Last November I got my ticket to the world of Amateur Radio in the form of my Technician’s class license and call sign KE8COY. It’s been an absorbing few months since I started studying in Septemeber and making my first forays onto the local VHF and UHF airwaves, December and getting my first DX contact on a digital station during OH-KY-IN‘s Winter Field Day.
When I canceled “On the Way to the Peak of Normal” back at the beginning of 2014 I didn’t realize how much I’d miss the world of radio. And I’d always had it in the back of my mind, since around 2002, to go and get my Amateur Radio license. Yet it was one of those things that remained in the back of my mind for quite awhile. I had done little towards achieving the vision of becoming a ham, besides taking a one-day class at Hive 13. I didn’t pass the multiple choice test at the end of the day.
Like many projects it remained on the back burner and perhaps would have done so indefinitely if fate hadn’t arranged a chance meeting with Brent, KK4HMR at the lunch counter at Shanghai Mamma’s in mid-to-late August.
I knew KK4HMR as a member of the Hive and someone I talked to on the metro when we ran into each other, but that was about it. I also knew he had his ticket to the airwaves, and so Amateur Radio had often been a topic of discussion for us on the commute home. He told me about Oh-Ky-In which he had joined, and also about some classes they offered to get people licensed. I looked them up, went to some meetings, the classes, took my exam, got my call sign and license and am now back on the air, though in quite a different capacity than when I was doing broadcast community radio. Radio has not left my life path, rather it is just changing octaves, moving to a different frequency.
There are many hobbies within the hobby of Amateur Radio and I’m not quite sure exactly which of those I’ll be exploring. I know I’d like to do some tinkering and homebrewing. I’m taking some tenative steps towards getting my General class license, and hope to dig in deeper in March. Yet one thing that has really struck me has been how much I have learned about magic by studying radio theory.
As a technology radio is pretty magical. The fact that they can receive and distinguish signals by grabbing them out of the air with an antenna is in itself amazing. People in the hobby talk a lot about “the magic of radio” -when under difficult conditions and with pieced together rigs someone in Ohio could communicate with someone in Australia, on the International Space Station, or bounce signals off the moon.
Ham radio is a contact sport -and so is magic. The whole point in radio is to make “contacts” to transmit and receive.
Tuning & Frequency: In magic we spend a lot of time tuning ourselves and the place we live/do magic. Through stillness meditation, music, incense, and other methods the magician or mystic changes their baseline frequency and filters out the “noise” of daily life. Once the basic tuning is done a magician can then work on establishing new patterns, or modulating the basic carrier wave. Modulation is adding any sort of information to a radio wave -either in the form of voice, data, or on broadcast stations, music. In magic the frequency is modulated through contacts, sigils, utterance, ritual patterns, etc.
Filters: In radio filters are used to either accept or reject certain signals. In magic we use filters when dressing an altar with a deity image, a card from the LXXXI deck, or putting a tool in a certain place. This seems to act as a limiter for the non-desired signal or contact, and open the space up to the desired influence.
Resonance: Resonance allows inner knowledge and ability to pass from one person, being or place to another person being or place. (Or object.) From wiki: “In physics, resonance occurs when a system is able to store and easily transfer energy between two or more different storage modes. However, there are some losses from cycle to cycle, called damping. When damping is small, the resonant frequency is approximately equal to the natural frequency of the system, which is a frequency of unforced vibrations. Some systems have multiple, distinct, resonant frequencies.” Resonance allows magic to pass from inner to outer, from being to being, place to person.
Harmonics and Octaves: Those of us studying Quareia have read over and over again that magic works in octaves. This principle is important in radio work as well. For a definition: A harmonic is a frequency that is a whole number multiple (2, 3, 4 etc) of some fundamental frequency, and an octave is double the fundamental.Radios naturally put out harmonics of the frequency they are operating on. This can cause intereference in some cases or can be beneficial in others.
Consider a magical working, say the pentagram ritual. When fully contacted it not only enacts the pentagram harmonic pattern, but brings in other frequencies from the inner worlds. The magician lets go (transmits) and receives. Then in life the magician continues to “radiate” the influences mediated to him and though him in various octaves.
Working with the weather: Another exciting aspect of radio for me is that it is giving me the motivation to learn more about the weather. I think this will carry over to my magical work as well. I would like to attend a “weather spotter” SKYWARN training at some point to learn how to identify certain types of storms etc. to be able to report to the national weather service, if needed. Besides that there is the way certain weather patterns effect the propagation of radio signals, in ways desirable and undersired.
Hams pay a lot of attention to space weather as well: solar cycles and sunspot activity. As well as effecting communication these have harmonics in magic as well.
There is also something called “gray line propagation” and this is where a signal can receive greater strength and distance during twilight times (dawn and dusk) and also at the equinoxes. Just as a magician might time a working to the natural phases and seasons, these timings have a bearing on radio work as well.
Then there is the whole science of waves in radio and nature. Radio just seems to be a rabbit hole I can jump down forever -as is the study and practice of magic. The study of both seems to be complimentary for me.
73 & 93,
“To create is divine. To reproduce is human.” -Man Ray
GRAVE ROBBING THE MASTERS
Much of humanities best work did not come into being from passion and inspiration alone. Rather, it came into the chamber of a mind prepared and ripened on the emulation of others. The works produced by previous generations of writers and artists are a part of our heritage waiting to be hacked into. All you need to do is enter the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and choose one to become as your own. Take an author, any author, but preferably one you like, one who is a master of the craft, and copy out a passage of their work into a special book you keep just for this purpose. This book in time will become a compilation of favorite scenes and passages, a land of literary booty, treasures from the tomb.
STEAL TO BECOME AN AUTODIDACTATOR
If intellectual property is theft, stealing helps you in the quest of becoming an autodidactator. By pumping primary sources for a share of the gold your own mental gears will be slicked. Wheels will turn where before they sticked. It’s like spraying WD-40 into the cobwebs of the mind, or dripping some three-in-one oil on the rusty hinges of neural pathways.
COPYING IS A MANTIC ART
The suffix -mancy is found at the end of words relating to divination, such as cartomancy, and kleptomancy –the subject of this article. If it was just about taking a joy ride on the shoulders of giants, literary, artistic and intellectual appropriation would remain merely another form of kleptomania. Yet there is something portentous about the brazen act of the rip off, a phrase that can be translated in this context as: to rip up and riff off of.
William S. Burroughs showed how the future leaked out of his cut-up texts. Boundaries or zones are fundamental to both the self and its discourse but they are also passable both in the imaginary and the real. The real and imaginary intermingle of course. In stealing we step over one boundary. In cutting it up we throw it inside a matrix of possibility. In rewriting it fresh we fuse the I-for-myself with its viewpoint or experience. It is natural that prophecy is quoted in art. Copying the work of others establishes a landing strip for the Muse.
Even if you are just forging someone else’s name on a readymade off the assembly line, at least you have a pot to piss in. Sometimes you have to nevermind the bollocks and take a leak where you stand until the vapor clears. It has come down to us in legend that the Sex Pistols stole amplifiers and other music equipment from the Rolling Stones. This could have been a lie, which over time transformed into truth, and is thus an exemplar of propagande par le fait or, propaganda of the deed.
AN EXERCISE IN KLEPTOMANCY
This is only one permutation of a possible practice for cultural detritivores. It can also serve as a memory strengthening exercise, reinforcing key turns of phrase, words and choice rhetoric into your personal memory palace -itself just an antechamber of the vast Inner Library.
1. First pick a poet to plunder.
2. Copy a poem word for word.
3. Now put aside this sheet of paper and attempt to put the sentiment and as many words of the original as you can remember into your own piece of prose.
4. Once this task of necromantic or vampiric plagiarism has been achieved let this draft wither in the compost for a few days, until it becomes musty, and you have to bat away the fruit flies hovering over it. Move on to another project for a time.
5. Return to the article and make a new version of it, jumbling the collection of hints into confusion, and disarrange them into another perversion of the natural order. In this way you begin to act as a decomposer of cultured reality.
6. Set aside and let it rot for the space of one week to two months.
7. In the interim phase of this process repeat steps 1-6, using a different source author, preferably on a subject you feel to be incompatible with the first. Now you should have two pieces of writing obtained by kleptomantic reduction. Put them side be side together.
8. Through the art of recombination seek to weave the two disparate narratives into a single thread.
9. Edit at your will. This method is primarily one of decomposition, and is one way for artists to add to the cultural soil of the future.
Those who work in the plastic arts will need to use whatever inherent ingenium is available in them to devise an analogous method.
HOMAGE CVG of the Cincinnati Royals Collective just dropped this kleptomanic masterpiece.
Parts of this article have been inspired by the works by Negativland and People Like Us.
I recently picked up a copy of Harry G. Frankfurt’s 2005 essay “On Bullshit” at one of my favorite used bookstores. I had read this not long after it came out, but it was good to spend some time revisiting the theme he addresses -the bullshit our culture finds itself mucking about in, and what exactly bullshit is from a philosophical perspective. Nine years later the essay is just as pertinent. There seems to be no shortage of the stuff, whether its just your average poop, or grand politcal crap slinging.
Harry asks the important question, “Why is there so much bullshit?“, and answers, “Of course it is impossible to be sure that there is relatively more of it nowadays than at other times. There is more communication of all kinds in our time than ever before, but the proportion that is bullshit may not have increased. Without assuming that the incidence of bullshit is actually greater now, I will mention a few considerations that help to account for the fact that it is currently so great.
“Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated by whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled -whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others- to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant. Closely related instances arise from widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country’s affairs. The lack of any significant connection between a person’s opinion’s and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world.”
Certainly the proliferation of blogs -such as this one, laden with my own BS- and the lower barriers to publishing created by the widespread utilization of computer technology up the ante on the crap quotient. Add to this the fact that the world population now has a higher rate of literacy, more people reading, more people writing, and the amount of printed bullshit, aside from that discharged out the mouth, is sure to see an increase.
Could it be though, that within the fecal matter which most abhor, is a hidden resource? At a time when the soul of the west is barren, when our inner landscape has eroded, when the things which bind us together are under assault from materialist nihilism, absurd reductionism, and the corrosion of conformity, what we flush down the collective crapper may very well be what is actually needed to restore the inner and outer landscapes from their current state of gross misuse and waste.
To see how this might be so we must first check in with some deities and myths related to cattle. Bullshit, might after all, have a divine providence.
“Don’t plug the Cow-a-bunghole, dude.” -Bart Simpson
Instead, let it rip.
Cattle have long been part of the sacred terrain of humanities shared mythopoetic landscape. From the caves of Lascaux where our ancestors traced images of bison onto the walls, to the earliest written mention of cows being sacred in the Rig Veda, the cow has been seen as a symbol of wealth and fertility since ancient times. The Irish based their national epic around the favorite past times of cattle raiding as documented in the Tain Bo Cuailnge or Cattle Raid of Cooley.
It is not surprising that there have also been a number of cow and bull related deities. Kamadehenu is a Hindu bovine-goddess, not worshiped independently as such, but honored in the general reverence for cows within Hinduism. In ancient Egypt there is Hathor, who is depicted with cow horns in which is set a sun disk with Uraeus serpent. Isis is also at times depicted with cow horns. Apis is another Egyptian deity who took on the form of Bull. Mithra is the guardian of cattle, and in his later Roman form was shown as slaughtering a bull to bring to a banquet with Sol. Let us not forget the Golden Calf made by Aaron for the Israelites while Moses was up on Mount Sinai communing with Jehovah. The bull was sacred in Crete, in Cypress, the list goes on and on.
The life giving status appointed to the cow and related cattle species is not only from the flesh and dairy they provide, but from the from the foliage they graze upon being digested in the four separate chambers of their stomach, and being pooped out as a powerful manure to keep the soil healthy. This prima materia is rich in minerals. Besides being spread on the fields to ensure a bountiful harvest, while simultaneously providing food for other animal and fungals species, cow dung is also used as a source of fuel, the dried patties and cakes being burned. Buffalo chips and meadow muffins must surely be another form of manna.
Not only is bullshit sustainable, but holy.
In my own personal lexicon of symbolism shit represents the nigredo phase of alchemy. The time when everything is decomposed and putrefied. Depth psychologists have equated this with the dark night of the soul. Yet within all this mushy-stinky matter, this shit, is the very stuff of life, fertile and if composted, gives life and strength. This concept of taking crap material, and making into something that is good was explored in music by post-industrial group Coil on their 1984 album Scatology.
One reviewer said Coil made “good music, from shitty sounds“. The cover of the album shows an ass framed inside an inverted cross. The inside shows pictures of John Balance and Peter Christopherson lurking around a sewage treatment plant, “Sleazy” Peter’s hand covered in liquified filth. To me this picture shows the musicians as having something more powerful than the Midas touch. It confronted the biophobia so prevalent in society today, and showed the glory that can be found in the study of shit. The album had emerged out of the inspiration the couple found in their bondage and S&M practice, Sleazy often tying John up to the toilet. This approach, which revels in the by-products and wastes of our humanity, is one way to go about revitalizing culture in an age when it has all gone to shit. This is the work of the bullshit artist. It is the special province of those who would call them self a commissioner of the sewer.
A BRIEF DETOUR TO THE PISSOIR
As an antidote to purely visual art, Marcel Duchamp pioneered the field of readymade art. According to Andre Breton and Paul Eluard’s Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme, a readymade is “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.” The practice of choosing an object was part of the aesthetic decision. In his quest to get away from himself by choosing prefabricated items, we see both influence and similarity to the working methods of John Cage, who also strove to take himself out of the art, through the use of chance operations.
The readymade’s of Duchamp show cleverness and humor and open the viewers eyes to seeing everyday things in new ways. By placing his piece Fountain, a urinal signed with the moniker R. Mutt, in a gallery show he questioned the idea of art itself, and showed that it isn’t always about what you make with your hands, but with how you frame an object, or assign meaning. Playing with meaning, reframing events, words, or whatever media you are working in, is part of the job of the bullshit artist.
(The work of Marcel Duchamp will continue to receive coverage inside the pages of the avant-garde grimoire.)
THE ART OF BULLSHIT
The urban dictionary says a bullshit artist is “a deceptive fuck that gets off on selling people worthless info as if it were fact.” This is why, as an artist, you have to know your shit, and be able to bullshit. Knowing your shit helps you put power into your work. Being able to bullshit might get your work into a gallery, or some other forum advantageous to for you to float a piece. If you want to be able to roll like banker, double-count and inflate the net value of what you think a piece of art, performance or what have you is worth. Distort the measurement of supply and demand, to create a speculative bubble around your creation. Reel people in and baffle them with bullshit. They’ll thank you for it later.
COMMISSIONER OF SEWERS
I got My Education in dreams. For years I had dreams of looking for something in sewers. I later realize the sewers were manifesting as part of an Underworld initiation experience. The Archangel Gabriel appeared in the guise of my high school friend Gabe Moses, and helped me find a piece of myself that was lost in the sewers. This was a bit of spontaneous soul recovery. Sewers are places we might lose a bit of ourselves to, if we’re not careful about what we are flushing away. It is good to get to know the guardians of these inner places. William S. Burroughs set himself up in the sewers as a commissioner.
This little essay has humbled my question on how freedom is expressed in a democracy. It is the spokesman of how to use sewers as a place for piping-in power. The crooked stink of ambition is smelled on the shirtsleeves of our presidents. The Sultan’s have ruptured the intestines of America, all for the price of an orgy. The personal sewage of opinion is a condition of democracy. It is best to secure dirt on the governor, to get pictures of him smoking the sheriff’s reefer with the Sultan’s. In the afternoon we stop by the majesties house to make friendly deals. It is time to blow the virtues of Richard Nixon, a vital folk hero who revered the skepticism of the United States public. We will no longer cover up under-the-counter deals, but give free reign to bourbon snorting, cigar swilling, fat ass politicians. No skill is required.
The Arachnist Manifesto
I. Everything is connected by threads, both visible and invisible, forming a web.
II. Vibrations on even one strand of silken thread effect the entirety of the web.
III. The web is also a net and can be used to catch morsels of food. Thus the web sustains life through the mystery of the Eucharist and the transmutation of life into death into life. This is the Supper of the Fates.
IV. Webs are also used as a form of protection, to watch over the entrance of dwelling spaces and to encase the egg sacs of the thousand young.
V. The web is also a gate. The spaces between the strands can be used to travel instantly to any other point in the web.
VI. The strength of a web is dependent on the strength of the spun silk, but also on the web’s design. Arachnists, keep fast to your health and be cunning in the orchestration of your skein! As a weaver, flawed designs can be rewoven on newspun thread.
VII. Webs are spun at night. Spinning is a nocturnal activity connected to the Moon and dreams.
VIII. Spider webs can be used to stop bleeding. In a world rife with wounds, weavers are needed to restitch those bolts of cloth which have become frayed.
When did distinctions between art and craft first arise? Did this separation of utility and beauty come in the heady days of the 19th century when creators were rebelling against those who thought the sole value of art was to serve didactic and moral purposes? How will l‘art pour l’art fare in a time when resources will need to be allocated according to concerns more pressing than the aesthetic?
A lot to think about. and I don’t know that I will be able to answer every question I have raised for myself to the fullest degree, which is why this avant-garde grimoire for art school drop outs is an ongoing affair, nibbled on and chewed away at in chunks, not all of them digestible.
For most of history the skilled handyman was also considered an artist or artisan. They made work to serve a purpose other than the conceptual, the shocking, or just for arts sake (or Pete’s). Making art does have value in and of itself, at least for the person making the art. Whether or not it serves another purpose can only be decided by the experience of the people the work impacts -or fails to impact. Although the term “art for arts sake” was used to help separate the judgment of a pieces aesthetic value from the themes the work might touch on, the spirit of this phrase, has gone on to influence several generations of artists, who still working under romanticized notions about their particular trade, “create just to create” and perhaps because they can’t do anything else.
The glamorized image of the inspired artist working under immense pressure, subject to the whims of the muse -or the availability of mind altering drugs- has come down to us as gospel. The tortured, frenetic artist, oscillating between states of gloomy despair and wild eyed ecstasy is set at odds with the craftsman who steadily drums up water from the inner wells of creativity. The person who makes tools or objects of everyday use is contrasted with the composer whose genius requires a battery of other musicians to play according to his own scored requirements. The music may be moving. It may touch the soul. Will the social cohesion and sense of status provided by an orchestra be necessary once the funding is gone? The first chair violin player may find herself as a fiddler instead at a campfire with a bluegrass band playing for an extra sip of moonshine. Maybe at home though, she will keep a collection of scores by Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, and Terry Riley. She might play in a noise ensemble as well. Yet she will have in place some other skills to keep herself fed when l’art pour l’art is no longer a paying gig -not that it has ever paid exceedingly well by the standards of bankers, or been available in the same level to the astounding number of people who count themselves as artists in the world of today.
Art for arts sake, was very much product of a time when the amount of surplus energy available for pursuing these types of creations allowed larger numbers of individuals to move away from having to occupy themselves with subsistence alone. The wealth of nations as a whole allowed them, even if not “rich” themselves to live off the relative fat and table scraps thrown their way.
Why should I buy your ink splattered canvas hanging on an otherwise perfect coffee house wall when I can go home and create my own? Art as a commodity will lean towards those who can also be artisans and create objects of both aesthetic and utilitarian value. There will always be room for painters, illustrators, sculptors and musicians in the collective economy of the future, but during the interim between the end of the industrial age and the rise of a new civilization most folks will be living in third world conditions -whether or not they arrive slowly in a soft crash or come abruptly from a hard crash. Getting a job as a set designer for the local metropolitan opera might not be feasible. It’s best to have some alternatives -while working to keep low budget community theater a going concern.
There are many potential areas to work at as an artisan. Some of these can be done on the side as hobbies rewarding in their own right but that would also give the practitioner skills and products they could trade for other commodities or services.
The beginning list looks something like this. These are areas where artists may want to get a hand at working in now, developing those skills, building a culture of craftsmanship and putting down roots in between the cracks of current society.
The Book Arts: inlcuding bookbinding, calligraphy, papermaking, inkmaking, letterpress printing. These skills will be of use to all those who need to keep records. This is a personal area of craft I want to make further headway in.
Furniture Makers/Woodworking/Carpentry: Access to cut and seasoned wood may at times be wanting. The ability to use salvaged and reclaimed materials will be a boon. Think of reupholstering/refinishing the stuff you picked out of the garbage and trading it for a good knife or pipe wrench. Folks are still going to need things like tables, chairs, cutting boards, butcher blocks, shelves, cabinets. As mass produced pressed boards get burned to keep warm during the long winters, strong pieces which could be come new heirlooms will need to be made.
Leatherwork: The skins of beasts killed by cars are there for your taking. If the power goes out you will need to stay warm, and in the summer a belt is nice to keep the loincloth up. Which leads to…
Fashion: Tailors, hatmakers, and shoemakers all had a skill useful for fiat currency or trade. And they could make a man dandy or a fop, a woman a trendsetter fit to scandalize society with the latest thing. Getting nimble with a thread and thimble and other arts of the cloth can be a way to transform an entire thrift store while staying stylish.
Glassblowing: This is already being practiced by the folks who keep head shops supplied. I know of one homesteading farmer who does glasswork on the side. He is able to sell sake sets, pipes, and other commissioned pieces at the same stand he sells his collard greens at in the neighborhood farmers market.
Jewelers: Most everyone likes pretty shiny stuff. When the banks go down jewelers are often de facto banks. Even-if-not, being able to make baubles out of bits of wire, metal, glass and bone will give you an edge. Gifts become valuable and things like rings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. will still be given and exchanged by people to mark special occasions.
Locksmiths: keeping your hoard or stash safe from bands of raiding warlords or petty thieves might be something you want to be able to do. Jewelers may be able to moonlight as locksmith, as could others who work with metal.
Potters: New bowls, cups plates etc. will need to be made for when the plastic ones become brittle with age and break.
Instrument Makers: While electronic detritus remains, and batteries are still available, the fine art of Circuit Bending may help to keep electronic noise music alive for another couple of decades. Otherwise it will be nice to learn how to grow gourds and turn them into string, percussion, and wind instruments. Luthiers will remain in demand, while those who work with metal may get a chance to specialize in crafting and repairing the brass instruments so important to jazz music, which has a good chance of remaining part of Americas cultural legacy.
Tattoist/Piercer: This one is for all you post-postmodern primitives out there. Tattooing, piercing and other forms of body modification have been around for a long time and will be here to stay. This is a useful sideline for groups of squatters living in the margins between rural and city-life. Its a good skill for anyone employeed as a gangster. Even for those still struggling to uphold white middle-class values the occasional marker of some quasi-initiatory rite of passage is still in order.
These are just a few areas of artisanal trade a person could become a practitioner of, all the while working on the magnum opus during a lunch break where no carryout will be ordered. It is also true that the avant-garde techniques that were pioneered during the late 19th to early 21st century can potentially be applied to artisinal trades. John Cage’s I Ching informed chance operations have been used in printing, for instance. Perhaps there would be ways to use them in glassblowing, to determine the colors used. Cut-ups and collage will be apparent simply from working with an array of salvaged materials.
Some of these arts can be practiced in a spare corner of a home. Others require a bit more of a set up. Outfitting your Reality Studio with the tools needed for the Work is a part of the game, as is being able to improvise with the things already around you.
The artist who wishes to prosper during the unraveling of empire and into the coming dark ages will have a need to wear many hats. Developing facility with different materials will increase your chances of doing something that has personal and collective meaning.
Artifacts of our cultural ancestors surround us, whether they be in the form of books, paintings, sculpture, or audio-visual recordings. The media is not as important as the transmission, though the medium might determine what is transmitted. Sometimes a pilgrimage must be made to visit the holy relics of the mighty dead. Whether it is to a museum in Cleveland or Chicago, to a Cathedral, or to a library to pick up a history of the Lettrist movement, the recordings made by the artists who have gone before us are available for us to interact with. their minds are waiting to be renewed through contact with our own. When we are touched by the work another artists it becomes another ingredient ready to be transmuted in the cauldron of our own art.
In this bridging between the zones of time the individual may become fearful of the crisis of collusion. This is but one of many initiations. For the scribe is in many ways both copyist and originator, when she is not playing the game of outright theft (see KLEPTOMANCY). Under the auspices of influence we may often come into our own, receiving just the right nudge, crack of the whip, or insight necessary to allow us to tread further along our own path. Before the block of marble can be carved the light within it must emerge. And this light is often called forth from the resonance of being in the presence of an ancoestor or elder whose own shimmering of the secret fire awakens further that flame which is within the heart of the artist.
Our cultural ancestors -like our living circle of guides and friends- is often great for giving introductions to others. Was not Allen Ginsberg influenced by William Blake, Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams? Was not William Blake under the celestial wing of both Emmanuel Swedenborg and the many eyed angels of the heavens? Thus the chain of inspiration may be followed back. Did not William S. Burroughs glean from the writings of Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene? And was not Graham Greene a dream journalist of excellence who sat down every morning to transfer the memories of sleep to the waking page?
We need not be dominated by the lives of our cultural ancestors. They often have achievements which seem to tower above our own. Besides, it is not for us to merely emulate, but to create new patchworks out of the total materials available to us. This is not just our interaction with the mediated forms all around us, but from the stuff of our life, from the tragedies we have all been witness to, from the joys which have sprung out of our heart. We can learn not only the techniques and disciplines which propelled any given artist forward from the study of biography, but we can also learn from the wreckage of their lives what behaviors we can attempt to avoid. We can also learn resilience from the study of the Saints of Art. In our own lives there will be wreckage, pain, suffering, heartache and privation. These are the trials of human life. The cauldron of inspiration cannot be filled unless their has been some schism. Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light.
The skilled artist knows how to open and close the crack at will to bathe in the effulgence of the Void. He or she becomes a skilled mediator bringing the gifts of the ancestors through in her or his own mature work.
The term “dreaming in code” has entered into popular parlance among information and technology professionals as a way to denote those elite programmers who have so mastered their various software languages that they can “dream in code”. A hacker can write a script and inject it into cyberspace, altering the flow of information. By parallel a skilled worker of the Art Magical can utter their breath into the void and astral plane, altering the flow of imagination, becoming someone who “codes in dream”. This article looks at other parallels between the world of hackers and occulture in search of inspiration for the magical community.
THE VALUE OF OUTSIDE INFLUENCES
(Cosmic or Otherwise)
There is the danger in any field of endeavor to slip into a comfortable routine, to not seek the boundaries and push them, to play it safe and not experiment. In the arts this happens from following whatever is fashionable and trendy at the time; in the sciences from working around the pet theories of the day; in life from not pushing ourselves hard enough to see how we might expand our edges and do the better work of which we are each capable. This is no less true for magicians than anyone else.
As much as occultists work towards self-realization, individuation, and mastery of the Art we are not immune from the trends circulating amidst our various esoteric communities. This is not to place a value judgment on any given trend, but a call to closely examine the reasons behind a trend, and the effects its adoption can have within oneself and the community. The dangers of following trends blindly are there just as much for the solitary practitioners who often look to books, articles, and internet sites as the basis for their practice, as to those who work in covens, lodges, and circles.
Whether you are a solitary practitioner, work in a group, or some mixture thereof, tremendous sources of creativity and insight can be tapped, and utilized in the magical arts by taking a cross-disciplinary approach and researching what is going on in other fields of human endeavor. Does it matter if ones inspiration comes from the transplutonian mauve zone as opposed to an adjacent subculture? Either way outside influences remain essential sources of inspiration.
While insulating oneself from outside influences can have the beneficial effect of strengthening inner resources, at other times those reserves need to be refilled and built up by looking into lines of work we are unfamiliar with. Delving into alternative lines of thought and thinking is very much akin to traveling and immersion in a foreign culture, or the new contacts we make when being of service to the inner worlds. Upon returning home we will find we have been changed, perhaps even transformed by our journey. If nothing else, we will come to appreciate the diverse approaches people have towards life and learn that the path we walk on is not the only path to walk on. At the same time we will perhaps develop a better understanding of the similarities people share beneath the surface appearances of different goals and aims. And then we can see where the paths come together and merge.
It is in this regard that I wish to share my own voyeuristic love affair with hacker culture.
In the course of my contemplation of the lovable bunch who spend their hours writing code, reverse engineering hardware, figuring out where systems are weak and security is lax, I came across a number of similarities between the communities surrounding hacking and esoterica. I have looked at our shared strengths and weaknesses and have noted some differences. From this exercise in analogical thinking I realized there are a number of activities and attitudes, as well as ways of approaching problems that occultists could adopt from the practice of hackers. [Further study also gave me ideas for a number of magical techniques inspired by hacking.]
NOTES FROM A PASSIONATE OBSERVER
As a student of the Western Mystery Tradition I write about hacking and hackers not as someone who has been deep on the inside of that scene, but rather as a passionate observer. I may be on the sidelines but I have had an ongoing fascination with the history, lore, and practices of hacking and phone phreaking since I was an adolescent. My own computer and technical skills are very average. What continues to draw me back to hacking is my own sympathy with many of the political and social aims inside the movement, their love of pranks, and long history of culture jamming.
As a kid I was something of an amateur phone phreak. I knew a few tricks for making free calls on pay phones. A precocious reader, at a young age I’d zipped through Steve Levy’s Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution and had gotten all excited about making further explorations of the electronic frontier via the telephone wires. It was around this time that I once got a hold of a phone lineman’s box. I didn’t steal it, just took it. The phone guy was nowhere around, but a piece of his equipment had been left at a switching box. When I figured out it had a modem and rudimentary computer in it I started using the device to connect to various BBS’ in the hopes of accessing further knowledge on any number of arcane subjects. Little did I know the box made a trace: anytime I placed a call the box also connected to the Cincinnati Bell office. One day while I was being subjected to a compulsory eighth grade education, an agent from the phone company came to the house, looking for me. He asked my mom where I was. When she told him I was at school, he asked if she had seen the lineman’s box, telling her that it had been traced to our address. My mom, always keeping a sharp eye on me, had of course seen me hooking it up to the phone line and quickly turned it over to the authorities. On that day perhaps, I was perhaps lucky to be at school. It probably spared me from a stern grilling from a telco agent.
And although I didn’t pursue the path of active hacking and phone phreaking much further than that, my interest in it remained and I was later blessed to have close friends very savvy in this area. I started investigating hacker culture on a deeper level.
I do this in several ways. The first is by reading 2600: The Hacker Quarterly on a regular basis. Some of the articles fly way over my head, especially those that involve dense coding. Others that are on such things as phone systems, amateur radio, satellites, GPS, subverting digital rights management, and basic security are suitable for the beginner. Something of a radio geek myself, over the past four years I’ve also been a regular listener to the two radio shows hosted by Emmanuel Goldstein, editor-in-chief of 2600, these being Off the Hook on WBAI in New York, and Off the Wall on WUSB in Stonybrook (both available archived online and as podcasts). The magazine and radio shows go together like bread and butter. Whereas the magazine provides practical articles, as well as perspectives from individual hackers in both a column and extensive letter section, the radio shows explore the social and political implications of technology.
Apart from these sources there is a plethora of audio and video available from various hacker conferences, including the Chaos Communication Congress and H.O.P.E. (Hackers Of Planet Earth) to name just two. I absorb a lot of this audio material while at my day job or when doing home repair. I think it would be a good move if more of the occult oriented conferences and festivals archived all of their talks online as well. These would become tremendous resources after an event to be tapped by attendees who weren’t able to hear or see every presentation. It also gives those who didn’t go, whether by choice or circumstance, the gift of learning something new from the speakers. And it may inspire them to go in the future. More importantly, putting a talk online adds to the corpus of occult knowledge available to anyone with an internet connection.
The magazine, radio shows, and talks from the cons got me very excited, and I thought about applying myself towards becoming a hacker. Because hacking is inspiring to me I decided to make some technological shifts in my life. But where would I begin? Up until the end of January in 2014 I presented radio programs for over a decade, first on a pirate station Anti-Watt and now on WAIF in Cincinnati. Despite having chosen to focus more of my efforts on writing, radio is still a medium I love. I had learned that many hackers are also Hams and have decided to apply myself towards receiving an Amateur radio license. I also decided to learn about Linux by running Oneiric Ocelot, a release of Ubuntu on one of my computers (perfect for someone who “codes in dream”). Learning a new Operating System is like learning a new system of magic. Routine tasks on a Windows system are now not quite as simple, but the mastery that comes from training, is in itself a source of pleasure. Open Source projects and software are also more closely aligned to my own personal values and ethics.
HACKER CULTURE AND OCCULTURE: SIMILARITIES AND SYMPTOMS OF STEREOTYPE
Though I have dipped my toes into the world of hacking, I am most passionate about occulture and those communities surrounding the ongoing magical revival. As I became more familiar with hackdom it was a natural step for me to notice similarities between these two camps and the places where their boundaries overlap.
While the methodology utilized by hackers and operative magicians may seem to be in diametric opposition, their aims need not be so. At their core individuals in both movements seek to utilize their abilities to change and challenge themselves, and through magic, or manipulation of technological systems, change the world. The skill sets and ethics upheld by each have much to offer the other. Both hackers and occultists have also suffered from stereotypes that are striking in their similarity, and looking at them can suggest ways these stereotypes can be maneuvered around and disarmed. Weaknesses can be overcome, similarities built upon, and the strengths of one group borrowed for use in another to arrive at a new synthesis.
The negative stereotypes in both communities come from stigma surrounding those who have used their skills, whether it be at hacking (hardware, software) or at practical magic (spells, hexes, talismans) for nefarious ends. People outside of these groups fear these abilities because they do not understand them. Distinctions between White Hat and Black Hat hacking find their parallels in Black and White magic. Many occultists and hackers however decry these distinctions. You are either a mage or not, a hacker or not. A person engaged in criminal computer activity is simply a criminal, and an occultist who puts hexes and curses on people needs to take a close look at their own values. Yet it remains a truth that curses are a part of magic, just as hacking for personal gain is taken up by technological adepts. However both magic and hacking can be used in the cause of Justice when the typical channels of law are insufficient or are themselves corrupt.
Magicians and hackers both suffer from stereotypes that focus in on what is perceived to be “dark side” activities. The media has perpetuated images of pagans, witches, occultists and hackers as antisocial terrorist misfits, out to destroy society and brainwash your kids. But the corporate media aren’t the only people upholding this myth. The clandestine and elitist attitudes often ensconced within both the hacker and occultist scenes have served to reinforce perceptions created by the media that both groups are up to something illegitimate.
Being “out of the broom closet” and transparent about our beliefs, activities and practices is one way to combat these negative stereotypes. This is akin to the way that technologists and desk jockey wizards’ share their techniques and programs in the Open Source Software movement, which allows users to study, change, improve and redistribute software code, that in other situations would have been kept hidden and proprietary. Joshua Madara, who is a key innovator doing much to explore the intersection between occultism and hacking, rewrote the traditional four Powers of the Sphinx as “To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Make Open Source” in a blog post he wrote on the subject of “Open Sourcery” . Groups like The Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn have also taken the values of the Open Source Software movement and applied them to magic.
There remain groups and teachers who think it is best to keep information out of the hands of magical students, whether “for their safety” or so they can hold on to flimsy claims of power, and keep a person beholden to them. Magic and the Mysteries protect themselves, and those who are not ready for certain magical experiences or techniques will be blocked out by the beings of the inner world. Sure, there may be folks who can penetrate into a certain dangerous place in the inner realms, or use a technique to awaken their kundalini in an unsafe/unprepared way, and they will get blown up. From time to time to, a script kiddie may access something online that he wasn’t ready for and have the authorities called down on him. That doesn’t mean the information shouldn’t be out there.
Hackers who expose secret information have been in the headlines for years now. Julian Assange’s Wikileaks project is just one high profile example. Other folks, like the people behind Cryptome have also been releasing important documents to the public. Luckily in the magical world some kind hearted souls have stepped up to the plate with the Watchers of the Dawn website to “keep an eye on the antics of occult groups.”
Leaking magical secrets is a time honored tradition in magic itself. Besides serious errors in our ideas of the transmission of occult lineages (see Frater Acher’s wonderful posts on the Asiatic Brotherhood for more insight on this) mages have been ripping each other off for ages, Crowley’s publishing of the Golden Dawn material a prime example.
John Michael Greer said in his talk, A Magical Education, “We know one thing for sure about magicians in the past— anywhere in the past: they used what worked. The oldest and most authentic tradition in all of magic is the tradition of stealing anything that’s not nailed down, and bringing along a crowbar for use on the things that are. Choose any magical tradition from the past, look into its roots, and you’ll find a fantastic gallimaufry of sources.”
There is something to be said about working in secret, developing something clandestine, with a group or alone. But when the material reaches a level of maturity and strength, the results should be published or shared so that the rest of the community can get to experimenting and working with the material.
WHATS YOUR HANDLE?
As our communities have become more transparent and open we have been witness to the big strides taken in reclaiming such words as “witch” away from the negative connotations media authorities have imbued them with, just as the LBGQT community has done with the word queer. This is also true of the words hacker and hacking.
A time-honored tradition among occultists and hackers is the practice of taking on a handle, moniker, or magical name, for instance Cap’n Crunch, the handle of John Draper, or Starhawk, the magical name adopted by Miriam Simos. The names we choose are used as a way of solidifying our identity with the movements and cultures we believe in. Choosing a name is an area where a person is able to show off their cleverness, creativity and distinguish themselves as well as show the areas of practice or subjects they are interested in.
In my opinion a magical name or handle is a mixed bag. It can be quite fun and empowering to choose our own name, for names have power. On the negative side I see this trend as reinforcing the clandestine and elitist attitudes of these cultures, as these names serve to set an individual apart from the mainstream. I don’t see anything wrong with the practice per se, especially if the person is using it to remain anonymous and they work in a field that may persecute them. But it can be offsetting to those who would otherwise embrace our ideals. It is also good thing to stand behind being a hacker or occultist under our own given names, to show that there is no separation in our life – we are who we are, outside the ritual circles and away from the computer screen or soldering iron. Using your given name also is a good way to keep an inflated sense of self in check.
THE HACKER ETHIC
While part of the work of an initiate is to work with inner contacts and spirit beings, which can work to regenerate 21st century magical practice, lateral thinking and taking what has worked in other fields and subcultures, and applying it to the magic is another way to nurture the community. The principles of the hacker ethic in particular could be adopted by individual working occultists. These are looked at in brief below.
SHARING & OPENESS: Publish your magical research and share your experiments, both the successes and failures. Advanced techniques should not be kept secret for the solo pleasures of XI degree inepti. To paraphrase Josephine McCarthy has said, “the idiots will blow themselves up!” while those who can put the information and knowledge to good use will have access to it.
MISTRUST AUTHORITY, PROMOTE DECENTRALIZATION:
While lodges, covens and groves will continue to play a role in the ecology of magical communities, an increasing number of workers are finding more fluid forms of collaboration to be desirable. People gather together when the work needs to be done, and disperse afterwards. Natural leaders and officiators may arise in such situations, but the work is bared and born by the group. When it is over, the workers return to their daily solitary practices and projects. The traditional groups magicians would find themselves in become networks of connection rather than bureaucratic hierarchies passing out merit badges when a successful banishing ritual is done. Though the priesthood may be decentralized over space and time we can all come together circling the flame of the inner convocation.
WORLD IMPROVEMENT: Whether the improvements come from triggering the tides of death, destruction, and cataclysm, or through being a catalyst for growth, regeneration, or birthing, service should be the byword and guiding principle behind the work that is engaged in. Magicians are midwifes of life and death. They uphold civilization, whether in its upswing or decline. They go in from one job to another, not always knowing what will be required of them, and stretch themselves in the process, becoming more pliable for future jobs. They get on with the dirty jobs other folks in their right minds wouldn’t want to touch. Carrying the stillness within them, they show up.
Recently I found myself whistling the tunes for Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s Tierkreis. These melodies were originally written for music box -and inspired by a dream of a mysterious birdman, from whom Karl pulled three music boxes out of his stomach. He wrote Musik Im Bauch, or Music in the Belly based on this dream, composing the twelve pieces for Tierkreis in tandem (as the music boxes were used in Musik Im Bauch). This piece of music is probably the most listenable of his works for those who don’t really give two cents about avant-garde art music. And it is adaptable for many types of instruments. It was also the basis for his piece of music Sirius, and the melodies featured there.
Often times when I find myself whistling or humming a tune, the particular song that is coming up has a message for me. In the case of the melodies for the twelve zodiac signs I was whistling, I realized it had to do with the various astrological configurations happening in April 2014. On April 15 there is a Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse, and on April 28 there is a Solar Eclipse. Furthermore there is also the Grand Cardinal Cross. The full moon lunar eclipse on the 15th takes place in the sign of Libra. The new moon solar eclipse takes place in the sign of Taurus. The planets squaring off in the grand cardinal cross are as follows:
Mars (retrograde) in Libra
Pluto in Capricorn
Uranus in Aries
Jupiter in Cancer.
So how does all this tie in with Stockhausen’t music? The eclipses and grand cardinal cross are challenging but dynamic aspects. A trusted adviser put it to me this way, “keep your ass tied to the ground.” Stockhausen, in writing the music for the twelve signs, studied individuals of each sun sign. Furthermore he said that an agitated person should listen to the melody for his or her sun sign three times in a row -and often when the piece is played, the melodies are repeated three times, in some cases improvised upon. During this astrologically challenging time I found it helpful to not only whistle the tunes from this piece that I know to myself, but also to listen to a few of the recordings. I think of this music as a kind of astrological tonic, and meditatively listening to the entire sequence for me, has a soothing effect.
His instructions for playing the piece live are to complete the entire sequence of twelve melodies, but to begin with the sign the zodiac is currently in. This would make for a variety of listening experience each time it is performed. Furthermore, because it can be played on a number of different instruments, the permutations for possible listening are almost endless. Most recordings go from the beginning of the year to the end, Aquarius to Capricorn. As an intuitive piece, a number of players can each pick a sign to represent, and they then go back and forth with the melodies, improvising as they go. There have already been many versions recorded and performed. Here are a few that go through the entire sequence for your listening pleasure.
One of the conversations I get to hear a lot of, whether on the bus, at work, or with family, is about the exorbitant cost of a college education, the lack of jobs for graduates, and peoples desire to go back to school for a Masters or Doctorate as a way to defer paying accumulated debt, and as means of specializing further in the hopes of finding some niche in the job market. I’m not the only one having this conversation. What gets me the most though is how willing people are to think this is still the main pathway to take in life. Even as evidence mounts higher than the walls to the university itself, people are in denial about the pragmatic utility a degree will give them. This is because western culture at large has been thoroughly schooled.
E.L. Anderson, quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary writes: “It is not necessary to use a sharp spur upon a schooled horse.” The spurs of society continue to push on those who are still within the system enough to think its not collapsing to hop into the saddle of massive debt, at the expense of true learning, because they have been trained and disciplined to do so.
This has also had an effect on the Mysteries. As if a correspondence course or a weekend workshop will make you an initiate, anymore than a class in creative writing will make you either creative or a writer. Even more than these are the institutionalized bodies of initiates (think OTO, Golden Dawn, and even the various branches of organized Druidry) that aim to teach magic through a long drawn out process of grades. Just as “progress” is not a straight line from prehistory to industrialization, linear approaches to schooling magicians from neophyte to grand ipsissimus are counterproductive.
In his work Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich wrote, “the mere existence of school [in North America and Latin America] disables the poor from taking control of their own learning. All over the world school has an anti-educational effect on society: school is recognized as the institution which specializes in education.”  Society as a whole has been inculcated in the idea of school itself that it has become a form fundamentalist technocratic religion. Instead of looking to the interior realms for guidance from within, contemporary humanity is largely exteriorized. It would be one thing if we looked to the exterior of the grand book of Nature. Instead we look to certified teachers and schools and accept only those models which have been drafted up into curricula following narrow minded orders of progression. K-12 or from 0 to XI. Initiates want a certificate of having memorized all the colors of the Queen scale on the Tree of Life instead of stepping into the landscape of the Tree itself.
Gnosis and magic are wild. They tear through boundaries. They have no do not discriminate based on a badge of entitlement. “Curriculum has always been used to assign social rank,” Illich says. We see this in the way some schools only allow you to join in a particular magical or spiritual activity if you have passed through the other grades. For illuminated folks who say they envision an egalitarian society based on the principals of brother-and-sisterhood, those types of abject requirements will need to be done away with.
The Mysteries need to be deschooled.
Never mind that so many teachers are authoritarian figures merely by donning the name of teacher. Instead of the students choosing what they want to focus on and learn, a teacher imposes his or her will of what they think the students need to learn upon them. It’s as true in magical circles as it is in High School. Again Illich sees through the ruse. “Theme-matching is by definition teacher centered: it requires an authoritarian presence to define for the participants the starting point for their discussion.”
When money enters the equation you end up with other problems. Say a person has a skill you really want to learn. But its not a popular skill. If you only teach as a means for making an income, you might not travel, or connect in other ways with people who want to learn what you know, because it isn’t “cost effective”.
One of the upsides of collapse, outside all the trauma it is creating, is a natural deschooling of society. As institutions without dollars shut their doors, Westerners have an opportunity to deinstitutionalize themselves. For those of us tired of living in straight jackets with a needle of thorazine in the vein, it is a welcome relief, despite the challenges. And it is exciting to work on creating new ways of learning, and reinvigorating traditional ways that have fallen by the wayside. Tradition and innovation can truly work together, but we all need to deschool ourselves about how we think things should be.
Note: My current readings of Ivan Illich are forcing me to rethink some of my premises I laid out in my series of posts on guilds. However a third part to the guild essay is in the works, and there is still much humans can use again from the toolkit they created in medieval times.
1. Quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary under the definition for “schooled”.
2. Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society, 1971, Harper & Row, New York
Justin Patrick Moore
Husband. Father/Grandfather. Writer. Green wizard. Ham radio operator (KE8COY). Electronic musician. Library cataloger.