Magazine - #24, March 2006
oracles of Greece, which served as messaging centers between
the gods and the mortals, did not shy away from associating
metaphysical affairs with technological wizardry. Visitors to
the oracles marveled as doors opened, fountains poured forth,
and lights flickered all of the their own accord, thanks to
an innovative use of hydraulics, pneumatics, levers, weights
and balances. Such high-tech engineering (for the times, anyway)
not only served to set an appropriate magical tone, but also
held the potential to assist in conveying messages from the
gods. Although more than 2,000 years old, this blend of magic(k)
and tech stands in stark contrast to many of today's expressions
of magic(k). What is it about technology and magic(k) that leaves
so many magic(k) practitioners hiding in the folds of their
anachronistic robes and tuxedos?
Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the inventor credited
with the notion of global satellite communications, once said,
"any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable
from magic." At the surface, such an assertion may seem
simple enough; however, there are a few layers to excavate here.
Some interpret this to mean we have reached an age where we
are quite impressed by our own inventions. The workings of our
gadgets have become increasingly imperceptible, if not due to
sheer miniaturized size of the parts, then surely due to the
veils of specialized knowledge. In the end, we don't know how
a given technology, a cell phone for instance, even works nor
do we particularly care so long as we can talk on it when we
need to. We take it for granted that there is a technical logic
behind the engineering of a cell phone.
that brief insignificant moment of faith in technology is comparable
to magic(k) - after all, many (if not most) magic tricks are
successfully performed along these very lines. Any enchantment
whatsoever is overpowered by the puzzle that remains to be solved.
The audience does not wonder if it is "real" magic(k);
they wonder at how it is accomplished. While the overall effect
may still be enough to satisfy and entertain, the method remains
cloaked in secrecy and illusion. Likewise, when a technology
performs its prescribed function, we tend not to ask any questions,
and thus the mysteries of its inner workings are obscured to
all but those with specialized knowledge. This certainly has
some parallels with the way some view magic(k), equally in the
realms of the occult, entertainment, and perhaps politics as
the magic(k) of a "sufficiently advanced technology"
is not simply manifested solely by its ability to perform its
prescribed function without one's understanding of how it works.
Magic(k) teases questions of "what?" and "why"
just as much as "how?" Aside from the general mystery
of its inner workings, a cell phone appears to be no more magical
than a wristwatch or a solar-powered calculator largely because
of our familiarity with it and the banal circumstances under
which it is used. But when we take a moment to really consider
what a cell phone does, we begin to scrape away at another layer
of meaning. We act like it's nothing, but when we use cell phones,
our disembodied voices are transmitted invisibly via remote
towers networked to celestial satellites (invented by Arthur
C. Clarke, remember) floating somewhere in the heavens, before
bouncing back to earth to be received by another living person
located perhaps thousands of miles away. And this all happens
in "real-time." Is it becoming more difficult to distinguish
between technology and magic(k) yet? Well, let's keep going
back in time. We needn't go far. A few hundred years will do
nicely. Now here you are: roaming through the public square
wondering why all these people are hanging out socializing instead
of home watching tv, when all of a sudden your friend from the
future calls you, and your Bluetooth ear-set starts blinking
and ringing. As you start to chat, you quickly realize that
you are now the center of attention. When the barrel-chested
blacksmith moseys on over and asks you what's going on, and
you explain what a cell phone does (as mentioned above) do you
think the nice folks from the past are going to find the whole
affair rather ordinary?
notion of invisibly transmitting signals to communicate with
beings from afar seems rather commonplace. But this is only
a recent techno-historical development. In the past, such attempts
were sure signs of mental instability, demonic possession or
skilled sorcery. BUT they were not unimaginable, nor were they
regarded as wholly impossible. Indeed, occult technologies were
developed for just such a purpose. Crystal balls, Ouija boards,
Tarot cards, and magic mirrors flashed glimpses and whispered
insights from unseen communicators. Perhaps most famously, the
mystical advisors to Queen Elizabeth I, Edward Kelly and John
Dee, deftly divined an entire language (Enochian) with which
to converse with angels and demons alike. Although the number
of dropped calls from the Enochian Watch Towers was probably
much higher than that of your average cell phone, the coverage
range was apparently quite extensive, allowing communication
to other beings on as many as seven planes of existence.
A few hundred
years later, electric forces became harnessed for the first
time in human history, and the telegraph, the telephone and
the radio soon followed. Such inventions at once confirmed the
possibility of body-less voices traveling through time and space,
and opened the door to new expressions of magic(k) and mysticism.
In much the same way that the invention of photography led to
a whole range of spirit photos, trick photography, occult experimentation
and illusions projected through the help of a "magic lantern"
(an early slide projector), so too did the tech of telecom open
the gates to a realm of fantastic enterprises. Stage magicians
were quick to develop cunning tricks that relied on the covert
and overt use of electric pulses, waves, and signals to convince
audiences of the presence of all-knowing spirits and powerful
mental faculties. So too did mediums embrace the electro-wizardry
of the modern age. Like the stage magicians, psychics enhanced
their performances with the covert collaboration of gadgets.
In a manner perhaps reminiscent of the Greek oracles, parlor
lights would dim and blacken, bells would ring in the distance,
and voices would emerge from the shadows. Attempts at otherworldly
communication led magicians, mystics and mediums to innovate
on ancient divination techniques using new technologies. With
the understanding that nearly anything can be used to divine
messages, visions and insights, the spirit of electromancy was
unleashed. Radios, phones, phonographs, recorders, and all sorts
of metering devices began testing the metaphysical waters for
evidence of ESP. Essentially, a new branch of extra-sensory
perception began to grow: electro-sensory perception.
|Psychic Surveillance: Hi-tech wizardry
and more mystical forms of ESP come together at this mystic
parlor in Stockton, CA. How can you augment your powers
ESP is traditionally expressed as clairvoyance, precognition,
and telepathy, at the core of the concept is an emphasis on
the enhancement of our innate five senses. Sight beyond sight.
Knowing what is hidden. Covert communication. To these ends,
technologies have increasingly approached the potential of ESP.
We have indeed augmented our senses beyond the ordinary limits
of perception allowing us to see and hear over great distances.
Although this may seem like a novel notion to the average consumer
of communication services, the power and magic(k) of telecom
tech certainly hasn't escaped the attention of the government,
corporations, and the military.
we're not simply referring to the intense battles over public
access to the airwaves and widespread demand for public control
over the means of production (and communication), which you
undoubtedly learned about in history class. Nor are we merely
alluding to the fact that you have to pay to talk to your distant
loved ones despite the fact that much of the telecom infrastructure
was already paid for by tax dollars through government subsidies
years ago. And neither are we questioning why it's illegal to
broadcast a pirate radio station on an unoccupied niche of your
FM dial. In fact, we're not even referencing a whole slough
of occult conspiracies involving psychic vampires from business
and politics who suck you dry of any dissenting desires.
would have it, truth is often stranger than fiction. And it
is no longer conspiracy theory but a matter of public record
that the CIA and the Pentagon have poured millions of dollars
into mind-control experiments like the infamous MK Ultra and
the psychic spying programs that resulted in Remote Viewing.
In addition, the Department of Defense's biggest budget-gobbler,
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) actively develops
near-invisible surveillance cameras, spread spectrum data beams,
spy satellites, "smart dust," "sentinel plants,"
sonar, radar, lidar and a host of "animal familiars"
along with their robotic counterparts. Is that distinction between
magic(k) and technology sufficiently fuzzy now?
we don't need complicated data dowsers to find evidence of other
occult dealings, secret pacts, and strange new powers. Indeed,
we only need to look at a small, top-secret military unit of
WWII code-breakers who were code-named - you guessed it! - MAGIC.
Following the end of WWII, MAGIC ultimately became the NSA.
The National Security Agency, which hosts the world's largest
supercomputers and claims to employ the largest number of math
wizards, monitors all forms of data transmission in an effort
"to understand the secret communications of our foreign
adversaries while protecting our own communications." Although
"our" might seem to imply "American citizens"
(especially since there are major federal laws prohibiting the
NSA from spying on American citizens) apparently there is a
sleight (this is a pun on sleight of hand
no good? Too
corny? Ok?) misunderstanding. In December of 2005, the New York
Times broke a story detailing the NSA's monitoring of Americans'
phone conversations. A day later, President Bush confessed to
signing the order authorizing the illegal wiretapping. The method
behind the trick was clearly exposed, yet the audience remained
fascinated by the effects nonetheless. Despite the fact that
he was caught with an impeachable ace up his sleeve during a
dubious demonstration of ESP, the show (not to mention the war)
trudges on. How is this possible? Psychic vampires? Mind control?
Hmmm, maybe. Something certainly seems to have dulled our sensory
a clue in yet one more layer of Arthur C. Clarke's analysis
of magic(k) and technology. When we engage any "sufficiently
advanced technology" we are quickly (and often unknowingly)
entangled in a controlling web that covers at least seven planes
of powerful, occult bureaucracy of which at least three are
apparently governed by Misdirection, Malfeasance, and Machiavellian
Machinations. In the end, we begin to understand that technologies
can be used to control and oppress just as they can be used
to liberate and make life more enjoyable. And if magic(k) is
indistinguishable from technology, then the question that remains
is, "How will you use it?"
a few easy exercises to get you started. As always, please let
us know how it works out for you by emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
from telemarketers and wrong numbers are usually considered
to be a nuisance. Try thinking of them as an opportunity. The
next time you receive an unwanted phone call use it as a chance
to ask some lively questions. Your impromptu survey can cover
any range of topics; however, in our experiences we've always
had good success asking people about ghosts. Many folks will
claim they don't believe in ghosts, but nearly everyone will
tell you a tale of bizarre and unexplained phenomena. Try it
out and see.
2) If you happen to be on a no-call list and are rarely haunted
by telephone solicitors, try calling the service numbers for
your phone company. These numbers are usually free, and more
often than not, the person on the other end will appreciate
the diversion from complaining customers. The ghost survey mentioned
above is a good ice-breaker before asking about the company's
policy for dealing with spooks of a federal nature. If the person
you're talking to can't tell you the conditions under which
your privacy is fed to the feds, ask to speak to someone who
3) Peripherally, we may realize that a cell phone is, among
other things, a noisemaker; however, it is a characteristic
that receives our full attention only when it rings in awkward
social situations like during a movie or a lecture. Under ordinary
circumstances one tries to avoid such incidents. But perhaps
there are other contexts where the disturbing cry of a cell
phone can provide a well-deserved interruption. How about the
wailing, beeping, and jamming of 10, or 50, or 500 cell phones
all ringing at the same time? To cast such a cell spell requires
little more than getting an assembly of cohorts to set their
cell phone alarms to go off at an opportune moment. Schools,
shopping centers, shareholders meetings, protests, parties -
you name it; the possibilities are calling!