Damien Williams back on the show. This week is more about the religious and occult aspects of the information society we currently inhabit. Fresh definitions and understandings of magick and the occult, musings on the type of future we actually want to live in, and on the practice of magick and the will.
KF: I kind of see this book as a users’ guide to the human brain. The brain, the missing manual; that sort of thing. What is the book, in your own words? Maybe we’ll start with Taylor then Bill can chime in.
TE: First of all, I want to acknowledge that Bill is kind of the originator of the book. He had already been working on it for a while and I want to give a little history here, just because I think it speaks to what the book’s about. He came to me about four or five years ago and said, “I’m working on this book. I’m kind of hitting a place where I’m feeling really blocked. Would you be willing to help me co-write it because you’ve done some similar stuff with some of your other writing?” I thought it over and I said, “Yeah, sure.”
It’s been a long road to get this book put together. I mean, it’s turned into three e-books and a workbook which speaks to it. So what do we see it as? I think I see it as a catalog of certainly stuff related to the brain but really behaviors and actions that can come out of being more aware of the brain and how it programs a lot of our behavior. That’s my take on it. Bill, what would you say to that?
BW: Well, I think we’ve tried to produce a taxonomy, a way of categorizing behavioral practices, things that can be described in purely behavioral terms; that actually have a measurable neurological effect on people, physiological effect on people. Things that you can learn to do that could be said to truly impact your skills as far as fundamental human activities; things like concentration, memory, metabolism; things that impact pretty much anything you would want to do in your life.
We’ve tried to abstract that as much as possible from any specific tradition because in many ways, the traditions these things come out of have a tendency to separate out people as much as they bring them in. Someone will say, “Well, psychology is too cold or inhuman for me” or “I don’t do Eastern mysticism” or “That’s too fuzzy and spiritual”, any reason to not try the thing themselves, whereas in behavioral terms, these are things that you can learn to do that will change your level of skill as a human being.
Entertainment Weekly is running a three page preview of Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s forthcoming comic Nameless, which sounds a bit like a return to some of the themes explored in The Filth. Here’s Morrison’s description:
Nameless is my first collaboration with Chris Burnham since we wrapped up our run on Batman and it’s our first no-holds barred horror comic—a disturbing anti-human voyage to the hopeless outer limits of cosmic nihilism and cruelty, in the company of six doomed astronauts on a mission to save our planet from an approaching asteroid. Needless to say, they get far more than they bargained for.
In my superhero comics, I’ve tended to be a cheerleader for the human spirit, but Nameless gives me a rare opportunity to articulate a long-withheld sneering contempt for our miserable species, with its self-serving, sentimental, suicidal self-delusions and its greedy, willful ignorance.
Inspired by the dark side occultism of the Tunnels of Set, by pessimist philosophers like Thomas Ligotti and Ray Brassier, and by our culture’s unstoppable, almost erotic, obsession with its own destruction, Nameless is a light-hearted romp through the sunlit meadows of a baby unicorn’s daydreams!
The colorful life of Jack Parsons as revealed in the biography Strange Angel by George Pendle will appear on AMC in miniseries form, according to a Deadline report. Ridley Scott and David Zucker will executive produce the series, which will be written by Mark Heyman (Skeleton Twins, Black Swan).
Tibetan mystics have long practiced a method to create sentient beings from the power of concentrated thought. Explorer Alexandra David-Neel was the first Westerner to discover the practice. “Besides having had few opportunities of seeing [tulpas], my habitual incredulity led me to make experiments for myself,” she wrote in her 1929 book Magic and Mystery in Tibet. “My efforts were attended with some success.”
Tulpas remained the preserve of occultists until 2009, when the subject appeared on the discussion boards of 4chan. A few anonymous members started to experiment with creating tulpas. Things snowballed in 2012 when adult fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – known as “bronies” to anyone who’s been near a computer for the past three years – caught on. They created a new forum on Reddit and crafted tulpas based on their favourite characters from the show.
Last December, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Los Angeles-based artist and film-maker Hazel Hill McCarthy III visited Ouidah in Benin to make a documentary exploring the origins of the religion Vodun. While there, P-Orridge was initiated into the Twin Fetish, a Vodun practice that celebrates twins – particularly resonant in Benin, which has the highest national average of twins per birth and where they carry a sacred meaning – honouring her relationship with h/er late wife and pandrogyne partner Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge. As McCarthy writes of the film: “In this story we begin to see the link between pandrogyny and the Twin Fetish, an activation of a complete state and in fact the true fundamentals of Vodun religion.”
As long-time readers likely know, my own interest in things magical and occult has largely dissipated. But I know many of you are still interested the intersecton between technology and magic, so a project by my friend Damien Williams may well interest you. He’s raising funds to write a lengthy essay called “Techne: The State of the Art”:
I’ll show what happens when magical ideas intersect with modern technology, looking at things like AI, and why “artificial” might have been a poor choice of adjective. I’ll consider questions like, “What is it that drives humanity to create technology in our image?” “How can stories like the Golem, the Homunculus, or the Tulpa,” (and we’ll get to those) “help us in our search to create AI?” and “Might perspectives such as Jungian psychology’s take on alchemy provide us with tools to better engage our world?”
I’ll also examine the use of cutting edge tech in modern magical practices and vice versa. Musicians, roboticists, and authors who weave magical intentions through electronic music, who use magical theory in the programming of their creations and who see in our world, something like the fulfilment of Arthur C. Clarke’s line that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Alan Moore’s mentor Steve Moore (no blood relation) passed away this month. In his memory, photographer Mitch Jenkins has posted the entirety of his work on the Unearthing, a biography of Steve written by Moore.
We’re deeply sad to announce that Steve Moore, author of Somnium and a regular contributor to Strange Attractor Journal, passed away over the weekend, under a beautiful Spring full Moon.
Steve was a warm, wise and gentle man, with a surreal sense of humour and an astoundingly deep knowledge that covered history, the I Ching, forteana, magic, oriental mysticism, martial arts cinema, science fiction, underground comics and worlds more.
Steve was amongst the earliest members of the Gang of Fort, who launched Fortean Times magazine in the early 1970s, and the author of a great many influential comics and short stories for publications including 2000AD, Warrior, Dr Who magazine and, most recently, the Hercules series for Radical Publishing. At the time of his death he was working on a number of new projects, including his ongoing, privately published Tales of Telguuth and The Bumper Book of Magic, with his lifelong friend Alan Moore.
In the latest Mindful Cyborgs Chris Dancy comes out of the Buddhist closet, we talk about the Dark Night of the Soul, the Abyss, and more. Here’s a taste:
CD: Yes, outcome attachment is probably my number one suffering point. The scariest things that I found at the conference was that over the 3, almost 4, years that I’ve been practicing awareness or contemplative practices or being in a beginners mind or meditation, impermanence, love and kindness. All these things, I’ve had periods where I’ve just felt really disconnected from the people around me and these are highly intelligent people or very, very tense people, much like myself. You kind of hang around people you are. So much so that at times I’ve felt profoundly sad, just profoundly depressed.
It comes during after periods of great meditation or just prolonged periods of awareness and I found that there’s something called dark night of the soul, which is a state and there’s actual terminology for this, which is a meditative psychosis. But it’s where people actually become unhinged or removed from the world that they perceive because they get so in touch with being aware that they physically feel disconnected to actually have a soul collapsing experience. Which I thought I was really along but when you get in a roomful of Buddhists and they start talking about their journey you’re just like, wow, I just thought it was me and I never would have admitted so loudly and now it’s actually pretty common.
KF: Yes, I had a similar experience when I was much younger, around 20, and I didn’t know what was going on with me for about a couple of years. I ended up hearing about a similar concept called the abyss. It’s part of cabalistic and part of western occult, a tradition as of western esotericism. But it’s a very similar idea of just becoming- I think they describe it as knowledge without understanding.
The situation where you start to understand and kind of go back to sort of Buddhist terminology, like you start to not to understand but to be aware of impermanence and to be aware of the malleability of certain aspects of reality but you haven’t really come to terms with it yet. You haven’t truly grasped the wisdom of that yet and it leaves you fairly unhinged. At least that’s my understanding of it and there’s probably a lot of people out there that would tell me that I’m completely wrong or that I’m equating things from two very different religious or spiritual practices and everything, but I don’t know. I see them as related, very similar and related aspects.