death-rebirth

Towards 2012 Death/Rebirth Editorial

Or: What We're Here To Do

I

For fifty years now, we have been staring into oblivion. Most of us, most of the time, have deftly pushed that blinding flash over Hiroshima to the side, in order to carry on with our daily busy-ness. But 6th August 1945 marked a transition in human consciousness as seismic as the time when the apes’ minds flipped out into self-awareness… a mysterious and powerful faculty that carried with it a nasty little surprise called awareness of individual mortality. In response to this came religions, to console and control us, various esoteric quests for immortality, and culture, through which individuals could, in addition to biological reproduction, achieve a semblance of persistence beyond death. But now? Now we are forced to contemplate the possibility of species mortality. No guarantees for our children. No more future audiences for our creations. And if the possibilities of chemical/biological warfare and eco-disaster are added to this bleak vision, it seems that getting out of bed in the morning may no longer be worth the effort.

However, this pessimism about our collective future omits a glaring objection: since Darwin (at least), it should have been obvious to all logical creatures that we are ‘doomed’ as a species anyway—we will eventually evolve into another form of life, like it or not. But our terrible capacity to destroy Earth’s biosphere seems to indicate that this transformation now needs to be helped along, so that we can become something capable of nimbly side-stepping Armageddon.

What all this implies for our cultural creations is that we can no longer sit on our laurels. Rigidly meticulous or plain lazy progress, carried out in the faith that humans to come will pick up where we left off, are not on the cards. Petty quibbling is no longer merely useless; it is dangerous, as Time may well be an exhaustible resource. No more may posterity be clung to as a final validation for our creations. More than ever, we need to live, work, play and create for NOW.

II

In recent years biologists have been led to recognise the existence of a primary instinct, the ‘exploratory drive’, which is as basic as the instincts of hunger and sex.

Arthur Koestler, Janus: A Summing Up

Seek, and ye shall find.

Jesus Christ, The Holy Bible

Perhaps the saddest fact of human existence is the gaping distance between the possibilities that dwell within us all and the limited, crippled state we usually find ourselves in. For instance, witness the state of ignorance in which most people exist—spoonfed by state education and the mass media… unquestioning… lacking even basic knowledge about themselves and their society. Yet it is true that material which expresses a wide variety of opinions, views and research exists today. Despite the furtive efforts of the censors, any individual in modern Britain is physically capable of accessing a diversity of resources that contain more than enough information to counter-balance and undermine the falsities and glosses of Education and Media. Independent publications, underground organizations, expanding information exchange networks, and an increasing range of subcultural writings available in high-street bookstores… All these exist, constantly battling against censorship and Control, but existing nevertheless.

So why do we complain of lack of information? Why do people whine about the superficiality and deceit of news programmes and papers, when anyone can obtain alternate views of the world by post or from shops? Why, most importantly, does the majority of the population sit back and passively allow their minds to be fed from that long newspaper spoon? Obviously, they have succumbed to social conditioning, which as well as suppressing and distorting our sexual impulses, serves to suppress our exploratory drives. The two mechanisms may very well be intimately connected. Control hides itself in a vicious feedback loop, where mainstream information distribution systems blind individuals to their own natural impulses and to social realities, while at the same time bludgeoning them into a passive state of acceptance that negates any desire to question these false perceptions, and to seek out alternatives.

It is clear, then, that not only do we have to increase the active exchange of information, we have to combine this with a more active attitude towards it. The concept of consumption of information should be replaced by that of seeking out and using information. An incendiary tract against conformism, a listing of independent publications, a magickal handbook… if these are read and forgotten, left in a cupboard, then they are useless. We need to be more active, inventive and playful in how we allow what we read, hear and see to affect our everyday lives.

Everything you need is there—USE IT.

III

A professor is a policeman of the intellect.

Robert Anton Wilson, Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy

The present educational system, instead of equipping individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to deal with postmodern society, rather serves to blinker and emasculate us, so that we may be more easily assimilated into the bloated belly of mainstream culture.

Higher education, supposedly the site of full development of potential and intellectual growth, is often merely an extension of the subtle brain-washing of the school system. In fact, it is even more subtle in its operations, as it allows the illusion of freedom of thought to exist, through a greater variety of ‘choice’. Yet the unwritten agenda of Control flourishes copiously: through restrictive canons of study texts; grading systems that amount to censorship of ‘unacceptable’ or ‘unacademic’ areas of thought; and limitation of student funding, which forces many students into evening and vacation jobs, leaving little time for the exploration of non-standard perspectives. The majority of students graduate with massive debts, usually railroading them immediately into the restrictive world of Work—fast-forward to the oblivion of a spouse and two kids, more debts, mortgages and joyless apathy.

It is now up to individuals, through establishing their own societal and informational networks, to truly educate themselves. To realise that disillusionment with educational establishments—through experience of them or exclusion from them due to their narrow definitions of intelligence—should not lead to disillusionment with one’s own capacities for thinking, research, and the application of theoretical insights to everyday life. To achieve the free-flowing synergy between intellect and intuition, mind and magick, that has hitherto been denied us. To form an invisible college and conduct the experiential research that will help effect the forced mutation of our derelict and impotent culture.

IV

I am the chronicler of this expedition. I have also some knowledge of others’ specialities, superficial to be sure, but enabling me to see connections that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

William S. Burroughs, The Western Lands

While the precision and thoroughness of specialist scientists, thinkers and researchers is appreciated, and ultimately necessary, a more rounded and holistic view of ourselves and the universe is needed. The divisive structure of human endeavour that has existed since the outset of the 17th century’s scientific revolution has outlived its usefulness. The synthesizers should be granted as much attention as the specialists, if not more, to redress the balance.

Recently, the ancient Hermetic axiom of sympathetic magic, "As above, so below," has re-emerged in the concept of fractal structures in chaos theory. And Eastern beliefs about the underlying unity of the world have been re-invoked by the culmination of the project of scientific materialism, quantum physics. Western science has, much to its embarrassment, come full circle, back to the holism of our distant ancestors. As William Blake wrote, "If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise." (Proverbs of Hell)

But there remains a stubborn resistance to this new-found wisdom. Chaos theory was slow off the ground, and is still ridiculed by many, largely because of its inherently cross-disciplinary nature. Also, the radically new view of the universe implied by quantum physical theory has hardly filtered down into other disciplines such as psychology, philosophy and sociology—where it is eminently applicable. Perhaps we do not have time to wait for these revelations from high science to filter down through the stale and impermeable layers of orthodoxy, down to our everyday realities… Thus, we aim to propagate and explore the shifting borderlands between academia and the street—from renegade professionals who are shunned by the majority of their colleagues, to freelance explorers, who stealthily avoid the traps of consensus reality, risking their sanity in order to salvage connections and insights for others to benefit from.

V

Life is like an investigation, almost a detective story, whose mysteries we never manage to unravel. The theories formulated, often invalidated, never turn out to be true (at best we remain hopeful). Their nature is always to be hypothetical, and in the end, simply spiritual points of view. We should also admit, however, that this is the essence of the pleasure of being. We should never confuse speculation with reality, but on the contrary admit that we are condemned to take our pleasure from that difference.

Jean-Pierre Thurmel, Thee Psychick Bible

This journal posits a hypothetical cusp of collective transformation in the near future. This should not be confused with a dogmatic prophecy of ‘truth’ that is to be believed and adhered to by all; we are dealing here with the creation of possibilities.

It is a truism of all sane consciousness research that we should never confuse the map with the landscape. Not only is a map a mere representation of a landscape, a tool for navigation, it can also never contain all the dimensions of the landscape itself. We may follow a map’s scheme to find our way across a mountain range, but the map will inevitably be inaccurate—it cannot account for newly-formed crevices and abysses, unexpected encounters with dangerous animals, or sudden gales and snow-storms. Nor can it help us with the strain and peril of actually climbing those peaks. And yet it is useful. We can, to a certain extent, benefit from the experience of those who have gone before us.

We aim to recognise the primacy of experience, accept the perpetual presence of chaotic deviations from expectation, and embrace the mystery that all viable futures must contain. We also aim to generate maps to help us explore the realities we exist in—while fully taking into account the necessity of creating new realities (and maps) in a playful dance.

We also wish to reveal the power behind the self-fulfilling prophecy. This phenomenon is usually associated, in apocalyptic terms, with the fundamentalist Christian in government, whose dangerously misguided beliefs make him more likely to press the button—to fulfil the will of his Lord God Almighty. The term ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ has thus, understandably, accumulated severely negative connotations. But what if we were to select a belief system, with full consciousness of our choice, which has a useful outcome? While being aware of having chosen the belief, as a belief, and not ‘the Truth’, we may also reap the self-suggestive power of self-fulfilling prophecies. Indeed, the most revolutionary current in modern magical practice takes this technique as one of its central methods of operation.

We need to create and explore useful belief systems, or myths of the near future, in order to guide ourselves through the pandemonium that the next few decades on Spaceship Earth seems to hold in store for us.