Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Internet as an occult phenomenon

Can't be bothered writing a new article today. Here's an interesting little essay I wrote for a class on esoterics. Some points are rather corny, but hey - take it as an excercise in adjusting reality to a provided model.

Magic and supernatural phenomena in general are often believed to rely upon a greater force connecting every living and sometimes inanimate object in the universe. The Chinese call it chi; George Lucas calls it “the Force”. Proof of the existence of either is traditionally scarce, but we cannot deny that something so ubiquitous must certainly be supernatural.

The Western civilization, a technical civilization which denies the occult with great vigor, has in the meantime created an entity that strives to connect every single known sentient being in our world, and has had remarkable success in that mission. As the notion expressed in the prelude to Alistair Crowley's “Moonchild”, (the book we read for that class - FT) and other sources including the very modern and Western science of semantics, tells us that specific meaning can be uncovered in any object if one only knows how to look, we are able to trace influences of the supernatural in the very essence of the global network.

Indeed even a passing glance reveals exciting similarities. Information technology in itself is so incredible because it allows amazingly complex constructs to be created with the repetition of two basic characters. The central processing unit of a computer is in fact nothing more than a massive collection of transistors – mechanical devices which can exist in two juxtaposed states. We must not consider it accidental that these states have been dubbed “on” and “off”, 1 and 0. Herein lies proof that even the most artificial of man’s creations is based on the ultimate law of the universe – the duality of all things. Existence and nothingness, life and death, good and evil, God and Satan – the eternal struggle and alteration between these two provide the basis for the world as we know it.

A network that engulfs almost literally everything also provides its disciple with nearly limitless power – including the power to destroy the unwary zealot himself. Knowledge is power, and the Internet is the largest repository of data ever created; and the tools that come with the concept of a network connecting the administration systems of an entire civilization’s infrastructure allow a skillful artisan to find any information they may desire. Strip off our beliefs and prejudices, and how different is a power user from a shaman?

People have turned to the Occult for many reasons, but most of them grow out of the desire to improve their condition – physical, financial, social, etc. While there has been a lucky few that crafted obscene wealth from the Net, a great many more have been given an opportunity to create a virtual personality, a homunculus if you will, a representation of what they would like themselves to be. And if the falseness of these alter egos is apparent to any veteran, that doesn’t change the nature of the humanity that spawns them.

More peculiar similarities can be found when comparing the Internet to religious works, and particularly the Talmud, the book of teachings in Judaism – the oldest and beyond doubt the most occult of all major religions. In his book “The Talmud and the Internet”, rabbi Jonathan Rosen writes:
A page of Talmud bears an uncanny resemblance to a home page on the Internet, where nothing is whole in itself but where icons and text boxes are doorways through which visitors pass into an infinity of cross referenced texts and conversations. The promise of the Talmud is that it isn’t a book. It’s a sort of drift net for catching God, stretching out through time and space in ever-widening spools… We became the people of the book because we had no place else to live. The Talmud came along and offered a virtual world for an uprooted culture, and grew out of the Jewish need to pack civilization into words and wander out into the world. (Quoted via
Is this not what is happening to the world today – when technology and globalizm bring people closer than ever, thus destroying their connection to their homeland? And here is the Internet, a way for cultural groups to stay in touch, wherever they are physically.

All this, however, is much too vague. Significantly more entertaining is the analogy between the Internet and generally accepted supernatural symbols, even if it can be a little silly and far-fetched. For example, the peculiar connection between IT components and the Number of the Beast. While the Internet as a network has been developed by the US military’s research arm and the concept of the World Wide Web belongs to the mind of the recently knighted Brit, sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Net could not exist were it not for Bill Gates and Microsoft’s campaign to put a personal computer on every desk. The richest man in the world possesses the full title of William Henry Gates III. Since computers work with numbers, any alphanumeric character corresponds to an integer. The most widely used table of these relations is ASCII – the American Standard Code for Information Exchange. If we use this table to convert the letters in the name Bill Gates to numbers, and finally add the number 3 (as in Bill Gates the Third), we arrive at 666. This fact is made all the more entertaining by the wording connected to the Number of the Beast – that it shall be imprinted on the forehead and the right hand of the sinners; their minds and their mouse hand, perhaps? There is further proof that Microsoft is in fact the spawn of Satan: the Windows logo forms a swastika in the center of the four jigsaw pieces; and the company’s world headquarters are located in the very beginning of a street called Microsoft Way. Thus the address of the building is in fact “One Microsoft Way”! (Incidentally Microsoft’s nemesis, Apple Computers, is located at “One Infinite Loop”.)

So there is a supernatural influence in the nature of the Internet. How could there not be? Something so fascinating and culturally important will certainly be associated with a higher power, a power people call upon when they feel unable to control their own destiny. Still, in my opinion the Net is only paranormal to the extent that anything so vast and impalpable will be – supernatural, but very human.

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