Under the Bright Dark

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Czech postcard from the 1920's

Do not hold on to that which cannot be used to destroy the world.

-The Livik

 

I was under the dark when the wind came down,

And the stars were drunk, and the ocean cried.

I walked alone. Though I had known

In time, I hadn’t tried.

 

The world, disordered, spun as fast

As if it meant to break.

I liked it there, and didn’t care

To suffer for its sake.

 

I’ve lived for years just mesmerized

By lights, like falling stars.

Out here beyond the world, I’ve watched

The angels and their wars.

 

I said the words that seemed the best

And watched my temples fall.

Those other lives I could have lived

Just don’t exist at all.

 

– from the Book of Onei, Part II: The Lore of Onei

The Country of the King

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Dora Wheeler, Fairy in Irises, 1888

When your faith descends from heaven

When you find you cannot fly

When you lose the strength to bargain

With the powers of the sky,

 

When the things they keep demanding

Seem impossible and grand

You can come into the country

Of the powers of the land.

 

They have drunk from deeper waters

And their holiness is dark.

And to them the light is precious,

So they value every spark.

 

They are not inclined to question

What you’ve done or where you’ve been-

Though you’ve wandered far from wisdom

You can always come again.

 

There is gold beneath the mountain

There is treasure in the sea,

There’s a chalice and a fountain

Granting things that cannot be.

 

There are palaces and temples

In the cities on the plain

Made of bone as smooth as marble

Where the windows run like rain.

 

There’s a grove of golden peaches,

There are apples, green and red,

There’s a hierophant who teaches

From the gospels of the dead.

 

There are kings and queens, created

To be gods before the Fall-

Though you wandered there for ages

You could never see it all.

 

And your anguished hope of heaven,

Once a parched and withered thing,

Will be branches red with berries

In the country of the king.

 

– from the Book of Onei, Part II: The Lore of Onei

 

Image by Dora Wheeler

Darkness and Silence

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

John Bauer (1882–1918)2

If you want knowledge, seek out darkness and silence.

 

I glance behind me, but there’s no way home.

The waves are foaming like a rabid dog,

Like monsters, always watching. On my bones,

On every branch and rock and fallen log,

The ice lies thick. The silent heavens sleep-

Unreadable, malicious. Earth is still.

She won’t disclose the secrets that she keeps.

Night creeps a little closer. From the hill

I hear the howl of wolves. I feel the eyes

Of basilisks upon me. Lions roar.

Don’t question heaven. Do not leave your door.

 

Dream necromancy is dangerous, especially if the spirit discovers your secret name.

 

Animal masking allows you to contact the cthonic powers.

 

To honor the gods, fumigate small images of them by hand in a cloud of incense.

 

The gods crave meat; the meat craves fire.

 

There are two types of death in dream. The dead force is like a black hole – without consciousness, dead and soulless although capable of movement. The live force is the exact opposite.

 

The universe is like the desert: a vast empty space made up of tiny particles lit by a blazing light.

 

There is no final invitation to Onei. You must find your way each time.

 

The pattern will always assert its essential points. Only a certain level of play exists in reality, and that which is destined cannot be prevented.

 

Some genii loci will abandon their home if it is clear-cut or otherwise abused. It becomes a soulless place.

 

There are time travelers who visit different eras by possessing dreamers as they sleep. If they come upon you in a night wandering dream they will try to stop your throat so you cannot get the words out, but if you force the words out you should be able to say your protective charm.

 

The whole world is filled up with gnosis. It is people who must become free in order to fill up gnosis.

 

– from the Book of Onei, Part II: The Lore of Onei

 

Image by John Bauer

Lore of Onei

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Wilfred Gabriel de Glehn (1870-1951) , Night

The door to Sana Delayo is always open.

 

The Blue Pearl- a blue pearl of spiraling energy, capable of dissolving or transmuting any demonic power. Roll it in your hands to dissolve a nightmare.

 

The City- a magical city ruled by the Red Queen. The scene of many otherworld wars.

 

The Compass- an oracle owned by a king of Onei who was an ally of the Red Queen during the War of the Book. It is an old compass on a shipwreck mounted on a magnetic stone. It always predicts evil, and it makes sure that its own prophecies come to pass.

 

The Dark Tower- a gnostic prison where the Red Queen was once held prisoner. If you ever find it, you will discover that you have always been there. The bottom floor of the Dark Tower contains everything in mundane life, but merely spending time there causes you to forget where you really are. To escape the prison, do not run from wind or water. Allow the storm to destroy your dream.

 

Gnosis- true and sacred knowledge acquired from Onei.

 

The House- a vast, rambling house with countless rooms. Often attacked by malevolent forces. The attic is haunted.

 

The Kind- the fairies or elves. The folk of Onei.

 

The Naught- the other side of dream and death, a limitless soaring bliss or light. The Void. The divine darkness.

 

The Mysterium- magical power, a current of electricity or intoxication. It spins or spirals, either clockwise or counterclockwise. It can be dark or light. It can dissolve loops and knots and destroy nightmares. It can possess you, either in Onei or the waking world. It can destroy the world and break through to the other side. It can appear as rising floodwaters, tsunamis, tornadoes, waterspouts or in other symbolic and terrifying forms. The mysterium can destroy all structure, all order. When the true power of the mysterium is unleashed, it can annihilate anything and everything, revealing the Naught.

 

Night Wandering- oneiromancy, the art of mythic dreaming.

 

Onei- the dream realm. It sends its messages by chance, yet it can be courted in trance. If you want knowledge, seek out darkness and silence.

 

A Power- a significant entity in Onei, such as a god, saint, angel or demon.

 

The Prime- warriors of the Kind. A regiment in the Red Queen’s armies. The Prime has an initiation test consisting of strange riddles. If you answer perfectly, you pass. If your answers are almost correct, you fail. If your answers are completely incorrect, you have a second chance to pass by going on a quest.

 

Sana Delayo- another word for Onei.

 

The Secret Library- a library on the rim of the Valley of Shadow, containing books on any and every topic from multiple different realities. The keepers of the library were cruel men, torturers and slavers, but the slaves rebelled and killed them, then disposed of their bodies in a lake. Not all of the masters were killed in the battle, and the survivors later counterattacked. The fate of the Secret Library remains uncertain. Later glimpses suggest that at least some grim powers may still be present there.

 

The Valley of Shadow- an infinitely deep valley of total darkness into which the dead must walk, led by a faceless guide with the mannerisms of a carnival barker. Many are too terrified to step down into the darkness, so they wander along the rim of the valley, angry and confused. If you go down into the darkness you can break through to the other side. The Valley of Shadow is the womb of the Naught.

 

Dream Quest– A journey or quest that occurs within a dream or series of dreams, for the purpose of achieving some mythic task or acquiring gnosis.

 

Answer all riddles; complete all quests.

 

– from the Book of Onei, Part II: The Lore of Onei

 

Image by Wilfred Gabriel de Glehn

How Doubt Left the Empire

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Frederick Sandys (1829-1904), Harald Harfagr ~ Originally published in Once a Week, 1862

The Empire of the Adoration, also known as the Qalina, grew up out of the chaos left behind them by the Sons of the Crow. The Sons of the Crow destroyed the City of Wisdom and the City of the Gods, then disappeared into the Blue Desert for several years. They came out of the Blue Desert to destroy the City of the Sublime, where the worshipers of the Sublime had rebuilt their temples. They retreated for seven years into the Brokentooth Mountains, then came down again to burn several more cities.

 

The Flagbearer and his followers had stopped them, but the Flagbearer had been burned alive, because the priests of the Adoration did not trust his purity. Then the Temple of the Adoration became the ruler of the ruined lands, and imposed its teaching on every community. The Qalina was its High Priestess and its absolute ruler, and her followers believed in the legend of the Adoration: how it was he who brought the sun from the depths of outer space and installed it above the primal waters, how he pulled the ghosts of which people were made from out of the heart of a dying star in order to populate his new-made world, how he imprisoned the Chaos Worm beneath the same primeval ocean before calling up the islands and continents from beneath the waves, and how he saved his beloved people from being murdered by the vengeful stars, before imprisoning the stars in their cells in the firmament.

 

All believed, and no one questioned. But there was one who doubted, not the faith itself, but his own ability to live up to it. People called him the Doubtful, and they used to chase him through the streets and throw things at him. The priests would question him when he came to the temple, asking him why he doubted the faith. But he would deny that he doubted, saying only this:

 

Though he split the land from the water,

Though he put each star in its own true place

Though he spared us all from the slaughter

I fear his face.

 

“Fear and wisdom are closely connected,” said a kindly priestess, washing the offal from off of his face. “You have the makings of a priest.” But he shook his head, and the expression of fear on his face contained a tincture of a doubt, and so the priestess drove him out.

 

From the depths of his terrified heart, the Doubter bargained, holding his hands up to heaven in a pouring rain. He wanted to serve the Adoration, and he wanted to love him, but the possibility of the one seemed to render the other meaningless. No man can bargain with heaven, so his prayers were not answered. The priests of the Adoration demanded a goodness of which he knew he was not capable. This would not have hurt him, except that he knew his neighbors, and though all of them were pious, none of them were capable of true goodness either. This one was an adulterer and this other one a gossip, this one cheated at card games and still another was a drunk. And as for the Doubtful, he had killed a man, though it was a long time ago and in another city far away.

 

He knew his own crime was a heavy one, but the church demanded a facade of piety, and this was something of which he did not feel capable. And so he sank deeper into doubt and despair, wandering along the roads of the Qalina and sleeping wherever the night surprised him.

 

He awoke one morning on the side of the road, as the cold light of a white dawn drained the darkness from the sky. There was a black crow standing on top of him, perhaps considering if he was dead enough to make a meal.

 

“Don’t take my eyes,” he said. “I am not yet ready.”

 

The crow cawed once at him and flew away, but the Doubtful was disturbed by what he had seen in its eyes. For just a few seconds, before the crow flew away, weird images had flickered there like dim reflections: a blind old woman singing in a lifeless desert as vast as the world, a madman tracing the cracks in a human thighbone between the walls of a ruined city.

 

“What did I see?” he asked aloud, and he heard a laugh.

 

“You saw a bird,” said a man, “for there was nothing else to see.”

 

The man was walking along the roadway with a stick in his hand, and his eyes were bitter and mocking. “You are not a believer, I see,” the man said.

 

“I am not. But neither am I an unbeliever.” The Doubtful stood up, brushing the dust of the road off his clothes as well as he could.

 

“Allow me to guess,” said the man. “They cast you out, because you would not worship their ridiculous god.”

 

“I never found their god ridiculous,” said the Doubter. “I found him terrible beyond all hope. What god could be so ruthless as to demand goodness of men?”

 

The passerby laughed. “That is droll, I’ll admit. But this goodness they ask of you is as meaningless as their god. You need not cling to these shadows and dreams. Accept the reality of what is in front of you, and seek no other.”

 

“Yet I doubt that too. You ask me to trust my eyes and not their dreams. I know no cause for trusting either.”

 

“Then you are far more lost than I. One must know where to stop doubting.”

 

“I don’t think I believe that,” said the Doubter, and the other man shook his head and walked away.

 

“The trouble is not that you couldn’t see,” said another voice, “but that you couldn’t play with the things you saw. Don’t you have any dreams of your own?”

 

The Doubter looked in every direction, but all he saw was the crow, perching nearby on the branch of a silver birch tree.

 

“I must have dreams of my own,” he replied at last, “to be hearing you speak.”

 

Then the crow on the branch stepped out of his crow skin, and revealed himself as the magician called the Three Times Exiled. He grinned a grin from the branches of the tree, and the Doubter grinned back although he did not know why.

 

“Where are you from?” he asked. “For you are no mortal man.”

 

The magician bowed, and said these words:

 

I’ve lived here on the borders of the night,

Where dark divides from light.

I’ve walked the marches made of fire and snow.

 

“I am only a visitor from the Country of the King, where no one believes anything but everything is real. You may join me there if you like.” And then he sang this song:

 

There are palaces and temples

In the cities on the plain

Made of bone as smooth as marble

Where the windows run like rain.

 

There’s a grove of golden peaches,

There are apples, green and red,

There’s a hierophant who teaches

From the gospels of the dead.

 

There are kings and queens, created

To be gods before the Fall-

Though you wandered there for ages

You could never see it all.

 

And your anguished hope of heaven,

Once a parched and withered thing,

Will be branches red with berries

In the country of the king.

 

“Why should I believe that?” asked the Doubter.

 

“You should not.”

 

The Three Times Exiled jumped down from the branch, and the ground where he landed sprouted bells on stems, waving like flowers in a summer breeze. The sound of music filled the air

 

“Neither believers nor unbelievers will ever find it. I don’t ask you to trust what others see or claim to have seen. I don’t even ask you to trust what you see yourself. I ask you only to play.”

 

The Three Times Exiled waved his hand, and a light burst forth from the Doubter’s forehead and swept the world like a cloth washing paint away. The landscape around them became a world of wonder. But it was not exactly as the magician had described. Instead of a city made of bone there was a plain of windows, scattered here and there for hundreds of miles. Some of them were set into the ground and some rose up straight out of it; some of them floated in the sky and some moved from place to place. And every window looked out upon a different world, some of them fiery places and some of them snowy, some of them mountains and forests, others temples and palaces. The possibilities were so amazing that the Doubter merely gaped, and did not even notice that the magician had gone.

 

“This is different than what you sang of…” he began, but then he saw he was alone. For only a moment, he stood dismayed. Then he walked off into the World of Windows and was seen no more.

 

Image by Frederick Sandys

The Book

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Sidney Sime ~ It (1911)

When the sun and the moon still gave no warmth, and maneating giants still roamed the earth.

 

There is a book in Onei that contains all knowledge, including the knowledge of first things. If you are given access to the Book it can be a blessing or a curse.

 

I opened up the Book to find the place

That spoke of ancient things. My hands were cold,

My lips were purple. And the lamp was old –

 

It guttered angrily and cast off smoke

That stained my fingers black. I found the page

And what it said was this – “There was an age

 

In which the sun and moon, though dimly white,

Gave off no heat. Like lifeless rocks they hung

Above a world where primal darkness clung

 

And in that darkness, there were moving things

Like giant, hungry shadows. In the deep

That ancient chaos still remains asleep.”

 

– from the Book of Onei, Part II: The Lore of Onei

 

Image by Sidney Sime

 

Sorrow of the Gorge

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

1280px-Eugen_Bracht_-_Das_Gestade_der_Vergessenheit_(1889)

A shock of light above the gorge,

One moment of the sun.

The cliffs are like a closing mouth

Of frozen rock, and north and south

The frigid waters run.

 

I pause and glance ahead. The path

Is vertical and thin.

An ancient, rusted chain is here,

I wrap it round my hand in fear.

It bites into my skin.

 

The roots and boulders, tangled thick

As fingers intertwined,

Jut out as sharp as broken bones.

I cross a heap of ancient stones

And pour out half my wine.

 

“Come out and taste the wine,” I call,

“Come out and drink your fill.”

The wind comes roaring through the trees

And something in me dimly sees

The spirits of the hill.

 

I light an incense-stick and bow.

“I know it’s cold up here.

The world has changed, and we have come

To hate the things we started from,

The magic and the fear.

 

“The face of death is hid behind

This horror we have made.

But fools prefer what’s clear and bright.

They turn their backs on every sight

Of mingled light and shade.

 

“Still, there are things we owe the ghosts.

And some do not forget.”

A mournful bird came floating by.

The mountain ghosts did not reply.

They haven’t answered yet.

 

– from the Book of Onei, Part II: The Lore of Onei

 

Image by Eugen Bracht

The Three Relationships

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.

Evelyn de Morgan (1855-1919), The Kingdom of Heaven Suffereth Violence

Α (Ø, 1,2, …) Ƶ Β (Ø, 1,2, …)

 

Α Ƶ Β (Ø, 1,2, …)

 

A Ƶ Β

 

Any set of objects will have all possible individual relationships with another set of objects as well as set to individual relationships and a hierarchical relationship to relationship set.

 

I was at a New Year’s Eve celebration in 1992, featuring a symbolic battle between two huge dragon puppets on a stage in a public square. One dragon represented the old year and the other dragon the new year. My ears were burning with the cold, but the crowd was big and getting bigger. The air seemed to buzz with a dark energy, as the drummers played an aggressive beat and the dragon puppets danced around each other menacingly.

 

The performers didn’t know it, but some of the people in the crowd belonged to a street gang active in the hardcore punk scene. Not everyone liked them, naturally – and some of the other people in the crowd could be considered their enemies.

 

As the drumbeat continued, an announcer wearing a carnival mask came up front on stilts, and started trying to incite the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen, who will win the battle? The old year or the new year?”

 

The crowd roared in anticipation, feeding on the energy of the drums and the dancing dragons, the appeal to primal instincts. A ripple of energy seemed to pass through us from the stage, affecting the young men most of all. There was a shove here, a bump there.

 

The dragons fought, a choreographed display of ritual violence between the light and the darkness. The dragon of the new year won the battle and drove the old year from the stage, and the man in the mask called on us to cheer our victorious champion. Hundreds of voices yelled out together, and clusters of young men began to gather and face off with each other along the edges of the square.

 

As the crowd dispersed, fighting between the two groups of young punks and skinheads spread rapidly along a front stretching from the square to a nearby movie theater. A gang fight doesn’t look much like a Hollywood battle. There are no clearly-defined lines of fighters, only a constant turning and wheeling like a flock of birds.

 

Someone I knew got pulled down by several attackers, but he came up roaring and swinging punches from underneath them. Someone else pulled a screwdriver, and stabbed his opponent with it several times. (This was the only part of the whole incident that ever made it into the local newspaper, which presented it as a fight between two people when in reality there were about thirty.)

 

The police arrived from every direction, and most of the fighters scattered immediately. One of them decided to confront the cops instead, and walked toward them rapidly striking his chest and gesticulating. He got pepper-sprayed in the face, and the cops started hitting him as soon as he hit the ground.

 

I went to the same New Year’s Eve ritual for a number of years, and it always featured the same battle between dancing dragons, the same aggressive drumbeat. However, nothing remotely like that ever happened again. So why did it happen that time?

 

The performers had obviously studied the folklore of seasonal festivals, and were trying to create a similar magic. Although officially secular, it was in some sense a pagan event and intentionally so. On this one occasion, the magic created by the performance seems to have triggered an outbreak of violence, but on every other occasion it was just an innocent civic gathering.

 

According to the Three Relationships formula given at the start of this article, “Any set of objects will have all possible individual relationships with another set of objects as well as set to individual relationships and a hierarchical relationship to relationship set.”

 

This formula describes the different ways in which entities and sets of entities can relate to each other in information space. In this situation, there were two sets of people – the dragon dance performers and the crowd attending the event. Every year except one, the crowd consisted of a random mix of people – but this one time it included a number of rival gang members. If we examine what happened using the three relationships and the six bells, what we get is this:

 

1- Α (Ø, 1,2, …) Ƶ Β (Ø, 1,2, …) 

 

All the individual zed objects in set A interact with all the individual zed objects in set B. A performance is intended to affect the audience using a mix of techniques. In this case, the performers were using a physical performance of ritualized combat (the first bell) with carefully designed aesthetic elements (the fourth bell) to convey mythopoetic symbolism (the sixth bell). Every performer in the dragon dance was trying to create a certain atmosphere and emotional experience for every member of the audience.

 

2- Α Ƶ Β (Ø, 1,2, …)

 

Every individual zed object in set A interacts with set B as a whole. As an individual member of the crowd, I was emotionally affected by the ritual. I had a personal and subjective reaction to the ominous yet compelling energy created by the performance.

 

3- A Ƶ Β

 

Set A as a whole interacts with Set B as a whole. The third relationship is “hierarchical” in the sense that one object set gives some form of energy to the other object set. In this case, the performers gave an intentionally dark and aggressive energy to the crowd, without knowing that a number of people in the crowd were rival gang members. Every member of the crowd was affected by this energy, but in the case of the gang members it was like tossing a lit match into kindling soaked with lighter fluid. The result was a small riot.

 

The performers were basically playing with magic, and didn’t mean for things to turn out the way they did. When you’re designing a magic working, you always want to ask yourself what information set your magic will affect, and what type of energy you’re adding to that set.

 

Image by Evelyn de Morgan

A Journey to Onei (3)

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Andreas Achenbach, Norwegian Coast by Moonlight, 1848

“The Book of Onei is not The Book,” my father once said. I remember him still, walking beside me on that sunless beach – but was it before he had died, or after? “The Book of Onei is only a guide, a book of riddles that don’t always lead to any answers, a book of truths within lies. I have been to Onei many times, but I have never been to any of the cities or nations mentioned in the Book of Onei, nor have I seen their ruins, nor met their citizens. As far as I can tell they do not exist, and most likely they never existed – not even in Onei.”

 

“Then what is the Book of Onei?” I asked him. “Is it just a fraud?”
“The Book of Onei is both a key and a lock,” he said. His face was haunted, as if he always listened and always waited – perhaps for a footfall. “Those stories mean something, but I do not know what. The Book of Onei hints at something, but I am afraid to ask.”

 

“Perhaps all this darkness is just a means,” I said, and yet he would not hear me and would not answer.

 

“So what is The Book, then?” I asked him.

 

“It contains all knowledge, all knowledge on any topic. It contains the secrets of the Primal Darkness! It is the gift of the Veiled One, the most ancient of all the Powers in Onei.”

 

“Did she give it to you?”

 

“And why would she have done that? I snuck in to the library, the Great Library of Onei, and I stole what I wanted. I walked out with the Book of Onei in my coat pocket! What power would give me any aid or comfort?”

 

“Maybe that isn’t something she would even care about. We know nothing about her. Perhaps the Book of Onei means nothing to her. Perhaps she wanted you to have it. Perhaps if you had ever made use of it, she would have shown you The Book.”

 

Still he did not answer, would never answer. He only looked at the ocean, at the light that flickered across the dark waters, and recited a poem:

 

“I’m Prometheus,” he told me,

“I’m the traitor and the thief.

But his eyes were still defiant

Through his horror and his grief.

 

Then the eagle stuck its beak in

For the hundred millionth time,

And I watched in guilty wonder.

Was I worthy of his crime?

 

Have I used the gift he gave me?

Have I kept the embers warm?

Have I fed the god inside me

Striving daily to be born?”

 

And now here I stood, deep beyond the Borders of Onei, among the gorges and mountains. How far would I travel, how many mountains would I have to cross, until I discovered the secret? Was there even a secret to be uncovered, or only lies within lies?

 

I dug into my bag and found the Book of Onei, opened it up to a random page and read a poem about these mountains.

– notes found in the handwritten original of the Book of Onei

 

Image by Andreas Achenbach

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

When the Sons of the Crow Came Down on Onei

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Dark star a postcard by Vasily Alexandrovich Kotarbinski {c.1900}

When the Sons of the Crow came down on Onei, the terror of their first appearance was like the rising of a blood-red star. Their eyes were feral and vengeful and they were clothed in rags, black tatters like the wings of crows. Their fury lit first upon the City of Wisdom, which they destroyed completely in seven days. Men said that the Sons of the Crow were the fools of the wasteland, driven out from the City of Wisdom and returned now to take their vengeance, but none could say for certain. The Sons were like howling furies when they went into battle, and the wise could do nothing but die before them.

 

The Sons of the Crow were led by a prophet, a man who wore a long black crow’s mask to hide his face. The name of the prophet was Eyes Like Flowers, and the heads of huge sunflowers spilled out from the eye-holes in his black mask, so that none could tell how he could see.

 

There was a story about Eyes Like Flowers, but none could say if it was true or not. According to the story, the prophet was originally a common criminal, arrested for inciting a riot in the streets of the city. When the wise men of the city declared his death sentence, he only laughed strangely at them but would say nothing. They tied him to a stake and prepared the bonfire, and the man who would soon lead the Sons of the Crow began to sing. His voice was like the harsh screech of a cawing crow.

 

When my eyeballs bloom like flowers

And my hands go forth to war,

When the bell that tolls the hours

Cracks and falls and rings no more…

 

According to the legend, Eyes like Flowers became a prophet as he sang the song. Gigantic sunflower heads burst out through his eye sockets, and his eyeballs fell out just like little glass marbles. His hands burst into flame even though the city Headsman had not yet lit the match, and the bonds with which they had tied his wrists burned black and snapped off.

 

The clock on the great brass tower in the center of the city, a beautifully complicated mechanism of gears and dials, had just been ringing the hour of noon. As Eyes Like Flowers sang the words of his song, the bell in the clock-tower suddenly cracked, falling to the ground in an explosion of bricks and splintered wood.

 

Across the length of Onei, on the Blue-Green Ocean, a hot wind began to blow. The sun blazed like a malignant eye, and the drought began that destroyed the Pearl States. By the end of that decade, large sections of the Blue Green Ocean had been boiled away to desert, gleaming whitely like a plain of salt.

 

As Eyes Like Flowers sang his song, the Wise – who had been watching his intended execution from a nearby balcony – had their crimes laid bare before the people of Sophia, appearing as flickering images on the passing clouds. Qaran the Luminous, the great philosopher, was exposed as an embezzler of the city funds. Tendress the High Priestess was shown taking bribes from the wealthy to preach whatever they wanted her to preach. Setnel the Astronomer had stolen another man’s greatest discovery, then had his rival denounced as a fool and driven out into the wasteland.

 

It went on and on, and the people of the city were enraged by what they saw. The rioting that followed lasted for three days and four nights. Eyes Like Flowers disappeared, only to return at the head of his black-clad horde some ten years later. But all of this was only a legend, because no one outside the Sons of the Crow could say for certain, and the Sons of the Crow did not answer questions.

 

What is known is this. The prophet who was known as Eyes Like Flowers wore a crow mask with a long black beak, and long tattered robes that looked like crow’s wings. In the eye-openings of his mask, there were giant sunflowers. When the Sons of the Crow came out from the wasteland, he got up in front of them and sang this song:

 

And are we not of the sons of the crow,

Who worship a hidden creed?

Or those who seek but do not know,

And hear, but do not heed?

 

When they heard these words, his followers howled, and the frenzy of their bloodlust blotted out all other sounds. Man and woman, young and old, the Sons of the Crow held their spears on high, while their commanding officers held curved white scimitars. The Wise of Sophia sent out their army, but the army was massacred before the gates of the city. Those gates were barred, but the Sons of the Crow laid siege to the walls. The people of the back streets rose in rebellion, slaughtered the guards that held the gates, and threw them open to the Sons. They say the light from the flames could be seen in Qotar, but Qotar is more than two hundred miles away from what are now the ruins of the City of Wisdom.

 

That too is mere legend, but this is not: when the Sons of the Crow came down on Onei, the terror of their first appearance was like the rising of a blood-red star. From city to city and from land to land, the Sons of the Crow brought blood and fire. No one knew what they wanted and none could say what they believed, for their Prophet spoke only in riddles and poetry. To the High Priest of the Adoration in the Plain of Day, Eyes Like Flowers sang these words:

 

I climbed a staircase to the land of birds

And told them what I’d learned.

They didn’t care.

To birds, the world is made of clouds and air.

 

And then he inexplicably spared the Temple of Adoration from destruction by his horde, though the Temple of Wisdom was torn brick from brick and its priests impaled before the ruined walls.

 

Believing that the worship of Adoration must be favored somehow by the Sons of the Crow, thousands and thousands of people converted to that creed, and the whole land between what was once Sophia and what would someday be the Qalina became a stronghold of that faith. The Sons of the Crow did not always march, but disappeared into the deserts and the mountains for years at a time, reappearing to burn and kill. Yet when they did so, they showed no favor to any, burning the cities of the Adoring just as readily and as ruthlessly as any other.

 

When the fear of the Sons of the Crow had become too great to endure, and the fact that they favored no faith had become too obvious to ignore, a prophet arose from among the ranks of the Adoring. He was known as the Flagbearer, and he carried a flag before him into battle instead of any kind of weapon. All his followers did the same. The followers of the Flagbearer refused to fight, but only carried their flags ahead of them and stood before the Sons of the Crow. They died in their thousands, surrendering their own lives willingly as a shame and a rebuke. When the Flagbearer stood before Eyes Like Flowers, the mad prophet broke down and wept, singing these words as he fell to his knees:

 

We come to you with broken beaks

And wings like crippled birds.

It’s better not to even speak

Than lose the weight of words.

 

Then all of the Sons of the Crow dropped down to their knees, and their spears and their scimitars fell out of their hands. Their eyes were wet with sorrow and remorse, and the terror of their own damnation. But the Flagbearer replied with kindness:

 

On bended knee I sought the source

Of all that moves above,

And only when I knew remorse

Decided it was love.

 

The awful kindness of the Flagbearer shamed the Sons of the Crow so that they took their own lives, unable to live with the horror that they had made. And so the Flagbearer saved the lands that would become the Qalina, the Empire of the Adoration. Yet he was not to be honored, for the priests of the Adoration could never trust him. He had no blood on his hands, but the shame he inspired, the example of a thrilling and terrible love, had destroyed an entire army. And so they had him burned alive, and his followers scattered to the corners of the earth.

 

There were those who disapproved, but one old man who witnessed the execution nodded solemnly as the flames rose high. As he turned away from the pile of ashes, he was heard to say this:

 

He told me he could teach the art

The world was built upon.

And yet, within my secret heart,

I smiled when he was gone.

 

Image by Vasily Alexandrovich Kotarbinski

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

The Powers of the First Darkness

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Nightmare image Valere Bernard {1680}

Alone at night, I hear the doorknob turn,

The hinges creak- and standing in the light

Are cold and silent men. I stand in fright,

 

And one by one they float in through the door.

Their suits are charcoal gray, their ties are thin.

On every mouth, a Mona Lisa grin.

 

Their eyes could just as well be balls of glass,

Their faces stuffed and mounted. Waves of dread

Pass over me and through me. Like the dead

 

There’s nothing there at all- an absent space

Just papered over by a face as clean

And free of comment as a pure machine.

 

“We’ve found him,” says the first one

And I turn, to try to get away. The power comes

And lifts me off my feet, completely numb

 

From crown to sole. Cold, drunken currents flow

And hold me in a field of fearful awe.

They know the truth. I disobeyed the Law

 

And now the consequence has found me out.

“You should have kept your mouth shut,” says a voice,

“Or joined the Legion while you had the choice,

 

“But chronicling our secrets…” As I scream,

Their faces start to glow. They circle in

Like feeding sharks. But, though I may have sinned

 

I still remain defiant. Down below,

In Death’s primeval waters, there is lore

Of hidden things that none have known before,

 

And I can steal it if I slip the trap.

The horror closes in. My fingers make

A sign of power, and I bolt awake.

 

My wife’s asleep beside me in our bed.

The kitchen light is flickering. Outside,

The city sleeps. And I am still alive.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

Image by Valere Bernard

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

The Three Types of Dreamer

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

the-old-mill-by-moonlight-1885.jpg!PinterestLargealbertpinkhamryder

Lightseers- night wanderers who most easily or frequently contact celestial and benevolent entities.

 

Earthseers- dreamers who dream true things, but of Earth and not of Onei.

 

Darkseers- night wanderers who most easily or frequently contact cthonic and horrifying entities.

 

It’s not that the blue-green mountains don’t appeal.

I can feel their majesty,

Their sense of distance.

It’s just that there’s also something else-

For instance,

The something wicked that this way comes

In the witching hour,

The drunken trembling of branch and stem

And the formless Power.

And if I should sometimes prefer

To attach myself

To some beautiful chaos-

I can pay what it costs.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

Image by Albert Pinkham Ryder

Notes on Relationships

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.

William_Blake_003

David Douglas Thompson, the creator of Relationship Theory, passed away suddenly in 2006. Most of his ideas about Relationship Theory and information physics are now lost forever, because he died without ever completely explaining them. Until 2014, the only remnant of his theory was a single sheet of notebook paper with the Ten Laws written on it, and variations developed by people he had discussed the theory with. (He always encouraged others to develop their own variations on the concept, while hinting that his original idea was somewhat different.)

 

Against all expectation, a long-forgotten notebook came to light in 2014, containing extensive if obscure notes on Relationship Theory as its creator David Douglas Thompson conceived it in 1984. This document was titled “Notes on Relationships” and had the subtitle “Omnology,” meaning “a science of everything.”

 

The original notes were not written in any logical order, and one note often refers back to an idea expressed several pages earlier rather than to the note immediately preceding it. I have rearranged the notes into a rough structure, and added explanatory text and illustrative examples. I have not included notes that involved random speculation on scientific or paranormal topics rather than Relationship Theory as such. The original text is in italics.

 

Proposition: We (humans) know only the various relationships an object has with ourselves and the rest of the universe as seen from our point of view. We cannot know the thing in and of itself, only observe its interactions with other objects.

 

The symbol Ƶ shall mean an interaction(s) between two or more objects.

 

Commentary: Relationship theory is an omnology, a method for understanding anything that exists. In relationship theory, any relationship of any kind is referred to as a “zed” (Ƶ).

 

A zed object or “object” for short, expressed as A, B, C, etc, is an ontological entity of any kind, capable of being in relationship with other such entities. An information unit. A zed object could be a living thing, inorganic matter, a concept, an energy, a meme or anything else. A zed object can also be a set of other zed objects, just as a human being is made up of many cells. Relationship Theory treats all zed objects the same way and assumes them to operate in the same relationship patterns according to the same underlying principles.

 

Kant says that the only thing we can know is the phenomenon, the thing as mediated by our senses, brain structure and so on. Relationship theory agrees that we cannot know the noumenon or “thing in itself,” but asserts that we can know the observed relationship or “zed” between two noumena. These relationships follow patterns we can analyze, understand and predict.

 

“Interactions are the reality, form is the illusion.” To understand an object, you need to understand the underlying relationship patterns, not the superficial external form. Relationship theory is concerned with how relationships change, under what circumstances and in what patterns. A change in relationship is referred to as “delta zed” (ΔƵ) or “dynamic zed.”

 

Ƶ + Δ Ɛ = Ƶ¹

 

i.e. if there is any change of energy in a system the relationships will change.

 

Commentary: This formula can be read as “A relationship plus a change in energy equals a new relationship.” Epsilon (Ɛ) represents energy, specifically “information energy,” which includes all physical forms of energy but also all conceptual analogues of physical energy. For instance, if you give someone a crucial piece of information about some situation, you have introduced new information energy into that situation. If you come into a room full of gloomy people and break the tension with a joke, you have introduced new information energy into that situation. Whenever you do anything that adds new energy to a situation you change all the relevant relationships, whether that means hitting a log with an ax to chop some firewood or constructing an amulet to protect a friend from negative spiritual forces. In the terminology of Relationship Theory, information energy that changes a relationship is known as “delta epsilon” or “change energy.”

 

Ϲ ≠ Ε, Ϲ Ƶ Ε

 

Cause does not lead effect, but the conjunction of a cause and an effect imply a relationship.

 

Commentary: the use of the words “cause and effect” is a bit misleading here, because the statement effectively denies causality as that is generally understood. It might be better phrased as “Cause does not produce effect, but the conjunction of two events implies a relationship.” Unfortunately, the statement is not fully explained or justified in the notes.

 

Cause and effect imply delta Ƶ which implies that all cause and effect situations require 3 or more participants.

 

Ε (event) = Δ ε total

 

Which implies the introduction of a “third party” to the system. 

 

Two objects can form (excepting entropy) a static relationship only. (Ƶ) Delta Ƶ implies a third object or party “in motion” (Δ Ƶ), which of course implies a 4th object to relate to the 3rd to set it in motion and so on and so on ad infinitum. 

 

Commentary: Ε (event) = Δ ε total means “any event is a total energy change.” A changing relationship between two objects implies a third object in motion. Two zed objects in relationship cannot change on their own, they can only change with the introduction of new energy to the set by a third object, which implies an infinite regress. For example, the relationship between the billiard ball and the billiard table cannot change without the introduction of new energy by the pool cue. The relationship between the pool cue and the billiard ball cannot change without the introduction of new energy by the billiard player. This implies that all cause and effect situations require three or more participants.

 

Potential energy = matter 

 

Kinetic energy = Ƶ

 

Therefore Δ Κ = Δ Ƶ

 

Kinetic energy in a static system = entropy?

 

Commentary: This formula can be read as “Kinetic energy equals relationship, therefore a change in the kinetic energy equals a change in the relationship.” A zed object (such as matter) is equivalent to potential energy; relationship is equivalent to kinetic energy. Because kinetic energy equals relationship, a change in the kinetic energy equals a change in the relationship.

 

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.

 

Commentary: A vector is any quantity with both direction and magnitude, and a vector sum is what you get when you add up vectors. So how can a non-physical relationship have a vector?

 

If “information space” is analogous to physical space, then an “object” in information space can have both direction and magnitude. For example, when the Buddha rejected the Brahmanic concept of the atman or eternal Self in favor of anatman or “non-self,” all of the relationships in that information set had to change accordingly, and a new religion was born.

 

The concepts and beliefs that constitute Buddhism were moving away from Brahmanism (a direction) to a greater or lesser extent depending on the Buddhist sect in question (a magnitude). So if Buddhism, as a metaphysical object, is “defined by the vector sum of all its relationships” what this means is that Buddhism is definable by the sum of its differences with other belief systems, in terms of which ideas move in different directions and to what extent. According to Relationship Theory, all relationships work this way and all zed objects can be defined this way.

 

A Ƶ can be seen as an exchange of information. 

 

Ex: Energy cannot be released unless there is someplace for it to go. The receiver “learns” that the sender has energy and is changed by it, however minutely. The sender “learns” that the receiver has energy and will spend itself until a balance (static Ƶ) exists.

 

Every Ƶ is a mutation of all parties concerned.

 

Commentary: For example, the teacher learns that the student lacks knowledge, or the lover learns that the beloved lacks love. When the student knows what the teacher knows, a state of balance is attained. When the lover and the beloved are in love with each other, a state of balance is attained.

 

Every zed is a mutation of all parties concerned. The teacher transfers knowledge to the student and both are transformed; the lover kisses the beloved and both are transformed. Relationship is an exchange of information and energy that transforms both parties.

 

Α (Ø, 1,2, …) Ƶ Β (Ø, 1,2, …)

 

Α Ƶ Β (Ø, 1,2, …)

 

A Ƶ Β

 

Any set of objects will have all possible individual Ƶs with another set of objects as well as set to individual Ƶs and a hierarchical Ƶ to Ƶ set.

 

Commentary: Any set of zed objects will have three types of relationship with any other set it interacts with:

 

1- “The set of all objects that make up A exists in relationship with the set of all objects that make up B.” (All possible individual zeds.)

 

2- “Object A exists in relationship with the set of all objects that make up B.” (Set-to-individual zeds.)

 

3- “Object A exists in relationship with Object B.” (A hierarchical set-to-set zed.)

 

The third relationship is “hierarchical” in the sense that one object set gives some form of energy to the other object set.

 

Since the vector sum of an object’s Ƶs defines it, the sum of sums defines a set (i.e. molecules →  matter: cells → human body). 

 

Ƶ1 Ƶ A is possible.

 

Commentary: “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.” In effect, this means that a relationship can function as a zed object and form relationships with other zed objects.

 

An “Experience” perceived, is a dynamic Ƶ (Δ Ƶ).  

 

Δ Ƶ = Δ X / Δ Y

 

An “absolute” reference point cannot be defined therefore all references are relative and all measurements are relative. Sensory perception is a form of measurement. But what are we measuring? What is our reference no matter how arbitrary? Our eyes have millions of rods and cones sensitive to light. What does that mean? 

 

All dynamic Ƶs = Δ X / Δ Y

 

In other words, “information” about a Ƶ can only be had by noting a change in something per a change in something else. To us, 99% of the time, that second something is either time or space. Our eyes respond to the periodic changes in amplitude defined by a light wave (or quanta). The reference used to compare is the light energy of just a millibleep before. We are co-relating a rate of change to a rate of change to a rate of change. Inertia creates a time lag in the “resonation” so that in effect our eyes have memorized the last level of energy.   

 

Δ Ƶ = Δ X / Δ Y describes a slope, i.e. acceleration.

 

Since any Ƶ is a mutation of all concerned parties and information is exchanged (a form of Δ X / Δ Y) a truly static Ƶ is impossible because if no information is available an “object” cannot exist.

 

Commentary: “A relationship change equals a change in something per a change in something else.”

 

Example:

 

“It’s getting dark” = a change in light relative to the amount of light available a moment ago. Therefore, an “experience” perceived is simply a dynamic zed.

 

I = Δ Ƶ 

 

Ƶ = Δ (Δ X / Δ Y) / Δ Ƶ 

 

?

 

Information = a rate of change of a rate of change of a rate of change.?

 

Commentary: all information is some form of delta zed. The question marks seem to indicate uncertainty about the specific formulae used to express this concept.

 

If all info is described as angular velocity then all “objects” may be viewed as a series of vector quantity pairs (90 degrees apart or perpendicular) relative to the other “hypothetical” objects. 

 

Ƶ = √ (Ƶ1² + Ƶ2² + Ƶ3²… Ƶ ∞²)

 

The Serendipity Factor = X Ƶ the usually insignificant X Ƶs with the rest of the universe. However, if the vector sum comes out mostly one sign or the other… watch out! Strange things may happen.

 

Commentary: the specific formula should not be taken too literally in this case. The idea here is that any existing relationship, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is the product of all relationships in the entire universe and therefore a reflection of vast underlying relationship patterns. Incidents of serendipity reflect the presence of such a pattern.

 

A quarter wave implies all the info of a full wave. 

 

The precise alignment and position of any wave slope must be determined by the universe as a whole since there are no “insignificant” factors. Therefore any given ¼ wave implies the whole universe and all information could be extrapolated from that one slope.

 

Commentary: ΔƵ = ΔX/ΔY describes a slope, i.e. an acceleration in information speed. If you think of the slope as being a portion of wave, then you can predict the rest of the wave pattern by measuring the slope. “A quarter wave contains all the information of a full wave” implies that all the information in the universe could be extrapolated from any given delta zed.

 

“Notes on Relationships” is a short document, and was never intended as a complete or systematic statement. Relationship Theory was only preserved in fragments. Some aspects of it were never completely explained and others were never developed as originally intended. Although my father often spoke of using physics calculations to model the interactions between information-units, he never developed this “information physics” into a working system. Rather than attempting to complete this work – which I am not qualified to do – I have decided to simply present the fragments and invite any interested reader to develop the concepts further.

 

From this point on, I’ll be branching out in various directions and using Relationship Theory only as a starting point. The metaphysics of Relationship Theory has some intriguing implications for the philosophy of religion – implications that tend toward polytheism and occult philosophy.

 

Image by William Blake

Offering Prayer

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

396px-Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_028

Burn the appropriate candle and recite this prayer when you leave an offering to the powers:

 

This hungry pit shall open wide

And gorge on meat and wine.

These flames will burn as night-clouds turn

To watch this work of mine.

 

This shaft will gape so none escapes

Its toothless maw tonight.

While blue-white stars look down in awe

To see the flames so bright.

 

Oh gods of endless space and sky,

Oh gods of underneath,

Oh gods who live and gods who die

And gods who wait beneath,

 

Accept these morsels from my hand,

Drink deep, and eat your fill.

I seek no benefits tonight

Unless you share my will.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

Image by Henry Fuseli

The Six Axioms

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.

Dugald Stewart Walker, illustration for Rainbow gold poems old and new selected for boys and girls, 1922

The Ten Laws were accompanied by six axioms, which re-state the same ideas in a different form:

 

1- Perception requires contrast.

 

2- Contrast occurs through interaction.

 

3- Interaction necessitates change.

 

4- Change is bound by balance.

 

5- All paths are eventually cyclical.

 

6- Equivalent explanations must be considered simultaneously and equally valid or equivalent.

 

In Relationship Theory, explanations or models are considered equivalent if they make the same predictions. For example, science predicts that the sun will set in the evening and rise at dawn because of a particular set of physical facts about the universe. Greek mythology predicts the same thing, but uses the story of Helios driving his sun-chariot across the heavens.

 

Any number of other mythologies have their own sun-deities, but they all predict that the sun will set in the evening and rise in the morning. As all of these worldviews make the same predictions, Relationship Theory treats them all as being simultaneously true and equivalent.

 

Image by Dugald Walker

To the Keeper of the Gate

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

unicorn-1885.jpg!PinterestLargeBocklin

A prayer with offerings to gain entrance to the Borderlands:

 

Phantoms of the forest gather

In the shadows of the trees.

Hidden voices whisper, whisper.

I have come for all of these.

 

Praises to the guardian spirit,

Keeper of the in-between.

There are ways that I must wander,

And you know what ways I mean.

 

Here beneath the bone-white birches

And the blue-green spruce and pine

I have brought you bowls of chicken,

Goblets filled with rich red wine.

 

Spirit of the borders, hear me.

Throw the doors of twilight wide.

Tell the skulls that guard the pillars,

Grant me leave to pass inside.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

Image by Arnold Böcklin

The Ten Laws

Dutch School, Allegory of Fortune, circa 1600

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.

Form is the Illusion: A Magical Philosophy (5)

My father often discussed his Relationship Theory at great length, but never fully explained the underlying concepts. Even the most basic ideas of the theory, such as “ringing the changes,” were never clarified and had to be interpreted based on context. (As far as I can discover, he never told anyone that he had borrowed this phrase from the bell-ringing tradition even though that fact is essential to understanding the metaphor he was using.)

 

The only written explanation he ever left of his theory was a set of somewhat whimsical aphorisms he called the “ten laws” and several pages of obscure notes. The Ten Laws on their own are mere assertions with no supporting arguments, but they make a lot more sense when compared with his notes. The Ten Laws are as follows:

 

1- Interactions are the reality; form is the illusion.

 

2- The simpler the concept, the more complex its ramifications.

 

3- The seeds of the solution are buried in the question.

 

4- Always ring the changes.

 

5- Never ignore serendipity.

 

6- Ignore all laws at least once a week on general principles.

 

7- Negative feedback is a positive idea.

 

8- Dynamic tension is required for control.

 

9- All forces are infinite.

 

10- The strongest chains have the subtlest links.

 

(In one version of this list, there was an eleventh law- perception is the ultimate base unit of reality. Note that perception does not mean opinion. This is a re-statement of the idea that interactions between information-units are the only reality. In Relationship Theory, anything you interact with is real by definition, so perception is effectively the base unit of reality.)

 

He believed that these ideas could be used to work your way through virtually any problem in life, from a broken car to a thorny philosophical question. Reality, in his view, was not an absolute thing but a constantly shifting network of relationships and perspectives in an infinitely complex pattern of interactions. The key to understanding this chaos was not to seek a better perspective on it – as he always used to say, “there is no superior rock on which to stand” – but to learn how to shift fluidly and effortlessly from one perspective to another, “ringing the changes” to get a gestaltic impression of the situation – or of the entire universe. The ten laws were his guidelines on how to do so.

 

Interactions are the reality; form is the illusion.

 

As we have already discussed, Relationship Theory defines reality as a set of relationships between information units, and does not distinguish between different forms of information – for instance, by trying to prove whether a haunted house “really” has a ghost in it or not. If your relationship with the house is haunted, that is the only relevant point. Thus, the perception that a particular grove or cave or spring is numinous would be enough reason to establish a relationship with the numen of that place.

 

The simpler the concept, the more complex its ramifications.

 

In his conversations about Relationship Theory, my father often talked about modeling the relationships between concepts or worldviews as mathematical interactions between infinite number sets. Why? Because any single thing in the universe implies the whole universe.

 

If you could see all the implications and connections, you could know everything there is to know about anything by examining a single pebble. You could do the same thing by examining a single idea.

 

The simplest and most profound descriptions of the universe are so simple and profound precisely because they succeed in implying the entire universe. Given nothing but such a statement, you would have a tool for understanding anything you could ever run into.

 

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” is a simple concept with infinitely complex ramifications. “The tao that can be spoken of is not the Tao” is a simple concept with infinitely complex ramifications. So is any other attempt to say something definitive about the world, its meaning if it has one, and our place in it.

 

Relationship Theory says that you can do this effectively no matter what the statement is. You can formulate a complete description of your reality – an infinite set of units of information – by teasing out all the implications of a single “zed” or relationship.

 

Every thing implies everything.

 

If this is true, it isn’t even necessary to start with anything particularly profound. You could understand all of reality by completely understanding how a car works or what a single line in a poem means or how ice cream tastes. Of course, we don’t actually have the ability to see all the implications of any single thing, so we don’t succeed in completely understanding the universe.

 

However, we can take any zed we want to as a starting point to examine our reality or some particular question we have about it. In Relationship Theory, this sort of starting point is called a “zed naught”. Beginning with whatever zed naught we want to play with, we look at it from every angle we can possibly think of, even when the different angles directly contradict each other. We play with its implications and relationships to get a bigger and broader picture of whatever it is we want to examine. We ring the changes on all these different perspectives and let zed naught expand into the infinite.

 

The seeds of the solution are buried in the question.

 

Interactions have patterns, and patterns can be predicted, assuming that you have enough of a sample to see what the pattern is. Any question that clearly describes a problem should contain the same relationships within it as the problem itself. Therefore, the problem can be solved by deeply examining the question, as in Tarot and other sophisticated forms of divination.

 

Always ring the changes.

 

In practical terms, Relationship Theory works by asking a question and then examining the implications of the question by looking at it from different perspectives. The question or the statement you want to examine is zed naught. The set of zeds implied by your zed naught is your answer. Rather than choosing one of these worldviews and arbitrarily adopting it, the theory encourages you to shift fluidly between all relevant worldviews.

 

Never ignore serendipity.

 

The word “serendipity” is sometimes misused as a near-synonym for “coincidence,” but it actually refers to one’s own ability or “sagacity” in spotting coincidental connections in a fortunate way, allowing one to obtain valid information from a seemingly accidental conjunction of events. This is the first known use of the term, by Horace Walpole in 1754:

 

“It was once when I read a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip, as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a camel blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right- now do you understand serendipity? One of the most remarkable instances of this accidental sagacity (for you must observe that no discovery of a thing you are looking for, comes under this description) was of my Lord Shaftsbury, who happening to dine at Lord Chancellor Clarendon’s, found out the marriage of the Duke of York and Mrs. Hyde, by the respect with which her mother treated her at table.”

 

Serendipity was defined as “the art of making an unsought finding” by Pek Van Andel, and as “the faculty of finding things we did not know we were looking for” by Glauco Ortolano. A great many scientific and technological discoveries occurred serendipitously.

 

The emphasis on this particular talent in Relationship Theory is based on the notion of underlying and complex relationship patterns. When a potentially useful piece of information is stumbled across while looking for something else entirely, Relationship Theory teaches us to habitually consider this significant, as if taking an omen.

 

Ignore all laws at least once a week on general principles.

 

No formalized system of thought or logic can ever really capture the complexity of our reality. No matter what system you use – including this one – you should periodically abandon it and look at the world from outside your system’s basic assumptions.

 

Negative feedback is a positive idea.

 

Systematically challenge your own preferred viewpoint or bias by embracing contradictory perspectives. Even if you’re looking at a problem from a particular angle, at least some of your time should be spent in looking at the same problem from a completely different angle.

 

Dynamic tension is required for control.

 

One of the basic concepts of Relationship Theory is that all forms of information behave according to similar laws. Just as energy can neither be created nor destroyed, information can neither be created nor destroyed. It can be changed into an infinite number of different forms with no net change to the universe as a whole. In Relationship Theory, this is referred to as “conservation of information,” or the “balance of perception.”

 

Imagine three parties denominated as A, B and C. The set of all three parties could be expressed as P (A, B, C). If we take the point of view of A and declare it to be the observer, then the set could be described as P (A, Not A). Or if B is the observer, then P (B, Not B). P (C, Not C) is equally possible, but in each case the set of P remains the same – although the observer shifts, and thus the point of view, the set does not change.

 

Now, if C is the observer and C observes A losing a portion of its information-value (denominated by a lower-case ‘a’) to B, then the result of this interaction would be a set described by this equation: P (A – a, B + a, C). While A has lost in value, B has gained, so there is no net change in the set as a whole. A change in one direction was balanced out by a change in the opposite direction, so from the point of view of the set, there was no net change.

 

Opposing views, perspectives and experiences exist in a constant state of dynamic tension, and even though they change in relationship to each other the set of which they are a part does not. (Note that just because there is no net change in the system as a whole does not mean that there is no local change in particular information patterns.)

 

The “balance of perception” tells us that all equally functional descriptions of a system must be considered equivalently valid. The universe as a whole doesn’t change at all no matter what perspective you take, so if my perspective A describes whatever is experienced as well as your perspective B and our friend’s perspective C then all three explanations must be considered true in some sense.

 

All forces are infinite.

 

This law is an analogy drawn from physics – if any physical force was unconstrained by another force, its effects would be infinitely powerful, and the same thing can be said of informational forces. An idea that was not balanced out by any opposing idea would be the sole existing model of reality.

 

The fact that no one idea or viewpoint is the sole existing model of reality implies that all such “informational forces” are counteracted and limited in their effects by opposing informational forces, resulting in a balanced universe of opposing perspectives. (Note that this could be taken to imply a polytheistic universe – if you think of a deity as an informational force, this concept implies that there are many deities exerting a limiting and balancing effect on each other.)

 

Because these opposing perspectives interact in patterns that can be understood and predicted, the archetypal relationship patterns found in relatively small pieces of information can be used to generalize out to much broader pieces of information.

 

The strongest chains have the subtlest links.

 

Because Relationship Theory deals with patterns of interaction that can become infinitely broad and complex, the underlying structure or architecture of the whole network will appear so subtle as to be invisible, yet will determine everything within that web.

 

Relationship Theory refers to this concept as “information physics.” Information physics simply expands on a common figure of speech – our language uses physical space as a metaphor for relationships. When two lovers have become very intimate they describe themselves as ‘one,’ but a cold and formal lover is described as ‘distant.’ A person in a state of mental abstraction is said to be ‘somewhere else’ or ‘miles away.’

 

Applying this analogy to the study of information, we find that certain pieces of information are in close relationship to other pieces – there is little information distance between them, as we would have it. By expanding on this basic concept, we can develop a method for studying the interactions between ideas – and for creating magical workings.

 

The number of elements in a relationship set is its “information mass.” When some of the elements in a relationship set change, the number of changed elements is the “information energy.” Every time such a change occurs, we have one unit of “information time.” When two relationship sets contain few or no elements in common, they are considered to be far away from each other in “information space.” When they have a number of elements in common, they are considered to be close to each other in “information space.”

 

By applying the analogy of information space, all interactions between zed objects can be studied and even predicted using physics calculations. David Douglas Thompson believed that information physics could potentially be developed into something rather similar to Isaac Asimov’s fictional psychohistory, as described in his Foundation series. Psychohistory is the imaginary science of predicting the future behavior of large masses of human beings on a probabilistic and statistical basis, thus allowing for the prediction or even manipulation of future history.

 

No such predictive system could achieve better than probabilistic and in all likelihood very broad and sweeping results, but the potential application of information physics to such a project is interesting. For example, one could compare the official doctrinal statements of the Catholic Church at fifty or one-hundred year intervals throughout its history, calculate the rate of information change, and use that to make predictions about the Church’s future developments. While it is true that some eras show much more rapid doctrinal changes than others, such spikes in information energy would average out over centuries and millennia, allowing for some degree of predictability.

 

(Next: The Six Axioms)

Image by the Dutch School of the 17th Century

Ringing the Changes

Evelyn de Morgan (1855-1919), The Storm Spirits, 1900

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.

Form is the Illusion: A Magical Philosophy (4)

“Always ring the changes.” (The Ten Laws; David Douglas Thompson)

 

“There is no superior rock on which to stand.” (David Douglas Thompson)

 

Epistemology is the study of knowledge – it asks how we know what we think we know. It isn’t possible to claim any form of knowledge unless you can say what you consider to be real in the first place – but if “interactions are the reality; form is the illusion,” then all claims of knowledge come down to simple assertions that a particular interaction has been experienced.

 

This doesn’t mean you simply create your own reality – it isn’t that easy to change your relationships at will! Still, the subjective and interactive nature of knowledge implies that truth must be polyvalent, impossible to reduce to any binary, not something you can pin down. Is critical thinking even possible under these circumstances?

 

Yes, it is – but it does take some flexibility. The epistemology of Relationship Theory is not as permissive as it looks. If reality is defined solely by interactions, it must be defined by all of them. You can’t pick and choose which interactions to include in your reality. You might talk yourself into thinking that your positive thoughts will shape the universe, but when the first of the month comes around rent must still be paid.

 

A great many descriptions of reality are inadequate, incapable of accounting for all the things we actually experience. Such descriptions of reality may contain partial truths, but are not valid to an equal extent with more functional worldviews.

 

The first step in Relationship Theory’s approach to critical thinking is to sift out whatever doesn’t work, leaving only those worldviews that seem to account equally well for all our experiences. Most people would prefer to select one of the remaining worldviews on some arbitrary basis, a philosophical or religious dogma. Any such selection, however, would not be provable, as two worldviews that work equally well cannot be distinguished from each other on any absolute basis.

 

The other option is agnosticism – refusing to choose between the options without more evidence. When you refuse to take a position, you can’t do anything at all, so this approach tends to make any topic it is applied to irrelevant.

 

The scientific method is to maintain agnosticism on any topic while you gather more information, but to provisionally accept whatever explanation is best supported by the available evidence. That method works perfectly well for most practical questions, but not for questions of metaphysics for which there can be no definitive evidence.

 

That’s why scientists choose not to address questions for which there can be no evidence, rightly declaring them to be “not scientific.” A number of prominent scientists have used this to argue that metaphysics is useless, because no one can test a metaphysical statement to find out whether it is true or not. Relationship Theory is a way around this problem, a way to think about the things we can’t use science to think about.

 

Instead of choosing or refusing to choose between equally possible but contradictory viewpoints, Relationship Theory suggests a different approach: “ring the changes” on them instead.

 

Since the 17th century, bell-ringers at English churches have had a tradition of playing the large church bells in sequence, alternating the bells according to mathematical patterns with names like “Plain Bob” and “Queens”. Teams of expert bell ringers can perform long sequences of these patterns or “changes” from memory, eventually cycling back to wherever they began without ever repeating a single sequence along the way.

 

Because of the constantly changing sequences of notes, the concept of ringing the changes has long been used as an analogy for other types of change. “Ringing the changes” can refer to turning the tables on a bully or an enemy. It can refer to doing something differently in your daily routine to defeat boredom.

 

It can also refer to playing with different ideas or perspectives rather than committing to just one viewpoint, a type of polyvalent or “multiple truth” approach to life and thought. Polyvalent thinking is usually seen as a postmodern attitude, a reaction to life in a multicultural world in which there are no longer any universally-held assumptions about almost any aspect of reality.

 

However, polyvalent thinking is actually much older than that, and bell-ringing has been used as an analogy for polyvalence since at least 1614. In the words of religious writer Thomas Ashe in his work The Divill’s Banket, “some ring the changes of opinions.”

 

To ring the changes in this sense means to broaden your view, to see the world or the specific problem you’re considering from more than one perspective – in fact, from as many perspectives as possible. Just as a bell ringer can ring the changes with four bells or six bells or eight, you can ring the changes of ideas and worldviews.

 

A complete bell-ringing change always begins and ends with the same sequence of bells. For instance, the smallest bell with the highest note followed by a second slightly larger bell with a lower note, a third and still larger bell with an even lower note and finally the largest bell with the lowest note. This sequence would be described as 1234, and any change beginning with 1234 would always end with the same sequence when ringing a “full peal” of bell changes. This particular sequence on four bells is known as Plain Bob, and the complete pattern looks like this:

 

1234, 2143, 2413, 4231, 4321, 3412, 3142, 1324, 1342, 3124, 3214, 2341, 2431, 4213, 4123, 1432, 1423, 4132, 4312, 3421, 3241, 2314, 2134, 1243, 1234.

 

To ring the changes on a set of ideas means a lot more than to just consider them. You should actually convince yourself of each one in turn, thinking as seriously as you can about all the implications of each perspective. For example:

 

1- If the universe is made entirely of matter, then the mind is just something generated by the brain – an epiphenomenon of the brain, as scientists and philosophers would say. Your thoughts and your feelings are just chemicals and electrical impulses; your sense of self is merely an organizing principle that helps your brain run the show. What implications does this have for life and death? For spirituality and religion?

 

2- If the universe is made entirely of mind, then everything that seems like solid matter is really just a mental phenomenon. But whose mind is doing the imagining here? Is it your own mind? An infinite number of separate minds? A universal consciousness? If it’s all your own mind, why can’t you control reality just by thinking about it – or is it possible that you actually do, and it’s your own mind you can’t control? If “you” can’t control your own mind, then what is this “you” if it’s not your mind?

 

3- What if both things are true at the same time, so that the brain appears to generate the mental world if you look at the brain first but the mind seems to generate the physical world if you look at the mind first? Or what if mind and matter are two distinct yet equally real things? If that’s the case, then how can mind and matter have any effect on each other? If mind and matter are both real yet separate, can the mind continue when the body dies?

 

4- What if mind and matter are both illusions, and the true nature of the universe is something else entirely? Buddhism declares that all things are void of any essential nature or existence. What does it mean to say that the phenomena we encounter on a daily basis are void of any essential nature? If they aren’t “really” mind or matter or any other thing, then what are they and what are you?

 

There are also patterns for six bells and eight bells. There is no need to use these specific patterns when applying the concept to ideas and worldviews, although it can be an interesting exercise to think of the bell-ringing changes as templates for a polyvalent logic system. For example:

 

If p, then q.

 

1- P, therefore q.

 

2- Not p, therefore not q.

 

3- Usually p, therefore usually q.

 

4- Usually not p, therefore usually not q.

 

5- Sometimes p, therefore sometimes q.

 

6- Sometimes not p, therefore sometimes not q.

 

7- Occasionally p, therefore occasionally q.

 

8- Occasionally not p, therefore occasionally not q.

 

This pattern can be applied to any question assertion you can think of. For example:

 

“If empiricism is the only valid epistemology, then magical thinking is a fallacy.”

1- Empiricism is the only valid epistemology, so magical thinking is a fallacy.

 

2- Empiricism is not the only valid epistemology, so magical thinking is not a fallacy.

 

3- Empiricism is usually the only valid epistemology, so magical thinking is usually a fallacy.

 

4- Empiricism is usually not the only valid epistemology, so magical thinking is usually not a fallacy.

 

5- Empiricism is sometimes the only valid epistemology, so magical thinking is sometimes a fallacy.

 

6- Empiricism is sometimes not the only valid epistemology, so magical thinking is sometimes not a fallacy.

 

7- Empiricism is occasionally the only valid epistemology, so magical thinking is occasionally a fallacy.

 

8- Empiricism is occasionally not the only valid epistemology, so magical thinking is occasionally not a fallacy.

 

When you’re ringing the changes, you should try not to move on to the next change until you have really experienced the current one. Even if you’re strongly inclined to one particular perspective, you should try to really feel the truth of the opposite perspective before you move on from it. When you move on to the next step, don’t leave the previous step behind – play the next bell while the echoes of the previous bells are still ringing. Hold the paradox in your mind without choosing between the different worldviews.

 

What’s the magical benefit of this? If absolute reality is unknowable and everything comes down to interactions, then whoever can look at the world from the broadest possible range of perspectives has the greatest access to the magic. Not trapped or defined by any single narrow worldview, the person capable of ringing the changes can play reality like a peal of bells.

 

(Next: The Ten Laws)

Image by Evelyn de Morgan)

A Vade Mecum

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, Silence

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

1- Seek out darkness and silence.

2- Drift on the river of sleep and daydream.

3- Hear what the voices tell you; see what you see.

4- Record all glimpses of Onei, in daydream or nightdream.

5- Answer all riddles; complete all quests.

 

As hard at it can be to enter Onei intentionally, it is always possible to walk the Borderlands – the place in your mind between sleep and waking, between Earth and Onei. Spirits, dreams and messages from Onei will find you there.

 

I’ve lived here on the borders of the night,

Where dark divides from light.

I’ve walked the marches made of fire and snow.

 

Each night I lock the doors and close my eyes

To watch the rivers rise.

I’ve tasted all those memories- I know.

 

Though there are things that I can never mend,

If I could choose again

I’d take the path I took so long ago.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

 

Image by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

Interactions Are the Reality

Blake_jacobsladder

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.

Form is the Illusion: A Magical Philosophy (3)

“Proposition: We (humans) know only the various relationships an object has with ourselves and the rest of the universe as seen from our point of view. We cannot know the thing in and of itself, only observe its interactions with other objects.” (Notes on Relationships; David Douglas Thompson)

 

“Interactions are the reality; form is the illusion.” (The Ten Laws; David Douglas Thompson)

 

Although my father referred to this concept as Relationship Theory, it isn’t actually a theory in the scientific sense. Relationship Theory is a philosophy, highly similar to Interanimism, Agential Realism and similar currents in contemporary magical thought. The main difference between Relationship Theory and similar philosophies is that these philosophies are generally materialist in orientation whereas my father’s Theory is neither materialist nor idealist.

 

Philosophers have proposed a number of different answers to the question of what reality is, but most of these answers are variations on materialism, idealism and dualism.

 

Materialists assume that there is nothing except matter, and that anything that seems non-material (such as the mind) is actually just a side-effect or emergent property of matter. This is the most common view among modern scientists, although not the only one.

 

Idealists believe the exact opposite – that there is nothing except for mind, and anything that seems non-mental (such as matter) is actually just a manifestation of consciousness. This view is counterintuitive for most people, but it has a lot more going for it than it might appear to at first glance and historically has been a difficult position to effectively challenge. A few scientists in the modern era have been idealists, because it is easier to resolve some of the most complex paradoxes of physics if you assume a universe of mind rather than matter. Idealism is also the basis for mystical philosophies like Vedanta.

 

Dualists believe that both mind and matter are real and distinct from each other. The dualist mindset formed the basis of early modern science but is now out of favor among both philosophers and scientists, although a lot of people assume a dualist worldview without realizing they are doing so.

 

Of course, there are many philosophies that don’t fit neatly into one of these three camps, but most of them are actually variations on one of the three. For instance, some people believe that there is nothing but mind and that there are an infinite number of different minds. Others believe that all of reality is just a single mind. Both of these positions are idealist philosophies, but they have very different implications.

 

Immanuel Kant was a less extreme sort of idealist. He never said that mind was the only reality, but his philosophy does imply that we can’t possibly know otherwise. We would have to use our minds to even ask the question, so we can think about it all we want and apply any form of evidence we like – and all that thinking, measuring and experimenting will still be happening inside our minds. If there is any reality outside the mind, we can’t know what it really is in and of itself. Kant’s form of idealism is called “Transcendental Idealism,” and it had a huge influence on all subsequent philosophy.

 

Richard Tarnas, in The Passion of the Western Mind, described the dilemma of modern thought as the collapse of objectivity, the death of the illusion of absolute truth, and the alienation we experience as a result:

 

“The world is in some essential sense a construct. Human knowledge is radically interpretive. There are no perspective-independent facts. Every act of perception and cognition is contingent, mediated, situated, contextual, theory-soaked. Human language cannot establish its ground in an independent reality. Meaning is rendered by the mind and cannot be assumed to inhere in the object, in the world beyond the mind, for that world can never be contacted without having already been saturated by the mind’s own nature. That world cannot even be justifiably postulated. Radical uncertainty prevails, for in the end what one knows and experiences is to an indeterminate extent a projection.”

 

In such a world as the one Tarnas describes, there can seemingly be no metaphysics, because all metaphysical arguments depend on the ability to make definitive statements about reality based on the logical structures created by human reason. As these structures themselves cannot be objective, they can ultimately tell us nothing at all about reality itself.

 

The mind that observes the physical universe has no way of getting out of its own way while it performs its observations. All knowledge is provisional and contextual; there is no reliable way to determine whether anything we are experiencing is “really real.” To take one popular example, how can we know that our reality is not a simulation created by a superior intelligence?

 

It seems to me that before we can ask what we consider real, we ought to ask what we mean by “real.” If we’re trying to ask what is real in and of itself, then the question is unanswerable. The absolute perspective is not available to us, and it is logically untenable that it ever could be – unless a person could somehow step out of the universe, abstracted from all particulars, and watch the whole thing from outside. So the question of what is absolutely real is an incoherent one – it presupposes what might be called a “God’s eye view,” which is simply not available to us.

 

The most extreme alternative, however, seems intuitively false – that is, to consider all of reality to be completely subjective, controlled by our thoughts and beliefs alone. According to this view of the universe, all I can say is what is real to me, and my view is no more or less valid than any other – regardless of its relationship to anything else. This extreme form of subjectivism is simply untenable. If I step off a building I will fall, and it won’t really matter what I think about it.

 

What is needed is a more precise and yet more flexible understanding of what we mean by reality, one that adequately accounts for all observed phenomena without making any unsupportable claims to absolute truth. This is what Relationship Theory attempts to do, beginning with the assertion that there is no perception without contrast.

 

Suppose any situation in which there is no contrast of any kind – a field of white light or a pitch-black void – and the result is blindness. An example from the real world would be the condition known as whiteout, in which the white sky of a winter storm and the white of the snow on the ground produce snow blindness. For anyone to see anything, there must be some form of contrast.

 

This applies to other forms of perception as well. If your hand is at a higher temperature than the water you dip it into, then the water will be perceived as cold. This won’t happen if the water and your hand are both at the same temperature. A piece of silk feels smooth to the touch because it is smoother than your own skin. Perception is always a kind of confrontation, in which two things which are in some way unalike come into contact with each other. This encounter between unlike objects is by definition a relationship, an interaction between entities. The moment we encounter the world, we encounter relationship.

 

I look down at the desk on which I am writing this and am aware of its presence, due solely to a series of interactions. Beams of light passing into my eyes, changing as they are reflected by the lens, create a picture in my mind. My hand resting on the surface of the desk sends a message to my brain, creating a sense of its solidity and shape. All these experiences are perceptions of contrast, of that which is other than me in its encounter with me, of an entity which is contrasted in some way with the other factors in its environment and the interactions of that entity with those other factors. Without this interaction between opposing entities, I would be unable to perceive the desk at all, or anything else.

 

Our entire experience of the world we live in, the premise underlying all daily existence, is the interaction between things that are unalike. If either factor is not present, then there is no perception. Two entities that did not interact, either directly or indirectly, could not ever become known to each other or affect each other in any way. They would, essentially, not exist to each other, although for this to really be possible in a strict sense they would have to occupy different universes. Two entities so completely alike that no contrast could be perceived between them on any level would not be perceived as two entities but as one. To exist in the universe, we require the other. Erase the other and you erase the world.

 

Therefore, a thing cannot be known in and of itself, but only as part of a particular relationship. This is something we encounter on a daily basis. There’s no way for me to see you as you see yourself, because I cannot have the experience of being you from the inside but only from the outside. I don’t encounter you at all, but my interpretation of you. I cannot see the table as it is in itself, but only as it appears in its relationship with me. I cannot see this book as it is in itself, or the walking stick in the corner, or the floor beneath my feet.  There is nothing whatsoever that I can experience as it is in itself, because everything I do experience must be mediated by my senses, and then by the mind that interprets that information.

 

What I encounter in all my interactions is simply a flow of information, a set of relationships of which I am a part.

 

“Interactions are the reality; form is the illusion.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what form a thing has or seems to have (whether mind or matter, real or unreal, relative or absolute) – the only thing that matters is what interactions this thing has with other things.

 

In Relationship Theory, the categories of mind and matter are done away with and replaced by something called a “zed object.” An interaction or relationship is called a “zed,” so a zed object is anything capable of having an interaction with another thing. A human being is a zed object, each cell in that human being’s body is a zed object and every thought in that human being’s head is a zed object too. Every atom in the universe is a zed object, but all of the things made out of those atoms are also zed objects. Concepts and percepts are both zed objects. A gene is a zed object and a meme is a zed object.

 

Another way of putting it is that a zed object is simply a piece of information – any information of any type. So, where a materialist believes that everything is matter and an idealist believes that everything is mind, Relationship Theory says that everything is information. If we start from the assumption that all of reality is an infinitely complex network of interactions between information-units, we no longer need to analyze or question whether these information-units are “in your head” or outside it. We only need to look at what they do.

 

This doesn’t mean that all opinions are created equal. Why? Because any useful description of reality must account for all the relationships, it must deal with everything that is experienced. If you believe something contrary to what you yourself experience, your belief is not useful; it cannot account for all of your interactions with the universe.

 

For instance, if you experience yourself as having wings, but fall to your death when you attempt to fly, then your description of reality obviously failed to account for the entirety of your own experience. On the other hand, there is no need to second-guess whatever you do experience, to ask yourself if you are really just a brain in a vat being controlled by a computer. When you say that something is real, you are only saying that you directly experience it – there is no other meaning to the word “real.”

 

According to Hilary Putnam in Reason, Truth and History, metaphysical realism can be defined as the belief that there is “some fixed totality of mind-independent objects”. The problem with this philosophy is that it allows for only one description of reality to be complete and accurate – and that leads to some bizarre unintended consequences.

 

When you say the word “house,” it either refers to a real house that is actually there outside the mind or to an imaginary house that does not exist outside the mind. If you’re really nothing but a brain in a vat, then none of the houses you have ever seen is a real house. Popular science writer Neil DeGrasse Tyson expressed strong support for this view at the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, stating that the odds we are all living in an elaborate simulation of reality “may be very high.”

 

In Relationship Theory, the word “house” does not refer to some hypothetical mind-independent object called a house. It only refers to the direct experience we call a house. Relationship Theory treats whatever we experience as being real. This has just as many bizarre implications as metaphysical realism, but they are implications we can work with.

 

One of those implications is that there can be no single complete and accurate description of reality, as that would require “some fixed totality of mind-independent objects” and leave us stranded in the simulation problem. If reality is simply an infinite network of interactions between information objects, then there must be multiple different functional descriptions of that reality. So what do we do with that implication?

 

(Next: Ringing the Changes)

Image by William Blake

Seven Levels of Dreaming

by Chevigie {ca.1939}

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

 

1- the mundane

2- the curious

3- the mythic

4- the mysterium

5- a vision

6- an epiphany

7- annihilation

 

Mundane dreams are those that come in through the Gates of Ivory; they contain no magic.

 

Curious dreams are intermingled with hints and glimpses of magic.

 

Mythic dreams come in through the Gates of Horn; they are dreams of true and sacred things presented in the form of myth.

 

Dreams of the mysterium involve magic power, a drunken electric ecstatic presence.

 

Visions display the vividness and intensity of the Phantasia Catalyptica.

 

Epiphanies answer great riddles and questions.

 

Annihilation destroys the dream. That which waits here is the same as that which waits beyond death.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

 

Image by Chevigie

A Metaphysics of Relationship

Walter Crane, Freedom, 1885

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.

Form is the Illusion: A Magical Philosophy (2)

Relationship Theory is both a theory of knowledge and a theory of being.

The ontology of Relationship Theory can be summarized in the phrase “interactions are the reality; form is the illusion.” In other words, the theory draws no distinction between different forms of existence. Material objects and mental objects are both referred to as “zeds,” or entities capable of being in relationship. The theory concerns itself only with the interaction between these zeds, without assessing which of them can be said to have some sort of objective validity and which cannot. The question of whether a particular zed “really exists” is treated as irrelevant because it is inherently unknowable.

 

We are constantly taught to doubt the reality of our own spiritual experiences – some of the most meaningful and beautiful experiences we have as human beings. Traditional religions teach us to question them as potentially demonic, while skeptical materialism teaches us to dismiss them as mere illusions. The constant presence of both these ideas is a barrier to experiencing real magic, because we cannot simply inhabit the worldview of our ancestors for whom the reality of the spiritual world was totally unquestioned. Rather than vainly attempting to inhabit a mental space we can no longer reach (and producing weak magic as a direct result), we can simply step around the barrier.

 

Interactions are the reality, so our relationship with the magical world is all that matters. Form is the illusion, so questions about its real nature are simply not relevant.

 

The epistemology of Relationship Theory can be summarized in the phrase “always ring the changes.” Because no distinction is drawn between different types of entity, it is taken for granted that there will always be many different possible ways of understanding the universe. Some of these worldviews work better than others, but there is no valid reason to arbitrarily choose between equally functional worldviews.

 

Rather than picking a worldview and sticking to it, the Theory encourages us to shift playfully between different worldviews, like bell-ringers changing the patterns while ringing church bells. This approach is basically the same as the practice of paradigm shifting in Chaos Magic. This is only to be expected, because both approaches are steeped in the postmodern experience. However, the application is somewhat different. In Chaos Magic, the magician is encouraged to completely adopt one worldview at a time, shifting between them as needed but believing in each one as deeply as possible while using it. The change-ringer is encouraged to hold on to the echoes of one worldview even while playing with the next, so that seemingly contradictory truths are held in the mind at the same time.

 

The change formulae of Relationship Theory describe how zeds interact with each other, and in what circumstances these interactions can change. These formulae provide a philosophical framework for magical experience, a tool for understanding the rhythms of enchantment.

 

We have a lot of ground to cover here, but we’ll take it one step at a time – first theory, then practice. In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at the ontology of Relationship Theory and the reasoning behind the assertion that “interactions are the reality; form is the illusion.”

(Next: Interactions are the Reality)

Image by Walter Crane

Magic Harp-Strings

680px-Franz_von_Stuck_Tilla_Durieux_als_Circe

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

 

Clouds roll across a purple sky.

The witch pours out a cup.

The orange coals of incense burn.

She knows the goblins, how they yearn

To come and eat us up.

The wind cries out as if it’s drunk.

The gods will soon be here.

The witch prepares a plate of meat.

The spirits come, and as they eat

She turns away in fear.

The Presence takes her, and her eyes

Roll up into her head.

Like passing clouds the spirits trace

Their shapes across her dreaming face,

The scriptures of the dead.

The gods are here, they’re always here,

Although they are not seen.

They walk across the purple skies

Or in a witch’s staring eyes

Or somewhere in between.

 

– From The Book of Onei, Part I: The Art of Night Wandering

Image by Franz Von Stuck

Journey to Onei

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The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

 

Notes found in the handwritten original of the Book of Onei

 

I was nearly forty years old when it first came over me, the strange feeling that I no longer knew myself. I was sitting in my own house at three in the morning, thinking back on the life I had lived. You start off with so many choices and then you start to pick between them, and every time you choose one path instead of another all your options start to narrow in. You become who you are, and it’s easy to forget you could have been a lot of other things. You could have been once, but you no longer can. Now you are whatever you decided to be, and there are no more open vistas.

 

The whole house was asleep. You can only have thoughts like that in the first place when everyone else is asleep, because that’s the only time when your mind is free enough. It’s the only time when no one needs you.

 

I looked up at the fan blades as they turned and turned, and their long shadows flew across the ceiling like angelic messengers moving rapidly before the sun. My wife and my little daughter lay asleep in their beds, but I hadn’t slept in at least three days.

 

What I was thinking as I was lying there is that yearning is everything. The whole structure of the universe is based on it. The craving for fulfillment is in every seed, reaching up for the untouchable sun. It’s not an anomaly; it’s right there in the blueprint. So when a little girl yearns for her mother, or a man for his lover, or a mystic for the god she serves, it’s not some pathos to be cured. That suffering and that yearning and that loss is the fire of creation.

 

“Maybe we should take a trip to the mountains,” my wife had said that morning, lying with her head up in the crook of my shoulder. She was trying to comfort me, trying to give me something to look forward to. But I wasn’t sad, exactly.

 

“We are what we are,” I answered her. “And we can’t pretend. The dead come easily to us and the angels don’t. How often do you see the shining ones? How often do you see the dead? You know what we are as well as I do. We are darkseers, not lightseers. I’ve been thinking a lot about the basement lately.”

 

“I don’t like it when you talk about the basement,” she said, and pulled back to look at me. The basement is where the door is.

 

So there I was, sitting up awake and alone at three in the morning, not at all certain how it got this way, how I ended up who I am. I watched the fan blades as they turned and turned, and a strange memory came over me. A strange hunger began to grow inside me, not completely unfamiliar and yet almost forgotten. I stood up silently and slipped my shoes on and went downstairs, moving quietly so as not to wake my wife up. Not only was the door down there (though it had long gone unused) but the book was too – The Book of Onei, my father’s crime.

 

The steps creaked as I walked on them, and the dead things whispered. The basement was where he had kept them bound, and they wouldn’t like my interference. But what else can you do with the dead? After all, you can’t kill them.

 

I took a match out and I lit the lamp, and rummaged around in boxes until I found the book. The door in the corner shuddered angrily, but I took the book out anyway.

 

The ancient chaos, the primal darkness. That was the answer to it all. My father had stolen this book from the Great Library of Onei, and the weight of that shadow had hung over us like an evil cloud. But I wasn’t convinced that what he did was wrong. Who are the Great Ones to withhold this knowledge?

 

The dead responded a few nights later. I had brought The Book of Onei up from the basement where it had slept for years. I had read aloud from its forbidden pages. I had begun to compose a few poems of my own about the dreams and the darkness, loose tributes to demonic geniuses such as Li Ho and Meng Chiao. I had even added a few of them to the Book of Onei.

 

In reading from the book and in composing those poems I had upset a fragile peace. The things in the basement slipped their bonds, which were only ever made of a certain mindset – a mindset I had not maintained. They came floating up after me late one night while I lay there staring at the ceiling in the lonely hours, believing myself to be wide awake.

 

My daughter stirred in her sleep and moaned. My wife opened her eyes. The whole house was permeated with a sickening dread, the presence that makes your skin crawl and the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The light in the kitchen blinked on and off. Deep in my stomach, nausea stirred.

 

“You’re going to do what your father did, aren’t you?” said my wife. “You’re going to go through the door.”

 

I nodded in the darkness of early dawn. “I’ve done it before,” I told her. “Before you and I were together. But I haven’t seen Onei in years.”

 

“You’re going over there to steal something.”

 

“Yes, of course. That’s what my father did, and it’s what I’ll do too. The things in the basement are getting restless, because they can sense the way I’ve been feeling lately. My father always said it was an evil book, that it had cursed him ever since he took it. But that’s not what I believe.”

 

“Why not?” she asked, a little harshly. “You’re endangering us all!”

 

“I think it scared him so much that he misunderstood it. He always told me that the dead things followed him over from Onei when he brought back the book, and that they were always warning him not to read it, not to use it, not to learn from it. But the primal darkness is the source of wisdom. He stole its secrets and then feared to read them, so he bound the dead up with spiderweb thoughts and left them down there to haunt his dreams. They made his last years one endless nightmare. I don’t want that to happen to me. I don’t want it to happen to my daughter either. She’ll inherit the book.”

 

“You could return the book,” she pointed out. “You could bring it back to the Great Library of Onei. Then the dead would leave us alone.”

 

“I’m not even sure that’s true. There is such a thing as retribution. And that would only make what he suffered completely meaningless. Prometheus didn’t give the fire back.”

 

“And look what happened to him! So what exactly are you going to do?”

 

“I’m going to learn how to use it. My father was never able to use the book, because he didn’t understand it, he didn’t know why it was so important to the dead. That is the knowledge I intend to steal.”

 

She was silent for a long time. The sun rose outside, and in the pale light my daughter stirred. She would soon be awake.

 

“How long will you be gone?” my wife asked. Her voice shook a little.

 

“Not long at all. I’ll be back before the sun finishes rising.”

 

“Or else you won’t be back. Not ever again.” I didn’t answer her that time. There’s no answer to the truth.

 

So I went down to the basement again and I heard the voices, whispering the things they always whisper, the threats and the warnings. I walked through the gauntlet of the voices as if they could not daunt me, although I was going into their place of strength. I had the book in my backpack. The door at the end of the basement jumped angrily as I approached it, rattled a few times, then settled in. I put my hand on the doorknob, said a prayer to the protecting powers, and paused for a moment in silent thought. Then I walked through into the land of Onei.

Image by Henry Fuseli