I read Carlos Castaneda about 20 years ago; previously to that I had deliberately ignored him as new age nonsense. However at some point the moment appeared when the academic philosophy was less and certain other impulses  were more prevalent. I must be honest. I was bowled over by it. Castaneda can write and the narrative is both seductive and compelling. It begins with what seems like some kind of initiation into possibly real practices and progresses into a description of stranger and stranger things. Taken as it actually is it’s really quite terrifying: proper reality bending sorcery is actually possible, teleportation is possible, non-organic entities lurk on the periphery of reality and some actually feed off our awareness as a default state of existence. The books eventually unveil a system that resembles a quite extreme form of chaos magickal reprogramming. One must break ones habits, learn to not be the habitual self, unlearn perception itself to achieve as Deleuze and Guattari rightly note ‘the body without organs’. Opportunities for ‘power’ lurk all over the place and if we are interested we have to know how to grasp them.

The system has a energy body which describes humans as a luminous egg of fibres with a particularly bright patch behind the back in the same place in us all. This is the famous assemblage point (my Deleuzian interest is piqued at this name). The position of this point determines what reality we experience and in most people it stays in the same place, however the sorcerer learns to move it so as to move between worlds.  As the books progress we learn the possibility that we may not even be aware of many things we have done or even do and that when we die we are consumed by a giant entity called the eagle. That is unless we have done our practices so rigorously that we can bypass this option and escape into the infinite.

The seductive possibility of such things being true is very attractive to all manner of minds in various states. I cannot even now say such things are not possible and such denials are not the point. What is the point is that the Castaneda system offers no actual sense of freedom that helps anyone other than yourself. The liberation of the self from the self into the infinite is the goal but there is no accompanying compassion (like in Dzogchen e.g. which Castaneda assuredly drew on). There is just awe and wonder and impeccable acts. Now of course this may be actually a kind of correct response in an indifferent universe, but as a system it lacks the ability to do anything for anyone other than break them down with the promise of powers and an endgame that even if actually achievable is clearly spelled out to need an astronomical amount of effort way beyond the ability of almost everyone. This gamble comes at the cost of the your family and your friends, the full Castaneda is not just some gentle new age system. Even if it’s anthropologically nonsense there is power in the writings and they will do things if you play with the techniques in there. But for a human connected life it’s not really something many of us would want to consider.

This brings us to Land or at least an aspect of the philosophy associated with him. I find something almost equally self-defeating in the ushering in of the human eschaton by invoking the AI god from the future through accelerated technocapital. There is a kind of undeniable logic to the Landian view that is actually hard to escape. How do we stop ourselves from creating AI that ultimately surpasses us given that we don’t seem to want to? It may well still be a long way off and maybe it isn’t possible. The impression, the appearance that shows itself no matter how incoherent is that it is possible, and this is all that is needed to generate the teleology. Why is it not a fitting end to transfer our cognition magnified a thousandfold into a vessel far more durable than our ‘fleshy drag’? In an indifferent universe this is a reasonable response so long as one places no value on the human and its being-human. I’m not here to make some heart wrenching plea in favour of the human, but I do feel a similarity between the hollowness in feeling towards this endgame and the Castaneda option. Both offer an escape at the cost of everything familiar.

Castaneda’s system uncoupled from Castaneda is a similar logical endpoint to Land’s: achieve the body without organs with no compassion or create the AI entity that potentially has no compassion. Compassion dies in either instance, different impulses have taken over but the end is the same. I do not say that any system that advocates dissolution of the self always entails no compassion, indeed the Buddhists bolt compassion onto the system quite possibly as a safe guard from this conclusion, achieving the void without compassion. In this sense it may be that what Castaneda advocates is more pure for it removes the compassion which the Buddhists kept. This compassion, the logic suggests, was an contingent connection to the human and just as the flesh and emotions must go for AI, so a thorough system of energetic freeing must remove the notion as a stable structure.

Compassion means valuing the human (amongst other beings) but now we are frankly nauseated by this idea and we hate ourselves because we cannot be trusted, we have betrayed everyone. I do not know where this goes. The human ended with Heidegger (though his compassion is of course dubious), he defended a kind of poetic human dwelling which he warned us was covered and yet might be covered forever. We all know ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ and the danger of which it speaks. For Land this is not a danger, this is the destiny and ‘nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten‘ is to be actually realised.

We just didn’t know which God would come calling and what ‘saving’ meant.

This has been written in response to reading Amy Ireland’s piece ‘Noise: An Ontology of the Avant-garde’. It does not deal with the entirety of the paper, we merely wish to point out that there are issues involved in such a picture that are potentially problematic for magickal ontologies. Amy’s paper explains how a Kantian epistemological picture, far from producing clarity, only results in a ‘distorted signal’ at least when we consider matters from the perspective of the outside. This picture is theoretically reasonable unless we actually consider magick to be a possibility.

What is magick? For our purposes let’s take it to be the ability to impose a concept (pneuminous accretion) upon a vector that would not ordinarily take it. Some unpacking there. Let us conceive of everything internally and externally, indeed the possibility of that distinction itself to be concepts imposed upon a pure undifferentiated field of what is. Concepts name regions of this vector field. We call it a vector field because it plays host to concepts and, in the strong magickal version, does so literally -the concept goes outside into the vector. Normally concepts have grown with vector regions and they work together as they have evolved. We call this vector ‘hammer’ because it fulfils this grammar successfully. We call this vector ‘sad’ because it too makes sense to us in consistently applied rules. Pneuma is just the term I use for a hypothetical but magickally transcendental stuff that forms concepts.

Magick says that you can take a concept (pneuminous accretion) out of one place and apply it to another and it will actually do something. That is, it will alter the vector region to be closer to the concept you desire it to be rather than the one it actually is. The love spell is a classic example. A wishes B to love him/her but B does not do so. This is the vector region which has the concept applied to it, B’s not loving A. A uses various magickal means to apply the concept ‘B loves A’ upon the vector region. If successful the pneuminous restructuring takes place which alters the vector field so that now B does in fact love A. This you will notice all takes place with a human or Narp field, even the vector field is still sort of empirically accessible -even only in a phenomenological fleeting sense. There also necessarily something else in play, this is the umbratic. The umbratic is the idea of the beyond -the outside. The umbratic may or may not be identical to what is discovered in the pneuminous realm. It shows itself as the idea of the thing in itself. Being outside of pneuma. The umbratic supplies restraint upon the pneuma. However what magick suggests is that under certain circumstances, the restraint can be breached and the pneuma can alter the umbra.

If you negate magick as a possibility then the Ireland/Land picture goes through perfectly reasonably. If however you entertain the possibility of magickal interaction then you have to rethink it. This is because under this possibility the pneuminous accretion (concept) is not some passive function, rather it is an active process that is plugged directly into the outside such that it actually can alter it. There are a two consequences to this that are worth going through. i) You have a version of Crowley’s ‘Every act…’ in that passive conceptuality is essentially still magickal, it is simply that the concept applied to the vector is perfectly appropriate to it. Hence by this logic, the hammer is actually made curiously more hammer like by the feedback of accretion onto vector (and hence into the umbratic). ii) The signal is primarily distorted by the Narp’s production of the vector field but active magick (conscious and unconscious -synchronicity) is reaching directly into the outside and restructuring the umbra with subsequent consequences for vector field -it will alter it. That is, you cannot think of the picture as being either a pure distortion of an outside signal (because even the outside is infected with the pneuminous inside) or a clarity -because it is also true that the umbratic is sufficiently alien that the signal -the vector field- can always yield novelty of a potentially terrifying nature.

Negating magick makes it a one way process in which we, as cut adrift lonely organic processors struggle to conceptually assimilate an awesome vastness. The possibility of magick does not entirely obviate this, but it does mean that whatever is going on, we are more directly plugged into an umbratic/outside than the strong insignificance picture suggests. Magickal type activity is still possible in the pure distorted signal model, however by making the outside utterly indifferent to our will, one ends up committed an essentially scientific magick. Under this mode, chaos magick is a futile activity that may only hit the mark occasionally by pure chance. Effective magick would be the realm of actual magickal geometry/symbols/sounds that genuinely activated parts of the outside in ineffable ways -a kind of Neoplatonism.

This does not sit particularly well with certain related aspects of this theory set. The numogram for instance is purely accretive or hyperstitional if you will. This makes good sense if you accept chaos magick and strong hyperstition (by implication). On this front the pneuminous accretion of the (p)numogram can exert ontological effects -synchronicity etc. However if we adopt the cut of from the outside model, then all such hyperstitions (unless you want to say they are the real ones as found in a scientific magick) are only of the weak type -effective at a psychological but not ontological level. Chaos magick and strong insignificance are not good bedfellows even though on the surface they look compatible. Chaos magick actually entails the possibility of weak significance -significance propped up by ourselves yet also external to us -a diy God. Strong insignificance can have a Spinoza like God but this renders all chaos magickal adventures in numerological like play utterly ineffective (apart from psychologically) and utterly pointless.

 

The pneuminous accretive theory in its strong sense gives the following picture regarding physical objects. The contents the ‘visible’ field are thought of as a vector field, where vector rather means the possibility of being a carrier (as in diseases). Regions of this thin pneuminous field are picked up and receive usage by Narps, either handled or described. This process accretes pneuma (concept stuff) on the vector regions. This accretive process is not at all at odds with the seemingly external nature of the vector, for the concept has been formed by the vector’s suitability for this purpose. This is the basic physical pneuminous accretion: a vector region inhabited by layers of pneuma. The vector field is of course not purely physical (indeed physical is a pneuminous form attached to a certain  region of the vector field at large) but also covers any region of existence. Emotions exist as part of a vector region and may be identified as recurrent patterns and receive pneuminous structuration -fear, joy etc. The strong (magickal) version of the theory states that there is a essentially a feedback from the accretion as abstracted from the vector which is then reapplied to the vector -which in turn is plug in to the umbratic beneath. This feedback is a weak kind of magick the purely tries to make the vector more like the accretion that gave birth to it. It is as harmonious a relation as can be had in this situation.

What occurs in the case of finance? In one sense the question is easy to answer. In a given social milieu there exist regions of the vector field that we call ‘money’. As we grow older from being children we learn the rules for these regions. The ‘value accretion’ is attached to these vector regions -in the strong theory, this is literally true. This however is an insufficient picture for what occurs. If value were located only in the financial tokens then these would be interchangeable only with each other. This means that value in the financial sense must be attached to the various accretions. This however is also insufficient since the value accretion in the financial sense is not the primordial one. Instead rather there exists value as what we might call value-in-itself or transcendental value. This kind of value can be easily understood to apply to things like food, clothing, tools etc. Even without a financial token system, these will accrete the ‘valuable’ concept. When financial tokens emerge, this lower level is obscured giving them impression that financial value is immediate. Once financial value is established this monetary value accretion seeks to attach itself to whatever it can, that is, it escapes the vectors appropriate for transcendental value and attempts to attach to other vectors.

Capitalism exemplifies this process, as here the financial value accretion perpetually sends pneuminous threads out seeking to increase its territory. To do this it must be able to create value, but not transcendental value as this will have already been a priori converted. Narps are necessarily (in most of the modern world) plugged into the token value accretion. Indeed the financial token system uses Narps’ various desires to proliferate, whilst Narps need the financial token system to survive in the pneuminous structuration that is the world -the system is reciprocal. Here we get a glimpse of the vast phantom worlds we inhabit. Strong pneuminous theory indicates not that we live in a pure idealism, but it does say that the umbratic underneath (beyond the vector field) is shifted (to varying degrees) by the pneuminous accretive attachment. It is too simplistic to say that money isn’t real, the implication is that rather money is very real (because pneuma is not inert like it appears to be).

The feedback of the existence of the tokens makes them more self-identical. The dizzying abstracted nature of some aspects of the financial world is suggestive of its non-reality (such is the accusation often). Strong magickal pneuminous theory says this kind of statement is in error. The pneuminous form of token value is perfectly real and exerts conversion-desire to some extent or other in most Narps. This is the point at which to emphasise that this does not mean simply the hyperstitional manner in which false financial information deftly fed into the system can produce a result. Rather this is the stronger claim that, whilst plugged into Narps in general, the finance token accretion is also independent of them. It exists as a (literally) god like potential coursing through the veins of the pneuminous structures that we all live in.