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    • AMMDI is an open-notebook hypertext writing experiment, authored by Mike Travers aka @mtraven. It's a work in progress and some parts are more polished than others. Comments welcome! More.
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from Weird Studies
  • See Technic and Magic for an elaborately developed theory of evil rationalism (technic) vs its salvific opposite magic.
from Pessoa
from Weird Studies/Tarot/The Star
from Meditations on the Tarot/3 The Empress
  • Towards the end, got into some real anti-mechanist tropes, put me off the whole project. This is exactly the same problem I had with Technic and Magic. This Magic stuff is life itself and completely opposed to or at least orthogonal to the dull deterministic activities of mechanism.
from Weird Studies/Gebser
  • Clock time accelerates and breaks the perspectival world (this sounds very much like Technic and Magic story).
from Weird Studies/Introduction
  • This idea is hyper-developed in Technic and Magic. I'm not sure how much I like it. It seems to be based on a rather crude dualism. But OK, let's roll with it.
Twin Pages

Technic and Magic

12 Apr 2022 09:18 - 12 Apr 2022 09:18

    • book by Federico Campagna, via Weird Studies. Posits two contrasting "cosmogonic forces"; Technic, which dominates today's world, and Magic, an alternative approach to reality that is supposed to be liberatory or at least not subject to Technic's flaws, which include being ultimately self-destructive of the very reality it attempts to construct.
    • Technic is the force behind our present world, and so responsible for its well-known flaws, but its exact nature is a bit unclear. It seems closely tied to technology, rationalism, modernism, abstraction, and capitalism, but is not quite any of those. It is relentlessly instrumental, purposeful, and totalizing in its use of language. It makes up our world and is also intent on destroying even the possibility of a world. It's too powerful to defeat, but there are other worlds available that Technic does not rule, and they offer the possibility of escape.
    • Technic is not exactly technology, but it's close enough to make me slightly defensive. As a software guy I have a professional interest in untangling technology from the bad ideas it is associated with, include Rationalism and the like.
    • But what is it, what kind of thing is it? Technic (and its counterpart Magic) are "cosmogonic forces", or maybe "hyperobjects", which to me translates as "powerful large-scale psychosocial dynamics that have their own logics and agency". OK that kind of makes sense, and certainly the power behind both capitalism, technology, and modernism would seem to qualify. These forces manifest through "emanations" and "hypostases" and I won't pretend to understand what that means.
    • It reminds me of Blake's Urizen, who symbolized the relentless rationalizing part of the human mind. Or Ginsberg's Moloch, a later incarnation of possibly the same spirit.
    • He later reductively says that technic is the essence of technology while magic is the essence of poetry. I am suspicious of attempts to oppose these forces. Technology and art are not in opposition, or shouldn't be. But OK, that's how they appear to the mainstream.
    • Also reminds me of Christopher Alexander, another thinker who hates industrial modernity and thinks of it as anti-life, and requires reconstructing an entirely new worldview with different metaphysics to combat it.
    • Campagna provides a handy diagram of his paired cosmogonies, their stages and their relationships. The book is structured as a path through this diagram. This alone almost sent me off screaming, but for some reason I made myself read it. Sorry, that sounds wrong, like it was an unpleasant experience. I wouldn't say that, it's just that I had to fight off a constant suspicion, from my square-ass technic side, that it was all nonsense.
    • image.png
    • Notes follow, by section
    • Introduction

      • I wondered if it was precisely at this axiomatic level, that I could detect the present constitution of our world and of today’s range of the possible. I started asking myself: what are the implicit metaphysical assumptions that define the architecture of our reality, and that structure our contemporary existential experience?
      • The mention of constitution suggests Latour.
    • The wonderful world of Technic

      • Flat Earth:
        • To truly believe in a world that is a sphere, is the mark of one who has lost any perception of an irreducible existence animating the world from within.
        • OK, I find it weird that the sphere is the bad guy in this scenario...isn't a sphere also the image of wholeness, and so anti-technic?
      • In traditional philosophical parlance, that is the level of metaphysics: the place where it is discussed what it means to exist, what kind of things legitimately exist, how they exist, in what relation they stand to each other and to their attributes and so on. By deciding on metaphysics, that is by deciding on the most fundamental composition of our world, it is implicitly decided what kind of things can or cannot take place in that world.
      • politics meets metaphysics. OK. I just fear (as a technic kind of guy) I might find myself on the wrong side.
      • The character of our contemporary existential experience, points towards a certain type of ordering of our world, and of ourselves within it. This ordering is superficially social/economic/etc., but in fact derives from a set of fundamental metaphysical axioms. These axioms combine together in an overall system, which is the reality-system of our age.
      • I chose to call the cosmogonic form of our age, ‘Technic’
      • That's an interesting way to put it. What kind of thing is technic? It's a cosmogonic form, as well as a force. It's the form of our age, for better or (mostly) worse, and that form is not just its material structure but determinant of what kind of thoughts people can have, what concepts and ideas are allowed. Or which are central and which are marginalized.
      • If the metaphysical architecture of Technic’s world has produced such an annihilating immiseration of our existential experience, then we must imagine a new set of reality-principles that would allow for a new range of the possible to emerge.
      • Something about "hypostases", which is the plural of hypostasis, the underlying state or underlying substance and is the fundamental reality that supports all else.
      • This is the age of metaphysical nihilism: the nihilism that sets the background on fire and undoes the very fabric of reality. Under its attack, ‘everything can become everything, that is to say: nothingness emerges’
      • The record-shattering investments in Big-Data systems and technology rest on the belief that there can’t possibly be anything ontologically relevant that couldn’t, at least potentially, be reduced (and reduced truthfully) to the serial units of the language of data.
      • This is not really right. Every practicing data scientist or data capitalist is acutely aware that the data available for computation is only a very coarse image of the underlying reality. Both error and incompleteness are well-understood facts of life.
      • Is this a minor point? Maybe, but it's curious that the one place this theory intersects with my area of expertise it gets things wrong. Had an oddly similar experience with David Graeber's Debt now that I think of it.
      • To better elucidate the quality of language as understood absolutely, let us bring in our first example of an archetypal incarnation of a hypostasis. The archetypal incarnation of the first hypostasis in Technic’s chain of emanations, consists in a suggested equivalence between truth and representation, according to which: truth is representation and representation is truth} We can find this equivalence at work in countless aspects of our contemporary experience of the world, in all fields of human activity.
      • This recalls the situated action critique of AI, unsurprisingly, I think both they and Campagna are drinking from the Heideggerian well.
      • Considered ontologically, truth’s reference to something ‘being the case’, takes the place of something simply ‘being’.
      • Truth as representation and representation as truth, indicates an ontological scenario in which the ‘stuff’ that makes up the world is merely a ‘state of affairs’, at once devoid of autonomous existence, uniqueness and substantiality, and so radically un-situated at an ontological level as to be available for limitless reproduction - better, corresponding exactly to its own reproduction.
      • This is so anti-computational, or more accurately, anti-world-as-computation, as in cellular automata models of physics. Have to say it doesn't sound so bad to me.
      • the relationship of enmity between two terminological false friends: unit and unity. Unity, as represented for example by the Pythagorean monad or by the Neoplatonic One, is a principle that presents completeness and a state of self-containment, as the pinnacle both of the perfection of a thing and of its existence. The unitary One exists above all else, because nothing else is as stable and self-sufficient. Conversely, the unit indicates a state of necessary disintegration of the world. It is not just that a unit can never be complete, but that it shouldn’t; was it ever to exit the endless chain of production and of limitless growth, it would suddenly lose any possibility to reclaim citizenship in the world. In the face of this imperative to be reduced to the level of pure instrumentality, we begin to sense that subtle, silent form of resistance to which we referred at the beginning of this paragraph on the third hypostas
      • It is in reference to these aspects, that we can find the archetypal incarnation of this hypostasis in the figure of the processor. The processor can be considered here as the peculiar evolution of the traditional notion of subject, of which it retains the ‘subjecthood’, while doing without the aspect of autonomous existence and volition.
      • Sounds like an anti-Turing argument
      • Stripped of its autonomy and volition, the processor cannot even be said to be part of a deterministic mechanism, since for determinism to take place there should be at least a theoretical possibility for things to be different than they actually are;
        • Say whut?
      • And in fact, the next chapter will be dedicated to an alternative form of cosmogony that is centred around the principle of ineffability, which so far we have encountered only negatively as the nemesis of absolute language
      • In other words, we can define existence as the limit-concept that points towards the tendency of pure ineffability, measureless­ ness, ‘in itself-ness’ as absolute solidity (that which is, as it is in itself before its reduction to semantics) and towards all that can be approached only through direct apprehension. Conversely, we can define essence as the limit-concept pointing towards the tendency of pure language, measure, presence as contextually defined {what is, as defined by its difference from other existents - like words in a dictionary), and towards all that can be approached only through rational categorization.
      • Not sure I believe in direct apprehension.
    • Ch 2 Technic's cosmogony

      • Compares his analysis of Technic with Sufi approach to another cosmogonic force – God. Well, that's putting it on an elevated plane to be sure.
      • the theological debate between ‘creationism’ and ‘emanationism' will resonate with our attempt to investigate how an abstract principle can at once precede reality, while also informing and shaping it.
        • Can't say I understand that. Creationism appears to be god-as-agent, responsible for all of creation; while emanationism is more god is this abstract source from which things emerge according to its nature, but no agency involved. (Recall's Heschel's dismissal of all this blather about the Absolute as worshiping a dead god)
          • To say that our search for God is a search for the idea of the absolute is to eliminate the problem which we are trying to explore. A first cause or an idea of the absolute—devoid of life, devoid of freedom—is an issue for science or metaphysics rather than a concern of the soul or the conscience. An Affirmation of such a cause or such an idea would be an answer unrelated to our question. The living soul is not concerned with a dead cause but a living God. Our goal is to ascertain the existence of a Being to whom we may confess our sins, of a God who loves, of a God who is not above concern with our inquiry and search for Him, a father, not an absolute. (p125)
      • This process of emanation, which Plotinus compares to the sun’s radiation of light, allows a fundamental principle of reality to unfold along a series of successive sub-principles, each shaping a dimension of existence. Thus, the chain of emanations amounts to a chain of different ‘hypostases’, proceeding from the original principle or first hypostasis, to the point where its cosmogonic force exhausts itself.
      • While for Plotinus the One can be understood as the only true principle of reality, we shall consider Technic as merely one specific form of reality. To us. Technic and its principles constitute just one cosmogonic force among the many that are possible and that indeed have created several different realities throughout history.
        • This strikes me as a very weird mode of discourse. I mean, a cosmogonic force that is one among many is pretty different from the One Single One. Is Technic a sort of gnostic false god?
      • I'm having trouble with all this neoplatonic stuff, which occasionally seems profound but mostly suggests the crappy burblings of the new age. Very hard to overcome my disdain for such stuff. But I am trying to overcome my spiritual snobbery I guess.
      • OK he answers the question above more or less:
        • Indeed, as we begin to look at Technic’s inter­nal cosmogonic architecture and at its ensuing cosmology, we are considering Technic as a unitary principle of reality (or, in this case, unreality), which is akin to a certain conception of God. This aspect is central, not only to our analysis of Technic’s cosmogony, but also to our understanding of what Technic is to our contemporary world - and, more generally, of what a cosmogonic force represents to the age in which it is hegemonic. To our contemporary world, Technic is God, in that it acts as the overall form encompassing all the various principles that structure our world. In this sense, any attempt at analysing the spirit of an age, understood as the structure of a specific reality-system, cannot do without the conceptual toolkit of theology - in particular, of the branch of theology that looks at the process of cosmogony and at cosmological architecture.
      • Absolute language; truth as representation.

      • I have to admit I have no fucking clue what he's on about here. I mean, I sort of sense something that makes sense; language vs existence, but,
      • Within Technic’s equivalence between truth and representation, truth stands for the essence of language’s fundamental process of signification; what used to be the autonomous existence of things, here degraded to a state of affairs that is entirely dependent on the sanction given to it by the series in which it is inserted. At the same time, truth indicates how the precarious and subordinate state of things reduced to states of affairs, is nonetheless the only possible form of presence in Technic’s world
      • Gotta wonder who are these bad dudes replacing Being with language. Not science really. It sounds a bit like commodification, but that's a function of capitalism, not some hypostasis.
      • Measure and mathematics

      • The stuff about ontological character of numbers just sounds ignorant.
      • René Guénon, Reign of Quantity. Yeah OK. Trite.
      • Indeed, the contemporary interest in their supposed referential relationship between information and things is ultimately a nostalgic form of superstition.
      • Starting to realize that reading this as philosophy is a big mistake, despite the pseudo-technical organization. If you read it like one of Blake's prophetic poems then it makes more sense, these vast contending abstract forces. Blake personifies them more but their metaphysical agency seems kind of similar.
      • AGEs and Processors

      • He could be talking about GOFAI, but even the most retrograde AI people usually knew that their representations were not reality.
      • Life as vulnerability

      • OK no clue on this one. This is quite beautiful:
      • The irreducible mystery of life, stubbornly escaping Technic’s capture, is converted into a theme park for Technic’s triumph. By resolving its resistance into a case of vulnerability - that is as endless possibility for resolution - life is turned into the stage for Technic’s denial of its own limits.
      • but I really have no idea what it means. Technic turns everything into Disneyland, sure, OK, but that is much too trite to be what he is saying here, I should think. And he's complaining about the medical model and its limits, but that too is a pretty commonplace sentiment, and I don't quite see a common villain.
      • Like Saint Augustin denied the existence of evil, defining it instead as the contingent absence of good, so Technic denies the existence of anything that would authentically escape it, defining it instead as a possibility that hasn’t as yet been fulfilled.
      • Also beautiful but I honestly have no idea. Perhaps I am way too much a tool of Technic myself, and can't see beyond it. I'm fully prepared to admit that I'm part of the problem, but that doesn't absolve me.
      • Also this seems to be saying that Technic does recognize that some things are currently beyond it but assumes that that is just a temporarily unfortunate state of affairs, soon to be remedied by its R&D department.
      • Also have to point out (again) that technologists scientists and mathematicians are extremely aware of the limits of their representational techniques. But technic is not quite that, despite the shared etymology.
      • In order to function, absolute language must deny any possibility of anything preceding or even just existing outside of itself.
      • Suggests the imperialistic qualities of Reason. I guess if you look at capitalism and reason as aspects of the same thing, which also includes other aspects of modernism like our particular notions of individual and society – well then sure. There's a spirit of the age, and it's an kind of an asshole, and it threatens to displace every other form of culture. I don't know, if you just called it late-stage globalist capitalism, it would be kind of obvious.
      • An equally unsolvable challenge awaits Technic’s chain of emanations at its lowermost point, at the southern border of the fifth hypostasis, where its original energy exhausts itself and then bounces back to its source. There, we found Technic’s attempt to resolve the unbreakable resistance offered by something ineffable lying at the heart of life, through its congealment in the form of problematic possibility. Despite its spectacular attempts at deflection and resolution through simulation, this mysterious ‘presence-exceeding- presence’, still remains. Indeed, if the obstacle encountered by the fading energy of absolute language was reducible to mere presence, it would have been possible to subsume it back within Technic’s cosmology, and to turn it into an object of ontological mutation and blackmail like everything else.
      • I ... wow. I'm not on enough drugs to fully appreciate that, I think. The image of Technic's method as "ontological mutation and blackmail" is quite striking, suggests that Technic has an element of organized crime to it, how else did it get to be the boss of the age?
      • this ineffable obstacle lying at the heart of life is characterized by this double aspect, at once metaphysical (and as such in part available to be discussed linguistically), and ultra- metaphysical, thus exceeding language and defusing any threat of capture. We could try to sum up its paradoxical nature by defining it as a case of Double Affirmation, a ‘yes-yes’. The first ‘yes’, stands for its available level of presence, that allows for its possibility and its inclusion within Technic. The second ‘yes’, clearly redundant and bewilderingly paradoxical, hints at its ultra-metaphysical ultra-presence, which is so intense that it escapes presence and thus capture.
      • Holy moly. So this spark of resistance is ultre-metaphysical, beyond presence...I have no idea what that means but it sounds way powerful, my heart is with the rebel alliance.
      • And in fact, the next chapter will be dedicated to an alternative form of cosmogony that is centred around the principle of ineffability, which so far we have encountered only negatively as the nemesis of absolute language
      • OK this gives me a clearer-than-usual picture of the relations between these two rival cosmogonic systems. Technic is more or less equivalent to the Enlightenment, and Magic would correspond to counter-enlightenment romanticism, more or less. And there is a clear counter-current of this in science as well, I have to admit (eg Minsky is rationalist-imperialist, Bateson is holistic-romantic).
    • Intermission

      • Existence vs Essence – one of those big philosophy topics I don't get at all, but existence seems to be pre-linguistic and essence is necessarily coextensive with language? "Reality" is something that connects both. OK. Western phil has been mostly essence-oriented (with existentialism being a countercurrent); Indian has been more focued on existence.
      • Reality is a weave made of essence and existence, like warp and weft, and the event of its undoing requires a weaver (for de Martino, a ‘magician’) that is capable of interlacing the two back together,
      • It's weird to me that Technic is conceived of as pure language (essence). I thought Technic was also allied at least with materialism, aka existence.
      • Whereas the scientific attitude seeks, on the basis of careful empiricism, to explain nature in her own terms, Hermetic philosophy had for its goal an explanation that included the psyche in a total description of nature. The empiricist tries, more or less successfully, to forget his archetypal explanatory principles, that is, the psychic premises that are a sine qua non of the cognitive process, or to repress them in the interest of ‘scientific objectivity.’ The Hermetic philosopher regarded these psychic premises, the archetypes, as inalienable components of the empirical world-picture. He was not yet so dominated by the object that he could ignore the palpable presence of psychic premises in the form of eternal ideas which he felt to be real.
        • – Jung
    • Magic!

      • and about time!
      • Throughout Western history, magic has acted as the silent shadow of most hegemonic cultural forms, from philosophy to theology
      • The present conception of magic is the shadow of its own time; like medieval ‘black magic’ was often presented as the demonic equivalent of then prevailing forms of orthodox Christian theology, magic today is seen as the phantasmagorical equivalent of the currently prevailing techno-scientific forms.
        • that seems important. And it also gives me license to take it seriously; I have the techno-rationalist habit of thinking of magic stuff as just a bad version of science. Like astrology, to take the most embarrassing of examples. If you think of it as science it's just ridiculous, a fraud for rubes. No, it's something else with different goals, although hard to say exactly what those are.
        • Hm, just thought of Gould's "non-overlapping magisteria". He was proposing a way for technic (science) and religion to co-exist, to divide the world between them. That wouldn't fly with Campagna, the two cosmogenies are definitely rivalrous and he wants to fight one with the other.
      • When we talk of magic in this book, we don’t mean anything to do with a dark, exotic equivalent of the very same technical regime that rules over our present age. In fact, by this term we mean a reality-system that is fundamentally alternative to that of Technic: an alternative cosmology originating from an alternative cosmogonic force, A different reality, based on a different fundamental metaphysics...The specular opposite of Technic, rather than its shadow.
        • specular ≡ mirror btw. He uses this word a lot.
        • Magic is presented as an opposite from and/or cure for Technic, something that allows us to escape "Technic’s brutal regime". (his vision of Technic is about as antihuman as Nick Land's, but Land would probably laugh at the escape/transcendence of Magic).
      • Under certain circumstances, the loss of horizon undergone by presence reaches the point where it becomes an echo of the world, that is, one becomes possessed, prey to uncontrolled impulses. There is a dangerous ‘beyond’ to presence, an anguishing crumbling of its horizon in-the-making...Magic sets up a system of institutions through which this risk is signalled and fought against... so as to make possible a ransoming of presence.
        • – de Martino, quoted
      • Shamans or magicians employ their magic powers with the primary aim of overcoming this state of crisis. ... In other words, a magician can be understood as a reality-therapist, acting not merely on the symptoms of an individual’s illness, but also on the reality-conditions that allowed the state of illness to take place.
      • Footnote quoting E. V. de Castro, Cannibal Metaphysics, sounds like a hell of a read...Taussig quality out-there-anthro .
      • Just hit me; he reminds me most of Hakim Bey, another anarchistic poetic advocate of radical alternative realities, with occasional exotic Sufi references.
      • Ineffability

        • As such, that stubborn obstacle to Technic deserves now a new and positive name - a name that is capable of presenting it in its productive aspect. ...this ‘thing’ still escapes any form of definition that attempts to capture its essence. If we still wish to somehow define it, we can only do so negatively, while remaining mindful to the insufficiency of any definition, however negative. We can name it only as ‘the ineffable’ - that which cannot be captured by language in any form.
        • While unavailable to take part as a tidy cog in the great machinery of absolute language, the ineffable is still capable of acting productively as the emanating centre of Magic’s alternative reality-system.
        • I like this...if magic is the effort to delineate the inherently undescribable, well, that explains and excuses a lot.
        • I still feel like defending technology, if not Technic. Real technologists understand the limits of their representational capability and the differences between representation and the world. OK, not "real" technologists, but good technologists.
        • It is as if, at the centre of every existing thing, there was an atman of sorts, undetectable by our sensorial and rational apparatus, yet detectable more negativo, through a relentless questioning that seeps through the cracks of every ontological definition. Existence cannot be reduced to any of its dimensions, not even to the mere sum of its dimensions - yet, somehow existents still exist! The manifest mystery of existence, glares like a blinding light within each and every existent.
        • I can't begin to say how reflexively I gag at this sort of talk. Not even sure why.
        • The seamless, all-encompassing unity of existence proposed by a strictly monist vision, perversely mimics the annihilating void prod­uced by the system of Technic. In both cases, the room required by reality - the however minimal distance and difference between essence and existence - is dramatically lacking.
        • That's interesting. I sort of have it in my head that a monism is obviously better than dualism, just in terms of parsimony. But he's saying the opposite, that any monist view is necessarily annihilating of a necessary difference.
        • I think this is at the root of why people are so keen to defend supernaturalism; they are defending their own sense of specialness against the terrifying encroachments of the world.
        • Some stuff on Mudra Sadra, an early Islamic existentialist (sort of).
        • According to Sheikh Ben Alliwa, we can understand this relationship between unity and multiplicity, or existence and essence, as that between the ink and the letters that it goes to compose on a page.
          • In truth, letters are symbols of the ink, because there are no letters outside of the ink. Their non-manifestation is in the mystery of the ink, and their manifestation is ultimately relying on the ink. They are its determinations and its stages of actualisation, and truly there is nothing but the ink - understand this symbol! And yet, letters are different from the ink, and the ink is different from the letters. Because the ink existed before the letters came to being, and it will still exist when the letters will have vanished— A letter neither adds nor takes anything away from the ink, but it manifests through distinctions that which in itself is integral. The ink is not changed by the presence of the letter. ... You must understand that, for those who understand, there is no existence outside of the existence of the ink. Wherever there is a letter, the ink is not separated from it - understand these parables!
          • I...am trying? Ink is like some fundamental and unitary Being (existence), letters are some of the transitory forms being assumes. That sounds completely sensible.
        • Considering that existence is ontologically superior to essence and that essential differences are just measures of the varying intensity of existence, Mulla Sadra proceeded to claim the instability and temporality of essences themselves. His claim was starkly opposed to the position of most of his contemporaries who, following Aristotle, saw essence and substance as permanent and solid categories.
          • Sounds like Buddhist emptiness.
        • Max Stirner’s entire work could be read as the philosophical account of a miraculous experience, in which the author describes...the sudden revelation of his own ineffable dimension (what Stirner calls the irreducible ‘Unique One’, Der Einzige) to his own linguistic dimension (i.e. the ‘I’, as vulnerable to linguistic and societal classifications).
      • Second hypostasis – person

        • here, for the first time, the ineffable speaks. The unspeakable speaks, while remaining unspeakable.
        • The first word is "this" or "I". Prajapati myth.
        • ... the first principle of the ineffable emanates out of itself an entity (‘this’, or ‘I’) which, however detached from its origin, is very much a function of the ineffable itself (that is, it understands itself as a ‘person’). By uttering its first word, the ineffable creates enough of a distance from itself to allow reality to take place.... Yet, the newly created border of reality verging towards language (‘this’, T), is ontologically dependent and hierarchically subjected to its own ineffable source. Magic’s cosmology thus immediately declares what kind of reality it wishes to make possible. This is **a form of reality that isn’t entirely flattened** on the principle of the ineffable - if it was so, it would replicate the apocalypse of reality produced by Technic - but that sees the space between existence and essence as hierarchically ordered.
        • Apollo, as god of form-giving and also healing. Paired with the Imam, and I'm afraid I have zero context for this Islamic stuff. OK here's some background Occultation (Islam) - Wikipedia) but I really can't wrap my head around it.
        • While Apollo represents the power to build linguistic constructs, the Imam stands for the supremely architectural function of directing such building works, and to constantly check them against the requirements of that ineffable life which will ultimately inhabit the house of language....Whereas Apollo is the power to mould language to create a person, the Hidden Imam is the guidance that directs such power.
      • Third hypostasis – symbol

        • Summarizing the first two parts and it almost makes sense to me, oddly enough. He's saying that the ineffable is at the heart of the cosmos and all things (1st) and that the Person is a consequence of the ineffable nevertheless speaking its name ("I" or "this"), "the linguistic vessel through which the ineffable resounds". (p147)
        • Whereas in the second h the person was only potentially a subject, in this third one it begins to act as such
          • ???
        • If we understand the ineffable as life, and life as the ineffable, this means that the person’s work consists primarily in shaping dead linguistic constructs, to render them alive.
          • – beautiful but also ???
        • Symbol vs. Allegory. Allegory is technic-style representation that claims to capture everything "ontologically possible", while symbol is more a pointer into the unknowable.
        • art is not for "expression" but "a quest for...energy-waking images..yielding..."a sensuous apprehension of being". Sexy.
        • To paraphrase Heidegger, if we can understand Technic as the essence of technology, so we can understand Magic as the essence of poetry.
          • Trying to not get triggered by the implication that we technic people are soulless non-poets. OK, fair enough I guess.
        • According to Cassirer, symbols and myths refer primarily to a human’s emotional apprehension of the world, and thus are essentially a function of epistemology. For Jung, they have to do with the deepest foundations of the collective unconscious, and thus are to be considered essentially as psychological elements. For Eliade, on the contrary, as for most archaic societies, their origin is extra-mental and can be found in a divine dimension that actually animates the world - and thus, their proper location is within metaphysics. How are we to reconcile these different positions, if at all possible? In other words, within the architecture of Magic’s cosmos, should we consider mythologems and symbols as purely mental entities, or as things that enjoy an autonomous form of existence?
        • the Sufi thinker Ibn Arabi..."imaginal world"...
      • Fourth hypostasis – Meaning

        • A theory of language from Bhartrhari. Sentences are the fundamental unit of meaning. Sphota is a "non-differentialted lanugage-principle" which holds that there is not an essential difference between a language unit and the meaning it conveys.
          • Seems kind of braindamaged honestly.
        • A symbol functions as a particular framework that is irreducible to its constituent atomic elements; it is irreducible to its sign, verbal or non-verbal as it may be, as well as to its immediate signification.
        • I think the key word in here is "reduction", if you believe symbols are like people and "reducing" them is bad, then you get this stuff. I'm sort of on the opposite pole, and while ok, maybe actual people deserve respect and protection from the evil reductionists, symbols are just symbols, you can't demean them by trying to explain how they work.
        • The fourth hypostasis thus investigates how particular combinations of symbols can give rise to meaning,
        • Hey I have. theory for how that works (computation) but this is something quite different.
        • The idea of the law of correspondence is a centuries-old Hermetic concept that was first properly expressed and theorized in the Emerald Tablet, an extremely succinct treaty attributed by tradition to Hermes Trismegistus.
        • The emergence of a normative aspect. "Servitude".
        • as the dead element of language wraps itself evermore tightly around the original life that animates it, it becomes all the more important to tailor such linguistic clothing in a way that safeguards the living element within it.
        • Faithful to its notion of the ineffable as life, Magic’s reality-system thus declares the imperative to keep life flowing through the narrowest capillaries of the cultural and social body. ... the imperative remains that of never closing language onto itself. Never reducing a ‘thing’ to its linguistic dimension, but keeping it always open to its own ineffable dimension, which is, after all, the same ‘ineffable as life’, that traverses all things.
        • OK. Acknowledging the limits of language and openness to the ineffable, I can get behind that at least.
        • ... this process of turning all entities into ‘centres’, is perhaps what is most characteristic of Magic’s creation of its own reality and of its own world.
        • The idea of centres brings to mind Christopher Alexander's monumental late work The Nature of Order, which really pairs well with this book, they are both efforts to remap all of reality from the metaphysics on up. Interesting discussion of Centers from Eliade and others. OK this is something I can at least begin to understand; something geometrical about it appeals to me.
        • A temple or sacred building is built specifically in a place that is supposed to be the centre of the world (for example, around the omphalos stone in Delphi, considered to be the navel of the world), yet at the same time it is exactly its definition as sacred, that singles out a certain place as a ‘centre’. This circularity returns in the apparently contradictory fact that there is not one, but countless and potentially infinite ‘centres’. Every sacred space, according to Eliade’s analysis, is a centre, precisely because its sacredness endows it with the quality that is essential to every ‘centre’: being the place traversed by the axis of the world {axis mundi), that is, by the axis that connects the dimensions of heaven, earth and hell...The notion of centre is thus rooted in that of sacredness, which, in turn, is embodied by the figure of an axis connecting the world’s multiple dimensions
        • Yeah I like, and you could say the defining trait of modernity/postmodernity/technic maybe is decentering.
      • Fifth hypostasis: paradox

        • As it was the case with Technic’s last hypostasis, this is effectively the sunset of a cosmogonic force, yet it is also presented as the moment of its perfection - with a view to relaunch the entire process all over again.
        • OK this is very Tarotic/Cabalistic language, duh,, I'm slow to get it. So these cosmogonic forces are real in about the same sense as the Tree of Life and suchlike.
        • That aside, he's saying that these later hypostases have a particular relationship to the originating force – they are late and are losing energy, yet achieving a kind of perfection at the same time.
        • Rather than a stream flowing out of an original source, the development of Magic’s cosmogony is revealed at this stage as a progressive self-manifestation of the original principle - hypostasis after hypostasis, unveiling after unveiling. In other words, the fifth hypostasis presents its own twilight, not as the consequence of language smothering its ineffable source, but as a manifestation of the fullness of the ineffable - which always-already included language as a part of itself.
        • I think this is saying that in the battle of technic and magic, magic wins by being more ultimate, larger, more inclusive. Um, no, he's trying to draw out the logic of the magic standpoint, what language means in this cosmogony. Technic has its own language, "absolute language", he is reclaiming the idea of language from that narrow conception.
        • laws of correspondence, coincidentia oppoistorum (a term also used a lot by Jung in Answer to Job).
        • when placed together in the form of the semicircular Roman arch, it is exactly the weight of each stone that counter-balances that of all others. Lightness is achieved through a combination of weights. A principle is achieved through its opposite, as if the opposite was already contained within the same
          • he doesn't understand how arches work, but ok, it's just a bad metaphor.
        • Within Magic’s reality, happening and existing are not identical concepts, although they ‘fall together’: linguistic presence and ineffable existence are distinct facets of integral existence, yet they ‘fall together’ to compose it.
          • No fucking clue.
        • Likewise, ineffability achieves lightness through the coincident impact of language, with the overarching form of Magic acting as the keystone.
        • So, Magic somehow bridges language and ineffability...
        • ‘Lightness’, within this perspective, amounts to the very emergence of ‘reality’ as such - that is, as a space where worldly existence, action and imagination are both possible and authentic.
        • Say what now? Reality always seemed kind of more heavy than light, but maybe that's the fault of my Technic orientation:
        • If we compare the paradoxical lightness of Magic’s world, with the unbearable weight of Technic’s world of ‘possibility’, we can appreciate the therapeutic quality of Magic’s entire cosmogonic project. Whereas Technic’s ‘possibility’ attempts to relieve its own weight through an endless extension of its limits - hence its lust for infinite growth - Magic’s ‘paradox’ seeks to resolve this issue through intensive harmony.
        • Oh man this stuff is so out-there abstract and poetical, I always feel like I am on the verge of (but not quite) getting it. Maybe that itself is part of the point.
        • bringing in Jung model of self.
        • Archetypes, according to Jung, are ‘the introspectively recognizable form[s] of a priori psychic orderedness’; furthermore, ‘as a priori ideal forms, [they] are as much found as invented: they are discovered inasmuch as one did not know about their unconscious autonomous existence, and invented inasmuch as their presence was inferred from analogous conceptual structures’.
        • I'm just beginning to get a sense of this mode of thinking and how it relates to my default model of the mind. I think of it in terms of evolutionary or neural convergence – the mechanisms are messy but the dynamics of reality lead them to converge on these more abstract forms, which pre-exist the way mathematical objects pre-exist.
        • Thus, we shall approach the notion of the Self as the archetypal incarnation of Magic’s fifth hypostasis, that is as a figure in which the coincidence between the opposites of ineffability and language, existence and essence, is finally realized - and, at the same time, as the place in which Magic’s cosmogonic force dies and restarts anew. Having clarified these distinctions, let us see how we can interpret the Self as the archetypal incarnation of Paradox.
        • Oh yeah "clarified", if you say so buddy.
        • Far from being a ‘given’ with which every person is naturally endowed, the Self is thus to be understood as a difficult and precious conquest, that can be brought about only through a strenuous work at the deepest level of one’s psyche.
        • I highlighted this one just because it is so resonant and compatible with less whacko forms of constructionism, like Minsky/Papert eg, or Korsgaard. Although I'm sure the construction process is pretty radically different.
        • To close this final hypostasis in the series, and to cast a final glance at the world of Magic, as it stands in its finished form, let us consider for a moment in what sense we can call this kind of world, a ‘garden’.
        • Oh hey how apropos digital garden. A garden, in this telling, is precisely a place where wildness and civilization can be made to coincide, or in this case, more like the ineffable and the lawful, named, purposeful world of reason.
        • But what is this ‘garden’ that stretches between pure ineffability and perfectly functional language, between existence and essence? This space in-between, this ‘garden’, is nothing less than ‘reality’ itself - reality precisely as it is produced through Magic’s cosmogony.
        • Magic builds its world precisely so to allow reality to emerge - a form of reality in which linguistic entities can exist and flourish on the basis of the ineffable life that traverses them.
          • Whoah, "linguistic entities can exist and flourish" sounds a lot more concrete than most of the talk up until now. Sounds very tulpaish.
        • Our primary concern was to show how it is possible to imagine an alternative reality-system that was capable of reactivating that space in which living individuals can live, act and flourish, free from any annihilating reduction to their linguistic dimension
          • This sounds to me like it shares some agenda with the Heideggarian AI and other embodiment theorists. Which is weird, because I think of that stuff as very non-magical, on the contrary, it's very down to earth, physical, naturalistic, and pragmatic, or at least is oriented towards that sort of thing. I guess both are ways to get away from the square Technic mode of thinking, but very different ways.
        • The closing section on double negation and the upper and lower boundaries – too much for me, couldn't absorb it.
        • Magic’s reality, understood as the all-encompassing ‘Self’ of the world, is thus akin to the ‘gold’ (aurum) sought by Hermetic alchemists
      • Conclusion

        • As discussed in the intermissions that preceded this chapter, reality always emerges as that world-making space which stretches between the limit-concepts of existence and essence; while Technic entirely denied the former principle, thus leading to a collapse of reality, Magic is capable of retaining both.
        • I guess it's important to realize that despite the tightly parallel construction of Technic and Magic as cosmogonic force, they aren't really symmetrical; Magic is inclusive in a.way Technic is not.
        • As it surpasses the notion of transcendence, so Magic also surpasses that of immanence. Its world is at the same time a world and no world at all, it is both language and silence, unmeasurable existence and limited presence, indistinctness and essence. It is unity in multiplicity and multiplicity in unity, where the two terms are simultaneously fused and irreducible to each other. In other words, it is reality in the form of a paradox.
        • Man that is beautiful but so abstract...I have to admit, he has in fact conjured something that is definitionally elusive, beyond the reach of my boring technic-trained brain.
    • Ch 4 Magic's World

      • Outside within

      • Oh goody he's going to talk about politics.
      • A cosmogonic force acts as a frame, as a set of limits to what can possibly exist in the world, what can possibly be done, what good can possibly be pursued, etc. In this sense, each cosmogonic force - Technic, Magic and so on - acts as the ground zero of a certain form that power can take
      • Yeah OK that makes sense, but I wish he'd list out the siblings of Technic and Magic rather than dismiss them with "and so on". If there are other cosmogonic forces at work I'd like to know about them.
      • Technic rules the world, Magic is marginalized and largely confined to the individual imagination... but he wants to fix that:
      • In particular, we shall consider Magic in terms of its existential strategies of disentanglement from the current world of Technic.
      • we wish to imagine a form of philosophy that works also for those who are hopelessly defeated by history, and who can hope for no revolutionary ‘sun of tomorrow’ to lighten their burden during their lifetime.
      • we wish to reclaim a space .... where a person can find sufficient room and refuge to cultivate their own, autonomous re-setting of reality - in a manner that is also compatible with an active engagement in broader emancipatory projects on a social level.
      • OK that's pretty fucking sensible.
      • Secret

        • Fundamentally, a person adopting Magic’s reality-system is well aware that descriptive language can be nothing but a form of concealment and dissimulation, whenever it takes the ineffable as its object.
        • Magic is inherently a kind of underground. That's what esotericism means. It means texts that try to explain magic can't do it, they have to twist around and be indirect, at best.
        • Ah Baltasar Graciän makes an appearance, as does metis (p199)
        • To Graciän’s ‘saint’, as to the person who adopts Magic’s reality- system, the extreme solidarity among the living that accompanies a metaphysical ‘unity of existence’ - what is defined as Tawhid in Islamic theology - is always-already given, before and beyond societal rule.
        • I'm very suspicious of "unity" (see monotheism), but to derive from that "extreme solidarity" – that sounds appealing. I'm more of a conflict theory guy to be honest, but I also I feel like I'm aging out of it and am ready for some peace and unity and solidarity.
      • Initiation

        • a person’s initiation to Magic’s reality- system begins with their ‘presential vision’ of a different kind of metaphysics that profoundly affects and transforms them. Adopting Magic’s cosmological hypostases as the frame through which the world emerges to one’s experience, means shaping a particular vision of what exists in the world, and in what way existents relate to each other.
        • An individual’s adoption of Magic’s reality-settings as their own is thus a practice of initiation
        • Well I am not there yet and find it hard to imagine myself there, frankly. Although I'm clearly magic-curious, I've also made a career out of serving technic, it's in my bones.
        • Theurgy. Jeeze, maybe practice at manifesting local nature sprits or something before going after the One Ineffable God. Anyway, theurgy unlike science is not coercive, brutal, nasty, forceful – it's more like inviting something in than harnessing its power for your own ends.
      • To adopt Magic’s perspective, means to consider one’s own linguistic self (i.e. one’s linguistic identities) as the equivalent of a vessel through which it is possible to allow the ineffable to shine.
      • Such a manifestation is witnessed first and foremost by the person him/ herself, who acquires at the same time the position of theurgist and of theurgic object
      • How metacircular. SICP (aka "Wizard Book")'s cover art is more apt than I knew.
      • How can a person be taught the incommunicable fact that s/he is ineffably alive?
      • I don't think you can, and framing this as a "fact" is probably misleading. You can train a person to be more aware of themselves and their processes, you can train them to have particular stances towards themselves. But surely everybody knows at some level that they are ineffably alive, its kind of obvious, you don't need books of magic to point it out.
        • Through Technic’s education, one learns to become a better ‘processor’: a better engineer, professor, nurse, father, lover, citizen and so on. Education in the age of Technic has to do, predictably, with the acceleration of the pace with which an ‘abstract general entity’ can contribute to the overall expansion of as many productive series as possible. Ultimately, all forms of education in Technic’s world are merely forms of training. p210
        • That doesn't sound so bad. And I have to say this reeks of class snobbery, it sounds like the humanities types thinking they are better than those crass engineers. And I gotta say, my impression from knowing artists is that they value training and tend to be very pragmatic. If magic if isn't pragmatic then what good is it?
        • Conversely, the process of initiation is aimed precisely at producing in its subject a radical transformation at the existential and ontological level. After initiation, a person ceases to be merely the sum of their linguistic and productive dimensions, while beco­ming also a manifestation of the ineffable dimension that constitutes existence in itself.
        • Well isn't that special. Sorry my skeptic hackles have been raised.
        • The person initiated to Magic’s reality is at the same time the galaxy of their names and complete silence... such a person is a paradox – and in this, it resembles precisely the world that Magic produces through its reality-frame.
        • OK, can get behind that. Paradox is a central fact of existence and embracing it and embodying it sounds almost sensible. And yes, maybe one bad part of technic is refusing or ignoring the paradox, like capitalism externalizes costs to the environment.
        • The paradox of Magic’s initiation consists exactly in affirming that what isn’t linguistically solvable, is nonetheless ineffably inhabitable.
        • I like that formulation.
        • Likewise, a person who has adopted Magic’s reality-system treats the descriptively linguistic structures of the world as if s/he accepted their claim to existence. How could one traverse the world, if one was to fully reject the linguistic labels that distinguish one thing from another, or to the conventions that distinguish between noise and sound? Yet, such a belief is always performed at a distance, always shrouded in the caveat of the as if.
        • There's a lot about Technic's bad model of eduction (force-feeding chunks of content) vs. initiation. All I can say is that this model is pretty well understood to be wrong, which is why grad school is apprenticeship, not content absorption. It's true capitalist organization still implicitly uses the bad content-pipe model, but its badness is widely known, you don't have to be a wizard to see that.
        • Indeed, Magic’s initiation is a form of theurgy - but one in which the subject, the object and the process itself all merge into one entity.
        • Cool beans. If all is one, all violence is masochism and all sex is masturbation.
      • Quotes a couple of Pessoa's personas.
      • Pessoa, like a ‘person’ in Magic, was at the same time all of his names, and none of them. He was each and any of them - including Pessoa-himself - as if he had been them.
      • All other heteronyms, and Pessoa-himself, clearly perceived their existence in the world as a game of reflections in which they themselves were the reflections; reflections of what? This is impossible to say - literally, it is ineffable. All that can be said is that Pessoa, Caeiro, Campos and all others truly existed only inasmuch as they were instances of ineffable existence itself.
      • Pessoa wore his personae as costume, acting as if they were real, but who is acting? And how is it for us less creative, mono-persona types? I guess it is a healthy practice to regard yourself, especially the outward-facing parts of yourself (the mask, which is what persona really means) as fictional, to wear it or them lightly.
      • So what is behind all the masks? Well, it's ineffable, so that should be a clue at least. Or is it masks all the way down?
      • Performing the ‘as if’ at an existential level means fundamentally to identify with that ineffable dimension of existence that, as life, traverses uninterrupted through all that exists - whether material or immaterial.
      • Max Stirner also comes up, his thoughts on language are interesting:
      • Language or ‘the word’ tyrannizes hardest over us, because it brings up against us a whole army of fixed ideas. Just observe yourself in the act of reflection, right now, and you will find how you make progress only by becoming thoughtless and speechless every moment.
      • Huh was Stirner a meditator?
      • The method of the ‘as if’ thus displays in practice the cosmogonic mark that Magic impresses over the world, as filtered through a person’s living experience. In itself, it is just a method of ‘unparticipatory participation’ and ‘distant presence’ within the world, and of ‘metaphorical belief’ in the realm of descriptive language. As a method, its primary justification is in its usefulness rather than its truthfulness.
      • Yay pragmatism.
      • Mentions Hans Vaihinger, "The Philosoph of the As If". Never heard of him before
      • Hans Vaihinger, particularly in his influential 1911 work Philosophie des Als Ob (The Philosophy of the As If). Departing from some of Kant’s basic intuitions, Vaihinger developed a vertiginous system of philosophy, based on the notion that our way of dealing with the world is always based on ‘fictions’ rather than ‘facts’ or even ‘hypotheses’. Since the world as it is in itself is hidden to our rational understanding, claims Vaihinger, we cannot then proceed through our life by way of verifiable hypotheses - rather, we must always make up fictional concepts and notions that we employ to navigate the world, while treating them ‘as if’ they were ‘real’. The point of this fictional endeavour - which Vaihinger painstakingly traces in virtually all fields of human activity, from modern science to theology - is that such fictions are useful to us.
      • Thus, according to Vaihinger, we should treat our ideas about the world - that is, the notion that I exist as an individual, that this rock and its atoms exist, that freedom exists, etc. - ‘as if’ they were real, because by doing so we are able to enjoy a dignified existence in the world. Indeed, they are never to be considered as representative of anything true in itself - they don’t truthfully depict anything that preexists them - and they should be discarded as soon as their usefulness fades or is supplanted by a better fiction.
      • Veering towards postmodernism?
      • Yet, if we consider Magic’s strategy of the ‘as if’ in the context of today’s regime of Technic, we can also read it as a form of rebellion - ... Rather than a direct assault against the social reality of our time and its underlying principles, it is a way to void it from the inside. By already inhabiting a different architecture of reality, Magic’s person creates an immediately effective alternative to Technic’s world-making.
        • Yet, such ‘political’ aims are not the main reasons behind a person’s adoption of Magic’s reality-setting. Rather, they come as welcome consequences, in the same manner that the adoption of anarchist ‘prefigurative’ practices (i.e. living already as if we had achieved radical emancipation) has public, macro-political consequences only as a symptom, rather than as its primary aim. In fact, the parallels between anarchic practice and an individual’s adoption of Magic’s reality-system in today’s world of Technic are more than superficial
        • "prefigurative practices" is a good concept (from anarchism)
      • Ernst Jünger! Just read something about him, about him being too right-wing for the Nazis. Ernst Jünger: our prophet of anarchy - UnHerd
        • Ernst Jünger, whom we briefly encountered in Chapter 1, began his century-long literary career by identifying Technic as the reality-principle of the contemporary age, while proposing to wholeheartedly embrace its reshaping of the world and of our lives within it....It was only after the Second World War, at the dawn of the atomic age, that Jünger radically modified the ethical direction of his philosophy.... Jünger recognized Technic’s nihilism as pure annihilation of any possibility of life, imagination and action in the world.
        • The anarchist is dependent - both on his unclear desires and on the powers that be. He trails the powerful man as his shadow; the ruler is always on his guard against him. ... The anarchist is the antagonist of the monarch, whom he dreams of wiping out.... The positive counterpart of the anarchist is the Anarch. The latter is not the adversary of the monarch but his antipode, untouched by him, though also dangerous. He is not the opponent of the monarch, but his pendant. After all, the monarch wants to rule many, nay, all people; the Anarch, only himself.
      • Happy Ending

        • Technic's end value of safety,
        • Safety is the ideological framework that allows Technic’s world to regulate the flow of its own becoming. A becoming made safe, is a becoming that is denied or transcended, but that is suspended. Securitarian ideology promises to the inhabitants of Technic’s world, a flow of becoming that is made frictionless, as if it was suspended in a vacuum.
        • This something - which we called ‘life’ - refuses to accept Technic’s absolute embrace of becoming and challenges its rejection of any form of eternity and stability. Life seeks to escape its pulverization into the whirlpool of endless becoming, and its pain resounds also as a request to find a place of stability to call its own. Life, even mortal life, always seeks to partake of eternity
        • The Buddhist response would be (I think); yes that is the nature of the samsaric world. You can't really escape, but you can recognize its illusory nature.
        • Some stuff about Technic's tendency to take everything as an instrument. Honestly this doesn't seem too bad to me:
        • Coherently with its overall cosmological structure, Technic presents activity as aimed primarily, if not exclusively, at increasing the instrumental potential of the world and of all its inhabitants.
        • OK you don't want to see a tree as only so many board-feet of lumber, but still, I'm generally for increasing people's instrumental potential! Like the Whole Earth Catalog slogan, "access to tools".
        • Such ineffectuality of action in Technic’s world is the opposite, specular image of the supreme effectiveness of ritual action, as it’s been conceived since the dawn of time. ... Even the minuscule ritual sacrifice of a cup of milk, is capable of re-establishing the order of the whole universe.
        • Uh OK, I feel like a clod again, because I think of pragmatic secular technic action as a lot more efficacious than religious ritual.
        • Salvation is Magic's corresponding happy end
        • Magic’s therapy consists precisely in helping the inhabitants of its world to exist at once inside and outside of the world, like its cosmogony created a universe that is at once in and out of language...salvation aims at actuality, unlike safety’s focus on potentiality...salvation refers to the rescue of an entity from its exclusive identification with its linguistic dimension, and to its acceptance also of the living, ineffable dimension of its existence.
        • It is only on the basis of one’s eternity, that one is capable of growing old and dying. This is not the traditional distinction between an immortal soul and a perishable body; rather, it is a distinction, within one’s very soul or body, of an eternal dimension and a perishable one. The linguistic dimension of existence always truly becomes, changes and vanishes, while the ineffable kernel of its existence always truly remains stable, eternal and in perfect unity with that of any other existent.
        • OK this is a version of eternalism which almost makes sense to me.
        • Magic doesn't need to be salvific, it presents the world as always-alread-saved (?). Nonetheless, technic is making people unhappy and making their lives miseratble and Magic might be a cure for that kind of malaise.