The Tarot of Unpopular Futures: Whisky Rant (Part 9)

The Tarot of Unpopular Futures: Whisky Rant (Part 9)

Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles

Your head’s like mine, like all our heads; big enough to contain every god and devil there ever was. Big enough to hold the weight of the oceans and the turning stars. Whole universes fit in there!

But what do we choose to keep in this miraculous little cabinet? Little broken things, sad trinkets that we play with over and over.

The world turns our key and we play the same tune again and again and we think that tune’s all we are.” 

- The Invisibles: Say You Want A Revolution

In his own words, Grant Morrison went to Kathmandu to be abducted by aliens. He was successful.

That’s an astounding statement until you realise that it isn’t.

In fact, there are dozens and dozens of examples of artists and writers inadvertently creating their own futures, getting trapped in a strange loop by their own narratives or seemingly pulling highly accurate visionary depictions backwards through time.

So much so that you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a majority experience.

Dickens, for instance, would have ‘inner eye visions’ and basically just copy down what he saw like some common Utah-based church founder. And it’s important to remember that he more or less single-handedly built the modern christmas.

He saw something in his head, mixed it with some of his own ideas, wrote it down and it came true.

Pretty magical, huh?

But this stuff happens to non-magicians… it seems literally anyone can fall down this particular rabbit hole -atheists, drunks, ballet dancers, at least one rocket scientist.

(For a full exploration of a muggle getting caught in their own story I refer you to Robert Anton Wilson’s meticulous and extremely boring obsession with James Joyce.)

Whilst it may happen to the non-magician, it is of extreme usefulness to the magical. You could say the principal difference between the magician and the non-magician is the same as that of a motorist and a mechanic. Both of them drive but only one of them is professionally interested in popping the hood.

Because somewhere in all this synchronicitous art… all this circular, prophetic fiction… all this downright magical leakage of High Weirdness is some pretty potent tech… In fact, it may well be the ultimate tech.

Sorcery as Storytelling

In this instance we will quickly skim over the tiresome and overused comparison of ‘grimoire’ and ‘grammar’, or the origin of the word ‘spell’ etc.

Here’s why.

Too often the claim that sorcery is a form of storytelling is used as a proxy for a clunky and outdated psychological explanatory perspective – if you believe the witch doctor can harm you then he can.

Also, it seems an overly glib comparison. Nobody seems to take the next logical step from “sorcery is storytelling” into the more accusatory “so what are you doing about it?”

Well, almost nobody. There’s always Alan Moore:

“Magic in its earliest form is often referred to The Arte. I believe this is completely literal… Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness…. In latter times I believe artists and writers have allowed themselves to be sold down the river. They have accepted the prevailing belief that art and writing are merely forms of entertainment… they’re not seen as transformitive forces that can change a human being… they are seen as simple entertain… things with which we can fill twenty minutes, half an hour, while we’re waiting to die.”

We know from quantum observation results that the mind is in some way linked with the actual manifestation of the universe, we know that fairy tales are what Tolkien refers to as “furniture in the nursery”, we know that successful individuals vivify around expedient narratives. We know that less successful ones do as well.

Clearly it goes beyond primitive beliefs or mere inspiration. The same human organ that creates A Game Of Thrones is responsible for collapsing a wave into a particle. Enchantment follows a narrative structure from inspiration to idea to creation to end result.

A fuller exploration can be found in this excellent extended video of Alan Moore talking magic in a London gallery.

On an unrelated but fascinating note is his description of what happened after announcing he was a magician and then taking a large dose of mushrooms.

“We were in this white space full of dead magicians… and at the back of the assembly tall things with animal heads… Time is not how we perceive it. It’s a kind of fourth dimensional hole and time isn’t really passing… That means that nobody ever dies. That means that no moment is ever lost. Death becomes a perspective illusion of the third dimension.”

He met the neighbours. They were in his head. In Idea Space. Where his stories come from.

Storytelling As Sorcery

Let’s go back to Grant Morrison now:

“When I was doing the Invisibles… I kind of went method acting on it. So if I had an transvestite witch character then I had to become a transvestite witch and see what that felt like and I had to summon Mayan and Mexican Gods and deal with them and see what they look like and copy down what they have to say… I became the King Mob character, the Lord Fanny character… I was living out that book. The idea was to do almost like an art installation… you know I wound up in hospital because I had my lead character in hospital. This shaven headed bald guy who had lots of fun and sex and girls. So when he got sick I got sick and when he got well I got well.

And I found I could put things in… and it was very weird I still don’t know what it is and I ask other people to try this… try and implicate your art and your life to such a degree that you can’t tell the difference anymore and strange things start to happen. Reality becomes very plastic. And it seems as if you can press buttons in your little voodoo world, your little fictional creation… and real things will happen… The more we test it the more it becomes a human technology that we can give to everyone…”

Which is from this interesting if a little fawning interview with the lead singer from My Chemical Romance.

As Mr VI points out and Jack recently explored, stories are real in the mind. That would be the very same wave-collapsing mind. It can make light go from no physical existence to existence but it also thinks Gossip Girl is real. Hence potentially the ongoing validity of the chaos magic approach; Xena done right is as real to your brain as Hermanubis. Thus it’s all in your head except when it isn’t.

A number of 20th century artists have famously created in that weird liminal space between storytelling and prophecy and sometimes it has ripped the lid off their universes: PKD, Yuri Geller, Jack Kirby.

You could even make the case for Lovecraft here. Referring to the Necronomicon, the goddess Apophenia says it “fell in from elsewhere and partially disintegrated on impact.” I’m not even sure Kenneth Grant had a better way of describing how a book that never actually existed came to exist over the span of fifty years and by dozens of hands in formats going from radio plays to oracle systems to spellbooks to computer games.

Detailed -but fragmentary- depictions of the future have a strange tendency to show up in speculative fiction.

We now have very good circumstantial evidence that your mind creates your future. Is there a mechanism that can be used to understand how that might work?

Divination as insider trading

This is Pete from his own website:

I suspect that time has a richer structure than we commonly imagine and that a Multiverse or Omnium of realities caused by quantum entanglement and superposition surrounds us in three dimensional time, and that particles travel both backward and forward in time. In this scenario we do not need ‘disembodied information’ to account for the functioning of the universe or the phenomena of magic, the exchange of ordinary particles of matter and energy will do the trick given the extra degrees of temporal freedom.

When the magician divines he interacts primarily with future versions of himself. In divination he basically taps into what he may know in the future. A curious circularity seems to exist in divination; it only seems to work if at some point in the future you will end up knowing the result by ordinary means. This explains why the best results in divination seem to occur for either very short term divinations about unlikely things that will happen in the next few seconds, or for events which are heavily deterministic, but not yet obvious, in the further future.

This is not nearly as heretical as it sounds.

Indeed, decades of remote viewing experiments indicate that we can ‘see’ or generate pictures/images independent of distance. Why not time? It’s still anybody’s guess exactly which quantum behaviours scale up from the subatomic particle and just how far ‘up’ they go:

David Baum, one of the pioneers in modern quantum mechanics, called this quantum interconnectedness. Henry Stapp, who is chair of the physics department at UC-Berkley, said that non-locality may be the most important discovery in all of science because it shows that we misperceive the world we live in.

Magic’s unavoidable conclusion

According to Dr Targ, using thoughts to affect the future is about 1% as effective as seeing the future and adjusting your path accordingly. (They pick it up from about 8:25)

What does this mean in practice?

  • Firstly, as Dr Targ points out, if you have a dream of a plane crash the night before you are due to fly and you’re not normally anxious about air travel, then the best course of action is to avoid getting on the plane rather than attempting to move the odds with magic.
  • The birth of a new(ish) Rune Soup Law: cards beat wands in almost all instances.

Somewhere in the randomly predictive power of art, in the comparative inefficacy of sorcery and the weird implications of quantum effects may well be hiding an underlying mechanism. PJC again:

A General Metadynamic including magic would have to offer an explanation of only divination and enchantment, for these lie at the root of all magical phenomena.

Divination presents the simplest case.

If at some point in the future the diviner can know the answer to a question, then that answer can feed back from the future to the present.

However because the universe behaves with a degree of randomness and chaos, several different futures can feed back to the diviner’s present to give mixed results. In some cases the diviner’s choice of one particular item of feedback could even act to increase the likelihood of that future becoming more probable. Thus divination can work as enchantment by self-fulfilling prophecy.

Dowsing provides a classic example of how divination actually works. The dowser basically divines what effect digging a hole in a certain place will have on his future perceptions. It plainly does not depend on mysterious geomantic energies emanating from water or minerals because experts can dowse from mere maps of the terrain.

Here’s how Jacques Vallée describes it in one of the better Ted Talks for a long while. Definitely worth a watch.

“Synchronicity is caused by double causality. Our intentions create effects in the future that become the future causes of present effects.”

Just take a moment to process the implications of what he is saying. What goes on in your mind influences future events which then feedback to impact your life in the present. Putting that into Carrollese:

In practise the magician will need to rely on some kind of butterfly effect to create substantial changes in the universe and he will usually have to rely on his subconscious to intuit where these possibilities exist. Conversely in divination the magician will usually have to rely on his subconscious to pick up the feedback from his personal futures. We currently understand only the tip of the iceberg of neuroscience, but I suspect that many of the functions of the brain depend on superposition and entanglement. Magicians have distilled from historical traditions a few pragmatic ‘sleight of mind’ techniques for enhancing divination and enchantment, but they remain unreliable if occasionally remarkable phenomena.

And on that last note about ‘sleight of mind’ techniques picked up from historical traditions, here’s a resounding second to that from what wouldappear at first glance to be an unlikely source:

A magician’s data sample spans centuries, and his experiments have been replicated often enough to constitute near-certainty. Neuroscientists—well intentioned as they are—are gathering soil samples from the foot of a mountain that magicians have mapped and mined for centuries. MRI machines are awesome, but if you want to learn the psychology of magic, you’re better off with Cub Scouts and hard candy.

Back to Pete:

In enchantment the magician basically aims to select a future where his wish has come true. The entanglements between the magician, his past and future selves, and his environment can provide many channels for the modification of events towards the desired objective, so long as it does not remain ridiculously improbable. This explains the observation that enchantment tends to work best when used over longer periods of time.

What then, are the trumps in the Tarot of Unpopular Futures?

  • The Fool: Your mind is unwittingly impacting the future.
  • The Magician: Your future is impacting the present.
  • The Empress: Thoughts, such as stories, formed in your mind thus impact the future.
  • The Tower: You don’t have to use other people’s stories. Knock them down and build your own.
  • The Star: Stories can include flashes or images or ideas that only your future self is in possession of.
  • The World: This is happening to everyone else as well. The future is made by committee.

And it’s on that last trump where things start to get complicated. This is a game with a lot of players, an MMPDRPG or a LAPDRP where PD in both instances is pan-dimensional. Implicit in your brain’s quantum affecting capacity is the underlying tech for a Gnostic vision of the world. Corporate egregores, romantic rivals, terrorists, your wife… Idea Space is crowded and heavily contested. The battle for your mind is certainly fought on a macro level against the howling phantom armies of the archons.

Ultimate victory, however, is only secured through a one-on-one duel in the throne room of the master who makes the grass green.

So sign up.



Add yours
  1. 1

    “Your head’s like mine, like all our heads; big enough to contain every god and devil there ever was. Big enough to hold the weight of the oceans and the turning stars. Whole universes fit in there!

    But what do we choose to keep in this miraculous little cabinet? Little broken things, sad trinkets that we play with over and over.

    The world turns our key and we play the same tune again and again and we think that tune’s all we are.”

    I remember the first time I read this. A friend lent me first twelve issues or so of The Invisibles, and I read and reread it for hours, and my head felt like a firework show (the Gnostic Vodoun issue was particularly mindbending). Many years later, much of The Invisibles seems dated or hasty (I still love most of it, though), but these words still are one of the most wonderful and inspiring things I ever read.

    And very funny, if you consider that Tom was kicking the shit off Dane while he was saying this.

  2. 3
    Chris Barnes

    “Whilst it may happen to the non-magician, it is of extreme usefulness to the magical. You could say the principal difference between the magician and the non-magician is the same as that of a motorist and a mechanic. Both of them drive but only one of them is professionally interested in popping the hood.” – Good God! That’s about as profound a statement as I’ve ever read. Genius! Godly, even. Well put, Gordon!

  3. 5

    @Hierax when was the last time you read them? If anything they hold up even better today… at least in London. (Evil Tories hunting the poor, royal weddings, etc.)

  4. 6

    I signed up a long time ago. I wonder what the quantum discoveries and neuroscience will unveil about consciousness. They are fascinating fields. The more they discover the more I feel like we’re entitled to a little “told you so”.

    The future selves possible would be endless according to most quantum theories, not to mention the possibility of infinite versions of you out there in the present. It’s all mind blowing fun.

    You are definitely the hardest working man in the blog business. Every post just gets better.
    Lonnie´s last blog post ..The Short and Sweet Guide To Bad Days

  5. 7

    @Gordon: I read the entire run one or two years ago. Perhaps “dated” is not quite the word, even though the future time of Robin isn´t very close to our present. Let´s say that some of the plot points have resolutions that I do not think satisfactory, but then Grant does have this problem, as seem in his X-Men run. But even sp, there is nothing quite like The Invisibles.

  6. 8

    But I´m absolutely flabbergasted by the Jack Kirby articles in the Secret Sun blog. What´s going on here?? Jack Kirby, the prophet and visionary?? This is too awesome.

  7. 10
    Joao C

    Let me get this right… Instead of using divination to divine, you are using it to collapse the wave function of possible futures and select the one you want. So divination becomes a form of magic. Then what distinguishes the standard and active ways of doing divination? What makes an act of divination – say a tarot reading – become a magical action instead, coaxing a particular future to manifest ?

  8. 11

    I once worked with a magician who was working on a very interesting form of divination-based magic.

    First, he would put what he was interested in into the form of a question. Then, he would do a geomancy reading for it (is reading the right word?)

    Next, he would analyse the reading (both shield and houses). Finally, if the outcome was not one he wanted, he would figure out the minimum change that he would need to make to get that outcome, and make that change (which can correspond to any number of activities.

    I think this method fits in well with your work Gordon, as every geomancy reading is generated from 16 bits of information, and you can completely change the reading by changing one bit — sensitive dependence on initial conditions means chaos, I think.


  9. 13

    You really need to start having the links open in a new window, it totally interrupts the flow of reading.
    Great article though.

  10. 15

    @Syx – Re links: right click mouse, select “Open in new tab” or “Open in new window”.

    @Gordon: Although I can’t find the link now, I’ve read that the very act of divination (via Tarot, bibliomancy, etc) can shift the future because once we “know” the possibility revealed by the information, just the “knowing” changes our actions and therefore, shifts the outcome of events.

    Another way of using Tarot is within an act of ritual magic arranged upon an alter, re-arranging as one feels appropriate, in order to produce a desired outcome… which seems akin to Morrison’s work with “The Invisibles”.

    I keep coming back to this post because I find more and more tucked within it.

    Really… excellent job here!
    Rose´s last blog post ..Burnt Offerings: Digging to Discover My True Will – Part 4

  11. 16
    Andrew B. Watt

    @abobymous I actually do that Geomancy thing too. Except that instead of making a minimum change, I often make a talisman of the relevant sign that will change the Judge from whatever it is to what I’d like it to be (usually Fortuna Major).

    I’ve also found that making a painting or drawing of the relevant tarot card is a great way of making a talisman or sigil. You can write on the back of the card what your goal is, while the front of the card can serve as the empowered image.
    Andrew B. Watt´s last blog post ..Prototyping a Painting

  12. 19
    interested party

    Absolutely beautiful. Your words inspire, as ever. I relish Dr. Targ’s inclusion here, because relevant. Ever so relevant. I’d also have included McMoneagle here, his book The Ultimate Time Machine is a hoot if you know what to look for.

    I wonder what y’awl might think of this, this thing that is just now beginning to become a thing, peeps are calling it “The New Aesthetic”, perhaps because we’re so blown away by how digital the world is, and shit. Despite the “Ooh it’s a new movement!” art-school blather just starting to coalesce around it, I find it compelling.

    Some links:

    Bruce Sterling’s article in Wired is, ah, okay, but I’d just start here:

    The aforementioned Sterling article:

    The requisite tumblr:

    For some time I’ve been looking for evidence that magical thinking in the sense we take for granted has spilled over into the ‘mainstream’ in a more compelling way than people posting photos of their Potterwands, and it’s started to irrupt, methinks. Dunno how long we have until Full Barbelith, but the way things are hurtling along, it might not be very long at all….


+ Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge