Introduction to CyberMagick
by Philip H. Farber
The Internet is growing rapidly, and every kind of possibility is making itself manifest. On one hand, the proliferation of gossip, advertising, and mass media in cyberspace is a force that increases the pressures of cultural conditioning, distracting the average Internaut away from hir True Will or real potential. On the other hand, the structure and resources of the 'net may provide some tools to counteract those distractions and enable the cyber-magickian to engage in self-directed deprogramming and re-conditioning.
While there are some who maintain that the human-to-human contact found in offline ritual is essential, I maintain that online contact offers an equal but different mode of interaction. The millions of people who daily engage in cyber-sexual activities argues strongly that such powerful experiences as arousal, excitement, and orgasm are easily communicated. Whether or not you approve or engage in such activities, a quick tour of America Online's member rooms, the various channels of IRC, the show-and-tell environment of Internet Phone or CUSeeMe, or the proliferating numbers of "amateur" porn sites, is a good way to see how common online eroticism may be.
I mention cybersex only as an extreme to illustrate how easily 'net participants can influence each other. My main criticism of such activities, however, is that they are largely undirected expenditures of energy and intent. There is a huge amount of communication and interaction taking place, on all levels, but we have to ask, "What is the outcome? What are we creating here"?
In an issue of the widely distributed, family-oriented USA Weekend magazine, the physicist who invented html and the Web was quoted as saying he believed the 'net was forming an artificial intelligence. He's not the only one to have expressed that seemingly science fictional opinion. In an interview in the prototye issue of Paradigm Shift a couple years back, Genesis P-Orridge was quoted as follows:
"GPO: One of the theories that we're working with is that there are four brains. DNA, if you like, is the first brain, and we call that the Nanosphere. Then the individual human brain is the Neurosphere. The group consciousness, the social or tribal brain, is the Kaosphere. Then the Internet and all the computers which are, in a sense, at the moment, a whole. Literally a whole brain is being built, it's not a metaphor for a brain, it actually is a brain. We call that the Psychosphere. What we're really thinking about is when you plug in and go online, you're plugging into all the brains of all the other people who've been there, some of those people being psychotic and paranoid, some of them being into control, and some of them being very benign. But it is not implicitly benign. Taking that further -- this is just a TOPI/Process/TransMedia interpretation -- we suggest that when enough people believe in something, it becomes a deity. At a certain point it can separate from its source and have an agenda of its own. It can physically or psychically manifest separate from its source, which is originally the human brain. That's what's going to happen with cyberspace. We're building a god, but we're building a god with the flaws and the gifts of everyone on the planet almost -- millions of people -- with no real unified agenda and no real dialogue about what the psychic and neurological and social and economic effect really will be of that acceleration and separation of this larger brain. It will be the first all- encompassing and contrived and constructed brain so far, that we know of."
When I first heard Genesis say that, I thought it was fairly provocative, but now, after years of observing online "civilization," I am beginning to think that it is a fair model of the situation. As integral parts of the Psychosphere, it is sometimes difficult to see how we interact with it -- a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees, perhaps. Exploring how we interact can also demonstrate how the Psychosphere "remembers" things and acts of its own volition. My own observations have led to the following postulates:
Postulate #1: Every experience you have online affects you and changes you to a greater or lesser degree. (Just as in "regular" space, every impression that you take in changes you to some extent. In the case of more powerful impressions, or ones that you resonate with, or ones that persuade, induce, explain, etc., the action on your consciousness is obvious. In the case of more subtle experiences, it is less so, but equally lasting on your consciousness. For instance, if you are in a chat room and someone posts something relatively insignificant, then you are changed by the wait for it to scroll by, the necessity of having to ignore it, or by a change or confirmation of your general impression of the chat room. These small changes may be cumulative, or may have only a small impact, but a change in your consciousness occurs nonetheless. Also, note the kinds of indirect changes that occur -- if you are bored by something, you may communicate unconsciously to others, by leaving a particular area or changing the subject -- if you are angered by something, you may hold that in your own consciousness as muscular tension or other activity, which will continue to change your own consciousness for a period of time, thus affecting your subsequent actions. Likewise, if you are pleased or aroused or happy about something you encounter online, that attitude, muscular release, change in consciousness continues. And, likewise, you respond on subtle or unconscious levels to the subtle cues of others in this regard.)
Postulate #2: Every action that you make in cyberspace affects the Psychosphere indefinitely. (Other elements of the Psychosphere are affected by your actions as you are by theirs, as in Postulate #1. The change in consciousness, however small or large, radiates out from your action. If your actions or words project happiness, then that happiness spreads in ripples from that point of action.)
Postulate #3: The memory of the Psychosphere is held in your nervous system and body, and the nervous systems and bodies of all other elements of the collective, as well as in the digital memory of the computers. (Your own responses and changes in consciousness and physicality, as described in #1 and #2, remain as a resource to the group consciousness, for better or worse. If you are upset by something online, the Psychosphere will remember that upset for the time that you are experiencing, no matter how long, and ripples will extend from that point and be "remembered" in the consciousness/physicality of those who encounter the ripples. The ripples themselves become archives of memory, spreading indefinitely, however dilute, through the Psychosphere.)
Postulate #4: Deliberately changing your own consciousness and making consciously-chosen actions in relation to the Psychosphere can change the consciousness of the collective. (Any "change in conformity with Will" will affect the Psychosphere just as any other action, as in #1, #2, and #3.)
Postulate #5: Acting in harmony or conformity with your own True Will will have the effect of harmonizing or purifying the general consciousness of the Psychosphere. (In our bodies, a cell that is operating in conformity with its own True Will, its genetic code and determined function in the body, will tend to support and increase the comfort, effectiveness, and general health of the whole. A cell that deviates from its True Will will inhibit the health and action of the whole, and, indeed, may itself be considered a disease. Likewise, the elements of the Psychosphere -- us -- operating according to our True Will, in harmony with ourselves, will support the health and comfort of the Psychosphere as a whole.)
Invoking the PsychosphereWith the concept of the Psychosphere in place, the idea of performing magickal ritual in cyberspace becomes a little more apparent. Rather than beginning with the usual concepts and tools of offline magick, we can begin to assemble ritual components from what is actually in front us, the tools and realities of the online world, our computers, monitors, modems, phone lines, software, etc.
When we conference in cyberspace, the group of people meeting in one room or channel creates a web or network that spans a portion of the planetary surface. Thus it is a web of points that suggests a sphere. This semi-spherical web can fill a place in our ritual analogous to the circle of offline ritual. The web represents a microcosm of the entire Psychosphere and the human minds that interact within it.
In the microcosmic webs of our conference room rituals, we can isolate and invoke qualities, deities and mythologies just as the offline magickian fills hir circle and mind with a specific invocation. My hypothesis is that such invocation can produce effects of synchronicity that can occur within the matrix of the Psychosphere. Remember that the Psychosphere includes the minds of humans that interact with it, and synchronistic effects may seem to come from individual humans, or from the Psychosphere at large. One may further speculate that if enough groups are invoking a great enough variety of qualities, the synchronistic effects may serve the purpose of integrating these qualities into the Psychosphere, providing the total entity with a balanced and holistic content and action. Taking that speculation even farther, each group may wake the "intelligence" of whatever quality they invoke within the Psychosphere, and enough groups working on enough kinds of qualities may serve to wake the totality of the Psychosphere. As the individual parts of the Psychosphere, human minds and ritual groups, awaken to their own True Will, perhaps the Psychosphere itself can find its own Will.
A Simple Method of Invocation0. Isolate your conference area within the Psychosphere. That is, shut off outside messages from non-participants, by whatever means is necessary. Banish non-participants from the conference area. Each individual can equally banish the environment of their non-cyber location by banishing non-participants, turning off any potential distractions such as television, stereo or telephone.
1. Each participant changes the setting on their monitor, if possible, in some agreed-upon way, for instance, turning the contrast up or down, making the image brighter or darker than it normally is.
2. Each participant acknowledges their connection to the web by typing an X on the common screen. When each participant has completed this, the invocation proper can begin. This can be varied to achieve a cyclic effect somewhat analogous to circumambulation in offline ritual. That is, taking it alphabetically by screen name (or whatever sequence the group chooses beforehand to do this) each person can type their X in sequence, and repeat the sequence in rotation.
3. The group breaks up into smaller units of two. Each member of the smaller unit takes a turn projecting the quality that has been chosen for the invocation at each other, as follows:
a) The person projecting first imagines distinct sensory details of the quality to be projected. If that quality is, for instance, Prosperity, then that person thinks about what prosperity might look like in hir own life, what it might sound like, what it might feel like, what it might taste or smell like. As s/he achieves a pure mental state of each sensory mode, s/he can send a private message to hir partner with that sensory mode, imagining or experiencing that s/he is projecting that sensory quality through the screen to hir partner at the same time. For instance, s/he might type "See Prosperity", "Hear Prosperity", "Feel Prosperity", etc. Finally, when all sensory modes have been projected, s/he types just the key word, for instance, "Prosperity". During this, the partner remains receptive and imagines or experiences that s/he is receiving these qualities from hir partner. The partners then switch roles and repeat.4. The group then reconvenes and each participant projects that quality that they have isolated into the common conference, typing that keyword on the common screen and imagining or experiencing that quality flowing and imbuing the entire microcosmic web that the participants have created.
b) A variant on this uses polarities to intensify the experience. If the quality chosen is one that can easily be split into a pair of opposites, then the partners take turns projecting those opposing qualities at each other. For instance, if the ancient god Pan is being invoked, then the polarity of "All-Devourer" and "All-Begetter" can be used. In this, one partner projects the experiences of devouring, running through the sensory modes as in (a). Then the other partner projects devouring. Then the first projects begetting, and so on, so that each partner has projected and received each polar quality. Then the entire experience "Pan" is projected first by one partner, then by the other.
5. This completed, each participant again types an X, in sequence if a sequence has been used the first time.
6. Participants return their monitor settings to their usual mode. The working is then closed and the conference area should be vacated immediately. Follow-up discussion can occur elsewhere.
7. The group may choose to upload a log of the ritual to a central place for reference. Individual participants may wish to add their own reactions and descriptions, in separate files, to the same archive. In this way, groups can review past rituals and decide what was effective and what was not, and thereby develop this kind of ritual.
This suggests a very basic method of working with the Psychosphere. More complex or more elegant methods are certainly possible with this paradigm. Working a series of these rituals through a microcosmic system such as qabala, tarot or I Ching may provide a balanced and complete end result for the participants, and a balanced offering to the Psychosphere. Devotees of pre- existing traditions may choose to add their own quality or mythology to the Psychosphere. That is, a worshipper of Shiva may, in effect, become a priest of Shiva in cyberspace, a mediator of the Shiva-nature of the Psychosphere.
Future ExplorationsWhile I believe that text-based aspects of the 'net will remain a dominant mode of communication, the cutting edge of interaction includes integration of video and audio into the mix of forms. As yet, the magickal potential of videoconferencing remains largely unexplored. I am hoping, in the near future, to conduct some experiments that make use of videoconferencing technology. Anyone who is interested in participating in such experiments, who has the proper equipment (a camera, microphone, soundcard, and freeware version of CUSeeMe), is urged to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Books by Philip H. Farber