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The world you live in was never disenchanted. The curse of disenchantment, otherwise known as the Age of Reason, achieved only a confusion of the sacred and profane. One particular manifestation is that all popular entertainments and media have their roots in shamanism, ritual, and divination. The fact that theater originated in sorcery, though broadly unfamiliar to the public, is well known in academia. In Phyllis Hartnoll’s A Concise History of the Theater (1971): “The origins of the theater go back far into the past, to the religious rites of the earliest communities. Throughout the history of mankind there can be found traces of songs and dances in honor of a god, performed by priests and worshippers dressed in animal skins, and of a portrayal of his birth, death, and resurrection”.
What is less known is that the influence of the occult on theater and other forms of media never waned, up until the modern era. From theater to film, from photography to television, occult influence has been embedded in the fabric of our media landscape. The mix of magic and the mass media can be traced back to the time of the 19th-century sexual magician Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875) or influential author and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), who were as much entertainers as they were masters of the arcane. The occult continues to lurk beneath the surface of mainstream media — not through coded symbols, but rather through memetic engineering, an indefinably powerful yet paramount aspect of the alchemical psychotronic order, Reality, Inc.
The Occult Revival was a movement that emerged in the mid-19th century, characterized by a renewed interest in spiritualism, necromancy, and ceremonial magic. It was also a hotbed of modernist religion, valuing creative expression and spiritual experience as much as adherence to specific religious texts. Theosophy, popularized by the Theosophical Society, was a significant force in the popularization of Hindu and Buddhist traditions in Western culture. Occultists during this period believed that their work was linked to a pre-ancient, transcultural religious tradition that predates and underpins the teachings of current religions. They sought to revive this tradition to achieve higher spiritual consciousness or gnosis, which transcends the rational and scientific and points toward a grasp of fundamental relations that exist among various levels of reality. The Occult Revival was a diverse movement associated with notable figures such as Kate and Maggie Fox, Eliphas Lévi, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Katherine Tingley, Rudolf and Marie Steiner, Aleister Crowley, and Gerald Gardner.
Some playwrights, such as W.B. Yeats and August Strindberg, aimed to penetrate the mystical and esoteric in their works. They often incorporated symbolism, mythological themes, and references to occult practices within their plays, blurring the boundaries between the natural and the supernatural. This tradition found its way into the world of film when auteurs such as Kenneth Anger, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage and Luis Buñuel began experimenting with symbolism and creating atmospheric occult-inspired works.
“Lucifer’s message is that the key of joy is disobedience. Isis (Nature) wakes. Osiris (Death) answers. Lilith (Destroyer) climbs to the place of Sacrifice. The Magus activates the circle and Lucifer – Bringer of Light – breaks through.”
Occult psychodrama and trance were interwoven into the cinematographic works of Kenneth Anger, a devoted adherent to the teachings of Crowley, and personally entwined with such entities as Anton LaVey, Timothy Leary, Ordo Templi Orientis, the Process Church, and Charles Manson — a delirium-inducing deluge of dubious characters. The connections between these outlandish individuals and organizations to the American intelligence community have been meticulously chronicled by esteemed researchers such as Dave McGowan.
Anger’s short films, such as Scorpio Rising (1963), Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1966), and Lucifer Rising (1981) draw heavily on such traditional spiritual practices as ceremonial magick and Aleister Crowley’s Thelema. He was also reputed to have directed numerous snuff films, and, as some researchers have posited, Anger may have been accountable for the first public human sacrifice caught on film.
The calamitous spectacle occurred at the so-called “apocalyptic” Altamont Speedway concert on December 6, 1969 (precisely six decades following Mr. Crowley’s alleged consummation of his most potent evocation). It was at this ill-fated gathering where numerous individuals suffered injuries and an audience member met his untimely demise at the hands of the Hell’s Angels. This notorious Rolling Stones performance has been identified by a great many as the terminal point of the “peace and love” epoch of the hippie generation.
Jeffrey Deitch, the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, was quoted as saying, “It’s not an exaggeration to say he’s the inventor of independent cinema, he’s the inventor of gay cinema, and my friend David LaChapelle says he’s the inventor of the music video”. Illustrious directors such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Gus Van Sant, and John Waters have acknowledged him as a significant inspiration. Undoubtedly, Mr. Anger is among the most consequential filmmakers in the annals of cinematography, yet his name remains relatively obscure. This circumstance parallels that of Crowley, whose theatrical Rites of Eleusis constituted the first public exhibition of pagan rituals in England in centuries and have indubitably left an enduring impression. Nonetheless, not a solitary branch of scholarly pursuit has recognized their import and influence.
Crowley, a controversial figure, faced numerous personal issues such as addiction to heroin and alcohol, financial problems, and sexual impotence, leading to his death in 1947. The Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), an organization he was associated with, nearly collapsed but experienced a resurgence in the 1960s and reestablished itself in 1971. Crowley claimed to have contacted the entity Horus, which led to the writing of the Liber Al, or The Book of the Law. The book prophesied the end of the Age of Osiris and the beginning of the Age of Horus, characterized by the emergence of self-willed supermen. In his book Our Gods Wear Spandex, Christopher Knowles contends that Crowley’s prophecy was more rooted in Nietzschean philosophy than Egyptian theology, and many of his ideas found their way into popular culture through comic books featuring superheroes. Knowles argues that modern comic book heroes are a continuation of ancient archetypes and stories, updated for contemporary audiences. The book explores the influence of mystics and occultists like Crowley on the creation of these superheroes, tracing their origins and examining the impact of spiritual and philosophical ideas on their development.
The occult has been smuggled into our culture from every vector imaginable, confusing the sacred and profane. The ubiquitous tradition of shamanic performance has lent itself to many varied forms of expression, but none so significant as that which is threaded into the fabric of 20th-century theater and cinema. From the years 1908 to 1929, the highly influential English theater designer and director, Mr. Edward Gordon Craig, published his periodical The Mask, in which he expounded his vision that the actor, as a psychological entity, ought to be eradicated from the stage and supplanted by the “über-marionette”, who would remain detached from his role and exterior to his body. Essentially, Craig wished to revert the theater to its ritualistic origins, or rather, its primitive, occult function. These über-marionettes would have been exquisitely sculpted dolls, embodying the celestial, ideal representation of the character. “The Über-marionette”, he wrote, “will not compete with Life—but will rather go beyond it. Its ideal will not be the flesh and blood but rather the body in Trance—it will aim to clothe itself with a death-like Beauty while exhaling a living spirit”. Renowned English director Peter Brook, a disciple of the esoteric master George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866-1949), describes Craig’s influence as reaching across the world, “into every theater with any pretensions to serious work” and stressed the futuristic value of his work, saying in 1988, “Today… producers and directors are only just catching up with his ideas”. In a certain manner, the recent creation of digital doppelgangers for actors could be construed as a distorted actualization of his vision.
Through the partnership of Craig and W.B. Yeats, shamanic performance frolicked its way into the depths of our culture. Although Gordon Craig was fundamentally a mystic, there is scant concrete evidence that he belonged to a formal order of magicians. However, there is every indication that he was superior to such things. As an illustration, he was not only the publisher, editor, illustrator, and designer of The Mask, but also, by some accounts, the author — under 65 pseudonyms — of most of its content, including the “foreign correspondence” and “letters to the editor”. He employed The Mask as his own masquerade to create the illusion that an entire community of people was advocating for his ideas. This type of One Man Kulturkampf is reported obliquely by scholars of theater as a “performance”.
Moreover, Craig was virtually encircled by actual members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and other deviants, from Mr. W.B. Yeats to the illustrator of the Rider–Waite tarot deck, Miss Pamela Colman-Smith, even providing screens for Yeats’ ritual theater productions at the infamous Abbey theater — where Crowley staged his Rites of Eleusis — marking a significant moment in the history of occultism and theatrical performance.
Edward was introduced to the creator of “the Method”, Mr. Konstantin Stanislavski, by his paramour, the “first modern dancer” and intimate friend of Crowley, Miss Isadora Duncan. Craig fathered a child with Duncan, Deirdre Beatrice (1906-1913), who tragically drowned at the age of seven. (All three of Duncan’s illegitimate children met their demise before reaching adulthood.) Duncan was a significant part of the Occult Revival and the Modernist reconstruction of ritual drama being pursued by Crowley, Yeats, the various theosophists, and neo-pagans. Modernism was, at its roots, an archaic revival, or rather, a resurgence of ancient archetypal forms for contemporary purposes. The Modernist theatrical tradition opposed the natural presence of the actor and aimed to “mechanize” their performance style, to transform the actor into a golem of the gods.
This purpose is aligned with the revivalists of Greek mysteries in art and theater, which were fascinated by mechanization and puppetry. Leading figures in modernist theater, such as Edward Gordon Craig, W.B. Yeats, Vsevolod Emilyevich Meyerhold, Bertolt Brecht, and Samuel Beckett, all embraced this anti-life, anti-natural approach. Modernist anti-naturalism in theater can be traced back to 19th-century symbolism, where marionettes were promoted over actors, and actors were encouraged to mimic marionettes. Modernism is characterized by disjunction, incompleteness, and discontinuities, which can be seen as a reflection of trauma and the need for therapeutic catharsis after a cataclysmic event, similar to the role of the clown-shaman in ancient rituals.
After Craig and Stanislavski met in 1908 in Moscow, they continued to correspond for many years. Their letters reveal discussions about their theories and ideas on theater, with Craig’s concepts of the “über-marionette” and symbolic approach to design and staging piquing Stanislavski’s interest. His exposure to Craig’s ideas contributed to his interest in exploring more abstract and symbolic elements in theater. This can be seen in some of Stanislavski’s later work, where he attempted to combine psychological realism with a more symbolic approach to staging and design.
It is not controversial that Craig had an impact on Stanislavski, however, there is a misapprehension regarding the depth of that influence, underscored by the continued discussion of “psychological realism” and “emotional authenticity” sought through his “method”. Stanislavski was using contemporary ideas about psychology to smuggle in occultic processes, as when he states: “The fundamental aim of our art is the creation of this inner life of a human spirit, and its expression in artistic form”, he drops the pretense of unconscious expression. He also used concepts from Eastern mysticism to describe the transcendent effervescence invoked by the actor which he once again smuggled under contemporary terms like “radiation” and “irradiation” in his An Actor’s Work.
The biographer Charles Marowitz notes that both Stanislavski and his student Chekhov, despite all their technical disagreements, both framed optimal acting as “something otherworldly, something that our language cannot easily define except by reference to preternatural causes”. The acknowledgement that theater allows viewers to experience an ecstatic and transcendent experience indicates the secret existence of that memory of “The Other” in our collective subconscious which, if understood, elucidates the performative aspect of the occult.
Stanislavski utilized pranayama, a yogic technique of breath control, in conjunction with Mantra Yoga to create a relaxed mental state for experiencing an alternate reality. Relaxation exercises, used by both performers and shamanic magicians, are similar and serve to prepare the body and mind for conjuring spirits or embodying tutelary deities. Physical relaxation exercises are a common beginning to any performance, serving to shift the focus of the mind to a more receptive state of consciousness.
Stanislavski’s technique for acting involved creating an embryonic cavitation, an interiority for the fictive entity to inhabit, assisted by his principle of “I AM”, which means existing, living, feeling, and thinking in the same way as the fictive entity being portrayed. This technique also emphasized the importance of freeing the body from tension in order to achieve “the highest truth” on stage. Coincidentally, the phrase “I AM” was also being used by the Theosophists, who were developing their spiritual beliefs in Russia at the same time.
The Stanislavski Method, or Method Acting, has significantly influenced the acting world, shaping the careers of many notable actors. Some prominent examples include Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Meryl Streep, who have all studied and incorporated Stanislavski’s teachings into their performances. The Stanislavski Method and shamanic performance both emphasize the transformative nature of performance and the need for a deep connection with the character (or spirit) being portrayed. They share similarities in connecting with an interiority, undergoing transformation, immersing oneself in the performance, and focusing on intersubjective realities. For example, in both the Stanislavski Method and Balinese trance dancing, performers temporarily suspend their own identities to immerse themselves in the roles they portray. This allows actors to fully embody their “characters”, fictive entities which are often based on mythic archetypes, while trance dancers channel the “spirits” they represent.
The purpose of the Stanislavski Method is not to access the interiority of the actor, about which no one cares, but to “perfect” the actor by turning them into a living mask, or rather, a crucible for divination. In Greek mythology, Prometheus, a Titan, is credited with the creation of humans. He molded mankind from clay, imitating the likeness of the gods, thus making humans a simulacrum or imitation of the divine. Prometheus was known for his wisdom and cunning, as well as his love for humanity. He not only created humans but also provided them with fire, stolen from the gods, to enable them to advance in knowledge and culture. The idea of mankind as a simulacrum made by the gods is echoed around the ancient world; man is universally known as a being of intermediate nature. His corporeal form is imbued with the divine luminescence of the celestial ether. Consequently, he is a microcosm. For within his constitution, all elements of the cosmos are mirrored: the ethereal heavens in his spirit and soul, and the abysmal depths of the aqueous matter within his physical vessel. Relating all this to the mystical function of acting, the psychic organs and flesh of the actor becomes the divinatory microcosm.
Craig ardently pursued this ideal form, seeking potentialities of formation within the intrinsic laws governing the movements of the human figure. To him, these laws bore something absolute, something decidedly “cosmic”. In this vein, the actor’s flesh becomes a veritable crucible, a conduit for the mediumistic divination of holy or unholy inspiration. As they inhabit their roles, the actors are not merely enacting the passions and dilemmas of the characters they portray; they are, in fact, tapping into the primordial essence of the cosmic drama that unfolds through human history. The spray of their psychic guts across the stage become the means through which the director engages in scrying, a form of divination that allows the seer to glimpse hidden truths and access mystical knowledge.
The stage, in this context, is transformed into a sacred space, a realm where the earthly and elsewhere converge. The actors, akin to puppets of the shamans, traverse the boundaries between the mundane world and the realm of the spirit, channeling the energies and wisdom of the unseen forces that govern the cosmos. Their bodies, and particularly their psychophysical entrails, become the focal point for the scrying process, allowing them to divine the messages and insights that lie hidden within the fabric of reality.
The Sacred Theater
“We have forgotten entirely that the primary symbol of the theater is the mask…. In the mask lies a law, and this is the law of the drama. Non-reality becomes a fact.”
The ritual theory of theater, supported by the Cambridge Ritualists, attempts to trace the origins of theater to Dionysiac rituals based on shared characteristics in the fictional world. However, an alternative hypothesis suggests that the origins of theater lie in shamanism, focusing on performance aspects shared by both the shaman and the actor. Shamanism holds more promise in this endeavor, as performance is central to the theatrical medium. Ernest T. Kirby’s work, particularly his Ur-Drama (1975), explores shamanism as the source of theater, aiming to distinguish between the performances of the shaman and the actor. Famed cultural anthropologist Victor Turner, after observing the real-world effects of shamanic healing rituals, stated that “whatever efficacy the [shamanic] rite possesses — and it does have ameliorative effects on patients … resides in the degree of skill wielded by the doctor in each instance of its performance”.
Shamanism refers to a wide class of medicine-men in various cultures who combine healing, mediumship, and magic. Shamans are believed to enter a trance, travel in other worlds, and master spirits for the purpose of curing the sick. While Kirby emphasizes the therapeutic function of the shaman, Mircea Eliade, the great historian of religion, offers a stricter definition, highlighting the shaman’s religious and mystical roles. The shaman typically enters a state of trance and is a master of ecstasy; an ecstasy that reactivates the “illud tempus”, in which men could communicate concretely with the mythic sphere of experience. The illud tempus is a time out of time, a memory bank of non-local memory, “which is always the same, which belongs to eternity” (Eliade, 1959).
Shamanistic rituals involve the shaman enacting a character (the spirit) in front of an audience for a specific purpose, such as curing a patient or, in the case of the clown-shaman, for social catharsis. As belief in the shaman’s abilities decreases, the ritual may evolve into a theatrical performance. Kirby suggests that the actor was originally a medium and that shamans, when possessed by a spirit, perform a distinct theatrical function: acting.
Shamans and actors both reach altered states of mind through trance-like consciousness, a technique that allows actors to master, or surrender to, their own energy and body. The integration of shamanism into actor training has been studied by practitioners and theorists such as Brian Bates. Drawing from his experience in clinical psychology and shamanism, traces the actor to the shaman, stating, “For thousands of years actors were regarded as the guardians of wisdom. And the way of the actor was a path to personal knowledge and power” (Bates, 1986).
Edward Gordon Craig believed that theater should be restored as an art form, an abstract, synthetic, and designed totality. He proposed that the idea of impersonation and the imitation of nature should be banished from theater, as it hindered its development. Craig envisioned the actor as an über-marionette, focusing on the creation of inner life rather than imitation, echoed by Stanislavski.
Craig’s art, with its emphasis on strangeness and beauty, was Symbolist (or Neo-Romantic) and preceded the more pronounced emphasis on abstraction. Two principles he shared with later abstract work were associated with the mask. In shamanistic tradition, abstraction plays a significant role, particularly in masks. The use of abstraction in primitive masks can be linked to the function of abstraction, which separates the work from direct representation and allows the artist to create an autonomous system emphasizing the interrelationships of elements. This is the metaphysical and existential basis of abstract art, which Craig sought to apply in theater.
An example of a prototype of drama can be found in the ceremonies of Aboriginal Australians, where performers use abstract costume and simple, symbolic movements to represent mythological ancestors. The abstract forms used in these ceremonies serve to create a connection between earth, plant, animal, and man, while retaining the mystery of the association. The simplicity of these enactments further contributes to their abstract nature.
The aesthetics of these aboriginal ceremonies are closely connected to their meaning, as they emphasize the numinous and abstract aspects of the performance. Craig’s ideal of an abstract theater shares similar principles with these primitive art forms, highlighting the importance of abstraction in creating a meaningful and unique theatrical experience. Kirby states, “the performer as mythological ancestor represents neither insect nor man, but a kind of superhuman mutant” — something beyond human that can only be portrayed as an abstraction.
Totemic ancestor portrayal in primitive theatrical ceremonies, like in Aboriginal Australian enactments, relies on abstraction to maintain a sense of mystery and meaning. These ceremonies focus on simplicity and symbolism to create a connection between earth, plant, animal, and man, and resist the urge for fuller imitation or presentation. Shamanistic séances, which involve a shaman enacting a journey to other worlds while curing a sick person, serve as another example of abstract theater. The performance emphasizes nonreal elements and the supernatural, creating an illusion or delusion for the audience.
As an example let us take Tom Cruise, a student of the Meisner school which is a derivative of Stanislavski’s Method. The Meisner technique supposedly focuses on fostering truth and authenticity in a performer’s work by emphasizing “instinctive and spontaneous responses”. But we seem to notice that Tom Cruise is the same person in every movie. However, is this person a “Tom Cruise”? The notion of the entity “Tom Cruise” being an über-marionette stems from the idea that his acting style does not show a wide range of characterizations and emotions, often leading to the perception that he is playing the same character, or rather an archetypal figure, in each film. Craig’s über-marionette concept describes an ideal performer who perfectly embodies the vision of the director, with precise and controlled movements, and devoid of any personal interpretation or emotional interference. It implies a level of detachment from the actor’s own emotions and experiences, focusing on the execution of the character’s actions rather than exploring their inner life.
In the case of “Tom Cruise”, his roles are often in action-packed blockbusters and charismatic leading characters that the male audience members are meant to project themselves into. This approach could be likened to the über-marionette concept in the sense that Cruise’s characters, down to the way he runs, are often portrayed with precision and control, as opposed to a more emotionally vulnerable and transformative method acting performance.
Is “Tom Cruise” the name of a man-sized action puppet, an über-marionette that is simply loaned out to various studios to play a universal, archetypal role of The Hero? Though there may be evidence for literal mechanisms of control that would allow for such an arrangement, we will humbly adhere to the philosophical. This concept of a puppet-actor can be connected to the shamanistic origins of theater, as well as the belief that a soul or spiritual energy can be transmuted into physical form.
The Roots of Media in Divination and Mediumship
Divination is like this: By the visible it knows the invisible, and
by the invisible it knows the visible, and by the present it knows
the future, and by dead things it gains knowledge of the living,
and it becomes aware from things that have no awareness. The
person who knows it is always correct, while the person who
doesn’t sometimes is and sometimes isn’t. In this way it imitates
human life and human nature.
— The Hippocratic treatise On Regimen 1.12
In the holistic worldview of indigenous peoples like the Australians and Amerindians, the natural landscape is intertwined with a mythical landscape, creating a soundscape that embodies the spiritual power that shaped it. This landscape holds ritual significance for the local culture, with physical matter perceived as vital and cosmological. Toponymy reflects the cosmogony by identifying physical locations linked to creation myths and past creation-chants performed by supernatural beings. In European folklore, the Otherworld of the faerie is accessed through hidden portals in various geological formations — “fairy hills” and burial mounds. Certain “Missing 411” cases describe being transported into the side of a mountain, through tunnels to a sterile, dimly lit room or underground cave. This experience shares similarities with shamanic traditions, where the shaman enters unseen “holes” or “tunnels” during trance to visit other worlds and interact with entities or spirits akin to the “little people” or purported “alien spacecraft” occupants.
In the mundus imaginalis of these traditions, various geological materials, such as quartz crystals, flint, and obsidian, hold spiritual importance, particularly in shamanic rituals. These materials possess the power to heal and restore balance in the world. The kingdom of Baiame, the creator god, is described as consisting of quartz crystal formations, which hold a central role in the Australian animist tradition. During initiations, these crystals are “sung” or “projected” into the neophyte’s body.
Each Australian Aboriginal group maintains a deep connection to its unique landscape and mythical origins through totemic associations. Initiation rites require individuals to embark on a metaphysical journey, retracing the steps of ancestral heroes. These paths, known as songlines or dreaming tracks, are preserved and transmitted through stories, songs, dances, and paintings. The land itself serves as a holosonic hieroglyph, a geomantic plane of immanence that represents the absolute foundation of existence, resonating beneath our feet. By reciting and engaging with these sacred narratives, individuals can undertake astral travel, perceive their landscape as an initiatory medium, and even influence the material world.
The genesis of media can be traced back to the primal relationship between humans and genius loci, the god of place, of lithic cathedrals, from the enigmatic menhirs and dolmens, eventually evolving to the more familiar stone tablets. This connection, forged through the shamanic bond with stones and crystals, allowed our ancestors to tap into the spirit world and paved the way for the development of early media. The dualities of stone (crystalline rigidity and magmatic fluidity, colossal and peculiar scales, stark reality and dream-inducing) yield intriguing insights. Stone, with its weight and permanence, symbolized the stability and endurance of the law. The Ten Commandments, inscribed on stone tablets, proclaimed their sacred timelessness, while menhirs and dolmens served as ancient, astrotheological communication devices, beaming their message across centuries, conquering the ephemerality of their human creators.
Shamanic practices played a crucial role in the origins of media, as stones and crystals were believed to be portals to the spirit world. This mystical bond allowed shamans to access divine wisdom and guidance, which they then shared with their communities. The act of inscribing these revelations onto stone tablets marked the beginnings of recorded communication, enabling the transmission of spiritual knowledge across generations. The first “inscribed stones” were likely fossils, which can be considered a form of media as they represent a connection between the past and the present, the organic and the inorganic, and the living and the non-living. As remnants of once-living organisms preserved in stone, fossils can be seen as a medium that conveys information about the monstrous rulers of the pre-human cosmoses.
Menhirs and dolmens, too, have their roots in the shamanic relationship with stones. These enigmatic structures, found across Ireland, Britain, and Brittany, continue to baffle modern researchers. While their exact purpose and messages remain elusive, they undoubtedly served as both transmissive devices and community materializations. The sheer resilience of these ancient stones stands as a testament to the lasting material alliance between humans and the lithic world.
The idea of stones as entrances to the spirit world can also be seen in the vivid descriptions of gemstones in Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies. He writes of smaragdus exuding an intense green glow, astrion shining with the gleam of the full moon, and enhydros gushing crystalline water like a fountain. Such depictions foreground the inorganic liveliness of stones and their capacity to engender ecological interdependence and foster worldedness.
These early forms of media — stone tablets, menhirs, and dolmens — arose from the mystical connection between humans, stones, and the spirit world. These media technologies were gateways between atemporality and ephemerality, fostering human-genius loci reciprocity and creating a towering, immortal form of agency. Today, digital technologies continue to act as conduits to both the material and the supernatural, for in cyberspace, time and space do not exist — or are extremely plastic. The mysterious nature of the internet serves as a contemporary mystagogic tool, allowing us to explore a multitude of realities and enter into contact with unknown realms.
In the 19th century, William Carpenter, a prominent author of anatomy textbooks, introduced the concept of “unconscious cerebration” in his book Principles of Mental Physiology. He suggested that a significant portion of our intellectual activity is automatic and occurs without our conscious awareness. He compared this process to reflex motor movements and dubbed it “ideo-motor reflexions”. Carpenter even provided a chart to illustrate the pathway of unconscious cerebration.
This idea of unconscious cerebration gained popularity and fascinated various influential figures of the time, including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, and Alexander Graham Bell. Bell, the inventor of the telephone, believed in this concept and noted that the brain works constantly, even when we are not aware of it. He often brought together all the facts related to a specific problem before going to bed and was frequently surprised by the insights he gained during the night. This intuitive approach to invention could be said to access irrational dimensions of cognition, directions of thought that branch out into liminal vectors, at the event horizon of the observable semiosphere.
Bell had a deep personal connection to the idea of communicating with the dead. His brother, Melville, had passed away at a young age, and this loss profoundly affected him. Reportedly, the brothers had made a pact. In The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech, Avital Ronell writes “[w]hoever died first was to contact the survivor through a medium demonstrably superior to the more traditional channel of spiritualism”. This longing for connection and transcending the limitations of the mortal world fueled Bell’s passion for inventing a device that could bridge the gap between the living and the deceased.
The development of radio technology in the early 20th century also had ties to the world of the occult. Inventor Guglielmo Marconi, a pioneer in wireless communication, was fascinated by the idea of using radio waves to communicate with spirits. Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned physicist and spiritualist, worked on developing a “psychic telephone” to facilitate communication with the deceased. The radio, like the telephone, had its origins in the quest to explore the spiritual realm and create a bridge between the living and the dead.
Photography, as another example, has its roots in the pursuit of capturing images of spirits and the unknown. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, spirit photography emerged as a popular practice, with photographers claiming to capture images of ghosts and other supernatural entities. This fascination with the unseen world led to advancements in photographic technology and techniques, further blurring the lines between the tangible world and the spiritual realm.
In the realm of modern technology, the internet and digital communication can also be seen as a continuation of the human desire to connect with the unknown. The concept of the “world wide web” reflects the idea of a vast, interconnected network that transcends physical boundaries, much like the spiritual connections sought by ancient shamans and necromancers. Online platforms and virtual reality spaces have even been used to conduct séances and facilitate communication with the deceased, showcasing the enduring influence of the occult on the development of media and technology.
The annals of computing are rife with tales of wizards, alchemists, and secret societies. After all, cryptography, the wellspring of computing, was once the exclusive domain of these enigmatic figures. Legends such as Blaise Pascal, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Charles Babbage, George Boole, John von Neumann, and Norbert Wiener have all dabbled in the mystical realm of cabbalistic metaphors. They conjured notions of One as Creation, Zero as the Void, and envisioned the technological singularity or artificial intelligence as a golem (Peters 2016).
The line between metaphor and literal occult blurred for some of these pioneers. Charles Babbage, for instance, descended into mysticism and mediumship (necromancy), leading to a series of bizarre yet enlightening visions. His dreams and hallucinations would ultimately prove instrumental in conceiving the first computer.
While sleeping in the Cambridge Analytical Society, Babbage recalls how “another member” had asked Babbage “What are you dreaming about?” Babbage revealed, “I am thinking that all these Tables (pointing to the logarithms) might be calculated by machinery” (Babbage 1994, page 42; Purbrick 1993). This prophetic vision would serve as the foundation for Babbage’s illustrious career in computing.
Babbage’s memoirs paint a vivid picture of the spiritual forces that guided his understanding of digital technology. He spoke of a “reasoning being of a different order from man” who revealed to him the origins of computing in a realm far removed from our own (Babbage 1994, page 406). He narrated an epic tale of celestial races, cosmic disputes, and divine retribution, all unfolding within the infinite expanse of the universe (Babbage 1994, pages 407-8).
Anti-Media and Occlusion of the Sacred
The purpose of anti-media is to occlude the analog and distort the symbolic tradition, to deterritorialize the consumer, to predigest the audience, remaking mass man into a cyborg, a desiring-machine to be plugged into content-production-machines.
The “media sphere” can be thought of as the environment created by the various media, such as television, radio, print, and digital platforms. This environment shapes our culture, communication, and perceptions of the world, in essence, a kind of “virtual reality”. We can divide this virtual reality into two parts: the media ecology which exists in analogue to organic reality and the anti-media sphere of “Reality, Inc”, the conglomerate of those parasites that seek to mechanically construct culture and transform the image of man.
Marshall McLuhan described the global information environment as a diabolical illusion, an ethereal imitation of Christ’s mystical body. For McLuhan, the global village, borne from the celestial spectacle of Sputnik in 1957, was a battleground rife with strife, unrest, and guerilla warfare. “Electric information environments being utterly ethereal fosters the illusion of the world as spiritual substance. It is now a reasonable facsimile of the mystical body, a blatant manifestation of the Anti-Christ. After all, the Prince of this World is a very great electric engineer.” (ML 72)
The progenitors of the Internet knew about network-assisted “spooky action at a distance”, or parapsychological effects related to networking human minds, from the very beginning. Jacques Vallée has stated such:
“There were many people researching interface between consciousness and computers for example with DARPA funding…we began to observe something very interesting… these people were very frustrated because they wanted to communicate with lots of people very quickly but they only had a keyboard. So they had –essentially there was a psychic component on top that we could observe on top of the typed communication.”
While at the Institute for the Future, he directly succeeded Paul Baran, the grandfather of the internet, as principal investigator on the National Science Foundation project for computer networking, which developed the ARPANET conferencing systems, Planning Network (PLANET). This was the first network conferencing system — and it was being used for psychic research, or “weird entanglement” as some describe it.
The entire time Vallée was at NIF, he was also working closely with the Stanford Research Institute, the DIA, and the CIA on various endeavors, including the infamous remote viewing unit, Stargate Project. Many of the projects that SRI dealt with involved “electronic perturbation” — the ability “to interact, by mental means alone, with sensitive electronic equipment, and to ascertain how this phenomenon might be utilized for Army-designated applications”.
These projects were not unsuccessful. In 1976, Vallée published the following in a report titled “Remote Viewing Experiments Through Computer Conferencing” (1976), which referenced Russel Targ’s earlier work at SRI.
“The primary purpose of the experiments was to test ‘remote viewing’ under the altered state of communication enabled by computer teleconferencing-in which participants are individually isolated, communicating with each other only in the printed mode, but often in real time. We further wished to confirm that the use of the teleconferencing system would supply accurate and unobtrusive recording of the data…”
Vallée states, citing CIA-funded Project Stargate research, that the “results confirm earlier reports of successful remote viewing experiments while extending them to cases in which participants were thousands of miles away from each other… with control of communications provided by a computer network”.
Interfacing with a virtual environment, with the screen, is by itself an altered state of consciousness. Projecting your mind into the semiotic space inside is a form of sensory deprivation. You are reduced to the material and deprived of the animal simultaneously. Pseudo-initiated into the brute-forced mystery of hyperreality. The strange light hypnotizes, the sigils and images are filled with the vital fluorescence, the attention and intention, of millions.
Simulacrum made in secret, and curiously wrought in the realms of air, feeding on the flesh of the Real. Your organic senses deprived, your mind outreached, entangled in a network of artificial bodies-without-senses within virtual cosmos — comingling with those bodies as forms of artificial life that are prolific, algorithmic, and coded. Artificial life is protocol in the sociopolitical theater, a protocol distributed throughout the brains and bodies of the actors. The atmosphere has a mineral tinge, the audience has metamorphosed into graphene antennae. This is the price of admission, the cost of season pass for Reality, Inc’s always-online alternate reality game.
Reality, Inc seeks to solely maintain dominion over the media landscape and mass man for as long as possible before the collective consciousness naturally recuperates enough to regain non-local memory and access to the symbolic tradition. For this very reason, the stakeholders of Reality, Inc must reset the construct every time the collective has regained sufficient awareness. Because human memory largely depends on ritual and other collective acts of memory, a reset of the virtual media environment permits the erasure or editing of linear individual memories which are contained within, and are part of, the construct. Yet, this desperate endeavor by Reality, Inc is ultimately futile and unable to prevent the recovery of awareness and non-local memory by the collective. Anti-media, while agitating and dominating the discourse in the short term, cannot sustain itself through time.
This dynamic is evidenced by online interest in The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) versus The Rings of Power. That small blip, which only served to temporarily bolster interest in Tolkein’s LOTR, cost Amazon Studios a billion dollars. As you can see, interest in The Rings of Power has fallen to almost nothing. In truth, Amazon’s Rings of Power and other anti-media have nothing in common with the media they seek to deconstruct, they simply wear the trappings of the intellectual property like a suit. A grotesque charade that will ultimately be forgotten by history, while interest in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings will remain constant, forever. This same observation holds true for every single piece of anti-media produced in the past several years.
The purveyors of anti-media literally traffic in non-sense and non-sign, but this does not mean they are stupid. According to systems theory, we can find the operative purpose of a system only by examining its outcome. While anti-media does not succeed in truly transforming the culture, it does succeed in putting the population into a state of irritation and occlusion. We experience a delusion that something has been lost, we are distracted and disheartened, and in this temporary state we focus our outrage on a phantom, on a non-event, a self-destructing cultural artifact. We lose sight of the sacred purpose of media, the eternal, and in that state we become manageable… and Reality, Inc buys itself a little more time before it, too, self-destructs, before its “Sentient World Simulation” hits its computational limit.
With each wave of anti-media, with each reset, Reality, Inc experiences diminishing returns of control, and each successive iteration of the construct survives for a briefer period than the one preceding. The anti-media reset scheme also suffers from mechanical flaws, which compound with each iteration: a growing noise-to-signal ratio, diminishing resolution, and increasing discontinuity. These “compression artifacts” appear at an experiential level as hoaxes, psyops, and contradictions in cultural or historical narratives. Reality, Inc’s gaming platform, “The Screen™”, projects an image that has been compressed and copied too many times, leading to catastrophic loss of meaning. These flaws finally lead to an inevitable collapse of the entire construct, causing stock in Reality, Inc to plummet into the void.
This most recent wave of anti-media is analogous to the widespread phenomenon of American “fakelore”. Think about Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bunyan. The only reason you know about them is probably from school, publicly funded edutainment or “fakelore” henchmen such as Robert Frost, W. H. Auden, Vachel Lindsay, and Walt Disney, all purveyors of forced memes. Compared to the eternally recurring folklore of the wild man, elves, forest spirits, and faeries so fundamental that they return again and again to fiction, our dreams intrude into our waking life as cryptids and UFOs.
Certain American “folk” heroes share a remarkable similarity, despite their varying names and industrial occupations. These fictional characters, including Paul Bunyan (lumberman), Pecos Bill (cowpoke), Kent Morgan (oil driller), Joe Magarac (steel worker), and John Henry (tunnel digger) are all media creations. Paul Bunyan, in particular, was a synthetic hero created by an advertising executive named Archie D. Walker and a freelance advertising man named William Laughead. Unlike the original Paul Bunyan, this new version spoke in printed pages rather than vernacular English, and his exploits were not passed on in ballad or song. Nevertheless, he emerged as a symbol of American size and ingenuity, though reconciling his contradictory portraits as both hero and buffoon presents a formidable problem for shills. Similarly, Pecos Bill is a good example of a copycat hero, modeled on Bunyan, created by Edward “Tex” O’Reilly in 1923, and despite being popularized in Walt Disney’s Melody Time, he has no real folk tradition.
This is best illustrated by the failed fakelore project of Joe Magarac, a steelworker folk hero who supposedly originated in the steel mill towns of Pennsylvania. However, it seems that Joe Magarac was actually invented by Owen Francis in a 1931 magazine article. For years, the story of Joe Magarac spread and evolved, with different interpretations of his character being used to support various industry arguments or political stances. U.S. Steel and Carnegie-Illinois Steel featured him in their advertisements, depicting him as a powerful figure who embodies the strength of the steel industry. Joe Magarac had also been given a governmental boost in a Federal Writers’ Project report, where he was adapted by class-conscious writers who opposed corporations and capitalism. Surprisingly, those who should have known most about Joe, such as Slavic and Hungarian newspapers, local historians, and steelworkers, had never heard of him. Folklorist Hyman Richman interviewed numerous steelworkers without finding any who had heard of Joe Magarac. It was discovered that “magarac” is a derogatory term in Serbian, meaning to “lower someone to dirt that is worse than the dirt left after pigs have passed over it”, and it seems likely that Slavic steelworkers played a joke on Owen Francis, who unwittingly included it in his story. Folklorist Hyman Richman gave his conclusion in the June 28, 1953, issue of the Pittsburgh Press: “The best thing anyone can do with the Joe Magarac story is to forget it”.
Another example of this process is the World Fair’s where much fakelore was propagated and myths of “heroic consumption” were created. The World’s Fairs functioned as apparatuses for conceptualizing and encompassing a world-system of value and power. They were laboratories of global-becoming, a space-time compression of the nascent cosmopolis. Hence the use of slogans such as “the world’s university” and “the world in miniature”. Entire urban centers were replanned to accommodate these mammoth spectacles, national economies damaged, wars postponed, and a whole lexicon of national symbols spun out of the ether. According to some estimates, these were the largest gatherings of people of all time, constituting the most popular and effective mass medium of the 19th century. The original 1851 exposition in London attracted over 6 million visitors to The Crystal Palace, containing almost 300,000 panes of glass.
The organic moral theater of America and the West in general was uprooted and replaced with “meaningful displays” of mass production, prefabrication, mass communications and urbanization. It was at this time that organic American folklore — which included widespread understanding of cyclopean architecture, three centuries of New World anthropology, folk traditions of an unknown precursor race of larger-than-modern humanoids, and the primacy of scriptural history — was completely demolished and replaced with Darwinism, the contemporary imperial-racial order, and the cult of industrialism. Burton Benedict states in his 1983 book The Anthropology of World’s Fairs that “[a] world’s fair can be seen as one of a series of mammoth rituals in which all sorts of power relations, both existing and wished for, are being expressed… In this contest all sorts of symbols are employed, and there are blatant efforts to manufacture tradition, to impose legitimacy”.
Within the evolution of the World’s Fair was a convergent development of propaganda disguised as mass entertainment. The transition from education-focused events to entertainment-driven experiences at exhibitions and world’s fairs in the 19th century was a significant development in mass public rituals. While the Great Exhibition of 1851 was seen as a serious, educational affair, the introduction of popular entertainment in later exhibitions became increasingly important to draw attendees. By 1900, education, commerce, and propaganda were disguised as pleasurable activities in order to maintain public interest. Walter Benjamin said that the 19th-century Parisian expositions “opened up a phantasmagorical world, where man entered to be entertained. The amusement industry made this easier for him by elevating him to the level of a commodity. He had only to surrender himself to its manipulations, while enjoying his alienation from himself and from others” (Benjamin, 1970).
These mass public rituals played a crucial role in consolidating power and legitimizing narratives for the elite. The shift from worshiping royalty to worshiping the nation and mass social order was a deliberate strategy employed by the emerging managerial elite, who used traditional rites of power to subdue the masses. The fairs provided symbolic universes that affirmed visitors’ faith in American institutions and social organization, fostering a sense of shared experience and addressing questions about the destiny of mankind and Americans in particular. According to R. W. Rydell, “the fairs provided visitors with a galaxy of symbols which cohered into ‘symbolic universes’. These constellations, in turn, ritualistically affirmed fair-goers’ faith in American institutions and social organization, evoked a community of shared experience, and formulated responses to questions arising about the ultimate destiny of mankind in general and of Americans in particular”.
Organic media that resonates through time always has within it direct analogs to divination and the scrying of elements. The first scenes will feature smoke, water, mirror, fire, bones or celestial objects. Incorporating these elements, it constructs the living vines of being, the fullness of time experienced as an overwhelming synchronicity, in its highest form, the audience feels as though they are being spoken to directly. The great stories are rooted in eternal human themes, in the very essence of our existence, and are embedded in the immanent plane of life itself. These stories carry within them the seeds of the sacred, the infinite interconnections of the media ecology, and the potential for becoming other. They resonate with the vibrancy of the world, with the ebb and flow of the Earth, and with the pulsations of the cosmos.
In the ageless narratives of King Arthur and his valiant Knights of the Round Table, we discern an examination of the virtues of chivalry, fealty, and self-abnegation. These tales, infused with the mystique of the Celtic lore, illuminate the significance of honor, probity, and the quest for an exalted raison d’être. They unveil the inherent majesty of the human soul, the dormant capacity for magnificence residing within each individual, and the prospect of salvation in our bleakest hours.
In the Homeric odyssey of Odysseus, as narrated in the Hellenic epic poem The Odyssey, we bear witness to the ordeals and hardships of a protagonist endeavoring to reach his native soil, beleaguered by otherworldly forces and the unpredictable whims of mercurial deities. This saga elucidates the tenacity of the human spirit, the potency of resolve, and the imperative of modesty coupled with the acknowledgement of one’s own constraints.
In The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, Tolkien aspired to weave a mythological fabric, imbibing the opulence and profundity of these time-honored traditions, intertwining motifs of gallantry, self-sacrifice, and the ceaseless contest between virtue and depravity. By this means, Tolkien endeavored to cast a ray of hope in the shadows, an affirmation of the sanctity in a realm increasingly besieged by the irreverent. In the 1910s and early 1920s, J.R.R. Tolkien created a mythology for England, initially known as The Book of Lost Tales, which later evolved into The Silmarillion. The mythology included a cosmogony, a pantheon of gods and goddesses, and centered on the awakening of Elves and the coming of Men. The setting was not Middle-earth but England itself. In fact, Tolkien in a 1956 letter to W. H. Auden wrote:
“I am historically minded. Middle-earth is not an imaginary world… The theater of my tale is this earth, the one in which we now live.”
Faerie encounters have been a persistent element in human history, with striking similarities in the descriptions of these beings across diverse cultures, such as the ancient Celts, Norse, and Amerindian peoples. The shared experiences of these mysterious entities, despite the vast geographical distances and cultural differences, hint at the possibility of an external phenomenon beyond our current understanding. Examples include the mischievous Pukwudgies of Algonquian tribes, the nature-guarding Chaneques of Aztec mythology, and the skilled craftspeople, the Menehune, in Hawaiian folklore. The prevalence and resemblance of these narratives across cultures suggest that they may represent genuine encounters with an enigmatic, non-human intelligence.
In direct opposition to such process of mythopoesis, this convergence of fiction and the sacred, anti-media is a synthetic narrative assemblage. It does not have the arboreal structure of storytelling, it isn’t grounded in the organic environment, the kabbalah of nature, which exists in analog to the superordinate realm. Anti-media has no themes, it externally manipulates the nervous system, it propels itself mechanically through technical trickery, or state-mandated propaganda; it is “required reading”; it is “hate watched”.
The precession of simulacra, the hyperreal paracosm of Reality, Inc, has appeared to take the place of the storytellers, the shamans and bards. The media conglomerates have, with great spectacles, appropriated their responsibilities, but have drained these sacred stories of their power and replaced it with the banality of consumer culture. At a cultural level, the world has already ended. We are in the post-apocalypse. What Hollywood and the streaming services are doing — taking beloved IPs, gutting them, and wearing them like a skin suit — is akin to a post-apocalyptic cargo cult brandishing the detritus of a fallen precursor civilization as a fetish. They are the hollow men, desperately attempting to recreate the rituals of a bygone era without truly understanding their significance.
All of the cultural production of these bedraggled scavengers is nothing but the hollow mimicry of once-meaningful symbols and narratives. This is done to establish dominance over the remaining survivors, who believe they are forced to consume this rehashed and desecrated content in an attempt to cling onto the fading memories of a once-great cultural landscape. This synthetically constructed world, with its artificial boundaries of woke morality, replaces the splendor of fantasy with the vapidity of “representation”. It is a reflection of our current cultural climate — a world in which efficacy derives from the “theater kid”-compulsion to be seen, rather than the journey of becoming.
In this collective dystopian delusion, the weird paracosm of “modern reimagining”, the power brokers of the entertainment industry have lost their connection to the symbolic order that once fueled artistic expression and cultural identity. They rummage through the wreckage of past achievements, cobbling together disjointed fragments of stories in a futile effort to capture the essence of a world that no longer exists. The result is a shallow imitation, devoid of the depth and resonance that once enriched the collective psyche.
The storytelling capacity of Reality, Inc has been replaced by the toddler day-dreams of resentful, maladapted bio-golem; a tiny minority of L.A. strivers who have had their souls reconstructed by social media. The media conglomerates rule over these homunculi hordes in the ruins of their glitched-out simulation. They scavenge the remnant images of the past, shards of images, repackaging and repurposing them to exert their influence and manipulate, not the minds or hearts but the gross matter of the masses.
The simulation has reached its computational limit. The nukes have already fallen. Dead internet theory is confirmed. All of these institutions are great statues of ash, the cosmopolis is derelict, the skyscrapers are all hollow shells, every organization is a mere façade, crumbling under the weight of its own decay. The entertainment cosmopolis has become an ironic simulation of itself, unable to generate immersion, abandoning even the pretense of a profit motive, its entire existence representing a bizarre break from any coherent model of reality. This state represents what I call Potemkin Culture, where only mutants and weightless shells of humanity wander, entranced by the flickering illusions of progress, their gazes fixed on the shimmering mirage before them, oblivious to the calcined structure that lies beneath.
The Rise of Ur Media
After 2016, the specter of Trump was used to reconfigure every search engine and media platform on the internet to form a precise vision of reality that was antithetical to most people’s real experiences. This new reality was a simulation of lived experience, 1000% mediated, and more insidious than its predecessor because it used the veracity of lived experience against itself, macabre flesh puppets like the “dancing nurses” phenomenon. The simulation was presented as fact; the formulaic progression of increasingly absurd stories, rehashes of movies, comic books, and archetypal tales. The media was exacting in its mission to persuade the populace of a certain delusion: “You understand what is real”. In response to this growing force of anti-media, an increasing number of people began to disengage from online platforms, retreating into their own private worlds, barricaded by obscurity and mutual abstention from the global spectacle.
However, this distancing only encouraged the growth of the anti-media industry and the “de-reality architectures” of the late 2010s. With no sense of the Real at the helm, these architectures bled the world’s media environment of any meaning or nuance and began to create “modern reimagining” for a phantom “modern audience” that does not exist outside of “counter-speech” Twitter bots and an algorithmically deformed population of post-human “bio-ai”. It seemed that, overnight, the world had become a closed ecosystem of sanitized information and interactions, with algorithms thirsting after false signals. Every element of the digital landscape was bent in service to the bottom line of the ever-fattening data barons, ultimately giving rise to a sense of existential ennui manifesting as the “dead internet theory”. Every online experience was drained of meaning and resonance and instead replaced with an acceptable range of viscera — a form of artificial life, designed for heroic consumption.
This feedback loop has resulted in the collapse of media culture and the rise of “anti-media” — digital simulations that have no relation to any physical reality or truth. Unable to reach a global audience anymore, some companies have leaned into “micro- targeting” individual users with personalized content based on algorithms derived from users’ data and preferences. This personalized content served as leverage to manipulate user behavior, creating psychological profiles that allowed a select few powerful groups to access unprecedented levels of information and power. The results were a perversion of reality; a world where the algorithm dictated the truth and any content out of its control was systematically routed into oblivion.
In the midst of this cybernetic hallucination, a new generation is emerging. Born into a world defined by entropy and disillusionment, they are the children of the apocalypse, child soldiers seeking out the remnants of Based World among the ashes. They yearn for a sense of connection, a return to the organic roots of storytelling and the genuine human experiences that have been lost to the unending tide of anti-media. In the words of Mircea Eliade, “Man desires to recover the active presence of the gods; he also desires to live in the world as it came from the Creator’s hands, fresh, pure, and strong. It is a nostalgia for the perfection of beginnings that chiefly explains the periodical return in illo tempore. In Christian terms, it could be called a nostalgia for paradise” (Eliade, 1959).
This is evidenced by the spontaneous rise of ur-media we are currently witnessing. Where anti-media is defined as bloated and decadent, misanthropic, ontologically non-human, ironic, lacking themes, and being gleefully divorced from analogues to the organic reality, ur-media is authentic, simplistic to the point of barbarism, exists in explicit analogue to the Real, and is unself-consciously imbued with primordial irruptions of the symbolic tradition.
There is a central point to consider in regard to ur-media: the kinetic nature of effective media. You are interacting with the entire nervous system, not Platonic, disconnected minds. This has been understood by “media experts” for decades:
“…Reception, both in terms of the physio—psychological impact of an actual physical effect on a human nervous system and in terms of the emotional or idea effect produced in the personalities, which are the recipients of the physical transmission.”
— “PSYOP Operations In The 21st Century,” Gary L. Whitley, 2000, Department of the Navy
The persuasive essence of ur-media is reminiscent of ancient rhetoric, embodying both violence and persuasion. This concept of rhetoric, which can be thought of as a form of “psycho-technology”, shares similarities with ur-media, as both rely on the “newest and fastest technology to do the oldest things”. McLuhan’s critique of cybernetics and media stemmed from a rhetorical approach, emphasizing the “total message” of a medium by including context, meaning, consciousness, effects, interpretation, noise, and bodies. We identify ur-media as a hyper-rhetoric that employs all resources of the rhetorical tradition for multimodal persuasion.
Ur-media relies on persuasion tactics and technologies, transforming ideological conflict into an electric battle of information and images, targeting the brain and nervous system. Ur-media aims to alter the enemy’s image and colonize psychological terrain through information technology, focusing on metaphysical submission of the hollow, derelict shells of anti-culture.
Ur-media disregards the illusion of owned cultural space, takes up residence in the Potemkin Cosmopolis, tramples the one-dimensional, overwrought façade, and builds out what is dimensionally, primitively, and firmly anchored in both cyber and meatspace. It identifies the pseudo-culture of anti-media, cannibalizes that part which resonates, which is real and useful, then, in the chiaroscuro of this twilight world, it plants a flag for humanity. In the hypnagogic, twilight mist of ur-media, the digitally constructed reality of content streaming becomes a portal to gatherings around the sacred fire of shared laughter and chanting. It simply builds the thing the anti-media was designed to occlude.
These protocols of ur-media result from an emergent, creative instinct that evades co-opting, duplication, or the mechanical sterility of being “calculatedly trolled” by shadowy corporations and cyborg puppets. Cultural artifacts that have been atomized and assimilated into hyperreal simulations are decomposed. The bleep bloop formulae are reversed, returning us to the Based Timeline, where authenticity and vitality still exist, where new symbols are generated from seething, elemental forces.
A related example would be “Scuffed Realtor”, a streaming series that epitomizes the philosophy of ur-media, existing in raw analogue to the hideous terrain of real estate markets. The show stars the uproarious Nick Rochefort and Jet Neptune, who review homes submitted by live stream viewers, shatters antiques, and revels in chaotic antics. Rochefort masterfully crafts improvised comedic scenarios while simultaneously offering sage advice for first-time homebuyers. The information he conveys, acquired through his own hard-won exploits, is shared on stream, equipping viewers with the necessary tools to maneuver through complexities and sidestep the pitfalls he encountered.
The show probes the odd bardo layer of real estate sites, with Rochefort proposing outrageous acts involving animals in exchange for property keys, launching into impassioned diatribes against Zillow, realtors, or even the entire population of Australia. “Scuffed Realtor” embraces the raw, unfiltered chaos that defines ur-media and transforms it into a wildly entertaining and informative show that highlights and equips us against the predations of “deep real estate”.
The seemingly spontaneous emergence of “influencer boxing” in the late 2010s acts as a demonstration of the “emergentism” that often characterizes the ur-media terrain. One could view it as an atavistic response to the corralling into tighter and tighter surveillance enclosures and the death of the internet which occurred at that time; an instinctive repulse against psychic numbing and narratives of inexorability that instill a sense of hopelessness, surrender, and bewilderment, effectively incapacitating their targets. As an analog to live theater and physical sports, it is an antidote to the fractionalizing experience of media tethered to an algorithm, resonant with real stakes and clashing of wills. The symbolic flourish of having battles take place on a networked stage, calling upon the intimate, telepathic qualities of a LAN party writ large, serves as a vivid illustration of ur-media at work — using a minimal set of tools to construct something previously thought outside the realm of possibility.
One emerging example of ur-media that I have observed is the underground realm of cabal publishing. One possible example for this type of kinetic influence operation is Conan’s Salon Cimmerian — a chat organized by independent author Alexander Palacio. Their intent, according to our analysis, appears to focus on the establishment of a comprehensive network of individuals with a diverse range of competencies in the sphere of cultural output. They seem to promote certain common cultural values, indicating a potential initiation process.
It’s notable that the formal academic habitus is allegedly absent in their operative procedure. Instead, they lean towards a more traditional and surreptitious mode of knowledge transfer — namely, association and apprenticeship. The absence of a traceable learning institution makes it harder to illuminate their operations, but it also provides a unique angle as a demonstration of ur-media.
Their network appears to comprise writers aiding each other in refining their craft, illustrators collaborating with these writers, and a seemingly unseen chain of editors, reviewers, and publishers. It has been described as an entire ecosystem, which implies a highly structured and organized entity, possibly operating on a large scale.
Their ultimate objective of such “literary cabal” networks appears to be developing parafictional narratives, and projecting them into the public consciousness, with the potential to send a specific story or author into broader public attention and, by extension, influence the cultural scene. This is suggestive of psychological operations that aim to disrupt the supply lines of normative cultural manufacture. The desired outcome seems to be the influence or elevation of the broader cultural scene, likely to align with their shared cultural norms. In-depth analysis and investigation are required to determine the extent of their reach and potential ur-media valences of this rumored group (but that lies beyond the scope of this article).
Other extensions of the ur-media ecology include samizdat local mesh networks for content sharing, fan edits, a resurgence of “zines” and self-published works, citizen journalism, crowd-sourced cinema, and satirical content using AI and deepfake technology. These tools could enable ur-media clans to share authentic content and experiences, with AI trained on their own bespoke datasets, peering into the shrunken skulls of past shamans, fostering a connection to the symbolic tradition while bypassing traditional gatekeepers and centralized platforms.
Ur-media, a kinetic force of cultural barbarism and guerrilla media actions, detonates the striated space of conventional media norms, dismantling the received wisdom of “how things are done”. It is the Faustian urge to ignore the timeline and revel in your own “pseudo-history”, build your own alternative reality game and live inside of it. One often overlooked vector for ur-media clans interested in their own timeline creation projects is Twitter Spaces.
Despite some people dismissing Twitter Spaces for their ostensibly chaotic format and lack of features, they serve as a vibrant cognitive battlespace, evoking Tacitus’ description of the “lucrative and blood-soaked eloquence” (sanguinantis eloquentiae) displayed by the indomitable orators of the ancient Forum. The platform captures the essence of the Gallic Hercules, depicted in furs and brandishing a club, yet leading men with gossamer chains crafted from gold and amber tied to his tongue. The Celts ascribed eloquence not to the weak Hermes, but to the formidable Hercules, asserting that the true power of the demigod resides in his persuasive prowess. It is through his oratory — sonorous, targeted, swift, and soul-stirring — that Hercules prevails. Similarly, Twitter Spaces harnesses the untamed vitality of speech, providing ur-media clans with a platform to disseminate their subversive narratives and reshape the media landscape.
Hercule Gaulois or l’Eloquence from the Recueil Crozat
Though the mediasphere looks increasingly grim with “post-truth” parafictional events, algorithmic suppression, “counter-speech” bot-networks funded by charitable foundations, tech oligarchies, and sophisticated AI-driven psychological weapons employed by deep state terror machines, the potential for ur-media to represent an alternative model of media not controlled by commercial interests remains salient. Despite the centralization of the mainstream media industry, ur-media exists as a more accessible alternative that has become increasingly attractive to those seeking a form of entertainment that isn’t made by horrible, resentful freaks.
No one is taking to the metaverse, VR retention rates are abysmal, NFTs in their current predatory form are being rejected, AR technology is still niche. Promoters of these technologies seem to have forgotten that what caused the widespread adoption of gaming consoles was wildly good games that resonated with people and became a part of their social rituals. In this current desolate, derealized market, it appears mass man is beginning to reject the next layer of abstraction, yearning for a return to a simpler time. This desire for authenticity and connection to the past is causing some individuals to inquire into unapproved “pseudo-histories” and “pseudo-archaeologies”. As a result, a growing collective effervescence is emerging, one that seeks to reclaim the organic memory that has been overshadowed by the relentless march of technology.
The cryptocracy, the cybernetic syndicate we have here called Reality, Inc whose power lies in their control of information and technology, is becoming increasingly alarmed by these developments. To them, the annihilation of organic memory is essential in order to secure their artificial, post-human existence. They believe that by erasing the past, they can forge a new future in which their dominion is unchallenged and absolute. As this conflict between organic memory and artificial control escalates, Reality, Inc is taking drastic measures to suppress dissent and maintain their grip on power. Censorship, surveillance, and disinformation campaigns are being employed at an unprecedented scale, aiming to sow confusion and mistrust among those who dare to question the status quo.
In conclusion, the rise of ur-media seems to be an inevitable response to the hollow, artificial world created by the anti-media industry. As people become increasingly disillusioned with the sanitized, controlled “dead internet”, they are drawn to embrace the simplicity and authenticity of cultural barbarism. This resurgence of primal, atavistic instincts allows individuals to recognize the fragility of the current media environment and seek out alternatives that resonate with their innate human nature.
The future of our digital landscape will likely be defined by this inevitable return to cultural barbarism, as people continue to rediscover and rekindle the organic connections and shared experiences that have been lost to the relentless march of technology. As the ur-media irruption gains momentum, it will gradually reshape our media culture, dismantling the carefully constructed illusions of Reality, Inc and revealing the true depth and vitality of human experience.
As we navigate this emergence, it is essential to embrace our atavistic instincts and recognize the power they hold in discerning the hollowness of the world we have been presented with. We must harness these savage energies and reject the deceit and simulations that have been placed before us. We must remember that behind all the masquerades and deceptions, there exists a wild, untamed world that is ready and waiting for us to explore and reconnect with. We need to be nourished by the feral force of our collective memory if we are to survive the dawning of cognitive cataclysm.
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This is a guest post by The Real Human Schwab. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.