Anton Channing Technology
|Pagan Teenage Voice |
(Magazine of Minor Arcana)
|Quest Magazine: |
|University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire|
Magick and Technology.
|Pagan Dawn |
Magick and Technology
Anton Channing (Originally published under the pseudonym Frater M 1232 for the website of the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire )
Any sufficiently advanced form of science will appear indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clark
Any sufficiently advanced form of magick will appear indistinguishable from science.
Magic has always been quick to make use of the latest technologies, whatever those technologies may be. In addition to scientific technologies, such as astronomy and mathematics, magicians have also made use of religious technologies, such as the concepts of demons, angels and gods. At times in the past technology and magic have been so interwoven that the greatest scientists were also among the greatest magicians, and their magical ideas informed their science and their scientific discoveries informed their magic. Perhaps the most famous example is alchemy, from which we have derived modern chemistry, modern psychology and much of modern magic. The alchemists practised chemistry, psychology and magic without any sense that they were studying different subjects.
At the end of the twentieth century there are many new technologies in circulation, and many of them are being adopted as useful for magicians, some as directly useful in magical ritual, some as directly influential in magical theory and others simply useful as a medium for the spread of magical ideas. Computer Technology has so far been mainly useful as a means of spreading magical information. As well as the many Websites, USENET groups, chat rooms and mailing lists devoted to magical topics, the computer has also made it easy to self publish small booklets and magazines, without the requirement of access to expensive printing equipment.
Not many magicians have made direct use of computer technology in magical theory, although of those that have, two stand out as being especially relevant, Charles Brewster (aka Frater Choronzon 999) and Ramsey Dukes. Brewster, in his excellent work Liber Cyber, has given us the concept of Cybermorphic information. Dukes has given us another great computer-inspired magical concept, Johnston's Paradox, which he discusses in his books, Words Made Flesh, BLAST Your Way to Megabuck$ With My SECRET Sex-Power Formula, and What I Did In My Holidays.
For a full discussion of Johnston's paradox, it is highly recommended that you read Dukes works first-hand, although I shall briefly summarize the concept here. Dukes begins his reasoning by assuming that we live in an entirely materialist world where magic doesn't exist and everything will eventually be explained away by science. He then examines computer technology, in particular the two fields of Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. With computer power exponentially increasing, Dukes speculates that eventually we should have enough computer power to create an artificial world, populated by artificial humans and animals with perfected artificial intelligence. If we live in an entirely materialist world, then there is no reason why can not do this, because every function of the human mind would be the result of entirely deterministic scientific principles, and therefore reproducible when we discover what those principles are. To the artificial intelligences living in the virtual realities, the virtual realities will be indistinguishable from the real thing.
Dukes goes on to theorise that the scientists who create these worlds will not be able to resist tampering with them in small ways, in order to see what will happen. Most of these alterations will mean programming the worlds to reproduce magical phenomena. The speculations theorise that the number of worlds where magic will be allowed will greatly outnumber the number of worlds based entirely on materialistic principles.
Finally Dukes then asks what the probability is that we are living in the original world. He reasons that the probability is very small. He then asks what the probability is that we are living in one of the worlds based entirely upon materialistic principles. Again he deduces that the probability is very small. He concludes by saying that in all likelihood we are living in a world where magic is possible. This theory does have a lot of other connotations, only some of which are addressed in films such as The Matrix and Total Recall.
Brewster's concept is much more simple to discuss, and is much more rooted in contemporary programming technology than speculation concerning future developments. In discussing the concept of information, Brewster identifies the two essential categories identifiable by programmers, data and instructions. In light of modern object-oriented approaches to computer software development, we might call these objects and processes. In any case Brewster argued for a new third type of information, which he called cybermorphs. Brewster discribes what is different about cybermorphic information...
'The principle difference between a cybermorph and data/instruction information is that while data and instructions always relate directly to some physical reality, cybermorphs always relate essentially to the abstract systems framework within which those data and instructions have meaning and/or validity.'
In a sense, this system can be seen to directly relate to the transcendance of duality that the alchemists always argued for. Duality for the alchemists was made up of the principles of Salt and Sulphur. Transcendance of this was their Mercury. Salt was passive and still, like objects or data in computing terms. Sulphur was active and forceful, like instructions or processes. Salt, Sulphur and Mercury were the names used by magicians for these concepts when magicians were entering the age of chemistry, data, instructions and cybermorphs seem to be one of the suggested renaming of these concepts being put forward now that magicians are entering the computer age. Only the magical history presented in some future post-computer age will be able to determine which terms will be the most popular in the forthcoming era of magic.
Cybermorphs and Johnston's Paradox
If we were to combine the notions of Johnston's paradox and cybermorphic information with modern physics, we can relate 'data' to the physical concept of particles, and an 'objected-oriented' view of the world as corresponding to general relativity. 'Instructions', on the other hand, correspond to wave functions, and a 'process-oriented' view is comparable with quantum mechanics. Since in Johnston's paradox both the particles of general relativity and the waves of quantum mechanics are actually merely modelled as information inside a hypothetical computer in another universe, it can be seen that there might well be information that doesn't directly relate to either wave functions or the particles of this universe. Such information would be cybermorphic information, and its purpose would simply be to structure and process the data and instructions. A 'cybermorph-oriented' view would analogous to M-theory, the latest physical theory to attempt a reconciliation of general relativity with quantum mechanics.
CHAOSHEX and Magickal Hacking
Original DOS version
If we are artificial intelligence programs, living in a vast virtual reality, then we should be capable of evolving a program feature that allows us to hack into the system control computer and reprogram things to our own benefit. A successful piece of hacking would be undetected by the system and would remain uncorrected. Sometimes an error caused by hacking may be corrected, but not before the ripples of its effect have caused the world to head in a subtly different direction. This is exactly how most magicians argue magic works.
CHAOSHEX was a very simple computer program I wrote that acts as a three-way cybermorphic interface between the magician, his computer and the meta-computer our world is 'run' on. CHAOSHEX is an abbreviation for Cybermorph Hardware And Operating System - Human-interface EXchange. The current version is a combination of MS-DOS batch files and QBASIC programs. It works as a simple command line interface.
Before CHAOSHEX can be used, the magician needs to use the 'LOGIN' command. Doing this activates a flag allowing the other programs to be accessed, and changes the normal DOS prompt into the CHAOSHEX prompt. Typing the 'LOGOUT' command will deactivate the flag and revert to the DOS prompt. Whilst in CHAOSHEX there are number of commands that the magician may use to hack into the world. When a spell is activated, an assortment of colours and words flash by on the screen in a random fashion, triggering a state of gnosis in the magician. This causes the command the magician entered to change things in the real world at the base level of pure information. Even if the security programs of the world, the cybermorphic police, correct the error in a fraction of a second, the error will cause ripples due to the butterfly effect that can cause great changes.
CHAOSHEX works as an advanced servitor that replaces all need for conventional magic ritual, the 'LOGIN' command replaces any need for a traditional banishing ritual, since it automatically places the magician in exactly the focused state of mind required. No magickal training is required, our responses to typing 'LOGIN' have been conditioned from hours of access to computer networks and the internet. Similarly the 'LOGOUT' command effectively returns us to normal consciousness.
Unlike a conventional servitor, CHAOSHEX also opperates as a direct means to gnosis, and is capable of being reprogramed again and again for spell after spell. CHAOSHEX can also multi-task many spells simultaneously.
Unix/Linux - BASH version
Whilst the old code for the DOS version has long since been lost, a version of ChaosHex written for the bash shell, designed to run in a Linux/Unix command line terminal, is currently in development. It already has basic support for parameter driven spells and creating mantra's from statements of intent.
- Brewster, Charles (Frater Choronzon 999) - Liber Cyber self-pub. 1991
- Carroll, Peter J. - PsyberMagick Chaos International & Asafoetida, 1995 Re-published by New Falcon, 1997
- Dukes, Ramsey - Words Made Flesh The Mouse That Spins, 1988
- Dukes, Ramsey - BLAST Your Way to Megabuck$... Revelation 23 Press, 1992
- Dukes, Ramsey - What I Did In My Holidays The Mouse That Spins, 1998