I chose this because I couldn't find anything else and instead came up with a random picture of Taurt illustrating a quote about RAW from Tom's favorite author Jesse Walker on Wikiquote.
Chapter Two: Downloaded Souls
By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger
Fortuitously, this past week I’ve been reading two books that complement “Hardware & Software.” The first, which I am a few chapters away from finishing, is Joanna Harcourt-Smith’s Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary, which would, I imagine, complement the entire book. The second, which I reread and have finished, is specifically appropriate to this chapter: Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.
In the past few weeks my class has been working our way through parts of Higgs’ Stranger Than We Can Imagine. Recently we read the chapters on “Id” and “Science Fiction.” During the Id chapter I tried to get the student to experiment with automatic writing, surrealist games and free association to understand the deep structures of their own minds. During the Science Fiction chapter I talked extensively about how science fiction, perhaps more than any other genre, can be shown to have demonstrable success in commenting upon and predicting societal trends. (I realize that this is a bias of mine and could simply be a case of enthusiastic pareidolia.)
In hindsight, there is little surprise my mind went to reading Stephenson’s first big novel to help redigest these concepts. Snow Crash not only accurately predicts much of the early twentieth century (at least if you squint your eyes and tilt your head) but also contains long dialogues about the similarities between language and computer programs. Fantastically, the Sumerian language is proposed to have been a vector for a virus (or, as Crowley/Tolkien would have it, a “disease of language”), represented by the pre-Semitic goddess Asherah, that infects and rewires the mind. The novel goes on to propose that the Babel myth is an allegory for the release of a counter-program that differentiated human languages and disallowed access to the original viral language. There’s a lot of allegory about this process and the development of language being easily expressed in coding terms; humorously, one of the participants cannot understand the allegory as they are themselves a piece of software.
Perhaps it was reading the chapter after reading Snow Crash, or the fact I’ve read Prometheus Rising so many times, but this chapter wasn’t particularly shocking in the way that I believe Wilson intended. However, I suspect it is simply the time that we are living in at the moment. The first exercise of this chapter is hilariously unnecessary in 2021. We are surrounded by computers and I doubt that many people reading this can count many days in the past month where they haven’t utilized one (don’t be pretentious--streaming services, smartphones/watches, GPS etc. all count). We are all so inured to cyber-reality that I doubt this chapter was terribly difficult to grok for any of the readers. I would also wager that many of us already occasionally model our conception of the mind in hardware/software terminology. Perhaps it is because of reading this in the past...much like the three later exercises at the end of Chapter Two, there are multiple answers for why we are where we are.
Those exercises are based on Crowley’s first task for students: a complete backwards biography. When you begin writing in your magical journal, perhaps the most powerful tool in Crowley’s Scientific Illuminism, you are to write exactly why you are writing in this journal at this moment: why you choose to undertake the study and discipline of magic, why you are are at the geographic location where you are located, the circumstances under which you came into being. I’ve always found this exercise particularly useful and have always endeavored to perform some version of it when I begin a new journal. After a while you find yourself doing it occasionally in the back of your head. Crowley’s Liber ThIShARB consists of elaborate directions for an ultimate undertaking of this task.
This week we finished the chapter “Nihilism” from Stranger. In the text, Higgs discusses how Roquetin, the poor schmuck at the center of Sartre’s Nausea, first encounters existential dread upon seeing a stone on the beach and thinking of why it is there -- there is no reason, no meaning, only chance. The fourth exercise amended to this chapter could conceivably lead to that, but I would posit that would only be from a lazy or half-assed examination. To repeat myself, Wilson points out that there is a quasi-infinity of questions and answers for why someone or something is where it seems to be. Settling on the random chance answer seems premature and unimaginative. As Higgs points out while discussing nihilism, an excellent inoculation against it or cure is experience of the “flow” state, Colin Wilson’s “peak experience,” or satori. However, Higgs points out that the experience of these states requires intense engagement with the subject. Twenty four hour Samadhi perhaps, fake it until you make it.
“I could never be an atheist because I wouldn’t know what to say during a blow job. Oh random chance! Oh random chance! doesn’t have much of a ring to it.” -my probably flawed remembrance of a RAW quote