Grappling with peak-oil and the collapse of industrial civilization is similar to undergoing the death-in-life initiation of the Mystery Schools. Indeed some writers on the subject have equated acceptance of peak-oil and other converging crises with the five-stages of grief elucidated by the brilliant death-worker, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Along this road to the stage of acceptance there is often a crisis of meaning. Where once the view showed a rosy future propped up and propelled onwards by the optimistic preaching of a media in the pocket of the tech-sector, now the picture is dimming and the promised trajectory has been shown to be empty. So meaning in life, in the activities which used to bring pleasure, in the diversions and distractions where I once sought escape, are empty as well.
When I first started undergoing the death-of-civilization initiation it disabled my love of recorded music. I had been writing music reviews for Brainwashed.com and after a few years passed I really started to contend with the fact that all the energy I had put into listening to and loving a particular musical format was most likely drawing to a close. This being the culture of cassettes and CDs I had grown up with. Sure, they’d already been usurped somewhat by the MP3, a loss I had bemoaned. When I projected the potential future of the CD fifty years hence into a further destabilized society, the pursuit of championing this format started to shatter, and along with that fragile sense of self I had belt my love for the medium. After all, I had spent much time as not only a devotee of the recorded album, but also as a priest of the record, playing them on the airwaves as a programmer and DJ.
One way I began to grapple with this was by writing a short-story about a radio DJ in small town about seventy or so years from now who used phonograph records as his main medium. I have faith that radio can survive the long descent, though I moved on from being radio active myself. I still have hope that phonographic recording can be preserved into the future. I think what many interesting labels, such as Vinyl-On-Demand and the many independents releasing new music on vinyl are doing is the musical equivalent to the trend in publishing of making fine edition books. There is a definite market for “Talismanic Music on Vinyl”. Vinyl, when properly cared for has a longer shelf life than the other formats for recorded music. It’s pretty much stayed the course since its invention, while tape, CD, and eventually MP3 will have all come and gone. Will the technology to be able to record also survive in the same way? Will I be able to have a steampunk hi-fi set? The album as such is a new format for the consumption of music, made only in its particular manner because of the technology.
As far as artistic legacies go, my feelings started to sink about the album. Books are a much stabler format. And even if I know that nothing I produce may survive for more than a couple of generations, striving to make something that is durable is a significant driver in human behavior. Especially for the whole slew of Gen X, Y and millenium slackers who think -or thought- of themselves as artists. Was the recording and broadcasting of music still an area of cultural production I wanted to my resources on? In the end, no, and one of the reasons why I gave up my radio show.
Letting go of who we think we are is hard to do, not only for ourselves, but for our loved ones and friends. We may see a change in ourselves. We may see a potential for change that we’d like in someone close to us. The process of maneuvering through what we might actually need to do to change has the unwelcome tendency to disturb settled habits. Those habits may need to be disturbed, and given time, after a major transition, things do have a way of re-settling into a new pattern. Magic, meditation, and other forms of inner work all have a way of pushing our boundaries, dissolving them, forcing the worker to look at themselves in the cold light of day. Things are seen for what they are. Fantasy is replaced by the urge to get to work on things that truly matters.
These are all things that happen to an individual when they reach out and touch death. Letting go. From fear of death to acceptance.
Looking at peak oil, climate change, and other collapse related subjects is kind of a macro vision of death on a large scale. It’s not just yourself anymore, but the society that you grew up in that is going to die. Of course that’s been true for civilizations and people all across history. Doesn’t make it easy or comfortable. But an initiate has to learn to become okay with uncomfortable.
Thinking about the future of music in a society on the downward slope got me to thinking about art in general, and how much of a luxury it can be, but also how necessary music and art are to life. They will certainly be a part of our society down the road. They always have been. What forms they will take is another matter, and one that I seriously began to contemplate.
In addition to listening to a lot of avant-garde music I’d spent much of my time studying the theories and practices of avant-garde musicians, artists, and writers. I was especially interested in the points where their working practices crossed over into the realms of the esoteric and occult. I began to feel that there was so much innovation in art since around the 1880’s, roughly coinciding with the magical revival, that it would be a shame for this body of practice to be lost to the vagaries of time.
I also wanted to work further on synthesizing the artistic avant-garde with magic. As occupiers of fringe territory in society they already share a lot of common ground, but to bring the two subject into further dialogue in my writing is one of my ongoing projects. So in order to save what I can, at least for awhile, I have started putting together an avant-garde grimoire of artistic and occult praxis. It does not contain the seals and sigils of spirits and entities, but rather is a collection of grammar from my wide range of reading on these practices; like any good vocabulary, it should be put to use.