The products of power sometime pose too great a temptation to the magician; we have the warning tale of Faust to remind us that although the mastery of the linguistic nature of the world confers great power over others, its use inevitably leads to destruction. The magician needs a higher consciousness— in the Sufic sense—before he can toy with the wheels and dials of such power. This is why many magical orders will not initiate candidates before they have reached a certain age, or have demonstrated a material responsibility which can form a foundation from which right action can proceed. To ignore such prohibitions is to court disaster, and the checkered history of magical orders in the 19th and 20th centuries shows that far too often, ignorance has been the order of the day. Only when the magician puts down his power over others does he achieve any realizable power over himself. You are your own High Priest, and no one else’s. From this everything else follows.
When the magician has arrived at this point in his path, matters of education and technique become paramount. It is very rare when an individual is granted sufficient gratuitous grace to travel on the path to wisdom entirely alone. The teacher or mentor reveals the mysteries to the initiate, but the teacher must be aware of how much the initiate can bear safely, doling out knowledge as one might dispense a powerful tonic which is also a poison. The right dosage can do great good; too much will kill. For this reason the Sufis believe that only within a “School” governed by a teacher with
sufficient wisdom, can the initiate pass through the gates of wisdom.
Robert Anton Wilson once quipped, “Reality is the line where rival gangs of shamans fought to a standstill.” In the wrong mouths, words can lead to disaster. Consider Jim Jones or Adolph Hitler, who, by force of their oratory, led hundreds and millions to their deaths.
Consider for a moment the case of John Lilly, a modern magician, who used sensory deprivation in combination with LSD-25 in a search for wisdom. He had enormous successes to begin with: Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer is one of the most effective magical texts ever published, useful for the magician throughout his training. Yet this could not keep Lilly from becoming a life-long ketamine addict, which finally left him hollowed-out and lifeless (in consensus reality), as he chose to remain in the Valley of Illusions. This is an individual choice, of course, and Lilly had his reasons (or rather, his emotions) for choosing this course for his life. But Lilly deprived himself of the opportunity for further advancement on the path of knowledge, becoming trapped within a world of chemical fantasy. His intense forward acceleration led only to a cul-de-sac, a dead-end from which he would never escape.
If such a luminary as John Lilly cannot safely pass through the gates of wisdom, what hope can be given to the aspiring magician, one who has become conscious of the power of the word to shape the world, but has no understanding of how to actualize that knowledge? We are fortunate to live in an age when all the teachings of all the ages are more or less freely available, a time when all the mysteries have been revealed. But the mysteries themselves are not enough. A community is necessary, a conspiracy of like- minded souls set on the same path, speaking the right words, words which reinforce the integrity of the self, allowing the magician to learn wisdom through a series of initiations (whether explicit or implicit), growing, like a child, into adulthood.
These schools do exist, and it is possible for the aspiring magician to find them without too much difficulty. Even so, a certain skepticism is necessary; “By their fruits you will know them,” and although the teacher may seem overtly stern, or authoritarian, it remains up to the candidate to prepare his vessel, ready to receive illumination. Even the most profane masters can be
vehicles for the illumination of their students—provided the students are properly prepared. The student must remain conscious, vigilant, and never allow the master to use linguistic traps to assign the real; that’s the difference between a School and a cult.
Now my charms are all o’erthrown, And what strength I have’s mine own, Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you, Or sent to Naples. Let me not, Since I have my dukedom got And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell In this bare island by your spell; But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
-The Tempest, Act V, Epilogue
We have by now told but half the story. Our linguistic capabilities, as employed by our reason, act upon each other to create reality. Yet beyond the reality-in-our-heads there is an exterior world (let’s admit that, lest we be accused of nothing but solipsism and word play), which we are about to actualize as an exteriorization of our linguistic capabilities. The world presents two faces to us; the natural, that is, that which arose by itself; and the artificial; that which is the product of man’s interactions within the world. While both the natural and artificial are clouded with the omnipresent linguistic fog, only the artificial world is the product of our linguistic nature. Artifacts are language concretized and exteriorized. Technology is a language of sorts, in which the forms of the world are shaped by our words, and then speak back to us. We have been throwing technological innovations into the world since we discovered fire (at least a half million years ago), and since that time the technological world, the world of artifact, has been talking back. The history of humanity, viewed in this way, can be seen as a continuous process of feedback: as we talk to the world, through our hands, the world
accepts these innovations, which modify the environment within which we participate, which modifies our own understanding of the world, which leads to new innovations, which modifies the environment, which modifies us, and so on, and so on. This isn’t causality, or just a circling Oroborus; this is a process, an epigenetic evolution, in which language continuously assumes a more concrete form. We are learning to talk to the hand, or rather, our hands are learning to speak, and are endowing the world of artifacts with the same linguistic infections that have so completely colonized our own biology.
This is a lot to assert, and a lot to absorb, but it is possible to approach this thesis from another point of entry, the idea of code. The word “code” has numerous meanings; it means one thing to a geneticist, another to a computer programmer, another to a cryptographer. Yet the underlying meaning is remarkably similar, because there is a growing sense in the scientific and technical communities that when all of the specifics are stripped away, when the very essence of the universe is revealed, it is naught but code. And what is code, precisely? Language. Whether the stepping-stairs of the amino acid base pairs which comprise the genome, or the sequence of logical steps in a computer program, or the mathematical translations which can either occult or reveal a message, code is a temporal organization of symbols—first… next… last—which establish the basis for both operation and understanding.
The idea of the universe as code has gained great currency from mathematician Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science (Wolfram Media, Inc., 2002) which posits that the processes observable in the universe more often obey computational rules than algebraic formulae. He goes on to state that an enormous number of disparate processes we see in nature—the expansion of space-time, quantum interconnectedness, and the growth of biological forms—all have their basis in the fact that the universe acts as an entity which is constantly processing codes, executing programs, engaging in an execution of reality. Wolfram has been trained both as a physicist and a computer programmer; his background in both disciplines makes him uniquely qualified to identify the common ground that lies between these seemingly entirely distinct fields.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
The ground seems to be rising to meet Wolfram. While biologists discover
the codes of nature, physicists and chemists are applying codes to nature’s most basic structures, to produce atomic-scale forms known as nanotechnology. Whether or not we choose to acknowledge it, the arrow of the epigenetic evolution of the human species points to a time in the near future when the entire world will be apprehended as code. A forthcoming “Theory of Everything” won’t be a formula; it will be a program, a series of linguistic statements, which, like the words in a sentence, describe the execution of reality.
Here we come to the heart of the matter, where the individual apprehension of the world as linguistically conceived becomes convergent with the increasingly accepted scientific view of the universe as a linguistic process. We know that words shape the world as we see it, but now we have come to understand that words shape the world as it is. There is, at an essential level, an isomorphism between the world of the code between our ears and the reality of the code of the universe. The codes we create change our personal perceptions of the world, but they also change the world around us; the more we learn about how to modify the world, the more that language becomes convergent with reality, and the more our will extends over the real. In a real sense, beyond the narrow vision of the world underneath our skin, words are colonizing the world.
This places the magician in a unique historical position, or, rather, restores him to a position which he lost during the scientific revolution. Newton began his career as an alchemist, seeking the mystical union between man and nature which would result in the Philosopher’s Stone. He did not live to see the final convergence between the language of magick and the language of science, but, more and more, science will begin to look like magick, and magicians like scientists. I don’t mean this in the rude sense of Clarke’s Law that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” but rather, that the principles and techniques underlying these two seemingly separate disciplines are on naturally convergent courses. The magician, master of the code, will find himself completely at home in a universe which has become linguistically apprehensible as code. The scientist will find himself completely at home speaking a language in which his words change the world. With the exception of those few who pursue both disciplines, neither will have noticed that they have arrived at the same point. The magician will utter his spells, the scientist will speak his codes, but both will
be saying the same thing.
It will feel to us as though we have come full circle. The ancients of the West compiled grimoires, magical texts which presented the lessons learned by generations of practitioners in a series of spells, linguistic incantations which used the word to shape the will. Aboriginal cultures wove these lessons into “songlines,” expressing the mythic narrative of culture as the infinite possibility beyond consensus reality, a “dreamtime.” Now, knowing the ground for the first time, we are using our gifts with language—in genetics and informatics and chemistry—to speak the word, and make the world. The idea of code is overflowing, becoming the world itself, and reality will soon be as programmable as the writer’s page, responding to the will of the magician like some lucid dream. In this executable dreamtime everything is true, within limits determined by experiment; once those limits are known, a new generation of magicians will undoubtedly attempt to transcend them.
What will this world look like? We have no precedent in profane history to use as a guide; we must look further afield, to mythology, to understand the form of a linguistic universe. It is the dreamtime of the Aboriginal Australians, or the Faeire of the Celts, the absolute expansion of possibilities
—both angelic and demonic—in that everything expressible can be brought into being. The masters of linguistic intent in both magical and scientific forms (a false distinction) will be masters of word and world. Say the word, and it will come to pass.
Although this process appears inevitable, it could be that we are bound by the same “Single Vision and Newton’s Sleep” that William Blake prophesied 200 years ago. It could be that the universe is not code, but simply that the idea of code has overflowed from our brain’s linguistic centers into other areas of the cerebrum, colonizing our reason and intellectual capabilities as easily as it captured our ability to apprehend sequence. This could all be a chimera, an elusive possibility which may remain tantalizingly out of reach. Yet the whole world seems to be conspiring to teach us this: In the beginning was the word.
GENESIS BREYER P-ORRIDGE
It can be said, for me at least, that sampling, looping and re-assembling both found materials and site specific sounds selected for precision of relevance to thee message implications of a piece of music or a transmedia exploration, is an alchemical, even a magical phenomenon. No matter how short, or apparently unrecognizable a “sample” might be in linear time perception, I believe it must, inevitably, contain within it (and accessible through it), the sum total of absolutely everything its original context represented, communicated, or touched in any way; on top of this it must implicitly also include the sum total of every individual in any way connected with its introduction and construction within the original (host) culture, and every subsequent (mutated or engineered) culture it in any way, means or form, has contact with forever (in Past, Present, Future and Quantum time zones).
“Any two particles that have once been in contact will continue to act as though they are informationally connected regardless of their separation in space and time.”
Let us assume then that every “thing” is interconnected, interactive, interfaced and intercultural. Sampling is all ways experimental, in that thee potential results are not a given. We are splintering consensual realities to test their substance utilizing the tools of collision, collage, composition, decomposition, progression systems, “random” chance, juxtaposition, cut- ups, hyperdelic vision and any other method available that melts linear conceptions and reveals holographic webs and fresh spaces. As we travel in every direction simultaneously the digital highways of our Futures, thee “Splinter Test” is both a highly creative contemporary channel of conscious and creative “substance” abuse, and a protection against the restrictive depletion of our archaic, algebraic, analogic manifestations.
“My Prophet is a fool with his 1,1,1; are they not the OX, and none by the BOOK?”
-Liber AL 1-48
So, in this sense, and bearing this in our “mind” on a technical level, when we sample, or as we shall prefer to label it in this essay, when we splinter, we are actually splintering people and brain product freed of any of the implicit restraints or restrictions of the five dimensions. We are actually taking bytes and reusing these thereafter as hieroglyphs or memes—the tips of each iceberg.