- The use of modern-day devices in magical ritual. This can include the substitution of technology for traditional magical tools, such as using their oven for a hearth, keeping a “Disk of Shadows” instead of a “Book of Shadows”, and using a laser pointer as a wand. In other practice, technology is the target of the magical work, such as the use of stones and other charms to help improve the performance of mundane items or online role-playing avatars.
- Modern tribal/urban primitive movements such as urban shamanism and rave culture. This is often used in association with electronic dance music.
- An emergent trend in neopagan thought that deals with spiritual and magical facets of technology and technological society. Associated with this is the use of technological metaphors (most often computer and/or telecommunications metaphors) to describe spiritual phenomena, as well as the use of symbolism from popular culture in spiritual contexts.
Technopaganism – The Unification of Mysteries
Deep inside all of us, we feel a spirituality. Some of us are forced into a belief system which allows us to deal with our spirituality, but hinders our expression of real humanity. Christianity plays crazy games with sexuality. Atheism locks us away from our very need for spirituality.
Many have found Wicca, the modern worship of the nature goddess in her many robes, based upon old european religions. Wicca does a very good job of accepting what is means to be human, to be social, to be sexual, to be a woman, or to be a man. Wicca makes few dogmatic claims, indeed, it is a free-flow religion, with most formalities, if any, worked out by local covens.
But there is a strong spirituality within many of us we cannot hide from any more. It is as new as computers, but the force behind it is as old as humanity itself. We, as humans, are tool-makers. Magick has long been associated with the making of precision tools, axes, swords, goblets, fire.
But the new techno-magick is different…it no longer is simple, serving us in the fields or in battle. It allows us to study the very nature, the goddess, we come from. It has become meta-magick, a meta-mystery.
The force is great, and especially the programmers, laser jocks, scientists, and silicon architects can feel it. The technology has a spirit of its own, as valid as the spirit of any creature of the goddess. This is the spiritual force we, those who are called technopagan, feel and must express. Not suprisingly, we find ways of bringing technology into our worship.
Our grand challenge, though, is to balance our exploding technology with the forces of nature. We must do as we will, but harm none.
Many of us already have our ceremonies…our Raves, our HamFests. But we must seek further balance with the goddess…the Field Days, the Winnebiko, and more worship which mixes the tech with the nature.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Erich Schneider)
Date: 28 May 93 12:17:55
“Why don’t we start with a definition?”
The shamanic worldview usually involves a belief in supernatural forces that can be accessed to cause alterations in “external reality”. These supernatural forces are usually accessed through appeals to various “spirits”, which live in a “spirit world” that can be accessed through dreams or other consciousness alteration methods (sweat lodges, psychoactives, chanting, ecstatic dancing, etc.). These spirits are amenable to interaction in the same way humans can be interacted with – threats, bribes, appeals, etc.
The shaman employs a mode of operation known as “bricolage” (from the French “bricoleur”, “handyman”). Unlike the engineer, who has some idea of “theoritical principles” which underly a given “practical implementation”, the bricoleur has a set of techniques from which they pick and choose the appropriate “tool” to be used in the situation at hand. It is not necessary to understand _why_ something works, only that it _does_ work. The shaman’s set of tools include a set of symbolic associations to help determine how to affect certain spirits. For example, eagle feathers would be useful in contacting the archetypal Eagle.
Also important: shamans traditionally are associated with a community, and serve as the community’s healer/psychiatrist/miracle-worker. When the community has a problem that “mundane” means cannot solve, they go to the shaman for supernatural assistance. The shaman also orchestrates the rituals which bind the community together.
The techno-shamanic worldview is an extension of this. It invovles a belief that humanity’s technological infrastructure has become so complex and vast that it cannot be entirely understood through use of an engineering-type theoretical construct. However, this technological infrastructure obviously has a direct impact on how we live our lives. Thus, the techno-shaman serves the community by accessing the technological infrastructure, not as a tool-user ordering their machine to do something, but as one sentient being negotiating with another for the performance of a service.
Drug use, ecstatic dancing, and trance music are well-established in today’s techno-shamanic subculture, as is their use in ritualistic events to bind communities together. One can easily see a mapping between computer networks and the spirit world, and between computers and the powerful entities the traditional shaman interacts with.
An excellent example of techno-shamanism is seen in the AI-oriented “voodoo” in Gibson’s Count Zero. Something similar shows up in Shepard’s Life During Wartime, and in a more sophisticated form in Vinge’s A Fire Upon The Deep.
From: email@example.com (Arthur Chandler) Subject: The Technoshaman
Date: Thu, 27 May 1993 23:06:38 GMT
A Technoshaman is one who:
1) Believes that the essential core of the universe is an Algorithm;
2) Holds that there is a morality that can be derived from this Algorithm, which can be briefly stated as: IF NEED, THEN HELP;
3) Acts to help others by applying the derivatives of the Algorithm to everyday human existence;
4) Develops the spirit of technology to serve as the means of carrying out the Algorithm.