"For nature applied to nature
Such is the order of tbe natural law
throughout the whole cosmos, and
thus all things hang together."
ZOSIMOS, THIRD CENTURY A D
PLEASE CONSIDER THIS IDEA: new, consciously made, magical, talismanic totems as members/parts of a new divinity. Artworks of different kinds become cells and building blocks of a new pagan pantheon of intelligence, of whose essence future generations can rely on and partake of. Special importance should be given to indigenous, traditional, tribal folk culture, woven into the mosaic fabric of genuine human creation. The final times of our mercurial technocratic culture could actually help in setting this up before these new gods are properly established enough to live on through the rituals of the post-technocracy-survivors.
In ancient grimoires, forces were evoked to visible appearance in order to be questioned and/or commanded through certain arcane techniques and mind-frames. This was also true of art up until High Priest Duchamp celebrated the mental and conceptual while discarding two-dimensional bourgeois thought and a wordly Weltanschauung. When art suddenly became intellectual, intangible and non-personal, the power of the old forces by no means decreased. They just went into a slight hibernation, awaiting the duchampian antithetical fulfillment. The coming synthesis of tangible, will-driven talismanic art and an anti-bourgeois, non-commodified approach will be a distinct characteristic of our new pantheon's magical bag of tricks.
Is it a far-fetched idea or one worthy of consideration? I think it should be considered as a project where individual seeds are sown in communal ground, where each garden patch then in itself becomes a new seed, and so on. I believe it is possible to make a quantum quilt of new creative possibilities.
I wouldn't be surprised at all if the sacrament of the new religion will be psychedelic - either organic or chemical. The transubstantiation process in itself and the integration of the divine in edible, digestible form has been with us since the dawn of human time. The psychedelic age, with its chaotic beginnings in the mid 1960s, has been instrumental in bringing forth a radical re-evaluation of art, aesthetics, thought, philosophy, etc. I can foresee this pleasant open-mindedness becoming a prerequisite for future communications with the very principles of life, of nature, of human interaction as well as those of art and culture. We discover things when they're apparently badly needed. We seem to have a built-in intuition in situations of dire emergency. An expansion of the mind and a related expansion of art are crucial emergency routes at this point in time and space.
What's wrong with the old grids and frames of reference then?
Well, I don't think anyone really doubts the sincerity of some religious believers or entertainment industry people, but the focus on greed in both areas help facilitate what I call the "180° phenomenon." What's put on for show actually, in reality, signifies the opposite. An example: although the "moral" key in disaster movies - that we should all work together as one human race post the big disaster - seems fair, fine and human(istic), the effect of the movies actually engender subconscious fear of disasters that will very likely never happen. What on the surface appears to be benevolent cathartic entertainment in fact cements the biggest lie of all: that humans are victims of nature, separate from general biospheres and eco-systems. Well, in a sense we are the victims now, but i t's certainly no fault of nature's! What does this huge fear create in human beings? As with all fears, a desire to be safe. How do people handle this today? They consume.
Here's another example: If it's so painfully obvious that many people are starving today, why then not, as a first step at least , celebrate, encourage or even enforce the use of contraceptives among the cultures and people who can't, at this point in time, deal with their own fertility? The gilded pro-life (so called) benevolence of the Catholic Church and State makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. They simply engender fear through fiction so that people remain loyal to the herd. And pay their dues. The same old story over and over again. Our contemporary Axis of Evil is the epiphytic effect stemming from the Vatican and Hollywood, both enticing dream factories working overtime to create very real nightmares.
However, everything must go, disintegrate, fall down, evaporate . . . As all empires crumble, so will the hegemonial grip of fragmenting entertainment and the parasitic power of the monotheistic power structures. After this huge "paradigm shift " has taken place, I foresee a development towards a post-technocratic neo-feudal culture, where food access will be the driving force. A variety of land owners will protect what they have through privately owned armies and regional skirmishes will be common. The technological "daze" will have created a new breed of mindless serfs who will be forced into manual labour. Basically: when the
technological culture has gone overboard and greed disguised as misdirected altruistic charities (as in the ongoing NGO swindles) have created very hollow human infrastructues, we are faced with Homo Talionis and desperate living again.
In this scheme of things, the artist will no longer be a state-funded iconoclast of irony, but one of religious stature and active function. The art has to be relevant to the times, as always. One gets the culture one deserves. If artists conscious of this already now start working in their own pantheonic cellular bio-art-work, the transition may be gentler and more intelligent, with less violence and devastation. Showing the past in its often violent manifestations through art can help change how we approach the future. Non-dogmatic instructions are just some of the building blocks I'm referring to.
The escapist aspects of wishful thinking are easier to distill in hard times. That's why art in our present times is thin, evanescent, transparent, dreamy, infantilistic, afraid. The current core of thought on a deeply rooted emotional level is spelled S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L. If our own culture is afraid to deal with it because of complacency or ingrained fear best cured with entertainment, then pioneers and movers and shakers will have to take responsibility and show new models and possible avenues. It really is time for our culture to grow up.
By "growing up" or "taking responsibility", I'm not specifically referring to technological solutions of "saving" energy, the environment, nature etc - humans in panic seemingly always need to "save" something ! - but rather of multidimensional artists evoking new behavioural patterns, intelligence interchanges, existential models. These experimental engineers will very likely not use the commonplace given methods (art history, empirical science, interest-based economy, etc) but rather seek out entirely new ways based on visionary perspectives and, not forgetting, common sense.
When we meta-program the future through our art, we are very aware that our will is not singular and its manifestations may not be exactly as "wished" (analogous dynamics may occur in traditional magic). If we do good according to our own plans, yet the world is breaking apart in cataclysmic upheavals of politics and
geo-shudders, we shouldn't be discouraged. We cannot fully grasp the mechanics of art, at least not until a greater kind of illumination has taken place. Whether one is secure, safe and pampered or vulnerably naked in the rubble, it is important to never lose [confidence] in art and its transformative powers. Instilling will and soul in artworks has created, creates and will keep creating major changes in the world outside your own.
We are accustomed to art being a secluded area of activity for kooks and experts. Some become successful and take on the roles as clowns or jesters. Some remain unsuccessful and take on the roles as tragic clowns and derogatory objects of ridicule. The experts, like similar people in high finance, do essentially nothing but are expert in meta-trading adjectives dealing with "worth" and "relevance". What could be a free-flowing exchange of irrational (in the good sense, I have to emphasize), emotional and radical ideas, has become hi-jacked/lo-jacked and dragged into an arena of stress, trade, illusion and mere decoration. I'm not merely talking about fine art in the traditional sense, but about our entire culture. Everything's commodified and marketed except perhaps events (performances, temporary installations, etc) which are usually handled by a sub/supra-economy of institutional funding. The direct communication between artwork and viewer is perhaps best handled by classic structures like museums and publicly available collections. The shady relationship between these kinds of structures and the art dealers is more than well-known though. Kickbacks mean the possibility to kick back and who could ask for more in stressful times like these?
Grassroots reactions in the form of art are seldom vital in themselves in the long run, but definitely interesting as phenomenae where art in itself is actually looked upon as more powerful than throwing a rock at a building. The expression of aggression and frustration by proxy is an emotional-magical act that could be integrated in mainstream culture if it's loud enough (punk culture being one clear example). That's how the overall culture works, by sucking up new, radical and aggressive seeds into its own slow-grinding soil. Whether the seed later becomes a bland garden flower or a nutritious vegetable no one powerful curator or institution can singularly decide. Herein lies not only great stimulating mysteries but also great optimism for the future.
And here we come again to the crux, so to speak: history shows, again and again, that change in direction, culture and behaviour comes not through divine providence but through distinctly human initiative. People with ideas and the will to manifest the ideas in question take on the role of creators and leaders and then change everything. How does this revolutionary process begin? It begins in fractions of thoughts and invisible inspiration that gradually conglomerate into ideas or feelings that in their turn eventually take on the shape of communicable forms (words, images, "memes", etc). Then, through a suitable medium, these formulations are spread and given by talismanic proxy to the world outside the mind(s) of the formulator(s). The sparks drifting towards the fuel.
Our culture is currently saturated with opportunities of communicating which, quite paradoxically, make it harder to communicate. If everything is apparently ablaze, who can see the flame of Prometheus? Our culture is saturated with possibilities of travel and discovery, but to an increasing degree we are only met by a globalised culture similar to the one on our own street. Our culture is saturated with concepts like freedom and choice but advertising, expertly using feelings of insecurity, make most people strive for complacent and comfortable homogenity. It's literally the emperor's new clothes designed by black magic: everyone wants a piece of the exclusive but everyone looks exactly the same!
Is it far-fetched to call our present culture one of illusion? We are presented with givens but none can really tangibly be taken, unless you very clearly leave the trodden paths. "Who dares wins "is something we are taught, but the culture as such does not encourage its manifestation in action.
At this point, we can touch upon the concept of magic in itself. As with most terms, it is used as the tribal leaders see fit. Today, it is undoubtedly synonymous with stage magic, tricks, illusions, extravagant, flamboyant magicians and their scantily dressed assistants. The magical aspects of pre-science and pre-culture, the pioneering seed-sowing work, are humourously disposed of. The aspects of empowerment of the individual. tribe, society, etc, ditto. The aspects of consciousness training also. Anything or anyone that distinctly brings magic back to a tangible surface, will be associated with certain negative keywords that are inherited from one indoctrinated generation to another. Why is this? The fear of real tangible change in one's life is greater than the fear of abstracted demons and wizards in our entertainment-drenched contemporary mythology.
Is my view of the future too dystopic? Isn't it better to try and get along in peace and harmony instead of painting things black? Well, of course it is, but not to the point of cheating ourselves that human happiness comes from dictated consumer patterns. Or that genuine happiness comes from obeying those one intuitively feels are ripping you off (or even apart) . My view is not dystopic. It is realistic. The varnish of our civilization is wearing thin and that is neither bad nor good. We, as caretakers of the present times, can probably enjoy our lives in wealth and comfort until we die. But the lives of our children may not be so blessed. The present superstitious belief in science, technology, urbanisation, globalisation, etc, is making a big pooh-pooh mess and unfortunately I believe there will be a big and violent "baptism of fire" in the centuries up ahead.
Counter-seeds of change can and will have to be planted today. And they are. The spirits of the elements and other spheres will have to be evoked to visible and tangible appearance. Let nature in her splendour, beauty and philosophy be the guide. The guidelines are readily available. If we are currently living in a so called technological heaven, then the gates of hell should be opened and minions of pro-human demons should be warmly welcomed to create havoc and tear apart all the digital illusions that enfeeble and fragment us. Regardless of our languages or terminologies, let's just agree that change is necessary. Not the transparent "change we can believe in", but one where future generations can look back at us and nod in proud approval rather than shake their heads in utter despair.
It could be appropriate to end as we began, with a full quote from the Gnostic philosopher Zosimos. Not necessarily to tie this in with the "ancients", but rather to give another fine example how the basic, well known conditions of life that we all share are preserved for future evaluation - and resonance. It is through poetry, literature, art and music that we decode and then encode ourselves, our children and those around us. We can indeed set examples for ourselves and for the future.
"BEAUTIFUL IT IS TO SPEAK AND BEAUTIFUL TO HEAR, beautiful to give and beautiful to take, beautiful to be poor and beautiful to be rich. How does nature teach giving and taking? The brazen man gives, and the moist stone receives; the metal gives, and the plant receives; the stars give, and the flowers receive; the sky gives, and the earth receives; the thunderclaps give darting fire. And all things are woven together and all things are undone again, and all things are mingled with one another, and all things are composed, and all things are permeated with one another, and all things are decomposed again. And everything will be moistened and become desicated again, and everything puts forth blossoms and everything withers again in the bowl of the altar. For each thing comes to pass with method and in fixed measure and according to the weighing of the four elements. The weaving together of all things and the undoing of all things and the whole fabric of things cannot come to pass without method. The method is natural, preserving due order in its inhaling and its exhaling; it brings increase and it brings stagnation. And to sum up: through the harmonies of separating and combining, and if nothing of the method be neglected, all things bring forth nature. For nature applied to nature transforms nature. Such is the order of natural law throughout the cosmos, and thus all things hang together."