O C C U L T U R E
"The Secret Marriage of Art and Magick"
© 1993 - 2005 Antero Alli
Someday, in the not-too-distant future, certain drugs will be made available to the public that have the effect of increasing intelligence. Given the opportunity to partake, what would you do ? I'd probably ask the pharmacist: "What kind of intelligence will your pill increase ?" Like many others schooled in public education systems, I once naively assumed "intelligence" and "I.Q." were synonymous with "intellect" and "intellectual achievement" alone, until further research suggested a more plural definition of the terms.
[For further extrapolation on my use of the word intelligence please refer to my book, ANGEL TECH (Original Falcon Press) which reinterprets Dr. Timothy Leary's "Eight Circuit" whole-brain model for re-mapping Intelligence as eight interactive centers, or "brains" within us: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, sensory, psychic, mythic and spiritual.]
Ever since the emergence and deification of the species own "genius of intellect" over the past several hundred years (Newton, Descartes, the "Age of Enlightenment", etc.), our faculty of imagination -- and its latent "genius of intuition" -- has all but been systematically devalued, demoralized and destroyed. From kindergarten through university levels, students are well-trained to posit a priori status on knowns over unknowns and, are rewarded accordingly; the highest grades are granted to those minds retaining the greatest volume of known data. Those who survive the public education systems with their imaginations intact are fortunate souls, indeed.
Outside traditional learning institutions, somewhere between the global mythologies of Joseph Campbell and the iconoclastic Illuminati conspiracies of Robert Anton Wilson, are "invisible colleges" espousing hybrid forms of art and occult knowledge, referred to hereafter as occulture. The academic credentials of its teachers are questionable; some have no degree, others never graduated grade school. Most are self-taught in the School of Life after passing the prerequisite tests of survival in the real world; more often than not, this has meant psychic survival, as well as economic.
As a result of competing political and ideological forces, many of these teachers remain anonymous or assume the camouflage of pseudonyms. Many find solace as poets, artists and musicians (especially those who do not call themselves "poets, artists or musicians.") Yet, all seem to share a fierce alliance with the occultural driving force of an enraged imaginative intelligence, rebellious to the over-literalization of traditional culture, while adamant about nurturing its own microcultures and subcultures into existence.
When Data Became Dada
Intelligence thrives on new information. Before the twentieth century the most widely accepted and scientific definition of the word "information" refered to literalist processes of accumulating known data; knowledge as inert, predictable, and easily categorized. The universe, or so it was thought, could be mapped out with surgical precision like some deux machina that followed understandable laws. How many of us still think like this ? This very spirit of imagination demands the redefinition of intelligence, if only to begin thinking like twenty-first century brains, instead of eighteenth or nineteenth century ones.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schroedinger, amongst others, turned the world of intelligence on its ear. The universe, according to the new physics of quantum mechanics, is infinitely more mysterious and strange than previously imagined. One outcome of this revelation was the redefinition of what constituted "information." In light of a universe expressing greater uncertainties than certainties, the definiti0n of information has been updated to: the unpredictability of a message, meaning, the more unpredictable the message, the more information there is in it.
Imagine information as fresh experience -- spontaneous, unknown and alive -- rather than the perpetual accumulation of dead data. This breakthrough in creative thought eventually found its assimilation in twentieth century culture. What the scientist discovers through experiments, the artist experiences through new ways of perceiving, hearing, feeling and sensing. While Einstein made scientific history with his theory of relativity and Heisenberg with his uncertainty principle, the Surrealist "dada" revolution (Dali, Cocteau, Satie, etc.), James Joyce's omnicultural Finnegan's Wake, and the music of Jazz brought the living experience to the people.
Both scientists and artists recognized this dynamic shift from a world view that was "predictable, solid and fixed" to a new vision of the universe simulatenously wilder, more plural, malleable and unfathomable. To those minds awakening from the slumber of nineteenth century "certainty" trance, so-called "reality" became a realm of immeasurable possibilities with countless interpretations. Any culture, or person, failing to assimilate this transformation into their perceptions and lives, remains in the past; it never enters the twentieth century let alone, the twenty-first.
Wanted: Marginal Men & Women
After the bombing of Hiroshima, every American decade has seen and felt consecutive shock waves of occultural rebellion: the fifties' beat generation, the sixties' hippies, the seventies' punk rockers, the eighties' entrepreneurial new agers, the nineties' neoanarchists and cyber-artists. These movements trickled in from the peripheral fringes of mainstream society, propelled by occultural revolutionaries unable and/or unwilling to conform to the sociopolitical standards of their time. As "outsiders", they thrive on the fringes of their local cultural gene pools, where the new forms, the new rituals and the new traditions spring forth and find expression.
These fringedwellers cultivate their own idiosyncratic microcultures, no matter how short lived. Temporary Autonomous Zones. With enough meaningful interaction between kindred spirits, microcultures form and with commitment, develop the momentum and the critical mass necessary for the germination of larger subcultures. Marginal men and women contribute to the subculture of their times by their very placement at the grassroots levels of society, working in the secrecy ("occult") necessary for their occultural survival in a world of competing ideologies.
For the sake of metaphor, let's assume that the "intellectual genius of humanity" has dominated euro-american thinking and its world view since the eighteenth century and that humanity's own latent and oppressed "poetic genius" has risen up against its tyrannical other half. Imagine now, such a conflict in your own mind and one might get the impression of insanity or, a brain at odds with itself; paranoid, schizophrenic even. Now, picture the world at large. Sanity, on an individual and group level, may depend on how "quantumized" our thinking and world view is. This amounts to the degree a given individual and/or group mind, is:
1) flexible enough to permit more uncertainty and
2) imaginative enough to handle the inherent anxiety, creatively.
The Time of Your Life
So much money was made and spent in the eighties that the economic crisis of the nineties is turning into a virtual crisis in consciousness itself, if only because Reaganomics made it too easy to become a little -- or a lot -- crazy about money. If the eighties had "money on the brain" then the nineties are about getting our brains back, again; before it's too late. This is why I'm calling this "post-information age" nineties era, a consciousness revolution. Perhaps the most insidious pill our individual and group minds have swallowed whole is this Dead Data assumption that time and money are synonymous. Is time really money ? That probably depends on whose watch you're on, what model of Time you're living in. Did you know there was more than one ?
On one end of the chronological spectrum, time is not money; it is the measure of your life, as in "the time of your life." The measurement of nature -- the thirteen lunar cycles, the solar eclipses, the seasonal shifts -- is as close as it gets to "galactic" time, the time which knows no beginning or end but a metamorphosis of duration. At the other extreme, there's the 60 second/60 minute/12 month manmade organization of available time into measurable bits and pieces, usually connected with the punch-clock of employment; time as commercial regulation.
To the extent we have identified with the latter "Gregorian calendar" as the only model of Time, yes: time is probably indistinguishable from money. The five-day work week -- with weekends off -- is more of a "smokestack economic calendar" maintained by participating governments as an economic incentive for social control. Like money itself, this calendar is a man-made mental construct. It is symbolic; not real.
Those who have lost touch with this distinction have already lost their minds to some extent. International advertising moguls and mass media geniuses have also effectively conditioned the public/collective mind into becoming a little -- or a lot -- nuts about the purchasing power of money. From the commercialization of Christmas to the neuroelectronic Nintendo warriors, the minds of adults and children alike are starting to belong to the most successful advertisers.
The occultural revolution -- spearheaded by the species own poetic genius and the artists unleashing its forces -- is striking blows and dents in the bloated consumer mind; first, in small pockets and then, infiltrating greater media outlets (more on this later) effecting change by the gradual reclaiming of our collective consciousness from its misplaced identification with rampant consumerism. If that sounded too idealistic, how about this: After science cures cancer, AIDS and cardiac disease, the ailments of the future will be -- almost -- entirely mental. Are people ready to openly suffer from information overdose ?
Can a mind close down and die from INFO O.D. ? A mind does not get sick from the oversaturation of information but oversaturation of the wrong kind of information. The mass media's appeal towards the trivialization of all things force-feeds the psyche increasing dosages of arbitrary "facts" which, regretfully, assures its over-literalization and early imagination death. As depth psychologist James Hillman points out (BLUE FIRE: Selected Writings) without the play of an active and world-involved imagination, the life of a soul is not only severely limited but questionable at all; imagination death precedes the death of the soul.
The collapsing economy -- the recession, the loss of wages, jobs, and homes -- impacts us, personally, to the extent our time and consciousness have been invested in money; the more nuts about money you are these days, the greater the shock to your consciousness. Economic recessions are catalyzing not only an economic crisis but a crisis in consciousness itself by forcing people to rethink money and perhaps, how to not think about it so much. During times of overwhelming consumerism, cultural survival may depend on minimizing and even avoiding commercial appeal. How does one continue to nurture the life of the soul -- that is to say, the "real" life -- amidst the surrounding signals of advertising images and slogans promoting the contrary ?
The "New Age" Occultural Revolution
The notion of "living a real life" is a philosophical quandary. As one searches long enough, it grows apparent that there is no one absolute truth or formula that fits all sizes, shapes and colors of people; any teacher selling one, is selling ontological pantyhose ("one-size-fits-all"). What constitutes a real life ? The enigmatic dance master and philosopher Georges I. Gurdjieff devoted his life to it. Gurdjieffian turn-of-the-century mystery schools have attempted to continue "living the real life," through the writings of E.J. Gold, Claudio Naranjo, Robert Augustus Masters, Charles Tart and Timothy Leary. These latter 20th century philosophers and their cosmologies are all given to greater degrees of imagination and humor, two traits conspicuously absent not as much in the person of Gurdjieff but from the numerous followers attempting to carry his torch, post-mortem. Despite this, Gurdjieff's work has managed to lay down significant ground for widespread occultural seeding and germination. It is my perception that these seeds, along with those planted by Alice Bailey, Madame Blavatsky, and other western followers of Tibetan Buddhism, contributed to the hodgepodge spirituality of the New Age occultural revolution of the eighties.
The eighties' "New Age" movement expressed the most passive side of the oppressed poetic genius. With its sit-down visualization approach to life and its inspired, albeit dead-naive, idealism, "New Agers" were easy targets for cynics and skeptics alike. Yet, their fundamental, and somewhat fundamentalist, innocence suggests more than meets the eye. Like other occultural movements, the "new age" emerges as a reaction to a collective crisis or, shock. When I see millions of new agers groping for ways to leave their bodies -- via channelers, UFO cults, the so-called 11:11 "call" -- my stomach wrenches. Is this some genetic migrational signal alerting the race of emerging mass extinction? Or maybe it's just a delayed reaction of watching too much television. The New Age movement was slippery in that way.
The New Age apex came and went in late 1987, as millions of people responded to the mass media coverage -- from Doonesbury to TIME magazine -- of a grassroots celebration of the earth coined, "The Harmonic Convergence" by Dr. Jose Arguelles (an art historian turned "intergalactic emissary"). Its precepts were simple: go outdoors and create rituals to celebrate the earth. The swirling cosmology surrounding the ritual, however, cast a compelling spell...
The Planet Art of Jose Arguelles
Harmonic Convergence, no matter how it was perceived, enacted the most far-reaching two-day global occultural ritual since Woodstock ended the sixties; a planetary art form was born from some kind of magick with Arguelles as the master conceptual artist. Having worked personally with Jose and his wife Lloydine between the years of 1984 and 1987 -- when we were neighbors in Boulder, Colorado -- I witnessed its accumulating momentum from its inception. One of the things I learned from Harmonic Convergence was how the mass media convoluted Arguelles' original meaning of the Harmonic Convergence by "advertising" it as another "end of the world" prophecy. This dampened Arguelles' already wavering academic credibility by labeling him another apocalyptic guru thus, successfully sensationalizing the event for "televisionary" consumer mentality.
Similar to the mass media reaction to the emerging sixties' hippies, in 1987 the established networks of news services opted cynical, condescending attitudes about "those flaky new agers and their wigged-out guru." So when Harmonic Convergence came and went without so much as an extraterrestrial invasion or a cataclysmic earthquake to swallow up the unfaithful, the mass media triumphed and the so-called New Age turned belly up. Its occultural epitaph was written by selling out as a commercial publishing and commodities genre. By this time, I had my first book ("Angel Tech"; Falcon, 1987) pubished and saw how the occultural powers of advertising were not to be underestimated.
Unknown to media coverage was Arguelles' seed vision -- which he told a handful of his friends and supporters, as early as 1985 -- of the 1987 Harmonic Convergence being only first of two "gateway" dates, the next of which was the "Time Shift" of July 25th, 1992. The media naturally sensationalized the 1987 date and somehow completely overlooked 1992. Jose went on to say how these five years (`87 to `92) would herald a simultaneous "campaign for the Earth" and "an era of unprecedented chaos"; pretty good call, considering the massive ecological campaigns alongside all the wars and revolutions that took place during these years. The intention of the "1992 Time Shift" was to change the way people relate with Time. Specifically, the "time shift" from the twelve month calendar year to the thirteen lunar cycle year. July 25th, 1992 was targeted as the date to get the most people aware of Time Shift as possible.
Mass media twisted Arguelles' message into a promise that could never be kept; in other words, an "advertising failure". Soon thereafter, Wall Street and Procter & Gamble chewed up and spit out the image of the whole earth everywhere in massive advertising campaigns promoting everything from organic lipstick to energy-efficient automobiles to biodegradable toilet paper. For awhile there, it seemed that the earth itself was for sale. Less than three years after Harmonic Convergence, mainstream society began assimilating the fringedwelling new agers' "earth surrender rites" by adapting the image of the whole earth to promote Earth Day, 1990 and continues to do so, today. (Remember, the image of the "whole earth" was photographed and circulated by NASA back in 1969; it took twenty years to commercialize).
Advertising is a genuine occultural phenomena. It is an art form and a form of magick that casts its gorgeous spells onto the high seas of public imagination and for the most part, continues to transfix its bounty of minds. Every advertising CEO knows well enough that before selling the public anything, that public must first be convinced their lives are inadequate and unworthy -- the way they are -- without their product and that by purchasing and consuming it, their lives will be complete, again. People with low self-esteem naturally identify more rapidly with television commercials that promise "security, status, smarts and/or sexiness" by consuming the product advertised; memorize these four "S" words and you may begin to see how real advertising works, while seeing through the commercials themselves. (For more information on this, see: World Entertainment Warriors)
Moons, not Months
The occultural phenomena predating most others are the various nature, or goddess religions: wicca, witchcraft, paganism, neopaganism, and the countless forms of pantheism. It does little justice to clump these spiritualities together, as their depth and complexity of styles can differ wildly. Yet their one binding element is the relative secrecy through which all have had to learn to practice their craft over the past two thousand year reign of Christianity (alongside its historical and incestuous marriages with the State).
How many nature religions rely on the thirteen natural cycles of the moon to measure the passage of time, rather than the twelve month Gregorian calendar year ? Besides being a "bad luck" Christian superstition, the number "13" also symbolizes lunar power, the power of the feminine: of the women who are in sync via menses with the moon every day of their lives. Basic math shows us how thirteen cycles of twenty-eight days each equals three hundred and sixty-four days, the time the earth takes to orbit around the sun, plus a day.
Twelve months or thirteen moons. On paper, there isn't much difference. Yet, in the lives of the people who live according to each "calendar" extraordinary distinctions exist. The twelve month year was invented by Sumerian and Babylonian priests based on the Egyptian 360 degree circle as a scheduling device to control local commerce; no matter how efficient, it is still a mental construct. The natural cycles of time, measured by the moon and the tides, have been recognized by indigenous people for ages past as "the time of our lives" model of Time.
The Truth About Evil
Goddess religions have always been a formidable threat to the "one and only true male God" of fundamentalist Christianity. Both male and female Goddess worshipers have been persecuted, burned and murdered as "evil witches possessed by the Devil" for centuries on end by the more militant executioners of the Christian faith. This massive persecution has done more to associate the word "occult" with "evil" than its actual meaning of "beyond the realm of ordinary knowledge" and "disclosed only to the initiated" (courtesy of the Random House dictionary). The real truth is that the truth itself has never been that popular. Advertisers and journalists stay away from truth for this very reason and push promises, fantasies and wish-fulfillment, instead. Truth does not sell well.
The reason truth generally hasn't sold that well, is it's too obvious, too ordinary and too plain to see AND/OR: it's just too strange, too shocking and too miraculous to believe. Even the so-called "reality" shows on television are vapid simulations of reality produced by its programmers and their bankrolling advertisers. The truth about the life you are living is that it's transitory; as life happens to you, it happens for the first and the last time. Impermanence is a basic truth. How often have you said something to the effect of "I can't believe this is happening" ? Often, the most difficult thing for us to believe is the very thing that is happening to us. Why ? Once again: whatever is happening -- here and now -- is happening for the first and the last time; it is alive and beyond belief, period. Life (and its parenthesis death), require no dogma to occur. Life and death happen; the measure of our ignorance is in how much we need reminding.
World Entertainment Wars
The competing realities of Christianity and non-christian dogma make up just one battlefield in a massive occultural war occurring at the level of mind; if heaven is in the mind, as many philosophies proclaim, there is a war in heaven. Warfare between "the intuitive artists" and "the materialistic advertisers" -- a kind of World Entertainment War -- has grown confusing and complex with countless world-class artists selling out to the advertising corporations.
In military warfare, spies and intelligence agents work in enemy fields as "field operators." As part of the training for entering the World Entertainment Wars, artists eventually enter the esoteric and occult world of advertising not only to survive economically but to sidestep the commercial boobytraps reserved for uninitiated consumers. Advertisers are also initiated into a kind of Art Boot Camp training for staying abreast of the latest hit movies, pop songs and fashion statements that could lead to the next hot image accompanying their product.
Occulture, as the "secret marriage of art and magick", has remained inaccessible and hidden ("occult") to those unable to afford the technology, talent and imagination for creating it themselves; until now. With the rise of affordable state-of-the-art camcorder and home-editing technology, more people are becoming occultural adepts, whether they know it or not, scripting their own stories and shooting their own movies. Of the millions of camcorder owners, it's highly likely that at least a handful end up changing the course of occultural history by recording the action as it happens, without advertising pressures and budget deadlines. These individuals will revolutionize media-making at the grassroots level by providing our own species' rebellious poetic genius the multimedia outlets for expressing its ever-changing multidimensional nature.
Computer desktop publishing has also inadvertently spawned an explosive revolution in the underground press, unleashing thousands of alternative "zines" offering anti-media output of fresh unpredictable information and unsalable truth. Music industry dinosaurs are sending their own field operators out to scout grassroots talent due to the increasing affordability of recording time for producing cassettes and compact discs; musicians are surviving longer outside of record company control by recording and distributing their own work.
Between words, music, and images, the human species' enraged poetic imagination toils to rearrange the way we see, hear and feel the world: the way we end up living our lives. The efforts of these struggles are immense -- imagine Jacob wrestling with the angel -- and their effects, as fundamentally unstable as the high seas themselves. We are a culture dreaming itself -- ourselves -- into history, with as little as a song, a prayer, and a vision...and are entering that portal where almost anybody with enough commitment, courage and vision can step forth and join history, herstory, our story in the making.
Whether it's on the streets and/or incognito computerized virtual realities, the time has come for the chaotic emergence of the species' own intuitive genius. How will we recognize it ? What will it look like and what will it do ? It transmits a dream more optimistic than the beats, more precise than the hippies, more dynamic than the new agers and more soulful than the bleak cyberpunks. What's "it" ? All these occultural movements make up the groundwork of its unfoldment. What "it" is, however, is now up for grabs which makes IT all the more breath-taking, dangerous and alive.
"The Gods of the earth and sea, Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree
But their search was all in vain: There grows one in the Human Brain."
from "The Human Abstract" (click image for its entirety)
Other Work by Antero Alli
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