The Spoon-Bender’s Trick

Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

In the 1999 film The Matrix, Keanu Reeves plays a computer hacker named Neo who discovers that reality as we know it is only a computer simulation created by a machine race that uses human bodies for energy. People actually live in vats among the ruined cities of their dead civilization, while incorrectly believing themselves to be living ordinary human lives in the 1990s. A small band of rebels, led by a man named Morpheus, offer a select few such as Neo a choice – take the blue pill and go back to sleep, or take the red pill and find out what’s really going on. Neo takes the red pill and is schooled by Morpheus and a woman named Trinity in the nature of the Matrix and how to manipulate it with the mind in order to do battle against the machines.

The Matrix can be seen as a fantasy about Descartes’ hypothetical demon, the all-powerful creator of a false world. As Descartes pointed out, there is no way anyone can prove that our world is not merely an illusion created by such a demon and this raises serious doubts about the validity of all human knowledge. After all, what use is knowledge of a fake reality, created solely to deceive us? It can also be seen as a movie about Plato’s cave allegory, in which reality as it is perceived by most people is drastically distorted, with only an elite few seeing things as they really are. For that matter, it could be seen as a movie about Gnosticism, in which the world we live in is a false world created by a deluded God. In Gnostic Christianity, Christ’s mission is to free us from our false perceptions and lead us to true knowledge or gnosis. This is the mission Neo takes on after rising from the dead, making Neo a Gnostic Christ figure.

As interesting as these ideas may be, Neo’s attitude to reality seems strangely naïve to me. He begins his search for Morpheus because something doesn’t seem right – the world feels wrong, though he can’t put his finger on exactly why. All he knows is to look for Morpheus, subject of a rumor or an urban legend about a man who knows what’s behind the curtain. On one level, this itch to find out the “real truth” shows much more imagination and initiative than most of the prisoners of the Matrix ever show. Despite this fact, Neo is all too easily satisfied with the answers that Morpheus offers him. He refuses to accept what Morpheus is telling him at first, but only briefly. Morpheus makes a good point about definitions – how can you say that the world of the Matrix isn’t “real” when you have not yet defined your terms? – but doesn’t follow it up. His basic point is not that Neo’s definition of reality is unexamined, but that the Matrix is simply fake.

If the Matrix is fake, it follows that there is a Real World and that people need to be shown the truth. Neo accepts the falseness of the Matrix and the reality of the Real World because Morpheus shows him certain things – but perception is exactly the basis on which he previously accepted the Matrix as reality. If perception is inadequate for determining the reality of the Matrix, isn’t it equally inadequate for determining the reality of the Real World? Why should Neo assume that anything he has ever seen is “really real,” including the post-apocalyptic wasteland Morpheus tells him is the Real World? Conspiracy theorists seem to rely on a similar mix of skepticism and gullibility – they ask you to believe that whatever most people accept is actually false (which may well be the case) but that their particular bizarre theory is true (which is unlikely at best).

It never seems to occur to Neo that the whole thing could be a simulation, including Morpheus and his rebel band. It would be sensible of the machines to write a subroutine, in which troublesome prisoners could play out their messianic fantasies without causing any trouble in the main program. Or perhaps humans live in a computer simulation created by machines who also don’t realize they exist within a still larger simulation created by other entities of some kind. Reality could consist of layer upon layer of simulations, extending to infinity. Once you accept the premise that the world you previously thought was real is actually a simulation, which option seems more likely – that you have escaped the Matrix and are totally free, or that you are still trapped in another layer of the simulation?

Neo’s ability to blandly accept whatever he is shown may be the main thing holding him back from fulfilling his assigned role of Gnostic Christ. When he visits the Oracle, he meets a boy who can bend spoons with his mind. The boy tells him that the key to performing this little magic trick is to truly understand that there is no spoon. That requires a more profound mental shift, because the spoon-bender would have to perceive himself as the one real element in the equation – the real center of a false world.

This is similar to Descartes in one sense and virtually the opposite in another. Descartes was only using skepticism as a tool to establish the validity of realism. His “I think, therefore I am” is meant only as the first step in a chain of logic that would eventually affirm the real-ness of everything else in the familiar everyday world. The spoon-bender starts from the same place (he considers his own existence to be certain even if his perceptions of it may be false) but then refuses to affirm the reality of the world of perception. Instead he denies it – and resolves to bend it to his own will through his disbelief. After he dies or almost dies, Neo does the same. From that point on, his ability to shape the false reality of the Matrix is basically limitless. Neo’s miraculous power within the Matrix depends on his ability to disbelieve in it, while accepting his own reality without doubt or question. His approach is pragmatic, but arguably not very logical.

It is fortunate for Neo that he does not think too much about the implications of his experiences. The Agents can also re-shape the Matrix at will, just like he can. They have this power because they are nothing more than autonomous programs within the Matrix itself. Does Neo have any reason to assume he is human in the first place? Why would the machines ever have written the Matrix program in such a way that humans could re-write it at will simply by disbelieving in it? Couldn’t Neo just as easily be an autonomous program, perhaps a malfunctioning script? If Neo ever sat down to meditate on doubt like René Descartes, he might be forced to ask, “I think – but am I?”

The thread leading out of this labyrinth is supplied by Morpheus, although he doesn’t appear to follow it all the way to the end of the proverbial rabbit hole. Morpheus points out that Neo hasn’t defined what he means by “real” in the first place. As Morpheus says, everything you experience with any of your senses is ultimately an electrical signal in your own brain. Those signals are presumably interpreting some reality outside your brain, but you do not and cannot know anything definite about that reality. As Kant says, you experience only phenomena, not noumena.

Does this imply that Neo should become a solipsist, disbelieving in any reality outside the self? I don’t believe it does. The comments Morpheus makes in this conversation are similar to the ideas proposed by George Berkeley, who held that we have no logical basis for assuming the phenomena we perceive to be anything other than ideas in the mind. Despite this assertion, Berkeley did not argue for the unreality of our perceptions. Instead, he argued that the definition of reality ought to be based on direct perception – “to be is to be perceived”. This does not imply solipsism, because we consistently perceive people and other phenomena as being real.  We may not be able to know everything about any given phenomenon by looking at it (it could, for example, be a computer program or the creation of a demon) but it’s still real even so.

If reality is defined by what we perceive, then what we perceive is real – even if it changes. Neo’s lack of skepticism about the massive changes in his perception of reality are defensible from this perspective – he just accepts whatever he sees, makes whatever mental adjustments are necessary, and keeps going. After his temporary death, Neo finally claims his agency as one of those who can freely shape his own perceptions, thus re-writing the matrix at will. The spoon-bender’s trick is not to merely believe that the spoon is unreal, but to perceive it as unreal. In the fantasy world of The Matrix, that shift is perception is enough to bend the spoon – or to fly off into the sky as a super-human being.

Image by Alessio Lin on Unsmash

Sources

The Matrix, directed by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski, Warner Bros. Pictures, 1999.

Philosophy as Meditative Doubt by Stephen Palmquist, in The Tree of Philosophy, August 21, 2007, http://staffweb.hkbu.edu.hk/ppp/tp4/top03.html.

Philosophy as Rational Dialogue by Stephen Palmquist, in The Tree of Philosophy, August 21, 2007, http://staffweb.hkbu.edu.hk/ppp/tp4/top02.html.

Gnosticism by Edward Moore, in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://www.iep.utm.edu/gnostic/.

Philosophy as Transcendental Critique by Stephen Palmquist, in The Tree of Philosophy, August 21, 2007, http://staffweb.hkbu.edu.hk/ppp/tp4/top03.html.

George Berkeley (1685—1753) by Daniel E. Flage, in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://www.iep.utm.edu/berkeley/#H4.

The Bells of Delta Epsilon

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.

Henry Justice Ford

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:

 

1- Physical

 

2- Political

 

3- Ideological

 

4- Aesthetic

 

5- Rational

 

6- Mythopoetic

 

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

Ghosts, Gods and Archons

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.

412px-Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_063

Ƶ1 Ƶ A

 

If a particular relationship is made up of the relationship between two objects, then it is possible for that relationship to also be in relationship with a third object. (Notes on Relationships; David Douglas Thompson)

 

This formula has some interesting implications for pagan theology. A relationship between two zed objects can also be treated as a zed object. In Romeo and Juliet, the Capulets have a vendetta with the Montagues. A vendetta is a type of relationship, but the existence of the vendetta has a tremendous impact on every member of both families. Romeo is a member of the Capulet family, so whether he likes it or not he has to deal with the vendetta. Therefore, the existence of the vendetta between Capulet and Montague implies that there is also a zed between Romeo and the vendetta.

 

If the vendetta can function as a zed object in its own right, then so can other relationships. The simplest way to think of this is to imagine a ghost. You can think of a ghost as the relationship between a living person and a dead person, between a place and some traumatic event that occurred in that place, or between a person and a place perceived as haunted. In each of these cases, the haunted or numinous relationship is in itself the ghost. A zed can be a zed object, so a relationship can be an entity.

 

Here’s another example. At some unimaginably ancient point in the distant past, a human being first saw a waterfall or stood in a grove of trees or on top of a hill and felt a numinous presence, a “weird awe and shuddering dread before the mysteries of the transcendent” as described by Rudolf Otto.

 

The relationship between this person and that place was numinous, haunted, spiritual – and the numen or spirit was that relationship. Over countless centuries, the behavior of human beings in relationship with the numinous power in the landscape became a body of lore and behavior – in other words, religion.

 

Because “interactions are the reality; form is the illusion,” no distinction is drawn between different types of entity. Information space includes everything, both mind and matter. The relationship between a person and an idea is not fundamentally different than the relationship between two physical objects. Both interactions are simply A Ƶ B, “an interaction between A and B.”

 

Imagine an ancient Gaul by the name of Brennos. Brennos, as an individual human being, is a zed object. Thunder is also a zed object. Brennos hears a crash of thunder nearby and touches his hand to the wagon-wheel amulet he wears around his neck, reciting a prayer to the Gaulish thunder god Taranis.

 

The Gauls (a set of zed objects of which Brennos is a part) have a particular relationship with thunder. In Gaulish mythology, thunder is the sound of Taranis rolling his thunder wheel across the heavens. Thunder is obviously a natural phenomenon, but a Roman would relate to it as a manifestation of Jupiter while a Gaul would relate to it as a manifestation of Taranis. You could say that Taranis is the relationship the Gauls have with thunder.

 

Now, if the Gauls as a whole have a relationship with thunder and that relationship can be spoken of as Taranis, then Taranis can also be in relationship with any specific Gaul. So Brennos, as an individual Gaul, can be in relationship with Taranis.

 

This relationship is not strictly identical to the relationship between Brennos and thunder considered purely as a natural phenomenon. As a natural phenomenon, thunder indicates the presence of lightning and possibly of rain, both of which can have various practical implications for Brennos such as healthy crops, the risk of fire and so on. However, when Brennos touches the wagon-wheel amulet and recites his prayer, he isn’t just thinking about rain and fire. He’s acknowledging the divine presence of the numen and holding it in religious regard. The numen, in other words, is a particular way of relating to the natural phenomenon – yet the numen itself is also a real entity. Why? Because it is something that Brennos interacts with, and “interactions are the reality; form is the illusion.”

 

Now, if the relationship between thunder and the Gauls is itself a zed object, then the relationship between Brennos and that zed object must also be a zed object. Therefore, the relationship between Brennos and Taranis is a zed object in its own right. Therefore, there is a version of Taranis that is unique to Brennos, and it is a really existing entity while also remaining a part of the larger information set that is Taranis as a whole.

 

If Brennos has a dream vision in which Taranis tells him certain things, while his neighbor has a dream vision in which Taranis tells him other things, neither is wrong and both are right. They are each relating to a different entity, yet also to the same entity from another perspective. The Taranis of any one worshiper is more specific and more individual yet very much smaller, less complex and less powerful than the full information set of Taranis. This further implies that Taranis as a whole is part of a larger yet still real zed object – the information set containing all thunder gods, which is less individualized and specific yet larger and more complex than Taranis.

 

Thus, every deity is all of the following things simultaneously:

 

1- a zed (the relationship between a people and some phenomenon or set of phenomena).

 

2- a zed object (that relationship considered as an entity in its own right).

 

3- a member of an information set (a larger and less specific deity).

 

4- an information set containing many zed objects (all of the zeds between the deity and specific individuals, recognized aspects of the deity, specific local manifestations of the deity and so on).

 

It gets still more complicated. The ancient Carthaginians worshiped a goddess known as Tanit, Tanit, like most deities, is not just one specific thing. While the name “Taranis” actually means “Thunder” in the Gaulish language, Tanit seems like a more complex entity and cannot be reduced down to one phenomenon such as the sky – although she was definitely a sky goddess. There is a large and complex information set of associations important to the Carthaginians, of which the sky and celestial objects such as the sun and moon are only a part. Tanit is the relationship between the Carthaginians and this entire set.

 

When the Romans conquered Carthage, they encouraged the people of the area to continue to worship Tanit as the Roman goddess Juno. The synthesis of Juno and Tanit was called Caelestis. Caelestis is the relationship between Juno and Tanit, and like any other relationship Caelestis is also a zed object. Thus, Caelestis is a goddess in her own right – separate from both Juno and Tanit yet not distinct from them.

 

The cult of Caelestis spread to Roman Britain, where it merged with the worship of the local Celtic goddess Brigantia. The goddess Caelestis Brigantia is the relationship between Caelestis and Brigantia, yet is also a unique and really-existing zed object – a separate goddess, simultaneously Celtic, Roman and Carthaginian.

 

Based on this analysis, the hardest of hard polytheisms is accurate from one perspective – and the softest of soft polytheisms from another perspective. This would definitely be an occasion for “ringing the changes.”

 

In polytheist religion, we normally seek to interact with more specific and localized forms of deity. What if we tried to relate to the entire universe as a single information set? Now we’re talking about monotheism, because the religious relationship between a single worshiper and the entire universe is a zed object too, and this zed object could be described as “God.” As a religious category, monotheism is that branch of religion that favors relationship with the whole, and devalues relationships with parts of the whole. Yet there is more than one monotheism, because the relationship between a Christian and the whole is different from the relationship between a Muslim and the whole.

 

What if we do not acknowledge or experience any spiritual relationship with any entity? Now we’re talking about atheism. The relationship between a person and the whole is valid for some people and the relationship between a person and some part of the whole is valid for other people, yet there will always be some people who experience no such relationship. Thus, Relationship Theory is in some sense naturally polytheistic (because it predicts the existence of an infinite number of relationships and treats them all as entities) yet it also accounts for the existence of monotheism (the preference for relating spiritually to all of reality as a single set) and atheism (the experience of reality without numinous relationships).

 

If Relationship Theory treats a spirit as a pattern in information space, does it therefore deny the agency of the gods? No, not at all. In Relationship Theory, the direct perception of any zed object is sufficient proof of its existence, since “interactions are the reality; form is the illusion.” Some patterns in information space display the signs of agency – through mystical visions and natural processes, through the actions of human beings in relationship with them, through our dreams and our deeds. Since they display the signs of agency, they do have agency as far as Relationship Theory is concerned.

 

“Information space” refers to all contexts in which information can operate, and therefore includes everything from the physical universe to the unconscious to subtle levels of reality currently unknown to science (assuming such levels exist). A pattern in information space may play out across any or all of these.

 

Thus, ghosts are patterns in information space initiated by people who were once alive, demons are patterns with malicious intent, gods are especially powerful patterns, and archons are patterns of information that distort our perception of reality and function in such a way as to prevent humanity from fulfilling its potential.

 

A single entity can fall into more than one of these categories at the same time. For instance, the information pattern of a freshwater spring could be a nature spirit, nymph or fairy – but if that pattern began as a person who drowned in that spot, it is also a ghost. A posthumously deified hero is both a ghost and a god. A dead spirit possessing a human being for harmful purposes is both a ghost and a demon. A powerful spirit seeking to manipulate and control humanity could be seen as both a god and an archon at the same time.

 

This brings us back to the strangest passage in Thompson’s notebook:

 

“We are not, as some think, the pawns in some cosmic war but the battleground itself.”

 

Our minds and our bodies are part of information space, and the patterns in information space interact within us. We are their battleground, and the prize in this war is control of reality.

 

My father drew no distinction between the archons and the gods. I don’t agree with this view, because I see no reason to assume that every numinous presence or power would want to control or abuse human beings. Some of them, however, certainly do. By introducing new information energy into looped patterns we can break the cycle, freeing people from possession by the archons – the information patterns that hold us back from our potential as a species.

 

From this perspective, Relationship Theory is a philosophy of revolutionary exorcism.

 

Image by Henry Fuseli

Zed Cycles

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.

Theodoor Rombouts (1597-1637), Prometheus

“All paths are eventually cyclical.” (The Six Axioms; David Douglas Thompson)

 

“Time is a catalogue of cyclical zeds.” (Notes on Relationships; David Douglas Thompson)

 

Some of the most important aspects of Relationship Theory were never fully explained by my father, only hinted at in cryptic notes and conversations. One section near the end of “Notes on Relationships” shows a diagram of a spiral with two dots at the center, and another diagram showing that a quarter of a wave slope could be interpreted as a radius. The two dots at the center of the spiral are linked by a curved line and seem to indicate the same quarter-wave, but the underlying logic is not explained. There is only the statement that “A quarter wave contains all the info of a full wave,” although this statement takes on added interest when paired with another statement in the notes: “Time is a catalogue of cyclical zeds.”

 

This may remind some readers of True Detective’s “time is a flat circle,” and it actually means something very similar. A zed cycle or cyclical zed is a repeating pattern of interactions. This relates to one of the six axiom or corollaries to the Ten Laws: “All paths are eventually cyclical.”

 

The “paths” in question are opposing tendencies in a relationship pattern. As previously discussed, the process of differentiation and opposition is necessary for perception to be possible. When opposites are differentiated, the interaction of those opposing forces will reverse and then repeat itself in an infinite number of iterations. This is essentially the same concept as Yin and Yang in Chinese classical philosophy. When either Yin or Yang becomes too dominant it begins to transform into its own opposite. (This concept was developed at some length by Jason Thompson as the “Zed Tree,” a diagram based on the same idea as the 64 hexagrams of Yin-Yang interactions. The Zed Tree is a very complex topic in its own right but is a separate concept from the original version of Relationship Theory.)

 

The important point for our current discussion is that relationship patterns loop and repeat themselves in an endless cycle, so “time is a catalogue of cyclical zeds.” Nobody trapped in one of these information loops could ever escape it on their own, because a third party would have to intervene to create any change in the system. Of course, this happens all the time – although most likely as part of an even larger repeating cycle.

 

At this point in the discussion, David Thompson’s ideas become much stranger, no longer grounded in the theoretical side of the theory although still connected to it. There is a short passage elsewhere in the notebook, separate from the “Notes on Relationships”:

 

“The way things are is the way they’ve always been. We, the race we call human, are being used, misused, and often abused. By the cold blooded manipulation of our spiritual and emotional lives our 3-D existence is shaped and our minds are programmed toward ends not our own. We are not, as some think, the pawns in some cosmic war but the battleground itself. As battlegrounds are seldom improved by having wars fought on them, it is time to consider whether choosing sides is wise”

 

As bizarre and paranoid as this may seem, what he’s talking about here is a form of Gnosticism. The passage suggests that our reality is controlled by Archons, entities capable of manipulating us into perceiving what they wish – shaping our reality against our will and without our knowledge. These beings don’t come to us from outside but from within, using our minds as battlegrounds in their secret wars.

 

“The way things are is the way they’ve always been,” because “time is a catalogue of cyclical zeds” – relationship cycles that repeat and repeat forever without ever really changing. We are effectively trapped into a particular experience of reality by these repeating loops or cycles. Two objects in a relationship with each other can never change that relationship on their own, because cause and effect requires a third party to introduce new information energy into what would otherwise be a static situation. This implies an infinite regress, but not to the benign First Mover of Thomas Aquinas. Instead the cycle of cause and effect goes back to some undefined yet far from benevolent group of entities manipulating our perception and thus our whole reality.

 

We’re obviously no longer in the realm of rational argumentation here. No arguments are given to support these assertions, only a dark mysticism based on a frightening personal experience.

 

When David Douglas Thompson first came up with Relationship Theory it was in a dream or a visionary experience. In the same experience he perceived the presence of these entities, Archons as the Gnostics would have called them although my father always referred to them as “the gods.” His interpretation of the vision is one particular worldview, and Relationship Theory tells us to ring the changes on different worldviews. There is no reason to adopt his Gnosticism as a dogma or fixed belief-system, although it is necessary to understand it and ring the changes on it.

 

My father was a composer as well as an armchair philosopher. While much of his music was light-hearted or even whimsical, some of his most interesting work was heavy to the point of morbidity, including a classical piece called “Jacob at the Pond.” The piano in “Jacob at the Pond” tells a story of tragedy, of some heartbreaking wrong that will never be made right, and of hopeless anger. When asked, he would invariably claim it was about a cat named Jacob playing at a pond. It was actually inspired by a scene in the BBC documentary series The Ascent of Man where Jacob Bronowski visits the pond at Auschwitz and speaks the following words:

 

“Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz, this is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.”

 

Relationship Theory was all about the death of absolute knowledge, the necessity of playing with multiple perspectives at the same time in order to approximate a larger truth. He would always say that mankind must somehow overthrow the gods, achieving a new freedom and an apotheosis.

 

In the final year of his life he composed an album of dark ambient electronic music, Whom the Gods Would Destroy, for which he chose a painting of Prometheus as the intended cover. “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” The music in Whom the Gods Would Destroy sounds discordant and alien, unsettling and anxious. On October 3, 2006 he passed away while competing in the Sunfish World Championships in Charleston, South Carolina.

 

Although he always referred to the entities he saw in his vision as “the gods” and spoke of overthrowing them, I do not see them as being equivalent to the pagan deities. Pagan deities in general are numinous powers associated with aspects of nature or human culture. They are part of our world, not aliens manipulating it. The entities he was talking about are more like the Gnostic Archons, holding humanity back from its full potential and manipulating the human experience of reality. Thompson seems to have thought of these Archons as supremely powerful (and thus needing to be “overthrown”), but it isn’t necessary to take this position to make use of the concept. The important point here is simply that we can become trapped in repeating patterns and that some entities in information space actively use these patterns to control human consciousness.

 

If these entities are responsible for keeping us trapped in a looping cycle of relationship patterns that can never really change, there is only one way to overthrow them and achieve the apotheosis my father always spoke of. We must learn how to do what they do. We must become magicians.

 

By resisting the Archons, we also resist their servants on Earth – the leaders of men. These people seek to manipulate our consciousness to maintain their own wealth and power, just as the Archons do. To resist one is to resist the other.

 

Image by Theodoor Rombouts