Form is the Illusion is a book about Relationship Theory, an unusual system of metaphysics developed by the late David Douglas Thompson. Relationship Theory addresses questions of ontology and epistemology in a way that is likely to be of interest to pagans and occultists.
Ƶ + Δ Ɛ = Ƶ¹
If there is any change of energy in a system, the relationships will change.
Zed Magic is the art of changing relationships between objects in information space. If you want to change the relationship between two billiard balls, you hit one of them with a pool cue. If you want to change any relationship in existence, you must introduce new information energy.
Traditional forms of occultism already work with this concept. The idea of information space is built in, a starting assumption that is never fully articulated. Consider this description of sympathy and contagion from Frazer’s Golden Bough:
“If we analyze the principles of thought on which magic is based, they will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first, that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause; and, second, that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed. The former principle may be called the Law of Similarity, the latter the Law of Contact or Contagion. From the first of these principles, namely the Law of Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it: from the second he infers that whatever he does to a material object will affect equally the person with whom the object was once in contact, whether it formed part of his body or not.”
Frazer’s work has a lot of issues, but this account of sympathy and contagion does accurately describe how a lot of magical practices work. Both of them assume the idea of information space. Two objects that are symbolically linked are close to each other in information space. Two objects that have once been in contact remain close in information space.
Magical workings are mythopoetic, relying on the occult or unseen power of mythic symbols and correspondences to affect changes in information space.
This is the implied logic of using symbolism and ritual in magical workings – for example, when a witch in seventeenth-century Scotland made a “picture” or clay doll of some laird in order to slowly roast it over the fire, she believed it would harm her oppressor because of the symbolic correspondence. Although she would not have used this terminology, the “picture” and the laird were close together in information space.
In all likelihood the target shared basically the same worldview as the witch, thus bringing them closer in information space whether he was aware that he was being targeted by witchcraft or not. If the laird held a skeptical materialist worldview, it would have pulled him away from the clay doll in information space. Not many people held a skeptical materialist worldview in seventeenth-century Scotland. Not many people believe whole-heartedly in the power of witchcraft in our society. Thus, any working based exclusively on a single mythopoetic worldview will have less leverage in information space and cannot be expected to work as well as it would in a society with only a single dominant worldview. Magic itself is no less powerful, but we need a different strategy to effectively access it.
The average person had access to fewer worldviews in the past, and magic gained power through total commitment to a single worldview – thus the traditional emphasis on unquestioning faith in the power of the charm. Zed Magic assumes the postmodern reality of multiple and often conflicting worldviews, and “rings the changes” on them by never operating through just one of them at a time.
If you want to introduce delta epsilon or “change energy” into any zed or relationship, you should ring the changes on the situation by combining as many different worldviews as possible in your approach. If some forms of delta epsilon are more effective in a given situation than others, does that contradict “interactions are the reality; form is the illusion”? It may seem to be a contradiction, but it’s actually a confirmation of the principle. If I try to lift a heavy object and succeed, that is a successfully completed interaction – a reality. If I try and fail, it is the opposite. In our magical workings, the change we are looking for either happens or fails to happen. If it doesn’t happen, we didn’t succeed in completing the interaction so there is no reality to speak of. If it happens as planned, the specifics of how and why no longer matter. The interaction is the reality and the form is an illusion.
So if we need to ring the changes and apply as many different types of change energy as possible, it might be helpful to consider what types or modes of information energy are available to us. I can think of at least six. In reference to the concept of “ringing the changes,” I’m going to refer to them as “bells.” When you construct any magical working according to the principles of Zed Magic, you should try to ring as many of these bells as you can:
Applying the six bells to the use of magic, remember this formula:
Ƶ + Δ Ɛ = Ƶ¹
If there is any change of energy in a system, the relationships will change.
The basic idea of any working is to add delta epsilon or “change energy” to an existing relationship, changing it into something new. If the relationship in question is a “zed cycle” or information loop, a repeating pattern incapable of changing on its own, then your working should break the loop and free those trapped by it.
Unfortunately, the Archons and ruling powers are already applying Zed Magic to create and maintain the information loops they benefit from. If you consider the current structure of our society, it becomes immediately obvious that mass media and popular culture are constantly and effectively ringing all six bells on behalf of the status quo.
The first bell is physical, the use of force. This can mean any sort of force at all – you need the first bell to build a house or a temple, to pick up a child or to push an object out of the way. However, physical forces can also be used to inflict violence – and it is never possible to rule other people without the threat of violence. In a military dictatorship, outright violence would be used to crush dissent. Representative democracies like the United States will try to avoid being seen to do so. However, the system uses military force almost constantly outside its borders, and relies on the violence of law enforcement to control its lower classes and maintain order within its borders.
The organs of the state, while theoretically democratic, are actually under the indirect control of corporate interests. This is political power – the second bell. Because this control is indirect and unacknowledged, people are encouraged to believe they can influence the system through constitutional means when in fact their political power is very limited.
A system based on nothing but political and physical power would be highly unstable. People must be made to believe in and support the system, even though it does not operate for their benefit but for the benefit of the ruling classes. Vast numbers of people are deeply convinced that “free market” capitalism equals Liberty itself and that even the most compromised forms of socialism are fundamentally immoral. This is the power of ideology, the third bell, constantly sounded by the news media and repeated from mouth to mouth by millions of people.
Ideology is very powerful, but it becomes much more powerful when it is attached to emotion. In movies and TV shows, video games and pop songs, the emotions that benefit the system are constantly evoked and encouraged – hedonistic consumption fueled by manufactured self-hatred, fear of the Other in various forms, sentimental idealization of the military. This is the power of aesthetics, the fourth bell.
The system is supported by the seemingly rational arguments of mainstream economists, presenting their opinions as neutral and incontrovertible facts and dismissing all opponents of capitalism as people who “don’t understand economics.” This is the power of reason, the fifth bell. (This doesn’t actually mean that the opinions in question are reasonable or even rational – only that they use reason to make their case. One could argue that a “science” based on limitless growth is irrational at its core.)
Finally, the system encourages adherence to certain forms of religion and spirituality – forms that encourage people to do whatever would benefit the ruling classes. The Protestant work ethic is an obvious example, but even non-mainstream forms of spirituality often serve the interests of the system. Some teach people the “Secret” of wealth while explaining why the poor are at fault for their own poverty. Others teach people how to reduce stress and be a better employee through “mindfulness.” Others teach people the “witchcraft” of entrepreneurial success. This is the mythopoetic power, the sixth bell.
The forces supporting the system are already using Zed Magic, and they are very good at it. In fact, the Left has been somewhat inept at this sort of thing in comparison to our antagonists. The Nazis, for instance, created a total package of social control based on an effective mix of aesthetics and ideology combined with the reckless use of physical force to seize and maintain political power. Everyone knows there was some interest in occultism within Nazi circles, but the formal practice of occultism was only one small part of their use of magic. The Nazi aesthetic captivated and hypnotized far more people than any ritual Himmler and his SS cronies ever performed.
Far too often, leftists become infatuated with the power of reason, a power with relatively little leverage in information space in many circumstances. Our antagonists are operating on multiple levels at the same time to make people really love and support a system that literally doesn’t care if they live or die. And what alternative do we offer them? Dense and abstract critical analysis phrased in a language you have to study for years to even understand. Leftist disdain for the irrational cedes power to the opposition.
All the more reason for us to get better at our magic, and to do it quickly. Magicians who rely on the mythopoetic alone have little leverage in information space. Activists who rely on the political alone cannot build up enough momentum in information space to overcome the tremendous inertia of the existing system. Intellectuals who rely on logical arguments to sway the masses might as well be trying to hold back the tide with their hands. Musicians who compose protest songs may succeed in creating aesthetic power, but never enough of it to overcome all of the aesthetic forces the other side can muster – a mindlessly patriotic war song has aesthetic power too.
If we try to win by ringing just one or two bells, we will never succeed. The enemy is already ringing all six of them, and has been doing so all along. We must become adept at ringing all six bells.
Luckily for us, we don’t have to win in one fell swoop. Remember, every change in any zed changes all the zeds:
An object, to all our intents and purposes, is totally defined by the “vector” sum of all its relationships. Thus, in any given system if even one Ƶ changes then all the objects are changed, i.e. become new. (Notes on Relationships; David Douglas Thompson)
With every small successful change, we create a change effect that ripples through the entire system, mutating every object it comes in contact with. The more effective we become at ringing the six bells of delta epsilon, the more we change the entire structure of our reality.
Image by Henry Justice Ford