Do you know what a skeuomorph is?
It is a new object that retains functionally redundant design features. The general idea is to make new objects appear comfortingly familiar. That shutter click sound your phone makes when you snap a photo is an auditory skeuomorph. Social media dashboards that have dials and speedometers on them would be another example.
The title image is the view from my bus stop this morning at the bottom of Regent Street... a grand promenade from Regent's Park down to where the future George IV lived in Carlton House (before moving to Buckingham Palace). The story goes that he disliked the notion that Paris had all these grand Haussmanian boulevards -themselves originally designed to suppress any future rebellions- and he felt London should have something grander. So it is imperial pageantry that is itself skeumorphically resonant of imperial Rome.
As the bus turned right from Oxford St to Regent St, I hear Loren Coleman say the words "Operation Rapid Trident" on the episode of Binnall of America I was listening to. It's in reference to the US/UK military 'exercise' in Ukraine earlier this year. The words land in my head, the bus swings right and this is what I see. Alternating British and American flags hanging above one of London's premier imperial causeways. This, of all weeks, eh?
Well played, syncoverse... well played. Have the Illuminati decided it is time to do a bit of imperial brand advertising on Regent St to firm up the imperial alliance in advance of World War III or is it just that empires gonna empire?
Thinking about chaos magic, I wonder if it isn't an attempted solve for a design challenge. Magic in general is lousy with skeuomorphism. There is the faux old timey phraseology of hoodoo, there is the high Victorian insistence on having magical orders resemble the familiar, 'respectable' secret groups of their day, there are the curious costumes and defunct religious imagery of the ceremonial circle. From a usability perspective, skeuomorphs are supposed to make the 'onboarding' process for new users as smooth as possible.
But they can also get in the way. Maximum utility can be impaired if new functionality or new insights have to fit into legacy design aesthetics. Perhaps chaos magic's iconoclasm is an extreme example of user testing new design? Complicated gift that it is, the rise of the internet has given us access to data in volumes never experienced before in human history. Consider the last couple of posts over at the Secret Sun, particular regarding the Revelation of the Magi... a text I had a draft post about as I'm experimenting with its imagery for a pathworking. In the above interview with Loren Coleman, he uses the example of the ant in the garden. What does an ant think when it encounters you in the garden doing some weeding or watering the herbs or planting new bulbs? It's a fairly quotidian analogy if you take it to mean that the ant cannot possibly understand what you are doing. That's teaching algebra to dogs. But Loren continues with a follow-up rhetorical question. Does the ant think your presence in the garden is about it?
The more conservative the magical tradition, the more answers it seems to have. Experience a profound sync? That's your Yetzirah blah blah HGA. I find this leap to explanation hugely, hugely annoying, especially when it emanates from worldviews that have leapfrogged the discovery of antibiotics, nuclear power, commercial space travel, the rise of quantum physics and the formation of a global mobile network of more than two billion human beings with minimal intervening change.
You could make the case that a magical persona is itself a skeuomorph. And, actually, there is merit in such an approach. Adopting a culturally familiar identity makes for easier onboarding as long as it is with the intention of assessing or engaging with data over a wider spectrum. Here is where the road forks between genuine enquiry and LARPing. In light of the intervening 120 years of astronomy and space science, there is no getting around the observation that core magical texts are riddled not only with blatant astrotheology but also encounters with Unexplained Aerial Phenomena. This provides fertile ground for magical experimentation that is rarely sewn. Be the skeuomorph, do not live the skeuomorph.
There is a film that everyone thinks is shit that is at least not entirely shit. 2004's The Forgotten. (Although I might be biased. I'd watch Julianne Moore sleeping.) Layer in some folklore, layer in some cosmology, layer in some personal sorcerous experience and you have a sort of weight training for the mind.
Sitting in that odd liminal area between abduction experiences, memory alterations and the motives of extradimensional trollers, it is the sort of narrative that benefits from some Magonian ruminatory thought exercises. It explores Loren's secondary ant question: how much of the phenomena we experience is really about us in the first place?
For instance, memories of personal encounters with High Strangeness are woefully under-explored in magic (and potentially over-explored in ufology). All memories change over time -in fact every time you recall a memory you change it- but only some memories warp. Following my first forays into the Revelation of the Magi pathworking experience and coming back up into the dream state as some really potent
self-administered date rape drugs sedatives wore off, I had a bizarre dream of flying around a tropical city of glass towers built over the ocean in a silent, Wonder-Woman-style invisible plane/ship that I somehow knew had Malaysian Airline branding. Now each time I try to recall it, the strange parts get more slippery and the normal parts get more normal. I haven't been in a plane since we got back from Australia at the beginning of the year but from next week I am going Miami - London - Dublin - London - Sydney - Wellington - Hong Kong - London - New York. So was the dream 'about' the month I am about to spend in airports or was it 'about' using the images of Jesus as the actual space baby guiding the Magi and the curious phenomena described in the text? Oddly, it feels like much of the 'value' of the pathworking is centred around its subsequent unpacking rather than during the experience itself. More on this as it develops.
Here's another example, found via Darren. What the frikk is going on here? Which path on the Tree of Life do we put Marty McFly-9/11 syncs?
It's a reasonable conclusion that a popular trilogy of family films isn't issuing an earnest warning about a 'terrorist' event more than a decade in the future, just as it is reasonable to conclude that the illuminati elves weren't up late hanging the stars and stripes on Regent St. But before you leap to an explanation, recall that we do not even know the things we know. Published science has flimsier connections to evidence that Back to the Future syncs.
A highly influential paper by Dr John Ioannidis at Stanford University called "Why most published research findings are false" argues that fewer than half of scientific papers can be believed, and that the hotter a scientific field (with more scientific teams involved), the less likely the research findings are to be true. He even showed that of the 49 most highly cited medical papers, only 34 had been retested and of them 41 per cent had been convincingly shown to be wrong. And yet they were still being cited. [More.]
We remain ants speculating about gardeners. Resist explanations and defy expectations.