As there has been some interest, and rather than flood the sub with posts, I've gathered all of my notes into this one thread. Please note that some of this material is quite old, and my practices have changed somewhat since then.
Random Access Magick
Hello. I'm a 50-year old computing professional who has been dabbling in magick for some time, mostly as a way of "hacking" my own head. I've read many of the texts in the field (and am eagerly awaiting the final chapter of the PFM), but I've hit some obstacles, the first of which seems to be a psychological block preventing me from reaching gnosis. There’s a fundamental disconnect somewhere, as all I seem to achieve when trying to “open my third eye” is an itchy forehead. ;)
(I’ve also attempted to try lucid dreaming, but I’ve hit a few stumbling blocks there, too, not the least of which is the utter inability to remember my dreams long enough to write them down, even with a notebook on my nightstand.)
That's not the purpose of this post, however. While I've not been able to apply these concepts practically (yet), I've had several magick-related ideas that I wanted to propose to a wider, more learned audience. For example: Chaos on the Cloud
One idea I’ve been toying with on and off for quite some time is a new method of sigilization, utilizing some existing technological concepts. Specifically, QR codes.
It seems to be that these codes are tailor-made for sigils. They are free, easy to create, and with some forethought, can be made utterly obscure to even the creator. Consider the following process:
- Conceive your objective.
- Using either an online tool or local freeware, generate your QR code containing the concept as text. Optionally, you could sigilize it using a classical method first, but I don’t believe that it is necessary.
- Save as a completely random name. If possible (I have not found a free tool for this), password-lock it with a randomly generated password that you don’t save. This would make its meaning inaccessible to anyone.
- Charge it via whatever method works for you, and launch it by uploading it to a public image host, such as imgur.com, either by itself or in a group with other sigils, and delete the local copy. If the site has a built-in expiration date, the sigil would even be self-consuming, precluding the need to destroy it yourself.
Based on my understanding of sigil magick, this should work. My only real stumbling block at this point is the “charging” step, mostly because of my own hangups. I did come up with a great acronym, tho: QR Abstracted Online Sigilizaton. ;) The Music Man(tra)
Another idea that echoes in my head a lot (pun intended) has to do with mantras. Consider these two definitions, from Wiktionary:
mantra A phrase repeated to assist concentration during meditation, originally in Hinduism. earworm A tune that is stuck in one's head, especially as unwanted or repetitive.
They sound a lot alike, don’t you think? The difference is that one is intentional, while the other happens without conscious decision, either by happenstance or occasionally due to the actions of mischievous friends, just a whim away. >:)
But what if you changed that? What if you consciously induced an earworm, as a magical/meditative act? Could you associate specific songs with specific states, goals, or situations, and thereby make them musical sigils? I could even see a practitioner with a playlist of specifically chosen songs, as almost an auditory grimoire of sorts. This Machine Kills Daemons
Once you get past sigils, of course, you move into the realm of servitors and other thoughtforms. There really isn’t a lot of literature online about the subject, although the somewhat-related concept of “tulpamancy” has a fairly active community. One comment that keeps popping up is the risk of a servitor getting out of control, with the famous egregore (possibly a godform) Fotamecus often being used as a cautionary tale.
This seems to be due to the need to “program” a servitor with a personality, and that personality exceeding its operational parameters and going rogue. But as someone who actually is
a programmer, I find myself wondering why they need personalities at all.
After all, when I create a program designed to run continuously or periodically, I don’t give it a persona, just a function, and a schedule. I can easily see a servitor being designed the same way, installed as a “background process” in my brain.
The amusing thing about this, of course, is that Unix programmers have long had a special name for these processes, one that a magician should easily recognize: Daemons. :D
Formatting My Head-Drive
I wrote this for the Barbelith forum almost 15 years ago. I thought folks around here might find it interesting to see where some of my ideas started from. The only changes I've made are for grammar and one personal detail that brings up some bad memories.
Recently, I've been experimenting with chaos magick, and while I've had some success, I've never really felt comfortable with the whole fire & forget paradigm. It's just not my style.
I'm a programmer. I've been one for almost a decade, so it's shaped a lot of my thinking. And it occurred to me, fairly recently, that a lot of what sigil-slingers do can be described in computer terms.
Got a servitor that protects you from outside attack? That's a firewall, running as a background process (or a TSR program, for you DOS types). Centering and purification rites could be filesystem checks and virus scans. And connections to other people can (and have been) treated as network links.
So I've been working on a specific visualization. I call it my "core chamber". A dark room, lit only by a shining white disc, floating in the center at about waist-height. This disc is my "head drive". By placing my "hands" on it, and triggering a specific image as a password (and no, I'm not telling you what it is) I can open up a terminal, allowing me to create, compile, and run various System Tools, including a filesystem checker and a firewall.
(I ran the filesystem checker a while ago. It may have been the novelty of it, but I immediately felt better.)
It's all a bit weird, I admit. Especially when I read that a German adept, Frater U.'.D.'., wrote the following, many years ago: The application of the as yet evolving information model has led to the discipline I have termed Cybermagic (from "cybernetics" or the "science of control systems"). Contrary to the other models described above, Cybermagic does not rely on magical trance to achieve its effects...The desired information is then called up and transmitted quite similarly to a copy command on an MS-DOS computer. The copy command analogy holds good insofar as the information (not having mass) is not actually "lost" in the process (as energy would be) but rather is duplicated.
Oddly, this is not unlike the theories of David Herbert & Jack Sarfatti, who treat information/consciousness as the "hidden variable" of quantum physics, a concept I was first introduced to in the works of Robert Anton Wilson, who seems to use them as a starting point for what he calls "hedonic engineering". But I can't say I entirely accept his approach.
Primarily, while Wilson (and Timothy Leary) agrees that the mind can be treated like a computer, he assumes that any modification to it requires "hacking" into its cognitive structure, often accompanied by chemical stimuli. However, in my approach, I feel that I shouldn't _have_ to break in. It's my mind...I have root access. *grin*
My ideas have changed since then, not only because my visualization skills have atrophied as I've aged, but also because of the way computer interfaces have transformed in the smartphone era. I'm more likely to think of a servitor as an app, now, floating in a less realized mindscape.
It's a shame that Reddit does not allow one to change one's username, because the more I look into the current state of Chaos Magick, the less I find that it appeals to me. It's not the tools (or "technology" as the esteemed Arch-traitor Bluefluke puts it) of the system that turns me off... I rather like the ideas behind sigils and servitors et al.
It's the whole "paradigm-shifting" aspect. I'm not looking to invoke various beings of possibly divine, demonic, or indeed fictional origin to do my work. I'm more interested in using the tools of magick to explore, comprehend, and hopefully control my own psyche. As the Thelemic definition states (emphasis mine):
Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one's conditions.
Or, if you prefer a different Al (the wizard of Northampton):
''Magic is the Art of manipulating symbols to achieve changes in consciousness''
Because of my own fairly secular background, I tend to see magickal concepts through a technological lens (and the informational model that I was first exposed to in a piece by Frater U.D.) and indeed have had several ideas recently on the subject, some of which I'll add later in this post. And there's something about chaos magick in 2018 that just doesn't seem to line up with that approach.
Not that many systems of magick do. The closest I've found to the way I see magick working is actually the old RPG Mage the Ascension, and the Tradition called the Virtual Adepts. Of course, as a child of the '80s, I rather outgrew the whole "cyberpunk" aspect some time ago, but the Reality Hackers faction appeals.
(I understand that in the 20th-anniversary edition, they were renamed the Mercurial Elite, but I haven't found any information on them yet, so at best it made for a cute title. ;) )
I also get some of my ideas from comic books, and one of the niftier new concepts is from the latest Doctor Strange
run, wherein the good Doctor met an alien named Pkzkrfmknna (nicknamed Kanna for simplicity) a self-described "arcanologist", who was able to substitute scientific elements for mystical ones (for example, building a "technowand" out of parts of a spacesuit). That's sort of the way I work, or at least hope to.
Is that still chaos magick? Does it matter if I use sigils as part of the process? I'm honestly not sure.
…and Technomagickal Thoughts.
One idea that I've been toying a lot with lately is creating servitors that aren't entities, but programmable drones, with limited functions strictly restricted by programming. One method I've been thinking of is actually writing out their operating system, either in pseudocode or an actual programming language (I use Perl most often these days, but Python has some amusing mythological resonances), turning that source into a sigil with my QR method, and embedding it steganographically in an image of the servitor itself. Then I could "launch" the servitor, safe in the knowledge that at least some of the risk of it going rogue has been mitigated.
I even have a handful of ideas regarding possible servitor drones. For example:
- A network of simple servitors, based on the "dog pod grid" from Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age whose sole function would be to detect any threatening entity or object above a certain threat level, and "tag" it for later evaluation and processing.
- Defensive servitors that act like a combination lightning rod and phase inverter, which would attract negative energy and convert it to positive energy, storing it for later use.
- A drone swarm that "nibbles" at tagged entities, consuming their negative energy and eliminating their threat. I haven't decided whether moths or piranha are a better analogy, but I think you get the idea.
- This one I really like: A servitor that sits in the back of your head and "checksums" your mind, comparing it against a known base state and alerting you if there's a major divergence.
Another idea I've had is an Augmented Reality application that would enable the user to overlay the so-called real world with information of a magickal nature. Being a dab hand at acronyms, I even gave it a name:
Wearable Augmented Reality Library Of Computerized Karcism. :D
Multiplexed Mental Manifestations
A recent post
reminded me of another idea I toyed with a while back regarding servitors and other related thoughtforms.
As I've stated in other posts, I tend to approach magick via a computational paradigm, a side effect of having worked in the software field for half of my life. So when I think of servitors, I think "magickal programs" not "newly created spirits".There's a subtlety that this doesn't really cover, however, as software (sorce code?) doesn't exist in a vacuum. It must have some hardware to run on, or it is merely letters, numbers, and symbols.
Now, conceptualizing and maintaining one servitotulpa/etc. would seem to me to be relatively easy, as there isn't so much to keep track of, and one could theoretically have it "running in the background" of your subconscious while you are working on other things. And psychology has shown that most people can think of between 5-9 tracks at once (amusingly, this is sometimes called "the magic number").
If that is sufficient to a sigil-slinger's needs, then there's no issue. But if things become more complicated, the idea rather falls apart. One solution that arose relatively recently in the works of Gordon White is the concept of "shoaling" sigils together. While it doesn't apply to servitors directly (as far as I know) it's an interesting animal metaphor that many have embraced.
However, I have a different thought: rather than "shoaling" thoughtforms, what if we networked
them? I'm picturing a sort of client-server architecture where one central servitor launches and monitors a host of interrelated sigils & thoughtforms, feeding them energy when needed, sending the occasional command, and accepting only the data said "thought-program" is meant to transmit, e.g. a firewall servitor that periodically reports status information.
(That reminds me: is there a term for a thoughtform that's more complex than a sigil, but doesn't rise to the level of a full servitor?)
One could even extend the computing metaphor further, by having some of these servitors "running on different hardware", so that they aren't only client programs, but actual peripherals
, like a monitor or mouse. But that's an idea I still haven't fully explored, because I'm still not sure whether the hardware is my personal mindscape or something more universal.
In my mind, I've been calling these sorts of constructs "sigilplexes", but I am open to other suggestions. :)
Extending a Metaphor: Seeking a Psychic Shell Prompt
By now, I think, most of you should be familiar with the paradigm I operate under, where magick is treated as a way of "sending signals to reality's operating system" (© Warren Ellis, in Planetary #7
). Now, I'm not ready, or indeed able, to work magick on external reality. Right now, my focus is on accessing my internal
But if my brain is the hardware, and my mind/soul/ka/whatever is the operating system, there's a problem:
- My mind has output devices, primarily audio, but the digital interface also works (most of the time. ;) )
- It also has input devices: two cameras, two microphones, and a few more exotic sensors.
- But there's no keyboard. No mouse. Not even a monitor.
So I've been thinking of magick as a way to create a terminal window, and at least be able to look at my operating system at a lower level, if not actually modify it. Meditation will be the first step. In this paradigm, it would be like hooking an external monitor to an embedded system for debugging purposes.
After that, once I understand what I'm looking at, I could not only potentially do some house cleaning (e.g. killing processes that are doing more harm than good) but I might even be able to write a few programs of my own. Some might call these servitors, but in the computing field, they are called services... or daemons. :D
Mind Under Data
Since I made my last post, I've been thinking a lot about what I'm doing, and (more importantly) why I'm doing it.
And I'm definitely starting to think that I'm going at this completely wrong.
I'm not sure what I'm trying to do is actually magick, chaos or otherwise, because according to most of the definitions out there, magick is a way to change reality, and that's not what I want. As I've mentioned before, I have a rather nasty set of neuroses, and have been working for some time on trying to get a handle on them
The reason I picked magick as a methodology is that the psychological model offers a potential gateway into my mind. As the British comic-book writer Warren Ellis put it, in Global Frequency #5
Magic is a psychological discipline. Magic is about effecting physical change through perceptual change. … When magicians talk about invoking gods and demons and the like, what they're really discussing is a process. A mental process that allows one to enter into conversation with the secret recesses of the human brain. That's where gods and devils live. They are aspects of our own subconscious, loaded with information we don't ordinarily have access to, possessed of sub-personalities we never hear.
There's a bit of a stumbling block with this model, in that I don't particularly believe in gods, devils, or spirits. My mind simply isn't wired that way. So what I've been trying to do is create a sort of hybrid between the psychological and information models, and rather than talk to the spirits in my head, find some
way to access the programs running in my head that I do not consciously have access to.
However, I honestly can't see how creating sigils would help, particularly since some of the very skills that I find lacking in my mind (concentration, visualization) are those required to make that form of magick effective. I'm stuck in a bit of a cycle: I need a better mind to access the psychological data structures that prevent me from having a better mind.
This may lead to my moving on from magick, at least until I figure out if being a magician will be any help at all. *shrug*