, indivisible (a-tom in Greek) particles made up everything known in the universe. Democritus used the example/analogy/metaphor of an object being composed of tiny particles that each contained the “proper” nature of the whole object that creates its form (a bit like a fractal hologram, when you think about it!) A wooden table is made at an atomic level of indivisible bits of the element “wood,” which is in turn comprised of water and earth and fire in a defined mixture. One could prove this idea by smashing the table to bits, then pulverizing the bits, then crushing further the pulverized dust, never reaching anything that is not a tiny bit of wood. It can become fire, or earth (think of decayed wood, if it were left alone to rot) and is water-soluble in this form. Democritus extrapolated that if you could continue this splitting you would reach the atom “wood.”

For its time this was quite an astounding conceptual leap—invisible constituents that construct physical objects. Today we can say that sets of organic molecules arranged in certain ways give wood the properties it has, but ultimately we would arrive at a “characterless, property-less” atom whose number of electrons and aggregated determines the properties/qualities the macroscopic object will have.

[iv] In just one example, see Raphael Patai’s The Hebrew Goddess on the assimilation of Akkadian-Ugaritic goddess Athirat/Ashtart as the “wife of Yahweh,” Asherah, in the earliest Jewish faiths. Asherah was a “foreign” deity whose banishment and reinstitution occurred dozens of times over centuries in the many Hebrew tribal communities. Just as a cult of Mary was practiced alongside the Nicaean Christianity of Catholicism for 1,500 years until she was ratified as near-equal to Jesus in the 19th and 20th centuries, the rabbis exploring the Kabbalah retained the feminine divine presence in the Shekinah via the Sephirot from Hellenistic times to the present.

[v] Scott, Ernest. The People of the Secret, Octagon Press, 1985, pgs. 42-43.